(21) Mashhad, Iran: Saying goodbye

Three goodbyes in four days. After Tom and I parted ways in Kashan, it was time for a final visit and goodbye with Somayeh and her family in Tehran, and soon for goodbye to Iran in general. The goodbyes in this case were kind of tough. There’s something to be said for the comfort and certainty of good people around you. It’s easy to stay a bit longer than you originally intended because you know you will enjoy yourself.

I felt bad only staying one more night in Tehran. Like I wasn’t paying proper respect to the family that had made my stay in Iran a remarkable one. Our evening was a quiet one, mirroring the many evenings spent here before. An early nap, some South American soap operas, and a lovely dinner (bademjan, my favourite!) before packing and bed. Big hugs to Hediye. I told her to come to Canada when she’s 19. She said we should stay up all night talking.

I got up early to catch the 7am train. Amir Hossein had asked to be woken up to say goodbye, but (like I would have) changed his mind when it actually came to waking up at 6:30am. Rani brought a pitcher of water to throw out after me, and I was off in a taxi with a few tears.

The train ride was nice, but I kind of wasn’t in the mood for much. I slept when the aircon was on, fanned myself when it stopped working, and ate the most disgusting transit meal ever. In order of what I ate the most of to the least for lunch:

  • Lukewarm Zam Zam cola
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Packet of mayonnaise
  • Cold star-shaped breaded chicken pieces
  • Cold pickled cauliflower
  • Lukewarm Honeydew jello
  • Dry white bun
  • Cold pickled other vegetables (carrots, onion, celery)
  • Cold crescent shaped breaded shrimp (? maybe actually deli meat ?) pieces

The train ride I guess wasn’t all that bad. Perhaps I’m just grumpy while writing this entry.

Mashhad, my final major destination, gets a bad rap from me not because the city itself sucks, but at this point in Iran, I just want to get to Turkmenistan. Any extra hours in Mashhad were hours I could have spent continuing in Kashan or Tehran. Plus my accommodation had cockroaches, which I don’t do well with. The other people that have been staying here are all cyclists. With most of them started in Europe and are heading though Central Asia towards China; I feel like a chump next to them on my buses, trains and taxis.

Here I sent a package home ($12 for 2.5kg), exchanged some Iranian Rials back into Euros, and attempted to see the holy shrine, which is the main raison d’etre of Mashhad. However, seeing as the best areas of the shrine are only available to Muslims, and I had failed to plan for three of the requirements of entry (no water, no camera, covered feet required), even with my borrowed chador, I couldn’t get into the outside area. Meh. I’m apathetic at this point. I just want to get to Turkmenistan. At least the accommodation has (spotty) wifi, and I can catch up with home via Skype.

Earlier in this trip, I thought I had come to the realization that this would be my last extended backpacking trip. Instead, I realize now that I’m done with super budget travelling. I now browse the mid-range accommodation options in the guidebooks, and don’t flinch at double digit dollar ranges. I value clean sheets, security and hot water. I know I won’t get that everyday throughout the rest of this trip, but I’ll have no qualms splurging when I need it.

I have had the privilege of well paying jobs, and also the will to lead a reasonably simple life in Canada, each which afford me the ability, the luxury of taking extended periods of time to see the world. And if I want a hot shower, I’m gonna fork out for it. No matter what look that prissy but dirty budget traveller is giving me.

So my last few hours in Iran will consist of getting to the border. I have $15 in Iranian money left for 4 hours of bus and taxi starting at 6am tomorrow. I’m looking forward to Turkmenistan. It’s costing me more per day than any other country or tour I’ve ever done, but I’m OK with that. I have to have a guide with me the whole time as I’m doing more than just transiting across the country (as per Turkmenistan rules), but as I figure I’ll probably never be back, in the grand scheme of things this money will be well spent. I don’t want to regret cheaping out on the 2nd most media-controlled state in the world.