So, when we left you last time, we were going to leave Russia and enter Kazakhstan. And so we did, but not without fixing some issues with the bus first.
Kazakhstan was quite a challenge. In one month, we needed to obtain 3 visas: Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. We did not have to through these countries, but indeed, we changed our plans at the very last moment and decided that we should definitely get to know the Arabic world before we arrive in Europe.
Without having made money in Asia, this route would create a challenge. However, we never seemed to have everything worked out before, why should we start worrying now?
Kazakhstan is a huge but mostly empty country, with few things to see. One of those highlights was Astana, the brand new capital since 1998. It is built right in the middle of the steppes– or grasslands. The city is full of amazing buildings, built by the greatest architects in the world such as Norman Foster and Renzo Piano. In Kazakhstan, they have a lot of petroleum....And petrodollars!
It took two and a half weeks to get the two first visas, and then we were finally able to drive south to Almaty, the old capital. Time was short, and our Kazakhstan visa was close to end. The main problem was the engine though, which started to lose more and more oil; about one gallon for every 200 miles and increasing. So, we drove during the night, when the colder temperature helped to maintained the thickness of the oil In Almaty, we finally obtained the last visa; for Uzbekistan. It came at the very, very last moment.
Crossing over the border into Uzbekistan came with lengthy discussions with the guards at the border because of some strange and quite stupid rules (due to being ex USSR). But, we can’t say enough how great and beautiful and pleasant the country is! Even with a 3 day transit visa (it was the cheapest) we were able to visit Samarkand and Bukhara, some of the oldest cities in the history of humanity. Magnificent!
The following country to quickly drive through was Turkmenistan; also pretty, but small, but without any interest. The police and militaries are some of the worst in this journey. We had a plan at the border. We told them that we didn't have any money left. We actually sold tee-shirts to the police-men at the border so we could pass without giving them any of our money. They were quite surprised!
Then, we arrived in Iran! Iran is definitely one of those countries with a lot of preconceived ideas. Now that we are here, we know the truth. It is an amazing country. The best one since a very long time. The people are amazingly warm, welcoming and friendly. The country has been occupied for thousands and thousands of years and its history is amazing. Persepolis, Yazd and Shiraz are some of the oldest cities in the world and they are so pretty that it is even hard to describe.
We've been welcomed into many homes and have met many people and their whole families (Iranians love their family). Even if some Islamic rules sound strange to us, we do not have any problems adjusting to their culture. some rules are quite surprising.
But it is not as carricatural as we, the people of the western countries, think it is. For exemple, women have to sit in the back of the buses but wearing a chador (full length black cloak) is not an obligation anymore. Women drive, walk alone in the streets, own stores and are in majority in all the universities of the country. So, here we are in the begining of November in Iran, a lot more complex a fascinating and interesting and enjoyable than we envisioned. We arrived two weeks ago and ss most of the travelers here, we are already thinking in extending our visa!
But first of all, we will need to fix our bus which is still (yes, still) leaking oil. We don’t understand why the transmition seal get broken every week. Is the crankshaft broken? Today night we will drive to a bigger city where we should be able to find good workshops. Hopefully it will work!