The pass didn’t prove too hard, I think we must have gradually been going up all day yesterday, nonetheless we celebrated at the top, thinking as it was the only pass marked on the map, perhaps the worst of the hills were over(!). The wind hadn’t really let up, and there were big cyclones of dust sweeping across the plain, one came right past us – yuck! Stopping for coffee in a little abandoned hut, Joel mentioned something that a guy had told him back in Burujen, the villagers up in the mountains here had a tendency of throwing stones… Oh no, not at us, he’d insisted; not tourists! Umm, who, I wonder, do they throw them at then… Gory pictures from a film (The stoning of Soraya M) we’d watched at home before setting off came to mind, and I tried to push them away. It had, I thought, been set in a mountain village… We tried to reason that most people warn us of something in the next town/province/country and they’ve never appeared to be true, so this was likely the same. Nevertheless I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
The mountains were really stunning, and we enjoyed lengthy downhills. But of course this always leads to one thing; this time, a ridiculously steep climb, lined with trucks groaning and clunking and kicking out filthy black smoke. Up we went, cough cough cough. We were by this point thinking about camping, but just at the prime moment, a friendly, self-proclaimed “responsible” man, who works for an oil firm (I couldn’t help but question him on how these two things went together: Responsible? Oil-firm?…), appeared and asked us our life story. He then told us most definitely NOT to camp where we were about to. Very danger! Umm, what kind of danger, we mimed… I made some animal sounds, and established that there might be dogs and big cats, but no bears. Hmm, that was the second time we’d been warned of big cats, maybe we should take heed. The choices were limited, right in the middle of the mountains however. My favourite was to hitch to the next town, but as I began to wave down a truck, our responsible friend almost had kittens; very danger, very danger!!!
“Well, what, I beg you, do you want us to? We don’t have a lot of choice here!” I snapped, feeling exhausted, on my last little drop of energy. He came up with nothing. We decided to make it over the hill and decide from there. This proved to push me to breaking, and I heaved up the steep incline, with tears, gasping. At the top we assessed our options. Camp, make a fire to ward off any potential kitty cats; hitch; or carry on through the dwindling light to the next town. I voted to hitch, and just as I did so, a blue van pulled over. Phew! The guy was massively friendly, and laughed all the way to his house, where he insisted we stay! A fantastic event ensued, involving, gradually, the whole village coming to take a look. The women whisked me off to dress me in traditional bridal garb and full garish make-up, and then made me dance in front of everyone, much to their enjoyment. Joel was entertained by the blokes, who spent the time marvelling over our technology and asking how much things cost. Some confusion arose, leading us to believe that the two younger women were second and third wives, but in the morning it was revealed that they were his daughters. Phew! (But they were sitting back, out of conversation all the same, and definitely not down to dinner, but instead serving everyone.)
Unfortunately the morning came and revealed some damage done to Arthur, presumably in the rough truck ride. His front derailleur had sheared. Luckily this village, although short on most things, didn’t lack the good old let’s-fix-it Asian mentality, so fix it we did. This involved a trip to a mechanic, a family member, who laughed when we suggested taking the chain off, instead sawing straight through the derailleur – then a trip to a welder; another family member – who fixed the sawn bit; all probably in less time than it would’ve taken to take the chain off and get it on again. Perfect! -well almost… The chain rubs substantially on the welded wound, so a new one will need to be sought out in Dubai. But a good short-term solution, and caused no real issues the rest of the way through the mountains to Yasuj.