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A Short Trip to Iran's Caspian Coast

7/11/03 By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

I woke up at 5:30 this morning with the sound of loud thunder followed by heavy rain. It sounded blissful and it felt very cool, lovely and beautifully fresh. I can not tell you enough how happy I become when we get rain at this time of the year. It washes all this dust and dirt away and makes the tress look polished and fresh. May be this is the result of one of the global warming's good side-effects. However, we have gotten more rain in the past couple of years and a decent winter with good snow. I can only hope and pray that this trend continues, as it is good for both cleaning the air and aliviating worries about the water shortages.

Chalous road - photo by Ali Moayedian

I recently came back from a wonderful three days break to the Caspian. A very benevolent relative had kindly allowed me and my friends to go to their villa, which is extremely lovely with a heated swimming pool and an immaculately kept garden. We swam and sunbathed and played ball in the pool quite a lot. The result of which is that we all got sun-burns, and on our way back we looked more like half-cooked meat! We took care of our faces, arms and legs, but did not think of the shoulders, which are still burning. No matter how many times you have been up to the Caspian, somehow you end getting yourself burned. But it was worth it! Somehow this brings back many childhood memories, and suddenly you are taken back in time and feel free again.

Karaj dam - photo by Ali Moayedian

We headed out to Caspian at 6:30 am, half an hour late, as someone's alarm clock had not gone off in time. Those who were on time took a vote and decided that since the friend's phone did not answer, it must mean that they are on their way and so we waited. Fortunately we were driving in the Karaj Autobahn in the opposite direction of the traffic and the Tehran-Chalouss road was a pretty easy drive.

I am so pleased to inform all of you who care about the water problems we have had in the past few years in Tehran that, Karaj Dam is FULL! It was such a magnificent and groovy site to see the water was so high up. I was overjoyed with happiness. The las time I had seen Karaj dam's water level, it was so low that I almost cried and felt sorry for all of us who live in Tehran and were forced to suffer the consequences. Well, at least for this year we should not have such a thing to worry about, although like all good people everywhere we must realize the importance of water as a precious commodity and make sure we don't waste it. I was so excited that like a kid I wanted to jump up and down. But my British visitor, for the benefit of whom we were driving up north, would have been too shocked by such behavior in public.

We got to the villa about 10:30 am and immediately took to the water. We had a peak at the Caspian coming in, as the villa was on the north side of the one of the only Shomal Road which covers all of the Caspian Sea shores from one end to the other. When there is no traffic, one can almost hear the sea going about its business. It looked pale blue this time and as always it looked as lovely as ever, cool and alone yet prude and active.

The main problem with going to the Caspian is that you end up eating too much. I hardly ever have three meals a day. But there, especially with the help of Shahnaz khanoum, who with her husband Bahman Agha, takes care of this villa and cooks wonderfully delicious local dishes, we all lost control and forgot about dietary restrictions and devoured three great meals a day! We were to stay another day but then we were informed that the weather was going to turn nasty and so we decided to come back a day earlier, especially since one of the cars did not seem to be in perfect state. The boys had their car's brakes checked at the local AA Garage in Abbass-Abbad. The car, an old Peugeot, had given them a lot of trouble coming up, even though it had been serviced before the trip in Tehran by their local mechanic. At the AA garage, the chief mechanic seemed to know really what he was doing and in full command of this business. The AA seems to be run by a new management in recent years. They are very visible and good in helping drivers in stress. They have agents all over Iran, and their staff, on the road and in their garages, seem to do a decent job which I find most reassuring especially since one's safety is at stake.

Checking the oil!

Since we were coming back early, we decided to take it easy and get a chance to look at the famous Kelardasht Road near Abbass-Abbad. And this took us to Kelardasht, a great, soft and gentle heaven that can easy blow you away with so much visible pleasure and so many lovely spots. Near Banafesh-Deh almost at the end of this beautiful valley, we stopped by at a friend's lovely little cottage. We thought how cozy the place is. Unlike the villa that we were coming from, everything in this gorgeous little cottage had a useful purpose. It was lovely, neat and practical. We had brought food and so we sat at the kitchen stand and enjoyed our cold lunch.

We set off and had tea at one of the many cafes' on the way after Marzan-Abbad. There we separated and arranged to meet at the next café, which was about an hour and half away. The weather was lovely and the air was great except when we got behind those many slow moving lorries struggling the narrow and multiple bends of the Chalouss Road. Yet the mountains, the trees and the view in general were so charming that we did not mind most of the time being held up, except when the fume of these lorries almost chocked us to death on several occasions! We stopped at the Blue Star café after we passed Sia-Bish-e. It is a descent and clean stop and the staff and polite. They serve very good coffee as it is made wholly with fresh local milk.

Shahnaz Khanoum and Bahaman Agha

We waited for the other car to join us as agreed. 10-15 minutes passed and no sign of them. After 30 minutes I was getting really worried. This could not have been normal since they always drove faster than I did and waited for my car with a smile on their face. My friend kept me calm by asking me many questions and diverting my mind but I could hardly sit. I asked several drivers who came from their direction if they hadseen their car, giving the cars details. All said no. this was reassuring since it meant that they were not involved in any accidents, thank God. After more than an hour had passed they arrived, just before I was going to go look for them. I was so happy to see three of them in one piece that I completely forgot all those things that I had prepared to throw at them and say to them! The story was that, just after we had left them the first café', the driver goes to get something from the boot and by accident he leaves the car keys inside the boot and closes it. All that time they were trying to open the boot and get the keys. They were tired and worn out. I gave them some vitamin tablets and ordered some hot coffee with fresh milk as it was getting a little cold by then. I think I put on a couple of kilos from all that worrying during that time!

The rest of the trip was quite uneventful, except near Karaj when a van coming from the opposite direction half drove to our side and was so close when it passed that we both had to hold our breath. Back to Tehran and to the house, we brought everything up and sat and had some tea and something to nibble along. By the time everybody left it was nearly midnight.

This was a lovely trip and I dare say that this year I shall be up that road again. The view and the scenery are simply fabulous and the experience simply too lovely. Now, I know why my friends drive up almost every weekend. It is not all for the fresh clean air. The experience was like that of seeing an old friend. You don't know how much you miss them until you see them by accident after a long time!

Jaayeh shomaa ham-e khali (we missed you all)!

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