Day 10 – Valley of the Assassins – Alamut Castle

16 May

Toast and jam again.  Life is good.

So was being able to fit the carpet in my bag and still close it.

First stop today was the Azadi monument on Azadi Square. Actually it’s  a roundabout (translated for the non Dundonians) with 5 lanes of traffic circulating. George and I braved the crossing by stepping boldly out into the middle of the moving traffic – right behind our guide.  I narrowly avoided getting my legs crushed on several occasions but made it to the safety of the grass verge to frame a photo of the Liberty monument,  the mountains and the Milad Tower (432m). The monument was built in 1975 ish by the last Shah and renamed after the revolution (1979). We made it back to the bus with legs intact but several horns blaring, even though we used the zebra crossing this time.  Apparently they mean nothing.

Joining one of the many expressways out of town we soon left the traffic behind although the 36°C wasn’t going anywhere quickly.  As shorts are strongly discouraged here I ended up melting into the minibus seat.

Discovered that the reason for this was that the air conditioning was broken and we stopped off at a small town garage in Karaj to get it fixed.  In the hour that we waited, the farmers were keen to visit the local agricultural engineering college.  We didn’t manage to get in at the first gate and gave up walking down the main street to find another entrance.  Caroline was distracted by the smell of lavender and found a picture of her own Kent lavender farm in a book offered to her by the seller. She took some oil and other samples to have it analysed at home for quality purposes. Also found that you can get lavender ice cream, and that it is one of the ingredients of coca cola!

Fresh dates and bananas kept us going until Caroline brought out the marijuana seeds that she’d bought locally, and a homemade flapjack from Kent. You can guess what went down best.  Slightly salty, the local birds apparently like the seeds as well.  Max and the bus driver remained as the control group.

Aydin described the Hashshahshins (try your best Sean Connory on that one) as we climbed and then descended into their valley – the Valley of the Assassins. Also gave their name to hashish. (Still no affect.) Worryingly, 2% of modem day Iranians still belong to this Ismaili religion who believe in only 6 imams.

Many, many hairpin bends later we arrived in the village of Moallem Kelayeh for lunch. One chicken kebab (skewer) and yet more rice later and we decided to walk through the village allowing the bus to pick us up.

The village wasn’t in the best condition, and a large hole in the mud above the village gave a bit of a clue that it wasn’t the most stable. One of the shops sold cowboy hats!

Next stop was Alamut Castle.  Started with a walk up a big hill with lots of steps that were too big for the average person. The hill itself looked like something out of the Lion King, but I avoided bursting into song. Almost.

Various gates, fires and towers later and we reached a large hole in the rock which gave a view on all sides and was nicely shaded. Fantastic views down the valley really gave the impression that this was the chief stronghold of the Assassins.

Further up meant climbing some wooden rungs held together by rusty scaffolding. I have developed a new phobia. However the top was well worth it. Although completely in ruin, the basis of the 200 soldiers that lived here could be easily seen.

image

However we spent most of the time on top taking photographs of ourselves and the other two (count them) tourists who were there. The mountains, castle and valley also featured occasionally.

Walking down we passed a photogenic goat and goat herder, his argumentative woman and a white donkey. Back at the bus we also met a shepherd with a gammy knee and a kettle.

One hot chocolate and another flapjack later and we were off retracing our steps down the valley again. This time to the village of Zarabad. A quick dash through the town for the photos before the light left the sky, resulted in a visit to a beautiful golden shrine, before returning to find that the bus had gone.

Thankfully it wasn’t so far away and I joined the others in our homestay for the night. Two rooms – one for male and one for female, although the driver and local guide managed to find a room to themselves.

We were fed with the same stuff we’d been eating as a starter the rest of the nights, but also including the rather tasty bottom-of-the-pot rice.

Max had to apologise for a pink silk liner. Only £4 from Blacks in a sale (for ladies).

An early night.  Hopefully the gauze over the windows will keep the bugs out and the draft in. Sweating already.

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