Day 12 – Rudkhan Castle & the Caspian Sea

18 May

A rather hot night in an enclosed box of a guesthouse resulted in a rather broken sleep and the constant need to drink water during the night.

Managed a quick shower before breakfast and felt much better for it.  Fried eggs, coffee, tea and fresh decent bread with honey was a good start.  Carolyn had leftover kebab in her room. The locals in the tea house were a fine assortment of the best builders money shouldn’t buy. Certainly seeing them later pushing their wheelbarrows at a snail’s pace didn’t make me think they’d finish before the next earthquake or mud slide. Or hell freezing over.

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We stopped at the roadside as some tea pickers were hard at work.  By that I mean lounging in the shade under a tree. The farmers were hard at work on the questions and the photos.

Thankfully, we stopped off at Fouman again on the way through for cinnamon buns and the baker was most insistent that we saw the whole process. Three generations working together in a small bakery. I have his business card.  Hope they do international deliveries.

We arrived shortly after at Rudkhan Castle which had 1000 steps to reach it. Actually 972 by my count but you get the idea.  The ascent was mostly through a cool woodland, although the effort in the humid atmosphere brought out the sweat in us all. This was the western most castle of the Assassins and by far the most impressive now.  2000 people lived in or around it, and the steps up were lined by almost as many stalls selling much needed refreshments.  The man at the very top was thankfully sellng ice lollies in tubs.  Most appreciated. The signs on the way up do not say “only 5 minutes to go” in Farsi (Persian).

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As we entered the ruined castle the heavens opened and a thunderstorm engulfed us.  Everyone huddled into the nearest nook or crannie that they could find.  I ended up sharing with a young Iranian lady who wanted to share her apple with me.

In the gaps between the rain and the lightning, we scampered higher on the now slippery steps, made for giants.

The weather passed. The dampness now thankfully hid the sweat. A low mist hung in the air causing the photographers to be upset that they couldn’t see the castle again.  This soon passed as well and sunshine prevailed.

Reaching all corners of the castle proved quite difficult, but we all managed an underground water cistern and the highest point with some stunning views.  I noticed smoke in one of the buildings and discovered a caretaker living there, with a blazing fire going and a bed and mat laid out. He apparently lives there for 3 months of the year.

The route back proved more difficult with smooth concrete and polished pebbles not quite dry from the rain. George joined the fallers club, but it was a close shave for many others.

Passed some ungrateful kids getting a ride on their dad’s back uphill and still complaining about it.  Same problems everywhere!

The most interesting people observation was the number of dress shirts that were still being worn – most now dripping with sweat. Some had rolled up their trouser legs a little, but absolutely no one was wearing shorts. I for one would like to instigate the Iranian campaign to at least allow foreigners to wear shorts.  Woman were also a little more lax with their headscarves at times. Especially the younger generation.

As usual, many of the locals or Iranian tourists wanted to speak, when they or we weren’t out of breath. Some had more English than others, but all persevered!

Once we had all assembled at the bottom, and attempted to dry off, we headed to one of the many restaurants there for some more osh – noodle soup.  It was a tableless affair which meant that we had to put our aching muscles into positions that Europeans aren’t designed for.

Back on the road and I finally manage to persuade the bus to stop at a post box for the only 4 postcards that I had managed to source. Sorry folks, family first.

Several speed bumps on the main road meant that we weren’t able to catch up with much needed sleep on the way to our hotel. Regular stops at the roadside traffic police also didn’t help. The rainclouds appear to be hovering over our hotel.  Passing the time by trying to take photos of the lightning wasn’t productive either.

5:40pm Caspian Sea sighted!

We checked into the 4 star Sefid Kenar Grand Hotel in Bandar Anzali which trip advisor had described as “tired”. By the standards of recent days it was positive luxury, although I couldn’t find any air conditioning in the room. Opened the enclosed balcony door and windows instead.  Great view of the beach, just 20m away.

Before dinner, I had a small walk along the beach to stretch the aching muscles.  For our last dinner in Iran we all went for the sturgeon kebab, which thankfully came with chips. Max, in his wisdom, also ordered rice. The others enjoyed the last non alcoholic beer they will likely ever have.

Dessert in the foyer, consisted of saffron, orange and banana ice cream. Great! Especially the saffron.

Chatted about future holidays and thoughts on Iran before heading to bed.  Wish there was air con.

Repacked the bags to move down to two in preparation for the border crossings tomorrow.  Could take up to two hours to cover both sections.

Excellent, if tiring, day.

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