We awoke in the car at roughly 6am Turkish time (4am GMT) in the car from our overnight stand at the Turkish-Iranian no-mans land; Jäger Battalion were already up and moving by this point, and almost ready to leave – we had to move fast. No more than 30 minutes later, and we were up and about, ready to move the car from one country to the next. Sounds like a feat of distance which amounts to 30 metres, through 1 gate.
We had passports stamped for drivers and passengers separately, moving thorough to the Iran holding section without too much hassle, after our V5 car documentation was verified. Technically, we were no in Iran, and the fun began. We entered the main offices for passport and visa control, and provided finger prints and contact details. That was the easy bit, without really any hassle at all – we as people had passed successfully into Iran, but the cars had not. So our days truly began with the requirement of a Carnet de Passage.
Exiting the main building we discovered 2 other rally teams had been stuck there overnight as well, just 50 metres from where we camped. They had remained overnight in the determination they could find a cheaper price for their Carnets, not the €500 some of the private companies were trying to offer. We were in the same boat at this point, and the thought of remaining overnight simply for a better price had crossed our minds, but not at the expense of so much time at the border. One of the fixers turned out to be an agent for the tour guide’s carnet management- Hosein. Hosein tried haggling through his agent for our custom, but failed to come to a good deal – quoting Euros not dollars as per email communications, and citing a hefty mark-up against the other fixers. We declined in hope of a better deal.
The fixers worked in a pack, and we wrestled back and forth for 8 hours on the insistence of cheaper than €500. It was sheer bad luck that Jäger Battalion had already purchased their Carnet at a higher price; the fixers took this as a yard stick by which to measure everyone else. In amongst this arguing, fixers shoving each other in determination of finding a price to make a profit from. The defending and strong, repeated Persian persuasions burned Oli out, tired from a restless night in the car, and the heat. Exhausted from the last 24 hours, he lost his cool with our tour guide who had arrived amongst this long standing battle of patience, and ended up following the carnet hagglers who had took off with his passport and V5C Documentation to ensure they were returned. After over 8 hours of waiting, paper pushing, haggling, almost to the point of dizziness, we were the last car to cross the border, from being the 2nd car of the day to enter, totalling 21 hours to drive less than half a mile.
We crawled down the hill to exchange Carnet papers and have our final paperwork issued. The fixer who finally sealed the $420 deal took all the apparent time in the world over this process, and there was little we could do. Gholamreza Shahmoradi, our tour guide, was a tall late-20’s Iranian man who was seemingly uninterested in who we were and the tour of his country ahead of us. After we crossed the border, he remained in our car and directed us to Maku – a nearby town for a late lunch /early dinner. It didn’t feel like we were in Iran at all. We had been stuck for so long in bureaucracy and lack of rest that the idea of actually being in a country we were determined to explore was completely expelled from our minds.
We drove into Tabriz, exhausted from the day’s ordeals. Gholamreza gave very last minute directions and was not impressed with our suggestion of splitting the team up between 2 locations (hotel and a restaurant) upon reaching Tabriz – it turned out we all wanted to make it to the hotel anyhow, but this sense of hand holding without autonomy was not a pleasing one. We ended the day finally checked into the Hotel Sahand, crashed out and completely devoid of energy or enthusiasm. A strongly worded email was sent to the tour guide operator insisting improvements were made, especially given the cost of our tour.