Shiraz was all very nice, with its sweeping views and the Shah-e Chirag Mosque, but our other reason for visiting the city was set in the mountain range just north, back into the highway pass; Persepolis. The pinnacle of the Persian Empire, Xerxes’ jewel of the kingdom was our main goal of the day, with the intention of making it early in the morning to as to avoid the intense heat of the high summer day. Reza hoped we could at least visit the Shiraz Bazaar to kick off the day, something the team weren’t especially keen on – we appreciated the thought and it was always nice to see complete contrast in how shopping day to day was done in the middle east, but once you have seen one bazaar, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
We returned to the hotel to meet our tour guide operator for the first time – Laleh Sadir – a young woman who was a local resident of Shiraz and had very much been behind the scenes of many Mongol Rally teams over the past few weeks. We were pleased to finally meet each other and had a brief chat about how the tour had progressed, and how Reza fared as a tour guide, all being very positive. We had a group photo with the Micra and accepted a gift of fruit jellies and nougat, a welcome addition to on-board snacks.
We took the route back north out of Shiraz and headed for Persepolis. Not 500 metres for the main entrance Oli spotted Toyota Yaris with red stickers blurred through a hedge row, in what seems to be a campsite. Immediate stop and turn around, we were greeted by Yak on Track – a multinational team consisting of an Argentinian Girl, Milena, and 2 New Zealanders, Mogan and Henry. Until this point, given the lack of interest we had form other teams in the planning stages, we through we were the only team to venture so far south in Iran. We exchanged stories and contact details, and managed to assist with Yak on Track’s lack of V5 documentation. A pro tip for teams is having copies of the V5 car paperwork. Even without the genuine version, you can get through every border requesting it, from Bulgaria to Iran (and at the time of writing, at least as far as Uzbekistan). They were intending to have the official document shipped over from the UK by DHL at a staggering $80. Oli quickly suggested an alternative – have the document scanned in the UK, emailed across and have high quality copies printed off in Iran, saving a great deal of time and money.
We said our goodbyes and made our way into Persepolis. Its vast, stretching ruins in varying states of preservation or complete ruin, depending on the fate each side of the city had suffered, much at the hands of Alexander the Great. The Persian capital was magnificent, even in what remained. The heat from the sun and the reflection from the surrounding stone work was intense – a strong suggestion of Reza’s to get there early was wise indeed. Meeting Yak on Track again at the Entrance on our way out, we said our good-byes and wished them well, heading now for a return to Isfahan.
The combination of headwind and slow but infuriating steep climb back out of the Shiraz Province made for a horrible fuel consumption, aiming for a steady ETA as best we could at the expense of additional fuel stops. Stopping in before Abadeh for additional water on-board, we hoped to reach Isfahan in the evening, and while that was the case, we had not accounted for its spectacular rush hour traffic. Busses attempting u-turns across a 6-lane highway was just 1 highlight of the flowing torrent of cars, again 5-lanes’ worth to 3 painted. It took over an hour to finally reach the Traditional Hotel again, ending the night with bags being ejected from the car before parking to save a few moments of packing logistics. Exhausted from the drive, we did our best to run through some clothes in the bathroom and hung them out in the hotel’s courtyard – the 30-dgree heat taking care of the drying.