Abadan was swelteringly hot when we left, as it was the whole time we were there. In fact, besides being the site of the refinery that was essentially the start of British Petroleum, and also the focus of some of the bloodiest battles of both WWI and the Iran-Iraq war, Abadan’s main claim to fame is having the highest known temperature on the planet, a heat burst that hit 87° C in June 1967.
The road started flat, straight and smooth across a featureless, shimmering plain, and continued that way for several hours. An escarpment arose in the distance, and eventually we started to climb into some hills. The road twisted through a series of rugged red canyons and steadily gained elevation. Twice I was stopped by police — once for speeding, and once for overtaking on a curve; both times managed to be declared innocent on grounds of insanity. On entering Shiraz province, the hills became proper mountains, and soon we were crawling along a series of switchbacks behind a long queue of heavy lorries. El Guapo managed to pass them one by one, leaving my guide looking a bit pale at times. Finally the road levelled out and soon we were on the outskirts of Shiraz.
We dodged vehicles, motorcycles and pedestrians for a few kilometres before arriving at edge of the old city, where my hotel was located. I turned down a narrow alleyway, and drove into the old city itself. The streets grew narrower as we got closer, at one point requiring us to fold in both wing mirrors to squeeze through a particularly narrow passageway, but we made it to the hotel and safely parked El Guapo in the car park.
Got up early the next morning to have a stroll around the old city before joining my guide about 9:30 to go to his agency to settle my bill. Due to sanctions, there was no way for me to pay for my trip in advance, and the agency had made all of the arrangements based only on my my email commitment to do so on arrival. Honouring that commitment, I counted out a big stack of hundred Euro notes for the agent.
At last, we were ready to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was the Pink Mosque, a beautiful 19th century tiled edifice with incredible stained glass windows. Finally my trip was going smoothly…or was it?
3 July 2015