When our traveler barely makes it back to its port of origin

Ruins in Yazd, the 7,000 years old city.
Ruins in Yazd, the 7,000 years old city.

In Tehran, I meet with people at shipping companies in an effort to get a deal sending my truck to India. At first, it seems like a good deal when I learn that the ocean freight amounts to only US$100 from Bandar Abbas to Mumbai. Unfortunately, Iran is a complicated country, and there are a lot of stamps and papers involved in every step when it comes to import or export. At the end of the day, it will cost me at least US$700 to be out of the port, plus a substantial sum to pay in India as well.

The Tehran bazaar. Probably the biggest market I see since Mexico.
The Tehran bazaar. Probably the biggest market I see since Mexico.
Nice carpets. Too bad I don’t have the cash.
Nice carpets. Too bad I don’t have the cash.

It’s expensive, but there are no other options. And I have the money. Exactly the right amount in fact, in U.S. dollars. But the problem is that I don’t have a lot more than that, and I have to cross the entire country again.
One would think I just have to go to the bank to get a bit more and make it out of the country OK. Well, things are not that simple in Iran. As everyone knows, the country is under international sanctions because of its nuclear program. That means that countries like the United States or France cannot do any trade with Iran. That also means bank accounts from these countries can’t be accessed once you are in the forbidden land.

Nighttime in Tehran, when you can go out and eat during Ramadan.
Nighttime in Tehran, when you can go out and eat during Ramadan.

Knowing that, I got a lot of cash in Dubai, but I didn’t think it would cost me that much to get out of Iran. I felt that the US$1,000 I was taking with me was a comfortable amount, given that the country was pretty cheap. But now I will have a difficult time to make it out.

Yazd alleys, easy to get lost in.
Yazd alleys, easy to get lost in.

I had to leave Tehran – an expensive city on Iranian standards – right now, and go south to ship the truck as soon as possible. A boat was set to leave port on Aug. 25 and I had to have my container on it.
I left the city on Monday, and slept in a gas station 200 miles south of Tehran. It was quite noisy there, and difficult to find sleep. Few hours after, the police woke me up to check who I was, and more important, who I was sleeping with (nobody…). I left early morning and later arrived in Yazd, one of the oldest living cities on earth, inhabited since at least 7,000 years.

The Tomb of the Twelve Imams, Yazd
The Tomb of the Twelve Imams, Yazd
Water reservoir with cooling towers.
Water reservoir with cooling towers.
A passage in the city made of mud.
A passage in the city made of mud.

There, I found a place I could stay at for cheap. The Silk Road Hotel (highly recommended) lets its guests sleep on the roof or on beds in the courtyard for few dollars. At this point I am surviving eating the canned food I have in my truck, kept for emergencies like this one. For the first time in Iran, I meet some tourists – mostly Europeans – in Yazd. I stay there two days, relaxing and visiting the old city. Everything here is built with sun-dried mud bricks, and the city is brown, as the desert surrounding it.

Old traditional building, Yazd. Notice the “badgir” on the roof.
Old traditional building, Yazd. Notice the “badgir” on the roof.

One striking detail is the presence of “badgirs” on the roof of many buildings. “Badgirs” are some kind of wind-catchers, ancient A/C designed to catch the slightest breeze, separate the hot and cold air, and send the latest in the house, or water reservoir.

Going back to Bandar Abbas.
Going back to Bandar Abbas.

Two days later, I continued my trip south. I slept at the same gas station where I stopped when I was coming up, and people there recognize me. It is my luck to be short of cash in a country where people are so welcoming. As soon as I stop somewhere, people bring you food and drinks. They are happy to see tourists, and they show it. Once, on the highway out of Tehran, the workers even refused my money to pay the toll.

Another night in a gas station.
Another night in a gas station.

When I arrive in Bandar Abbas, I am back at sea level and the heat is intense. It is Friday, and everything is closed at the port, but I drive around to figure out the places I have to go the following day. I ask the police if there is a location where I could camp, but they can’t think of anywhere. Eventually, they speak to the owner of a hotel who agrees to bring the price of the room down 75% for me. When the receptionist sees me counting my money, she even gives me US$ 5 to have diner at the hotel this night.

Collecting stamps on the port...
Collecting stamps on the port...

I think it was good that I was at the hotel, because I could not have survived the heat of the following days. I was supposed to be in and out of the city, stuffing my container on the Saturday. As of Sunday night, I am still not finished with it. I had to take an agent to help me out with the paperwork, and that will cost me some money as well. With the shipping agency, I was able to negotiate a partial payment here, and the rest in India, which freed some cash for lodging and food. The boat departure has been pushed back to the 27th (and probably later…). I hope to be in a flight from Shiraz, Iran to New Delhi, India – which I can pay online through a UAE company – on Tuesday.
I would like to visit Delhi and travel by train to Mumbai, where I should be able to get my car in something like ten days. But we will see. For now I am in survival mode, trying to escape from Iran.

24 Replies to “When our traveler barely makes it back to its port of origin”

  1. Hey Nick…. I’ll be glad when I read that your out of there. Too bad about having had to go all the way back (except for the people that were happy to see you again), and scary about you not having enough money.. I sure hope that you are able to depart with some cash on you!
    The pictures are so great. I’m really enjoying your trip!! stay safe.
    Hugs from America!!

  2. Wow Nic,

    Sounds like you have had a rough couple days, good thing the Iranian people are so friendly! It will be nice to get on that plane and make it to India I am sure. Take care.


  3. Nick I’m so glad to hear from you! I have been checking the blog every day of the past 4, wondering if you were, in fact, surviving. I’ve been extremely worried, as although you are technically French, Iran has a long history of unfriendliness to the US, and I was very concerned that they were using that against you. It sounds like the money issues are working out, and I am very glad that my prayers of safety and help for you are being answered, no matter how small the help. I know you are super busy, but I hope you might update just a bit sooner next time, just to know that you are safe. I am very interested in the badgirs, what an interesting concept. I imagine that my perception of what is cool water and their perception are quite different. I am an ice addict – it has to be freezing cold to be good to me! Anyway, thanks for the update, and lots of prayers and positive thoughts coming your way!

  4. Wow Nick, what a scary situation you find yourself in! It seems like the Iranian people are willing to help you when they can. That’s a good thing. I’m sure everything will work out OK for you. Things will be better once you arrive in India. Good luck and travel safe!

  5. This is turning out to be quite an adventure. Every part of Iran seem to be interesting and rich in history. The pictures from Yazd are quite interesting. Keep traveling and stay safe. I guess your next post would be from New Delhi. You should have a safe trip. Also, you would really like the train travel from New Delhi to Mumbai. Are you traveling down to south India as well like Bangalore and Hyderabad? Hyderabad (my home city) would be very interesting, if you plan to visit. I can arrange to have some one out there to help visit that city. Let me know your itinerary out there in India.


  6. I think far worse things could happen to you than the lack of money. You are safe and unhurt, that’s the most important part! I guess it is a blessing that you can’t get into Pakistan as the situation there is getting worse. There’s angry mobs everywhere from frustrated flood victims, and it looks like the floods are bad enough that it has literally split the country in half– which makes it impassible for you.

    Looks like a divine intervention happened to keep you away from the country!

  7. Your postings go against all the propaganda we hear in America. Good for you! Glad to hear you’re safe and making friends (sounds like something your mother would say). God, The Universal Power, whatever, has certainly taken you under its wing. Let us know when you’re on happy trails in Delhi and Mumbai.

    Peace! Your friend in America,

  8. Bonne chance, je suis votre expedition depuis New York…j’avoue que j’avais peur pour vous en Afrique! (Somalie etc…).
    Merci pour les photos.
    Chapel hill NC

  9. Why does everyone think you’re in such a scary situation? LOL! You’ve been in much worse than this before it seems to me! LOL! 🙂

    Did ya hear the news about the Russians agreeing to sell an “important item” to the Iranians? That’s what I’m praying about! That is truly scary.

    Ah well, I’m excited for you Nic! Always adventures for you and I believe you’ll make it and have a great book to write after this trip! I do think on your final leg overwater you should ship your Toyota to the port in Seattle rather than San Fran! 🙂 But maybe it’s more expensive than Cali or Mexico.

    Well, be blessed, stay safe, have fun, drink in all the sites!


  10. I had heard that the hospitality of the Iranian people was second to none – glad to hear it’s true. Wish you’d been able to spend some of your money on souvenirs and experiences rather than port fees and survival, maybe then you wouldn’t think of it as escaping! Take care of yourself, can’t wait to hear what you think about India – I love it there, wish I could travel with you on this next portion!

  11. Hi Nick, I am so glad to read your blog. It is so exciting to travel with you to all these countries. It is especially good to get your POV without all the usual politics. I love the friendliness of the Iranians and was frightened for you as you traveled across Africa. Thank you for this website.

  12. Glad to know you are alright Nick! Whew. Hopefully you and your truck make it to India okay. Can’t wait to read your next entry about the departure process and the first days in India. Enjoy!

  13. Hi Nick,

    Like many I’ve been following the blog since day 1. I cant help but get the feeling you’re still rushing in this trip. I thought being away for so long you’d be in a more relaxed frame of mind, taking in as much of the surroundings your senses could handle. Instead it just feels like you’re racing the clock to get through each country. Hopefully this can change in India and you don’t feel pressured to be posting a new country every few days. This trip is for you remember.


  14. Amazing pictures and adventures as always! I have been following from the beginning. If you find yourself in middle america on your way home, I have a bed
    and some great kansas city bbq waiting for you! Until then I shall continue to live vicariously through you!

  15. Hey bud, its these challenges that make it an adventure right… Best of luck. Let us know if you need anything.

  16. Hello Nick:
    Of course I have been keeping up with your blog. Our family has been busy with numerous “end of the summer” type things, so please excuse the delay in writing. Love your photos of Iran and what you wrote about how the buildings and the landscape blend together in a sort of brown-desert type color indeed struck me as VERY different. You must be looking forward to greenery, ah? Well, I sent you via email a few photos of our home here in the pacific northwest. Well, these photos are for you to post in your vehicle or download on your ipod. The next time you run into Middle Eastern or even Asian (India-China) area problems, think and repeat…there is no place like home, there is no place like home (LOL). But again I will say that we look forward to you visiting us in this part of the world, which in unbelievably beautiful, Nick. Stay safe, remain prayerful and positive. Much love,

  17. I knew it would be difficult without a preplaned wayout and a set timed visa.
    Enjoy the India caos and be careful on the roads there!!

  18. Nick!! I worry about you. I hope you stay safe and get to India without more complications. I’m loving your photos and proud that you’re still continuing your adventure. All that said, we miss you. Come home soon.

  19. I hate to hear about the problems while there, it sucks that the diplomatic relations are so strained between the US and Iran that even a foreign citizen has no access to their own money.

    Do the French have an embassy there that you may be able to have funds sent to? I know the US uses the Swiss as the unofficial embassy but I would imagine the French are a little more civil in the region.

  20. Hello Nick,
    Although we have never met, I am so enjoying all of your travels. We are praying for you all the way and that every step you take, you are protected by the Lord. Take care and we are anxious to hear how you have gotten out of Iran….

    Blessings from Nashville, Tn.
    Donna Lowry and family

  21. @suzzane: yup… too much BS propaganda from US mass media makes us think Iran is a terrible place when in fact, North Korea is far worse from the various trip reports I read. I actually met a group of Iranian businessmen (think they were specifically from Shiraz) at a Beijing McDonald’s last year, and they were very friendly and we actually had a little chat while they sat at the table next to us. They love their country and don’t think it’s as bad as the Americans make it! Who knows though… if the people are happy, that’s all that matters.

  22. Hey Adveventurer

    What’s up budd, Longtime no see.Good to hear that U R coming to india finally. Well all the best my friend. Hope to meet you in india.You have got my number and email so welcome to india and let me know.

    God Bless

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