We left Matteo Tricarico in India, during his Travel For Aid odissey across Asia into Europe… after a short stint in Dubai, Matteo is now in Iran, a fascinating country full of culture, deserts and very hospitable people… his Iranian adventures continue, and the following is the chronicle as penned down by Matteo himself…
In such arid places the human presence is bound by the arbitrariness of Mother Nature, and in particular of one of her daughters, Geology, that acting like a magician, guided by whim and caprice, decides where to pour the chemical compound that makes 70% of our body. Made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen one, it is also the most common element on the surface of this planet that we have mistakenly called “Earth”, but that for its two-thirds, and rising!, is covered by water. For 200 kilometres I covered during those past two days, Geology has decreed that not one drop of water would come out of the ground, so no villages could be established. Therefore, on May 7, despite having almost doubled my minimum provision of water from three litres to five, I run out of it, and by noon my throat was dryer than the surrounding soil. I decided to break one of the golden rules of the good traveller’s manual in tropical countries: never drink from any source other than a sealed bottle. With ample signs, I stopped a truck that was marching in the opposite direction and I asked for “hab”, water in Farsi. The driver showed me the tap of a small tank housed between the driven wheels and the first axis of the trailer, it opened, I filled a bottle that I drank in a gulp without breathing. It tasted a bit of rust, but it was the most blessed liquid, after my mother’s milk, I have ever swallowed in my life. The good man, maybe my saviour, smiled and gave me two more bottles filled from the same tank. The same day, in the late afternoon, I arrived some twenty kilometres east of Allahabad, on the highway that from Naein leads to Khvor, realizing that I was completely on the wrong way. My intention was to reach the oasis of Ab_E Garm via Hajiabad road and I was about seventy kilometres off target. Passing the oasis of Chupanan, literally “shepherds”, the desert, until then quite rocky, becomes sandy and it could not be worse because I faced a wind so strong that I could barely keep upright on the bicycle. I decided to find refuge in an abandoned quarry, and within a blink of an eye, I found myself in the middle of a swirling dust storm, which obscured the sky, that suddenly became even more gloomy, with the arrival of clouds as black as crows. It seemed that the darkness had descended early. I took protection behind large magnificent pale-pink granite blocks, and I just managed to set up my tent and to enter it, that a downpour fell on the area. It sounded like I was inside a beaten drum, with the rain drops crashing on the synthetic walls of my igloo. Within three hours, calm had returned; the clouds were far away high on the horizon and the Milky Way was visible again in all its pale majesty.
Certainly the desert has its charm, but I had enough of its seduction, so the next morning, I gave up on reaching the oasis of Ab_E Garm and I returned on my steps towards Chupanan. At lunch, I stopped under the roof of the police post, the only place within a few kilometres where shade could be found. The lieutenant, sergeant and soldier asked me to sit down with them. When I pulled out of my bag canned beans in tomato sauce and a piece of dry bread, the soldiers were moved by pity and asked me if I wanted something better to eat. I did not decline the offer, so the lieutenant gave an order to the soldier who, a moment later, appeared with a plat of spaghetti bolognese! Although the pasta was overcooked, I found it so delicious, tasty and delectable that I devoured it with such voracity, as if I had never eaten before. I return the plate as clean as if it had been washed in a dishwasher, and the lieutenant, who was the chef of that dish that, at that time, seemed truly divine, smiled, pleased with himself for his culinary skills. Taking leave from the cops, after endless and powerful handshakes, I started to ride again and by night I reached the town of Anarak, which means “pomegranate”. I asked some guys sitting on benches in the communal gardens if I could spend the night there, and they showed me the caravansary Robat just around the corner(www.robatanarak.com, it is really an amazing place). I knocked at the massive front door and Siavosh Jalali appeared. He is a tall and heavily-built man, with thick beard and long hair tied back in a tail both of a milky white colour, with alert and penetrating eyes and 32 ivory teeth imperceptibly yellowed by cigarettes nicotine. I cannot give him a certain age, but I think between 50 and 60, he looks like a character escaped from Aladdin’s lamp or some other story from the Thousand and One Nights, who, besides his impressive appearance, had a melodious voice that enchanted the listeners who never interrupted him until it was clear that he had fully expressed his thoughts. After bargaining, we agreed to half the price he asked for the room and I entered the old caravansary converted into a hotel.
The bedrooms were tiny with a low ceiling compared to the vast central courtyard where, in the past, the caravans goods were arranged, and the high and spacious stables for the camels, now converted to a restaurant. That night I went straight to bed and I believe I was the only guest, but the next morning I found three girls in the yard who greeted me with warm smiles. Exiting the bathroom, as I crossed the central plaza heading back to my room, Niloofar approached me and, after having asked my nationality, reason of my presence in the country, and so on, she informed me to be part of a crew there to shoot a film. She was the director; Farah, a striking blonde frequently on the phone, was one of the actresses; Samere, a curly brunette, the casting manager, and Payman, her boyfriend, was the writer. The rest of the staff would arrive in the afternoon and in the meantime they would go to overseen the places where to shoot. Niloo did not have to twist my arm to persuade me to accompany them and I let myself to be easily convinced, after all, when will I have another opportunity to spend a day with a crew of Iranian filmmakers?! Half hour later, I was in Siavosh’s jeep, driving off road between the desert mountains, tossed in the back seat between Niloo and Farah, who where explaining me the plot of the movie. The title is Avaye_Sokuot, literally “the melody of silence”, and it is the story of a group of actors who go to the desert to shoot a horror movie, when they found out about two real people: a guy who lived for the past 32 years 150 meters underground in a abandoned mine and a woman who has supernatural powers and that helped many people in her life. Thus, the actors decide to make a documentary about these two extraordinary people. In the late afternoon, the rest of the troupe arrived: the producer, a distinguished aged-man former banker but now converted to cinema; the cameramen; the set designers; costume designers; and the sound engineer, Ibrahim, with whom I spent some time talking in Italian. I followed the preparatory work to shoot the next day and, at night, I was the only spectator of a jam-session where Siavosh was the director playing a kind of mandolin, and all the others played drums and strings instruments. I really enjoyed their company and I sincerely regretted having to leave the following day. I hope to see them again in Tehran next week.