Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Second Trip

I received confirmation e-mail today that my second story is accepted by Travel and Transitions. This is about the time me and Haj Mehdi (I gave him this pseudonym!) traveled to Sabalan Summit 11 years ago! I think I still am able to make a journey like that. The interesting thing is I almost remember everything and wrote the story. That's one of the most exciting trips that I've ever had. I'm thinking of sending another one. That could be our cycling trip to Roodbar or hiking through Alborz Mountains to get to Caspian Sea. Here's the part one of that amazing trip:

In a September day I and a friend planned to go to Sabalan Summit in North West Iran. In order to reach Sabalan, you go to the city of Ardabil, first. So agreed to meet in a busy circle of Tehran at 08:30 PM and go to the bus depot for our tickets. But what happened is my friend was almost one hour late and we missed all of the departures to Ardabil that night! Luckily we found a bus going to Tabriz. We asked the driver to drop us in the first town that we can go to Ardabil. Therefore we found ourselves in the small town of Bastan-Abad the next morning. As the mountain is accessible from different routes, we decided to take the one which starts from a hot spring called Ghotor-Sooei. That is located at the east side of the mountain.
Although Persian is the official language of Iran but other languages are spoken in the country too. West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Ardabil, the North Western provinces of Iran are the provinces which Azeri, a modified of Turkish, is spoken wildly and basically is people’s mother tongue. As a result of that one of the issues we faced over there was communication! But it was not a big problem because the people, who attend the school, are able to speak and write in Persian as well. But Persian is not spoken in public places like tea houses, bus depots, restaurants, etc.
We also tried Yogurt Broth, an Azeri cuisine in a small restaurant of bus depot before we take off. The mini-bus started shortly after we had our lunch and the people on board were either heading to nearby villages or the hot spring and mountain. When we reached Ghotor-Sooei late in the afternoon, we stayed in an inn to get some rest and start our hiking trip the next morning.
We got up early next morning and headed to the mountain but not very far from the inn, we confronted a big sheep dog. Sabalan area is the home of nomad people who live with their sheep flock and in order to keep their animals safe from wolves, bears and possibly thieves, every family or tribe keeps several sheep dogs. I am not familiar with the breeds but those dogs are very beautiful, strong and smart. The dog ran to us so fast that we could not believe our eyes! It stopped in less than 2 feet away from us and started showing its big teeth, barking and circling around us! The only thing you must do in a situation like that, according to what my friend taught me, is to be completely frozen! We did so and were waiting for a miracle! I was thinking how long I am able to stand like that in the cold morning. And finally after a little more than a minute the miracle happened: A girl came out from a tent at the other side of the road and called the dog back. We sighed and continued.
There was no route seen after a few miles and we only knew that we must go up! We, several times, asked the local people about the way but never got a clear answer because none of them understood Persian! Although we made it to Sabalan shelter finally not much after 06:30 PM. The shelter is comprised of a few rooms and a public washroom. We ate, relaxed and talked about tomorrow. Later a small group of three joined us and we shared the room with them. We were actually lucky because there were not many climbers on that time of the year as the climbing season in that area usually closes in mid. August; otherwise it would be hard to share a small room with a large group of people. We simply put our sleeping bags on the floor and tried to get some sleep.
The next morning we headed to the pick. Sabalan is not a hard mountain to climb technically. All you have to do is to keep your continues pace and have your break off and on. We got to the pick before noon. Sabalan is the third highest mountain of Iran which is 4811 m. (15784 ft). The pick is different from the usual ones I was to before: Unlike most of the mountains it is vast in a way that a large pond has been shaped at the top of the inactive volcano. We walked around the pond, took a few photos and rested for a while. As I wanted to return to Ardabil before night, I climbed down fast while had my friend behind me. After a few meters I turned back and saw him up the rocks, coming down slowly. I shouted his name and asked him to be faster. I kept that pace until I got to the shelter. I waited for almost 20 minutes but there was no sign of my friend. Many other climbers came down. I asked every one but no one said he had been seen. Then I began to worry. It was getting late and I did not want to spend my night in that shelter again. I took out my binocular and started searching for him in the people who were climbing down. The time a group of Azeri climbers came down, I started being worried about my family too because I had promised I would call them as soon as I am back to the city.

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