There will be a little bit of everything in this story – “resident” trips around the Emirates, to the capital of neighboring Oman, Muscat and returning by car from the UAE to Kazakhstan through Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. All this – the events of 15-20 years ago and some things can already be told – as they really happened. What there will not be – those are photos, since the use of photographic equipment in Iran was not exactly welcomed, so to say. Therefore, everything is only from my words – believe it or not. It is impossible to check any longer …
All my Mitsubishi Pajero cars were purchased in the United Arab Emirates. I bought the first two cars and drove to Alma-Ata myself, I had the third car while living in Dubai, the fourth car is also from there, but was delivered to Alma-Ata without my direct participation.
Memories of a trip from Iran to Kazakhstan cannot be considered as a report on the car transportation. Rather, this is a story about autotravel. And about what happened on the roads of Central Asia is in the second half of the “dashing 90s”.
The beginning of 1997. There was a regime of the so-called “preferential customs clearance” of cars at that time in Kazakhstan. Importation payment for the car was only six percent of the car purchasing price. And then, at the end of February, I purchased my first MMC Pajero 1997 Model, 3.0L GL in the Emirates. There is no photo of this car, but in one of my stories there is a video with its participation. Now it is a must to get home somehow. Cars from the United Arab Emirates to Kazakhstan were transported at that time in a continuous flow, the drivers drove back and forth continuously. The fashion for purchasing used cars was quick to pass because their condition after Arabian landscapes was considered to be sad. Now people are only transporting new cars from the Emirates and this process has been streamlined. While the documents are being processed, an Iranian visa is being granted, I meet two Kazakhstanis – one is also from Almaty, the other is going to Western Kazakhstan. So, we’ll go together to the borders of our motherland. All three of us are going for the first time, the trip promises to be interesting. Documents were finalized, drove the cars to the port for loading on the ferry and were waiting for shipment. We had to wait for a short time only, got lucky, and in a few days, we were flying to Iran, the city of Bandar Abbas.
The flight on a twin-engine propeller airplane passed quickly and calmly. A good part of the passengers was like us, flying in anticipation of the car. We successfully landed, went through passport control and were standing together with the friend, an Almaty citizen, waiting for the baggage. Our third fellow associate has lagged a bit, we had already received the luggage, but he was still missing. We began to slowly move to the exit, as I heard someone calling by my name. Looked around – no one. As I carried on – again my name was called. We look, and our third fellow is standing in front of the border guard booth and waving his arms and calling for us. What’s wrong? We approach and question. A person is not allowed to enter the Islamic Republic of Iran because of clothes – sweatpants are contrary to the dress code. We find his bag, take out the trousers from there, he pulls them over the “sweatpants” right in front of the border guards, accompanied by their rumbling and swearing. Fortunately, everything turned out to be fine, our trio is once again in full force, we are in Iran, and are rushing to the hotel by taxi.
There was not much distance to rush thought, I will not describe the hotel, you will not believe it without photos anyway. I will only make a note about one detail – the telephone services. I wanted to call home, to inform about the upcoming departure. I went to the hotel office, they dialed a phone number for me, and once connected to home, pressed the stopwatch button. As I finished the conversation – again click, and pay the money based on the number of seconds spent. After telephone booths, standing in the Emirates at every corner, this service expanded my horizons.
We stayed at the hotel for two days, something didn’t go right with the release of cars from the port. Finally, they picked us up and drove to the terminal, where the cars were put on trailers for a further route through Iran. A couple of years before the drivers drove cars around Iran on their own. However, this did not suit the authorities – whether due to accidents, or the money were going past the cash register, but now – only on trailers. My countryman and I got a closed truck, that was where our cars were parked – my Mitsubishi Pajero and his Subaru Legacy. We lifted the tarp, climbed inside and did not feel good. The cars were parked freely, only tied with thin ropes on the wheels to the racks.
Any bump, sudden stop or a sharp turn – and yeah. Moreover, we ourselves would be sitting in our cars all the way across Iran. We began to invent, search for cables, throw a truck tire between the cars, put sandbags around the tires of our cars, we managed to get as dirty as devils, however we showered, just before leaving the hotel, especially for the road. Somehow the cars were fixed. How unlucky, we thought. However, really unlucky was our third comrade. The story with the pants at the airport turned out to be a trifle, some beam fell on his car (Toyota Land Cruiser) when loading onto the trailer and now he is not traveling with our caravan but stays back at the terminal to obtain a compensation from the carrier. There are only the two of us left now.
We left already in the dark, but that didn’t matter, under the tent you couldn’t see anything anyway. The trailer was going fast, the car was shaking, sometimes it was pretty intense, and the feeling was not the most pleasant one. But gradually you get used to everything …
The second time I completed this route in my car, which was parked in an open area and was fixed as it should be. You sit, more precisely – you lie down, high up and you look around far ahead. And around is the stony desert of Eastern Iran, the poorest part of the country. However, a bottle of “Johnnie Walker” whiskey, which was hidden in the car in the Emirates and successfully crossed two borders, was finally extracted from the car’s secret double bottom section in Iran and helped me look complacently at the bypassing monotonous landscapes.
From Bandar Abbas to Serakhs, which is about 1,500 kilometers or two days away from the border with Turkmenistan. We were lucky with the driver, were driving fast, sometimes we took turns to sit in his cabin so that it was not boring. And also a lot of scary stories were told to us before the trip – that drivers fall asleep on the road, drive stoned, so we were looking after our chauffeur. But everything was fine.
A year later, when I repeated this route after buying a new car, it was more difficult with a driver. All the way he, using a few Russian and English words, constantly begged for money, I nodded my head and answered – come on, go, Serahs, terminal. His tone gradually changed, he became more impudent, and I could not stand it – at the post I went to the police and, as I could, explained all this. They told him something, that the driver then only looked at me evilly, but didn’t talk about money any longer.
The one important thing that we had to do in Iran was to refuel. This was done by all who drove across the country with the car. Judge for yourself: gasoline in the Emirates was worth at that time one dirham per liter (by the way, a liter bottle of drinking water was worth the same, so if you want – drink, or if you want – roll). I have a tank of almost 90 liters, along with an attached canister on an external sling – 20 liters, amounting to 110 liters, about $ 30 ($ 1 = 3.66 dirham). The amount is small, but in Iran, I paid only ONE dollar for a 20-liters canister! Believe it or not.
A full refill cost me $ 5, how can I resist such a “freebie”? Yes, and I also think that our driver got a little bit from this as well, because all the negotiations at the gas station were going through him and we were filling the cars up with canisters, as the cars were inside the truck. I must say that such a ridiculous price was only on the road. In front of the terminal in Serakhs, sellers with canisters in their hands flooded three skins for gasoline — they asked for TWO dollars for the canister …
At the exit from Iran, the border control officer was bothered by my canister – you cannot take out gasoline from the country. I had to convince that it was the standard equipment of the car, well, sort of like a second gas tank, and the tanks could be poured up to the stopper. Convinced. From the tints, which were found in trunks, gasoline was forced to be poured out.
The last look at the territory of the terminal, where at the entrance, slightly off the road, were two brand new Nissan Pathfinder with crumpled roofs (dropped on delivery) – and on the way to Turkmenistan.
There is still a visa-free entry regime, so the border guard quickly slaps the entry stamp into the passport and the temporary importation (transit) of the car begins. They give several papers, including permission to refuel with gasoline, thing like that existed. You must pay for all the papers and there seems to be no corruption, but the thing is that you pay in dollars at the official exchange rate, then these dollars turn into Manats at the real rate, the difference is significant. That is how the living is made …
The following procedure – inspection of cars. Here sadness awaited us, without money you won’t pass, and the depth of the staff’s immersion into your car is inversely proportional to the amount. If you do not want to pay, they can dismantle the car completely. But we were lucky. Why did we stayed longer in Iran? It seemed to be a holiday, the customs did not work, the cars were not allowed into Iran and, therefore, were not allowed out of Iran. And now all the borders were opened, and we were the first. From the border to Chardjou there was a need for an intelligence officer, like the KGB, to pass but there were no cars. We were offered to take him with us, but only, they said, wait for forty minutes. Of course, we agreed, but not here in the sun and with the analysis of the machines, but here in the shade, let’s have a bite for now. An hour later, a man in civilian clothes got into my partner’s car, and we drove around Turkmenistan.
to be continued…
to be continued…