With time in Iran running out I’d still not managed the one thing I was looking forward to the most: riding a camel. For one reason or another a trip to the desert had eluded me, and was looking increasingly unlikely, as every tour pointed to extortionately outlandish fees to be on the back of the beast. I was beginning to despair, and unless I (st)humped up $200 (sorry), I wasn’t going to get any quadruped action. That is until my friend Sarvenaz stepped in.
Umm. That sounded wrong. I didn’t mean that she has four feet and I got some action from her…I meant that she – oh never mind. Anyway with her help I find myself on a bus leaving late for the wilderness, with the promise of sand dunes, salt lakes, all night camp fires and of course, those fly ridden, spitting, stinking ships of the desert. Little did I know I was on a party bus tour.
So there was little old me thinking it was a mini-van filled with quiet travelers. There’d be the shy couple from Switzerland. Several Asians looking incredibly fashionable. A token Aussie not giving a fuck. Instead I realise what I’ve let myself in for as soon as the bus pulls out of the city. Curtains are drawn, the gangway fills and truly horrible, ear bleeding “music” obliterates the bus sound system. The bass speakers are trying to take off. Iranians snatch any opportunity to party.
And it feels like club 18-30. The music pauses for a moment as the tour leader demands we all stand and introduce ourselves, indicating if we’re single or not. It’s fascinating to watch nobody giving a shit until girls are speaking. I attempt my best Farsi, being the only native English speaker along for the ride. This is either going to be a heap of fun,or I’ve gone on holiday by mistake.
Either way the music is relentless, and so too the dance moves of a six year old kid someone has brought along for comedy value. He’s throwing out shapes like a Bee Gee, much to the delight of the increasingly amorous revelers in the gangway. Ha-jibs are off, and there’s some serious bump n’ grind happening against any leg within touching distance. Who says you need alcohol to have fun?!
Well, I do actually. They demand I dance on several occasions, but devoid of the demon drink, I don’t have the courage to do it sober. In fact I’m borderline offended anyone would ask me to try. I’d just feel stupid. But the party clientele nonetheless are whooping and wooing as if they’ve downed a bottle of champagne, it’s New Years Eve and they’re wearing glittery cowboy hats. But the cat is out the bag a while later, when I find out they’ve been supping on moonshine at the back of the bus like the naughty school kids they are.
Around 3 am we pull into the Caravansary, decant from the bus and spill out into the desert. A person of authority drags a bush from somewhere and sets it alight. Before long there’s a blaze going, a girl is holding her nose to do shots, Iranian acapella karaoke busts out, and someone is passing round a joint. I give up trying to get my arty star photography bollocks and take a hit. A roman candle burst into life amid cheers.
The only downside to this whole scenario, is that it’s over before it’s begun. In all too short a time the drink has run dry, the dawn tickles the horizon and the embers fade. Much like the firework so instant and so desperate in its brief existence, so too the Iranian party. No ten crates of Stella here. No waiting at 10 am for the offy to open for more. The vodka is in a pocket sized water bottle. When it’s over it’s over.
And in the middle of this, Sarvenaz is accosted by an inebriated female, with a rather odd question. Incorrectly assuming that we’re hooking up, the pissed up local is fascinated to know what a western man sounds like when having sex. She mentions something about how I’ve already been making suggestive sex noises (not quite sure how that came about or quite what she’s referring to) and she is desperate to know what auditory delights I utter in the throes of passion. Alas Sarvenaz has no knowledge of this, and alas that I didn’t get the opportunity to offer them all an option to find out. A pitched tent some distance from the fire-side has been shaking for the past hour. Someone planned ahead.
After breakfast I pass out on the bus, and with the exception of a few brief forays into the daylight, this is pretty much my day. For some reason I’m utterly exhausted, and Sarvenaz takes great delight in taking advantage of this by snapping pictures of me sleeping. We visit the salt lake and the sand hills in my hours of consciousnesses, but on the way back to the camels (and while I was asleep) the bus breaks down and we return far too late to tack a hump. My camel experience will have to wait until Uzbekistan, and further down the silk road.
The journey home ends as the trip started, and I’ve no idea where these Iranians get their energy from. I guess they need to take every chance they get to let their hair down. Regardless I don’t care, as I’m in dreamland for the most part, only finally coming to as we pull back into Tehran. I’m still perturbed about the lack of camel, but to be honest it was just going to be led round a ring by the owner, like a donkey ride on a beach. I want an odyssey into the sandy unknown, scimitar at my side and dark-eyed temptress Yasmina waiting for me at the oasis, to fan me with her lashes, and feed me grapes, wine, opium and Turkish delight. 100 Arabian nights, Lawrence of Schotlandia – and an epic new facebook profile picture. The only camel I’ve managed to get at is the one I’m smoking.