what are you doing here? 22 to 23-05-2016

My last ride to the border is given by a young soldier in traditional clothing. He tells me about his wife and kids and invites me into his house for lunch. I accept but when I get there I find out that his family is in Sulaymaniyah and I start to feel uneasy, I never take up these kinds of invitations unless I know there’ll be women present. After a quick cup of tea I ask him if we can leave. He looks a bit puzzled but relents.

Initially the border crossing into Iran goes smooth. They check my bags for bottles of alcohol and let me through. Just before arriving the soldier who gave me a ride pointed out a smuggler on a motorbike in the mountains and the check seems more like a formality than an actual act resulting from suspicion. But when I walk past the next desk I get told to wait outside to talk to some guys in a separate building. I wait about 15 minutes before being let in. One of the men speaks English and asks me all kinds of political questions, I just keep repeating in different ways that I’m a tourist and that I don’t know much about politics. He talks to his colleagues in Azerbaijani a language not locally spoken in this Kurdish area. I figure they must be some kind of special security unit keeping an eye on the unruly Kurds. Being finally satisfied with my lack of interest in politics they let me through.

Three guys offer me my first ride to town but after that it becomes more difficult. People keep offering to bring me to the bus station but eventually I get a ride from an English teacher and his wife heading out for a family picknick in the mountains. They keep offering to bring me back to the border town to spent the night and I keep repeating I need to be in Tabriz on time to meet with friends. Eventually they relent but not before arranging a ride in the back of a small truck to the next city where I spent the night.

Hitchhiking doesn’t become easier the next day. I get stopped by plain clothes police officers with neatly trimmed beards, perhaps members of Iran’s notorious revolutionary guard. But they let go without much fuzz. I have a more difficult time explaining my intention to a laborer who also happens to be walking the same way out of town. He even calls his English speaking colleague over to explain that what I’m doing is dangerous. I want to get away from him but I don’t want to be rude, and at the same time, since we’re walking in the same direction I can’t get rid of him easily. After some time I just stop walking and try to wave down a car. He gives up, and helps me find a ride with a lovely family who bring me all the way to Tabriz.