jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2018

Damavand Group Tours 2019

Weekly group expedition to mount Damavand the highest point of the Iranian plateau at 5671m

Starting date 1 June 2019

Package includes:
*4 Days of trekking including acclimatization
*Transfer from and back to Tehran
*Dormitory or tent hire
*Iranian Mountaineering Federation Approved English speaking high Altitude Mountain Guide
*Minimum 2 and maximum 10 participants
Price:  300 Euros per person.
For further information please contact
Whats App +989371501993

miércoles, 28 de noviembre de 2018

e Visas for Iran

Now you can have your Iranian visa and not have it stamped in your passport.
I remember Cuba used to do this when I visited the Island in the 1990's
So if you travel to the US you need not worry.
Happy travels!

martes, 6 de noviembre de 2018

Where to see my photographs

I took a year out of medicine and studied photography at the London Institute. It was a course called the Professional Photographic Practice offered at their Back Hill site. It must have been 1997.
I am not good at technologies, neither do I have the patience for sitting on my bottom editing, uploading etc. However, I have discovered that this site works well for me so I am uploading photos there from my treks. Maybe I will also upload other photos in the future.

viernes, 26 de octubre de 2018

Winter hiking in Iran

It may be hard to believe, but here, close to where we live in Khoonegeli you may experience winter landscape like few other places on earth. A short drive and a day hike will take you to remote mountain villages where you would spend the nights in cosy rural homes with wood fire and trek the area on foot or using your snowshoes during the day. The silence and the landscape is far beyond anyone's imagination of Iran.

miércoles, 13 de junio de 2018

Professional Mountain Bike / MTB hire in Iran

For enquiries please email info@caspiantrek.com

martes, 5 de junio de 2018

What can I wear and not wear whilst trekking in Iran

This is a common question from trekkers wishing to undertake a trek in Iranian nature.
Basically, it depends on where you are, who your guide is and how likely it is that you come across locals.
Shorts are not allowed for men or women alike. Short sleeves are OK if you are a man and also OK if you are a woman provided women have a long sleeve handy to put over their T shirt and a hat or a head scarf  which they put over their head when passing villages or coming into contact with locals. The minimum dress code for women in the urban areas i.e the long  overcoat is not compulsory in nature. If you are in very remote areas where coming into contact with locals is highly unlikely then you may wear shorts which cover the knee but remember the exposed parts o your legs will be more prone to bites ans sunburn. Asking your guide is a good option but you need also to consider that some guides are more conservative than others.

lunes, 4 de junio de 2018

The Zagros trek Part 2

And we crossed that bridge!
We then had to negotiate our way through some steep rocky trail to get to the "flat" part of the trail grabbing whatever piece of rock we could. For the next time we decided to have fixed ropes installed although we doubt there will be a next time as this area is so pristine and the nomads so authentic and their culture so untouched that we would hate to contaminate that. Beautiful oak forest of the southern Zagros with lush green meadows, interesting looking limestone carved out by the forces of nature are is our vista, there is one that must be 25 m high in the shape of a mushroom, amazing!. We climb up a very steep scree only for Mehdi to tell us that we have taken the wrong path ! It is getting dark. We wait and he goes continues to see if he can find the trail leading to the first nomadic settlement, they call these Maal. Last time he came to this area was over 5 years back so he could be forgiven for mistaking the path. Soon he comes back telling us he had heard the bells of some goats. The young shepherd greets us with surprise, he has never ever seen a European in flesh. He immediately invites us to his home. The family consisting of a few younger and one older brother are there. The mother soon arrives carrying a bunch of wood fire she has collected. It looks heavy. We sit down to chit chat, they have many questions and we answer them patiently. The rain starts and it is heavy, the decision to camp next to their Maal is abandoned without much sorrow and they make room for the 4 of us in their only habitable room together with a goat and themselves probably up to 8 in that room. We sleep well although the baby goat had to be taken out in the middle of the night for this to happen! For dinner we are served rice, lentils and a stew made from pomegranate and of course the indispensable goat milk yogurt and thin oak bread. The Bakhtiyari food is simple and not very tasty.
In the morning with the sun shining we decide to leave our heavy backpacks and go for a visit to another settlement an hours walk away to see the famous stone lions in their cemetery when we are nicely surprised to see, from the distance that the very Maal where we had spent the previous night had several beautifully carved stone lions dating back over 60 year. We change our plans and instead head towards the house of a village elder who Mehdi had met 5 years ago. On the way we come across a nomadic school. The kids around 13 of them ranging from 7-11 are all sitting under the roof of an abandoned Maal. A few meters away is a small metallic shelter supposed to act as their classroom. They have books but no notebooks to write on. Their shoes torn they clothes dirty their faces wild dirty and nomadic. Some have green and blue eyes. The teacher is from Aligoodarz and spends 25 days on the row in the Maal and then goes home to rest. The children do not know where Europe is, neither have they even heard of or seen an orange fruit! I am shaken, saddened and mesmerized. I take a few portraits. I am having difficulty believing that this is also Iran.

miércoles, 30 de mayo de 2018

A family trek in the Alborz mountains


martes, 29 de mayo de 2018

The Zagros and the Bakhtiyaris Part 1

Mehdi and I had talked about this trek for some months. He had been to this area twice before, the last being 5 years back. It is by far the remotest part of Iran, some 8 hours between the beginning of the trail from the city of Isfahan a grand part of which a terrible dirt road recently constructed for the stuy of another damn dam on one of the great rivers of southern Iran the Bazoft.

Then the email came in. A Dutch/ Belgian couple ;looking for a 10 day trek in the Alamut Valley in April. To cover 10 continuous days this time of the year would be very difficult if not impossible because of snow and risk of avalanches.

A few emails later I put forward the idea of doing a 4 day trek from Ovan to the Caspian hinterland plus a week in the Zagros. Lady T who had been in touch with me on behalf of the couple accepted my offer, all she had found on the internet was very touristy for their taste. They were real adventurers who had taken 2 years sabbatical to travel the world's most famous and unknown mountains. Iran was one destination out of may that included the Rockies in the USA , off the beaten track Nepal etc. They were looking for something authentic.

I personally never have any particular expectations and try not to foment an image of the places I am going to visit for the first time. I was in for a real surprise. And so were they.

We met in Isfahan in their hotel. The Bakhtiyari driver in his old 4x4 Toyota was there when I arrived, Mehdi arrived a few minutes later and we were off, first to Shahre Kord where we stopped for a moka that would put shame to almost all if not all baristas in Tehran and Isfahan alike. Inside a humble shack we had the best espresso I have had since I visited Rome 4 years ago. You cannot beat the Romans on coffee but this came close. And it it cost a 5th of what you would have to cough up in the IKA.
From here we went towards Kuhrang deep in the heart of the Bakhriyari territory. All in all we were in that Toyota for 8 hours the more we drove the further we went back in history. In late afternoon we departed with our excellent driver, heavy backpacks containing food and logistics for 6 days on our shoulders and then the great surprise. A long narrow rickety looking bridge hanging over the river some 100 m below. Holy S.... do we really have to walk over this Mehdi? The answer was obvious.
It was going to be an adventurous trek and I was so far true to my words to the couple who took everything in their stride and were great company.

miércoles, 11 de abril de 2018

Haj Ali Gholi

This is said to be the most beautiful salt lake in Iran. I have been wanting to cross it on foot from East to West for a couple of years now but because of the narrow window in which one could do this before it is waterlogged or due to intense summer heat other commitments have meant it has not happened yet. Last Autumn together with a few friends, old and new we decided we wanted to cross it by 4WD. We had a professional off-roader Hossein Delfan with us as the leading pilot. Below, you can see the outcome of this unsuccessful attempt. Hossein reckons that by mapping the area carefully it should be possible to do this crossing. It would be the first time in history if this happens. The locals I talked to said it was impossible because even in the height of the summer large parts of the dried lake remains wet just under the crust and you could only walk it. The walk would be approximately 52 kilometers and done in 2 days. In the old days camel herders and other locals used to walk the length of this to get from village to village.
The man playing the accordion is Omid Kamali a friend and a composer from Gorgan. We had a lot fun fun digging out Hussein's car after having to camp on the spot because of darkness. We had with us food, water and something stronger to keep the cold at bay.
Enjoy the images and if you feel like trekking this wonderland get in touch here, info@alamuttrek.com

martes, 10 de abril de 2018

Latif and Yakhab Mountain range

If you are in Isfahan or Kashan and want to get away from the noise and pollution of the cities then you might wish to consider a piece of paradise just 2 hours away. Latif and Yakhab mountain range. You can hike the sand dunes, see an ancient fortress and taste the Salt from one of Iran's biggest salt lakes, all and all in 3 days. Besides you will have the opportunity to sleep in a million star dwelling!

sábado, 17 de marzo de 2018

A trek into the unknown-Final part

When C enters he is shaken and in pain, I examine his calf muscle. The bite is obvious but it is not too bad. I sterilize the wound and cover it up with some gauze. We spend a rough night with the shepherds. Dogs barking and little room. After breakfast we ask for directions and the head shepherd puts us on the right track. We start our trek into the unknown. The landscape is amazing and the weather is mild and serene, the sky is blue and the forest is a fresh green colour of Spring. After a few hours we are on the highest ridge. We have the mighty mount Siyalan at 4250m to our left still covered in snow, the dense oak forest of Beleskooh protected area in front of us and in the horizon the blue line of the Caspian sea, the largest body of inland water on earth. Lady S is overwhelmed with emotion and goes to a corner crying. We rest for a good while on this ridge contemplating the beauty and the eternal wilderness of this valley. Now I know exactly where we are. I did a loop in this valley in 2016 with an Italian couple from Venice. It was a wonderful trek. One of the veteran hikers from Tonekabon told me once that he planned to go exploring this valley and he had spent quite some time looking at it in Google Earth and there seemed to be no sign of civilization there! He was surprised to hear that there were shepherds deep in this valley who still roamed their goats and sheep in the summer despite the ever presence of leopards. Every year there is an attack by a leopard on their flock. We reach Lashm in mid afternoon where I have been to and taken many hikers before. From the Sehezar road it is a 4 hour hike up and another 3 hours down. We are now approaching it from the south. When we cross under the summit the other smaller settlement called Lo Sarey becomes visible. Once , many years back an elderly woman gave me a glass of water there. Another year practicing on the small glacier with ice axes and crampons we were surprised by a sudden change of weather and took shelter in one of the huts with a few young shepherds. Almost everyone knows me there now as "Malakitourist" !! Manu is the first guy we bump into as we make our way through dense plum tress that encircle the settlement. He is riding his horse going for a rendezvous. As soon as he sets his eyes on Al he tells me "now this man is a veteran hunter, am I right or am I right?" Al grins, I tell Manu we are heading off to see Hussein on the other side not knowing that the two have fallen out over water supplies in the dry summer. We reach Hussein's hut and Al crashes out due to exhaustion. When he wakes up we have dinner and all sleep soundly after a rough previous night. C is suffering from blisters and the dog bite has not helped. I ask Hussein to get his strong stallion ready, C is mounted and we take advantage by placing our backpacks on another mule. We are off again but this time into territories I have walked many times before. The forest is serene and we are all happy although tired. Al is complaining of the humidity and how Alborz is better! I am so elated could not care less, I have managed to do a trek I have dreamed of for many years. We are all very fortunate. When we reach the road good old Farhad is there waiting for us in the mighty F2 Land Cruiser. The day after I would be taking C for his Rabies vaccination. The health worker is from Maran but has never been to where we have just come from. He is a city dweller now hoping to retire one day and go and build a holiday home in his native village. I think of the famous Paolo Cuello book....

A trek into the unknown part 2

Al takes his trousers off and finds a spot where the 9 meter wide river gushing down is divided into two almost equal parts by a small boulder that slows the rapid flows somewhat, he crosses successfully but is complaining of the cold waters. C, the German is second, he decides not to take his trousers off and hits the water with his bare feet, looking a little unsure I follow him closely. a few meters close to the other side Al stretches out a wooden stick, C grabs the stick but for some reason loses his balance and falls backward.I push him onto Al and he is home safe. I take a deep breath and return to get S the tough lady from London whose backpack must be the heaviest of us all. She steps into the water only to slip, she falls and the rapids would have washed her away had I not aggressively pulled her hand towards the middle and onto the other side where Al was standing. She is shivering with cold. At least we are all safely on the other side. I go back a third time for C's boots. Al is keen to move on rapidly to reach the shepherd's hut we know is somewhere close to our path, I ask him to stay put. You do not split the group in these circumstances. Al who is an experienced hunter and knows survival techniques by instinct rapidly makes a fire which warms us up. Half an hour later we are set to go, glad to have crossed the river. The trail is endless. We hit darkness and there is still no sign of the hut we have seen many times on other occasions from the other side of the valley. The forest is getting denser and although we have headlamps the trail sometimes is hard to find due to fallen leaves from previous autumn.It is clear that the trail has not been used in a long time.Around 11pm we hear the barking of dogs from a distance. It takes us a good 45 minutes to come to a open flat space, the lights of our headlamps are reflected from the eyes of the sheep and goats that are resting in near absolute darkness. An oil lamp becomes visible and in the dim light it gives we see smoke coming out of the hut. We approach the hut with caution talking to the man standing there in order not to provoke the dogs. The shepherd welcomes us and is a little surprised, he had been waiting outside alarmed by the dogs expecting his friends who would be returning from hunting, illegal anywhere in these mountains. He offers us shelter, tired we enter the hut filled with smoke coming out of a central open fire on the ground. A couple of people rapped completely in blankets lie the next door on the mud floor, they must be shepherds who are fast asleep. C is the last to enter and one of the dogs attacks him and bites his leg just before he reached the entrance.

jueves, 15 de marzo de 2018

I have 4 days for trekking in the Alamut Valley, what can I do?

Option 1

It would be possible to do 4 days from Lake Ovan to the Caspian hinterland via Khashechal summit( 4120 m). However, if you are to walk from the lake itself you really need 5 days of trekking plus the day to get there and to get to Tehran ie 7 days in total. If you wish to walk it in 4 days ie 6 days in total then you need to leave out the summit.

Option 2

Another option would be to start from Garmarood, where the ridge is lower and the summit you can do is off the path and is 3600m. There is a dirt road that you will have to cross 3 times on foot and there will be some cars passing from May until October but this will be a short stretch.

You may end either in Maran or in Yuj.

The main differences between the two are the crossing of a road which is absent from the first trek, and the fact that the first trek goes through some of the most pristine Hyrcanian forests terminating at 900m ASL but in option 2 the trek ends above the forest line at about 2200mASL and the rest is in a 4WD. There are pine forests on this latter option however and the view over the Alam Massif is quite spectacular.In option 3 below you will also trek through Hyrcanian forest and terminate at 1000m ASL.

Option 3

Siyalan Summit the highest in Alamut at 4250m from Alamut Valley to Caspian hinterland in 3 days of trekking and 2 days from and to Tehran

A trek into the unknown part 1

I will try and keep this a secret. A semi-open secret. The route is mindblowingly beautiful. It is not for the fainthearted. You need to be fit and strong mentally and physically. There is no luxury. Nature can be harsh and indifferent to our suffering yet it can be soothing and protective at the same time.
I was adamant that I wanted to go down that trail on the other side of the valley. I had seen it a few years back from the distance. I had seen the continuation a few kilometers from a different valley and I wanted to join them up. There must be a way one can walk. The locals were not sure. Al, another local I trusted for new routes was not so sure it would get us anywhere either . What the hell if it doesn't but there must be a way out I said, we could always come back. We had started our trek a day earlier in Garmarood, we took the lesser known trail from Zeresk and we spent the night with the mighty Ms Malaki in Piche Bon. So far so good. There were 4 of us. Al, I, 2 guests, one from the UK and one from Berlin. The team was good, enthusiastic and got on well which is the most important point in a trek into the unknown.
When we reached what looked like houses from the distance 3 of us, all minus Al who got on with making tea sat in 3 quiet corners sobbing. The energy of the place was overwhelming. A few minutes earlier before crossing a snow field we had seen a 3 year old female brown bear standing on her feet amazed to see us there. She ran off before we reached her. The door to the houses were all shut by a layer of mud to withstand harsh winds and deep snow that fell in winter.

We carried on after tea. The trail was good, we used experience and instinct until we were surprised by a white water river. It was Spring and the water level was high. No bridge was to be seen. We had to cross by dipping into the freezing water or simply go back.

Follow me! On Instagram

Recently launched Instagram for enjoyable photographs of the Alborz mountain range including the Alamut Valley

martes, 9 de enero de 2018

Alamut- in depth

َA good source of general information about Iran is the Iranica encyclopedia. However, readers should be aware that some of the historical facts mentioned are disputed by Iranian historians as being a regurgitation of European and north american historians who wrote the history to suit the imperial interests of the west and are not backed up by any hard evidence, this includes the invasion of the Moguls and the Arabs. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/alamut-valley-alborz-northeast-of-qazvin-

A readily available source of indepth information about Iran/Persia

َA good source of general information about Iran is the Iranica encyclopedia. However, readers should be aware that some of the historical facts mentioned are disputed by Iranian historians as being a regurgitation of European and north american historians who wrote the history to suit the imperial interests of the west and are not backed up by any hard evidence, this includes the invasion of the Moguls and the Arabs. http://www.iranicaonline.org/