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.