I had been thinking of trekking the entire length of this salt lake for some years. Due to several factors it had not been possible to pull it off. Firstly, very few people had trekked it. Secondly, the window period in which it could be safely undertaken is short, from the intense heat to the extreme cold and the fact that in winter it is flooded.
From the moment the decision to trek the salt flat was taken to the day we started the trek only 2 weeks lapsed.We had to be quick. Three of us met in a city somewhere in northern Iran and we set off one early morning to what we had decided would be the starting point.
The old Iranian assembled 4WD got as far as it could. We get off only to discover that the front tire was ruptured. The driver, an old friend of one of the participants is alone and has to drive back to the city to get the tire repaired. We are a little apprehensive leaving him behind. What if the spare tire which we have put under one of the wheels also meets with the same fate on his way back to civilization?
He is a man in his late 50s, a prisoner of war for 8 years. When you ask his date of birth he tells you the year he was released from Iraqi camp, he was then 27 years old. He was taken prisoner when him and his fellow conscripts came under fire one night driving to spend a few days holiday with family. The driver was hit in the head and died on the spot. He escaped from the vehicle and hid in the bushes but had to give himself up when the guerrilla fighters went for him. He was only 19 at the time. Later they sold him to the Iraqi army.
He phones his nephew and arranges to meet him explaining the situation. We say good buy and hand him one of the talkie walkies. We have arranged a meeting point over the other side of the lake if we can cross it. There is no mobile coverage, no nothing, just a salt flat the whole way, so we know looking at satellite images of the area.
We are each carrying a backpack of some 20-25 KG, we need everything for the next 2-3 days but mostly water. We have downloaded a track onto our GPS which is some 42 KMs, theoretically we could walk this in 2 days.
We are now almost 10 Kms into the trek and feel the mud underneath our feet become soft and sticky, last week there were heavy rains in the area. We know we are a little late in season and what we cannot know is whether the flat is flooded further on or not. We prepare ourselves for a rough night, perhaps having to walk back, perhaps having to walk continuously forward or even perhaps having just to sit on salted water the whole night to get some rest. We are getting a little anxious. The landscape is breathtaking. I suggest we return, no-one listens. One of us who is in front speeds up and there is now a good couple of hundred meters between him and I, the third guy is far behind. It is now mid afternoon. A few hundred meters and the mud slowly begins to be covered with salt which is taking hexagonal shape. We become a little excited and within another half a kilometer we are on hard salt, amazing shapes and forms. We gain speed and try and cover as much ground as we can, our legs are beginning to ache. We are thinking of our loyal driver friend.
The ground is wet and after covering 20 kms just after sunset and before it gets dark we find a spot, a large polygon to set up camp. The ground is wet but not flooded. We spend a cold night under a trillion stars cramped into just one small tent.
The next day we get up before sunrise. The silence and the vast open landscape defies belief. And there is nothing, no-one, just salt and the sky.....
Enjoy the photos and if you ever decide to come to Iran for any trek consider doing this trek. You will need 5 days from Tehran. Please leave your GPS at home. Some places are best kept the way they have always been. This is one of them.
We meet our driver friend on the other side for a memorable night together, sitting round fire drinking tea and seeing the sun go down over the hills in the far distance. We have made it and we are content. One of us suggests hiking the lengh of Rig-e-Jenn, the most feared desert in Iran ! Some 170km of sand dunes and flats inaccessible by any vehicle except for a few spots in between. This would be much tougher. Perhaps one day we will give it a try.
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