Hail Not-Leader!

Following the extensive planning and preparation for the trip the Siberia Group finally met up in Rijeka in Croatia. During the subsequent 18 days of driving and 4 without we have bonded into a close unit. So far together we have covered 5220 km since leaving Rijeka. This represents an average 290 km per day and 29 kph (on driving days and not deducting stops).

In Istanbul Mog and Speed spoke in unison when K-Nine (Clive) claimed not to be the leader. Of course he was right, we are all leaders and we all have our moment as every day is different with a new navigator. But with a united salute we honour him! For we are well aware who took care of the main body of work, who motivated us and who prepared the way.

In Turkey the apparent sheer thrill in so many passing faces and friendly gestures was a joy. Here in Iran there was initial slight uneasiness. It began as we neared the border. There is a strong military presence in eastern Turkey and a pensive quiet came over us as we seemed to glide in our vans down the steep rapid river valley - heading south - towards the border line. Who could forget the close proximity of Iraq and the turmoil in which we live.

We climbed up to an extensive cultivated high mountain plain surrounded by snow covered massifs. There were whispers as we approached the border. The processes both leaving Turkey and entering Iran were thorough, lengthy, helpful and friendly. Clocks were adjusted one and a half hours ahead.

The painting on a wall across the border was of the flag bearing footprints and in the process of being burned. Al-Basrah was mentioned. It was the morning of an atrocity in Iraq reported by the trusty World Service link. We cautiously moved off amidst towering mountains. As the evening closed in we looked for a stop. We found a peaceful patch as a powerful storm engulfed us.

Relieved to be on our way the following morning we are now gradually creeping east at a slow but steady pace. We observe and are observed. Many smiles and waves are now exchanged. We find the Iranians perhaps rather surprised to see us and very helpful. Since entering the country we have seen only two other cars bearing foreign plates. It is not unusual when we ask directions as if by magic instantly to be guided by a car. We stop for bread and payment is refused. The roads are typically very good and usually well signposted. The country is clean and tidy. We are checked at police road blocks occasionally, always in good humour. Tomorrow we reach Esfahan and plan to take time to appreciate its treasures.

John Speed.

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