June, 2011. I had spent the last week in the tropical moisture of Rasht,
Iran. My hosts were Reza and his family. Reza, an Iranian, had just graduated from university in Armenia, where I had met him, and his
father is a political science professor at the University of Rasht.
Although I had developed a friendly and comfortable relationship with my
hosts, it was time to move on. They had already welcomed me, a total
stranger, for a week into their home and the road beckoned.
I needed to head east towards my ultimate destination, Afghanistan,
and had two basic options. I could follow the Caspian coast eastwards towards Turkmenistan and then make my way to Mashhad, the spiritual capital of Iran, home of the surreally vast Imam Reza shrine,
and gateway to Afghanistan. Or I could head south by crossing the
Elborz Mountains, and then head eastwards towards Mashhad via Tehran. I opted for the later. But I did not want to cross the Elborz by bus.
Taking a bus would be easy and practical, but it would not give a good
sense of the size and power of the mountain range that stretches from
Armenia to Afghanistan along the northern edge of Iran.
Looking through my guidebook, I came upon a trek that crossed the
Elborz through the Salambar Pass (3,200 meters). According to the guidebook, which was two years old, the trek could theoretically be done
in a day, but more realistically required two or three. It would be difficult to find public transportation to where the trek began. The
trek would lead me to the eastern end of the Alamut Valley, famous for
the Castle of the Assassins, from where I could get to Tehran within a day. Freya Stark, the famous female traveler, crossed the Elborz using this same trek in the 1930s.
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