I curl up in the fetal position, trying not to let any part of my body touch the ground. Sweat beads on my skin, I'm shaking. My ears are filled with the thrum of large rain drops battering my tent just centimeters from my head. It is as if there is a horror movie playing outside as lightning strikes the ground all around me. My only hope is that we are in a small depression 100 m or so from the highest point. Water rushes under the tent in a rush to the slat lake which disappears onto the horizon. I lie sleepless, just waiting for the worst of the storm to pass. Two or three hours pass before the lightning becomes less frequent and the ground ceases shaking from the roar of thunder. I drift back into dreamland. Of all things that one may expect to happen on your first day in Iran, getting killed by lightning certainly wasn't one of them.
Iran is separated from Turkey by an incredible set of steep mounts, gorges and rivers which fortify the area from the outside world. Twelve hours after our departure time from Van, the train slowly groans into a continuous lurch through a network of bridges and tunnels which took us through this incredible area. The Oriental Express as it's known, sounds much more romantic than it is. Lumbering at best and completely stationary the rest of the time, it takes 4 days to travel the roughly 2500 km from Istanbul to Tehran. We take the first possible opportunity to get off once clearing the border and begin what will certainly be a memorable journey through the depths of Iran and everything it has to offer.