Warm water runs over my head and across my face before cascading to the ground below to send blobs of dusty water onto my feet and ankles. Hands rub and massage my hair, this is for sure the first time I have had my hair washed by a farmer in a small mountain village. Once the process is complete, he insists on brushing it to. Without any common language, there no other option than to go with the flow. Stefan is already sporting the latest hair style as he laughs at me from the other side of the room. Our invite home to this mans houseto sleep has proven more than we bargained for.
Stopping to ask for directions we were quickly invited home, a nice gesture after perhaps the toughest day of the trip to date. A combination of 25 km steep uphill combined with a total inability to trust ANY information about road conditions, distances, etc. We are exhausted and gladly accept the offer.
Obtaining information has almost become a bit of a joke now, every person you ask will tell you something different, sometimes a factor of 10 different. Or they will say that they know the way, for example: "Ok, from the waterfall go to the bottom of the hill and turn right, 6 km uphill then you can get water, from there it is just 4 km downhill to where you want to go, the road is sealed all the way". Perfect we think, and since our two maps are wildly different from each other, and neither show this part of the country properly, we go for it. The right turn is correct, but that's where it ends, after about 8 km uphill, no water stop, only 5 out of 50 km sealed and several unmarked intersections, we arrive at the place we asked for. At least there was a road!
We follow the farmer 5 km or so, where we are greeted very warmly by his family and, soon after, the rest of the village. At one point, I counted more than 30 men, women and children crowded into the tiny front room too oogle at the big strange hairy guys on bikes. With concrete walls and a mud roof, the house was decorated with only 3 framed pictures and certificates on one wall, a small charity donation box on another and a cabinet with a TV and DVD player on the third. A steel door with a large padlock, which had been repaired, stood open. Opposite, a low, narrow door lead to a small kitchen where a gas stove stood affirmatively with pots of tea and rice on the boil. A green carpet lined the floor, well worn and sporting a range of holes and stains. The ceiling was decorated with a plastic table cloth, nailed meticulously to the slender tree trunks which supported the mud above. Turkish music soon filled the room from the satellite dish mounted precariously to the roof of the shed outside. Our host then teaching us the latest dance moves for the area as delighted onlookers laughed loudly, many with their mobiles trained on us. The videos would be distributed amongst friends and family for future entertainment and bragging rights. Many cups of tea were poured, though only to us and the man of the house. The same was the case for dinner, with the children also being allowed to eat. I'm not even sure if the women ate at all, perhaps in the kitchen while preparing the most delicious meal of rice with chicken, beans, courgettes and tomatoes, washed down with, what I'm sure is a luxury for them, Fanta. Once refusing thirds, fourths and fifths forcefully, the meal is over and we are allowed set up our tent on a mat outside. Rugs, pillows and blankets are placed in the tent. We are shown how we should sleep under the blankets, but the heat of the day remains and I'm more than happy to sleep with just some respite from the constant onslaught of mosquitoes. With a crowd around the tent, peering in at every possible angle, I finally drift off to dream land, more than content with the day.
After sleeping in a haystack we packed quickly and moved off at 6.30 in an attempt to arrive at the waterfall before the temperature reached 40 degrees. Again our maps were grossly inadequate and our attempts to obtain information from locals had yielded anything from 25 to 100 km. An initial 19 km climb to a ski field had brought breathtaking mountain scenery, the valley below promised to provide the perfect setting for us to rest our bones till evening. In the village we were told 10 km further, 2 km later 3 km, 2 km later 10 km then finally after being towed for 2 km up the steepest part of a 5 km hill, the turn off appeared. A sign indicated 18 km to the waterfall! Well into the hottest part of the day, we had to eat something before proceeding, not believing that 18 km was possible, but it was. Mostly very steeply downhill, but about 4 km steep uphill finally got us to the holy grail, a lush green area in a desert landscape where hundreds of families had driven for hours for the famous Iranian picnic. It wasn't long before we were invited for a BBQ which we gladly accepted. But first, a very refreshing shower, fully clothed, in the waterfall along with dozens of others. Fully fed and with the hottest part of the day past, we proceeded to find an alternative route to our next destination.