‘Where will you be at the end of your trip?’
‘If everything goes as planned, I’ll be watching the sun set over glorious Palangan.’
These were my thoughts two days before heading to Iran. I had shared them with one of my closest friends. I knew that I had a long way to go and I had doubts as to being able to reach the final point, which was also the pinnacle of my voyage. The period spanning between landing in Tehran and riding the taxi from Qom to Hamedan had been more colourful, adventurous, and amazing than I had hoped. I had gone through a theft, I had made new friends, I had met many kind people, I had experienced some of the most stunning sights of my life, I had had my first wow, but I was ready for more.
The night before the ride to Sanandaj felt like Christmas Eve and I was as eager to get the gift Santa had in store for me as a three-year-old. Following a bumpy start and no bus ride to the East, we managed to find a shared taxi and it ended up being the right choice. I had been offered the peace of mind to sit in the back of the car and rest my eyes on the surrounding mountains and hills. Kurdistan felt surreal, bright and it seemed that someone had been playing with watercolours all through the region. Middle East? How about Central Asia, for a change? Like the breathtaking heights and drops reassured us a few minutes before reaching the bus station. A Silk Road flavour, carried by the winds from up North, lingered on.
The dust of Central Asia was also present, amidst the negotiations underway. There was no way I could let go of one of my greatest travel dreams and miss out on Palangan. Marcel and I were so damn close. Money did no longer matter, not that it ever had. Hands were shaken, an advance was paid, and the ride was on. 4:00pm, which would have given us enough time to see it at sunset. The hours to the start time went by. I felt anxious and curious and excited and… I don’t know it anymore. I just know that it was all over too fast, like rafting down a waterfall you’ve been dreaming to your whole life. We ate strawberries and I had tears in my eyes all the way through. At a point, our driver stopped: we could see Palangan from there! I climbed to get a better view, faster than I had ever done it. I froze, switched on my phone camera and started to take pictures.
‘Watch out!’ I felt the strong arm of our driver grab me. And I realised that this aloof attitude of his was only a mask. He was not a bad person and he certainly was touched by my dedication for his native lands… I had tears flooding my eyes and I had not cried for or been touched like that by a place for a very long time. The winding road took us down, as we approached Palangan speedily. I had thought about this moment, arranged and rearranged the pieces, characters, times of the day in my mind. Yet it always felt remote and cosy.
The reality was different: on a Friday and a holiday, the village was apparently no longer unknown, at least not to locals. Two thousand of them. Smiling, bidding me welcome, taking pictures with me. All dressed in bright and pastel colours, relaxed, and laid-back. We watched the beautiful turquoise river practically inviting us to paddle down it someday while tasting some savoury Kurdish snacks. It may feel strange to say this about Iran, but I really felt incredibly free, not even minding the hijab. More pictures and conversations followed, as we waited and waited for the sun to set and for the lights to be turned on in the rocky terraced houses. 8:00pm was our curfew and we had to make a run for it.
The sun had definitely connived against us, this time around. Which leaves room for Part 2.
About the author: Olivia-Petra Coman is a history postgraduate student and experienced traveller, always thirsty for adventure.
She travels the world to discover its hidden treasures, she dreams to get to the historical sites she’s only explored in books, and she hopes to make a difference through her work and vision of the world around her.
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