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29th March – 31st March 2011 – Hiking in the Alamut

May 31, 2011
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We met Omid in Qazvin after Mohammed’s brother gave us a lift into town, picked up some supplies and were on our way in a savari taxi towards the Alamut. Its lucky we didn’t try and cycle to the valley – the road wound up and up for hours, the car struggling to make the switchbacks before we hit the snow line and descended for just as long into the gorgeous, epic valley.

The Alamut valley is nestled right in the Alborz mountains, with no real way in our out other than over the top of a 2,000m pass. This makes it very remote and peaceful – a small bubble of lakes, villages and rolling hills with a fitting backdrop of soaring snow capped peaks.

It is also home to a network of Assassin’s castles, which were hideouts for Assassins in the Safavid period, fighting of the Monghols. The most notable being **, which would be our first port of call on our visit in the valley. Omid grew up in the adjacent village to the castle, so was a great guide, reeling out the history of the castle and the inhabitants with ease.

The castle itself was a bit of a dissappointment – the heavy reconstruction work was in full swing meaning the castle was covered in precariously assembled scaffolding, obscuring any view of the original stonework. The location of the castle however was spectacular, perched high on top of a rock precipice with great views over the village below and the valley beyond.

The next day, after a good nights sleep in Omid’s house, we rose early to prepare for a small hike to Ewan Lake, the jewel of the Valley. It was only a 5km hike along a road, despite Omid declaring with certainy that it would take all day (his grasp of numbers and distances was not his strong point) Slightly unsatisfied with just walking along a road, we tried to take a not so trodden route and move as the crow flies, affording us a good hike over a few hills, though we were never far from the road much to our efforts.

The lake soon appeared over the crest of a hill – and to our surprise it was buzzing with activity. It seems the lake is a very popular destination for Nowruzzing Tehrani’s looking for a bit of nature during the holidays, and the lakeside was packed with tents, barbeques, and bonfires.

Unfortunately Iranians don’t seem to understand the concept of natural peace, many people choosing to drive their cars or motorbikes right to the waters edge and set up the tent almost directly out of the boot. They would then go in search for firewood, meaning every tree in the surrounding area had been stripped of branches below reaching height. They would also play loud traditional music, often oblivious to their neighbours who would also be playing it with the same gusto, making quite a cocophonous racket. We tried to avoid these groups, setting up camp on a greener more secluded part of the lake, but it was a struggle to get away from the festivities. It wasn’t such a problem – this is Iran afterall and we were happy to be a part of a national celebration – it just wasn’t quite the peaceful image of nature we had in mind. We eventually realised it was better to join them if you can’t beat them, and set about making our own bonfire, which lasted well into the night along with the festivities on the other side of the lake.

The next morning we decided to head back into Qazvin, hiking back to the nearest village and hailing a savari to take us out of the valley. We went back into the kebab shop and were greeted with smiling faces and free kebabs from Mohammed, along with an offer of another night with his family.

We returned back to the house to find his brother had cleaned our bikes! They were so filthy from being in the mountains, he had done a great job. We had another great night in Mohammeds house, eating spaghetti and talking again through phrasebooks.

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