The public transport system in Iran is awesome. Good roads, fantastic buses and trains for dirt cheap prices. More on getting around Iran & Iranian driving in another post (stay tuned). We heard great hitch-hiking stories from other travellers but because it was so convenient to take the bus we didn’t need to hitch-hike here. Well only once.
In Rafsanjan we just missed the bus to Kerman so decided to hitch-hike with the help of our Rafsanjan hosts. They spoke to the first driver who stopped and arranged with them a price so it wasn’t technically hitch-hiking, but as close as we got. Our host must have warned them to drive sensibly and not too fast, something our young driver took to heart, as his driving was VERY slow! It took so much longer to get to Kerman than it should have but the driver and his friend in the front seat seemed happy to crawl along, attempting to converse with us, despite their very limited English. This was, like the driving, rather painful at times and involved lots of looking up words in the Farsi-English dictionary on his mobile phone (while driving!).
Anyway, we discovered that the two young guys were engineering students (one mining and one electrical). They had recently been to Iraq, to visit an Islamic holy place there and were telling us with enthusiasm how they loved reading the Koran. They encouraged us to read it too.
We wanted to be dropped off either at our couchsurf host’s house in Kerman or at his shop in the city. Our driver however insisted that first we should meet his family and have dinner with them. After refusing a few times and he insisting a few times we compromised saying we could have a cup of tea but not dinner.
What transpired was a visit to a friend of the family. She brought out treats for us, bowls of nuts, popping candy sweets, fresh fruit, muffins, cakes, dates, tea…it was a lot! And we’d not long before had an enormous lunch in Rafsanjan. While we were being offered countless plates of food, our driver disappeared in his car with our bags. We should perhaps have been a little concerned but there was no need to worry. He had left to collect various family members and they soon returned. Neighbours also came over. We chatted with them, everyone took photos, we ate what we could and drank tea.
They were very insistent that we stay the night with them but as we had already arranged to stay elsewhere (and our conversation would be difficult given I’d exhausted my Farsi by this point and they lacked the English necessary for communication) we politely refused. They seemed very disappointed and we felt rather bad for saying no but what could be done!?
During the chats we were asked what food we liked. Antony responded with enthusiastic gusto that Iranian dates were amazing. Soon one of the women disappeared from the room and came back with a large box of dates. She insisted we took it with us when we left. I managed to explain that it was too much to carry and perhaps we could take just a few dates in a small bag. They reluctantly agreed. Antony too may have been a little disappointed at this- I think he was keen to take the whole big box – he REALLY liked the fresh dates in Iran… but I felt awkward taking anything from strangers and they had already been so generous.
We weren’t even allowed to pay the agreed money for the trip. Aware of taroof we insisted numerous times but our driver really didn’t want to take it. Such undeserved kindness from strangers! Again!