We set off on foot from the village of Garamud (1806 m), north west Iran, on an October morning following the directions from the rough map drawn by Ahmad, the owner of the Hotel Navizar.
Were I alone, I would have got lost soon after crossing the little river.
Mirek’s inherent map reading and mountain trekking skills proved sounder and, save for a few unintended detours, we made steady progress uphill. We came across only two other people during the upward journey, a bookish looking man who appeared even more surprised to stumble across two evident foreigners in his mountain than we did to encounter him. He led a donkey with a goat settled snuggly in the saddle bag and stopped long enough to smile and allow us to take a photo. In the absence of a common language we weren’t able to extend these pleasantries and each went our way.
An hour or so on, as we were picking our way across a slope covered with scree, a dog emerged from up ahead and growled menacingly stopping me in my tracks. A little further, camouflaged by the trees and munching sheep, I spied a shepherd who eventually called his dog to heel. More guarded in his demeanour than the donkey walker, he held onto his dog as we made our way past and he pointed up into the mountains making gestures to show it was cold up there. He was dressed in a sheepskin coat, Mirek wore a t-shirt. Grey clouds were forming but we thanked him and continued up. My trepidation about what lay ahead was as usual allayed by Mirek’s enthusiastic coaxing and we plodded onwards and upwards.
Finally, after nearly four hours of trekking, the sky cleared as we reached the highpoint of the mountain pass (2438 m) and crossed this wide open plateau to catch sight of a completely different landscape in the valley beyond. Like emerging from scrubland into picturesque fertile plains.
The Sound of Music came to mind but my Julie Andrews impersonation went inexplicably unappreciated… (for those of you who don’t speak Polish, Mirek suspects I might be suffering from dehydration..)
We followed on down across this bucolic landscape which, unlike the other side of the mountain, had a clearly marked trail. We met no-one else until we reached the scraggly village of Narmelat where a local lady assumed we wanted to visit the little mosque in a small flat roofed building and led us inside its modest interior to leave a donation.
Not finding a shop to buy snacks we followed the road further up the grey gorge until it came to an end less than 3 km later at the village of Dineh Roud. The road had only recently been built and went no further. I was too timorous to cross the flimsy looking structure over the stream but Mirek went ahead and was invited to tea by the village chief, which he passed up because of me and we then walked back down the road and followed it all the way till it joined the road leading back to Garamut. All in all, just over 20 km in a leisurely eight hour trek.
Supper that night was much appreciated.
While there aren’t that many foreign tourists in the Alamut valley today and conditions are basic, you can imagine what Freya Stark experienced as that intrepid lady travelled through the Alamut Valley in the 1930’s on foot and by donkey to explore the region of Luristan. A short extract about her stay in Garmarud from her book “The Valleys of the Assassins” is reprinted here:
Our trek details:
more pics of our hike: