It was raining when we departed in the morning. We were basically headed north, up the western side of the Caspian to Astara then turn inland and away from the Sea. Traffic was light as we headed out of town and continued that way for most of the day. We were all relieved with the more manageable tempo and not being bombarded by curious cars wanting to run over us.
Tony had found a medieval fort in Lisar which provided a perfect stop for morning tea. The climb up to the top of the buttresses gave an expansive view over the surrounding bottle green rice paddies interspersed with grape vines. Not a combination we had come across before.
As we turned inland at Astara we were on the Azerbaijan border which we proceeded to follow up a long and steep mountain climb. The higher we went the cooler and more misty it became, so that nearing the top we had to slow down as it was becoming difficult to see the road.
A tunnel linked the western side. As we passed through it seemed as we were transported to a new world. The sun was shining in a cloudless sky, the temperature rose about 15c and the lush green forest gave way to a sparse grassland. Cropping was not evident, but grazing was.
We stopped on our way to Ardabil to visit the beautiful Sheikh Safi-od-Din Mausoleum. Safi-od-Din was a Safavid patriarch and dervish-Sufi mystic in the 13 century. His descendants expanded his domains, so that by the beginning of the 16th century they had control of the whole of Persia as the Safavid Dynasty.
On to Sara’eyn at the base of the still snow capped, 5000m high Sabalan Mountains. We had been the leaders for the day, but failed to fulfil our final duty of guiding everyone safely into the hotel. The car stopped 500m from the gate and refused to restart. No fuel was getting through to the carburettors. So, for a second time on the trip, we were towed home.
The mechanical team traced the fuel back to the tank, blew through the lines to check they weren’t blocked and reassembled. The car started first hit. Although the problem was solved, the cause still uncertain.
We wandered around the small town to find a place to eat. Stopped often to ask where we were from and pose with the locals for selfies. They all wished there were more tourists and had positive feelings for Australia, we have yet to ascertain why.