Forgive me the, um, populist header, but it was after a good few days of intense communist conversation (stretching my wonky makeshift Turkish to its utter bounds) that I left Ankara and started carving an eastward groove out of the map.
The night before I had sold a stack of old, rancid books on a street market showcasing my superior bargaining skills: "How much do you want?" asked the book vendor, entering business with me mostly out of indulgence. "Urgh, um, five, maybe", I answered. "You mean fifty?" - "No, no, five" -and he handed me twenty lira.
The ticket was 19 so I had one lira to spend on a lavish dinner of a bag of nuts to nosh on while I was finally rolling due east on an Erzurum bound train tugging its tottering frame forward at snail speed.
In the morning I hitched on. I had already set my head on entering Iran so it was with a certain reluctance that I accepted an invitation, and that by midday only. But I always wanted to go to the Kachkar region in Turkey and that was where this little family were heading for precisely, just an hour north of my route. It turned out to be one of the most wonderful invitations I have had anywhere in Turkey. The house was full of smiling young mothers, all my age or younger, each with 2 or 3 incredibly ugly kids with crumpled red babyfaces. The village streets were roamed by doting mother cows lovingly licking their tousled, sleepy eyed young, and I discovered the gorgeous rocky surroundings of the village and a few kilometres on I was led down one alice-in-wonderland-like magical canyon of wondrous rock formations that I will never forget.
One day later I entered Iran. Hitching went very well -I found myself sipping on deliciously flavoured tea from a thermos in the first lift- so people turned out just as generous and hospitable as I always heard. Quite honestly after three years of wanting to come here, hearing more and more stories and building up expectations, I am prepared that almost anything can only be an anti-climax…