Journey to Iran: Hitchhiking from Yerevan to Meghri
Wednesday, November 11, 2015. We wake up early in the morning. There’s a long way from Yerevan to the city of Meghri ahead. We’re hitchhiking to Iran. We finish our breakfast and repack for one last time, cramming our backpacks with more food and clothes. With our goodbyes said, we leave for the Yerevan train station on a taxi. From there, a Yerevan-Vedi bus takes us to the village of Pokr Vedi. While waiting for the bus to depart, a group of tourists, heading to Khor Virap monastery joins us. “Salam,” says one of them, a young Korean guy, to me. I look at Nane and smile. There couldn’t be a better beginning for our journey to Iran – a Korean traveler greets us, Armenians, in Persian on this very morning when we finally hit the road. At 11:15 AM, we get off the bus on the highway that runs all the way down to the Armenia-Iran border. On our right is the snow-caped mount Ararat shining in the sun.
On the road near the village of Pokr Vedi, Armenia | © 2015 Arty Om, teawithstrangers.org
It takes us less than a minute to hitch our first ride – to Jermuk. Our driver – a 23-24 y.o. guy named Sergey, says he picked up many hitchhikers on the roads of Armenia, but we are the first Armenians. “Although, one of my relatives holds some kind of a record in hitchhiking,” says he. “Does he live in Armenia?” I ask, wondering who that might be. “No, not really. We are not so close anyway,” he answers.
Our driver Sergey | © 2015 Nane Khachatryan, teawithstrangers.org
Sergey drops us off at the Jermuk junction, from here we get another ride – this time to the city of Sisian. The driver and his friend are responsible for maintenance of self-service terminals installed on gas refilling stations on the road, so their job is somewhat traveling, too. “I’ve been to Tehran once,” says one of them upon learning that we are on our way to Iran. “But frankly speaking, I didn’t like it there,” he adds. “Why?” I ask. “We were with women, and we couldn’t go anywhere to party.”
On the road to Goris, Armenia | © 2015 Arty Om, teawithstrangers.org
From Sisian we hitch a white Lada Niva. Our driver, a medical student in Yerevan, takes us to the city of Goris and drops us off at a gas refilling station on the outskirts of the city. Here we have a little lunch – tomatoes, bread and cheese, and then continue our road. Almost three years ago, on November 20th, 2012, we stood here with Emee, a traveler from France, trying to hitch a ride to Kajaran during our Silk Road trip.
On the outskirts of Goris, Armenia | © 2015 Arty Om, teawithstrangers.org
“I thought you are foreigners. I was surprised when you talked to me in Armenian,” says the driver as we get into his car. We are now headed to the city of Kapan. We share stories, he describes us the villages we pass through. The landscapes around us are changing dramatically – from vast valleys to snowy mountains to colorful forests. On the way, the driver picks some medlar fruits for us to try. “The fruits are especially sweet after snow. Our forests are full of fruits and berries. If you get lost, you will surely not starve to death,” he says. “Aha, right. If you’re lucky enough not to become a delicious dish on some bears’ table,” I think to myself.
On the from Goris to Kapan, Armenia | © 2015 Arty Om, teawithstrangers.org
He drops us off at the center of Kapan at around 5:30 PM. We take a cab to get out of the city, and soon get a lift from a 25 y.o. butcher. “This is the richest city in Armenia,” he says as we drive through the next town, Kajaran, to the southern end of the city. It’s dark and cold outside when we get off the car. But we are lucky – an old Soviet Kamaz truck picks us up not long after. We begin to slowly drive up the Kajaran mountain pass. Closer to its highest point where the road is covered with snow and ice, the truck slides on the ice but the driver manages not to lose control over the vehicle. I look at the deep canyon of darkness on our right, then at Nane, then at our driver. “Oops, that was close,” he says. Bender would shit bricks.
Mount Khustup, Armenia | © 2015 Arty Om, teawithstrangers.org
The rest of the journey is boring. We arrive in Meghri at 7:45 PM. The city welcomes us with a rather warm weather and soft winds. The border with Iran is just 10 km away, but we don’t want to cross in the evening. We get off the truck, thank our driver and walk in the direction of the city center. We are going to spend this night at “Haer B&B”. The owner, a lively lady named Marietta, gives us a warm welcome, shows us the room and treats us with fruits from her garden. We spend the rest of the evening talking to our families on skype, eating and drinking tea.