The view from our hotel in Kaleybar in the morning: The Iranian flag. The night before there had been a noisy wedding in the courtyard below. Kids and family had been hanging about and playing on motorbikes till fairly late. We woke up at sunrise and Mahmood picked us up and drove us to the foot of the mountain where we could hike up to Babak Castle.
We walked through the forest of oak and hornbeam following the stream. It was pleasantly cool in the shade of the valley in the early morning. On the way we would get occasional glimpses or Babak fortress perched high on a sheer rocky precipice towering high above. It was hard to imagine how we would ever reach it. We got stuck at one point climbing half way up a waterfall but eventually, after about two hours reached the height where there are no trees.
Ruth got pretty scared but made it. The final hurdle was a bit wall at the top – well it is a fortress after all. The fortress was impressive. A bundle of zig-zagging steps and walls and towers clinging to the high vertical cliffs and the narrow peak of this great tower of granite. By now it was mid-morning, the sun was strong but there was a cool breeze at the top which we were glad of. The view was great.
There were lots of friendly people up there, big family groups on a day out/pilgrimage. They were very friendly. One large family group came up to us and they spoke English. They introduced themselves and asked us lots of questions and took photos and exchanged details. They were from a town near Ardebil and were really lovely people.
We got a taxi back to Kaleybar and collected our bags from the hotel. We had a bite to eat and then Mahmouds Father drove us to the next town – Ahar (for a fee, he is a taxi driver).
In Ahar he dropped us by the mausoleum of Sheykh Ahab-edin Ahary. It seemed to be closed at first but then someone let us in. It turned out to be the town museum. There were some nice things, pictures of the Ayatollah and of the Imam Ali. An incredible huge metal cup type thing with amazing geometric engraving on it.
When we got to Ardebil it took us ages to find a hotel. The driver drove us into the town. The traffic was really bad. The driver went the wrong way, I knew cos I had a map. I tried to tell him where to go but he wouldn’t have any of it. He just kept asking other drivers for directions. Eventualy we ended up at the hotel we asked for. The driver came in with me while Ruth and Hannah waited in the car. He spoke to the hotel man and we had to wait for ages. Eventually it transpired there was no space. He offered to drive us somewhere else but I said we would walk because he had done us a favour already. We spent the next hour or two going to all the different hotels we could find. They were all either too dirty, full or too expensive. Eventually we found somewhere that was kind of ok although a bit pricey.