She tries to organise a last minute plan for the ascention. We have almost nothing. No equipement whatsoever. We used to have nuts for energy but I lost them in Georgia, that was definitly my fault. I am thinking that she is the only experienced mountain climber that would attempt an ascention in such unlikely conditions.
Consequently, she might be the only mountain climber whose decisions I trust almost without a second thought. I don't like these self-conscious people who have their way of doing things and are oblivious to thoughts of others. And while Nata sometimes appeared as such on several occasions, I see no other who tried that ascension with me; not even Ilona. I really appreciate her wanting to try even thought every bet is against us.
There is a huge difference between planning something stupid reckless and actually doing it. I am something in between; I like staring at recklessness face to face before I recognize it.
Only downside and it is a geat one: Nata is in a hurry. She has other plans in Iran and she has to be back in two days. She wants to do a fast ascend and actually I like this solution better too. However, I am not repeating my mistake on Aragats. I hurried up too much then because I didn't want to make Ilona wait. I got caught in a storm as a result and I will not repeat my mistake again. In a general sense, I don't like risking my life. On a journey like mine, I might risk my life for others; I have accepted that; but I choose these people carefully and the person who we would be risking our life for by hurrying is not among them.
In the morning we pack chaotically. Nata cooks some rice and potatoes. There is almost nothing in that appartment and we do our best to improvise our mountain food. Well, Nata does, I am just walking repeatedly between the fridge and my backpack. The best option for me was to score some food. I asked the neighbors for sugar (my imagination got stuck) and got a giant bag full of sweets and bread.
We leave Teheran very late. Our interactions are formal. It's a sad end but when I look back, I just think that she being briefly part of my journey was a wonderful story. And if we climb that mountain it would be a wonderful conclusion. Curtains closed. So I am not sad; actually, I smile. Life is beautiful precisely because it has stories in it. I could wonder about Nata's mood but I decide to give it up. Ilona used to say: Sometimes, you have to learn to ignore a woman's feelings if you want to better a situation.
I do find out, however, the reason of Nata's mood. Pretty abruptly. She gives me a speech that is just too much too quickly to make me feel anything. She has read parts of my blog. I think some parts about Armenia. I have hurt people intentionally by my writing in the past but I have never hurt someone so much and so unintentionally. She hates that I have exposed my vision of her, including personal details and my hypothesis about her life and being. From what she says, I feel like having written mein kampf. Pretty shitty feeling but I guess, deserved. I could debate here about writing methods and what should be in a blog and what not but this is not the issue here.
I am now 100% sure that our story stops here, we are not meeting in China and even less in Russia. Shame.
However, there is something wonderful about Nata, she is the queen of second chances. It seems that no matter the argument, the matter the evil you do to her, she'll forgive you. A unique quality I have never seen before to such extent. Later, I would understand that growing up in the heart of the Soviet Union makes you deal with so many extreme assholes that if you hold a grudge over anything less than murder, you may soon find yourself void of any friends for having too strong morals.
So maybe our the story hasn't ended yet. Maybe this another side of Nata I don't know; still something to discover.
We hitchhike towards Polour, the base village for ascention. Hitchhiking feels better, almost natural. My farsi is still non-existant but I manage somehow to understand some important parts or to explain the concept of hitchhiking with minimal use of the magic word: salavaati. Surfing on religion; that would be cheating.
We stop somewhere mid-way, on a mountain settlement where our driver takes gas and invites us for lunch. The extreme heat of Teheran is giving way to cooler, more comfortable temperature. We are expecting a few degrees below zero at the top of Damavand. The only downside of all this is that our driver must make a deal with some guy who is supposed to come with some money and he insists of showing us the whereabouts without fully understanding the concept of hurry.
The whereabouts are basically a flea market with a lot of rusted iron things of various sizes.
At last, his contact comes and even gives us a hitch further.
|We stop in mid-way at some mountain settlement|
The next ride invites us for an iranian version of shashlik, meat which they cook on burning coals. Since she's vegetarian, Nata didn't eat anything so I had a mountaineering dinner just before ascension. The guy is routinely frustrated since all that sheep meat is there mainly to impress the girl and I end up eating all of it.
The guy cuts some more sticks of from a nearby tree and Nata whispers somethings along the lines of "motherfucker" because he is hurting trees. I guess that nullifies the theory about ever forgiving Nata unless you count tree cutting as murder which might very well be the case.
It is getting too late, we are not making it to base camp today. Plus, we still didn't find a group to join. This is my fault because I am not respecting Nata's hurrying up. I don't really believe it is possible to reach base camp before nightfall.
I wonder why I don't want to try? Am I more reasonable than Nata? Or do I want us to fail? Or am I being childish and disrupting the future romantic reunion of Nata and Jay just for the sake of annoyance? Usually it is a combination of everything.
We question some people to see if they are climbers. They are celebrating the end of Ramadan, don't have any clue about any mountain climbing.
I end up finding some people pointing us to a place which is some starting point for mountaineers.
We say farewell out our Iranian host and enter the alpinist facility. The atmosphere suddenly changes. This is serious business, people have high class mountaineering equipment, sleeping bags, crampons and ice axes, and, maybe I should start there; they have warm clothes.
Nata has a light mountain jacket but I have absolutely nothing... merely that blue hoodie from the Armenian rainbow. I wish I hadn't lost my good quality jacket on Aragats.
Besides being under-equipped, there is another obstacle, no easier to overcome: we do not have a climbing permit.
On Damavand, as well as many big mountain climbs, a mountain permit is needed. Here it is fairly cheap, merely 50 dollars per person, but that's about a month and a half worth of travelling for each of us. Plus, as under-equipped as we are, there is a good chance we might not make it anyway and why should we pay to die on a mountain?
"You have no way of getting in," says the leader of the mountaineering facility.
"Military checkpoints at all entries of Damavand," the tourists confirm.
"We're done," says Nata, "we can still go home"
"We are not giving up!" I am besides myself! Nata might be right rationally or she is just giving up on this climb just to go on some boring ride with her newly found boyfriend. Seriously, I don't care how wonderful the sex may be but I firmy believe that mount Damavand is much cooler and certainly much bigger that any type of sexual attribute or romantic experience, "there must be a way! You never trust me so trust me now, for once Nata, I didn't grow up in effing Siberia like you but I am smart too!"
To my great surprise, we don't have a bloody argument, Nata says that I am mistaken, she does trust me more than I know and that surprises me.
"What's your plan?"
I am so used to fight with Nata that I feel a huge sense of responsibility and stake over the proud read-headed princess.
"We'll use the cover of night to cross the checkpoint by the grasslands"
"Last time we did that, we got caught, remember, the Armenian border?"
"And we survived that, didn't we? And they can't get us everytime!"
"We'll get lost"
"We have GPS."
We agree on hitchhiking a car towards the least guarded checkpoint (from our very unreliable intel) and then cross by the grasslands.
As nobody stops, we decide to cover the ground by foot. And that is when something unusual happens.
A red rover, runs swiftly towards us. I makes a few unusual turns before stopping and a man tells us, in English but in a bit bizarre voice. He seems to have a speech defect. His voice is slow and over-articulated, as if his jaw couldn't do all the right moves.
"Do you go Damavand?"
"Maybe yes, maybe, no, who are you?"
"I help you! You trust me I help you!"
"Can you get us to the checkpoint?"
"You have permits?"
"We'll manage. Can you get us there?"
"I help you better. I know secret way."
|Nata thinking about options in the alpine shelter|
|Here we see the usual practice of wearing a scarf in Iran nowadays|