Lucy (my motorcycle) was perched on her centre stand by the main gates of the guest house in Kerman (Eastern Iran). As I fumbled in the darkness with the fastenings to my bags there was a hint of apprehension in me for what lay ahead that day. Suddenly, the first glimmers of dawn shattered the night and brought a refreshing early morning breeze that encouraged a smile on my face. “Everything is gonna be just fine” I told myself as I reminisced stories of overland travellers who had followed my same route unscathed. My gear was tightly packed and with a gut full of throbbing excitement I climbed on the bike, fired up the engine and roared away from Kerman onto the highway that lead East, to the Afghan border.
Everyone had warned me about the occurrences on the road to Zahedan. There were stories of lawlessness and gun slinging bandits, some had even used the word “Taliban”. It was best to ride during the hours of daylight only, I was told and with eyes wide open too. I took local wisdom seriously but also felt that any chance of being held to ransom by the side of the road was unlikely. To me the bigger issue was about the Dasht el Luut (Lut) desert, one of the hottest deserts on earth, a portion of which I had to cross en route to my destination that day. I had enough fuel range, snacks and water and hoped these were all I needed to get through the desert under the July sun.
Soon enough, past the town of Ban, bright, barren, dry wasteland rushed towards me in warm embrace and the digits on my bike thermometer started to flick quickly. Thirty six, thirty eight, forty degrees (104 F), this was all before ten o’clock in the morning! Gone was all vegetation, nobody lived here in this open sun scorched land. I doubted there were any animals either apart from a few scorpions and the lizards that snacked on the scorpions. There was nothing to admire, only sandy bleakness, the road ahead and the occasional truck to honk at and speed by.
Forty six degrees (115 F) still with plenty desert to get across. I wondered what I would do if I broke down. Maybe the fuel pump or the battery or perhaps the electronics on my bike would play up on me. I forcefully pushed this nonsense aside. After all, the cooling fan on my bike had yet to come on once, the engine temperature was steady, Lucy was doing fine. Silently I rode on, engulfed in bright nothingness, stopping only every twenty minutes or so to munch at some dried fruit and sip a little sun heated hot water, that scolded my tongue and throat just like a big swig of vodka would do.
Forty eight degrees (118 F). The vast expanse of flat barren land around me was hazy and unclear. In the distance I could see the ghostly outline of massive rocky outcrops and wondered whether these were the last remnants of the Kuhbanan mountain range or the start of the Shuran elevations that I expected ahead of me. Most of all though, I saw no gangs of outlaws or chasing Talibans. It probably wasn’t business hours for them at that time of day.
Then the thermometer flashed forty nine point five degrees Celsius (121 F). “Come on!” I yelled deliriously under my riding gear, ” Give me fifty!…..I want fifty degrees! …DO IT!” I held my gaze on the display for the next few kilometres as I continued my ride, hoping to see the round number appear, but fifty never came.
The scenery gradually changed after the almost fifty degree climax. A small increase in elevation to the village of Nosrat Abat brought lower temperatures at last. From forty nine degrees the digits fell to a blissful forty four (111 F). Yes, forty four degrees can feel wonderfully refreshing, believe me …
So, I did eventually make it to Zahedan safely. However, crossing a small part off the Lut desert exposed me to the hottest temperature I have ever ridden in and perhaps ever will. Also, this was the last part of my trip in which I was allowed to travel alone so close to the Afghan border. From Zahedan onward across Baluchistan and all the way to Pakistani Punjab I was given no choice other than to follow an armed police escort.
Distance from Kerman to Zahedan is approx 450km, (270 miles).
As of 2016, quality high octane fuel can be found in the town of the Ban, 160km (100 miles) from Kerman. I had to wait until I reached Thailand for any more of that.
Satellite images have proven that the Lut desert in Iran is consistently the hottest place on earth with ground temperatures regularly exceeding sixty degrees Celsius (140 F). Seventy degrees (158 F) is not unheard of either!
On a hot day dry fruit makes a great snack to boost energy. I’m glad I had plenty that day.
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