Iran-Trotter: Koul Khersan

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Javad Gharaei is a young tourist who travels across Iran to explore the country’s most exotic places. In this episode, he visits the pristine nature of Koul Khersan in Dezful, Khuzestan.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: Life in the city has its own merits; creature comforts, good relationships among human beings, colorful recreational facilities, and high-rise buildings, coupled with large populations, polluted air, ear-splitting noises, a stressful lifestyle and nonexistent peace and tranquility.

Life in the city is difficult for humans….very difficult. But perhaps most of us city-dwellers didn’t have a choice but to get accustomed to this lifestyle….or maybe we humans set off on the journey of life on the wrong foot. And now, in search of a better life, better from our own point of view, we have to expand our cities, live a more industrialized lifestyle and gradually forget where we came from. The fact is that nature was the biggest part of the human existence for thousands of years. But for hundreds of years now, we have deprived ourselves of the peace and tranquility bestowed upon us by God in the form of the natural world. And we still don’t know why we have resigned ourselves to the hustle and bustle of life in these concrete jungles. I couldn’t stand life in the city any more. So for a few days, I went on trip to my original home, the natural world. I have always been a responsible traveler into the natural world. I have never so much as hurt an ant or plant in my original habitat birthed by Mother Nature. This time my destination was part of the Zagros Mountains in the south-west of my beloved country. The Zagros Mountain range is an important link between the Alps in Europe and the Himalayas in Asia. This beautiful large mountain range emerged as a result of the decrease in the Tethys Ocean water levels around 60 million years ago, that’s the Tertiary or the third geological period. The Zagros maintains are in fact wrinkles caused by the tectonic movements of the Arabian plate and its pressure on the crust of the earth. In technical parlance, the interaction between tectonic plates is called orogeny, and scientists say this mechanism is still on-going in the Zagros Mountains.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “Hi, I’m Javad Gharaee, an Iran-trotter. This time I’ve travelled to one of the untouched areas of Zagros. The purpose of this trip is to visit the Kool-Khersaan valley, pronounced kchool-khersan by the locals. The valley is one of the most pristine and of course most dangerous of its kind in this region….I’ll have to walk a long way from one end of the gorge to the other. And we’re talking twenty to twenty five kilometers on foot. But before I get there, I’ll have to traverse the Eshkaf-Zardeh valley. Not many people have travelled here. I hope to spend beautiful days and nights here over the next couple of days on my long trek to Kool-Khersan.”

Narration: To get to Kool-Khersan, I had to walk a long way along the Dez dam lake. A deep water basin fed by drinking water from the heights of the Zagros range. After flowing for around two-hundred kilometers from its primary source that is Zardkooh mountain, the Ab-Bakhtiari river meets Sezar river and then flows into Dez. The Dez River, which is around 65 kilometers long then goes through the Dez damn on its way to the Karun, considered Iran’s longest natural flowing watercourse at 950 kilometers long.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: Wow, look over there! Look at all those fish. It looks like very interesting spot from here.”

Narration: I went there in the middle of March but the weather in the area, despite the cold lake water, was very warm…It felt like the cycle of seasons in Khuzestan province had changed and started with the summer season. Even so, at around 150 kilometers farther, meaning somewhere around Zard-kuh in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, the grass hadn’t sprung out just yet because of the cold and snow in the previous months. And the reason the water of the Dez River is so cold is that same snow up in the mountains where the water originates from.

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “I’ve been walking for hours now. And It’s very hot here. I think I’d better jump in the water before I get heat-stroke. The water of Dez dam lake is very cool. Heat-stroke is one of the main hazards of travelling to a hot climate. And the way to prevent this most serious of heat-injuries is to wear the right clothes, avoid unnecessary physical activity, drink enough water and eat the right food. But in spite of all that, I was frustrated by the hot spring weather in Khuzestan. My best option was to take a dive into the lake. But swimming in cold water in hot weather conditions can be very dangerous to those with a bad heart. But to me, the cold water wasn’t a problem.”

Narration: The Dez dam lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Iran located in the north-east of Andimeshk. This body of water, is home to a wide variety of fish species drawing a large number of professional fishers to itself every year. Species such as the rainbow trout, the mangar, the sheer-bot, the Danub bleak, the silver carp, the barbell, and the Kangal.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “Who would’ve have thought you could swim in cold water in the winter. The water is cold but the weather is very warm. And that calls for a swim in these beautiful waters.”

Narration: To capture the beauties of beloved Iran, my crew and I travel to far and untouched places….travels that had interesting and at times dangerous incidents in store for us…From mishaps in the mountains, to frost-bite and heat-stroke, to bug bites and to many other perils. And this trip was no exception to the rule. At my cameraman’s request, I strapped a water-proof camera to my head to capture the moment when I dove into the water. But for some unknown reason, the camera came off its mount and sank to the bottom of the lake. Because of the films we had stored on the camera’s memory card, we had to fish it out the water no matter what.

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “We’ve been trying to find our water-proof camera for the past 25 minutes…It’s somewhere down there…it’s very deep here….around 10 meters or so….deep enough to make your ears ache when you plunge to the bottom…None of us, I mean me, Koroush and Keyvan, none of us has been able to get to the bottom just yet….”

Narration: I’m afraid none of us had dived to depths more than four meters without diving gear. Every attempt my good friend Kooroush and I made hit a dead end. The lack of diving gear prevented us from getting down to where the camera was. The pressure from the water was too much to bear, giving both of us excruciating pain in our ears….We couldn’t stay underwater for too long….Disappointed and frustrated, I decided to give it one last go, before I stopped the search.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “Argh! It was down there for 21 minutes and 56 seconds. Argh! My ears! I’d almost given up.”

Narration: At eight meters where our camera had plunged to, the pressure from the water was much more than the air pressure in the middle ear…and that excessive external pressure ended up hurting my eardrums. I tried yawning and swallowing water to relieve the pressure on the middle ear and alleviate the pain, but it didn’t work. But then Koroush suggested sucking out the air in my ears…and that equalized the air-pressure in my middle ear. The pain in my ears was gone. After a long fun swim and the challenge we had with the lake over recovering one of our cameras, it started to get dark. We had to pitch our tents before the dark set in. The whole area was clean and peaceful….with no trace of waste or smog or of automobiles and human activity.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “It’s starting to get dark. And before that happens, you’ve got to find yourself a proper spot to camp out and pitch your tent on.

We don’t have to rush it when it comes to pitching our tent.

I have a great view from here.

This tent has a low ceiling so if wind starts blowing here, it’s not gonna be able to cause any trouble.

- So Koroush! How do you feel having me pitch your tent every time?

This is a tarp that covers our tents. It is water-proof and it also acts as a wind-breaker. What it also does is it keeps the inside a bit warmer. But here we are almost at the end of the winter, right next to the Dez Lake and it’s really warmed up. So I think we are not gonna need a second tarp. We aren’t getting any rain either. I checked the weather forecast for the next five days and it said there would be no rain in the next four or five days…and that’s how long I’m planning to stay in this area. So, I have no reason to use this tarp for the tent.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “The tent is set up! I’ve put everything away. There’s nothing left out here. I always keep my backpack and everything else inside my tent because I wanna zip up the entrance flap. That’s because I don’t want any scorpions, snakes or other creepy-crawlies coming into my tent.”

Narration: The natural world is every human’s first and last true home. And so I always take care of my home. I do everything I can not to put any scars on the face of Mother Nature. I woke up early in the morning the next day and after walking a long way, I arrived at the mouth of the valley. But not from the bottom. Before venturing into the Kool-khersaan gorge, I wanted to explore the route from above to see what I was up against. To do that, I had to walk on the only path that gave me a bird’s eye-view of what was lying at the bottom of the valley. I went passed an ancient cemetery that was part of the Shadab citadel and went on to get atop the walls of the valley. The trail was considered ancient; the only one that led to Shadab citadel. To this day, many of the folks in the area use it to take their livestock to the pastures lying on higher ground.

It was a long trail and the weather boiling hot. I had to use my drinking water supply efficiently. Hiking in the mountains is very difficult in hot weather. At the temperatures rise, the body perspires more….leading to dehydration, cramps, sodium deficiency and other subsequent problems. Mountaineers have a famous motto: “Drink before you are thirsty, eat before you are hungry and rest before you are tired.” Any traveler who abides by those golden rules, will ensure a successful trip. They also take the most basic training courses on nature-travelling and mountain-climbing. We kept taps on the area’s weather for twenty days: It was either gloomy or cloudy with a haze of dust moving towards Khuzestan from our neighboring country Iraq. Those weather conditions prevented me from continuing my journey, and my team from filming it. But eventually, we decided to move on to the targeted area despite the cloudy skies and despite the haze particles. We did it primarily because the heat was becoming unbearable.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “Although these are the final days, uhhh- of winter, this whole area has turned yellow because there hasn’t been much rain. There’s no grass. It’s just very hot at the moment. But I’m sure that inside Kool-khersaan, the temperature is much lower than out here.”

Narration: After a relatively long walk, I got near the top of the valley; the one that would take me to Kool-khersaan. It’s called Eshkaf-Zardeh.

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “I’m atop Eshkaf-zardeh right now and that over there is its other wall. It’s somewhere between 200 and 250 meters deep. It starts here and leads to Kool-khersan which is located that way. I’m counting the moments to get down to Kool-Khersan. Look at these tall walls.”

Narration: For me climbing up mountains and standing on top of them was such a pleasure. Looking down at deep valleys fills you with strange feeling of awe and tons of energy. The hard efforts you make to get to such beautiful sights in your natural environment is comparable to the efforts you make and the hope you have for achieving success in life. That’s the first lesson to learn from Mother Nature. Seeing the low-lying sights detaches you from the material world….from the day-to-day preoccupations and materialistic attachments…

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “I promised you around two years ago I would travel to this beautiful ravine, walk through both Eshkaf zardeh and Kool-Khersan to the very end and show you all their beauties and challenges. And here I am now. Tomorrow is gonna be beautiful, momentous day.”

Narration: The natural environment causes human beings to think deeply about it and comprehend the greatness of God and bow before him in humility. The natural world is a manifestation of God’s presence and of his glory. How can humans not be at peace when they’re being watched over by God? Humans have always lived in peace in the heart of nature. That day, sitting above Esh-kaf Zardeh, I too was basking in the glory peace afforded me by the environment. I resumed my journey by walking down to Esh-kaf Zardeh that would lead me to the mouth of Kool-khersan. The valley started with a natural jungle of Ziziphus and mountain almond trees.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “These are mountain almonds. Most of the time, wild almonds are bitter and don’t really come to much use. But the locals pick these and make them sweet somehow. They boil them in hot water a few times and put them through some kinda process to make them sweet. Can’t eat them like this.”

Narration: I always carry a first-aid kit with me on all my trips. That’s because accidents are lurking everywhere out in the wild. Carrying a first-aid kit and more importantly learning the basics of giving first-aid, gives you a sense of security and enables you to enjoy your trip more than you would without it.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: I was picking some ziziphus fruits in Eshkaf Zardeh when…..The ziziphus is a strange tree….look what happened….it has really strange thorns…I cut my finger on one of them….A first aid kit can really come in handy when you are travelling in the wilderness. You have to carry one at all times.

That wall over there, is the same one I spent yesterday walking on for a view of Eskaf-Zardeh and Kool-khersaan to see where I was going.”

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: Right now, I’m deep in the heart of Eshkaf zardeh. The blurry background you see behind me is not the result of the cloudy skies above…It’s the haze and other particles picked up by the wind and carried in the direction of Khuzestan province. Those living in Khuzestan and Ilam are grappling with this problem more than anyone else. Before I came down here, I mean before I enter into any ravine or canyon, I check the weather forecast….because if it starts to rain or if the forecast has warned of inclement weather, I will no doubt be faced with serious problems. I’m gonna tell you what they are when I get inside Kool-Khersan.”

Narration: The weather was a bit better than the day before but the haze got much thicker preventing the light from the sun from reaching the area. Those particles had created serious problems for my fellow Iranians in Khuzestan province and its nearby cities. More importantly, they posed serious threats to the area and the future generations. Experts have produced solid evidence blaming human activity for the problem. We are dealing with the consequences of what others did in the past. About twenty years ago, Turkey started a water war with Iraq. The implementation by Turkey of a massive project to triple the country’s water reserves, led to the construction of numerous dams in the country over the past twenty years. The dams trapped two thirds of the water that flowed to the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Iraq causing a drought in some areas of the country. As a result, Iraq increased the number of its deep wells from around 50 to more than 2,100. That led to a sudden decline in subterranean water reservoirs and aggravated the drought. The Glory Canal built by Saddam Hussein in 1993 to redirect water flowing from the Tigris River into the Euphrates, near their confluence at the Shatt al-Arab was another deadly blow to the Tigris and Euphrates. That project pushed down the water levels in those rivers to a tenth of what they had been. As a result, less and less water flowed from those rivers to the Mesopotamian Marshes located in southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran and Kuwait. In Iran too, upstream dam construction and operation, reduced the amount of water that flowed into the Karkheh River. And now, scientists say, we might forever lose 95 percent of the Mesopotamian Marshes and its adjacent wetlands in the region such as the Hawizeh, Hammar and Shadgaan Marshes. Iran and Iraq share the Mesopotamian Marshes. It’s a vast region that used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of Western Eurasia. Today, it’s nothing more than hot and arid wasteland. Iraq used to apply mulch or soil covers to control soil erosion but because of the instability in that country, mulching operations haven’t been carried out for years. Today, all it takes is a breeze to kick up a huge wall of dust and move it in any direction. And as luck would have it, the winds of Iraq always blow in the direction of Iran and the people of Khuzestan bear the brunt of them. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to become the world’s biggest exporter of wheat ended in failure and millions of hectares of farmland in the north of the country were left unused. The region was faced with an unprecedented environmental crisis. In a bid to materialize that dream, the Saudis pumped out precious fossil water contained in aquifers at 1000 meters below the ground. And they only abandoned that dream after depleting all those resources. The price they paid for that mistake was the region’s ecosystem. And now vast areas in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Persian Gulf littoral states, are all facing a serious and obvious water crisis. And without urgent action on the part of the officials and experts in all the regional countries, we are bound for a much larger catastrophe. And that’s when nothing can be done. The purpose of my trip was to experience the peace and quiet in the region…. an eerie feeling of peace and excitement from walking along a valley. But the fact was that the region’s environmental problems disturbed that peace. And so I grew ever more concerned about the survival of planet earth, the only inhabitable planet where mankind can continue living.

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

Narration: I kept asking myself why? Why are we humans deliberately destroying our one and only planet earth with our own very hands? What’s all the rush for replacing the natural world with things made of plastic, concrete and steel? What’s the reason behind the human greed for turning more of the natural world into concrete jungles? Do we humans not know we’ll be around for only a little while? That we must protect and preserve our environment for the sake of those who will come to this world after we are gone. When the environment dies, so will everything else….the earth and all the creatures living on it. The death of the earth will spell the death of mankind. With all those questions still unanswered, I continued with my journey. I wanted to enjoy my time in this untouched valley to the fullest, now that I was away from all cities and modernity. That’s the first lesson to learn from Mother Nature. Seeing the low-lying sights detaches you from the material world….from the day-to-day preoccupations and materialistic attachments…

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “I promised you around two years ago I would travel to this beautiful ravine, walk through both Eshkaf zardeh and Kool-Khersan to the very end and show you all their beauties and challenges. And here I am now. Tomorrow is gonna be beautiful, momentous day.”

Narration: The natural environment causes human beings to think deeply about it and comprehend the greatness of God and bow before him in humility. The natural world is a manifestation of God’s presence and of his glory. How can humans not be at peace when they’re being watched over by God? Humans have always lived in peace in the heart of nature. That day, sitting above Esh-kaf Zardeh, I too was basking in the glory peace afforded me by the environment.

I resumed my journey by walking down to Esh-kaf Zardeh that would lead me to the mouth of Kool-khersan. The valley started with a natural jungle of Ziziphus and mountain almond trees.

- This is a dangerous place to be. I really have to be very cautious so nothing happens to me. The number one fruit here, particularly in Khuzesdan, is the Ziziphus. Look at these. These are just wonderful. You have to be very careful when picking these. The Ziziphus is a very thorny plant. They’re amazing. Hmmm….

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “Check out what water has done to those rocks. So many patterns. It’s broken through the rocks, washed them outta of the way and continued on its course. Up I go!

I’m nearing the end of the Eshkaf Zardeh valley. I think I have another two hours to go before I get to the beginning of Kool-Khersaan valley. I’m surrounded by reeds. They cover a vast area around here.

Look over there. Shot gun shell casings left behind by poachers….They have NO mercy on the environment. Without a doubt, God will have no mercy on them.

I’ve been walking for three-and-a-half hours. I think I’ve walked a total of 10 or 12 kilometers. This is where the Kool-Khersaan valley begins. If I’m not wrong, I have a 15 to 20-kilometer walk to do.

I am about to step into the Kool-khersaan valley from here. These walls here are telling me I should take safety measures. The most important thing I’ve learned from my trainers about travelling into the wild is, “Safety always, always comes first.”

Water has accumulated here because it has hit a rocky bottom and it cannot sink. From this point on I should take a lot of care….You know, try not to get wet as much as I can.”

Narration: The moment I stepped into the Kool-Khersaan, I was filled with excitement because everything changed all of the sudden. I could barely see the sky above. I was flanked was walls that I knew were more than 200 meters tall and impossible to climb.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “These are mountain almonds. Most of the time, wild almonds are bitter and don’t really come to much use. But the locals pick these and make them sweet somehow. They boil them in hot water a few times and put them through some kinda process to make them sweet. Can’t eat them like this.”

Narration: I always carry a first-aid kit with me on all my trips. That’s because accidents are lurking everywhere out in the wild. Carrying a first-aid kit and more importantly learning the basics of giving first-aid, gives you a sense of security and enables you to enjoy your trip more than you would without it.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: I was picking some ziziphus fruits in Eshkaf Zardeh when…..The ziziphus is a strange tree….look what happened….it has really strange thorns…I cut my finger on one of them….A first aid kit can really come in handy when you are travelling in the wilderness. You have to carry one at all times.

That wall over there, is the same one I spent yesterday walking on for a view of Eskaf-Zardeh and Kool-khersaan to see where I was going.

Right now, I’m deep in the heart of Eshkaf zardeh. The blurry background you see behind me is not the result of the cloudy skies above…It’s the haze and other particles picked up by the wind and carried in the direction of Khuzestan province. Those living in Khuzestan and Ilam are grappling with this problem more than anyone else. Before I came down here, I mean before I enter into any ravine or canyon, I check the weather forecast….because if it starts to rain or if the forecast has warned of inclement weather, I will no doubt be faced with serious problems. I’m gonna tell you what they are when I get inside Kool-Khersan.

After spending hours walking in the Eshkaf Zardeh valley, I’ve arrived at the very bottom of it. I think it’ll be another two hours before I get to the mouth of Kool-khersaan valley. It’s a beautiful route and there’s also water streaming on the bottom. There are lots of palm trees here in addition to the Ziziphus trees at the mouth of the valley. And I think the dates on these palms ripen roundabout July.

Apparently, people from different Bakhtiari tribes lived here forty or fifty years ago. And they used that water-mill there to grind the wheat that they dry-farmed. They cairn you see over there, there’s a ditch behind it….of course most of it has been buried by a landslide here….So the water would flow all the way from there and get to the stone wall over here that was made to house the watermill. So the water was channeled like this…..This used to be taller…this is a very interesting gutter….the water would eventually end up here…I see walls down there….Well the roof is gone….but those are no doubt the walls of the mill operator’s room that are still standing. And the hole in the ground down there means the grindstone were here at the time. They might have relocated the stone as they moved somewhere else. This is exactly the spot where the grindstone used to be. But they have moved it somewhere else. The only thing that’s left of the whole mill is this wall, this hole and the ruins of the windmill operator’s chamber.

This is a dangerous place to be. I really have to be very cautious so nothing happens to me. The number one fruit here, particularly in Khuzesdan, is the Ziziphus. Look at these. These are just wonderful. You have to be very careful when picking these. The Ziziphus is a very thorny plant. They’re amazing. Hmmm….

Check out what water has done to those rocks. So many patterns. It’s broken through the rocks, washed them outta of the way and continued on its course. Up I go!

This is a dangerous place to be. I really have to be very cautious so nothing happens to me. The number one fruit here, particularly in Khuzesdan, is the Ziziphus. Look at these. These are just wonderful. You have to be very careful when picking these.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “The Ziziphus is a very thorny plant. They’re amazing. Hmmm….

Check out what water has done to those rocks. So many patterns. It’s broken through the rocks, washed them outta of the way and continued on its course. Up I go!

I’m nearing the end of the Eshkaf Zardeh valley. I think I have another two hours to go before I get to the beginning of Kool-Khersaan valley. I’m surrounded by reeds. They cover a vast area around here.

Look over there. Shot gun shell casings left behind by poachers….They have NO mercy on the environment. Without a doubt, God will have no mercy on them.

I’ve been walking for three-and-a-half hours. I think I’ve walked a total of 10 or 12 kilometers. This is where the Kool-Khersaan valley begins. If I’m not wrong, I have a 15 to 20-kilometer walk to do.

I am about to step into the Kool-khersaan valley from here. These walls here are telling me I should take safety measures. The most important thing I’ve learned from my trainers about travelling into the wild is, “Safety always, always comes first.”

Water has accumulated here because it has hit a rocky bottom and it cannot sink. From this point on I should take a lot of care….You know, try not to get wet as much as I can.”

Narration: The moment I stepped into the Kool-Khersaan, I was filled with excitement because everything changed all of the sudden. I could barely see the sky above. I was flanked was walls that I knew were more than 200 meters tall and impossible to climb.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: I’m nearing the end of the Eshkaf Zardeh valley. I think I have another two hours to go before I get to the beginning of Kool-Khersaan valley. I’m surrounded by reeds. They cover a vast area around here.

Look over there. Shot gun shell casings left behind by poachers….They have NO mercy on the environment. Without a doubt, God will have no mercy on them.

I’ve been walking for three-and-a-half hours. I think I’ve walked a total of 10 or 12 kilometers. This is where the Kool-Khersaan valley begins. If I’m not wrong, I have a 15 to 20-kilometer walk to do.

I am about to step into the Kool-khersaan valley from here. These walls here are telling me I should take safety measures. The most important thing I’ve learned from my trainers about travelling into the wild is, “Safety always, always comes first.”

Water has accumulated here because it has hit a rocky bottom and it cannot sink. From this point on I should take a lot of care….You know, try not to get wet as much as I can.”

Narration: The moment I stepped into the Kool-Khersaan, I was filled with excitement because everything changed all of the sudden. I could barely see the sky above. I was flanked was walls that I knew were more than 200 meters tall and impossible to climb.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: Water is dripping everywhere.”

Narration: At that point, the only way out was forward. All I could see were the walls of the ravine.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “This is a terrifying place to be. Those big rocks you see up there, rolled down from the top the gorge, and since it get really tight over here, they got caught up there. They didn’t make it to the bottom. The locals here refer to this place as the Kool. In the local dialect, Kool means a deep narrow ravine. In some places there’s space for only one person to pass. That’s why they’ve named this place the Kool-khersaan. As a matter of fact, many bears used to inhabit the area above this gorge….bears that used to live in the Zagros range….But there aren’t many of them around at the moment…So that’s why they’ve named this place the Kool-Khersan.

Look! The water has sunk into the ground here. It might spring out somewhere else along the way. The ground under my feet is completely dry now although I’ve had waddle through water most of the way here. Look here! Reeds that slid down from up there. This is the work of floodwaters, you see. They got trapped here. Oh my goodness! Look over there. Up there I mean. Big branches from trees….over there…Between 20 to 25 meters from where I’m sanding….Look over there….Those large pieces of wood….They look like tree trunks to me… they were dumped there by floodwaters from Eshkaf Zardeh that swept across this gorge…Take a look….Just imagine what this place looks like when floodwaters arrive.”

TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “Those floodwaters can knock down a building within minutes. The water levels here can rise as high as twenty meters in the event of a flood. These tangled sticks of wood used to be trees. The floods have uprooted those threes. I see lots of large tree branches up there. They get stuck up there when the waters come cascading down into the valley. Anyone unfortunate enough to be here during flooding, is bound to lose their life. The floods brought tree trunks here all the way from Esh-kaf Zardeh. Keep in mind, you have to check the weather report, and come here only if no rain’s been forecast for a couple of days in a row. No one can come to your rescue here in time….to help you…Not helicopters, not relief and rescue teams….It’s a herculean task coming down here.

Ouch! I’d have hurt my head if I weren’t wearing this helmet.

Whoa! Total darkness. The light from the sun can’t make it down here on this spot and so it’s pitch black. But I have a solution in my backpack for a situation like this. Don’t forget extra batteries. The rocks that have gotten stuck up there are blocking sunlight from reaching the bottom. They have formed a ceiling in this part of Kool-khersan. But a few meters ahead, it’s back to normal. Nothing to block the sun. Not many rocks stuck over my head.

GPS doesn’t work here at all. I had signals up to the mouth of Kool-khersaan but there’s no reception here. I’ve arrived at a fork in the road so to speak. But as far as I remember and according to what the locals have told me, I have to make a right….That’s the path that leads to the other end of Kool-khersaan.

This rock is one of those up there that’s made it down to the bottom. As I said earlier, most of the rocks that end up in the ravine, don’t make it to the bottom of it. But this guy is an exception.

Look here! Looks like my filming crew and I are not the only ones in the gorge. There’s this spider that’s spun this big web stretching the two walls of the gorge….And over there. If I’m not mistaken, those are the droppings of the mountain goats who inhabit this area somewhere up these walls. Now, I have to get to the other side of this spider web without doing it any damage. Well, we are mere visitors here and this guy and other creatures here are the hosts. This whole area with everything in it, is their home.

I’ve been walking for like four hours now but there’s no end in sight just yet. I don’t seem to have come anywhere near Kool-khersaan. And I’m kina worried. I’ve been told the Dez river is on the other end of the gorge. That’s the water coming down from the Dez dam and flowing all the way to the city of Dezfool. But I’m wondering how far away that it. I can’t see any signs of it yet. No rivers, no nothing. The water on the bottom of the ravine, is no more. Of course the water is still moving towards the river from underground.”

TIME CODE: 45:00_51:02

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaeei, Host: “But that doesn’t make me any less worried. When you get to this point on your journey, you realize they named this gorge the “kool” for a reason. Look how tight it gets here. Huh! After walking along the gorge for six and a half hours, I’ve reached the end of it. Well, almost. I think I have another 100 or 150 meters to traverse. Water is coming up. This is water from the Dez river originating from the Dez dam. I think I’m about to see an exciting scene once I get outta here. But before I do that, I’m gonna have to take my clothes off and hit the waters.

Whoa! Wow! Whoa! It’s ice cold! It’s freezing! Whoa! Hooh! Hooh! I have to get to the very end of this gorge to get to Dez River coming from the Dez Dam. Hooh! Ahhh! Huh! I’m reaching the end of Kool-khersan. And as I get closer to the end, I can hear the roar of the Dez River! God, it’s very cold! YES! The Dez River! They say it’s around 20 meters deep here.

That’s because it’s right behind the dam. This is the end of Kool-Khersan! God, thank you! Hooh! We did it! But, but this is a dangerous spot. If you get too close to that part where the river is, you might get swept away by the strong currents of the Dez. Whoa! Huh! Ahhh! (Panting). It is so cold here, my whole buddy is tingling as we speak. And here’s my filming crew members who’ve also braved the ice cold waters and come with me all the way here. They’ve been working for five days. Just like me, they’ve travelled on an about 70-kilometer route in mountains and valleys. Thank you guys!

- No problem! My pleasure!

- You’ve done a great job.

- Make sure you film our state-of-the-art equipment.

- hahahaha. I’m gonna bid farewell to the Dez River; these cold, roaring currents. I have to go back before it gets dark. I have like eight hours of walking to do to return home. God it’s cold here.

I’m 35 years old, my friends here are right about that age. And we’ve been nature-travelers for years. But never ever have we left any of our garbage behind in the wilderness. Because we want everyone to enjoy being in the natural environment as much we do. We don’t want them to end up cursing us for littering the landscape with our waste. Look, Koroush has put all our garbage into a bag and is tying it to my backpack. This means a lot to me. It’s a very noble thing to do. Carrying this garbage. If everyone carries their own refuse, our environment will forever remain clean and healthy. My hat is off to any nature traveler who has their garbage attached to their backpack. I’d love to meet them and make their acquaintance. Let’s go guys! GOODBYE KOOL-KHERSAAN.”

Narration: We had a long way to go to get out of the ravine. After five hours of nonstop walking in Kool-khersan we arrived back in Eshkaf-Zardeh. I had promised my crew members to give them a treat if everything went smoothly. And I said I’d let them choose. But soon I wished I hadn’t done that! The filming crew and others say because everything went according to plan, they want me to celebrate by jumping down into the water down there. “Is it very deep down there?” “Can I please NOT jump?” “Let me go down a little bit more.” Arrgh! It’s very cold. Man, this is some place. Why did you do this to me?

I left Khuzestan, brimming with the positive energy that I had imbibed from its wilderness. And I did it without leaving a single sign of myself there. Right there, once again, I wished that no human being would do anything to harm this manifestation of God’s beauty, the natural world. 

   

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