Iran-Trotter: Gazan Chal

Javad Gharaei is a young tourist who travels across Iran to explore the country’s most exotic places. In this episode, he visits the exquisite nature of Gazan Chal in north Iran.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: Nature is a human being's first and last habitat. A habitat that is the epitome of the beauty of the Lord of the universe, and in each season this beautiful habitat decorates itself in a unique way to somehow guide and comfort us humans.

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “Hello. I'm Javad Gharaee. I'm an Iranian explorer and I will show you the beauties of my country in the journeys I go on to the most amazing places in Iran.”

I've traveled in the wilderness during different seasons, to mountains and deserts, to valleys and forests.

But if I'm to search for various colors in nature during a season, that season would be autumn and that wilderness would undoubtedly be the old Caspian Hyrcanian forests in the north of the country.

In autumn, nature paints the forests in northern Iran a thousand beautiful colors and gifts our eyes with inimitable scenery - scenery that can only be seen for a few days or a few weeks each year.

In spring, there is no trace of the beautiful colors seen in these forests in autumn. But in spring, in the highlands of the forests, in a place they call "Darmarz", there is unique scenery awaiting nature explorers in love with nature.

This time, I've travelled to the highlands of Mazandaran province and I'm supposed to go along the 60 kilometer "Roodan" route in the highlands of "Darmarz" in the Alborz mountains, which means I'll be traveling in highlands even higher than the Caspian Hyrcanian forests. On this route, which I've included the most beautiful scenery, we will pass through forests, cow pens and villages, and eventually reach the highlands of these forest-covered mountains.

I hope that we'll be able to end this trip without any problems and manage to capture the most natural and beautiful spring landscapes in the highlands of the mount Alborz.

In the very beginning, I met a kind herdsmen in the region who guided me.”

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee& a herdsman: “- How are you?

- How are you?

- Thanks a lot. Are you one of the land owners here? Are you a herdsman?

- Yes.

- What's your name?

- Ezoojee, Ezoojee.

- Ezoojee.

- Jan Ali Ezoojee.

- Mr. Jan Ali Ezoojee. Jan Ali, what do you call this area?

- We call this place "Lezvanak".

- "Lezvanak"?

- Yeah.

- We want to go towards Gazan Chal. I've heard that there's a lake there. What's that lake called?

- Well to be honest, it'll take you a week to get there. We call the lake "Asal".

- Do you call seasonal lakes "Asal"?

- Yeah, it'll go dry within a month or two.

- How far is it to the next village? You call it "samoon". How far is it to the next samoon?

- The next village is ours. "Zeeneh".

- It's called "Zeeneh"?

- Yeah.

- So, the next village we'll be reaching is "Zeeneh"?

- The next village, the one after "Zeeneh" is called "Kal Pesar".

- "Kal Pesar".

- It usually takes us about a week to get to Gazan Chal. How long does it take you to get there?”

Narration: I've travelled across a part of this route, which I will now be going along, in autumn. And now I'm going to merge a new route with the old one to reach my final destination, which is the seasonal lake in Gazan Chal.

I was emotionally and physically prepared for this program because the route is a very long one and one should be well prepared for the possible challenges that lie ahead along the way.

The weather in spring was cold in the highlands of the mountainous forests and neither one of the stockbreeders had yet migrated there. But the weather inside the forest was pleasant and the first village I reached thanks to the stockbreeders from Mazandaran, was full of life.

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Ali: “- Hello ... How are you doing? ... Are you okay?

- How are you?

- Thanks for asking.

- Thanks for asking.

- Are you okay?

- Thanks for asking.

- What's your name?

- Ali Shomali.

- Ali my dear, what's the name of this village?

- This place is called "Kereven".

- Kereven. Finally after walking for six or seven hours, I reached the first village in the region, the one called "Kereven". Do many people live here?

- We're about seven or eight.

- You're seven or eight people, including your wife and kids or without your family?

- Without our families. We’re alone.

- May I come in?

- Please come in. ... Go ahead, please.


- Hello, how are you?

- How are you?

- Hooshang.

- Hooshang. Ali, is Hooshang a relative of yours?

- He's my cousin.

- You're cousin! Okay. ... Sorry for taking up your time.

- Don't mention it.

- You're most welcome here.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Ali: “- I'll sit here. ... Ooooh! ... It's so hot!

- Yeah!

- What is this? ... What have you done here? What is this?

- It's bread.

- "Kalva"?

- Yeah.

- The same bread people eat in Mazandaran?

- Yeah.

- Well, are you okay Hooshang?

- Thanks for asking.

- What's this calf doing here? It's so cute! ... Uuuh! How old is it? It's so small!

- It was born a few days ago.

- A few days ago! Why are you keeping it here?

- He has to be in a place that's ...

- Comfortable! Hu! Ha, ha, ha!

- It should be kept warm and we should look after it.

- You look after it!

- It'll get kicked out there.

- Ooh! It looks so beautiful! ... Well Hooshang, how often do you come here?

When do you usually migrate up here?

- We've been here for five or six days ...

- Uhu!

- ... And we'll stay here for eight to ten days before moving to a higher summer-quarter.

- To a higher summer-quarter.

- Yeah, yeah.

- Ali, will you be going with him as well?

- Yeah.

- Don’t you feel uncomfortable living like this when your wife and kids aren't along with you? ... You have to do all the work by yourself, you're all alone!

- What else can we do? This is our job! ... We've got used to it.

- How often do you see your wife and kids, your family, mother, father and relatives?

- Once every week or every ten days.

- Uhu, you go there and then come back? ... Don't they ever come over?

- They used to come here before, but they don't any more.

- … because the walking path to this place through the mountains is very hard to cross.

- Cars are unable reach this place.

- That's right.

- There's a lot of walking. ... It's quite hard.

- You're tea is ready.

- Help yourself. Do you want to go outside?

- Thanks a million. It’s just perfect over here, we can sit together. Thanks a lot.

- Would you like some tea?

- Thanks a lot, that's very kind of you.

- Should I get you some bread?”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “Ooh! Oh! This is one of the best kinds of bread on planet Earth! I'm honestly not lying! This bread is "Kalva". "Kalva" is a special kind of bread that belongs to the people who live in the highlands of Mazandaran - The stockbreeders here have a special kind of bread. Look at this! ... It's so hot! ... What a bread! ... Huuuh! I can't tell you how good it smells! ... It's got a wonderful fragrance and I'm sure it tastes as good because it's made of fresh milk from the sheep and cows in this region, and the butter is local, too. It's undoubtedly one of the best kinds of bread in the world. ... Go ahead and have some.”

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Hooshang: “-Help yourself. You're most welcome.

-Thanks a million. How wonderful! ... Hot tea! ... What do you call it? ... Firewood tea!

- It's firewood tea, but in reality it’s no different.

- No, what do you call it in your own local language?

- Local tea.

- Local tea!

- "Tashe sare chaee"

- What?

- "Tashe sare chaee"!

- "Tashe sare chaee".

- "Tashe sare chaee" ... Did I say that right? ... "Tashe sare chaee" ... Tashe sare chaee is tea brewed on firewood, which the people in Mazandaran call "Tashe sare chaee" in their own beautiful local language.

-Someone called you, didn't they?

- No.

- You work here all day long. What exactly do you do?

- We milk the cows, boil the milk, make yoghurt, buttermilk and butter.

- We pick olives.

- You produce the dairy products here and then transport them down. How do you transport all these goods down this path that only animals can somehow pass?

-We transport them with a mule.

- With a mule.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “These crocks and jugs are made in the city and they're vital for the people who live here, because they pour yogurt into it and beat it until butter is extracted.”

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Ali: “-Those are very small. I saw crocks in your cottage that were very big.

- Yeah, they're big.

- You carry them on your shoulder, right?

- Yeah.

- That's quite interesting! What do you call them, Ali?

- "Doshan".

- Dosha?

- "Doshan".

- "Doshan", they call them "Doshan". They call a big crock "Doshan". They carry those big crocks or "Doshan" on their shoulders to this place in the highlands from the Abbas Abad road just because the mules can't carry them. Not that they're not strong enough, but because when they travel on this narrow path, the crocks hit the rocks and trees on the sides and break.

- Yeah, yeah, on the side of the mountains.

- These people have to carry these big heavy crocks on their shoulders, which is a very difficult task. Ali, how long does it take you to get here from Abbas Abad?

- Two days.”

-Two days! If I were to carry these up here, it would take me a whole week to get them here from the city, from the lowlands. We're now 1,800 meters above sea level. 1,800 meters! They carry these up here from the Mazandaran coast. They carry them for a very long distance.

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Ali: “Your job is extremely hard Ali, isn’t it?

- Extremely!”

Narration: The life of these people living amongst the nature was a beautiful one, but it included many hardships and difficulties. Being far from their families; doing all the work such as cooking; looking after cattle and taking them grazing; milking the cattle and turning the milk into dairy produce such as butter, yogurt; and then transporting the dairy produce to the city. They were responsible for all the work that’s required to be done under such difficult conditions.

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Ali: “- We milk the cattle, boil the milk and then pour it into the jug again.

- Okay.

- We make yogurt. After making the yogurt, we leave it there for about a week until it gets a bit old.

- Does the yogurt have to be old?

- Yeah. After it gets a bit old we pour it into this and then pull it.

- You pull it? You mean beat it?

- Yeah.

- How interesting! … What’s this?

- We cover it with this.

- The lid is also made of wood. Did you make it yourself?

- Yeah.

- Strange things can be found around here. Look at this! What do you call this?

- “Kachool”.

- “Kachool”, they call it “Kachool”. Wood from what kind of tree have you used to make this “Kachool”?

- A Maple tree.

- Maple … You put this here and start beating it?

- Yeah, we start beating it.

- This is very heavy. This is quite heavy on its own and it becomes extremely heavy when it’s filled with yogurt. Does it take two of you to beat it?

- Yeah, we beat it together.

- One person sits on this side and one on the other, and ...

- Yeah, one sits on this side and one sits on the other side.

- Like this?

- But since it’s empty now …

- Uhum, it’s not possible because it’s empty.

- We place a piece of wood under it.

- Uhum, You should place a piece of wood under it?

- No, there is a piece of wood under it now.

- Okay.

- If you beat it, it will hit the wood and break.

- It’ll break?

- We take the piece of wood away, pour yogurt into it and pull it for half an hour to forty five minutes.

- Okay.

- We then add a bit of water, then pull it for another 20 minutes and again we …

- By pull it, you mean beat it?

- Yeah, beat it.

- Okay.

- We usually say pull it.

- Pull it is right.

- Again.

- You’re definitely right because you pull it.

- We pull it.

- Okay.

- We again add a cup of water to it and after pulling it for another 20 minutes, we collect the butter.”

Narration: After having a rest along with the kind men, I continued the rest of my way so I’d be able to reach the next village before dark. It’s not much further to the next village. I think I only have another hour’s walk to get there. My team and I reached the next village after dark. We were so tired that we fell asleep without even having dinner.

Early the next morning, I awoke to the beautiful sound of birds. I walked around the village for a while, but I didn’t have enough time to stay because I had to hike up the mountain another eight hours to reach the next village. No trace of human beings was to be seen anywhere on the way and this made the trip even more exciting.

If a person is to travel through the depths of nature or go mountain climbing with confidence, they should first take courses in mountaineering and become physically and psychologically fit and prepared.

The likelihood of having an accident in nature is quite high and a nature explorer must be well informed and well prepared to face different incidents and challenges.

Over the past years, I’ve faced many different incidents in nature: Being buried under an avalanche; frostbite; falling off a mountain; being hit by a stone; facing floods; a road accident whilst travelling; heat exhaustion; heavy storms and blizzards in the highlands; and being lost in the mountains. Even the fall of a guide’s horse could have caused my team members great danger.

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “Don’t we have a rope here?

Thank God, I survived all those incidents.

I don’t think we’ll face any problems on this trip because the route has been designed, and it’s in the GPS system as well. But if for any reason I lose my GPS, or its battery goes dead or breaks down, I have an additional map - a topographic map and a compass - and I can easily find my way and get to my desired destination.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “But in the wilderness it’s not always easy to keep to a path or easily traverse it. The path that we’ve designed could be blocked due to an avalanche, falling rocks or any other condition that would prevent us from continuing along that route. I always have an additional route to return and/or reach my destination in case of such circumstances. It’s the same for this route and this program. I have an additional route designed so I won’t encounter major problems. I usually try not to rely on a GPS or a map because the local residents in this region are the best option to learn about the paths; and of course, one should know the paths well.”

Narration: You are not always lucky, and there’s always the risk of a fatal accident for anyone once they step into nature. Many nature explorers have lost their lives due to a lack of awareness and preparedness or lack of equipment, clothes or food.

Spring is also the season of rainfall and hazardous thunder and lightning in the highlands of the mountains. I always check the weather condition on weather forecast websites before traveling into the wilderness. This time, however, I couldn’t depend on forecasts beyond five days, given the length of my trip, but a back up team in Mazandaran was in touch with us every day and they knew about the route we were traveling on so that they could come and assist us in case of a problem or incident.

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “Over the past three days, I’ve traveled a long distance from behind these mountains, along the highlands and timberline and reached the valley down here. And eventually, after passing through several villages, I traveled below the snow line there and got to this area. I think I have another two hours to go before reaching the next village. As I heard from the cattlemen down there, the next village is crammed with flowers. It’s extremely pretty and beautiful landscape can be seen from up there. It’s like that over there.

I finally reached the next village, which is called “Sij Khani”. I've travelled a very long way to get here. I’ve sweat like mad and my clothes are all wet. Whenever we sweat in the mountains and our clothes are soaked, we should immediately change, dry our clothes and our body because the weather up here is very cool - or rather cold - and there’s a high chance for a mountaineer or nature explorer to catch a cold.

If a mountaineer or nature explorer catches a cold in such a remote place, which is quite far from any city or village, the situation will get complicated and they would encounter problems.

I have to change my clothes as soon as possible. This place has a very beautiful landscape. ... Take a look! ... It's packed with flowers.”

Narration: The "Sij Khani" village was a village with a beautiful landscape. If I hadn't managed my time well the other day, we would've reached this village after dark or would've had to set up our tent and sleep on the way.

I had to set up my tent so I wouldn't have to search for my equipment in the dark. One of the most important things that one should observe while mountaineering and nature exploring is being organized because the slightest mismanagement in planning can cost you dearly.

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “I usually never light a fire in the wilderness because wood found in nature is very precious and it takes years for a tree to produce this amount of wood. But if I badly need one, a fire that is, I use a small amount of firewood or small dry broken branches to set up a small fire to warm myself or heat my food, in case I don't have a gas stove handy.

But it is better that we never light a fire in nature or use precious wood for a fire unless it's absolutely necessary.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “It's extremely cold and I can hear the wolves howling.

I can't tell you how well I slept last night. I slept rather well despite the cold weather because I had the proper equipment and my sleeping bag is very warm.

I'm quite sure that today is going to be a very good day for me and my team. I'm sure that we can capture beautiful scenery in this region. It's still cold! But I'm sure that it'll get warmer. The sun will rise in half an hour.

The next morning after exercising and having a big breakfast, I continued on my way.

The sights I saw of my beloved Iran were extraordinary. Being in nature gives you an extraordinary, fresh feeling.

Our team was able to capture the most beautiful scenery on the way and I took very pretty pictures of the nature. There was a sea of cloud under my feet and I felt like I was flying.

I’ve walked a very long distance to get here and I still have a long way to go before reaching Gazan Chal lake; but whenever I step foot in the mountains … In general, while mountaineering and exploring nature, there’s one important thing, in fact it's a rule:

We have to drink water before we get thirsty; we have to eat something nutritious and energetic before we become hungry so it’s absorbed and turned into energy and we should rest before we get tired. If we fail to do any one of those things on time, our body will fatigue and become thirsty and hungry. If that happens, we won’t have the stamina required to hike through these beautiful mountains. So we should always obey these rules when we are in the wilderness.

After navigating a mountain pass the hard part of my journey started and I incredulously realized that my predictions had gone a bit wrong. The rocky path in the highlands was still blanketed in snow. Even if my team and I manage to get across the glaciers, there’s no doubt that the mules carrying our food stuff and equipment would be unable to pass those dangerous glaciers without falling from the first one.

One of the most important tips in nature exploring is to never take risks. The most important duty of a nature explorer is to return safely. Even if it means not completing the entire journey, all the team members should think about their own safety and the safety of their fellow mountaineers because many people are awaiting our return at the foot of the mountain and one wrong decision could cost the team members their lives.

Unfortunately, many mountaineers lose their lives just because they seek to reach their destination at any cost.

But I never take any risks in the wilderness. I quickly changed my route. Thank God, the camera crew and I were able to come here and enjoy this untouched natural beauty that God has created for us. I hope that you get to come to this wilderness someday and see what we’re now witnessing and enjoying here; get the same peace of mind that I did by seeing God’s natural creation and be grateful for being healthy. This place is overflowing with flowers and beauty.”

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “The natural beauty that greeted me this morning will not remain untouched for very long. Unfortunately, the plants covering this area will be totally destroyed in 25 days when cattle migrate up here from the summer quarters in the lowlands. This is due to high consumer demand on earth.

Mankind's consumption pattern has totally changed and meat consumption has sharply increased. The rise in meat consumption; consumption pattern changes; and global population growth have sharply boosted demand and this high demand has led to the destruction of the environment.

I think our consumption pattern needs serious change so we'll be able to preserve the remaining patches of wilderness for the future generations.

It's now been about two hours raining. There have been heavy showers and hail. Unfortunately, in this bad weather, two of the mules that were carrying our belongings broke from their leashes and left to the foot of the valley. Bahram, our guide, has gone after them. I hope he finds them.

I don't know where they've gone, but we will face serious problems if they're not there because we've got a lot of luggage and all our foodstuff is with them. I hope we don't face any problems.

Before coming to this region, about six or seven days ago, I checked the weather forecast with the weather department. The weather was okay, sunny or partially cloudy, with showers at times. That's what the weather forecasters told me. But our problem is that we'll be staying here for 10 to 12 days and we can't tell what the weather's going to be like in 10 days, or even a week.

We're now experiencing intense rain, but this always happens to nature explorers who stay in the wilderness for a long period, and they need to be cautious about it.

I never walk outdoors when there's thunder and lightning. In fact, when there's thunder and lightning, we try to reduce our height as much as possible. If there's rain, snow and hail, we try to take shelter somewhere because we'll face problems if our clothes, food and equipment get wet. It may even endanger our lives.

That's why we try to be very cautious. For now, our biggest worry is Bahram who hasn't returned yet; and the two mules that have gone missing.

Bahram my friend, can you see the mules? Did you find them? We've been waiting here for a long time. What's up? Keep us posted.

With difficulty Bahram found the two mules despite the rainy weather, returned them to the village and we were all relieved.

I have prepared food for dinner tonight because cooking is not that easy when we’re in the wilderness for such a long time. After heating the prepared food on the stove, I’ll make sure that I collect all the garbage and compress it. The net weight of this food is about 500 grams and the container weighs 70 to 80 grams or 100 grams at most. When it’s compressed it becomes this small. Over the past few days that we’ve been out here, we’ve collected and compressed all our garbage. We’ve wrapped them all in a plastic bag as we have no intention of leaving behind any negative trace of ourselves in this untouched wilderness.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “I would never want a nature explorer to step foot into this beautiful place and come across the garbage we or any other person had left behind and feel bad about it, because nature is our natural habitat and the epitome of God’s beauty. I don’t think any person would intentionally want to pollute the epitome of God’s beauty with the garbage they leave behind.

I was expecting a clear sky packed with stars, but the weather in May is quite unpredictable. There've been sudden changes in the weather condition and there was a lot of thunder and lightning around us, which made me a bit worried. But the weather has become a bit better now. It’s almost 10 o’clock at night and we’re 2,850 meters above sea level.

Despite all the dangers that exist in the wilderness, I’m not willing to substitute living in a simple cottage for a night without electricity, water, phone… Of course fountain water is available, with the stressful life in a city.

When one steps foot into the nature, they really have a lot of fun because everything is very plain and simple. It’s really simple. We eat simple food, we behave simply, we treat others in a simple manner and this shows that simplicity brings us peace of mind.

I hope that we can manage to live a simple life in the city and reach some sort of peace of mind through the simplicity of our lives.

Now it’s time to sleep and there’s nothing but simplicity and love sleeping in such a down-to-earth place. What a pleasant sleep! Goodnight.

Remember that the sleeping bag you use in the wilderness must be a very good one, otherwise you won’t be able to sleep well, and if you fail to sleep properly, your day will be ruined.

See how beautifully they’ve carved out this tree log and placed it on this fountain to preserve water here and to be able to use it on this side.

This fountainhead is providing us with very clean water that’s extremely cold - really cold and very pleasant. Water found in the lowlands can poison you. Always drink water from a fountainhead so you experience the pleasure of drinking water from a natural fountain. I’m not willing to exchange a glass of this water with the water I drink in Tehran.

I left the cottage early in the morning and continued on my way. The weather was once again turning bad and a strong wind was blowing. The next day, when I called Tehran I discovered that a storm had ripped through the capital, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Unfortunately, one of my fellow citizens was killed in the storm.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Javad: “Come on Javad! ... I'm freezing! ... Javad!

Ali, the wind is very strong. I can't stand here.

The wind is beating me down.

It's beating me down too, Javad.

Okay, I'm coming.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “The path wasn't a good one and we couldn't stop in any place because there was a danger that our mules would fall down. In this bad weather, we had to go faster. Heavy rains and strong winds started. I was gradually sensing the danger and it was likely that something would go wrong.

But we changed our route slightly because of the thunder and lightning and continued walking on a lower path. Spring is the season for storms and thunder and lightning, and mountaineers can face danger at any moment. I passed by another village in order not to waste time. My GPS is telling me that I still have another 9 kilometers to get to "Asal" or the Gazan Chal Lake. It's still a long way!

Oh, take a look at this. What a huge mushroom! It's as big as a soccer ball. There was plenty of thunder and lightning and hail. This is the first mushroom I’ve seen here. Oh, my God! Look, it must be about a kilo! I want to have grilled mushroom.

It's clear that there was a lot of thunder and lightning in the region last night because I came across many mushrooms as I was hiking. Some of these mushrooms though looked very strange. Feeling glad about finding something delicious for dinner, I continued on my way.

The weather was foggy and it was getting rather difficult to continue hiking in the rain when we got to a shelter made of stones. Uncle Taleb was the only shepherd who had migrated to this region and he gave me tips concerning the rest of the way.”

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Mr.Taleb: “-Come on in my friend.

- Oh, what a cool place! Small and made of stones! More power to you uncle Taleb!

- More power to you, too!

- How are you?

- Okay.

- How long have you been here uncle Taleb?

- It’s been about 10 or 15 days.

- You’ve been here for 10 or 15 days. This place is really natural. This area is about 2,700 meters above sea level and there’s snow in the highlands. I think we’ll reach “Asal” lake or “Gazan Chal” if we travel another 5 or 6 kilometers. How far is it to the lake uncle Taleb?

- The lake is quite far.

- To “Asal” as you call it.

- “Asal” is that way.

- That way … Is it far from here?

- Yes.

- Can we go there in this weather?

- Not in this weather.

- Is it completely impossible?

- No, you can’t go.

- What a tasty tea!”

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Mr. Ramezani: “-Hello.

- Hi there, hello.

- Hello.

- Who is he? He has a weapon!

- Hello.

- Hello, hi there.

- How are you doing?

- How are you?

- Fine thanks.

- Fine.

- You’re green from head to toe! Aren’t you a forester?

- Yes. How are you doing?

- How are you?

- Are you well?

- What are you doing here in this awful weather?

- We’ve been in the region for several days. Well, it’s our duty.

- I wish you well!

- It’s that time of year when our antelopes give birth and we have to look after them.

- You look after them?

- Yeah, yeah. How are you doing?

- Okay, thanks. When you step into the wilderness you see such decent and hard working people. The only guardians of Iran’s nature are foresters. They’re undoubtedly the guardians of nature.

- God bless you!

- And it’s these Iranian foresters who are putting their lives at risk to protect the epitome of God’s beauty. They’re making all efforts to protect what’s become scarce for our future generations. What’s your name?

- I’m Nowruz Ramezani.

- Mr. Nowruz Ramezani . Well Nowruz, which organization do you work for?

- After listening to the advice of uncle Taleb and Nowruz - the chief forester in the region - we came to the conclusion that we would continue our way if the weather becomes better and if not, travel a part of the way by car with a special driver whose one of Nowruz’s friends.

- The weather is bad. Don't head for "Diyarsar" in this weather because there will be heavy thunder and lighting.

- Uhu, you said thunder and lightning! I found this on the way. There was a lot of thunder and lightning ahead of us and I saw that this had grown. Is this edible?”

TIME CODE: 40:00_43:26

CONVERSATION [Persian] Javad Gharaee & Mr. Ramezani: “- It used to be edible. You could have eaten it after it was pulled out from the soil because it was fresh. But now it's spoiled or as villagers say, it's become old. It's poisonous now.

- Oh no! I was eagerly waiting to eat this mushroom.

- This has become old.

- Uncle Taleb says they say it's become old.

- It's become a grandfather!

- A grandfather! So you can't eat it. Too bad! That's too bad! And it's very heavy! It weighs a kilo. Our mushroom has been wasted! Well, okay we'll stay here until the weather becomes fine again.

- God willing.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Javad Gharaee, Iranian explorer: “Eventually, we agreed to go somewhere near the lake with one of Nowruz's friends. I had travelled a very long way over the past days to reach the lake.

Not at any cost of course. Up to now, my team and I have been feeling alive and kicking, and we're eager to see the lake for ourselves because we're not that far away from it.

After driving several kilometers in a car in the mud, he thought it wasn't wise to continue the way and we agreed to set up a tent. But the weather became so bad that one our tents was torn apart by hail.

My team and I had made all efforts to capture the beauty of the Mazandaran highlands and eventually reach the beautiful lake in Gazan Chal. But it was totally unwise to continue our journey in such weather because potential circumstances can undoubtedly be highly dangerous for the team.

The most important thing while mountaineering is to make sure that all the members of the team return home safely as a priority, even if it means not reaching the final destination.

Come on, come on, you’re hitting it!

I was now quite sure that continuing our journey to the lake would be a mistake because the local weather bureau had forecast very harsh weather for the next three days. But I thanked God that we had a fortuitous journey over the past 12 days and managed to reach an area only four kilometers from the lake and capture beautiful spring landscapes of the Mazandaran wilderness in the process.

The bed of the river has become our path and that’s become extremely dangerous. Our car was about to overturn several times, but Ali Farrash is one of the best off-road drivers in Mazandaran province, and in Iran of course. He’s done a great job up till now.

Thank you Ali dear, you’ve done a great job!

Look, this river has been completely washed away; it’s all stone and mud. I left the highlands of Mazandaran on behalf of all Iranians without leaving behind any garbage or destructive trace, hoping that the remaining small patches of Iran's beautiful natural wilderness can be preserved.”

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