Source: Persian Umpire | April 4, 2010
(Another great story from Persian Umpire)

We are back at the grind and vacation is over, but not without its share of adventure. We just cannot get away from that in Iran, no matter how hard we try, be it a simple trip to the passport office, or one for vacation.

I went up to a remote village in Gilan for a few days to relax and cut myself off from everything, especially the news. I had no television or radio, no internet, and barely answered my phone. Strangely, and with the exception of one issue of Iran, no newspapers were published during the holidays this year either, so I didn’t have the option of getting one at the nearby town even if I wanted to. If I remember correctly, papers normally took a five day break for the holidays which I always thought it to be a bit ridiculous anyway, but I guess this year they were as tired as I was. They started appearing at the newsstands today, the fourteenth.

The only bit of news I received was from a friend. He called to let me know that this year had been dubbed “Double endeavor, double work”. I thanked him, hung up, and wondered what infinite wisdom this naming might entail.

I returned to Tehran on the seventh, by taking the new Qazvin-Rasht highway which opened on the first day of this year after seven years of construction and development. All the talk and fanfare about the new road’s opening, and how it will cut a two-hour chunk off my travel time to Tehran sounded tempting.

Banner announcing the opening of the Qazvin-Rasht highway for the Norouz, with “the warm presence of Dr. Ahmadinejad, and the Transportation Minister.”

Costing about 350 million dollars to complete, the new highway connects Qazvin to Rasht, boasts two lanes in each direction and lets you drive at 120 kilometers per hour between the two cities; quite an improvement compared to the old thin road. It is also quite beautiful as it runs through a long stretch of untainted nature.

The highway has a few minor problems though. Its engineers have only included three exits in its 127-kilometer span. One is at Roodbar, where you are forced to exit because the road is not completed yet. You need to get off there and drive on the old road from Roodbar to Manjil, a half-hour drive now taking about two hours because of the bottleneck. You can get back on the new road at Manjil. The next exit is Loshan, and nothing after that. Nothing. There are no police stations and kiosks, no restaurants, no restrooms, no roadside service, and no place to stop for a minute, not even a tiny village. There is just you and nature, and a lot of other cars.

At the mountainous Koohin, it started to snow. We slowed down as visibility became poor, and some cars – the old Peykans especially – started having trouble driving straight on the slippery road. As congestion increased, the two-lane road magically grew another three lanes, which is a normal occurrence in Iran, slowing down the traffic even more. Before long, whatever movement remained on the new road came to a complete stop.

We sat in our cars for a little while. Then we got out to check the horizon for any movement. There was none. We asked each other what was going on. There was obviously just snow, traffic and Iranian drivers. We got back in. Mobile phones did not work because it was, well, the middle of nowhere. We turned on our radios to hear if the Police were saying anything. They were not, so we got out and asked the same questions again. Naturally, bladders were filling up and the only choice available was to hop over the guardrails, walk a few feet and try to relax in front of the endless line of cars.

About two hours passed and we finally heard the Qazvin Police on the radio telling people they were aware of the problem and were doing the best they can. What exactly was the best, we never found out, but he did mention that the Police had been working straight for many days because of the holiday traffic and they hadn’t seen any sleep while serving the nation, asking people to be patient.

We were patient for another hour. Occasionally cars would come down the other direction giving us news about the situation. It was hopeless. Their side of the road was clogged as badly as ours, and they were the lucky ones at the tip of the traffic. There was no way the Police could get to this part of the road. “Turn around,” some of them said. “Turn around?” we asked. “Yes. We just did.”

There was only one way to do this: attack the guardrails. And so, people redoubled their effort and got to work, and this is when the words I had heard earlier in the week spun in my head once again: “Double endeavor, double work”, “Further diligence, further work”, or essentially “Beware! We have moved on to introduce our celestial management skills to the rest of the world, and have left administration of the country to the Lord who is very busy. You are on your own, so get to it.”

As we drove back, we never saw the Police, or any other authority’s warm presence. Finally, back at the Manjil exit, we got back on the good old road, which was moving simply because trucks were available to throw sand on the snow, and drove back to Tehran. We had left Rasht at noon and arrived in Tehran at one in the morning. Without the new highway, the trip usually took six hours, if you stopped for food.