life on mars

3 March 2010 21:48:00 AEDT

IRAN, 1998

No lamp burns till morning - PERSIAN PROVERB

The border haze of Pakistan fades in the rear vision mirror as the heat bloom of Persia erupts and boils over the coast. We were steaming west to the dead coral points of Chabar in a Russian Lada purchased in Karachi, Pakistan - there are 250,500 kilometres on the clock.

The coast road threads about 100 yards from the beach - leaving the beaten lead shape of the Arabian sea to our left and the towering red mesa frame of the feature the locals know as 'Mars' to the right. It looks like Mount Doom, I wonder how many people have died trying to climb it. The border guard had specifically instructed us not to stop until we hit Chabar, but that was about to go out the window.

The north Arabian coast is one of the most ancient in existence. Alexander The Great has plied it and Sinbad and his crew has foundered along its reefs. For the past 100 million years the entire mass of the sub continent has moved north at the rate of 5 centimetres per year, leaving behind in its wake a shoaling sea of chalk and crumbling limestone. There isn't a lot of action to stir the banks along this coast here and so when I saw that the recent rains had shredded through the head of a dam and had gouged a triangular bank made of sand, shale and silicate mud, I pulled that piece of mid eighties russian middle class crap we were driving off the road in a heartbeat.

A clean, sharp 4 foot swell that had pathed all the way from the bottom of the world dumped as a shorepound to the east and west, but here it was different.

We pulled the car to the side of the road, brambles and briars scraping like fingernails on the Moscow factory finish. There was a small clearing with the remnants of a fire, a few rusting tins and a car battery. The acid had been tipped or boiled out of the battery and it left the pungent sting of chlorine gas on the offshore breeze. We kicked through the brambles to the beach.

'Do they have snakes here?"

'Yeah, vipers I think...desert or horned vipers they call them...can't remember"


We hit the berm and scurried up a crumbling chalk ridge and there it was. In front of up, 100 yards from the beach a 4 foot drainer was busy demolishing the newly created sand bank. The limestone content gave the water an eerie green until it broke over the red sand bank. As the entire wave broke it shifted from blue to green and then finally to orange - I had never seen a colour gradient shift in water quite like it.

We grabbed the boards and started heading out. I looked over my shoulder and realised I couldn’t see the car - worried me a bit. It took a long time to find our place on the bank. As it turned out the long period juice was coming in as sets about every 10 minutes. We missed the first ones totally. Four grinding orange bowls passing by in succession well to the east. In their wake though they left a stain on the surface that was impossible to miss. We planted right on top of it and waited. The first set was mine. I overpaddled for the wave by a long way. I ended up angling across the face on my belly before I could even think about getting up. I only ever got up into a semi crouch before everything took on a weird orange glow. The lip threw over an instant later flecked with streaks of burnt copper - lights out.

Sitting out the back I could see that someone was coming along the road. Dark skin contrasting with a white fez cap and tunic. I think he was on a donkey. A few minutes later he pushed through the clearing to the beach and sat to watch us.

"Think he's going to rip off the car?"

"Not sure"

"Lets wave at him. If he waves back he's cool and we stay out"


We gave him a wave and for a second my heart sank - nothing. A second later he sprang to life and gave us a double fist we stayed out. He watched us for about an hour and we waved each other goodbye. The first Iranian on our trip that we never quite met. It started to get dark and I wasn’t that keen to spend a lot of time on the road at night so we opted for the next set in. I got cleaned up in a shorebreak that left me tasting chalk and grit for the next hour. My buddy grabbed the last of the barrels; they weren’t breaking square anymore, the bank was slowing grinding away. By tomorrow it would be flat...same as it ever was.

We clambered back up the berm with the warm desert sand clinging to every drop of moisture. The guy on the donkey had dropped a massive crap right in the middle of the clearing which I narrowly missed walking right into but the car was fine.

"Why would he crap right in the middle of the path like that you think?"

"I don't know mate, at least he didn't key the car though"

-AJJ Waldie-

(Story 1 of 365....364 days left, 364 stories left)

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