In July 2014, three friends, athletes, alpinists, travellers, crossed Iran from the lowest point of the Country, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, to the highest, the summit of Mount Damavand. A journey which is part of a larger project, whcih you can read about, if you want, here. A group of local alpinists spent 10 days with them, revealing a Country and a People only apparently far from us.
One of them, once back, wants now to share with an open letter the feelings and the surprise he experienced.
Dear Iranian friends,
I am sure I can write also on behalf of Anne-Marie and Alessio, saying that this trip has probably been the most surprising and one of the most amazing experiences of our life.
The way you treated us gave a new meaning to the word hospitality, shifting it towards something that would better be described by the word brotherhood. Seeing how close we can be, despite our differences, drove into our hearts new hope for the future of all of us.
We don’t need to be equal to live together, to help each other, to love each other.
You taught us so many lessons in these days, you gave us so many gifts, material and immaterial, that we don’t know whether we will ever be able to pay you back, but precisely this one is one of the most important lessons you taught us: it is possible to give that much to a stranger and give it without expecting anything in return but a smile, a hug, a handshake.
We felt welcomed, protected, cared by all of you to an extent which is hard to describe, but luckily those feelings will always remain in our hearts and hopefully we will be able to spread them around us.
There have been of course some difficult moments, when it has been maybe hard to understand each other, because of the uncertain use we all make of the English language or because of our obvious differences but we have always been able to go beyond those moments and succeed as a team, because there are many more things keeping us together than those tearing us apart.
And here comes the second most important lesson this trip taught us. A few months ago I went to Nepal, to get in touch with a small part of those amazing mountains and with the people and the culture I have been admiring and drawing inspiration from for a long time. When I came back I had a fairly bitter feeling: it had been very different from what I expected, I had seen many beautiful but just as many less beautiful things, I had felt the differences between me and them as much, much larger than I thought.
After these 10 days with you in Iran I have the almost exactly opposite feeling: I was expecting to meet a different culture and I did, but I felt similar among similar. It seems to me that we have the same dreams and the same desires: enjoying the peace of the mountains escaping the chaos of the city and the troubles of everyday life, feeling the stretch that our body is able to withstand sometimes to our surprise, fighting for our small and big rights everyday at home and at work, sharing food and stories with our friends, having around us people we like and with whom we like doing what we like doing, laughing sometimes out of nonsense, feeling a team, a unique body formed by different people.
It would be too easy to say that the best and most emotional moment of this trip has been reaching the summit, where we all felt overwhelmed in a big, long, warm hug and tears flew and not only because of the sulphur gases, but there have been a few other moments when I felt as overwhelmed as on the top of Mount Damavand and I will here list a few of them.
When we left the Caspian Sea in Mahmud Abad and we started cycling through the city: after months of preparation and dozens of emails, we were actually there, cycling with 5 people we barely knew, aiming almost 6000 m higher, how crazy and wonderful was that?
At around 5200 m on the Damavand route: I don’t know whether it was because of the lack of oxygen, which was maybe driving my brain into an unprecedented state, but I felt completely overwhelmed by the beauty and the greatness of what we were doing, climbing altogether the volcano, in the faint light of the morning, in view of the yellow sulphur rocks and the white pinnacle on the top of the mountain. I had to step back for a few minutes, slow down and try to hold my tears and sighs, I felt so little and so great at the same time.
When we were driving to Ahmad’s house for our last dinner together. “Here we are” I thought “driving through this huge city to meet with all our new friends and Ahmad’s family” and that evening is certainly something we will never forget in our life.
I would like to thank you for these wonderful days and all the time we spent together, we kind of know that there won’t be anything similar again, so beautiful, true and surprising and it may feel sad but at the same time it feels great that we were actually there and lived those days.
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