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Yazd – first taste of the desert

Once in my life I lived in the American mid west in Eau Claire Wisconsin, it was -40oC outside but life was well adjusted, the houses all had garages integrated into them and the cars and people stayed warm quite well, one evening after a dinner and a bit too much to drink with friends we called a taxi home, which for me was only about half a mile away. The taxi did not come and time dragged on a lift was available for everyone but two of us, so I said “no worries I live really close I will just walk with another friend who was staying with me” We had big down coats, hats gloves and boots all the gear really….not really, my friend and I kept slipping on the iced sidewalk and gradually I realized I was not really focusing properly, at one point my friend Pete sat down and said “lets just rest a minute” something inside me realized we were both in the early stages of hypothermia probably a memory of my mountain guide training 20 years earlier and I pulled him upright and basically nagged and pulled him along the road into the house…we were both shivering and I put him in a lukewarm shower to defrost in one bathroom while I did the same in another. I realized the next day that -40 is a whole lot different from the lows of -10 I was used to and I had a great respect for the real cold weather afterwards it can and does kill a lot of folks in the winter in the US who justdo not take the sensible precautions, I was nearly one of them.

The experience here in the desert has reminded me of that story, the heat in the middle of the day is scorching, I am going through four or five liters of fluid a day as it is really dry so unless you keep watch you have not needed to go to the loo for five hours and disorientation sets in, even more dangerous when you are driving alone. Thankfully when I am driving the opening vents in the front of my old style of landy create a constant blast of air and this is supplemented by the open windows and two air fans I have installed, so one way to keep cool is to keep driving – as long as you keep drinking a lot as the dry air wisks away the sweat so you are not aware just how much you are sweating. However if you stop it’s a whole other thing, shade is really a need, thankfully Nelson has an awning and opening windows and doors in the back, but the heat without the breeze of driving is really horrible from about 11 am to 5pm.

My strategy, learned from the family I stayed with in Shiraz, is to hide from noon to about 5pm if I am not driving, they tended to go for a nap and then stay up late, around 1am and get up early at 6am so that they took advantage of the cool parts of the day, no one but outsiders attempt to sightsee in the middle of the day. As the old saying goes only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. So here in Yazd, an oasis in the middle of the desert I found the local backpacking hostel through my trusty iOverlander app and negotiated the use of their shower and internet for only 4 Euro for 24 hours, this means I can sit in their air conditioned lounge overlooking one of the nicer squares in Yazd and catch up on my bloging and have a cooling shower ready to set off into the city as it cools at night, I will finish my sightseeing in the cool of tomorrow morning sleeping in the truck in the well guarded car park behind the hostel which is in the heart of the old quarter of the city. 

I found this latter point out the hard way when I set off down a street which became single lane, then alley, then twisty alley then twisty alley with overhead arches which threatened to wedge me firmly in place, thankfully a local chap on a motorbike took pity on my as I had to reverse and then do a five point turn with millimeters to spare having chosen the wrong fork in the maze, he led me out of the labyrinth onto gradually wider and wider roads to my destination, sweated a bit during that series of streets and not just because of the heat….

Yazd as a destination was very interesting they have one of the oldest irrigation and water supply systems in the world, many houses have deep basements which access the running water in the system called Quants, so often in hotels and richer houses there are cool tiled basement rooms where the deadly heat can be avoided.  The water is piped from natural springs a long distance across the desert to the town which is very well explained in their aptly named “water museum”.

The other feature which is very common in this town, but which I never saw anywhere else is the extensive use of “wind catchers” to pick up and funnel even the faintest breeze, often this is passed down to a room with a pool or a small fountain to provide a kind of natural evaporative air conditioning for the house.

 

I was able to see this in action in a local hotel/historic house were for a single Euro one can have tea and tour freely around these features, backpackers tip of the day!

Yazd is a nice little town with a good vibe, my car is parked just behind this Mosque square in the picture below in a secure car park, hopefully leading to a good nights sleep if the heat drops away a little bit!

 

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