Day 73 (2): Another taxi rip-off and meeting the most eccentric couch surfer ever
Kerman Travel Blog› entry 105 of 260 › view all entries
June 17th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
Driving back from Bam to Kerman it was nice to come back to a relatively cool 35 degrees. Through the open windows of the car you could feel the noticeable change in temperature.
We had bargained hard to get a taxi driving us the 200+ km back to Kerman. We didn't mind paying a little extra for a private taxi (a shared taxi would mean sitting with three people cramped in the back of a Paykan for 2.5 hours) but the shark-like taxi drivers in Bam had not made it easy.
One driver had lowered his offer to 140,000 rial ($14, a full shared taxi earns him $16, but I guess he was taking his chances of fetching another fare in Kerman) and while we were contemplating this (read: walking away to buy some water) we were approached by another driver who would do the journey for 100,000 riales.
Two hours later we reached the outskirts of Kerman and he told us that this was where the fare stopped. If we wanted to get to the centre we'd have to pay another 20,000. This is somewhat normal practice, with long-distance taxis and city taxis having clear demarcation points, so we agreed.
Once we reached the bazaar of Kerman, the troubles started. I paid him the 120,000, as agreed, but immediately he threw 100,000 back at me (quickly pocketing the 20,000 rial note). His tirade drew the attention of other taxi drivers and with the help of one who spoke some minute English we managed to understand that he wanted us to pay 100,000 rials per person, not total for the car. This had definitely not been the deal, so we flatly refused.
The argument drew the attention of a police man sitting in his mobile police station (read: a caravan) and we had to come inside and sort it out.
It was an awkward situation. I don't think the taxi driver suddenly decided to rip us off. I think he genuinely thought he had made a good deal by overcharging some tourists 50% extra and we genuinely thought we had made a good deal with this taxi driver charging 50% less. I was willing to give him the 140,000 we were quoted by the other taxi drivers, but the guy kept insisting he needed the full 200,000. Other taxi drivers did agree with me that 4 times 40,000 does not add up to 200,000 and that 140,000 wasn't a bad deal, but he kept arguing.
In the end some people got bored and convinced the taxi driver to accept the money and with that the whole circus ended. Michael and I fled into a nearby restaurant for some lunch and did not come back out until we knew for certain all taxi drivers had disappeared.
Araz (my CS host in Tehran) had brought me into contact with an acquaintance where we could stay the night. Khashayar came to pick us in what must have been the nicest car we had seen in Iran. A brand new Toyota saloon car. It was immediately obvious he came from a good nest.
His house occupies an entire city block in the outskirts of Kerman and again, this was definitely the largest and poshest house (can you say villa?) we had seen in Iran.
Khashayar was an interesting character. He seemed a tad shifty and nervous when we first met him, but it turned out he was just struggling to dig up his English vocabulary from the back of his brain. Throughout our stay with him his English got gradually better. But there was something strange about him, which we could not quite place at first. When we lost him all of a sudden and half an hour later he magically reappeared from a small room, with a sweaty face and wide eyes with dilated pupils, we knew our answer. Kerman is close to the Pakistan border and serves as a major drug trade route. As a result the city has the largest number of drug addicts in Iran. And I don't know what Khashayar was on, but he was clearly on something!
I don't think he got rich through the drugs business though.
The house he lives in is as eccentric as he is. He lives here together with his mother. The house hangs full of photos made by his brother, a gifted photographer who died in a car accident two years ago. The house is full of relics from his family's past, many of which would not be out of place in a museum: old books, antique chess sets, ancient ceramic water jugs, a relief from Persepolis - yes, an actual relief of Persepolis, a gift from the (pre-Islamic) government no less.
In the evening we went back to the Mahan gardens. We'd seen them during the day, but they are even more stunning at night. We had some nice tea at the garden and then dinner at a small restaurant nicknamed “Dirty Hossein”, what Khashayar claimed to be the best kebab in Iran. He wasn't lying.
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