Imagine a big centuries old house in a desert-village in Iran. You are locked in it and the only guest for the night. That was my experience. After that night, my fear of ghosts had reduced by 13%.
So here is how it began. I checked out of Isfahan leaving the plump guy at the reception with a big smile and some of his business cards to market his hostel! I was pretty unsure whether to head to Yazd or Na’in or Varzaneh. I was anyway going to the first, 2nd was an option, the 3rd a spontaneous choice. So i got on the local bus heading to J Terminal from where inter city buses could be found for all 3.
I had the luxury to decide until i reached and some drama took place in the interim where a lane changing car was rammed into by our bus. Surprisingly, it resulted in little commotion and people went about their business in no time…had this been in India, some people would have been martyred over broken windows. By the time I reached the ticket counter, i made up my mind to go to Varzaneh.
Since i was on a roll for being lazy, thought i might as well do so in a town/village that had little to do. Directed to a bus which was suddenly several notches below the ones i had traveled by until then. A blue and white vehicle with no AC stood waiting for several more like me. After a grueling 30+ minute wait, a guy who looked like the yesteryear actor Omar Shariff walked to the bus like he was going to shoot Clint Eastwood. And the engine roared to life.
For less than a dollar, the 2.5 hour ride through the desert restyled my hair until we pulled into a village that had no one to be seen. I mean not a soul and it felt like we were closer to the sun. And with no internet on my phone, i readied my bags and was looking out for any hint of ‘Yasna Guesthouse’. With my head sticking out of the window i spotted a poster and frantically asked the guy to stop. By the time he hit the brakes, i was in the next village…carrying my load back to the poster, it led me further in about a 100 metres.
Since i could see only doors all around and nothing that said about the hostel, i walked around like a maniac before i came back to the same spot and went further between 2 walls. Quite a Harry Potter moment I would say. I knocked several times but no response, had to be an eventful day. Fortunately, a poster next to the door had one Mohammed’s number who answered my call and spoke in good English. In no time, one Ahmed, his supposed business partner was there to open and show me in. Guess what, i was the only guest there. My mind recapped all possible horror and murder thrillers by the time he unlocked the door. It seems there were guests the previous night and some expected the following day. But ‘today’, i was the only one.
The guesthouse was rather large and had about 5 rooms with a lovely fountain in between with sitting areas. It was a typical old Iranian house converted into a guesthouse. I negotiated the room down to about 15 usd for the night and Ahmed got something called a kuku sabzi (egg preparation) with naan made by his wife…he lived somewhere nearby.
The food was damn good, given the hunger that had gripped me. In the interim, one Reza, a caretaker of the hotel joined us, a 19 year old who spoke pretty good english and taught at a coaching institute in the town. He was rather inquisitive as usual about India and riddled my lunch with questions. Ahmed offered to take me to the salt lake, desert, etc. but i settled only for the desert for about 6usd and he drove me out of the village about 8 kms to the dunes by 7 when the sun when the sun was calling it a day. The dunes were pretty high and the climb was tougher than i imagined. Towards the top, i had to be helped by Ahmed. We sat around till the sun set and spoke and spoke while the winds swept every grain of sand into every possible crevice of my clothes and bags. By the way if I flip my bag upside down, some of the desert’s souvenirs still drop. At around 830 we made our way back to the hotel where i was greeted with a Kashke Badamjaan (Eggplant and walnut dish) for dinner while being entertained by my 2 hosts.
Done with dinner, they left the place to me showing me where the switches were to turn off the lights and scooted. There I was, a big house, open verandah to look at the stars, empty rooms and curtains moving by themselves in them. I came up with a plan to dispel any spirit that might take mine away.
So I spent some time chatting with folks back home trying not to see the moving curtains in some of the rooms. You can laugh about it but trust me, I was chanting. I almost turned into a believer that night. Having spoken to all humans in my life who might have been awake at that hour, I readied myself for the final battle – switching off the lights and that was a mile away.
Edging my way to each switch and not looking an inch here or there, I managed to turn off the lights in the place. Lit under the moonlight, I sprinted to the room like a refugee jumping the border. The room was rather warm and the buzzing of the floor fan brought some serenity. A little hole in the ceiling for moonlight kept me company. I woke up the next day, alive and the same place. I had made it.
PS: yasna guesthouse is absolutely amazing with extremely generous hosts. Do stay there if you get a chance