Anyway, from the railway station in Kerman (as usual far from the city center) we went to the hotel, a quite nice one and with quite decent Internet, which was needed as that day I had a Skype conversation with the students of the second school we have an agreement with: Meeting Point.
Normally you just show up at the bus station and there are hundreds of options to get to your destination, no matter if it is a big city or a small village. But this time it was different: there was only one bus going to Rayen at 2 in the afternoon and the last one coming back to Kerman was at 5, so taking into account that the trip takes one and a half hours, it was impossible to get to Rayen and back on the same day. Ok, we skip Rayen, and we'll just go to Bam the following day. Actually the only reason to go to Rayen is to have an idea how Bam was before the earthquake, as both are mudbrick towns (Rayen in a much lower scale) but while Bam was totally destroyed by the 2003 earthquake, Rayen wasn't.
We decided to take a taxi back to the center of Kerman and here was where the amazing thing started. The taxi driver told us a price, we agreed and jumped into the car. On the ride he was talking by phone and all of a sudden he gave me the phone. It was his daughter on the other side who started to ask questions: where are you from, how are you, we can be friends... the typical conversation with any Iranian.
The thing changed when after the taxi ride the driver didn't accept any payment and he said he invited us to his home to have lunch. And this time we agreed. And it was something you can't even imagine. He drove us to his home, introduced us to his wife and his three daughters, one of whom was Hengameh, the one I had been talkimg on the phone earlier and the only member of the family who spoke English.
We jumped in the car and after haf an hour we were in Mahan, a place with some nice garden and a mosque. They didn't allow us to pay for anything, gave us explanations about everything... crazy, or at least crazy from the point of view of a Westerner, how come a whole family take a complete stranger home, offer food, drink and even go sightseeing whole day? These Iranians are something really special.
Finally they dropped us at the hotel and we said we would meet Hengameh in two days in Bam. It was by far the most rewarding experience in all Iran. Priceless. We had already experienced Iranian hospitality several times, actually every day and even had some wonderful experiences such as with Hossein or Ibrahim in Kashan, but this one was impossible to get better. Totally and absolutely amazing. And the only thing they asked for in exchange was a momento, so I gave Hengameh one of my bracelets. You cannot really have an idea of how Iranian people are until you meet some of them and , like in this case, you accept an invitation to go home. If you ever have the opportunity, just say yes. You won't regret!
The bus was full with Baluchis and the trip was quite an unpleasant one, as the driver was driving like crazy, talking on the phone all the time, smoking, drinking tea and every 2 minutes caring about his hairstyle. What an idiot!
Luckily we survived to the trip and we made it safe and sound to Bam. Straight to the hostel (this time Akbar Guesthouse) and we were immediately offered some tea. In the hostel we met two of the few travellers in the whole trip so far. It was Jan and Catherine, a German couple on holidays travelling around Iran. They were really nice and we spent almost all the time in Bam with them.
Then Amir drove us back to the hostel and we agreed to meet next morning at 11 in the morning outside the Arg, as he wanted to take us to a nearby castle from where to enjoy views of all the city.
On the way to the Arg you can really see how powerful the 2003 earthquake was. Even if 11 years have gone by, the whole city is still being rebuilt. You see totally ruined buildings everywhere, a lot of new buildings having already been rebuilt, some other under construction... quite a weird sight, as the city is half new half ruined, nothing strange taking into consideration that the earthquake totally destroyed the city and killed some 40000 people.
A special sight is that of a rebuilt school. It was rebuilt using money from the Chinese government, so they built it in a Chinese style, with the traditional Chinese roof, which is quite funny for being Iran.
Once we got to the Arg, we payed the entrance fee and we met Hengameh and a friend of hers. We got inside and started exploring the site, being the only people there besides the workers who are working on reconstructing the whole place. What you see is really impressive. It is a massive mudbrick village almost totally in ruins, with most of the place looking as a pile of mud and stones, but still you can perfectly imagine how the place looked like before the earthquake.
After the visit to the Arg, at 11 we said goodbye and thanked again Hengameh and jumped into the car with Amir and the German couple. He took us to a nearby castle to enjoy views of the citadel and the surrounding area: the desert, palm trees, mountains... beautiful. Then back to the car and Amir took us to a couple of mosques, one of them really big and to a teahouse to have tea and shisha.
As we were running out of time and we should go back to Kerman to take an overnight bus to Mashhad, our next and final destination in Iran, we had to rush back to the hostel to pick our stuff up, say goodbye to Amir, Jan and Catherine (and set each other to meet again at their home in the German countryside), go to take a shared taxi to Kerman (no Baluchis' bus this time) and jump in a bus that after some 13 hours should drop us in the holiest city of Iran.
Actually it was a pity not being able to spend at least 2 more days in Bam, but our Iranian visa was expiring in a couple of days and we had to go to Mashhad to pick up our Turkmen visa and from there go to Turkmenistan. Anyway, Bam is definitely in the top 5 places to visit in Iran, and even after the earthquake it is a total must to pay it a visit!