The vista from Babak Castle – the home of the 9th-century hero who resisted the hated Arab rulers of Iran – is mind-mindbogglingly beautiful. To get to see the view, though, requires plenty of stamina during the arduous two-hour trek up and down two mountains.
Bābak Khorramdin is thought of as a combination of Robin Hood, guerrilla fighter and a symbol of resistance to all things Arab. He is particularly revered by the Azari people (Iranian Turks). This area fills with Babak fans and loud proclamations of nationalist sentiments during his birthday last week of June.
We got a lift from the main road to the staging area for the trek because driving up in anything other than a 4-wheel drive can destroy a car’s shock absorbers. From there, the trek at first is deceptively tame and the beautiful vistas have a way of distracting from the pain.
By the time we’re totally out of breath and starting to wonder why are we doing this, we see the confident 8-year-old Layla selling cookies.
“How did you get here with all these cookie boxes?” I asked bewildered, huffing and puffing. Turns out her dad delivers her inventory on a donkey.
Past the first mountain, the castle comes to view. The Parthians first built here, nearly 2,000 years ago, and the Sasanid later modified it. But how? Just how do you build such things at the height of nearly 3,000 meters with primitive technology? I keep asking myself as I sweat profusely. Or maybe their technology was not so primitive, just unknown today.
Then the path veers downward before heading up.
And finally, just when we think we’re going to drop dead, we arrive at the top.
There is a celebratory camaraderie among the people at the top. People are asking strangers to join them in group selfies. This is the select club of people who made it to the the top and didn’t give up.
For us, there was not much time before we had to head back. The night and the late September cold was setting in.
Soon the only visible lights were village lights many kilometers away.