National Geographic : 1960 Jan
Royal interview introduces Tay Thomas to the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Riza Pahlevi, in his marble palace. Rug washers of Chasmeh All, near Tehran, soak Persian mas terpieces beside a rock-rimmed spring whose mineral-rich wa ters are believed to preserve and brighten the colors. So famous is the pool that cus tomers send their rugs here for washing from as far away as Germany. Bas-relief on the cliff, a mon ument to a 19th-century shah, follows the style of carvings at Persepolis, ancient capital of Darius the Great. KODACHROMESBY INGE MORATH,MAGNUM(OPPOSITE), AND TAY AND LOWELLTHOMAS, JR. () N.G.S. ticular valley amid all the others, where seven years earlier I had bounced and ground my way on a jeep tour of eastern Turkey. Sud denly I saw a settlement that looked familiar, perched on the edge of a razorlike crag. The mountains tilted and came up at us. Then, across a ridge, the town of Bitlis ap peared in its deep, narrow gorge, just where map and memory said it should be. Charlie Follows a Conqueror's Route Down we went, twisting and turning, rock walls on either side. Bitlis flashed past, fol lowed by the crumbling towers of a cliffside fortress. It seemed remarkably insignificant from the air, more like a granite outcrop than a work of man. At last we felt that we had properly embarked on our eastward ad venture; from here on, our route would often cross Alexander's path to the boundary of his empire, the distant Indus River (color map, page 76). We were three: Tay-my wife, copilot, and navigator; myself; and Charlie, a heavily loaded little single-engine Cessna, model 180. The plane's nickname came from the inter national registration number painted two feet wide on its wings-N2343C-and from its abbreviated radio call signal, "four three Charlie." Charlie had already carried us more than 26,000 miles in a great swing from France and Spain down and around the sandy ocean of the Sahara, across the equatorial waistline of Africa, down the Nile, and over the cara van routes of the Arabs to Istanbul on the Bosporus.* Now, as we climbed back out of the Bitlis gorge, the second major leg in our winged odyssey was just beginning. We flew on over the blue waters of Lake Van, with cloud-crowned Siiphan Dagi soar ing 14,547 feet just to the north, and over the city of Van, once the very heart and center of old Armenia. Then, beyond the lake, we circled the ruins of a great citadel where seven years earlier I had found cannon balls scat tered about the plain below; from there we flew up and east to the Iranian frontier. By the time we reached that rugged border, Charlie had climbed to 10,000 feet. Iranian Skies Offer a Rough Welcome The air was bumpy, for a 40-knot wind was blowing from behind and across the tumbled ridges. Tay had the controls; her stomach always behaves better when she does the fly ing in rough air. But despite the normal pre caution of slowing down and fastening our seat belts, we both banged our heads occa sionally on the cabin ceiling. I think we actually crossed into Iran about 10 miles south of the frontier "gateway" that Turkish authorities at Ankara had instructed us to use. But no border guards fired at us, so far as we know. * For the first half of the Thomases' aerial saga, see "Flight to Adventure," by Tay and Lowell Thomas, Jr., NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, July, 1957.