Part 2/3: Photo Journal

Day 3:

Souleymaniyah-Dokan

Only 120 kilometers, as the combination of brutal wind slowed me to a crawl in places and drained me of energy.
Only 120 kilometers, as the combination of brutal wind and road fatigue slowed me to a crawl in places and had me already drained of energy.

I was blessed with near perfect weather on Days 1 & 2, something I wasn’t lucky enough to have on Day 3. Fortunately it didn’t affect any of my photos- and in fact enhanced them- as the incessant intensity of the wind (a constant battering of unseasonably chilled air from the nearby 3000+ meter peaks at a sustained 50-70 kph with  gusts that I estimated at 120 kph) meant that I was lucky to have perfectly clear air and visibility to great distances in all directions.

I was cold as hell on day 3, but a frigid day-long shiver is ultimately a small trade-off for fantastic photos.

I was only ten minutes outside of Souleymaniyah when I realized it would be a day to bundle up and save as much body heat as possible.

My look from Day 3 onward. At least wearing my keffiyeh led to less forced stops at checkpoints.
My look from Day 3 onward. At least wearing my keffiyeh led to less forced stops at checkpoints.
Looking down on Souleymaniyah from Goya summit at about 1200 meters
Looking down on Souleymaniyah from Goizha summit at about 1200 meters
Downtown Souleymaniyah
Downtown Souleymaniyah
Looking north from just below Goya summit. Very hard to tell from this photo, but the perfectly clear skies are a result of sustained 50-70 kph winds.
Looking north from just below Goizha summit. Very hard to tell from this photo, but the perfectly clear views are a direct result of sustained 50-70 kph winds.
The highway winding north away from Souleymaniyah
The highway winding north away from Souleymaniyah

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Beautiful valley tucked away between the cities of Souleymaniyah and Dokan
Beautiful valley tucked away between the cities of Souleymaniyah and Dokan
The hidden valley road slowly climbed to one of the most inspiring vistas I have ever seen.
The hidden valley road slowly climbed to one of the most inspiring vistas I have ever seen.
Looking east
Looking east
Looking north
Looking south. I think this is also one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.
Lake Dokan from the top of Dokan Summit Road
Lake Dokan from the top of Dokan Summit Road
The north end of Dokan Lake, and the spine of mountains on the Iraq-Iran border.
Looking towards the north end of Dokan Lake and the spine of mountains on the Iraq-Iran border.
Looking due north over Lake Dokan.
Looking due north over Lake Dokan.
Looking east from Dokan Summit
Looking east from Dokan Summit
Looking northeast towards Iran
Looking northeast towards Iran
Looking west from Dokan Summit Road
Looking west from Dokan Summit Road
I was too tempted too take a rocky spur to a lookout a few hundred meters from the road's summit
I was all too tempted too take a rocky spur to a lookout only a few hundred meters from the road’s summit
Descending Dokan Summit Road towards the town of Dokan, where I was to spend the night.
Descending Dokan Summit Road towards the town of Dokan, where I was to spend the night.
Sunset in Dokan
Sunset in Dokan

Day 4:

Dokan-Ranya-Soran.

185 kilometers. Dokan Lake is at the bottom of the photo. The "untitled placemark" is a 3550 meter peak on the Iran Iraq border known as Welati-Ciya.
185 kilometers. Dokan Lake is at the bottom of the photo. The “untitled placemark” is a 3550 meter peak on the Iran Iraq border known as Welati-Ciya.
The start of day 4 had me loop back over the top of Dokan Summit Road, where I enjoyed some mountain chai time with a few off-duty Peshmerga soldiers
The start of day 4 had me loop back over the top of Dokan Summit Road, where I enjoyed some mountain chai time with a few off-duty Peshmerga soldiers
Looking northeast once again over the Ranya Plains and Lake Dokan. The heavily snowed peak in the center is 3550 meter Welati-Ciya, third tallest in Iraq.
Looking northeast once again over the Ranya Plains and Lake Dokan. The heavily-snowed peak in the center is 3550 meter Welati-Ciya, third tallest in Iraq.
Heading down the eastern edge of Lake Dokan in the direction of Welati-Ciya
Heading down the eastern edge of Lake Dokan in the direction of Welati-Ciya

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The Ranya Plains are some of the most fertile lands in all of Iraqi Kurdistan
The Ranya Plains are some of the most fertile lands in all of Iraqi Kurdistan. I took this photo at about 550 meters above sea level, almost 3000 meters (or about 2 miles) below Welati-Ciya in the distance.
Heading towards Ranya, I found another irresistible switchback. At the top looking down the northern edge towards Welati-Ciya once more.
Heading towards Ranya I found another irresistible switchback. At the top looking down the northern edge towards Welati-Ciya once more.
...And looking down the southern edge towards the small cities of Hajiwa and Ranya.
…And looking down the southern edge towards the small cities of Hajiwa and Ranya.
Passing through Sarkapkan village just west of Ranya, heading towards Garu Manjal summit and eventually to Soran.
Passing through Sarkapkan village just west of Ranya, heading towards Garu Manjal summit and eventually to Soran.
From the top of Garu Manjal summit, the highest I'd yet been, at about 1550 meters.
From the top of Garu Manjal summit, the highest I’d yet been, at about 1550 meters.
Looking north towards the descent of Garu Manjal summit. Welati-Ciya massif is on the right edge of the photo. The mountains in the far distance are on another stretch of the Iran-Iraq border.
Looking north towards the descent of Garu Manjal summit. Welati-Ciya massif is on the right edge of the photo. The mountains in the far distance are on another stretch of the Iran-Iraq border.
I took a shot of these two mountains not knowing what they were, turned out to be the two tallest in Iraq. Mt. Halgurd on the left, at 3608 meters is the tallest mountain entirely within Iraq's borders, and on the left, Cheekha Dar, 3611 meters, is the absolute tallest in Iraq, lying on the border with Iran.
I took a shot of these two mountains not knowing what they were- turned out to be the two tallest in Iraq. Mt. Halgurd (center) at 3608 meters is the tallest mountain entirely within Iraq’s borders, and on the right; Cheekha Dar, 3611 meters, the tallest in Iraq by any distinction, lying on the border with Iran.
The descent from Garu Manjal summit
The descent from Garu Manjal summit
The long and slow descent from Garu Manjal eventually dropped me off on the main highway connecting Erbil-to-Soran-to-Iran. This highway, known as the "Hamilton Road" was the brainchild of nineteenth century British engineer Archibald Hamilton who dreamed of building a road connecting the Persian plateau and hinterlands to Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean. I would end up taking this road all the way back to Soran where I'd spend the night, but not before detouring through what is probably the most famous stretch of the Hamilton Road, Rawanduz Canyon....
Connecting with the main highway

The long and slow descent from Garu Manjal eventually dropped me off on the main highway connecting Erbil-to-Soran-to-Iran. This highway, known as the “Hamilton Road,” was the brainchild of nineteenth century British engineer Archibald Hamilton.  He dreamed of building a road connecting the Persian plateau and southwest Asian interior to Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean. This highway is considered one of his crowning achievements, and one of the greatest successes of civil engineering in the last century.  I would end up taking this road all the way back to Soran where I’d spend the night, but not before detouring through what is probably the most famous stretch of the Hamilton Road, Rawanduz Canyon….

Rawanduz Canyon
Rawanduz Canyon
Rawanduz Canyon. The Hamilton Road follows Rawanduz River at the bottom of the steep gorge.
Rawanduz Canyon. The Hamilton Road follows the Rawanduz River at the bottom of the steep gorge.
Rawanduz Canyon
Rawanduz Canyon
Rawanduz Canyon
Rawanduz Canyon
Once the sunlight faded I rode back into Soran. Here passing through a small neighborhood on the edge of Soran, looking through a gap in the mountains to a different angle of Welati-Ciya.
Once the sunlight faded I rode back into Soran. Here passing through a small neighborhood on the edge of Soran, only a short distance from Rawanduz. Catching the last rays of direct sunlight, looking through a gap in the mountains to a different angle of Welati-Ciya mountain.

On Day 5 I would get a lot closer to the impressive Welati-Ciya, as well as the international border it lies on.

Thus concludes Part 2!

 

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One thought on “Part 2/3: Photo Journal

  1. You look great, with those soldiers. Great pictures all!
    No trafic jam, I say…but, I did see one car. Hope you didn’t feel too
    crowded…Seriously, through, the mountains and valleys, and canyons all look magnificent. One would have never known if you didn’t document it with your camera. I can feel your love of each place in every picture. The appreciation of the Creation ……..!

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