The small ferry from the regional capital landed in an instant. Passengers rush to go back to the shade. Once the stampede of mopeds has delivered everybody home, it's only me and a scorching sun of 40 degrees. It's summer, it's midday, and there's no turning back: Today I left my shelter in Bandar Abbas, to explore an extremely arid island in the south of Iran. There's not much info about how to do it, and at this hour I can only ask for directions to some goats sitting in the shadow.
The only visitable monument highlighted in the guides, is an old colonial Portuguese fort in serious decay. There's no sign of life around the crumbling walls, and I'd say that the entrance door has been closed for business since the Persians took over. It doesn't matter. I'm looking for the geological features that make this island a unique place in the world. They are somewhere into the 16 sq miles of Hormuz.
Very soon a taxi driver, blessed with an excessive tanning and a modern air-conditioned van, locates my position. He will drive me through the unpaved road that encircles Hormuz. Negotiations to agree the price start soon. First we are visiting a young lady that has been appointed as translator. Her English is as good as my Farsi, but I get a more than fair quote. Vehicle and driver will be at my exclusive service for a couple of hours.
A couple of miles out of town, we find the first surprise. It's the beach where the largest soil carpets in the world are often displayed. This fabulous mythological bird was created for a festival, thanks to the workshop in Hormuz of the artist Ahmad Nadalian.
But before we go back to the artistic scene of Hormuz, let's continue our tour.
On the seashore, silver-plated sand shines like metal.
The car stops for the next view. But it's what's on the ground that catches the eye. I don't know much about stones, but I read that this place is a top destination for anyone into geotourism.
Shortly we arrive to the area known as the Rainbow Valley.
I'm going to spend a lot of my limited time here, wondering around salt caves, crusty rivers and weird rocks.
Everywhere I look is potentially interesting. It's like if all the range of colors and shapes were around here.
Hormoz Island is considered a unique mineralogical reservoir, due to the incredible variety of rocks and minerals found in this small area. You can read more from a scientific point of view in this paper from some Iranian universities presented in the journal Scientific Research Publishing.
Back to the car, the landscape is changing completely every few meters.
Hills that look very different from each other, are adjacent almost without space for transition.
The island is considered a fine example of a salt dome. This is like a mushroom of salt that has been forced upwards... but it's better explained in Wikipedia :]
Another feature of Hormuz is the variety of coasts. In the north there are sandy beaches. In the southeast there's an area with beautiful cliffs. This image belongs to the Red Coast, where the shore has a high iron concentration. Sea waves are also colored in red, creating the effect that the beach is bleeding.
Many colorful layers and a few dramatic cliffs into the ocean later, one more surprise awaits me: a series of small salty azure lakes.
I'm running out of time and the communication with my new friend is severely limited. I'm wondering if there are still more delights to come.
But apart from coming across the classic bike loaded with five members of a family, soon we're back to the only settlement on the island. Pictured in the background, the fortress built by the Portuguese, that captured the island in 1507.
Also if you have the chance, try to find the museum and gallery of Ahmad Nadalian. There is a map with the location on this page linked. Check it ahead, it's not easy to find.
The house is a meeting point for artists, who can also stay there for a while. This carpet was made in 2013 by 30 people who worked on it during a week. The composition had 1,400 square-meters before to disappear over time.
Image by Kazem Ochizi
Leave your message cycling in the sand. Ahmad Nadalian is an internationally recognised environmentalist artist. His work and carvings can be found in many countries around the world.
From the space, the Strait of Hormuz itself looks like a painting. We edited an original satellite photo from the Nasa database, to get this gorgeous view. Our island is the ball closer to the land on the top (the large one looking like a dolphin is Qeshm island).
Image by Ahmad Nadalian