I left Turkey with the sorest legs you can imagine, sorer even then when I went kickboxing with Catriona…. Couldn’t walk properly for nearly 5 days but now I’m already thinking of walking up Mount Damovand, with it 5671m the highest in Iran.
I also left Turkey with Wilbert who, apart from being Dutch and having cycled from Holland, I have completely nothing in common with. For example;
He likes spending lots of money, I try to make it last. He likes cycling when it’s real hot, I prefer it cool. He likes to leave late and cycle till dark, I like to start and stop early. He likes cities, I prefer the country. He breathes through his mouth, me through my nose. He likes tea, I like coffee. He is right-wing, I am left. He is a fussy eater, I eat everything (it shows, he lost 10kg since Holland, I lost none) He can’t remember the last time he sang, I love to sing & cycle. He likes his clothes sparkling clean, I’m happy as long as I can’t smell myself. He thinks he’s always right, but of course I am…
We do both talk a lot which certainly keeps things interesting.
Now were going to cross the deserts of Iran and Turkmenistan together in midsummer. See how that goes.
So far Iran is a very interesting country. Cycling you see very poor villages build of clay next to the roads in perfect condition. Funny that we’ve had 4 punctures in the first few days.. it’s the left behind and fallen apart truck tires on the side of the road with little bits of metal. But in the cities you almost think its Europe, it looks modern and people are very well-educated and dress fashionable –when you can see it-. In most places the women are covered up in their chadors and Ayatollahs are looking down on you at every street corner. That’s a difference. I have to cycle with headscarf too which is not very comfy.
It’s getting warmer as well, at first we cycled still high up through hills and plains with lots of green and little streams. Now we’re getting lower and the temperature higher. The landscape isn’t too interesting. We’ve been cycling on the highway since it’s a lot safer then the other road where there’s no space and many trucks. On the highway there’s hardly any traffic, that might have something to do with the fact petrol is rationed. Everybody gets just 100liter the month. Great for cyclists! The traffic that is on the road waves and smiles and often stops for us to give water, tea, food or fruit. One truck driver even cooked us a complete meal out the side of his truck!
The distances between towns are getting longer as well, we camped out a few times and I’ve taken a ‘bottle-shower’. It’s funny to cycle all day completely covered up and then standing somewhere in Iran in just a bikini… But the water heats up nicely on the back of the bicycle.
The people have really been amazing! It’s even friendlier then Turkey!!! But the one that really surprised me is Ali.
We met Ali and his friend Mokhtar at a roadside restaurant where we (I) were recovering from a bit of a climb and the heat. He insisted on paying our bill and then invited us to come and stay at his “small apartment” in Tabriz. When we made it there after 121km we found out his “small apartment” was nearly a penthouse! So in luxury we spend two days in Tabriz. Ali himself had to work, he owns a few oil factories and an office in Dubai, but for us he arranged a car and a driver who took us around town and showed us the sights, bought us lunch and got my back wheel repaired (for the 4th time and it’s still no good). In the evening, after buying me a dress/jacket in a fancy boutique ’cause he didn’t want to get me arrested, he took us to a restaurant on top of a 5-star hotel that turns around so you can see the whole of Tabriz. Except it was raining so hard you didn’t see much. That surprised Ali but not me. It has been raining in every single country I’ve been so far so why should Iran be any different…
Ali had also invited us to come and stay with his family near Tehran when we got there. So after a few days of struggle against headwind, or well… Wilbert struggling and me staying in the slipstream :-D We’ve arrived and were welcomed as old friends and introduced to the family. Especially Ali’s daughter who is 15, speaks perfect English and wants to work for NASA is great to talk too. She knows much about the world and the country she lives in and explains us about the way things work around here.
So we’ll be staying a couple of days to get my Uzbek and Turkmenistan visa before heading south to Esfahan and then across the much dreaded dessert… we’ll see.