25th JUNE 2011
It has been nearly impossible to update my blog while I have been in Iran. For some reason the Iranian government see my blog as a threat and it has been banned. This is the best I can do for now with some outside help. I will try to add some photos for the text once I get to Uzbekistan in a week’s time.
After a month, Iran has turned out to be a very normal country. I have always felt safe. The people have been extremely generous and friendly and I was invited on many occasions into the homes of Iranians even though it is forbidden. In a month, it never rained once. My blog was also banned in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Finally, in Tajikistan I have been able to sort it out.
DAY 85: DOGUBAYAZIT – KM 110 – IRAN
START : 7:00 – FINISH: 18:00 – DISTANCE: 150 KM – RIDE TIME 7h:52
The 40 km stretch of road out to the Iran border was very quiet and slow going, grinding along at 8 km per hour into a very strong head wind.
I thought a lot about what I would do if I was refused entry into Iran. I have been a little bit concerned after pulling a swifty by swapping passports entering Turkey and I needed to pull another swifty to get out. I had heard lots of bad stories about the border and was fearing the worse. Recently a guy was refused entry even though he had a visa. One thing worrying me was how the Iranians were going to behave concerning the fact that I have been using two passports. When I got closer to the border there was a massive queue of trucks. I stopped and changed into my special border crossing uniform. Long pants and a long sleeve shirt.
I was then thankfully allowed to cycle past the trucks and was waved on to the Turkish border control. They flicked through my New Zealand passport a couple of times and looked puzzled . I then asked if they were looking for the Iran visa and I pull out my British passport for them. They said ahh…. ok and gave me the exit stamp. There is not much of a no-man’s land and 10 metres later I was handing my British passport over to the Iranian control. He flicked through a few times and couldn’t see the exit stamp so started to march me back to the Turkish control. I thought now would probably be a good a time as ever to surprise him with my New Zealand passport. Surprisingly it went down a treat and after that things went so quickly that within minutes I found myself in Iran. Unbelievable – it was one of the smoothest border crossings I have ever done. After expecting the worse. I got the best result. I was completely on top of the moon and was on such a high. I was now so excited with anticipation of what laid ahead. Just a few km from the border some guy opened his car door on me and I smashed straight into it………..he said no problem, no problem. Thankfully everything was all right and I just got up and continued. After crossing the border there was a large descent and the temperature rose at least 10 degrees. It was a very hot afternoon cycling and there was no shade anywhere. After 140 km I started to look for a good camping spot. It was another 10 km before I found a nice spot in the corner of a field.
Just as I was setting up the farmer arrived and said it was no problem I could camp anywhere, I was feeling very tired and a little sick from too much sun. I really just wanted to crash. But I forced myself into cooking and having some dinner.
DAY 86 KM 110 – MARAND
START: 8:30 – FINISH: 18:00 – DISTANCE: 92 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H:45
There has been a time change of 1 and half hours. Hence the later start. I had intended to get up earlier but was just too tired. I fueled up with some breakfast of muesli and fruit. Did a 30km stint before stopping for tea and to stock up on water. The distance between towns with shops is greater here.
THe owner had a guest book for me to sign which had messages from previous cyclists who had passed. I asked him when was the last one and he said 5 months ago. Late start and it got very hot very quick. I was stopping every 5 km to drink water that was becoming very unpleasant to drink because it was so warm. I don’t have a way of keeping it cold. After 70 km I stopped for lunch (chicken kebab) and a cold drink. I then had a 2 hour rest from the sun on a bench out in front of the restaurant. At 4 p.m., I finally got moving again. But the legs didn’t want to work. I did another 20 km until the next large town. I needed more water and fruit. So I had to stop. From the main road it was a 3 km drop. The plan was to move on and camp. But I decided I had had enough and wanted to have a better look around Marand. I met Mohammad who helped me find a very basic 6€ hotel and took me on a tour of the city proudly introducing me to all his friends. By doing this, he had to close his bag shop. He took me into the mosque which had many arch ceilings inside. Mohammad also owned a taxi which he drove for a few hours in the morning before opening his shop. I was knackered and wanted an early night, but Mohammad invited me for a picnic with his family.
I was in two minds because I was so tired………..but I thought I’ve got to do it. At 9:30 p.m. we went in his taxi to his house to pick up his wife and two children. We then drove out of town and was going to have a picnic on a traffic island. But because the grass was wet we set up the bbq on the footpath instead. It was a great experience and I was glad I said yes even though I was so tired. I got back to the hotel around midnight and the owner was a little mad after I woke him up.
DAY 87: MARAND – TABRIZ
START :7:30 – FINISH: 12:00 – DISTANCE: 75 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H
This morning I set off a little earlier to beat the heat. Leaving Marand I had a good 13 km climb. As I was coming into Tabriz a young guy called Masoud stopped and asked me if I needed help. I asked for the center and a hotel.
He said I would be better off resting in the park. He clearly thought 11 a.m. was too early to be stopping for the day. I explained I was stopping for the night. He then offered for me to come and stay in his student flat. I gladly excepted. He said follow me its only 5 min away. Turned out to be a 10 km 30 min chase around the outskirts of the city through tunnels and up hills. I was exhausted. At one stage he offered to ride my bike because I couldn’t keep up. We finally got to the flat he shared with 3 friends. It was one rectangle room with outside toilet and shower and a little courtyard. The stove was also in the room. The boys cooked up a good lunch of chicken , potato and fried tomatoes. After lunch, I went into town on the bus with Roual. I wasn’t allowed to talk because he didn’t want anyone to know I was a foreigner. He also said that when we were in town and if the police wanted to talk to me, he would go far away. It was a little worrying. The four guys living in the flat are all Turkish. Apparently all of Tabriz and western Iran is Turkish and in fact the Turkish community makes up 25% of the population.
DAY 88: TABRIZ – MIANEH
START: 9:00 – FINISH: 17:50 – DISTANCE: 142 KM – RIDE TIME: 6 H 30
The down side of been hosted is you have to fit in with other people’s time frames. The boys didn’t get up till 8 am. They went out and got fresh bread which we had with jam and cream. After only 12 km from Tabriz I had a offer for tea so I stopped. After 2 cups I had to pull myself away. Out in the country I saw some guys washing large rugs in the river. They were giving them a real good scrub.
At 3pm I saw a very nice lake that I thought I might like to camp by…….looking at my GPS I had only done 76 km so I cycled on. I was going to stop at 120 km. But at 110 km I started to go down a steep walled valley. So making the most of it I finally pulled the pin at 140 km spying a dirt road down to the stream. I took my bike through the stream and camped for the night on the other side among some fruit trees.
DAY 89: MIANEH – OUTSIDE ZANJAN
START : 8:30 – FINISH: 18:30 – DISTANCE: 119 KM – RIDE TIME: 6 H
So far on this whole trip I have been lucky with dogs and have not had much trouble. Soon after I set off down the valley this morning I had some very furious dogs chase me. Luckily I was going downhill, so I stopped pedalling and just glided and they soon left me. I then saw a guy walking his dog. I waved, he waved and the next minute his dog had shot across the road and nearly had me off the bike. I didn’t look back and just kept going. Cycling into Mianeh I was invited into a family home for some kind of melon smoothie.
20 meters later I was stopping again in a bakers for a tea and some bread and cheese. It was interesting to see them making the bread and the little manual labour production line they had going. It was another really hot day. I stopped for lunch at a very old looking bridge which had been blown up 60 years ago . Here I met a guy who gave me a cold melon to eat and even a knife to cut it with. Before he left he showed me a necklace disguised as a cross and said not Muslim. Muslim bad and spat on the ground. After 100 km I was ready to stop. I wanted to find a shop to get water………after 15 km no luck. I ended up going down a driveway to an orchard and found a old man bed-ridden lying under a net. I got some cold water from his spring. I went on a few more km and pulled into another orchard that wasn’t fenced. I went a way back so I was out of sight. Half way through setting up I got a visit from the farmer who was a bit surprised and didn’t look that pleased……………but said it was ok. He went away and came back with a bag of apples and apricots and later cold water.
DAY 90: ZANJAN
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 10:00 – DISTANCE: 33 KM – RIDE TIME: 1h 40
I had only planned to stop in Zanjin to get a shave at the barbers. Regularly, local people were starting to comment on my beard.
On the way into town I met an English teacher called Rassoul. His English is excellent . He offered to show me the barbers. 1.60€ for a shave. Afterwards, Rassoul found me a cheap 5.00€ hotel. Very basic ,but clean and a TV so I can watch Iran programs. To top things off, in the afternoon I went to the Hamman for a scrub and a massage. I got pulled by the police for leaving the hotel to go to the Hamman in shorts. They let me continue. When I am with the bike wearing shorts it is never a problem.
The Hamman was only 2.60€……so cheap. The price of the visa for Iran is not cheap at £140. But you do get some of your money back. A large bottle of water 0.20 – 0.26€. A medium packet of potato chips 0.26€. Ice block 0.13€ and the bus can be just 0.03€.
At 5pm, Rassoul came and picked me up from the hotel and gave me a very good tour of the city. It really made stopping in Zanjan worthwhile. You can’t beat local knowledge. I got a tour of the grand Bazaar and got taken into a few mosques. The most interesting thing was a visit to the museum to see the salt man. A mummified body found in a salt mine in 2007.
DAY 91: ZANJAN – KHOZNEIR
START : 8:00 – FINISH: 18:00 – DISTANCE: 158 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 45
After doing so little in the way of kilometres the day before I was keen to push on for a big one. After 40 km I stopped and looking for shade I went down a short drive to a large farm. Being in the shade I rested my bike up against the gate and sat down and had something to eat. A short time later two young guys arrived and invited me up to the house for a drink and something to eat.
I’m getting use now that most of the time Iran’s sit on the flour to eat and drink. Afterwards they took me up to the uncle’s house to see a fish farm before feasting in the orchard, trying cherries, berries and peaches. It was hard starting again because it had become so hot. It was up to 35 degrees. I pushed on for a few more hours before stopping for lunch. I had a family stop. On the front seat was a small bird sitting on a pillow. In the back was the wife and son. They gave me some bread, a bag of nuts and a cup of tea. They didn’t even wait for me to give the glass back and said I could keep it. It had to happen sooner or later. I was riding quite hard trying to get as close to Qazvin as possible. I missed the turn off and after asking a few people was reassured I was heading in the right direction. As I cycle along I am always asked to stop and talk to people. I was cycling pass a small town, this happened and I was quite happy to stop. One of the guys who stopped me had made a phone call to an English teacher in the village and he soon arrived from his house. He straightaway invited me to his home for refreshments. I followed him to his house through the village. Most of the houses were single story and the road was full of pot holes.
I ended up staying the night. His wife cooked a lovely meal. All evening they got visitor after visitor to the house after news spread that a tourist was in town. Everyone was so friendly. They were all very interested about my story. The village was Tati and they spoke their own language. There are only 300 000 Tati in Iran.
DAY 92: kHOZNEIR – QAZVIN
START : 10:00 – FINISH: 13:45 – DISTANCE: 70 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H 6
It was lovely this morning sitting on the floor talking and having breakfast. I was in no hurry to leave.
The previous evening I got the bad news that I had ended up in Khozneir instead of Qazvin and that I had no option but to back track 25 km to continue my journey, Bagher kindly offered to drive me. I said no it was ok. I finally got away at 10 a.m. after a few more visitors
Half a mile down the road I went over a speed hump rather too fast and found one of the back panniers resting up against my leg. The clip had unattached itself from the pannier and I feared the worse. I thought it had ripped itself off, but thankfully it was only a loose nut. 10 km down the road a truck passed and a large rock fell off beside me sparling everywhere.
On the way into Qazvin a guy on a motorbike asked if I needed any help. I told him I was looking for the centre and a hotel. He said follow me and he first took me to his spare parts shop for a drink and then took me all the way into the centre and found me a cheap hotel.
He turned out to be a former Iran 100 kg judo champ. The guys I met the day before after resting by their farm gate gave me a phone number of one of their friends in Qazvin. So I called her and within an hour Fara a civil engineering student and a friend who was a tour guide were giving me a tour of the city.
Fara was the first Iranian I have met. Up till now I had only met Turkish and Tati. Fara had a car so she drove us around. Driving is fun in Iran………..it is just chaotic. We went to a few Mosques and holy sites and a couple of museums. In the late afternoon we went back to Fara’s house for refreshments and I met her parents. We left the car and taxied into the Bazaar for a look around. Saw a few more mosques.
At one of the mosques Fara’s sister’s boss opened it up especially for us to go in.. It was under the Bazaar. At 9:30 p.m., we went back to Fara’s for dinner and her mum had prepared some lovely Iranian food.
DAY 93 QAZVIN – TEHRAN
I am biking less…………………it’s ok though because it is by choice. I decided to leave my bike in Qazvin and just take the bus 150 km to Tehran. It only cost 0.77€ and saved a lot of hassle leaving the bike with a friend of a friend. I tried leaving it in the hotel but their only option was to leave it in the room. Catch was I would still have to pay for the room. The plan is to hunt down some visas and to travel south on the train or bus visiting Esfahan, Yazd and maybe Shiraz before returning to Qazvin and continuing my journey to Mashhad.
Arriving in Tehran I hadn’t a clue. The place is massive and so hectic. Crossing the road is a nightmare. You just have to walk out slowly and the traffic just darts around you. I was lucky A young guy called Javid saw I was lost and offered to help. I showed him which area of Tehran I wanted to stay and he took me on the bus and helped me find a good hotel. The people of Iran have been so hospitable. They are always offering to pay or before you have a chance giving you something. Late afternoon I wondered round the very busy city to orientate myself. At 8:00 at night it was still very hot. Luckily Tehran is a city of air con.
DAYS 94, 95, 96 – TEHRAN
First priority today was to go to the Uzbek embassy and hunt down a visa. It was a bit of a trek. First the metro and then a bus. The address I had was Boston St. – shame as there was Boston 1, Boston 2 up to 13. I got plenty of help and people would make calls and we finally discovered the embassy had moved……..so I had to taxi it. Good news is I got my Uzbek visa on the spot and then headed round to the Turkmenistan embassy.
Got there just after it closed but in time to get the application form. A Swiss couple were waiting for their visa since 9 a.m. They mentioned that an Aussie guy had only been given a 3 day transit visa instead of the normal 5 day visa after he had upset them. Cycling the 500 plus km in 3 days is nearly impossible. Half of one of those days will be lost crossing the border. In the afternoon I went to the Jewel museum which is full of treasures from the times when Iran had a royal family and is very impressive.
7am and it was back to the Turkmenistan embassy. Got there at 8am for the 9am opening and they still didn’t open till 9:30am. They like to make you wait…….I was first in line so at least I didn’t have to hang around. Visas are finished with for now. The Turkmen visa I will pick up in Mashhad. With the number one priority, visas out the way. I headed for some museums.
First Golestan palace. It was closed so I just walked around the gardens. Next was The Iranian National museum. Not very big but it had some interesting things like another salt man who was very well preserved. By accident I found the old Tehran gate now the gate to the Iran foreign affairs. I went for a wonder and found a library. Security was happy enough to let me in………..though I soon discovered it was a private function for the unveiling of some famous tapestry
and I was asked to leave. But before I left I met the director of the Iranian National library and she asked me to stay as her guest. It was very interesting and afterwards they put on a good spread. Leili took me afterwards to North Tehran for a little tour and then to one of the most popular parks where we stopped for ice coffee and cheese cake.
Yesterday Golestan Palace was closed so I went back this morning. Inside it was very glamorous.
I meet Javid and one of his friends at midday and after wandering the Bazaar headed to the northern part of the city again to another café where we had a shisha pipe. It was then a long old trek to the train station so I could catch the overnight train to Esfhan.
DAYS 97, 98. ESFAHAN
The overnight train from Tehran to Esfahan was good. 7000 IR or 4.00€ for a 460 km journey on a sleeper train is great value. It was clean though a little old. I felt safe. As usual my 5 roommates were all very keen to talk to the foreigner and practise their English. The station was far out, so got a taxi straight to the hotel. Pretty basic room for 7.00€. The real exciting thing there is a sit down toilet……….I have been on standing blocks for the last 12 days.
Room wasn’t ready so tagged along with some German guys a little out of the city to visit the Temple of fire and the shaking minarets which really do shake when someone leans against them. By heading south it is now over 40 degrees in the middle of the day. I am lucky my very basic hotel had good air con.
Too hot to do anything in the afternoon so rested up till about six……….then went with the German guys Yarn and Matice to get some cakes and we then went and sat in the very nice and famous Iman square with its fountains and large grassy areas with loads of families having picnics with the Palace and the mosque in the background.
Was very tempted to go to the desert with Yarn and Matice. I should really be thinking about reuniting with my bike
so tomorrow I will start heading back via Yazd in the direction of Qazvin. Since it is Friday everything is closed till after Friday prayers. I am then going at 4 p.m. to get a free bike from the square and go for a ride along the river to see some old bridges. Sadly there is no water in the river because it has dried up.
DAY 99: ESFAHAN TO YAZD
Since it was Friday I was not able to do much yesterday. So I was up early this morning and headed straight for the large Jameh mosque. I then weaved through the Bazaar back to Imam square to see the Imam Mosque and the Sheikh’s own private mosque and the Palace.
With the heat, that was enough and I just went back to the hotel had some lunch and chilled to 1:30 p.m. before going to the bus station for the afternoon bus to Yazd. For 6.00€ I went VIP for the 4 hour trip. There was plenty of leg room.. I arrived at the Yazd bus station at 6:30 p.m. and got the bus into town. An old guy was helping me and we had to change buses. We ended up at some mosque and I asked some other people for directions and found I was miles away from the center. I wasn’t pleased that I had been misled and ended up getting a taxi. Finally getting to the hotel at 9 p.m. The hotel was rough and the room filthy. The sheets were grubby.
DAYS 100, 101, 102: YAZD
First thing this morning it was off to the Police Department of Aliens Affairs to ask for a Visa extension. 20 days just wasn’t enough to cycle across Iran. It went pretty smooth paid the 20 euros at the bank and they said come back tomorrow.
Close by was the Tower of silence so I got the bus over. It consisted of two towers on two separate hills and a crumbling village below. Up until 1960 the bodies of the dead were placed sitting upright in the tower till the flesh was pecked back to the bone by the birds. In the afternoon I walked around the crumbling old part of the city in 40 degree heat visiting Jameh mosque, Alexander prison, the Eternal flame that is said to have been burning for a 1000 years.
I got to know the guys in the ice cream shop quite well and in the evening I was invited to one of their houses for dinner. His mum had made a very nice Yazd veggie soup. Monday morning I went back to the department of alien affairs. Strangely, they ended up giving me more days then I applied for. So the pressure to get to Mashad is slightly less now. The old guy from the hostel took me for a tour around the old city. We called in to have a look at a massive house, him and his German wife bought 35 years ago and it was still a mess. It would have been great in its day with its wealthy family and their servants. We went into a few of the boutique hotels and visited Quant. A tunnel that went deep under the house and reached down to the water supply. It was lovely and cool. At one of the hotels we stopped at I bumped in to the two German guys from Esfahan, Matice and Yarn. It was good to see them and I soon changed my mind about getting the night bus today and deferring it till tomorrow. I also changed hotels. After a cuppa we went out and got a VIP bus ticket and I will travel with the boys on the overnight bus to Tehran. Only 11 euros. Afternoon was spent doing another walking tour of the old city.
We were joined by Lisaet a really nice Dutch girl. She took us up to the roof of a crumbling mosque she had been shown the night before by someone in the hostel. The views of the city were great and we returned again in the evening to watch the sunset. The museum of the day was the water museum which was a large house that was in very good condition and told the story of how the water tunnels were constructed under the city. There is no water now. Everything is dry and Yazd’s water now comes in a big pipe 400 km from Esfahan.
The food in the hotel is really good and for dinner I had camel stew with Liset the Dutch girl. It was really nice and made a nice change from kebabs. Another good thing about the hotel was that they had wi fi and I soon discovered skype worked. So it was great talking to some friends in the UK. Tuesday, I spent the whole day on the computer, emailing researching my route, listening to New Zealand radio and using Skype. It was in the 40’s again today so it was nice taking it easy. I had the camel stew again. 10pm tonight it was on the bus for Tehran.
DAY 103: QAZVIN
The overnight VIP bus from Yazd, with the German guys Yarn and Matice was not so VIP.
I had a terrible night’s sleep. It was so uncomfortable we arrived in Tehran at 5 a.m. and then had to find the bus station for another two hour journey to Qazvin. I went back to where I had left the bike and I spent the whole day in Amir’s house relaxing while watching the Tour de France and the discovery channel.
DAY 104: QAZVIN – KARAJ DAM.
START: 6:00 – FINISH: 20:00 – DISTANCE: 141 KM -RIDE TIME: 6H 4
After not having been on the bike for 11 days. I was getting use to the slower pace of life and was enjoying hanging out and chatting to some fellow tourists. On the other hand I did miss the bike as well. The break has actually made me hungrier to get cycling again. I am really excited to start again and looking forward to the 1130 km ride to Mashard. I am taking a longer route that will take me over a very mountainous
150 km stretch to the Caspian sea . The shorter route is through the quite sparse 45 degree desert and would probably be foolish to tackle. After 11 days it is also great to get the shorts back on. When riding the bike I give myself special dispensation. You don’t see the Iranian football team playing in long pants. After a break I always seem to motor when I get back on the bike and today was no exception. The early start provided excellent riding conditions and come lunch time I had reached Karaj and knocked off a easy 100 km along the flat. At one point I had a group of young soldiers salute me as I cycled pass. I stopped in Karaj for lunch, changed money and loaded the bike with water for the trip over the mountains. By now it was a cool 38 degrees and the only way was up. The road to Chalus is a very winding road with no hard shoulder. Making it very dangerous and a little frightening. I was constantly reminded by the locals to be careful. To make things worse the Chalus road was very busy because it was the start of a holiday weekend. After 25km of winding up the mountain
I stopped by a river and dunked my head in the water to cool off……….because I was overheating. Here I had second lunch after being invited to join two ladies, their kids and their mother. It was so hot I then went and slept in a bus stop for a while. At around 5 p.m. I forced myself to go on even though I was feeling so tired. Another 10 km up the mountain I stopped again in a restaurant and had a full chicken kebab dinner followed by many cups of tea. I wasn’t keen to get moving at all.
In the end I had to push on and find somewhere to camp because it was getting dark. 8 km more and I reached Karaj dam and had no choice but to camp out in the open next to my bike. At the dam I had some guys in a flash 4×4 offer me a drink……..when I saw the bottle I politely refused. Vodka is not recommended when in Iran.
DAY 105: KARAJ DAM – CHALUS
START: 7am – FINISH: 18:00 – DISTANCE: 131 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 18
I was happy to get moving early after a rough night’s sleep. People were coming and going all night. 10 km following along the water’s edge of the dam, I got called over to stop for a cup of tea by two young couples in a tent on the side of the road in front of a tea house. I had a few cups of tea with them and then went up into the tea house to get some breakfast. But before I got there I was asked to join another group for breakfast. They were rock climbers and were getting ready to climb one of the steep cliffs that flanked the dam. It was a hard day climbing the steep pass and slow going. The previous day I started at 1312 metres and in the afternoon finally reached the 2640 metre top.
Along the way I passed through two long tunnels the first was about 1.5km and the other 2.5km. I always stop and put on all my lights. After the second tunnel was a 70 km all downhill stretch to the Caspian Sea. You are probably thinking this would be great…..It wasn’t because you had to concentrate intensely. The winding road was very dangerous. I hate it when a car coming towards you is overtaken by another car as you have a car coming towards you in your lane with not much room. I had two very close calls today with equipment falling off. The first was partly my fault. The back pannier came loose again and after taking it off and tightening the clip I didn’t put it back on properly. 500 metres down the road I heard a noise and looked round to see my back left pannier sitting in the road. I quickly pulled up and as I was running back a car sped round the corner. I held my hand up and it skidded and thankfully narrowly swerved around my pannier before I could grab it. The second incident and its full impact may not be felt until later in the trip with catastrophic consequences was as I was just coming into Chalus. I was speeding down a hill when I hit an open man-hole. I couldn’t swerve because of traffic beside me. The front tyres burst on impact and I was very lucky to keep the bike upright. In some ways if I was going too slow I could have disappeared down the hole and it could have been a lot worse. The wheel looks alright. It doesn’t seem buckled. I just hope the impact hasn’t cracked the rim as this could lead to a complete failure of the wheel at a later date. I was really disappointed when I saw the beach. It was all rocky and the idea of pitching my tent on the beach had gone. I ended up putting my tent up in a little park across the road from the beach with many others.
A young girl from the tent next door brought me over an orange and the next time a bag of fish her father had caught.. I tried to give it back. But she wouldn’t have it.
DAY 106: CHALUS – SALA HEDIN KOLA
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 11:30 – DISTANCE: 47 KM – RIDE TIME: 2H 40
I left the fish outside the tent last night and early morning awoke to see a cat dragging the bag of fish away. When I got up I found a trail of fish scattered around the tent and had to quickly hide the fish before the previous owner saw them.
It always happens when you are up for a big day. I stopped in Sala Hedin Kola to get some fruit and while I was there I meet a man called Ahmad. We got talking and I mentioned I hadn’t been for a swim yet because I didn’t like to swim unless I could have a shower afterwards to wash the salt off. He asked if I wanted
I could come and swim at their private beach and that it had a shower. I thought why not it was only a 1 km walk down the road.
The beach was very nice and sandy, and the water was warm and flat. Afterwards Ahmad invited me up to their villa. One of 160 in the complex. I fell asleep in the chair so they gave me a bed to lie down on. In the late afternoon we went back for another swim and the water was just as nice. We weren’t the only things swimming because we saw a snake in the water. It wasn’t that big and I was able to get right up next to it. It had a fish in its mouth.
DAY 107: SALA HEDIN KOLA – SARI
START: 9:30 – FINISH 19:00 – DISTANCE: 140 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 45
I was getting used to life in the villa and wasn’t in a hurry to leave. We went down to the beach for a early morning swim.
The water was awesome. We then went back and had some breakfast before heading off in the direction of Sari. The road has continued to be nice and flat.
Just as I was coming into Sari I saw one tent in a park and thought that will do me.
Soon after starting to set up., the family from the lone tent brought me over a plate of watermelon and a young woman and her mum came over and asked if they could help me set up the tent .
Ghazal and her mum then went away and came back with some warm bread. I camped near the park police so they could keep an eye on me.
The park police came round and jokingly put the handcuffs on me. I kept calm. But wasn’t really seeing the funny side……………but played along. All evening I had people come and talk to me.
DAY 108: SARI – GORGAN
START: 9:30 – FINISH: 19:00 – DISTANCE: 140 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 45
No chance to get away early. The park was full of tents and people were sleeping everywhere. I spent a good hour or so doing the rounds stopping for a cup of tea. The road to Gorgan was flat and as I was keen to camp in the city park again……..I was directed to the jungle about 10 km out of town. It sounded nice.
It turned out to be far from it. There is something odd about Iran camping. You park the car beside the footpath and you then put your tent up. The jungle was steep and not practical to put a tent up. There were hundreds of tents either side of the road. I managed to put my tent up on a skinny strip of grass just off to the side of the footpath.
DAY 109: GORGAN – GOLESTON
STAET: 7:30 – FINISH: 20:00 – DISTANCE: 154 KM – RIDE TIME: 8H 00
It was another very hot and humid day and I pushed myself hard to get to Golaston National park. I was really looking forward to camping in the National park….or at least I thought I was. I pulled off the road at the first possible opportunity
and while I was putting up my tent two boars (wild pigs) came past.
Soon after a local found me in the jungle and told me it was forbidden to camp because it was dangerous – wasn’t too happy to hear this. He encourages me to follow him. So I packed up the tent and followed him back down the hill to the village. He took me to a house. There were chickens out the back and the barn was full of sheep. He told me dinner was at 10 p.m. and that the water came on at 9 p.m. so I could have a wash from a tap. He then disappeared and I didn’t see him till the next day. No one in his family spoke English.
I was led to a room that was a lounge and had a window into the barn with the goats. They brought me tea and I then slept. They woke me up at 10:30 p.m. and presented me with some dinner of chicken kebab and two fried tomatoes. I think they were a very poor family…..but they gave me a lot. I later learnt that the jungle was dangerous because there were wolves and leopards.
DAY 110: GOLESTON – BOJNURD
START: 7:30 – FINISH: 21:00 – DISTANCE: 164 KM – RIDE TIME: 10H
I slept on the floor of the mud walled lounge last night. Early in the morning there was a lot of activity in the farmyard.
A cow and a calf had appeared and the cow was being milked. 30 mins later a warm glass of milk arrived. I was in two minds whether to drink it or not. I thought better not. Unpasteurized milk could make me sick. Cycling through the forest was wonderful as you were shaded from the sun and riding up the valley you were beside a small river which was very nice.
I stopped on the side of the road for morning tea and came face to face with a boar which just grunted and turned away. Probably with disgust because I was blocking its way. I got a very nasty surprise late in the day when I was just 20 km from Bosnurd.
I started to climb a very steep hill that just went up and up. Not really what you wanted at the end of a hard day. That 20 km took me two hours. When I finally made it I headed for the park and again camped out in front of the park police. There were two couples just having a picnic close by and they invited me to join them for dinner. The food was so nice and just what I needed after a big day’s cycling. At midnight I finally had to leave them.
Day 111: BOJNURD – MASHARD LESS 100 KM
START: 9:00 – FINISH: 20:00 – DISTANCE: 151 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 12
I had just had my own breakfast and was then invited to join two families who had also camped in the park.
So in total I had 3 breakies before I had to hit the road.
The road ahead was then pretty good. Late afternoon a group of about 10 people begged me to stop. They said we saw you on the road and we have been waiting for you to pass by.
They all wanted individual photos with me. They all put their arm on me and wanted me to do the same. Even tho it is a real no, no. They were been quite rebelious. Often the young Iran Women will pin their head scarf to the back of their head inorder to show a bit of hair. Which is all so a no no.
It makes you feel like a real B star celebrity with the amount of attention you receive. I am always giving out email and phone number and I mentioned that I was going to stay in Quchain. But before they left., they came back and said please don’t stay in this town. It is dangerous. So with that news I pushed on.
I stopped at about 6:30 p.m. at a service stop and had a good meal of meat, rice, yoghurt and salad. I really couldn’t be bothered cooking tonight. By the time I left it was starting to get dark so I cycled on and took the first half decent spot. I camped just off the road but beforehand had to push my bike up a steep bank to find a flat spot next to a field.
DAY 112: MASHARD LESS 100 KM – MASHARD
START: 7:00 – FINISH 11:30 – DISTANCE: 117 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 20
I woke up this morning feeling rather exposed. I had only camped 25 metres from the main road beside a field and between a few trees. Because it is so hot I left the fly off the tent. With the sun well up I was in full view of the traffic. I decided not to hang around and got moving pretty fast. With the golden carrot of 4 days rest in Mashard. I really put the foot down for the 100 km ride. After 1 hour, I had done 32 km ( a personal record). After two hours, 60 km and after 4 hours 100km and I was on the outskirts of Mashard. I stopped for a drink and then when I went to get back on the bike I really noticed the heat. It was like 40 degrees. I got a little lost trying to find the centre and had to follow a family on a scooter. Then trying to find the hotel recommended to me I met some guys from sweeten ali and ali. They were part of a group of 30 who were studying Islam and said I could crash in their re hotel.
So after 5 days I finally had a shower. They got me some lunch and I spent the afternoon with them. One of the guys had internet access which was great because I had been trying for days. With no luck. I needed to get the phone number and address of a popular guest house with cyclists and it was within walking distance from the Turkmen embassy which was a great help.
To cut the story short I ended up at the guest house and I am just sleeping outside in the court yard next to my bike. There are 4 cyclists here and a few other backpackers. 3 cyclists are from Sweden. Father, son and a friend and one from Switzerland. who I will now ride out with and cross over the border into Turkmenistan with. There is also a couple here from Australia who are returning on a motor bike.
DAY 116: MASHARD – SARAKAS lESS 80 KM
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 19:20 – DISTANCE: 112 KM – RIDE TIME 6H 20
I have a cycling companion for the next 10 days or so. Nino is from Switzerland and our visas are both for the 28th July.
With the Turkmen visa they make you specify the actual day you enter and you can’t change it. We had a good morning cycling…………but around 1 p.m. it got very hot and we ended up sleeping under a rock for a few hours. In full view of a herd of goats sheltering from the sun in a tunnel under the road. After our nap the rest of the cycling for the day was difficult.
The head wind was very strong and then we had a steep pass to cross. Once we got over the pass we started to look for somewhere to camp. Before we could do that I was stopped by the police for the first time. Quick flick through the passport and we were on our way. We pulled off the road and camped on a dry river bed out of sight from the road. The sky was so clear…………..I saw a shooting star. The desert is very hot in the day, but in the night it can get quite cold and I had to get my sleeping bag out.
DAY 117. SARAKAS LESS 80 KM – SARAKAS BORDER
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 11:30 – DISTANCE: 77 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H 35
We arrived in Sarakas around lunch time and attracted the eye of the police when we started to set ourselves up in the park. They took our passports and made us follow them out of the park. We then had to wait for a higher ranking police officer to arrive. Then after a lengthy discussion we were told to follow the police on their motor bikes back to the police station. Well that’s at least what we thought. It turned out we were actually getting a police escort to the internet café……….which I had earlier asked for when they were making us wait. Camping seemed to be out so we checked into a cheap hotel and will spend the rest of the day taking it easy before we have a run at the border tomorrow.