Another pause – this time in Tehran. Time to make a new video. Hope you like it!!


Another day blown along by the wind. Today was the finale of this leg of the trip. We cycled along the freeways entering Tehran, and then through the ‘push through or be flattened’ traffic to our lovely host’s place. Time for visa shopping and a rest.

Tehran

Tehran

Visa shopping in Iran.
I need a visa for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. We spent days haggling with taxis to take us from one embassy to the next. We walked miles finding printing shops near the embassies to print out application forms – some in colour as required by the Turkmenistan officials. (We could have done the printing the evening before, but we still hadn’t filled out the forms – not well organized, I guess.) I was helped by a businessman who took me back to his office to print out some documents. A manager of an English language school also printed out some documents for us, and took us to a colour printing shop in the bowels of the earth, with signs heralding its appearance only in farsi. We visited the German embassy for various documents of invitation required by several embassies. I went through a repeat process of reactivating my Iranian SIM card – a 2 hour process of ringing hotlines, printing, signing and fingerprinting documents. After 3 days I collapsed. I needed a rest. Now its just a waiting game for the embassies to process my applications. Now I can sleep!


The day was sunny and the wind was howling at our back. The team of 5 (me, James, Davide, Michael and Simon) roared along, overtaking trucks, and cruising without pedalling at 35 km/h. Tonight, we find ourselves staying with Majid and his family. A wonderful guy, and amazing hospitality!

An amazing dinner

An amazing dinner

The truck slowed down, and Simon latched on, being pulled along. Then Michael joined. Then the others. But the truck was slow – driving at 30 km/h. I zoomed past. The wind was amazing, and it was so much fun – cruising down the road towards Tehran.

Another lunch stop lounging on the carpet tables.

Rest

Rest

Relaxing

Relaxing

The only downer for today was returning to my bike to find that my sunglasses were stolen. Sigh. There is a shop that sells cycling sunglasses in Tehran, so, it is all good.

Standing on the side of the street in Hashtgerd, shopping in hand, we were asking around for a nice park for camping. ‘There is a park, but come to my house!’
Majid invited all 5 of us to stay with him and his family. When we arrived, his wife had prepared an enormous spread of food. Every day we are blown away with the Iranian hospitality. Beautiful country!

Day 118. 97km. Zanjan – Abhar

Posted: July 21, 2015 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

A new mega-group of touring cyclists has formed. Five of us left Zanjan this morning, and five of us arrived in a vet’s farmhouse this evening, sharing a dinner we cooked for our host on the verandah. And in between, we had a siesta on the carpeted sitting platforms of a taxi office. As you do, cycling through Iran.

Evening in Abhar

Evening in Abhar

We left late, and were blown along in the sunny warmth. We had a lot to talk about, sharing stories and ideas, and before we knew it, we had covered 70km. We were called in to drink tea – at the local taxi office. Some had tea. Some watched the English language news they had put on for us. And some slept.

Tea in the local taxi office

Tea in the local taxi office

Someone is tired

Someone is tired

Our search for a camping spot ended up with us being invited to stay in this guy’s farmhouse. We cooked up a storm as the sun went down, bathing the scene in a soft light. When we need something (a place to sleep), the universe provides. Every day I look forward to seeing what it is that will be provided. Always unexpected.


The cold weather has gone. Today James and I cycled against a hairdryer hurricane in a desolate landscape, passing our milestones of 9000km and 10000km. We are staying together with 3 other cyclists at our warm shower host Behnam in Zanjan. Its good to be amongst cyclists. ☺

Passing 9000km

Passing 9000km

The wind can make or break a cyclist’s day. Today it was a mixed bag – mostly a ferocious side/head wind, sometimes a full headwind, and for some brief moments, a tail wind. We cycled 10 km/h today. We also cycled 35 km/h. It was our main conversation point of the day. Who can take the wind while to other rode in the slipstream? If the next bend in the road could give some relief from the wind. Whether some side hills might deflect the wind briefly. James’ 10000km mark was passed rather unceremoniously. A quick photo and onwards. I took a short video of him cycling past some tumbling tumbleweed.

We arrived at 20.00 in Zanjan – two little greasy oil spots, and were soon whisked away with 3 other cycle tourists, and many others – 15 of us crammed into a small van to the top of the hill overlooking Zanjan for dinner. The music was pumping as we zoomed along. Every day is different. And exciting!

Dinner in Zanjan

Dinner in Zanjan


We’re on the cycle tourist Silk Road. Amir in Miyaneh knows that we were in Marand, and are on our way. Cyclists from Marand pass Miyaneh four days later on the touring cyclist freeway. People wave at us constantly, and some pass the information on. And Amir arrives.

Friends in Miyaneh

Friends in Miyaneh

Just before entering Miyaneh we were pulled over by a guy who pulled out his Nokia phone, put on my sunglasses, and started interviewing James with me as the cameraman (using his phone). He has been working for 14 years in communications.
‘Where are you from?’
‘What do you think of Iranian people?’
‘How do you know this?’
And so the conversation continued, with constant checking that I was satisfactorily filling my role as cameraman.
I was from Germany (I change my story to fit my mood), which meant I could answer questions about Hitler and the war. And I could behold his French language (which I couldn’t understand).

Interview

Interview

So, our days are punctuated with fascinating – if somewhat surreal – encounters.

Our encounter with Amir was not surreal, but fascinating. He is a motivated, energetic young man with many ideas for his town. He is working on setting up a cyclist caravan sarei in the town, and is working on an anti-rubbish campaign. He was great to talk to, and a wealth of information and energy!


‘We are from the information police. Come with us.’
An ID was waved in front of us by one of the young men, clad in a leather jacket, that had pulled us over with their motor scooter. This resulted in a ride downhill back into the village, SD cards checked, sparkling grape juice drank, and word of a letter to all young Americans and Europeans (like us) from the great leader Khomeni.

Eating watermelons

Eating watermelons

Eating watermelons

Eating watermelons

But, of course, we don’t have a photo of the interrogation (thank goodness – a photo of that would have taken some explaining). We do have footage of us consuming watermelons – which has now been checked by the information police. There were many watermelon sellers on the side of the road. We were also invited in by a shop-keeper that is an avid cyclist. He showed us lots of photos of his cycling trips through Iran.

The wind was with us, and had blown us up the hill from Tabriz. We were leaving the small town of Bostanabad, and were pleased to have climbed the last hill before the next town many kilometres away. Not to be, as we were pulled over by two young men, beards neatly trimmed, that had the air of religious missionaries.
‘How are you? Please come with us.’
We really didn’t want to, all the way back downhill, but it became clear that refusing was not an option. Down we went, receiving repeated apologies.
Into the army barracks.
‘This is a camera?’ They were looking at the GoPro. ‘Give me the SD card. And your passports.’
Then we were ushered inside.
‘Do you speak Farsi?’
‘No.’
Then the water came out. And then the red grape sparkling juice.
The great leader was watching us from his portrait on the wall.
‘He is our great leader: Khomeni. Have you studied him?’
Um.. Not sure of the answer there.
‘Have you read the letter he has written to all young Americans and Europeans?’
‘Have you got it there?’ asked James. ‘Is it on the internet?’
An answer was not forthcoming.
‘You should study the letter.’
I would love to.

After about 20 minutes, my GoPro SD card with watermelon consumption footage was returned (formatted with all photos and videos deleted), and we were allowed to continue.

We now find ourselves in the ruins of a Silk Road caravan sarai. We set-up shop, cooked our dinner in a little arched alcove, and did the dishes, all before dark.

Preparing dinner

Preparing dinner

Preparing dinner

Preparing dinner

Oh. And yesterday was our day off – we walked around the Grand Bazaar in Tabriz, seeing fluorescent chicks, piles of sugar cubes, and whatever the heart desires.

Fluorescent chicks

Fluorescent chicks