Three cyclists – briefly. Tea with the nomads. Riding the camels. Bats fluttering around in a huge cavern. Camping looking out over the wide expanse of barren, dry landscape. The desert is near.

Camels

Camels

I pulled up. And turned. A German number plate. It was a German that had driven from Munich, and was heading for Tajikistan. We met him again 2 km further down the road, where he had caught up with Thomas – another German cyclist that I had met in Tehran at the Turkmenistan embassy, and then again yesterday in Mashhad. Briefly there were three of us – Michael, Thomas and me. Michael continued when we stopped to say hello to some nomads, and we didn’t see him again.

The nomads invited us in to have a cup of tea.

In the nomad's tent

In the nomad’s tent

There were some flies

There were some flies

The nomads

The nomads

Then, just a few hundred metres further down the road, we saw camel herders. Before we knew it, we were on top of a camel, plying through the herd. It was a challenge getting off the camel. The camel didn’t like it much, groaned a lot, and refused to be patted. It was an amazing experience passing through the masses of camels. We were really welcomed by the lovely camel herders. They invited us for tea, but we had to move on.

Camels

Camels

Our camp is on the top of a mountain ridge that passes through the flat desert. From our tents, you can see for miles and miles over the arid plains below. Behind us is an entrance to a massive cavern inside the rock. We entered with our head torches to marvel at the bats circling. We are under the kind protection of the men from the military base. They showed us the caves, and are making sure we are safe.

Visiting the bats

Visiting the bats

Our military protection

Our military protection


Not every day is a scenery highlight. The road was straight, flat and boring, and the wind was against us. Coming into Mashhad, Def Leppard gave me energy, and it was like a spin racing class, with sprints and acrobatics on the highway. I laughed as I saw the signs for Mashhad count down the kilometres. I have come a long way from home, and I am happy.

Resting on a carpet couch

Resting on a carpet couch

Its now time for a day or two of recovery before the Turkmenistan dash – 550km in 5 days. My legs and bum are sore, and it is time for a rest.


An early night with zero entertainment seemed very appealing, so, a hotel was on the agenda. Only, we couldn’t find a hotel. Turn left at the roundabout and then straight on. No, back where we came from. Hotels in Iran are hidden, but, we found one. Didn’t find a restaurant though.

Some lamb heads

Some lamb heads

The road was straight and flat with a slight tailwind. We cycled some effortless kilometres along a wide, barren valley. The only interest was another police passport check.

View off the side of the road

View off the side of the road

Quchan seems to be very conservative. All women walk around fully covered in black. Even the hairdresser has thick curtains so as to prevent men from seeing women unveiled.

Hairdresser

Hairdresser


Some acrobatics as I escaped from our humble abode followed by a steep descent and then a long slog up to Bojnurd.

The road to Bojnurd

The road to Bojnurd

Again the scenery changed – from the bare high mountain scenes to a wide flat green valley, still at 1000m. Cycling you see the changes slowly pass by, and you feel the rises and the drops. Michael needed to get a new pedal, and so our destination was the bike shop. We now find ourselves staying with a friend of a bike shop people – a warm welcome in this sunny city.


Farming country, dense forest, picnickers, wild pigs being fed (maybe they should be called tame pigs), rugged, dry, high mountain plains. Tailwind, sidewind. Sun. We are sleeping on the carpets in the mosque meeting room. A beautiful day.

The road to Chaman Bid

The road to Chaman Bid

We started today at 100m and climbed to 1500m, and saw the landscape change. The Golestan National Park marked the start of the greenery. And it was dense. Lots of weekend picnickers were out and about, lying on their rugs in the shade, or feeding the wild pigs. Others were cruising down the road with the car windows open and the music thumping.

Wild (?) pigs in the Golestan National Park

Wild (?) pigs in the Golestan National Park

Golestan National Park

Golestan National Park

Then the scenery changed to dry. It was nice to see the transformation take place.

On the way to Chaman Bid

On the way to Chaman Bid

On the way to Chaman Bid

On the way to Chaman Bid

On the way to Chaman Bid

On the way to Chaman Bid

We’re at the top of the high pass. Tomorrow first down before climbing into Bojnurd.

Day 125. 99km. Aliabad – Loveh

Posted: August 14, 2015 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Sitting in the little village of Loveh, we are the talk of the town tonight. We have just talked with the next group of kids that came to visit with their mothers. Our tents are set up next to a bubbling brook looking out over the valley. It will be an early night tonight.

Our camping spot in Loveh

Our camping spot in Loveh

Given our 2am descent into slumber yesterday evening, our departure was quite late. We waved our kind hosts goodbye, and cycled into the grey. We couldn’t see the mountains, or much at all. A highlight was the stop to celebrate my 10000km. At 10008km we stopped in a town to celebrate properly with cake, and at 10015km our passports were checked.

10000km

10000km

A day on the road on the way to Mashhad.

P.S. ‘Hello!’
I stick my head out of the tent. A man is there with his little boy and a plate of food. He stokes up the fire, and we sit around trying to find room in our stomachs for the extra food. The boy takes a stick, puts it in the fire, and makes patterns in the air with the glowing embers. They smile. We smile. Hand on our heart – ‘mamnun’ – ‘thank-you!’


Then came the stew with rice and yoghurt. And the fruit. At 1am. My head is spinning from experiences and exhaustion – cycling, jungle waterfall walk, fireside grill and live music in the mountain village, live audition of people playing the tar in the town. We must stay another day – we must stay they say, but the kilometres to Mashhad need to be cycled. Happy and tired, I collapse into bed.

Playing tha tar

Playing tha tar

We missed out welcoming committee cycling into Aliabad. They stopped the car and got out as we cycled past entering Aliabad.
‘Welcome to Iran. Welcome to Aliabad.’
We waved, said hi, and cycled on. This happens every 10 minutes in Iran, and we had our friends to meet in the city. Then my phone buzzed – an SMS – we are behind you. Then a call. We followed our friends Mustafa and team to their home.

Our friends in Aliabad

Our friends in Aliabad

The Caspian Sea region is green. Rice plantations and other farms, with high, jungled mountains rising on the horizon. We were taken to a famous waterfall near Aliabad, and ascended through the steep greenery to have a cup of tea admiring the waterfall.

On the way to the waterfall

On the way to the waterfall

The waterfall

The waterfall

Tea at the waterfall

Tea at the waterfall

Then meal number 1 – kebab and rice – at the base of the waterfall.

Whisked away to a mountain village, and we sat down on an open outhouse, warmed by the log fire. The chickens were killed, and grilled. A friend of Mustafa – famous in Iran – came to play the guitar and sing.

The fire and the music

The fire and the music

The music

The music

Then back to the town for a rendition of the tar. Amazing music, and a group of very happy, lovely people. Who knows what is going to happen next. We go with the flow.

Back to our host’s house, another meal is waiting – meal number 3 since our late lunch. What a lovely afternoon and evening.

Late dinner

Late dinner

Oh. And we cycled 93km along some side roads. A lot less noisy and pleasant. ☺