Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Day 125. 99km. Aliabad – Loveh

Posted: August 14, 2015 in Cycling, Iran
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. ☺


Lying on my mat, I look up at the millions of stars. The frogs are croaking, and the cicadas chirping. The mud flat next to the tents leads off towards the Caspian Sea. Its warm and still. What a cool place to be. And I have cycled here!

View from our camping spot on the Caspian Sea

View from our camping spot on the Caspian Sea

The day started with drizzle and a main road. Getting through the kilometres we need to cover to get to Turkmenistan in time means stretches of straight, busy roads. Rather uninspiring. My mind wanders, thinking of all sorts of things. Then I see a sign to Mashhad, and a shiver runs down my spine. I am really here – in the territory of the world touring cyclist. I have ready many blogs, seen many videos, and now here I am. Then a man and his little boy on a motor-bike stop in front of us and give us strawberries. Another family pull over and welcome us to their home in a town 180km further along. Then back to eating up the kilometres in this friendly country.

Strawberries

Strawberries

A friendly encounter

A friendly encounter

We turn off the main road at Bandar-e-Gaz, and then, there it is – the Caspian Sea. There are a few little clothes shops, and kiosks and people hanging around. I am really excited.

In front of the Caspian Sea

In front of the Caspian Sea

The rush to Mashhad seems less ominous now. We only need to average 100km per day after 3 kilometre-rich days. Maybe a lie-in tomorrow on the Caspian Sea. ☺


Cycling through Iran is about the people. The road to Mashhad was long, hilly, and full of dangerous truck drivers. Then we arrived and were welcomed into our friend’s family. The smiles on their faces – the twinkle in the eyes of 95 year old mother and father of the family – their kindness and lovingness, make cycling in Iran so special.

Lovely family in Babol

Lovely family in Babol

We arrived in Qaem Shahr as exhausted oily grease spots. The road through the mountains leading up to the high pass is never flat, climbing, then falling, and then climbing again. All this was done in the bright sun. Then descending towards the Caspian Sea, the weather changed – it was colder and started to rain. We were almost run off the road several times by some reckless truck drivers ploughing through roadworks. Our altercation with a truck driver was all made good when a man in a little shop saw it, welcomed us in, and gave us drinks and food. He was as angry about the trucks as we were.

Road to the Caspian Sea

Road to the Caspian Sea

Our evening was amazing. We met the whole family – the two brothers and their happy, smiling, welcoming 95 year-old parents. They are all so keen to show us how the people of Iran are – welcoming people, that, like everyone else in the world, just want to enjoy life, and be part of the world community.

Day 121. 111km. Tehran – Jaban

Posted: August 2, 2015 in Cycling, Iran
Tags: , , ,

Uphill through Tehran to collect our visa, and then onwards and upwards towards the Caspian Sea. Teenage kids with sticks, cramp, and lots of ‘no’s when we asked to camp made today a rather uninspiring day.

Cyclist in Iran

Cyclist in Iran

James is on his way back to Taiwan, and I now have a new cycling partner – Detlef – or, as he calls himself in English – Michael. It’s a different dynamic, and a different (and nice) cycling experience. Detlef is very forward which can charm people, but can also tell people how it is. I notice my different approach with a commonwealth upbringing. More quiet and reserved.

Leaving Tehran was stressful, with cars, buses and other vehicles cutting you off, and driving as if you don’t exist. Other drivers blast their horns in admiration and greeting, but, somehow, we could not appreciate them today.

Picnicking near the Tajikistan embassy where we collected our visa, some teenage kids decided to play smart-ass. One wanted to show the others how tough he was by brandishing a big stick at us. A stern stare from both me and Michael, and a few words from a passer-by fixed the problem.

Stopped by cramp and the setting sun, we tried to find a place to camp where we happened to find ourselves (amongst orchards – apples?). Our requests for a place to camp was met with lots of ‘no’ responses, and gates closed in our face. We find ourselves now hidden in an orchard on some (moderately) flat ground. It will be an early morning tomorrow before we are found. ☺


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!


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