Posts Tagged ‘Iran’


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


Sun and tailwind on a boring road. As we approached Tabriz the traffic increased, and we plied the city freeways to the hotel we had to book to get our Iranian visa. Tomorrow a day of R&R to see Tabriz and finally shake off this cold.

Marand at sunrise

Marand at sunrise

The day started with a glorious sunrise at the mountain cottage in Marand, and then a welcome breakfast with Akbar and the team. After that, it was over a hill and along a flat to Tabriz, with my raking cough increasing in frequency and volume.


Mohammed’s face is lit by the flickering light as we sit around the fire next to his little hut, perched on the top of the hill overlooking Marand. The shepherd has brought his flock back to sleep, and we sit and breathe in the silence.

The sheep at sunset

The sheep at sunset

James and I are the 545th and 546th cyclists to be welcomed by Akbar in Marand. We are the 6th and 7th guests that have had the fortune to stay with Mohammed in his solitary hut. We walk around the bald hill as the sun sinks behind the mountains, bathing the landscape in an orange, soft light. The sheep grazing in the evening light are being moved on by the shepherd on a donkey. It is an idyllic place. Around the campfire and in the hut, silence reigns. Just the crackling of the wood stove and the whooshing of the light breeze.

The hut perched on the hill

The hut perched on the hill

Sunset at Marand

Sunset at Marand

Riding the donkey

Riding the donkey

The shepherd

The shepherd

Akbar is known far and wide in the cyclist community. The truck drivers plying the highway alert Akbar of oncoming cyclists, and so he is always there to greet them and usher them back to his shop. And so it was today. Sitting in Akbar’s shop, sipping tea and eating cake, looking out at the street bathed in sunshine, we think back on the day. We feel like we have entered a different world. The sun is shining, it is warm, and it feels like we are finally in the Middle-East.

Akbar's shop

Akbar’s shop

Friends in Marand

Friends in Marand


We are in Iran! Yay!!! Today we cycled along the most amazing valley. Steep, barren mountains rising vertically upwards towards the heavens. Snow-capped mountains in the distance. And it is warmer. We have crossed into a new world.

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The valley started like a deep chasm with cliff-faces rising up on both sides. Slowly, it opened out. Grassy plains, poppies swaying in the (head) wind, and massive peaks looming behind. We stopped often for photos, and rejoiced the warmer weather.

Steep chasms

Steep chasms

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa

The road to Jolfa


Why plan in such detail? And so far ahead? Well, that’s my ordered side. Things need to be arranged. Leave nothing to chance. And that is exactly what a trip like this can never be like.. That also makes it exciting. Still, planning can help make broad global decisions that will affect the whole trip. And it is also a lot of fun!

In September 2014 I will be leaving Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to cycle to Adelaide, Australia, where I was born. After cycling through Europe in 2014, the second stage of my trip starts in Istanbul in Turkey around March 2015, and sees me end somewhere in South-East Asia. There are lots of options, and lots of decisions to make. Here is the current planned route.

World Cycle Trip 2015: Route Through Asia

World Cycle Trip 2015: Route Through Asia

At first I was a bit irritated when I discovered that, perhaps, my timing was a bit skew. I have planned too much time. Leaving Istanbul in February/March to get to Tajikistan on June 1 where I would meet up with my cycling friend Chris. But, hey, this is a cycle trip of a lifetime. No stress. No hectic agenda. I am going to take my time and see places not many people have the privilege to see. I am going to take detours. This route is the basis. I am now collecting ideas for detours – interesting places to see and things to do!

Here are the countries I will be cycling through with some thoughts on my route through them.

In Turkey I might stick to the Black Sea coast and enter into Georgia, Armenia, and possibly Azerbijan. But in the correct order. The relationships between the countries in the Caucus are complex, and in researching the trip I am discovering things I never knew existed – self proclaimed countries recognised by no-one except themselves – Abkhazia and Nagorna-Karabagh.

In Iran I may head south through Isfahan and Shiraz as recommended by Bernadette Speet. The major decisions that affect the global route take place in China. Strict laws in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), expensive (compulsory) tours that need to be taken there, roads blocked for tourists, length of Chinese visas, timing of wet and hot season in Bangladesh, lack of roads leading to massive detours on the Tibetan Plateau, the impossibility of crossing Myanmar. All these affect my route through China, and, inevitably, what the whole trip looks like. I would like to have a connected route entirely covered by bike – and I would like to see Bangladesh. The only option is to fly.

My planning continues – fine tuning the European and Asian route, and also putting together the third and final stage of the trip – the ‘South-East Asian’ leg.. 🙂


It has been a long road to arrive at this point, but actually, the road is just starting. Its exciting beyond belief, and bloody scary too. In September I will be leaving my job of 16 years and cycling from Eindhoven, the Netherlands – where I now live, to Adelaide, Australia – my birthplace. There is a lot of preparation to be done. I need to shed all my worldly possessions, learn a bit more about bike maintenance, arrange all sorts of paperwork, and plan the route.

You guys all helped me with my cycle trip in 2013 to the North Cape in Norway. You gave me great tips on my planned route, and I was able to meet up with some of you. I would like to do that here again with this more ambitious trip.

Here is a rough idea of how I want to get to Adelaide.
Bildschirmfoto 2014-01-07 um 20.26.05

In the coming weeks I will be putting together a planned route through Europe. It would be great to get some feedback on the route – roads I should take, places I should go.

This dream I had always thought would remain just a dream. It is too risky, too scary, too thrilling. My life situation is such that I can do this now. I am fit enough. I don’t want to look back on my life when on my death bed and think – I had the chance, and I let it go. A good friend of mine summed it up perfectly: Life is not a dressed rehearsal. I am going to do this!

To be continued!