Posts Tagged ‘Mashhad’


Today we had a lovely 200km drive through the Iranian countryside, escorted by the Iranian border police – destination Mashhad immigration police station. This after a cordial 4 hour stay in the border station. The normal smiles and warmth I have learned to expect from the Iranians was missing. We were, however, offered one cup of tea! My visa was apparently old and not valid, and both Thomas and I had to pay a visit to Mashhad.

We entered the border post at the Turkmenistan border at 8:15am, we left for Mashhad at 12. Every inch of our luggage was checked without our presence in Mashhad (and on the border), Thomas was interviewed for hours, and I was left outside waiting without any explanation. We were not allowed to call the German embassy (we are both German citizens).

At 18:00 we were allowed to pay for a taxi to bring us back to where we started the day – in Sarakhs. We were also allowed to pay for our extra hotel night in Sarakhs. And we were lucky. If we had been difficult, the normal, longer protocol might have been used, which would involve an extra night in Mashhad and one extra day of delay. In that case, we might have, however, received a documented protocol of our visit. And we might have been able to speak to the German embassy. We chose the shorter protocol, and thanked out interviewer with all our hearts.

Today I felt frustrated. Frustrated that I will no longer be able to cross Turkmenistan by bike in the time remaining on my visa. I felt anger. Why was my visa invalid? I had got it from the official Iranian embassy in Tbilisi. I felt immense irritation. The people checking our papers were cordial but unfriendly. They were going to keep me, and a day was going pass. They were just doing their job. And then I felt helplessness. Noone spoke English at the immigration police in Mashhad, and could not explain the problem. I felt helplessness – we were not allowed to call a friend to translate, and we were not allowed to call the German embassy. I felt helplessness – I waited outside for hours while Thomas was being interviewed not knowing what was happening.

When waiting, my mind invented stories. Things that might be wrong. What if they do this? What if they demand that? I had done nothing wrong. Why am I here?

Thomas was the problem. He was questioned for 2 hours. I was questioned for 5 minutes. We could go. No problem. We spent the trip home in the taxi coming up with theories why it all happened. In brief, we don’t know. How do we feel about the day as a whole? We don’t know. We need to sleep over it.

I now feel I can leave, saying that I know Iran. I have experienced the people – their warmth and hospitality. I have felt the watching eye of the Iranian government. Iran is not like any country I have visited, and I am grateful for the experience to travel here.


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.