One month and more than 1100 km cycled only in Iran… I should split this chapter in 2-3 parts and try to be short … oh là là!
I had a very positive first impact: a warmly welcome at the border, good roads (Armenia were a disaster!), amazing landscapes, tailwind and not so much traffic … pura vida!
The Aras River Valley (Kantal National Park) is very impressive: every 3-7 km a different scenario and different colors. I was pleased and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Entering in a new country means to reset your brain and start again from the beginning (I love it!): learn about the new culture, some basic words, find a SIM card, change money and push the play button. I was so confused at the beginning! Officially there is the Iranian Rial, but people speaks in Tumen (1 Tumen = 10 Rials). At first I thought they wanted to frighten me: “ehiiii, they asked me 5’000 but they took my 50’000 note!!”.
But I learned pretty quickly that hotels and guest-houses are very expensive. In Jolfa a very simple guest-house asked me 45 $ per night … “are you kidding me?!”. So I mounted again on my bike to find something else. It took 2-3 minutes; a car stopped: “Was suchen Sie?” (what are you looking for?). An old man, who lived many years in Germany, didn’t hesitate to invite me at his home. And so everything started … like an avalanche … almost e v e r y s i n g l e d a y.
An exquisite couple! They pampered me: food, shower, food, laundry, food, ch’ai, watermelon, ch’ai … “Uh! The clothes that lie on the balcony should be dry … mmmmh, wait a moment … where are my underwear??” … They had made it. My panties had found their Freedom. I can imagine them as they flight high in the warm skies of Jolfa … Suddenly my panties had become a state affair. Behnaz, my host, started desperately looking into the wardrobes. What she is doing? Suits full of brand new clothes (??), and there was finally THE suitcase she was looking for: overfull of panties. I could choose between ultra mega sexy lace strings (seriously?!? I’m cycling!…) and the only normal cotton panties with … a giant pink leopard.
The leopard had to face his miserable destiny … save the pink leopard. But, I think you are more interested on my everyday cycling- and on my free-time-style:
Left: Happy colorful cyclist with a 3 kg watermelon (that she has not to share!). Right: Happy tourist with blue manteau.
Along my way I met so many lovely people (I will speak about this in the next post). Incredibly in Marand my fate crossed with that of Asghar and his family: all cyclists!! And sorted out that all of theme belong to THE big cyclist-family of Marand! I was extremely tired but, come on! When I will experience this again?!? So we cycled all together near the mountains and we had a great picnic at night:
Left: Asghar family (top) and the big cyclist-family of Marand (bottom). Right: happy cyclists on the way to Tabriz, where we reached Asghar wife’s family.
Iranians are Master in organizing picnics. They can stop everywhere to enjoy their meal, even on the edge of the highway! Most importantly, in Iran you have to bokhor, bokhor, bokhor, … (eat) ... Women cook for hours and hours, even the whole day …. delicious. The best food I’ve ever had during this trip.
They made me try so many things. Some I’m not even able to describe: a multitude of ingredients (like a sort of jam made of 16 ingredients).
The first 10 days I was in Iran, it was still Ramadan time. For me, that I’m a tourist, was not a problem. I just had to avoid eating and drinking in crowded areas like villages and cities. When the Ramadan was finished, villages and towns were an explosion of life: burning charcoal, smell of grilled meat, markets, shops and everywhere barrels full of ch’ai for travelers who wanted to fill their thermos.
Everything was just great, BUT I was pretty disappointed about the roads: highway, trucks, highway, trucks … not a paradise for cyclists.
Generally I ask to the locals about the conditions of the roads because, of course, they know better. When I was asking about a secondary road the song was always the same: “neeeeeeee, no good, wery wery bad! no asphalt!”… But after Ardabil Josephine was pretty insisting: “Stef, the road to Astara, that then continue along the Caspian Sea, will be horrible”. To the devil, I’ll try the secondary road!
Again, following my instict was a good choice … the best one! I was in a wonderful, fairly deserted, asphaltet road. Pura vida!
After few days, when I met some cyclists, sorted out that the Caspian Sea road is a nightmare … muuhahaahhaha!
So, I did my way to Masouleh (with a small help in the most steep part … come on! there were 46 °C!) … I was so happy. I was doing exactly what I wanted, in a place that was even better than in my dreams.
Finally the road became very steep. Like on a rollercoaster when you reach the apex, the heart starts to beat fast, the adrenaline rises by the excitement of what you will see on the other side and …
… arms to the sky! … wooooooooooooooohhhhh!!!!
From the desert I had passed to a humid and hot jungle. Surreal! After the thick fog and the applause of the Iranian tourists who consumed their picnics on the road, I reached Masouleh. Good job Bicio!
In Masouleh I got the E-mail I was waiting for: my invitation letter for Uzbekistan was ready, I could start the VISA application. Next destination: Tehran … as fast as possible!