Let’s talk a little about Iranians. They are exquisite people and they will do everything to help you. Like that family near Fuman: 7 in a car, roof stuffed with things and a chair; they wanted to give me a lift … are you kidding me?! ahahah! (why I didn’t took a picture!?!).
I don’t know how many time I was stopped on the road. While I was speaking with the men, with the tail of the eye I saw women and grandmothers groping in their bags: apricots, cherries, peaches, candy, bread, …. “No! No! Thank you! I have everything I need!” …They looked in my eyes: “Bokhor“. “No really! I don’t have space for all these things!” and I show them my overloaded bike and the full bags … No way: “Bokhor … Bokhor Ch’ai”. Every time it was a huge investment of time and energy … after one week, exhausted, I raised the white flag: … I surrender! So, I started to say always “yes” and I accepted all what was offered to me. One day ended with 6 breads and a bag full of fruits.
Every day I had an invitation at their homes. I love to stay with the locals and be connected with them, eat their food, listen their chatting, BUT sometimes you just need some privacy … yes, because in some iranian families you don’t have a moment of respite. Like that day, sitting on the throne trying to send a fax: toc toc … “Estebani? Estebani?”…
I met the two sides of Iran: a very open one, dreaming about a revolution and an extremely conservative one … both of them were absolutely lovely and extremely generous with me! One night I was in a small and conservative village in a very basic house made of mud and bricks, the night after I was sitting on an ultra design sofa in a villa with marble floors and bronze statues … sometimes I had to shake myself to be sure I was not dreaming.
I have so many stories and memories that deserve to be written here!…”thank you Stef, so why just landscapes in your pictures?”…. Right. Because Iran has a sort of PARANOIA. I was stopped twice by bourgeois police. One police man followed me, he knew exactly how many pictures I took and he wanted to see all the other 1345 photos in my camera. Just keep calm and show them what they want to see:
Even when I arrived in Mashhad I was stopped in the middle of the road: they called another patrol and three other bourgeois cops. My pass was jumping from hand to hand and all the guys were at the phone giving my data to somebody. I could see terror in the eyes of the locals passers-by. Finally somebody speaks to me: “What are you doing?” … Are you kidding me? I looked at me and at Bicio: we were dirty, I was tired and still I had to find a hotel (20:30)… Stef, stay calm … “I’m a tourist”. And they jump back at their phones … Such a theatre! It was so obvious that I was not a spy, but it took 1 hour to theme. So I avoided to be noticed, to take pictures in the cities and to the people.
The Swiss cyclist was not always nice and kind … sometimes I was soooo angry! Specially when my safety was put in danger. Cars were driving very close and pushing me out of the road just to ask me where I’m from.
In an extremely busy roundabout in Mashhad a guy almost caused an accident (of course with me in the middle) … he wanted to give me a banana! Near Darban a men cut me off the way and pushed me out of the road to give me his phone from the passenger window; a young woman: “Heeeeello!!! How are you? Where are you from?”… I was so angry … and then all the people who were stopping me just to take a selfie with me. Don’t get me wrong, but when you are exhausted, it is very hot and you are in miserable conditions, the last thing you want is taking selfies with strangers (photos that then will be published in Imo, Telegram, Instagram, Whatsapp, …).
After one month in Iran I was exhausted BUT … happy and extremely grateful. I always say that my trip is not about bicycle, but about people … wow, Iran was just incredible. Culture, people, hospitality, food, traditions, contradictions, politic … so interesting.
Every time I was leaving their homes I could feel a compression on my chest. When also men are moved because your departure, it means that something happened. Well imprinted is the image of all of them in front of the door of their homes, looking at me while I’m leaving. The last thing I heard was the water spilled on the ground behind my back (as wish that a guest come back)… and water gushed out from my eyes. Yes, in Iran people did my trip. Thank you.
I was impressed by the women and the young generations: it is not easy there. Many are desperately trying to quit the country … but you know what? They try to be happy, they try to enjoy the little freedom they have. I saw parks full of families organizing picnics, I saw cars overloaded with smiling people, I saw bazar full of life, I heard laughter, … They know how to live, or at least they try. We can learn a lot from theme.
Iran is not so good for cycling or at least not on the main roads. A couple of time I took the bus to avoid the crazy traffic (entering in Tehran was really an experience!) or because the lack of time…the country is huge and in summer it is difficult because the heat.
I menage to bike about 1200 km in beautiful secondary roads and … I menage to get THE visa…The transit visa for Turkmenistan. Many has been refused and many had to change their plans (costs of time and money) … I had it: 5 days to cross the Karakum desert, about 520 km, from Saraks to Farap … I was ready for the oven!
p.s. it was hard to select the pictures…enjöy the gallery.