… I surrender!

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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!?!).

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Masouleh

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.

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Masouleh

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?”…

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Can you see the two motorbikes?

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.

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Sunset in the Karaj desert

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:

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The incriminated picture: “why this?!“. He wanted to bring me in the police station, but I refused since schools are not in the black list … PARANOIA!

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.

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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.

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Tilabad

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, …).

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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.

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Yes … she is lovely and she is washing the pink leopard.

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.

 

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Medhi a fantastic guy with a beautiful family … he is THE generous guy who offered me a selfie-stick. Thanks you my friend!

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.

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Let’s do a picnic on a parking place

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.

Tehran

Approaching Tehran … 5 to 7 lines per direction!  ahahha and I was nervous in Yerevan! Cycling in Tehran: done!

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!

Un abbraccio

Stef

p.s. it was hard to select the pictures…enjöy the gallery.

 

 

 

 

Save the pink leopard

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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!

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The other side: Azerbaijan

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.

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Here I reached my firsts 1000 km

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!!”.

Jolfa-3

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.

Nordoz-8An 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.

P1370451The 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.

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Bazar of Tabriz (the biggest covered Bazar in the world) … closed because I was there on Friday (= our Sunday)… lucky me …

Everything was just great, BUT I was pretty disappointed about the roads: highway, trucks, highway, trucks … not a paradise for cyclists.

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On the way to Ardabil

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After kilometers at 45 °C, this is what you want to see … about 0.10 CHF per kg

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Nice archeological museum in Ardabil

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!

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Masouleh-10

After few days, when I met some cyclists, sorted out that the Caspian Sea road is a nightmare … muuhahaahhaha!

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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.

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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 …

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… arms to the sky! … wooooooooooooooohhhhh!!!!

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Masouleh-5

Happy cyclist with yellow trousers

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!

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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!

Un abbraccio

Stef

Stargate is not fiction

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Huston we had a problem … finally solved! More than one month has passed (I even don’t know how long!) and I had experienced sooooo much! But let’s start from the beginning: the end of the Armenia’s chapter … because I think it deserves it.

If you are in Goris you have to visit Tatev. This time I left Bicio in the guest-house because I wanted to experience the longest cable car of the world … a 6 km long “flight” in a majestic scenario.

Tatev-2Big eyes and open mouth … such incredible beauty!

Tatev-9Nothing to complain: monks had a good taste in choosing the location for their monasteries.

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Tatev Monastery

But it was time to move forward to the south, direction Kapan. This is not a radiography of an intestine …

… this is a part of one of the killing-legs-road that you can find in the south Armenia. I even don’t remember how long it was (20-25 km?) … but on the road, according to your calculations (steepness, time duration) you should have reached Nepal.

So yes, sometimes you are just tired (very tired!), you are dirty, you smell, your hair are like the PLAYMOBIL style and you have to find a place where to pitch the tend … but you know what? It just takes two seconds: you stop and you look around you:

Kapan-4…. and you know exactly why you are there and what you are doing … and I’m just pleased about my choice.

Marilù-car

Marilù this is for you

Iran was calling and I was happy to change country, culture and people. Don’t get me wrong, but I should admit that sometimes in the south Armenia I was feeling uncomfortable … just feelings … so I was moving fast towards south.

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Kapan pass: the descent

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Approaching Meghri

In few km the topography changes dramatically:

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Meghri village

and there it is: IRANAgarak-4

I was excited and sort of nervous: they will like my “iranian style”? Have I enough money? Will it work out with all the visas I need? and…? and…? Shut up, and go!

I spent the last night in Agarak, looking at the fabulous sunset, the amazing mountains and discussing about politics with Vahe … yes, because here there are some problems. Bad ones. But everything looked so quite. Silence. Wind. Colors. Desert. There I c an see the border. It is such a pity that in such amazing places like this one some bad things are happening …

Agarak-3

Vahe, his lovely daughter and his beautiful LADA (the last one that I saw)

Armenia was/is just incredible! I was so amazed about the different landscapes, beauties and things you can visit … A M A Z I N G. Armenia has a big touristic potential BUT be aware that they are still not “ready” for the tourism. So, if you are pretentious tourists and rather cheeky, then maybe it is better if you stay home … but you will really miss something. Goodbye Armenia and “Apres”!

Scarf on the head, long trousers and long shirt I was cycling in the land of nobody … I jumped out from my bike and I put my first step in the Iranian territory: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!! I enter in another UNIVERSE… I crossed the Stargate! Stargate is not fiction, it is real. In few seconds I was rounded by a group of iranian women: one was kissing me, the other one was holding my hand and another one wanted a selfie with me … what??!! Incredible.

Everything went pretty smoothly. Completely different culture, completely different people, completely different topography … even the road conditions were great!

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Sorry sister … you can cut my fingers …

What for a good start … A new chapter can start.

 

Un abbraccio

Stef

p.s. Gallery instructions (stil not updated): clicking forward you are moving back on time …so it is cronologically ordered (like Instagram).

Sim-sala-bim!

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(Long post) I had a nice and funny time in the green and vivant Yerevan. I’ve met adorable people who I always remember with a smile.

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Echmiadzin cathedral, considered the Vatican of Armenia

I was in a museum in Echmiadzin, the first cathedral built in Armenia and considered the oldest cathedral in the world. I was taking forbidden pictures (I was not the only one!), when suddenly a museum manager came to me: “Shveyts’aria?” (Switzerland?) … oh shhhh…! They even know where I come from! Should I confirm or deny it? … “yeeeees ?” …“ARI!” (come!). Uuuuhi it didn’t sound good … I was worry. At the entrance there was she: Susan!?!? A middle-aged woman I met on the crowded minibus 1 hour before. Susan mobilized the museum in order I would had an introduction to the history of the cathedral. She even stopped a father (maybe THE Father, from the thick medallion he carried on his chest) to bless me! And she insisted to give me a book (can you imagine how practical it is with the bike) … She was so amazing! Thank you Susan!

Despite the nice memories me and Bicio were happy to jump on the road again. We took the highway, direction Khor Virap.

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Kohr Virap cemetery

Biking on a highway is not so exciting, but in Armenia you don’t have many choices. Basta! I took the risk and I moved in a secondary road … It was the right decision. I found myself among colorful mountains. I reached Dashtakar, where I could place my tent in a public swimming pool … (yes, I was feeling observed)

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Sunset in Dashtakar

I left the small village early in the morning, direction Areni. It was a very long, very hot and very tiring day, BUT  my eyes were soaked of beauty and I had the feeling to bike in an endless painting.

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Finally I was in Areni. I stayed there 2 nights and with Bicio we did an excursion in Noravank. Noravank is a beautiful place, but crowded of people very busy in taking selfies or shouting hysterically to the children … it was a mess and I missed the magic.

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On the way to Novarank

Noravank-4But you do not born magician, you become it … and for this you have to work hard with your mind and with your body. On the other side of the valley I saw a road … Let’s go! (Josephine)

Noravank-11

Gravel road to the incognito … yes, I was pushing the bike most of the time.

I’m not ashamed to say that tears flowed from my eyes like the Trevi’s Fountain … Sim-sala-bim! THE magic had happened:

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Left: Noravank Monastery

I was in that magnificent place completely alone, invaded by colors and perfumes. Pura vida!

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Happy weeping cyclist … no, it is not Photoshop, this is my new skin color.

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Happy cyclist on the road

And how was it on the other side? … Sim-sala-bim! A completely different world:

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Areni village

The way to Goris was pretty demanding … Dirty, sweaty and smelly I stopped after 60 km in a very small village: Saralanj. People were pretty “closed” (or maybe was my aromatic smell!) but … Sim-sala-bim! I met Sirush, the daughter of Jurik.Saralanj-3

I damn myself for not knowing a bit of Russian! Jurik is a really nice and funny person with a lovely family. He was talking soooo much! What is talking about?? What can happen in this tiny village?? There is nothing!! He showed me his hives, his greenhouse and animals and he made me enter into his house.

Saralanj-1

I look at him while he takes care of his bees and his plants until late at night … Why when at home I pronounced “Armenia” all turned up their nose? Why? … I left Jurik, Sirush, Luzik and Arsen with tears flowing along my face.

The way from Saralanj to Goris: up and down and a lot of wind. Please! Pity! (Morena & Priscilla).

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Vorotan

Highway

Busy highway

Finally I was in Goris, and my thermometer stops to show 41 °C. The old Goris is a very interesting cave village … I don’t know why, but I am very attracted by these kind of villages and I have to enter everywhere! I spent hours there.

Goris-3Goris-4

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Happy tourist with orange jacket

In the evening my soul become calm, like a swollen river that reaches its sea. My thoughts go to my loved ones, who are at home worried with a thousand of anxieties … if only they could experience just a moment of what I’m living!…

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… switch off your TV and all the disinformative news. Put on your comfortable shoes and go to see with your eyes how beautiful are the world and the people … You can also be a magician … Sim-sala-bim!

Un abbraccio

Stef

 

I got the Tattoo

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I am not a great lover of cities. I was already resigned: “stef, you will have to stay here for 2 weeks because of the Iranian visa …” (yes, it is Josephine) “… in the cities people are very different from the countryside; be ready to spend this time in solitude”.

Yerevan-9

I was ready. So, in my second day in Yerevan I focused on finding some parts for the bicycle. I was looking for this (exactly: 450 km without a spare inner tube):

Special

… and I found a warm welcome, a coffe, small presents, many advidses about the routes and …Special-1

… a delicious lunch! These guys are just great!! … at Specialized are working really special people. Thank you my friends!

Special-2But it is not over. They even made me a little tour and together we visited the museum of the Armenian genocide.

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Tsitsernakaberd, Armenian genocide memorial complex

Yes, because Armenia has its story as well … a sad story. Like all those that we still heard today … You get out of the museum with a boulder of lead on your chest and with the awareness that it will happen again … because we have not yet learned anything from the past.

I wanted to put my feet in another place where history took place. In spring 1962, the statue of Stalin was removed: one soldier killed and many injured. Wow! I try to imagine that day!… The statue was replaced by the Mother Armenia, designed by Ara Harutyunyan.

But between history and culture you need also a bit of leisure and pleasure. I needed to polish Morena and Priscilla … and when the beautician looks at your legs in this way there is a reason …

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My legs looked like a pretty well done hairy Picasso: hematomas of all kinds of colors and shapes … and now, finally, I can exhibit THE Tattoo. It is well known by all the bike travelers: no matter how many times you wash it, he will be always there.

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In these 4 weeks I noticed that the bicycle transmits a very dramatic message. People think that if you are on a bicycle: you are hungry, you are thirsty, you have no money, you are out of luck, you need tremendous help and you have to eat, eat and eat because you need a lot of energy.

The delightful family where I stay in Yerevan is taking care of me … I’m really feeling like part of the family and Gohar, Nelson and Areg give me all what I need: love and food.

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Mmmm in my breakfast there is somenthing strange …

But I cannot stay in a city too long. Full of energy I left for 2 day excursion. Direction Geghard and Garni. Pure freedom! Pura vida!

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Geghard

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Geghard monastery inside

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Garni temple

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Symphony of stones: pure music for the eyes

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Garni-4I planned to stay there just 1 night, but I had 4 good reasons to stay one day more. 1) this (ok):

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3 Gs Camping place … Sandra knows what do you need …

2) …this one made me melting down:

3Gs-23) …this one was really a good point:

3Gs-4BUT 4) most of all the beautiful people I met there. After one month finally I found other travelers … and what for travelers! Super interesting people, incredible stories and lots of laughter!

Yerevan-7No, in Yerevan I never was feeling alone. No, in Yerevan I never was bored. These 4 weeks “around” have been very intense. I have the impression that I already experienced so much. As precious crystals I keep all these memories in my mind and in my heart … and I hope to share many of them.

Wednesday I will receive the Iranian visa and on Thursday I will leave for the south Armenia. The show must go on!

Un abbraccio

Stef

 

Gampr … armenian gampr

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GyumriWow, me and Bicio are traveling in time. The rural campaign took us 100 years back in time. And now, after about 60 km southward, we reached Gyumri and we dived in the 70′-80’s. Even the dress style of people recalls those times and everywhere: LADA, LADA and LADA … I love this car.

Gyumri-3

All these buildings are empty.

Gyumri and his people left me some sadness. The second Armenian city has been almost completely destroyed by the earthquake in 1988… the signs are still visible on the facades of the houses but also on the faces of the people … The town and its inhabitants seem to be abandoned to themselves.

Gyumri-4The weather was not on my side so I stopped in Gyumri for 3 nights. Ophelia, the guest house keeper took care of me and she even read me the cards … Ophelia, the mapreader … wow!

Gyumri-5

In Gyumri many roads are in these conditions … yes, the dog is looking at me.

In Armenia the road conditions are really bad … I quickly realized that the tour across the country villages I wanted to do, could become a torture … the best route? The highway. Positive in biking on the highway is that you never miss the exit. It was an “exotic” experience for me and clearly I was hoping …

Highway-1… to not end up like this poor dog …

Highway-2

But, no danger: Armenian drivers are very respectful. After almost 90 km I began to feel a bit tired. But where to put the tent? Here it is all flat and there is HIM! How do I do if HE sees or feels me? HE … he is Gampr, the Armenian Gampr … and I assure you that when you see one of them running towards you, you start pedaling fast … very fast. These dogs can kill a bear and they can use my legs as a toothpick.

One day I met one very close. I could feel his warm humid breath on my right leg … everytime I think about it I burst out: the people on the roadside were all stuck like stockfishes with their opened mouths looking at the scene, maybe waiting to see who would emerge victorious … Gesùgiuseppemariamaddalena it was sooo close!

So I decided to stop in the next village and ask for permission to place my tent in the garden of somebody. I reached Sharam … and when you see this:

Sharam-1… you found this:

Sharam-2

Arthur, Alex, Ani, Susanna, Bareck and Karim thank you so much for your lovely hospitality and shots of vodka 🙂

The tent remained in the backpack (again) and Bareck (on the back … I’m a poet) and his lovely family hosted me for one night. I spent a beautiful evening with these wonderful people.

Finally, I was on the way to Yerevan (1.2 Mio. inhabitants)  … and there it is, with the mount Ararat on the right.

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I admit that getting into the city made me increase the adrenaline: biking in the intense traffic, on a road of a total of 6 lanes, has made me climb a bit up the ego.

In Yerevan, me and Bicio we found us in the years 2000 … and I was almost feeling at home … almost.

Yerevan-2

Now I’m still in the capital waiting for the Iranian visa. Am I bored? Not at all! I will tell you more in the next post.

Un abbraccio, a presto

Stef

 

 

 

 

Never refuse a Ch’ai

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Long time has passed since the last post, but finding an internet connection is not always easy.

Beshtasheni was behind me and I was heading to Vardzia.  Again, people offered me help, a lift and some stopped just to make a selfie with me. A car with two guys stopped me: “You Stepani?” … What? Seriously?! Yes, I am Stepani! The little swiss girl has become a legend … it is said that she was dancing with the wolves …

Because the strong wind I decided to take another road and the fate made me meet Joni! This trip is crazy! There was nothing to do: I begged, I supplicate, but NOTHING! He loaded me into the car and he and his brother brought me to Vardzia.

Vardzia-7Vardzia was just what I needed: tranquility and peace. Even Nazi, the owner of the hotel was THE person I needed. She was cuddling me with her natural products like jams, honey, cheeses and teas. I think that telepathy with some people really exists. Some tourists asked me if I can Georgian … No, I can not! But me and Nazi we understood eachother perfectly. I stayed there 3 days. Vardzia-6

Vardzia-4

Happy tourist in tights.

Finally I was on the way to Armenia … and what for a way! The most demanding thing? Take a selfie …

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Vardzia: on the way to Bavra.

Vardzia-5

When looking back can bring satisfaction.

After about 25 km I asked a young woman, who was hanging out the loundry, in which village I was: Okami. She didn’t hesitate a second and she offered me a tea (ch’ai). Josephine, the little voice jumped out: “Oh no Stef! You have to move on, it’s only 14:30! You’re already late on the roadmap! You have to think about the visas!” … I silenced Josephine and, as for magic, the story repeated again: me, my muddy shoes and beautiful people.

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Okami-2

These people not only saved my day but they made it great! Thank you Salome, your beautiful family, friends and neighbours.

After about 20 minutes a hail storm dropped down and everything became white … it was really cold! Incredible, the ch’ai saved me! … Never refuse a ch’ai. I stayed in Okami one night. Ironically, the day after in Ninotsminda a ch’ai took me in a birthday party where young girls, dancing traditional music, offered me a piece of cake and big smiles.

Armenia-1Finally I was at the Armenian border. Wet and cold I made my way between the waiting trucks. A couple of stamps and I was in another reality. A completely different (and very difficult) language, friendly but very reserved people. The border policeman told me that I had not chance to find an accomodation in Bavra … he was right: I didn’t found an accomodation, but a lovely family … again! Asja is only 17 but she speaks fluently English and she has a big heart.

Bavra-3Soon she will start the university in Yerevan, therefore she has to leave her mother and brothers in the farm in Bavra … while I look at her and at her books stacked in the kitchen I can not stop thinking about how lucky I was during my studies … yes Stef, your life is simply wonderful and you have to savor every moment.

Bavra-2

Torosgyugh-1

Now I’m in Gyumri … but I will tell you about it in the next post.

Lesson learned: a ch’ai can make the difference.

Alla prossima! Next stop: Yerevan.

Un abbraccio

Stef e Josephine