We started the day with a very large breakfast specially prepared by our hosts. Kamran then drove us all into Tehran and it was pretty much the most terrifying ride either of us had ever experienced with reaching speeds of 120km/h and swapping multiple lanes and making additional lanes all with other motorists taking the same approach!
We arrived at Milad Tower, a 430m high telecommunication tower that almost has viewing floors, giving a fantastic view of the city of Tehran. Tehran has a population of over 8.4million and some 15million in the wider metropolitan area which gives you some idea of the scale of the city.
In the afternoon we made our way back to Karaj (at a rapid rate of knots) and spent the evening out for dinner at an Italian restaurant which was. A lovely way to spend the evening. Alcohol is banned in Iran so apart from what you buy on the black market it is a dry country.
Today we were looking forward to our ride to Karaj (near Tehran) to meet up with my work mates (Milad) parents. I had already met Fariba (Milad’s mum) some months early during her visit to Sydney so it was going to be great to meet again but this time in Faribas home town.
The ride turned out to be the most pleasurable ride we had in Iran, making our way up and over a heavily vegitated mountain pass over 2200m high. The ride was broken up by a couple of extensive roads works which we simply lane split and made our way to the front which allowed a clean get away when the traffic was waived on.
We arrived at Karaj which is a very large city of several million people and stopped for fuel. A local family asked us if we were ok and upon explaining where we wished to go, offered to escort us (about 10km’s) to where we were to meet Milad’s family. We took up their offer which made the final ride in much easier than navigating ourselves.
While waiting for our friends to arrive the local police offered us to stay in their air conditioned office which was very welcome when you are wearing full riding gear in 36deg temps.
Fariba and her husband, Kamran soon arrived and and it was clear they were very pleased to see us. We then had the task of following Karmran through the streets of inner Karaj which proved interested based on the Iranian people drive.
We arrived at Faribas wonderful inner city apartment and were immediately overwhelmed with the hospitality shown by Fariba, Kamran and Fariba’s good friend, Babnan.
It was great to relax and have the comfort of having local people offer to show you the sites of Tehran and provide accomodation for the next couple of days.
Distance travelled for week- 1,876km
Average speed to date- 61.8km/h
Average fuel consumption to date- 4.9 litres per 100km
Today we were to carry on down the coast to Salman Shahr on our ways towards the capital of Tehran.
The day was a pretty non eventful day. The water Mellon had been stolen over night so we did not have breakfast before hitting the road.
The traffic was continuing to be a major concern due to the very dangerous manoures that drivers did at high speed. This was proving to take the shine off what could have been a far more pleasurable ride down the Caspian coastline.
We stopped off at a “posh” restaurant for lunch that provided free WiFi. This was a first for us since arriving in Iran. We took the time to catch up on a few emails and realised Facebook was blocked. Apparently the locals simply download an App that provides a VPN which allows you to circumvent the block. We did not know this.
The he humidity along the coast was extremely high and although the temps were not as high as inland it left you dripping with sweet at the slightest activity.
The day ended at Salman Shahr where we stayed at a very low cost hotel that did not have parking. Fortunately a local man suggested we park the bikes in his locked compound property for safety which we gladly did. He was a solicitor from Tehran and once again proved how kind the people of Iran could be.
After packing up camp the day started with a visit to the local hot baths in Sarein. The water temp was up near 52deg C and very soothing to laze around in. Men and women are separated when bathing.
We we managed to drag ourselves out of the relaxing baths and headed to the coast which ran along the Azabijan boarder for some time. The region was mountainous with forests and many villages spread throughout the area.
Everywhere we were stopping the local people were very intrigued by our bikes and Steve and I. When they realised where we were from we were constantly offered Chai (tea) and food which was typically fruit due to the warm temps. People were asking “did we like their country?” And they were very generous.
Unfortunately we we found those same people who were out picnicking for example would simply leave all their rubbish behind which resulted in the majority of sites we stopped at being littered with vast quantities of rubbish which sort of took the shine off stopping.
For lunch we stopped at Astara which gave us our first view of the Caspian Sea which was a landmark moment for both Steve and I.
After lunch we headed south along the coast line to end up at the “International Tourist Park” in Talesh. The name may have been a slight over statement however it gave us the opportunity to set up camp 20m from the sea shore and relax with the locals for the evening.
Swimming in the Caspian sea was a great experience, with very warm, calm water. Men and women were separated once again while swimming.
We were unaware when we arrived that the park was actually open all night and the locals would soon turn up to set up and have dinner (around 9:00pm) and proceed to party till the small hours of the night. Steve and I resorted to ear plugs to get to sleep.
Once agin the locals were proving to be very welcoming with Steve being given a whole water melon at one stage (only to be stolen over night). We were invited to sit with families and sit on their mats and relax which was a welcome relief after the experiences we had while riding.
After yesterday crossing the boarder and realising we could not access our bank accounts we needed to work out what to do next……. Time for a meeting!
When undertaking adventures such as ours, relationships are very important and in this case I was fortunate to have my Iranian work friend Milad Shahraiary back in Sydney and along with my wife (Kathy) who worked quickly to have funds transferred over to Milad’s parents in Tehran. After a few emails we had it sorted (big thanks to all involved).
So we had enough US$’s that we could exchange to get us comfortably by until we made Tehran and met up with Milad’s family, so we were underway and off in the direction of Tabriz.
The riding down to Tabriz (300km) was straight forward with passing over 2000m altitude at one point and spending most of the day above 1600m.
Just after lunch we made our way through Tabriz at which point while we were stationary in a manic traffic jam, I was hit by a car and knocked off my bike falling into the side of another car damaging the car door. At this point the Iranian driver received a lesson in French from me as I was dumbfounded by the irational behaviour of the drivers. Iranian drivers were clearly proving to be the most dangerous we had experienced so far on our Mad Ride
Luckily I was not injured and the bike was ok, we left the other drivers to sort out the damage to the car and were more wary from that point on. We pushed on to Sarein on our way towards the Caspian Sea.
Sarien is a popular holiday destination for Iranians due the natural hot volcanic springs that are in the area that we are “told” have therapeutic properties.
Due to the large number of visitors at the time a local car park was opened up as a camping ground which is where we ended up for the night.
The journey today was from Mus, Turkey crossing the boarder into Iran at Bazargan.
The road climbed to just over 2000m and as we road around Lake Van we really did see some wonderful views. We stopped off along the shores of the lake at what looked like a deserted holiday park, only to find it open and serving drinks and a packet of biscuit that went down a treat.
The temps were climbing into the mid 30’s and a welcome drop in temp as we climbed over the mountains where we arrived in Dogubayazit (we named this place Dog Town as it was easier to pronounce).
We arrived at around 3:00pm and still feeling fresh(ish) we decided to make a run for the boarder to cross into Iran that evening.
We arrived at the boarder and the exit from Turkey went nice and straight forward, however the Iranian side challenged due to the language barrier. Fortunately we found a friendly English speaking person who assisted greatly with the paperwork and it was all over within a couple of hours.
Unfortunately the boarder town of Bazargan was not a good place, with what appeared everyone trying to rip you off and had a very unsafe feel to it.
Once we found a hotel for the night we asked for the ATM cash machine, only to be informed that our cards would not work in Iran due to the country not being part of the international banking protocols (due to sanctions). Suddenly we found ourselves in a country with no access to money! All the research and discussions we made prior had not brought up this issue, fortunately Steve and I had US$’s as a backup stashed away which got us out of trouble for night. Tomorrow is another day.