We were up early and both of us were preparing for the days ride I think we were a little less chatty than normal, probably due to the armed escort and crossing into Pakistan.
The escort arrived on time. A car with two officers and a motorbike with a very boyish looking officer carrying a Kalishivov.
We set off and as headed for the boarder which was a ride of approx 70km through pretty Barron land. The ride was interspersed with stops at various police checks where our passports were required to be produced for some reason?
We finally made it to the boarder and were ushered us to the front of the que and left in the hands of the boarder control police. Fortunately this worked in our favour as we had personal offical ensuring we completed all the paperwork (including having our bike Carne’s signed) ready for our entry into Pakistan.
Passing through the Pakistan boarder control went pretty smoothly apart from having to reinforce that our Carne’s needed signing to ensure the bikes were cleared for entry.
Once we were cleared, and we thought we could be on our way, we were then escorted accross what could only be described as an old rubbish dump to a compound, creating a destinct concern for both Steve and I. As it turned out this “compound” was the local Police compound which was to be our home for the night as we were advised we could not proceed without armed police escort until tomorrow.
Within the compound we found ourselves sharing with a “people smuggler” who was locked up and appeared to be pretty much forgotten about, half a dozen young Afgan boy refugees (between 16 & 23y.o.) who were due to be handed over to Afgan officials any day. We were suddenly seeing the reality of what life in this part of the world is like. These boys had trecked hundred’s of kilometres in a search for a life only to be arrested and now looking at a fate of being handed back to the authorities from where they escaped! You can only wonder what the fate of these boys will be over time?
Steve and I were joined later in the evening by a German couple who had also crossed from Iran into Pakista, however they were travelling by bus. They also had been instructed to stay put until an escort tomorrow.
Ralf and Yin (the German’s) were a lovely couple whom we would spend the next day’s travelling through Pakistan with. Tonight however we all had to bed down in the Taftan Police compound, which Lonely Planet described as “hell on earth, and worse in summer”.
If we thought Kerman was starting to become more basic, then Zahedan was even more so.
The ride itself was more desert with the most extreme conditions both Steve and I had ever experienced on bikes! Riding into gale force winds bringing dust storms with it and 43deg temps. We really struggled for a good 150km section with these relentless conditions. Adding to the wind was the issue of oncoming trucks causing a major upset due to the draft every time they past.
We arrived at Zahedan around 5.00pm and found the hotel we had pre booked from the previous day. Fortunately it was pretty easy to find.
At one point we had to navigate around a group of approximately 300 to 500 men kneeling and praying along the road, outside a mosque. This was the first time we had witnessed such extreme religious devotion. The number of men praying was blocking our side of the road, which meant we had to ride past down the wrong direction of traffic flow, which for Iran was not such an unusual occurrence.
Once we arrived at the hotel, armed police (with Kolashinkov’s) arrived as were clearly instructed we were not to travel outside the hotel compound without their escort! Things were suddenly changing.
We needed fuel for the ride to the boarder tomorrow so for the first time we received an armed escort in order to secure our safety. We filled up at the petrol station and quickly made our way back to the hotel.
The reason being, as this was close to the Afgan and Pakistan boarders we were at risk from Bandits and other “groups”.
Tomorrow it was agreed we would be escorted to the boarder by the police at 08:00am. Not really conducive to a good nights sleep.
We rode from Esfahan to Kerman today. The stop off in Kerman was simply to split the distance on our way to the Iran Pakistan boarder. As we moved further from the capital (Tehran) we were finding (as with pretty much every country we visited) that things become basic and less western. Finding people who could speak English was becoming harder to find.
Personally, I was finding the nerves starting to build as I was becoming concerned about what was to be once we crossed the Pakistan boarder.
For now it was about making our way through Iran and the heat we were facing; after all this was the middle of the Iranian summer and we were riding through their desert region.
Today reached 39deg with strong cross winds causing serious concerns as we passed oncoming trucks. At one point I watched Steve nearly being swept off the road by the draft from one of these trucks.
Pollution was still evident with many large heavy steel manufacturing plants were located in this region.
Tomorrow Zahedan and closer to the Pakistan boarder.
The ride today is from Qum to Esfahan. The ride itself was just hot and pretty boring as we road through desert region with small mountains surrounding. Temps were in the high 30’s.
We came across another tragic vehicle crash today with a car that had left the road at high speed and cartwheeled across the desert. This has become an all to common event seeing major crashes in Iran and makes us all to aware of our vulnerability being on bikes. We pushed on and made Esfahan around 3.00pm.
The two cities could not have been any different, with Qum being considered the most conservative Iranian city while Esfahan was what we considered the most beautiful with well manicured flora along streets and it was clear the locals cared about their town.
We pulled up at a fast food restaurant in order to grab a drink and bite to eat and it was not long before 3 school girls approached Steve while is was out checking a hotel out. It was a funny site upon my return seeing Steve as the centre of attention of the girls who were keen to practice their English speaking skills. The girls asked to take a “selfy” with us and then departed.
Once we orangised ourselves in the hotel it was off for a walk to check out the several spectacular bridges crossing the river in Esfahan. The down side was that the water was no longer flowing due to a recent dam that had been built upstream effectively stopping the water flow of what was clearly a spectacular river previously.
After the river walk it was off to see a lovely palace located in the centre of town. Iranian tourists were plenty with horse rides being offered around the square made for a very energetic scene.
The evening ended with making our way back to the hotel after a very long walk ready to head for Kerman tomorrow.
We started the day by visiting the money exchange office to collect the funds that had been transferred over from Australia. It was a big relief to be flush with cash once more, knowing we were comfortable to get the rest of the way through Iran.
Once we had organised our finances and packed our belongings into the panniers of the bikes it was time to move on. Fariba, Kamran and Babnan had been fantastic in their hospitality and Kamran even tried to have us take two small hand made Persian rugs with us! This simply was not possible due to the constraints of being on the motor bike.
We hit the road around mid day and it was sad to go. The ride out of Karaja and around Tehran was nothing but bumper to bumper traffic in 36deg heat which ended up causing trouble for the bikes as they are air cooled and require forward motion (at a reasonable speed) to keep the engines cool. Finally after many km’s my bike reach a point where I was not comfortable riding with the temp so high so we made it to the side of the road for a well earned break. After approx 20 mins the bike was back down to normal temp so we got back under way only to find the traffic free up only a few hundred metres down the road!
After making it around Tehran we headed south towards Qum. The road was a dual laned highway and the and vegetation was more scarce as we headed south. It was very hot reaching 45deg at one point. We also witnessed two major car crashes on the ride today, both probable fatalities.
We arrived at Qum to find a deeply religious city with most women in full black hijab.
The air conditioned hotel room was a welcome hiding place after such a hot ride.
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.