Welcome to my country… Iran
Im not sure where to begin, after I have heard so many stories about this very interesting and fascinating country. I heard good-and bad things and now I can finally find out for myself!! This is why I love traveling the world, to experience things personally and don’t only read what the media feed us in our daily lives.
Stepping over a border always means it takes a few days to adjust and get use to things. The first few things I learned about Iran was that I can’t draw money, almost impossible to find internet and that I quickly needed to adjust my food habits. Getting water is probably the most important and it was hard to find (in the beginning).
Cycling wise, Iran is full of monstrous mountains, or the route I decided to take. I was climbing like crazy in Turkey, but I did not really know exactly what was still to come!
Since the moment I entered Iran the locals has been extremely friendly. It was not long until some locals pulled me off and said I have to join them for some Cay and said goodbye by giving me an ice cold coke. The locals just got more friendly and more hospitable (as Im sitting here now, writing my blog, they are feeding me more fruit I can eat). Cay, cold water, soda drinks and food is something they love to share…. but more important stories, smiles and love. All these locals are giving me something to make my experience in their country better and before I leave, I hope I leave something behind (in terms of a story and memory).
I have to keep talking about the locals, because its so much better than I imagined before crossing the border. Is does not matter where I stop, someone will come over trying to talk, asking me to join them for Cay or Food. They will meet me with a big smile as I park my bicycle next to them and they will say “Welcome to my country, Iran”.
After one very hard day on the bike, as I was climbing 70% of the time, just after Takab, I was so tired and found another place to pitch my tent. There was many people around me and would not normally be where I will camp, but was to tired to look or walk anywhere and look for another place. I pitched my tent, started to eat dinner and was lying down trying to relax…
In 30 minutes two people came to my tent and said I had to come to their house, but this meant packing up everything, which was not on my “to do list” for the night. The third time a guy came, which could speak some broken English. He insisted I should go to their house, because he thinks its dangerous where I pitched my tent. I had a feeling this was not going to stop, so I gave in, packed up everything and walked to their house (the village was about 1km away). They were so nice and I drank more Cay than water during a cycling day. They also fed me twice as the women made me food. This was my first experience staying in an Iran local home and it was brilliant. I went to bed after twelve as me and Ali kept talking about Iran and South Africa. They made me a bed (on the floor with lots of blankets) and I slept like a baby.
The next three nights I ended up yet again with locals in their houses were everyone was friendly and gave me something to eat, which is always nice after a long day in the saddle. The thing which is the best about staying with the locals is that they leave me with interesting stories, facts about themselves and the country they grew up in. Learning from locals is very important to me when I visit any country.
The first week in Iran had many mountains, but nothing like when I cycled past Mahabad, towards Takab. So from around Mahabad towards Takab, Tacht-e Solyman until 30km before Zanjan, I climbed over 4500 m in altitude, which was very hard. I was crawling up the mountains about 80% of these days with speeds between 5 km/h and 7 km/h. The one big plus when climbing means you’ll always get amazing views, which was yet again the case. The villages between these mountains and the panorama sceneries was amazing.
Since I entered Iran the sceneries keep changing from all the farms, very dry areas and the temperature constantly over 40 degrees Celsius. Im always trying to avoid the mid day sun, but this was not always possible with my big climbs and not many trees or shade. Altho it’s steaming hot and very dry between most cities, water is something that is not very difficult to get, as you can drink most water in and between cities. One of my highlights in Iran until now is the “water pipes” between the cities (most of the times its surrounded by farms). Every 30km to 50km have these water pipes, where the water is pumped out of the ground and blasts into the air. These pipes is bigger than my head, so you can imagine the stream of water. I always stop to refill my bottles with ice cold water, drink till my stomach hurts and drain myself from head to toe!
O and my money problem… Where I only had $30 left after crossing the border and cant draw ANY money in Iran. After considering all my options, I finally had to give my credit card to a local, where he had to go across the border to Turkey and draw cash. This was my only option at this point and where I was. I don’t like caring cash, but in Iran tourists don’t really have a choice. The stamps to claim back some of the taxes is still a problem and is still not looking good to make a plan and claim it back.
The food in Iran is delicious! A typical meal during the day will consist out of Nun (flat brea), tomatoes, eggs, cucumber and unions. They would cook most ingredients into a omelette which you put onto the Nun. I also had lots of watermelon, peaches, apples, grapes and dates (which I have never really ate). I am now a huge fan of dates!! Some of the other other local food l had till now was Chelow Kebab, Ash (thick soup) and Polo (rice with some meat and vegetables). After arriving at Tacht-e Solyman a local came over and offered me some Bamieh (sweet dough, deep-fried and covered with sugar or honey)…. One of the most delicious things I have eaten on my adventure.
Iran sell no alcohol so the occasional beer is not possible, but they have many other delicious drinks. One thing I really like in Iran is the traditional drink Doogh, which consist out of yogurt, carbonated water, salt and mint. They love also fruit juices which is difficult not to finish in one gulp when its served ice cold.
I my first two weeks I also managed to visit two of Iran’s Unesco sites, Takht-e Solyman and Soltaniyeh, which was both something to see and experience! Visiting Unesco Sites never disappoint
Eating in Iranian homes, breakfast under a truck, lunch in parks, dinner with 8 farm workers, sleeping in a Fire Station, enjoying a quick cay or eating some watermelon… This has been my first two weeks in Iran… I arrived in Tehran where I need to do some admin… Visas…. but cant wait to spend more time in this country and share my experiences of this Middle East country they call, Iran!