We have embraced Turkey into our hearts. How we enjoyed this country, the special people and the enormous hospitality, its beautiful nature, the delicious food, the travelers we had such a good time with, the impressive history and so on. We are far from done with Turkey but we feel really at ease and it is time to get ourselves out of our comfort zone and step into the unknown.
But first enjoy the Turkish hospitality because in the morning we get invited by our camping neighbors. They are with the 5 of the, a family of 3 and a married couple. They cook us a delicious breakfast and we have some nice conversations. After saying our goodbyes to everyone we get on our back to head to the border. Just before the border we are invited to a hotel to eat their breakfast buffet. There’s plenty left. We start talking to the owner. He is a mountainier and has traveled extensively. We share contact details as it would be nice to meet again in the future. But now it’s really time to go.
It takes a while at the border. We stand in line and go through narrow gates where our bikes just fit to the passport check. We start talking to a couple who live in Tabriz. They are in the process of emigrating to Australia and speak good English. They help us exchange our money on the other side of the border which is real hocus-pocus for us. We are talking about Tomen but working with Riyal. It differs by a tenth but you always pay a tenth more than what you are talking about. Fortunately, we have people who count everything with us a number of times. And then they invite us to visit them in Tabriz once we get there. What great fun! We like that we can communicate with people and like to visit them, so say goodbye and see you soon.
Iran takes some getting used to .. just like every country before, it takes a while to adjust in the beginning. How does it work with drinking water? Do we have to buy it, or is tap water just drinkable? Where can we buy our food? Where is the best place to find wild camping? But here in Iran the biggest question is…how can we avoid the big roads? We haven’t found an answer to that yet.
The offline map that I have always worked with so well gives much less detail, making it difficult to figure out the best route. We have mainly cycled on major roads and the moment we got off it it was difficult to move forward with our tour bikes. So for now.. big roads then.
The first real cycling day I (Nina) have three flat tires in a row. We are stuck somewhere in the desert when a pickup truck drives by. They offer to help us but we decline, but they don’t take no for an answer so we load ourselves and our bikes on the back of the pickup truck and they take us to a bicycle repair shop. After a few searches we finally find the culprit .. a piece of glass that is stuck in my tire. After saying thanks we continue riding. We eventually find a good place to sleep between vegetable gardens, a bit off the main road.
The next day we discover how warm it is here because we have now really descended to a lower altitude. We take a break in the middle of the day but make a long cycling day. We find little food and notice that the way we have always been able to do it in Turkey does not work here in Iran. At the end of the day we think we have found a place between sunflower fields but the farmer wants to help us to a better place. He gestures for us to cycle back and he comes with his car. If we don’t find him and someone else tries to help us, we decide to go with this person. Q has a bad feeling about it and keeps his guard up. When we are at the place where he says we can set up our tent, the farmer arrives with his car. We thank the other guy but follow this man who offered his help first. After a while we stop in a strange clearing next to the highway. The man says via Google translate that the young man who tried to help us is no good and that it is best to sleep near the mosque and police station. He points to the other side of the road. We cycle there and look around us tiredly. Bus after bus arrives and people walk in and out of the mosque to pray. There is a strong wind. there are a lot of people walking around and a lot of cars driving over a busy intersection.
We look at each other and decide to settle for it. We thank the man and wave him off. We ask the people of the mosque if we can sleep here. He gestures that we can pitch our tent anywhere. We indicate that the wind is blowing hard. If the tent is on concrete we cannot use pegs. Of course we can sleep in the mosque!! His son gives us a tour. The two of us can sleep on the women’s side. We wash ourself, make our beds and while people are praying we try to fall asleep.
The next morning I feel broken and starting to get the flu due to not drinking enough water and a bad night in a warm mosque. We make breakfast and when we want to leave the family who lives at the mosque suddenly comes with breakfast and chai. So we sit down again and start our second breakfast!
When we are cycling for a while, a man waves us his way. Come.. come.. eat! We go to him and we are welcomed by the family on his farm. We are allowed to sit on the carpet and everyone immediately gets to work for us. Fruit is placed in front of us, tea is made, vegetables are freshly grown and cut for us and we get bread. We find it so special how caring and generous the people are. The two of us are sitting there eating while everyone is working. When we want to thank them before go, they say that this was only the starter. No.. no.. keep eating! There is a large pot of soup on the fire. We stay for a while and notice that it will take a while before the food is ready. They give us pillows and tell us to rest. We just go with it and take some rest. In the end we stay until the next morning. We get a tour of the market garden, play with the children, dance with the women (no men are welcome and the headscarves are removed), eat an ice cream and dine. In the end, they don’t want to leave us alone in their yard and get sleeping gear at home to camp with us.
The next morning we thank the people for everything and continue our way to Tabriz. On to our new friends we met at the border.