In case you don’t remember Alexander Bochkov, Alexander and his friend Andrey Serdyuk, both from Russia and Cykling.ru, toured Karelia between Chistmas and New Years in 2014. We put the story out in the beginning of 2015, in a series of posts after we put together a ton of content from their trip, and translated a lot of Russian to English, thanks to their friend Dasha Kotenko.
For this next trip, Alexander and friend set to tour through Iran. Yeah, that Iran.
There’s a ton of good stuff from this trip, so without more noise from me, here’s Part 1. I’ve edited the Russian translation a bit to read a bit easier as well.
Already in the Tehran Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran, we have discovered how friendly Persians are. We were helped to find a destination with a favorable exchange rate, taken on to our crash pad for free and got the first phone number to call in case we would have any problems. Eventually we ended up with about ten such numbers. Our first host was Sayid who studied at the Kharkiv Aviation Institute and was fluent in Russian. Thanks to him we visited almost all the parks of Tehran. He also took us to the Mount Damavand, but unfortunately its peak was foggy. Saiyid’s mother is an excellent cook. We spent another night at their hospitable house and changed our plans. From Tehran we took a train to Shiraz. There were two TVs, hot tea, muffins and pistachios, the favorite nuts in this country.
Iranian cities are filled with amazing aromas of different spices, fresh flat bread which is baked on every street, and sweet stuff from numerous patisseries. But unfortunately first of all you pick up a smell of car exhaust emissions. In Shiraz we walked around the city and visited the market. Our second host was a local pick-up artist who wanted to pick up a girl using foreigners. He also promised to take us to an amazing place, but it turned out to be a huge shopping center. Nothing interesting. From Shiraz we finally started our bike tour. It was terrifically hot, hard to find any shady spot and there was no water around. Our skin on face and hands got brown and the air was dry as my favorite wine. But because of piercing wind, we couldn’t take off our jackets during the stops. We rode higher and higher. Beautiful mountain sceneries, steep and long descents with blind turns and smooth asphalt. Sometimes we went by the remains of ancient aqueducts and fortresses built at the beginning of the past millennium.
Locals passing by cheered us, photographed their families with us and drove on. The desert plains replaced the mountains. On the horizon we saw another peak which seemed to be quite close, but it was just an illusion. Schoolgirls passed us on a truck and shouted “I love you”, we blew them a kiss, and their car whipped out of sight. Our key question was where to get water.
It was even easier to find accommodation than we expected. In the evenings we used to stop near shops to buy some food and water and then sit down to eat somewhere nearby. Few tourists visit that area, so locals immediately approached us and asked about our origins, travel plans, number of brothers and sisters, marital status and names. 10 minutes after communication using gestures and elementary English we were already following the car to our overnight stop.
Out hosts did their best to create good rest environment for us. Sometimes we even felt awkward about all their questions about our comfort. Huge amounts of rice and vegetables decorated the carpets used instead of tables. We were also treated to liters of tea, kilograms of dates, jam, mandarins, flat bread and of course pistachios.
We stayed with a 16-year-old boy who wanted to practice English with us. He made a decision to invite guests on his own and told his father and other family members about us only later.
We stayed with a businessman trading in metal, real estate, and something else in the city. He wanted to sell saffron in Russia with our help. He invited us to the restaurant and then treated us to home-made wine. It appeared to be just a brew, but it’s okay for the country where alcohol is completely prohibited and is sold as drugs. Our host bred pigeons on the roof and was surprised that we weren’t impressed by them. It’s a rare bird there.
In Bushire we stayed with a local comedian and TV host, Hassan. It was difficult to walk along the streets with him, because everybody knew him and instead of 10 minutes our promenade took almost an hour.
He asked a lot: HASSAN GOOD ??? BUSHIRE GOOD???
We stayed with a firefighter. He didn’t speak English, so invited a local school teacher to ask about our trip and future plans. In the morning he gave us two kilograms of dates a huge package of fruits. But dates were so heavy that my touring bag almost rubbed the rear wheel and we had to leave them in the park under a date palm.
Once a man stopped us on the road, gave his number and asked to phone him when we arrived in the city. Jafar, as it turned out, a year ago he got to the Russian border on a bicycle, but was denied entry into the country. He took us welcome and let to rest in silence. Jafar showed us the city and took us to a local gym where kickboxing and mini-football training were held. Then we went to the market and ate chickpeas, and in the evening watched TV and nibbled sunflower seeds. Had a lot of fun.
Iran is an interesting country with a complex history. They don’t shoot, don’t kidnap and even don’t try to offend you. There is a systematic chaos on the roads, but it’s not so dangerous. Wrong-way driving, insufficient cutting, merging 4 lanes at a time. It doesn’t seem wild and dangerous to them, it’s just a necessity. Local people are chatty and smiling, no one is afraid, so please don’t be afraid to visit this beautiful country.
P.S. You can smoke a dried scorpion’s tail to relax…
We will write about our bikes a bit later.