It's Grum sending you greetings from Iran, on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, the biggest lake in the world.
The time difference between Iran and NZ is nine and a half hours, so 6am here, is 4.30pm for you, so trying to catch you at school is a bit hard, hence my letter. Perhaps you're just about to have holidays, or maybe just come back from holidays. Hope you have or had fun.
I think the last time I spoke to you I was in Tajikistan, having just cycled along the river that forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. That was a pretty awesome ride. The roads were really rough, but the scenery was pretty amazing, and being able to look across a river and see a country too dangerous to visit, was pretty scarey really. Since then, I've cycled through Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, where I had only five days to cycle 500km. It was pretty flat, and mostly desert, so it wasn't too tough. Not nearly as bad as for several other cyclists who were heading in the opposite direction a month ago, when they had a head wind and temperatures close to 50°C. Imagine that......and no rivers to cool off in either.
Iran is exciting. Lots of people told me I was crazy to cycle though Iran. They reckon it's full of terrorists, but what I've found is the most generous, hospitable people of my whole cycle ride so far. Cars stop, and the drivers give me food......big bunches of grapes, a little hard to handle on the bike; bread, sort of like Naan bread, flat, but in lots of different shapes; cakes, yummy; and really popular to give away is watermelon, but they're very hard to cycle with, and much too big to eat all at once....... If they're not giving me food, these wonderful people are asking me to come to their house for a meal, and/or to stay the night. In the last three weeks I've only camped or stayed in a hotel three nights. Amazing. And I've been given so much food, that I can't carry it all. I give some of it to people working on the roads or in the fields, especially stuff that I don't like, like pomegranates, and the huge watermelons.
The money here is really confusing. 100,000 Ramis equal about $3.50, so I only need ten of them, or $35, to be an Irani millionaire. The confusing part, other than all the zeros, is that the people here take a zero off, so 100,000 becomes 10,000, and then they call that "one" Rami. Also the colours of the notes are very similar, so making a mistake between a 50,000 note and a 5000 note is really easy.
Iran's real name is The Islamic Republic of Iran. The government is made up of people from the Islamic faith. They make some strange rules, such as all women and girls from twelve years old, must wear clothes that do not show any skin, body shape, or hair. This means most females wear a type of cape over a scarf that hides their hair, and all skin other than face and hands. It's a bit weird when you first see all the women wearing black capes, but I'm getting used to it. Men are not allowed to show their legs or shoulders either, so I have to wear longs, which are pretty uncomfortable and hot on the bike.
The cities here are pretty much like cities in any western country, like NZ or Australia, reasonably clean, good roads, and shops like you and I would recognize, except for the names. Iranian or Persian is written backwards, and I cannot understand it at all, except I'm learning the numbers.
However, Iran does not seem to be able to control what happens to rubbish. The country roads, forests, ditches and fields are covered in plastic rubbish, bags, wrappings, bottles and containers. I really hope our country never gets this bad. It looks terrible, sometimes is really smelly, and is really pretty sad that no one here appears to care too much about the pollution problem.
I've now cycled 26,000km, through 16 countries. In about ten days I will be cycling into Armenia, then Georgia, where I hope to get to watch the RWC final. Georgia are really keen rugby players. Can you find these countries on a map? Then I will be cycling into country number 19, and along the coast of the Black Sea, in Turkey, hopefully before it gets too cold and snows.
Don't be scared to write me a note either on my blog, GrumGoesGlobal, or Facebook page.
Would love to hear from you.
Catch you again soon.