Gonbad Kavus to Gorgan 97km
To Sari 140km
To Hamzeh Deh 144km
By enthusiastic local Hosts:
I meet Mr Garvin for a few minutes at the camp where I slept on a platform. The next morning I found he had left a message. He had invited me to stay with him in Gorgan, 350km away. Three days later, as I approached Gorgan, I rang him. He was now in Tehran, but would organise something. Later, I received a text....."I will be happy to host you, Ehsan"
Ehsan and I meet at a roundabout, after some confusion, when I received a text in Farsi, that when translated, by a friend of a passerby, by phone, told me Ehsan's phone had no funds. Ehsan arrived on a bicycle, and I thought he was a westerner, but he turned out to be Persian, and spoke very little English. I followed him to his home, where he and his mother live. The fun began. Ehsan was using a translator app. I saw he had a brace on his back, and commented on it. The translator told us..."Yes he had a very sore butt, spine, derriere, back".
Ehsan is a trainee priest. I'm offered food and drink, a shower, and he offers to wash Fiona. His mother, who seems quite comfortable in my presence adds her thoughts. I have a cough, and a runny nose. Drugs and medicines are produced, and I'm encouraged to take the. "Two days and my cough and runny nose will be fixed." I need to change some money, and purchase some dehyration powder. We walk around the corner to find both the bank and pharmacy are closed. I'm not allowed to buy an icecream....."It's bad for your neck".
We return to the house. Ehsan needs a sleep. He stretches out on the floor and sleeps, so I do the same. It's 5pm, dusk, and he awakes, has a shower and changes into good clothes. He's taking me to the city. Okay. We jump in a taxi and roar through traffic to the city centre. We call into a "Red Crescent " pharmacy, where the pharmacist speaks good English. "Do I need anything else, antibiotics, chaffing cream, somewhere to stay?" He gives me more drugs for my cold, and rehydration powder, and will not let me pay. Then we jump on a bus. The men sit at the front. The women are restricted to the back, even though there are free seats in the front. It's dark now, and we travel uphill for about 20 mins. We are the last passengers to get off the bus. This is the "jungle". The translator tells us it is a great place to "hump, walk, hike, trek", but it's dark, so Ehsan shows me photos on his phone of his previous trips, and of all the beautiful scenery, as we walk back downhill. Eventually, after about 30mins walking down the road, we hail a taxi. It already has a female passenger in front. A km downhill, it picks up a second female. Ehsan is almost sitting on my knee, rather than touch this unknown female, who joins us on the back seat.
Back at the house, it's 8.30pm. Ehsan's sister and two nieces, 14 and 17 arrive. The nieces speak reasonable English. We all eat a meal together, and chat. It's 9.30pm, my normal bedtime. Ehsan and his nieces want to take me out, in a car. Okay. Ehsan drives like a man close to god.....fast, and we arrive at a view point above the city. Photos are taken, and by chance we meet two of Ehsan's classmates. They are astounded I do not believe in a god. They are amazed that I'm cycling alone around the world. "What about my family? My wife? The cost?" An amazing experience, high above a city of lights, chatting with trainee priests, through 14 and 17 year old female interpreters.
It's time to leave, but before we go home we need to revisit the jungle to see a lake with fresh water. What we see is a pipe, with a removable plug, where you can drink untreated water, flowing from a mountain lake high above us in the jungle. Car dancing to loud music, with windows down, we cruise back to Ehsan's house. It's 11.45pm. The girls and Ehsan need to be at school at 7am, and I had hoped to cycle over 100km tomorrow. A fabulous evening, with amazing people.
Morning, food and Chai. But where is Ehsan? He is outside, washing Fiona. We cycle together to his school, which is on my way out of the city.
With a Warmshowers Host:
Meet at a roundabout and cycle home. Food and drink. A shower and change of clothes. "Is there anything you need? Anything you want to see?" More food and drink. "Tell us the story of your trip". "This is my story of cycle touring" More food and drink. "Good night. We will eat breakfast then I will guide you out of the city".
I love both types of host.