Bojnurd to Qazi 70km
I'm being hosted by a wonderful young professional couple through Warmshowers. They are intelligent, informative, incredibly hospitable, and lovely to be with, and I'm made to feel right at home. She is an amazing artist, and shows me some of her work, and I even get to prepare them a meal, including my favourite broccoli and cauliflower salad. We even find all the ingredients, something which I couldn't do in Denver. We visit an icecream shop where I have the best smoothie since NZ, and we visit the best bakery in the city and buy a selection of pastries for dessert. Yummy.
The streets are crowded. It is the anniversary of the end of the Iraq-Iran war. The Military is out in force, preparing for a parade. Thousands of soldiers in full kit, 100s of quad bikes with bazooka and/or stretchers, and heaps of fully armed Toyota utes are really snarling up the traffic. The general public don't seem too impressed.
Other than the military, these streets could be anywhere in a city in the western world..... well other than the way the women are required to dress, and apart from the fact that I can't understand a single world of the script on the windows or doors. I have to look inside to distinguish a book shop from a chemist from a furniture store.
After dinner, my host translates a piece into Persian script for me. It basically answers all the initial questions people ask me, then asks them to direct me to a place to eat, a hotel, wifi, or somewhere to camp. Already, it's been invaluable, as so many locals become frustrated that I know zilch Farsi. They now thank me, and go away smiling. Maybe it's the bit that says " thanks for helping this crazy old kiwi man follow his dream".
I've given up on wearing the baggy longs on the bike, and reverted to my GroundEffect leggings with baggy Earth Sea Sky shorts. I'm no longer getting the longs caught in the chain, and the new ensemble, seems to be accepted by most, as a reasonable attempt to hide the shape of my gorgeous legs.
Yesterday after a 10km climb, I had a 25km downhill, where I didn't pedal once. At one stage, I was conversing with a passing motorist, at 50 kph. The conversation ended when I released my brakes and zoomed off in front of him at 70kph. At the bottom of the hill I was craving for an icecream. Every shop had grapes, and thousands of walnuts, and no icecream. Now walnuts are not my favourite. They ruin a good Afghan biscuit, and often spoil many a salad, so you can imagine my delight when a car stopped in front of me and handed me a pomegranate and a bag of unopened walnuts... gee thanks. Grapes, another common gift, are a little better, but a whole bunch is pretty hard to handle when you biking, and eating the lot at once, alone, has serious repercussions. But the Irani people keep passing me food...... amazing.
I'm on my way to a "camp" as directed by my host. It's 3km uphill from the main road but highly recommended as a stopping point. My new host, who knew I was coming, (Iranians pass us tourists along like Pass the Parcel) was full of smiles and welcomes. Chai and fruit was served. He then rang my previous host to find out what I wanted for lunch. Fiona was whisked away to a lockup, and all my gear lugged up to a covered , carpeted, platform about 3m above a dry river. I wasn't sure what this was all about, so present host rang previous host, so he could explain. This platform was my camping spot..... okay. No need for the tent then. Three meals, and copious chai and fruit were delivered to my platform. I ate, read and slept, and the bill when I left after breakfast the next day..... $7.
The 3km downhill to the main road was glorious, but was followed by 20km slow ascent. Still, it's so much better than the monotony of the desert flats. Up here in the hills, there's stuff to look at, the view changes frequently, and you get to change gears. Oh I love what I'm doing.
Go the ABs. Watch out Namibia, "here come the men in black".( just for you Dr Fabes)