Iran Desert to Mashhad 90km
I've got half a watermelon, donated last night by my visitors. Can't carry it on the bike, so may as well eat it for breakfast. Warning. Watermelon fills the stomach, but offers no energy, and with the critter scratching at the tent last night, and the last nine days cycling 800km, today I needed energy. So after 10km, and 20km, and 30km, I stopped, and ate biscuits, and dates, and drank water, because there were no shops. Then at 40km I boiled some water for soup, and broke up my stale bread into it, and finally felt better. Then at 50km, an icecream..... yum, and now I'm feeling like cycling.
The landscape was pretty, no very, bland. Dry, barren hills, and the wind was in my face, and strong, and the trucks were forever forcing me off the road onto the dusty gravel, and then straying there as well, and covering me in their clouds of diesel fumes and dust. Nope, not pleasant, in fact one of the most unpleasant days of my ride so far, but at least the threatening rain did not eventual. (Yep, threatening rain in Iran).
But eventually I reached the outskirts of Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, and a Holy city to all of the Arab world. And it was here I met, for the first time, Iranian traffic......crazy. I think it works, that if you have your nose in front, you have right of way, but for motor bikes it doesn't apply. For them, "if the gap is there, it's yours", seems to be the golden rule. At first glance chaos. After 10km ducking and diving through the congestion......still chaos.
I'm trying to find a hotel, to use their wifi, to hopefully communicate with a Warmshowers host. Around congested traffic islands, through under passes, and over flyovers, trying to find a legal right turn. Find one. It's oneway, but my way. But that doesn't deter local traffic. At least as many are coming towards me, in one lane, as are going the legal direction. .....but there are hotels. The first two are "full", the third will accept me, and it has reasonable wifi, but no positive replies from Warmshowers, so I take a room.. after waking Ju, a few minutes before midnight........
Showered, and I'm hungry, and I need to buy another pair of longs. My good pair are filthy from cycling, and I can't go on the street in shorts. My host, the hotel manager, decides to escort me. We find an arcade that sells nothing but trousers. It is very very busy, as are all the streets. All six million of Mashhads inhabitants are shopping. My host is abrupt, and impatient with shop attendants so very quickly I have a pair of tracksuit trousers.....for $6. He now wants to buy me an icecream, and escort me to a restaurant. He chooses a very expensive one......nope not for me. We find another. Pizza for $4. More my style.
The streets are throbbing with people. It's Tuesday, but really busy. All the women wear black capes, as it's such a holy city. In the distance I see the Blue and the Gold Mosques. Apparently, summer, now, is the time when the city is full of Arabs coming to visit the mosques. Iranians are not Arabs.They are Persians. Arabs come from Iraq, Dubai, Yemen and the like. I learn every day.
My host wants to show me more of the city. We jump on his motor bike. No helmets, no lights, (it is now dark), no registration, no passenger foot rests. Initially we stay in back alleys, as he scopes out the other hotels, but then we hit the main drag. For 30 minutes I'm gripping the insufficient hand holds in absolute terror, as he weaves through traffic..... holy heck, in the Holy city. He's certainly got me praying. Perhaps it's because when he asked about my religion, I'd said I didn't believe. Then suddenly, loud whistles, and cops step out in front of us. My host doesn't stop. He speeds up. Police are trying to grab us. My host slaps their hands away. The pace and weaving increase, as we make our getaway. Turns down back streets and alleyways ensure noone is following.......I hope. Apparently all because he, the driver, is not wearing a helmet. We make haste back to the hotel zone. The bike is over heating, so we have to stop for another icecream. Personally, I'd prefer to be hiding in my room. My arms, hands and legs are throbbing for holding on so tight. Day two in Iran.....the adventure is just beginning...... although today I topped 25,000km on the bicycle.