Mashhad to Farm Stay 108km
To Farrow Field 128km
If I was to score Iran so far, it would get a 2/10 for interesting cycling, and 9.5/10 for hospitality. The kid who threw the rock at me ruined the perfect 10, but he got to practise his sprinting, as I dropped Fiona and ran five steps in his direction. From 200m away, he was brave enough to give me the finger, but five more steps in his direction saw the last of him...... little shite.
Iran does let itself down with the litter though. In Mashhad I was really impressed, but out in the country, especially on back roads, it's pretty disgusting...... 3/10.
I headed out of Mashhad early, hoping to miss the traffic, hoping that a Saturday would mean less traffic, but nope, neither seemed to make a difference, although I haven't experienced normal morning traffic. I tried to ride a small side lane, next to the dual carriageway, but at each major intersection there was a different problem, wide drains, high culverts, one way systems, fences... and more. Very frustrating, but just a little safer, and I only had to break the law a few times.....
But I was focused on being safe, so much so that I forgot to take a really good look at the map, so came out of the city in the NW, instead of the NE. Bother. Still I found a road that crossed to the correct highway, and it was mostly downhill, so not so bad, except when it hit the highway, there was no apparent way to get to the north lane, except over a pedestrian bridge. Bother. But wait. A friendly local pointed out a vehicle subway. I'd only have to break the law a little bit.....
Having crossed, I found the old highway, running parallel, with hardly any traffic, but it was not very pretty. Lots of walls, with colourful advertising, protecting industrial wasteland. It seems the new highway having left this area an economic disaster zone, the local have decided they may as well use it to dump rubbish. The drains are full of trash, and they stunk.
At 75km I'm getting hungry and stop and ask a smiling mechanic where I might eat. "With me at my house" was his reply. He shuts up shop, and we walk across the street to his house. He is a qualified (BSc) Aeronautical Engineer, but can't find work, so is helping Dad in his shop. He is married and has three sons, four months to ten years old. The house is very tidy and modern inside, and they have all the kitchen appliances, but their lounge has only carpets, pillows and a TV. It seems huge, but we are used to couches, armchairs and the like. A table cloth is laid on the floor and hot chocolate served. Yummy. Then chai and biscuits. Then roasted chicken and rice. Then coke. I'm bloated. His wife and kids eat in the kitchen, while we eat alone. We chat about lots, including work in NZ. I show him "Seek". There are six Aeronautical Engineers jobs. He scans them with a translator and reads with interest. "That's me" he says to each advert. "How do I apply?" We are speaking via Google translator. It works.... sort of. He then prays, because " he is a servant to Allah", gets back in his work clothes, and we leave his house. But, he is not finished with me. He escorts me out of town on his motor bike, stopping numerous times to introduce me to his friends. An amazing encounter.
25km later and I'm looking for a camping spot. I head up a farm track towards a large farming complex, and meet the boss just as he's leaving. "No I can't camp. I can stay in the workers quarters, with the other staff." Turns out my roommate is father and grandfather to a family also working on the farm. They all squeeze into our room. We have chai. More food is produced. Photos taken. They look at all my photos and videos, and finally the two grandads are left alone. On the TV is the movie about the Wellington earthquake, with Farsi dialogue. The other grandad starts snoring before I do.
He is up at 2.30am. He has to start driving his tractor. I sleep in until 6am, and pack up and leave. The day is spent on the hard shoulder of the dual carriage way. The scenery is bland, but the traffic is not too busy. There are places where I can find food about every 10km, but icecream is not on the list. Just like yesterday, today there is a cold headwind. I've got three layers on, the first time since the Northern Indian Mountains, but in the far distance, I can see mountains. It will be nice to be back amongst them. Long flat straight desert roads don't score so well after two weeks.