Qazi to Waterfall 120km
To Gonbad Kavus 57km
I'm cruising downhill through what I believe is a National Park. It's really busy. Today is an Islam holiday, the day they sacrifice a goat or sheep. I saw it in Indonesia this time last year. So although there are many places that look good for camping, they are all pretty busy, as half of Iran is picnicking. This results if lots of rubbish, and I've seen it happening all through Iran. A car, or two pull up. About 12 people dismount. A plastic table cloth is spread on the ground, over existing rubbish. Food is produced from the boot. Every one sits and eats. Meal over, food is packed away. Rubbish and scrapes are shaken onto the ground. Cars loaded. Drive away. "What's behind me doesn't matter".
As I round a corner, for the first time since my "thermos and raisins" man, I see some cycle tourists. It's a group of Iranians, cycling to Mashhad for the long weekend. As I chat, another group arrive, from the same direction as me. It's seven members of the Shahrood Continental MTB group, on a two day tour, with back up vehicle. Do I want to ride with them? Sure, why not. We head off, downhill.....he he he. I've got three times their weight in panniers and trailer, and there are some whoops, and laughs, as the old kiwi fella leaves them in his wake....he he he. It's not so funny at the first uphill, but at the top is a cold sparkling grape juice, chocolate lollies, and a rest. 35km goes past pretty quick, but then a diversion to a waterfall is suggested.....4km uphill. Why not put your panniers and trailer in the bus? Sure why not indeed. The hill is a stinker. Several of the others have to walk parts of it, and by the time we've reached the car park, I'm knackered..... still I've just done 120km.
The waterfall is pretty, except for the crowds, and the rubbish. Why do they ruin such beautiful spots? We go back to the bus, and cart a picnic down a 30m hill to a very nice flat. I've decided I'm done for the day, so take Fiona and all my gear as well. The picnic, "lunch" continues to well after dark. The club still have 30km to "cycle" to their campsite. They pack up, really well for Iranians, and scramble up the hill. Bikes are dismantled and loaded on the bus. "Am I sure I don't want to go with them?" They'd love to have me ride with them tomorrow. "Aren't I scared, camping alone?" Thanks guys, but no thanks.
I put up my tent in the dark, and sleep. CRACK, BOOM, CRACK. I'm awake. It's morning, and the mighty crash of thunder wakes me. Almost immediately the heavens open, and it pours. But I'm really cozy in my ExPed tent. So much so, that I curl up and go back to sleep. It's pouring still when I'm woken by a mob of sheep being herded past the tent. Heck, it's 8.30am, and I can hear a roaring river. I put my head outside the tent. It's sitting in three inches of churned up mud. The runoff creeks heading downhill are roaring. Bother. I step outside the tent, and my Keens land me on my butt, in the mud... Hmmmm. Best get out of here, but how? I try to get Fiona up the hill..... no show. Three steps up, and we slide back past the tent, and almost down the next slope. Bother. I pack everything up, and drop all the tent pegs in the mud. They disappear. I'm down on my knees, gropping through mud and sheep shite. I find all but one. That'll do. I'll cope. I shuttle the trailer, Fiona and the panniers along a narrow trail, pushing up the rising creeks. It takes over 30mins, but I'm finally on the road. I'm smiling like an idiot...... oh I love adventure.
The road is awash with water and flood debris, but it is passable, and it's downhill. Some cake and lemonade at the local shop at the bottom are welcome, while the locals gather and laugh, at this crazy, muddy, soaked to the skin, foreigner, riding a very dirty bike off their mountain. "What was he thinking?"
The rain has stopped by the time I'm back on the main road, and pretty soon I hit a town.....breakfast maybe? Jesus drives up in a noisy V8 Landcruiser. He wants to take me home, feed me, clean me up, and give me somewhere to stay tonight. I've already arranged a Warmshowers host, and only done 30km, so turn Jesus down.
5km later, it's raining again, heavily, and the trailer gets a puncture, and there's no shelter anywhere. Was it because I rejected Jesus? I'm fixing it, and Ali arrives on his bicycle. He is the manager of the local bank. He loves meeting tourists, and a friend had spotted me, and rang him, so he'd come looking for me. He insists I come for lunch...... I daren't refuse an offer again. Did he say Ali or Allah? Lunch is very very good. I do change out of my wet muddy gear before going inside. Ali and Parvin, his wife would like me to stay. I thank them, but remind them I've already got a bed tonight, 20km away.
Saeed, meets me at the roundabout. His buddy Abraham, a cycle fanatic, and local club coach, also turns up, just to check whether I need any bike maintenance. What wonderful people.