Sarakhs Iran into Iran Desert 103km
Entering Iran yesterday, and Rob, Claire and I are ushered into a Doctors office. The Doctor asks us our names, and writes them in Farsi script, writing backwards across the page. He then shows us a list of ailments. Do we have them? No. He then asks Rob and I questions about our jobs, our plans and our itineries. He ignores Claire totally. She sits quietly, in her fully covering clothes, including head scarf, like a good Persian woman should.
Then we are ushered into Customs. The customs officer is growling at some Turkmenistan people. (They were laughing). Oh oh. Could mean trouble. The Turkmenii leave and he turns to us..... all smiles. He has a glance into one each of our panniers, and then advices us not to change money at the official bank, but to go across the road from the border post, where we will get a better rate. He also draws us a map to a little visited historical ruin half way to Mashhad.... and we're in Iran.
We cycle one km to a hotel, and have our first shower in over a week. I throw my clothes in a bucket. Three wash cycles, and two rinses, and the water is still dirty. But I'm clean, my legs were black from Turkmenistan desert dust, and I'm shaved, and feel great.....but am very hungry. A huge feed of chicken and rice, with pickles, salad, chai and bread, is followed by a visit to a shop for biscuits, icecream and fizzy drink, and three hours later, chicken kebabs and rice, and I'm feeling better.
The hotel manager is concerned my wife is not with me. He offers to find me an Iranian wife for tonight. Apparently there is a simple ceremony that makes it legal. He also offers me whiskey or bourbon to go with the fizzy....
Later, Claire and I are sitting in the hotel lobby, where the wifi is best. She is in full cover. We keep getting disapproving and questioning looks. A guy sitting next to me wants to know..."Is she my wife? Sister? Daughter? Where is her husband?" It's a little uncomfortable. He also tells me that the Iranian people love all other nations, except Israel. It's only the government that doesn't like other people. Eventually, with his interruptions, the bad wifi, and the continued stares and disapproving looks, we decide we need to retire upstairs to our rooms. I wasn't getting anything done anyway, and I'm really tired.
A great nights slerp does wonders and after a breakfast of yummy fresh bread, butter and jam, I pack up Fiona. I've left Claire and Rob, and cycled towards Mashhad alone. 40km out, I meet an Iranian cyclist. He's 58, riding a Mtb with a very small bag, a thermos and some raisins. We sit on the hard shoulder and drink tea from his thermos and munch on raisins. Our knowledge of each others language is nil, but it's a lovely encounter.
I stop for icecreams, but can not find bread, only cake. I'm getting lots of encouraging toots, waves and shouts, and being stopped for photos, but the trucks don't seem to be aware of me, and pass very close. Later in the afternoon, I ask for bread. The lady goes into her house and gets some, but refuses payment. Apparently this happens frequently, and you have to offer to pay three times before you know it is a genuine offer. I lost count. Did I offer three times? I got some free bread. Then a random guy chases me down the road and gives me a melon. ...
I climbed a big hill, and then found a Kafe, and had a huge feed of...... chicken kebab and rice.... then a fantastic 10km downhill, where I found a quiet campsite, out of sight of the road. .... then..... a guy turns up with some chopped up melon...... then he returns with chips, dates, pressed fruit and biscuits..... How did he find me? And where did all the food come from. We're in the middle of a desert. ..... Welcome to Persia.
How's this for an interesting fact..... Uzbekistan is one of only two countries, double landlocked (all the countries surrounding it are landlocked). Anyone able to name the other country?