Iran with Szilvi =]
Iran was definitely in my plans and actually, it was one of the places I most wanted to visit! But I didn’t expect to ride together with a beautiful woman by my side =]
I would love to ride with you one day…
These were the magic words that I said to her, without any expectation, and they changed many things in this bicycle trip and in my life too. Szilvia got really interested in this crazy guy who said it to her and since then we started to talk and plan this ride. When I was in Turkey, we decided to meet up in Sofia (Bulgaria), which was half way between Istanbul and Budapest (her beloved city). There we fell in love and the idea of riding together in Iran just became stronger. Then in the new year she surprised me saying “yes” that she would be joining me 🤗
Szilvi took a flight from Budapest and I came from Cairo. We met in Dubai, where we spent a lovely night together before flying to Tehran. We arrived at night and we were welcomed by my friend from Boom Festival, Bobby du Soltan, who was happily waiting for us!
It's hard to describe how incredible his hospitality was, but I'll list a few VIP treatments...He spent more than 4h in traffic to meet us at the airport! Then another 1.5h driving back to his place. He filled the pantries and fridge with food supplies for us. His friend brought delicious food cooked by his Mom, especially for us! They offered us all sorts of delicious homemade foods and liquors! He gave his own bedroom for us! Basically, he treated us like Sultans! ☺
We spent a couple of days exploring the amazing Tehran and enjoying Bobby's royal hospitality. Then we went to his parents’ house in Nosharh, on the shore of the Caspian Sea and near the mountains. We had a great time with his family there, walking in beautiful forests, eating good food, learning about their culture and most of all, sharing love!
After saying goodbye to Bobby, we went to Isfahan by bus to meet my old friend Eiman who did his PhD with me in Australia. Meeting him was also very special, as he lives in Melbourne and by chance he was there on a business trip exactly at that time! The universe is perfect!!! He took us to many places in Isfahan and we had heaps of fun drinking Arak and remembering the old times.
The bike tour
Eventually we left Eiman’s house and got back on the road for our first long ride together. We had an awesome day and managed to do 93 km!!! We didn't reach our Warmshowers host, but he arranged a place for us to stay at his friend's house in a little village. The Iranian hospitality is beyond nice, it's incredible!!!
We had breakfast with our host family and after fixing a flat tyre, we left a bit late, but who cares? (stupid MARCOS sometimes does! lol) We were the attraction on the road and several people drove near us or stopped by to say hello or have a short conversation. The Warmshower host, who had arranged his friend's place for us, insisted to meet us for lunch and he had people waiting to stop us as soon as we got to his town! These Iranians take hospitality to whole new level!
The ride was beautiful and we did very well, climbing more than 1000m and riding for 90km. Just at the end that it was a quite hard because we had to ride at night on a terrible road with really cold weather. But we arrived safe and sound to Naain, where we met a lovely old couple from Poland who were also bike touring in Iran. We had dinner and a long chat with them =]
We left Naain for our first challenging day. We had to ride in a busy highway with a strong and cold head wind, but I was feeling pain on my knee and I was not in a good mood. We also could not have a proper lunch on the road, which made me even hangrier…I had lost equanimity. But thanks to Szilvi for her patience and support. Anyway, it was a great opportunity for us to grow as individuals and as a couple.
We stopped at a small village to find a place to sleep and the locals directed us to the mosque, where we spent the night in one of the little rooms that they have for travellers. The following day was pure pleasure! The weather, roads, physical and emotional conditions were much better. We had fun with local people and visited beautiful places on the way to Yazd, where we met a group of 4 bike tourists at a restaurant. They were traveling from Belgium to China (www.silkroadcyclers.com)! We had a great time sharing stories from the road and we all slept at the restaurant =]
We spent a couple of days resting and sightseeing in Yazd, which is a beautiful city and the epicentre of Zoroastrianism. We visited the old city, beautiful parks, mosques and the Zoroaster temple. It’s impressive how a country that is so culturally rich is now ruled by Islamic dictators who brain wash most of the people =/
From Yazd, the plan was to go towards Shiraz avoiding highways as much as possible. Eventually we found a nice route through mountains and desert roads. We didn’t know exactly how it would be, but it certainly exceeded any expectation we had. It was mind-blowing!
So we left Yazd and before we started climbing the mountains, we stopped at a little town for lunch and went to Saryazd by taxi to visit an old citadel (UNESCO patrimony which was out of our route). The place was impressive! In the afternoon, we got back to the bikes to do the mountain pass, through good and not so steep roads. The ride was fantastic and the views breathtaking! The only “problem” was that we ran a bit late and had to finish at night, but the starry sky made it worthwhile. We stopped at tiny village (Tang-E-Chenar), where we had dinner at a restaurant which almost exploded (the owner had issues with the gas hose!). Then we went to the local mosque to sleep, but we found no one, so we just entered it and spent the night. It was so cold in there that probably it would be better to camp.
From that village, we did a long ride through a beautiful desert road. The road was great and empty, and it was mostly downhill. But the head wind was strong as usual. We stopped at the only rest area on the road to cook and have lunch. There we were the attractions for local people and at that point we were getting used to these situations, which we called “zoo session” lol. We watched the magnific sunset from the road and arrived in Marvast at night. There we stopped a few people on the street to ask for a place to sleep and they took us to the fireman station, where we spent the night.
Surprisingly, they also had a castle in Marvast and we visited it before leaving towards Bavanat mountain valley. The local people open the castle especially for us because it is not a touristic attraction. A couple of hours after leaving the town, we stopped at the last village before Bavanat to have lunch and get supplies for the road. There we had to hide in a park to eat because Szilvi was harassed by stupid men while I was buying bread. While we were eating, there were some guys passing to observe us. We thought it was just another zoo session, but they actually robbed us!!! Once we finished lunch and started packing the bikes to go, I found my wallet on the floor and it was empty… they got all the Rials we had! It was our mistake to leave valuables in the bike and not watch for it, but we couldn’t believe it. We would never expect it to happen in a tiny village in Iran! Of course, I got angry, but what upset me the most was to lose hours with the police when I could be riding on beautiful roads =/
After things were all sorted with the police and exchanging some money with a local guy, we finally got back on the road. But it was too late to reach the next town, so we had to hitchhike for the first time. The truck driver was lovely and he dropped us in Bavanat just before sunset. I was still in a bad mood, but the views of the valley were the best medicine for it. So, after watching the sunset we started to hunt for a place to camp and God listened to my prayers…we found an amazing abandoned castle!
We had an amazing night at the castle, making fire, watching the stars, laughing and crying. That was for sure the best night of the whole trip! The next day in the morning we decided to have a lazy day there, enjoying the place with the view to the mountain. We cooked breakfast with whatever we had and stayed there until noon. In the afternoon, we left the place towards the main city in Bavanat, but still riding slow and enjoying that magnificent place as much as we could. Once we got to town, we stopped at a random restaurant for lunch and what a surprise he had…the “MasterChef” cooked us one of the best meals we had in the whole trip. It was delicious!!! After we ate he came to do the typical session of photos and selfies with us =]
It was too late to continue, but we decided to at least get out of town towards the mountain pass and camp somewhere. But we were pulled out by police when leaving the town and they insisted for us to stay somewhere there. Initially, we thought it would be free but actually, the cops took us to a not so cheap hotel. Anyway, it was good to have a warm place to sleep.
The next morning, we did the most beautiful ride through the mountains that we’ve been watching for the last two days. The short and steep climb was not easy at all, but it was more than worth it! We reached 2600m and there was a lot of snow on the top. The remainder of the ride was mostly a pleasant downhill, passing through farmers’ villages and leaving the mountains behind. Just after sunset, we watched the beautiful new moon rising in the sky. We were riding towards Pasergrade (Persian city ruins), but we had to stop at a city (Qaderabad) 20 km before it to spend the night. The police tried to escort us and take us to a hotel in Pasergrade, but we refused it and end up being invited by one off duty policeman to stay in his house.
After having fun and enjoying the hospitality of the policeman and his wife, we left for an easy ride towards Pasegrade. We spent a couple of hours there exploring the ruins, but the best was the interactions with a family from Isfahan who invited us to join them for a picnic! Before leaving the city, we had one of the worst meals ever (horrible pizza) and had to wait for almost 1h for it! Once we reached a larger city I had to stop to book my flight to India and apply for the visa, that was stressful and took me some time. All these things were quite frustrating and I lost my equanimity, again =/ But anyway, it happens…So we had not much time left to ride that day and we were trying to push faster to get as many kms as we could before sunset. We were trying to reach a little town to get supplies and then camp, but on the way, we were stopped by Moji, a young guy on a car who loves cycling and he invited us to stay at his family place in a little farmers’ village. Wow, it was one of the best experiences with locals we had and real balm to our tired bodies and minds. They were a large family and prepared a banquet for us, and it was awesome to be there with them…it was REAL!
We left their house on a cloudy and rainy morning to ride toward the famous Persepolis through the old Isfahan-Shiraz road, which passes through a beautiful valley. That was our last day of actual bike touring and we enjoyed it a lot. We did not have many kms to do because we were going to hitchhike the last stretch to Shiraz to avoid the big and busy highway. Visiting Persepolis was really nice! The ruins are quite well preserved and you can have a good idea of how majestic that place was centuries ago. At the end of the day we rode only a few kms to the highway to get a lift with a truck to Shiraz. Once we got there, we found a truck driver to take us in less than a minute! He was super friendly and dropped us at the northern part of the city before continuing the ring road. We had to do another 18 km at night in busy roads to get to our Warmshower host, who was actually his father’s because he is currently leaving in Germany. The old man was so lovely! He welcomed us with delicious food and spend hours talking about philosophy, etymology and fish diagram (his favourite topic lol).
We spend a couple of days sightseeing Shiraz by bike and we managed to visit most of the touristic places: Karim Khan Castle, Eram Garden, Shah Cheragh, Nasir ol Molk (Pink) Mosque, Tomb of Hafez, Vakil Bazar, Tomb of Saadi, etc…It was an overload of culture, art and beautiful architecture. For a long time, I wanted to visit the pink mosque and it was like a dream come true to be there and spend some time just observing its divine beauty! The conversations with our host at the end of the day were always interesting and sometimes funny =]
From Shiraz to Bandar Abbas we embarked on a hitchhiking journey which lasted nearly 14 hours! We left our host house and rode towards the highway, but a truck driver stopped to take photos with us and we asked if he could give us a lift. He accepted and took us for about 1/3 of the way. Just after shiraz we stopped to see a beautiful salt lake, it was very peaceful and huge, and the reflection of the mountains on the water surface was breathtaking! He invited us for lunch at a little shack on the middle of the road and there I had one of the best kebabs in Iran, simply delicious!
After saying goodbye to the first truck driver, we rode for a few kms to find a good spot to hitchhike and it did not take us much time to get another lift with two brothers driving their truck. Initially, we thought he would stop and drop us in a village before Bandar Abbas, but they were actually going much further and took us all the way there. We spent several hours with them, chatting taking selfies, showing pictures of us and seeing theirs and even cheering with Pepsi for our “honeymoon”! Thank God, we were in the truck and not riding on those roads! They were full of trucks, with bad surfaces and no shoulder at all…totally crazy! Anyway, they dropped us on the outskirts of Bandar Abbas and we rode from there to our local host (friend of a Warmshowers member), enjoying the nice and warm night =]
Our family host in Bandar Abbas was lovely! The young Kouroush spoke very good English and his parents were always trying to feed and please us. On our first day together, we went for a bike ride in Hormus. This Vulcanic island is extremally beautiful and we had a great time riding around it, playing on the beach and exploring an old Portuguese fortress. On our second night, something really weird happened, the police came to the house during the night and took the father to jail! We still don’t know exactly why, but we hope he will be ok and get out of this asap! The next day, just the two of us went to Qeshm island to explore it hitchhiking and spend our last night in Iran camping in nature. We had an amazing time there, visiting beautiful beaches, canyons and mangroves! We also had great fun meeting local people to hitchhike from place to place in the island. And our night camping in the mangrove forest making fire and listening to the birds was totally magical!
We came back to Bandar Abbas to finish packing and say good bye to Kouroush and his family. He rode with us to the port where we took the night ferry to Dubai. After checking in, we had to spend a long time waiting to board and it left very late! Luckily, they allowed us to put up our tent on the empty car deck and we could have a good last night together.
We arrived in Dubai super late! The boat was supposed to arrive between 6 and 9am, but we got there at 3pm! Then it took us another hour to go through immigration and customs. So, it was 4pm when we finally left the port and Szilvia still had to pack her bike and fly from an airport 75km away from there! Thank God, we had help from a couple of “angels” and we accomplished the mission successfully. My Warmshower host (Scott) had got the bike box for Szilvi and we just had to ride 50 km to his place, pack and go to the airport. After a few kms we decided to get a cab because the highways were crazy dangerous and Szilvia was not feeling well. But we could not get a cab and the guys from a car dealership helped us by sending one of their employees with a test-drive car to take us to Scott’s house. Once we got there, we quickly packed Szilvi’s bike, left my stuff and took a cab to the airport for her to check in just in time for her flight! We still had some time our last hug and kiss…
It was hard to say good bye to Szilvi and we don’t know when or where we’ll meet again, but we are sure it will happen soon. Now I’m back to my solo journey from India to Beijing and she will start a new life in Japan. Time for us to enjoy reality as it is and not as we wish it to be =]
Peace and bici for all =]