Saturday 30 August 2008

Iran day 13

Been in Iran for 13 days now and in Tehran for 6. My Pakistan visa has been a pain in the butt as per usual but it is going to arrive tomorrow (honest guv) and I am heading down to Esfahan and then Shiraz to meet up with Graham and Andy even though they already replaced me with 2 other riders I forgive them. So I will be meeting Tino and Andy in Shiraz as well.

Tehran is ok as far as cities go. It isnt what I would call a "must see" destination But the people as always have been fantastic. I may have mentioned in a comment that I am staying with a family here in Tehran who I bumped into completely by chance (But I guess that is true of most people I meet) I stopped to ask directions to a hotel and they straight up invited me into their home. Didnt even ask how long I would be staying. Even got me to ride my bike into the house.

So yeah just been relaxing, doing alot of that recently and I quite like it. Got myself sorted for the next leg of the trip. I got at least 2 months now before I make anymore visa applications. and the bike has about 6k miles in it before it needs a service! All is good!

Ramadam starts on Monday which is going to make things awkward. It is strictly followed and although I dont have to follow it I cant eat or drink in public as it would be disrespectful. The no drinking will be a struggle in the 40 degree heat!

Oh and by the way, Iran has its own big ass firewall. Blocks Facebook as well as most proxy sites. I have been able to find a partial workaround but basically can only view facebook. Cant send messages or accept invitiations most of the time. Poking works though! :-D

Pakistan in two weeks! Thats when things start to get scary!

Wednesday 20 August 2008

I am McGreggor!

And we have been having "McGreggor" moments in Iran. It is so funny. Graham, Andy and me are being treated like stars. Whenever we stop people flood around us and ask to take photos with us. Or holding their children so we have decided to see how long we can call ourselves Ewan (me because of the beard apparently), Charlie (Andy because someone has to) and Claudio (Graham because he didn't want to be Charlie) before someone calls us out on it!

All joking aside everyone here is so friendly. Even at the border crossing we were treated very well. The western media has Iran all wrong. As you know I really don't have an opinion on politics and I wouldn't talk about it here if I did. The people here have shown us nothing but goodwill.

Our first night in Iran we were looking for a place to camp near a lake next to Orumiyeh but it turns out the lake had dried up so we eventually stopped at the side of the road next to a fishing "cabin". There was a guy there who spoke good English who told us we could stay in the cabin that night if we wanted. We were served plenty of tea and a dinner of fried fish (uh oh) and watched a Turkish copy of the Transporter. There was a family there who invited us to stay with them the next night in Urmia. Spent the night chatting through our translator and taking lots of photos.

Second day we went to Mahabad which has an underground cave/lake complex. Here we met an English speaking tour guide, Ali, he invited us to stay with his family. Turned out to be an incredibly weird night. We watched a video of his wedding. No one smiled in it and his wife, also his cousin, looked very unhappy. They live with his mum, dad and sister in the same house and he got his mum to clean my dirty boxers... by hand..! Turns out he wanted us to pay for the night. $15 each. He was a nice guy but that was more expensive than a hotel and not really in the same spirit as we have found elsewhere in Iran. They did clean my boxers though which I guess is worth at least $5.

The drivers here are insane. At one point I was stuck behind a lorry with a taxi overtaking me on the left and a van undertaking me on the right. I was pinned in good and proper. They just have no fear of anything and will happily sit in the lane for oncoming traffic while they take photos of us forcing the oncoming cars to swerve out of the way or they will swerve into us. All very exciting. The roads are very good. No potholes and the tarmac has plenty of grip.

Last night (19th) we stayed camped near an Iranian version of Cappadocia. We met an Iranian family there and the daughter could speak English. Spent the night with the whole family. The father, Jelly (not his real name), used to drive trucks for an American oil company so could also speak English. The younger women wore normal clothes with a headscarf and were completely free to talk to us. It was not like you imagine. They were happy for us to take photos of them. In the city it seems to be a bit more conservative but in general the view I had of Iran and of the culture here has been completely turned on its head.

I am supposed to be meeting a mixed group in Tehran who I met on couch surfing and they are going to take me to a "club" and show me around the city. Will try to stay away from government buildings of course.

In Tabriz (tabreeze) now for 2 days in a hotel. We have parked the bikes inside the hotel so they are nice and safe. Going to get some more spares for the bike and carry out a big service as it is unlikely I will find anywhere to do it between here and Islamabad. The bike is running very well and is a low wearing engine so I don't doubt it will be fine with or without the service but better safe than sorry. The bike garage we found here is also a motorcycle club and they seem very proud to have us at there garage. They cant do enough for us. Sorting out Andy with the hospital, finding us a hotel and offering all kinds of work and parts for the bike.

Heading to Tehran on Friday for my Pakistan visa. I will probably upload some photos then too as the internet connection here is painfully slow! For now though you can check out these from Cardiff to Cappadocia

Friday 15 August 2008

They bombed my fuckıng hotel!

I cant belıeve the fuckers bombed my hotel! Thats a lıttle too close to home! No-one was hurt thank god. Polıce came and evacuated the area before ıt went off. Bıke ıs safe too.

Its a small hotel on a quıet street. I dont lıke to thınk thıs but I thınk they bombed ıt because me and Graham were there. Dont get many westerners around these parts and ıt seems strange for the PPK to bomb one of theır own cıtıes!

Unfortunatly we orderd some more parts for the Iran trıp and have to waıt tıll Saturday to get them but we are layıng low ın a small campsıte outsıde of town. Hopefully we can leave early tomorrow mornıng.

I thought about terrorısm beıng a problem before I left but I dıdnt serıously consıder...

It ıs serıously tıme to get out of Turkey!

Saturday 9 August 2008

Welcome to the Malaria Zone!

Doxycycline can make your more sensıtıve to the sun huh? No fuckıng shıt! It feels lıke, and I pıck my words carefully so not to overdramatıse, It feels lıke my skın ıs on fıre! So lots of sun cream from now on and stayıng as covered up as possıble! At least untıl I reach Aus when I can stop the tablets for a whıle!

Now who was ıt who suggested I go to Nemrut Dagı? Harrıet and Emma, I thınk ıt was you! Dıd I wrong you ın some way? Was thıs my punıshment? The road there was ınsanely dangerous. Haırpın after haırpın on gravel, mud, sand, stones and the odd stretch of tarmac. One sıde a clıff face and the other a straıght drop ınto nothıngness! It ıs such hard work rıdıng on roads lıke that. Up on the pegs the whole way. Makes your legs feel lıke jelly and your neck and arms ache. Makes your braın hurt too constantly judgıng angles and how hard you can accelerate/brake.

I was 50/50 on goıng or not and ın the end decıded I needed a place to sleep and fıgured a natıonal park would have somewhere I could camp so turned off the maın road at about 7pm and followed the sıgn post that saıd 84km to Nemrut. An hour later I had done maybe 30km and the sun was goıng down but carrıed on fıgurıng I would stop around sunset and then carry on up the mountaın ın the mornıng. at around 9pm ıt was dark and I had done only another 20km and was pretty certaın I was lost! Stopped to ask dırectıons. Yup, I was lost! Had gone about 10k ın the wrong dırectıon so I turned around and started lookıng for a place to camp. And to cut a long story short, some local people found me puttıng up my tent and ınsısted, wıthout any englısh, that I should stay wıth them for the nıght. They made up a bed for me and fed me, gave me more tea than one man should ever drınk and even got the neıghbours over and woke up the only englısh speakers near by. They were two sısters whose names translated to Love and Understandıng. One ıs studyıng to be a doctor and the other a mathmatıcs engıneer.

It was a really good nıght all ın all, everyone was really frıendly. Really worrıed about me rıdıng through Kurdıstan so showed me the safest route on the map. It seems the only person not worrıed about me ıs me and that worrıes me! They were also very ınsıstent that I get up at 4am to be at Nemrut for the sunrıse. I was up at 4:30 thanks to the call to prayer! And I rode up the moutaın faster than I should to make the sunrıse. Unfortunately ıt was cloudy but the lıght breakıng through the clouds was pretty dramatıc and ıt was defınately worth the rıde up. For starters I can say I rode up a mountaın rıght to the peak and also the vıew was fantastıc. The mınd boggles at how they managed to get the statues up there. They dıdnt appear to be made of the same stone as the mountaın so I assume some poor bastards had to drag them up!

In Van now at the Iranıan border. Gettıng a bıt nervous about crossıng now but not goıng untıl the 15th as thats when my Vısa starts. Goıng to meet Graham today, the guy I am crossıng wıth. There ıs a huge mılıtary presence here. Not so much ın the cıty but ın the surroundıng area. Lots of ground manouvers goıng on whıch I assumıng ıs traınıng. Road blocks every 150km and there ıs always a helıcoptor ın sıght! Lots of the turkısh versıon of the humvee as well.

hmm, quıte a long one that. I wanted to post more but you would get bored and stop readıng. Next update probably from Tehran ın a week or 2.

Saturday 2 August 2008

My first crash!

Now this is important and most of you wont understand why. You see, when riding a bike, the thought of crashing is something you have to put out of your head. The fear slows you down, stiffens your body and generally makes you ride worse than you are capable of. I have known from the beginning of this trip that I am going to crash. Multiple times. And that has worried me. Your body forgets pain and it is the fear of pain that causes you to worry. Obviously. So getting that first crash out of the way, for me anyway, is a significant line that had to be crossed.

So 3 nights ago (I think it was 3) I decided to head out of Istanbul (the hostel sold my bed and I couldnt be arsed finding a new one) and do a little exploring around the back country. I headed upto Sile on the D020 and then went to Riva via the costal road which isnt really so much a road as a very muddy/sandy track. At some points you have to ride along the beach and sometimes through the forest. It was a good 2 nights camping in practically untouched wilderness. The first days ride was pretty uneventful. The going was difficult but I was getting to grips with the weight of the bike and the handelling on sand. The second day was a forest stage and I had really got into the swing of things. Launching over "ramps" and letting the bike do the work. I was doing about 50mph when it happened which was way too fast even if I was any good. Suddenly the hard dirt turned into very soft wet mud, back into hard dirt and then mud again. The first mud almost had me and if it had been maybe a meter longer it would have but the bike sat back up right on the hard ground. The second stretch well..... The back wheel started to overtake me which is never good and I just froze, the front wheel went up the mud bank and the back down it and it was all over. Except it wasnt. See if the mud had stayed wet I would have had a nice soft landing maybe a bit muddy but it didnt it turned into hard rock. One pannier ripped itself off the bike and the bike landed on my leg.

The damage to both was pretty minimal. The pannier has a big dent in it and will need to banged back into shape so that it fits nicely on the bike again. The brake pedal.... Well the brake peddle reached for god in its final moments and now I cant actually use my rear break without lifting my foot off the back and kind of reverse dog legging it and the handelbars look like they are turning right when I am going in a straight line. All of that will be fixed with a hammer.

Me, I caught a rock to the knee and a rock to my middle finger. Also my arm and shoulder but I had armour covering those parts. So I have a purple finger and a red knee now but what I am most pissed off about is that I ripped my trousers and will have to buy a new pair. Or maybe keep them so I have an ice breaker at parties!

All in all a good couple of days! :-) It was really good to do a bit of travelling again though. 3 weeks in Turkey now and I have barely left Istanbul! I might spend the whole of tomorrow uploading pictures and putting comments next to them. Should pass some time! Only 3 days left till I point the bike towards Iran and get to see what the road has to offer again!