Travel Through Iran on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Iran on a Harley (11/11/99 - 21/11/99)
Distance 2458 km (161990 km to 164448 km)

This is part of the Sixth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Turkey or read our previous visit to Iran

11/11/99 The border crossing easy, 20 minutes to leave Turkey and one hour to enter Iran, no luggage check or search, no payment of any money. Changed money at the black market rate of 8600 rials to the dollar over the border, quite openly, and many offering to change. The rate in Iran better and the dealers more honest than on the Turkish side where much handling of the money went on to confuse you. Downhill and the ice melted by passing trucks and 270 km to Tabriz for the night. Started the day at –2 degrees and never above 4 degrees.

12/11/99 Tabriz – Tehran 600 km, but first we needed to repair the speedometer driver mechanism on the front wheel, which broke yesterday 50 km back. Driven by a small metal tab attached to the front wheel this is the second one to break in the life of the motorcycle. Extra pressure was probably placed on the tab with water entering and freezing. Again a cold start but warmed to 7 degrees and sunshine. The last 300 km on the freeway, despite motorcycles being forbidden, we had no problems and at each toll booth were waved on without payment. This is the Iran I remember, generally honest in the dealings with tourists and outside tourist areas we pay the same cheap prices as locals, petrol less than $US 1.00 a full tank (not $US 1.00 a litre like Turkey) and a full meal and drinks $US 1.50, roads excellent and friendly helpful people.Kay getting used to riding in the chador, gathering up all the flowing material The road block system has changed since my last visit two years ago where every 100 km I was stopped to check papers where now we have travelled 900 km and have not been stopped, just waved through the check posts.

13/11/99 Approached the Saudi Arabian embassy for a transit visa and was told they are not issued in Iran and they believe they are only issued to nationals of neighbouring countries. Even though we can get a visa for Kuwait we run the risk of getting stuck in an expensive country without a visa to Saudi or another visa to return to Iran. The same problem exists with Bahrain and Qatar. Having a UAE visa we opt to go directly there from Iran.

14/11/99 The 10+ million people in this city all seem to be on the move, mostly taxi's, shared or private or like us in a private car, a friend of the hotels, extremely cheap and better than using the motorcycle in a labyrinth of congested one way streets. Booked our boat from Banda-e Lengeh to Dubai for theThe President arrives to the Khomeini square in Esfahan 21/11, have to be there the day before for paperwork formalities for the motorcycle. The boat runs from here at 10 am each Thursday and Sunday and from Banda-e Abbas at the same time each Thursday. A boat also runs from Khoramshr to Kuwait, and Bushehr to Qatar, ph Tehran 9821 8891015. Collected our Yemen visa, same day service and very friendly.

15/11/99 Tehran – Esfahan, 420 km, warmer as we head south out of the mountains. Despite two years of liberal rule by the new president women here are still totally covered except for the face and hands. While black is by far the majority colour, most wearing the wrap around cape, some lighter coloured coats and scarves are appearing particularly in big cities where coats can often only come to just below the knee and be quite bright but plain coloured. Kay is finding her attire quite restrictive, now the novelty has worn off, needing to wear it each time she leaves our hotel room, to toilet or shower or for a quick dash to the shops. You do see the occasional woman driving a car, riding the back of a smallPersepolis, some magnificent relief carvings motorcycle or eating in restaurants but it certainly would not be considered usual.

16/11/99 The Meidun E Emam Khomeini square, the main attraction of Esfahan, was packed with Iranians welcoming their president. Security was tight, alleyways barricaded and shops shut for his visit. Almost every visitor to Iran comes to see the Emam Mosque, covered inside and out with the pale blue tiles famous in this area.

17/11/99 Esfahan to Shiraz, 500 km, fifteen degrees and we are now into the sunshine and weather we planned and hoped for. Still excellent roads but with a steady flow of trucks carrying produce all over the country in both directions not allowing relaxed riding. The private car here doesn't seem to make it onto the open roads often and certainly the small commuter motorcycles are absent. Visited and revisited Persepolis for Kay and myself, still as impressive, this fifth century BC city, unearthed only in 1930, has extensive carvings of activities of the day.

18/11/99 AfterCisterns storing ground water run off three days of fighting off a cold (flu) I spent today reading and listening to the BBC and Voice of America on radio, venturing out only for food while Kay busied herself with her cross stitch needlework. There are often slow days and spare hours in the day when the energy has expired but its not time to sleep. Usually Kay sews and I read or tinker with the motorcycle.

19/11/99 Shiraz, Firoz Abad, Ghir, Lar to Banda-e Lengeh, 680 km. Through some of the most beautiful mountain desert scenery I have seen with varied rock formations where the earth has been shaped and twisted and dyed many colours all revealed by the desert. We passed hundreds of cone structures, desert water, built over large diameter deep holes in the ground to catch water from a storm and preserve it for later use. The people now more Arabic than Persian, wearing less black and more bright coloured shawls and the unusual face bands. These bands vary in design but usually a band runs across the eyebrows and another one across the mouth or upper lip with a joining nose cone. They vary from thin bandsHad the bashplate modified at this small welding shop to ones covering almost the entire mid face.

20/11/99 Why are border crossings by land usually so easy and any shipping or flying of the motorcycle so difficult with paperwork. We spent all morning from 8 am to 1.30 pm arranging for the motorcycle and us to get on a regular ferry to Dubai. The shipping company Valfajre-8, Iranian, runs regular fast cats but at the last minute we were advised a passenger list has to be at immigration 40 hours before sailing. They waived the condition for us. The ticket price $US 55.00 each. The motorcycle would be $US 150.00, half that of a car. There was until that moment no actual price for a motorcycle, they not having been shipped from here before. After much discussion at the high price, phone calls to Tehran head office the price was reduced for us as a "special travellers" to $US 80.00. Customs on the other hand, not having seen a "carnet" before, in recent memory, spent two hours processing the document,People returning from and going to the UAE to work to be collected tomorrow, I hope. Despite it being a drive on drive off fast cat, all vehicles, a rarity, are shipped as freight like any other cargo. We relaxed for the rest of the day in the small port town where many different cultures come and go to the islands of the Persian Gulf and surrounding countries and wondered whether our voyage across the Straits of Hormuz would be smooth and we weren't thinking of ocean waves.

  21/11/99 I enjoyed Iran as much this time as the last visit. A country where we can afford almost everything without having to worry about prices. A country of basically honest helpful people, like the man who gave us five litres of petrol when we misjudged our needs and wouldn't accept payment, and the welding workshop who also wouldn't accept payment to slightly modify the bash plate for the motorcycle. The visit was enhanced travelling with Kay and the different reactions we received as a couple rather than a single male. Iranian women could approach Kay but not me. The difficulty Kay experienced being totally covered all the time outside our hotel room and the realization that these women must do this their entire lives, and in summer not just winter. Ten days was enough for Kay to start not wanting to venture out because of the dress code.

Move with us to United Arab Emirates or go to our next visit to Iran




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