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  #31  
Old 31 Oct 2011
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Today was a near perfect day on the road. We started out in Istanbul. I had few expectations from Turkey after being engaged to a girl who comes from here. After that miserable experience I figured there was little left here that could shock or repulse me further. Istanbul was a pleasant surprise, it was a bustling, vibrant city with great architecture and friendly people. More importantly the toll roads weren’t guarded and the police let us drive wherever we pleased.
This morning w got a few snaps to remember passing through and it all began to wear a bit thin. The friendly people started getting a little irritating. They’re clearly after something all the time and their hopelessly unsophisticated attempts to appeal to our western mentality was just grating after the novelty of the first few.
A girl today started trying to engage us in conversation after we parked on her tourist attraction. She proclaimed loudly that I had a perfect bike. I love her to bits but right now she’s covered in scrappy bolt-ons that are uglier than a Bulgarian super-model and she’s as dirty as I wish my girlfriend was. She then told Marcin that he had a perfect bum. We looked at one another and didn’t know how to reply to that one. In the end I took the moral high-ground like an Englishman would and asked the only sensible question, ie what was wrong with mine?
Talking of which there were two toilets this morning but someone seemed to have moved into one of them. The Turkish practice of leaving food in tepid metal cans all day and then serving had made my stomach feel slightly unsettled and there was no waiting for the troubled individual in the normal, Western toilet so I had to make do with the other one. To call it a toilet was a compliment, it’s a hole in the ground, incapable of flushing or accepting toilet paper. The easiest thing in the world in this position is to shit in your own underpants but I avoided soiling myself and mostly hit the target, rather proud of myself that I had succeeded on my first attempt. Marcin came back from the shower and told me someone with real power had been using the toilet. I admitted it was me. When we packed the bike I sniffed the air and there was a foul, sickly aroma wafting around the entire hotel lobby. He grinned and said, “it was me. Don’t you recognise?”
So after a number of encounters with various Turkish people who were offering every imaginable favour as a special gift and the constant rush-hour traffic that lasts all day we finally got on the road out of there. We headed for a major bridge, Marcin was very keen to get on it. I was a bit disappointed because it was just a bridge. A big bridge but just a bridge. So it took us close to 40 miles to get out of the city sprawl. Istanbul is just that massive and seems to reach on forever. A city of 14 million people of whom roughly half own or work in the mindless, endless mostly identical cafes that all have the same food at the same price and the rest just drive around, bumper to bumper until they crash into something. The wind was still fairly strong and I was buffeted a lot although Marcin seemed fine.
We stopped to gas up and have some lunch at a petrol station on the motorway. The station was the biggest I have ever seen with a mall literally attached to the petrol station. It had half a dozen restaurants, shops, cafes and bars. Just utterly ridiculous. The toilets were even more so. The urinals had TV screens above each one and everything was so clean you’d honestly think you were in a first world country. The food was expensive and second rate. I had some macaroni cheese, some beans and a little salad. Marcin had everything else. Even after four bowls of food he was still hungry but we carried on regardless. He’s a one-man famine waiting to afflict a country. A ravenous plague devouring its way from continent to continent. I’m sure it must have made the news, after the terrible Earthquake now Marcin is coming and... he’s hungry!
For whatever reason the weather seemed to improve. The wind died down so I could comfortably add a few extra miles per hour and the trip was far more comfortable. Even though it was warmer than we’re used to it was still cold to ride in it. The wind blasting over us and the slight humidity means we’re effectively experiencing the same conditions as the inside of a fridge and for those that want to know it does appear that the light stays on. Soon after that the terrain changed. Even though we were on a motorway the scenery went from banal to spectacular. Green hills took hold of the horizons and rolled into infinity around us and then the mountains lumbered out way. The ground flattened out into a barren rocky wasteland peppered with yellow bushes and stretches of water glistened a deep blue under a perfect, cloudless sky. The ride was everything you could ask of a road trip today.
Somehow Marcin lost a catch on his helmet but my handy box of spares put us right. He’s still struggling with a £300 video camera that came supplied with a 50p fitting clip that’s failed completely so towards Ankara we bodged him up with double sided tape and a power lead running from a hastily assembled collection of wires and plugs. Once we’d disguised him as an evil cyborg from a bad sci-fi move with Death, Evil or Killer in the title we made on for the last hour or so of our trip. The petrol is a higher quality here, my fuel economy is pretty much normal again and Marcin is having none of the running problems we had outside of Bulgaria. They have a strange system where someone has to unlock the pump before it works but invariably there’s never enough people working so everyone stands around waiting to pay 20% more for a litre of fuel than England.
We reached Ankara after duelling with several coach divers who drive with their accelerator buried in the carpet in all conditions and several myopic and stupid drivers who shouldn’t be allowed to walk on their own let alone take control of a car. To say the driving mentality here is unsophisticated is like saying Marcin smells a bit when he farts.
Our GPS took us to the heart of the town. Anatomically it looked like an organ lower down in the human body where things are disposed of. This is the capital city and it’s run down, battered and decaying. There’s no sophistication here, it’s like it’s run by adults with children’s brains. The people do well not to eat one another and the building do well to remain standing if it rains. Some parts were little more than huts, others were a pale imitation of Istanbul. How this is the capital is beyond me. It’s an ugly little town with the style and facilities, noise, smell and comfort of a 2-stoke enduro motorcycle but without being able to ride over curbs. We found a hotel at a price that we felt was right but to call it basic is selling it short. It’s cruder than a kick to the bollocks, the toilet is a hole and doesn’t have paper of any kind. You’re expected to simply remove the leftovers with your hand and wash it off. The room is a bos with crumbling walls and a single socket that’s been nailed to a plank of wood. Conditions are expected to get far worse from here but then that’s why we’re doing it. So we stayed right here in Ankara. The time was about 6.30 when we settled in. The journey was just long enough, just entertaining enough and just quick enough to be just right. Tomorrow we’re going to go further, slower and longer. We’re going to try to make time and get out of here in 2 more days and cross into Iran the next morning. Tomorrow sees an early start and realistically an all-day ride at more plodding speeds on roads where plodding is quick. First there will be .
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  #32  
Old 31 Oct 2011
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What a day! We decided that the best thing to do was get the hell out of dodge. Ankara was so expensive and such a festering pile of crap that we just didn’t want to stay in this country any longer. Unfortunately there was 17 hours (according to the Google-machine) of roads to negotiate between us and Iran. So... I planned a scheme. Erzincan was pretty far at 715km and a projected travel time of 10 hours. What google didn’t tell us was that the temperatures were going to hit 0 degrees and the wind would blast us off the road. It also failed to mention the roadworks, crazy Turkish drivers and the fact that we had to climb 2km above sea level into the mountains.
So we set off from the “hotel”. To even call it a hotel was a stretch but you pay as little money as possible and you take your choice, I guess. Last night we went out to dinner and struggled to find anywhere open after 9pm. We ended up walking a mile and a half into a town type place where life was worth less than a carton of fags. We managed to get a place open but they wanted us to eat what looked like washing-up water with bleached chicken parts floating in it. The second place was more promising as there were people still alive in it. I got them to understand I was a vegetarian and that Marcin would anything that had been killed, the more brutally the better. They offered me a cheese salad sandwich by another name which was fine by me. We got some drinks from the fridge. Marcin found some bottles of slime and I commented that it looked and sounded awful but I’d give it a go anyway. It was slightly fermented beetroot and carrot juice with added salt. It was like drinking bile out of a tramps boot. I managed around a third of a small bottle before giving up while I still held on to a shred of the will to live. Marcin managed slightly more but even he gave up.
They served up a kebab roll each but changed it without any fuss to the cheese thing. They even threw in free cakes and tea. Everything here comes with free tea, even illegal parking. Tonight we dumped the bike on the curb while I went looking for a hotel room and when I came back he was sipping complimentary tea.
Anyway.. so this morning we went out into Ankara. Marcin did his usual trying to get me killed in his excitement at the prospect of taking pictures so we struggled to find something worth taking pictures of. That town looks even worse in daylight. Interestingly we past the military headquarters building in the centre of town where young soldiers were playfully pointing Heckler and Kock HK33 rifles at one another. The building was painted pink! I guess you should never pick on the Turkish army. These boys aren’t afraid of anything. It was a relief to be on the road as I knew we had a pig of a journey ahead of us and was stealing myself to deal with it. The town quickly thinned out and we ended up on a carriageway. It was the first clue of what to expect and the road was actually very decent. Slightly odd texture like toffee with gravel in it but it sticks to the tires like glue and for the most part is a pleasure to ride on.
Within 20 minutes a Turk tried to kill me. It wasn’t personal because it wasn’t that he didn’t see me so much as the thought that he should look seemed to not even occur to him. He swung in a bus from the outside lane right through the traffic into me. I saw him and accelerated onto the gravel path and through the bus queue. Marcin asked where he hit me, I guess in his mirror it looked even closer than I thought it was. No harm done and I will never mention Turkish driving here again. If I did I would fill this blog.
So we made time into the freezing cold. The sky was a fixed canopy of grey and if sunlight glinted through it was a very temporary thing. The temperature reached about 7 degrees and it felt freezing. We had had no heat in the hotel last night, everything was broken so our gear was still cold before we ever started. We didn’t get far before my tank ran low so we had to make our first stop for fuel. We’d actually covered around 80 miles by then and the freezing morning had got to us both. We filled up and I was irritated by how few miles I’d done on a tank until it turned out my auxiliary tank was still full. So we had some soup to warm us through. I couldn’t say what was in it, maybe some carrot and potato but there was a hint of coriander and mint. It was nice and it warmed us through nicely. Like everywhere else we enjoyed instant celebrity status because we were bikers, foreign and cold. Everyone asked us where we from or what we were doing. One guy this morning wanted to know if Marcin’s bike was a Kawasaki and if my GPS was a TV. Nice.
So we headed off resolved to ride until my tank went dry again, so in about 125 miles we figured. The scenery switched from the outer city to a craggy, foreboding mass of rocks and mountains and terrain that looked awesomely uninviting. The scenery smoothed out at times and then suddenly, we’d corner and be surrounded by rocks, or hills or rocks and hills. Although there was green coverings to the landscape there was no doubt we were in a desert region and Humans were not entirely welcome here. It stayed cold but to the freezing temperatures we later added high winds. They were not too bad at first, enough to slow us down slightly, or enough to slow me down slightly, the portly KTM weathered it easily while my little single wobbled like a drunk at a funeral.
Along the way we saw our first tumble-weed and our first man on a donkey. Things like that really being home the fact that we’re moving towards the desert. Things are changing and changing fast. People and faces are looking different, people behave differently.
So breakfast perked me up but after about an hour I was feeling a bit tired. The cold was eating into me, my muscles were numb, my fingertips were burning hot with pain and my face was on fire from the constant blast of the wind howling through my helmet. I had a growing sense of fatigue. My chest was burning with every breath as cold air was drawn into my lungs. It passed soon enough but it was a worry for a while.
Eventually I ran dry and we pulled in for some more fuel. We had made around 130 miles this time and although we were behind the schedule I had set myself it was time to eat and I welcomed the break. Even Marcin was ready for some of the free tea everyone offers and something to eat besides. There was a restaurant next to the petrol station so it seemed a good place to stop. As usual we attracted a crowd. People came out of nowhere and prodded and poked he bikes like they’d never seen one before. We paid the guy who clearly ran the place. He spoke boldly in Turkish and seemed irritated that we couldn’t understand but the fact remained that we couldn’t. We found the restaurant closed but were offered free tea which was pretty lousy but was hot so I welcomed it for that. They seemed apologetic that they couldn’t feed us but could manage to make us bread with cheese and sausage. We were past caring what we ate so we agreed and it was actually really nice. They brought us more tea and treated us like we were something far more special than we are. The owners son seemed very excited like we were the most exciting thing to happen there for ages. Marcin didn’t eat all the sausage and the boy was allowed to have it and got even more excited. In a town with four or five agricultural supply stores and a petrol station there can’t be much money for luxuries. I paid for lunch and was charged the equivalent of a few pounds, bought the kid some sweets and left to a fanfare like we were old friends of the families. So we rode on again until my tank drained down now that it was only going to run for around 120 miles with no reserve tank giving me any extra. We powered on as best we could but the day was dragging. The scenery was impressive but I was impressed 4 hours ago. Worse yet we’d only made it to the halfway point and were already cold and tired. When we’d hit around 130 miles we stopped again to fill up. This time my tank had drained to I could have made it a lot further. Anyway we were cold and Marcin suggested tea. There was none at the petrol station so we went to the restaurant. They had no coffee... I was devastated. Needing a perk I looked for something with sugar in it and got us some things that looked like honey-combs. They were in fact and were very good and gave me a little wake up jolt of energy ready for the next leg. We had about 110 miles left to cover and were told it would take us 3 hours. We headed off and it had dropped to 8 degrees and the sun was setting. We were both shaking visibly while we got on the bike so we knew it was going to be a hard slog. Night came in fast in the mountains, the cold ate me alive. By now the wind decided it wanted to be more than just a nuisance. The blasts were more of a constant push, forcing me off the road. This time even Marin was being pushed and neither of us could hold a straight line. Worse even when a truck passed us in the opposite direction the shockwave hit me and sent my little bike reeling. The darkness was beginning to encroach on the mountains but the scenery didn’t relent. By now we were at 2200 metres and the sunset was casting a red glow in the cloud cover that clung to the tips of the massive, rugged peeks all around us. The temperature was now showing at 6 degrees and dropping and we just went as quick as we could, eating the miles as fast as we could. Seconds were precious when the cold was devouring our senses and reactions, the road ahead offered challenges that would be tough on a good day and we were past the end of a good day and riding into the oncoming bad night. The roads were actually amazing. They snaked through the peaks as they lead us on a powered decent through winding paths on a surface that clung to our tires like an alcoholic to a bottle of meths. It’s funny how the best roads in Turkey turn into the worst with the absence of light and the further absence of warmth. We turned a corner and instantly the light was gone. One minute it was dusk with a warm orange glow behind our heads and a setting sun blinding us in our mirrors and then instantly darkness as a peak cut us off from the light. That was the last we saw of the sun as we began down the pass towards town with over an hour still to ride. We cut a dangerous pace but a calculated risk as the dangers of staying out in the dropping temperature were definite whereas the risks of the velocity were acceptable to two experienced riders who desperately needed some . The time dragged on and on as we cut through the blackened night. We virtually had the night to ourselves, the roads were occupied by only a few scattered lorries and idiots in people-carriers risking their lives to go just a little faster.
When we finally saw the lights of a town it was a relief. We headed directly to the centre and set the sat-nav to lead us to a hotel. Any hotel. We had a further 1.3km to go and directly forwards. The town was strikingly modern, clean and immaculately tidy, shockingly contrasting to the disaster that was Ankara. We arrived at the hotel and sadly it was full... except for one last room which was 100 turkish lira. I discussed it with Marcin whose turn it was to pay and he spotted another one. I tried there. They had only one room left as well but it was only 40 and even better they had somewhere we could safely park our bikes... the hotel lobby. I was sold. We turned ourselves around at the roundabout and headed back. We nipped out for some food and I noticed something a little odd. There were no women. None. Nowhere. Not a single woman on the streets anywhere in town. After eating some very decent food which was a bit cheaper than the night before we went and bought some and still no women. Not walking on the street, working in shops, buying tampons and perfume. None. Very weird.
So tomorrow we head for the Iran border. I doubt we’ll cross till the next morning. Our other problem is our route takes us to Van who suffered a major earthquake so how far we’ll be able to follow the main roads we don’t know. I guess tomorrow we will see.
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  #33  
Old 31 Oct 2011
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Another amazing day on the road but this time the amazing thing is that we survived it. We’re officially in a war zone now. We stopped off in a little town called Doğubeyazıt which probably translates to the toilet of Turkey. We checked into a highly questionable hotel in this highly questionable town and all the lights in the town went out completely. Then the generator kicked in. Then the protests started, cars drove up and down the main street honking horns and flashing lights. We were warned in the restaurant there were political problems and might be closing the town tomorrow. So this was the perfect end to the perfect day...
It all started in Erzican. Erzican is a nice little town, modern and friendly, people can’t do enough to help you out. As it turned out we got a hotel for 40 Turkish lira, that equates in real money to less than £20 and it came with breakfast. Breakfast was decent, a nice spread of things to choose from, or there would have been if Marcin hadn’t got there first. Just kidding, Marcin! (not really). I went to the shop locally and was relieved to see two females so this wasn’t some science fiction town where the women had been replaced with robots who had to be recharged at night. I bought some bread and some toilet roll, or as we now call it, Turkish survival kit. I was short of some cash so was told to drop it by later. I shamefully admit I forgot and now owe a guy 4tl which is bad because he was only doing me a favour. We dragged the bikes out of the hotel, well i walked mine out, Marcin had to heave the mighty bulk of the KTM out with some fair degree of difficulty. We enjoyed instant celebrity status, adults stood watching our every move, children came and stood in awe to gaze in amazement as I checked my oil level and lubed my chain. Even more exciting, Marcin put a new screw in his handlebars. All this seemed beyond fascinating to our audience. I chased the kids with a camera and in the end got them to sit on the bike for pictures which they were itching nervously to do. They chased us down the street waving as we made our way out of town. I was wearing the same gear and now I was worried I was massively over-dressed as the temperature was reading 22 degrees and i was beginning to sweat inside my gear. We made it out of town, cars pulled up next to us, the drivers waving and wearing pink shirts for some unknown reason. In Turkey the Fiat Tofas is the weapon of choice for the hopeless boy racer. I’ve seen them before in other countries but not called that. In any case it seems to be a car built to make other cars look good. It’s a poorly designed box with a wheel in each corner but here it suffers the indignity of being modified in every way imaginable unless you can imagine a way which actually uses good taste. Most commonly it’s seen lowered to the ground, massive chrome wheels which batter the standard wheel-arches and things hanging from the mirrors. Also they’re generally brown and try to race you from the lights. We saw many, many of these today and not one beat two heavy loaded bikes on a fun ride through Turkey.
As we made our way out of town it became quickly apparent that I was not over-dressed but was in fact probably not wearing enough clothes. The temperature dropped to 13 degrees in a few minutes and kept sinking. 13 to us was very comfortable after yesterday and we carried on. The roads had moments of spectacular, awe-inspiring scenic impact interspersed with hours of staring at rocks.
Today along the sides of the road I noticed a good many people selling fruit and vegetables on the sides of the road from ramshackle wooden frames with a plastic cover. The first was a tired looking old man, broken into a folding chair in worse shape than his frame, smoking his life away, watching us pass without interest, his eyes dead to the world that had long since passed him by taking his hopes and dreams right along with it. Soon after we passed a man in a suit jacket and mismatched trousers, fat and balding, his white hair trying to cover what he seemed to believe was a shortcoming as if anyone who noticed such a thing and judge a person in it has an opinion worthy of note. Next we passed a young man, maybe mid teens. He watched us keenly, his eyes fixated on the unusual spectacle of two motorcycles passing along the battered road in front of his produce stand. All of these people were the same, just separated by the illusion of time. One would invariably become the other. The young man full of hopes, still fascinated by the world, the man who has learnt who he is and where he fits in, his dreams put to the side so he can usher in the next generation to the life he knows and the old man, broken by the passing of time in a role he now knows served nobody less than it served him.
Here I am, riding through Turkey on my way to the Middle East. I’m incredibly fortunate and I know it. Even among my friends and family who live in a rich country I’m privileged to have this opportunity to ride my dreams but amongst people with nothing, the realisation of how lucky I am is never keener.
This is the failing of the system we live in. Capitalism, consumerism has turned the world into a resource. If there’s no incentive to profit from a thing then the thing is deemed to have no value. Here education is not guaranteed, people work because they have to. There’s no money in helping them find their potential. How many scientist have we lost because they were born to impoverished nations, how many artists. Has the next Einstein died after a lifetime of selling giant cabbages by the side of a road instead of moving the entire Human race forward in its understanding of the Universe? How much talent is wasted because there’s no profit in harvesting it? Every day we’re losing the Human quality that might manifest as the next artist to create a world-changing perspective, the cure for cancer could be lost because someone with the ability to find it is wasting their life in a tin hut, the next political system that leads mankind out of the shackles of slavery under the machinations of the bankers.
Einstein was a genius. His IQ was far higher than the other members of his race and family so the next person to exhibit these abilities could come from anywhere. They could even come from a cabbage patch in northern Turkey, although I admit it does seem unlikely. In any case these people seem hopeless, they just sit there knowing their aspirations will go unmatched by their actions. Nobody is out here helping them achieve their potential because there’s no profit in it. We need to start growing up as a race and see that things don’t necessarily have to profit us, they are worth doing if they profit all of us. This will never happen while money is the blood of our society, pumping around a bloated, decaying body with a hopelessly unused brain.
Even those with something in these parts of society really have less than nothing. There are some modern cars here, usually being driven beyond excess like weapons to be used against everyone moving slower or safer than they are. These days nobody owns their cars, they’re bought on credit. If you work at a job that supports society then you can get credit. Considering that the work of over 70% of us work at doing nothing but moving money from one place to another then the other 30% are productive. Builders, dustmen, nurses, the men who unblock your toilet. They are the real foundation of society and invariably they don’t get credit as easily as bankers, and middle management personnel who provide nothing of use. But those useless people get to drive these cars. In reward for putting the shackles of slavery around their necks they have the options to give some of the money they’ve sold their soul for to a bank each month so they can drive a shiny new car.
I was careful not to fall into this trap when I chose my bike. Of course it’s a consumer product so there’s no point in my claiming I have a totally elevated point of view but I chose a way to limit my entry into the abyss of humanity-swallowing consumerism. I’m using a BMW G650x. This bike is a rare breed in the motor industry because it wasn’t built to make a profit. Most bikes, along with anything else are designed to be built as cheap as possible, create the maximum amount of desire in the consumers and then be sold for as much as they can get. The X-range was built with a slightly different end-result, ie to give BMW something to race in enduro competitions that year, including the Dakar. It was based on their previous singles with uprated engines and better electronics but it came with a high price and people didn’t want it. Now, it can be found relatively cheaply on the second hand market which is where I found mine. The manufacturer earned nothing from me, I bought the bike for around 35% if the new price and it’s been built to a higher standard than you’d normally expect. In fact is things were built to accommodate needs instead of to accommodate the incentive for profit then this is what bikes would generally be like. BMW certainly cut some corners but I stuck those corners back on and now the bike is just as good as it can be within the considerations of the value and resources available which is precisely how everything should be.
Young men at the side of the road have no value and are not considered a useful resource and we, as a race need to change that. People’s lives are the only thing of value and the hopeless, endless waste of the most precious and, in the end, only thing of value on the planet has to be addressed. It only can be if we see how useless money really is as a way to measure someone’s worth.
The roads carried on endlessly just growing colder and colder and colder. We stopped for fuel first in a place that worryingly didn’t give us any free tea. It gave us a chance to get some nice pictures. In fact today we stopped a few times. We were on a looser schedule today and had a bit more time to play with so we had a chance to play a bit. I’m glad we did, there was just too much we would have missed otherwise. Eventually we made it to the next big city but the satnav took us at least 10 miles out. There was nothing there in any case we wanted to see. We stopped for a quick drink in a truck stop but then realised we had no money. Luckily they accepted whatever we had and we paid them with a Euro coin. They seemed more than happy with that. I think here the Tea is actually free everywhere and they just rip off the foreigners.
After that we plodded on into snow-capped mountains reaching to a recorded height of 2200metres. We probably made it higher but I had other things on my mind. Temperature dropped to 4 degrees and we stopped at some roadside things to snap some pics and warm up for a bit. The landmark object turned out to be a shaped mountain of farmyard poo. As we were suiting up another pair of bikers passed the other way on BMW singles. They stopped and we met up. They were a German couple, Mark and Esther who had to sort out paperwork to enter Iran so we chatted very briefly. They told us it was cold where we were going. We told them the same thing. There is another English couple a day ahead so we’re going to try to find them tomorrow if our border crossing goes as well as we hope.
We carried on to the next petrol station and my bike managed 170 miles before reserve, not too bad and a sign the dodgy Hungarian fuel is now out of her system. It’s still not her normal form though but I can easily put this down to keeping up with Marcin on his mad quest to go faster. So far our bikes are doing well. It’s a tough job we’re putting them through. The roads toward the end of Turkey range from very good to hardly being roads at all. We’re shaking and pushing them pretty hard but they seem ok for now. After our final fuel stop the weather got darker. Night doesn’t fall here so much as collapse on top of you in an instant. We had only 45 minutes ride but the darkness hit us like a blanket had dropped on top of us. We went on as best I could. Marcin seemed happy to just ride flat out but I slowed down a bit as the road conditions were crap and in the dark i could barely see in front of me. We made it into the town and went around looking for the hotel. We found one and got a room for 50 turkish lira which was a respectable price until we saw the room. Another shithole in a shithole town. There are no roads, just brickwork laid unevenly over sand, the people stare at us like we’re aliens and the bikes have attracted a great deal of attention which this time felt very unwelcome. We found some food but got ripped off. We asked for a kebab, some salad and some beans. We got served half the restaurant and charged 110lt, way above the normal price. I took it on th chin but Karma struck and they only charged me 11tl so I paid and laughed. The news is reporting terrorist attacks up and down the border and I can well believe it. There’s a tension here, an ugly atmosphere of a people ill at ease. I’m glad we took this route, we’ve challenged ourselves and seen some amazing sights. We’ve had a good time but we’ve seen enough. I want to move on. Turkey is not a place I want to stick around in. I have the vibe and it’s not a good one. This is a country of clashes, not compromises. People, styles, religions, politics and philosophies grind against one another, Istanbul is a western, European city based on a totally different culture and as you move on poverty clashes hard on the outskirts. Further on the capital is a dive and you dive harder as you press on. People are friendly and want to meet you but they are more interested in showing you how nice they are, there wasn’t much genuine interaction here. The driving is a great example. They drive to kill. They don’t care if other people are hurt of killed, they put on blinkers when they take the wheel, there’s no interest in the welfare of others or the outcomes of their own actions. Never overtake a slow Turk. They behave like you stepped on their dick. They have to come back and overtake you twice as hard which invariably means they have to push their clapped out car far too hard and fall back later, hovering just behind you armed with poor reactions and worse brakes. I’d rather have them in front where I can keep my eye on them. So tomorrow we cross the border. I’m keen to get out of Turkey. In 8 days we’ve come this far and who knows what will happen in the next 8. I can’t wait to find out.
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  #34  
Old 1 Nov 2011
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I’m so tired! How tired am I? So...very...tired....
We woke up in the dingy little hotel we stayed on the Turkish side of the border crossing. I slept approximately no time at all thanks to the noise of praying, crapping, farting and clearing of throats, presumably with a toilet brush from the sounds of it. We thought we’d managed to arrange some breakfast and against all the odds, we had. The downstairs lobby was filled with old guys, all chatting and drinking this weak Turkish tea that everyone seems to love here. I guess it grows on you but I’m not a huge fan of tea in any case. Coffee is a distant memory now...
There was no space for us but we were invited to join a couple of guys by the door. Then we got some tea, eggs, olives, bread and cheese. All very simple but I got the impression they had gone to a lot of trouble and were quite proud of themselves for it. There was broken English and i was told the old man who ran the hotel was very important. Another guy joined us later on, a Kurd and the other was a Turk. They joked about one another being trouble but it was all very friendly, these men were grown up and were old enough to see the wisdom of getting along. Not everybody was and there was some real trouble the night before. We heard and saw some of it but they didn’t seem to like talking about it. Something happened outside, there was shouting and the old man went out. I followed him with a camera and saw nothing but a market stand setting up and maybe that was all there was to it. A small kid did something so the old man threw him to the ground with notable ferocity and the kid spat back at him. This morning we didn’t invite the children to chat and play on the bikes, we just packed and left. I settled the bill and gave the old man a tip, barely £3 to us but a big deal to the people living there. He seemed embarrassed, probably because we had already paid three times what the room was worth but we knew that. In the end we’re very lucky to come from a rich country and all we had to thank him with was a little cash. They offered us a friendly welcome and were keen to do anything they could to help and nobody minds them making a living while they do it. He took the tip and we made sure they knew how much we appreciated their hospitality. Istanbul might be a beautiful city but it’s a town with its hand out, grasping for some of your wealth. The further you go there’s a big change. The Turks are warmer, more welcoming and friendlier. There are parts with real poverty, places with hardships it’s tough to describe, even after seeing it. Only someone living that life could really explain. In the end it seemed it was the European influence that had caused Istanbul to be what it was. The burning need to make you spend your money, the glowing lights, the flashy facade. It was all just too much lipstick on a pretty girl. When you move further into Turkey these are a more simple people who don’t adapt well to the furious European pace of rampant consumerism. Simple they may be but they’re approachable, welcoming and warm. Ankara has the big city mentality and was disappointing after the display of Istanbul but the smaller little towns had something you can’t put a price to. We were told on the road that the upcoming town was a toilet. It was. It was a ramshackle, crumbling excuse for a town but the people more than made up for it. A town isn’t made out of bricks but the complex interpersonal relations of the people living in it. There was strong, proud family connections and a history, a wealth of culture the people were proud of. It was a pleasure and a privilege to visit the place and we left feeling it was a great part of our trip.
The GPS took us on a slightly different road out of town along a military complex. A van full of young soldiers blocked the lane, we went round them and they laughed, not bothered at all. The camp or base or whatever it was looked pretty unpleasant. It looked more like a concentration camp but was armed to the teeth. This shed a little light on the troubles. The road led us out to the main road where we joined a long, straight path to the Iran border. It was bleak, a place where nothing but the odd wanderer resided and a few flocks of future kebabs, blissfully unaware of their fate to wind up slowly rotating on a sharp pole while a slightly fat man with a huge moustache charges tourists too much to eat bits of them. We met up with a row of lorries around the same time as a sign that said it was 10km to the border. They were stationary and the driver’s doors were open which implied they had been for some time. We skipped onto a supply lane like bikers do and just rode up it. We were stopped briefly at a military checkpoint but just waved through on our way, they seemed to be wondering why we stopped. Finally we got to the border control where, like the military base, no pictures were allowed. Passing out of Turkey was very straightforward. We picked up a pair of helpers though who set about making everything far more difficult than it actually was and really screwed things up for us. They pretended to be officials but clearly weren’t. They offered to swap money for us but we told them we didn’t have any. They offered us all sorts of stories about there being no cash-points in Iran and we’d read enough to know they were trying it on so we ignored them and headed up to the Iran gate. Passport control took a few moments and then we were invited in to have our books stamped. That was also pretty straightforward. There was a big queue but they opened another booth, just for us and we went right to the front. After that we took our bikes through amidst a sea of people offering to swap money for us and shouting in a very loud and hostile way that we were their new best friends. Everyone in Iran seemed to want to shake our hands today, so much so that I’m slightly concerned about early onset of arthritis. Carnets were similarly straightforward. Photocopies of our details were made and we breezed through customs control with the minimum of fuss. The only slight issue was checking VIN numbers on the bike, mine was up by the headstock but Marcin’s was a bit tricky to find but it turned out to be under the seat. When they found it they didn’t check it against the paperwork, they just said it was ok.We tried to ask about what else we needed and were told 20 euros each bike. We didn’t have any but negotiated it down to the £25 UK pounds we did have. They gave us sheets with green stamps and figured we had sorted out our insurance. We moved on down the hill to another office where a guy asked us to pull in. We were taken to yet another office where papers were stamped and the locals took pictures of themselves on our bikes. All seemed well. We cleared customs and the gate opened to let us into Iran. My god, what a shithole. It always amazes me that these border towns are so run down, to my mind they’re the principal trade routes and I’d expect them to be better maintained but the truth seems quite the opposite. It was like a modern retelling of a wild west frontier town. Dead dogs lied on the streets, open sewers ran along the pavement, people crashed cars into one another, building were crumbling. By no modern standard was this a good face to show the world of what Iran has to offer. People were far from friendly and those that were were motivated by self-interest. It was a beak start.
So the customs official, we now found out told us we needed insurance. I argued that we’d paid it. This went on for some time so in the end I went back into the enclosure and found the missing pieces of stamped paper we had got at the border. They turned out to be customs papers. I said we’d paid and the official just laughed. It’s a strange country where the officials on the border are the first on the take. Iran might want to look into that because it really is a case of a few bad apples ruining a very nice bowl of fruit.
So we bartered and got the insurance down to 50 Euros which we didn’t have. We tried getting money out at all the local ATMs and began to get alarmed that maybe the lying touts were actually telling the truth about that one. It seemed that indeed they were. So now we were in need of legal documents, fuel, food and hotels and we had no cash or access to any. We only have single-entry visas so if we left, we weren’t allowed back in. Marcin wanted to leave without insurance, I knew we needed it. They wouldn’t accept my card so I took the documents, passports and carnet and went outside to sort something out. The officials loved to take our documents and wander off with them so this time I did the same, grabbed it and worried about the costs later. I went outside and Marcin was in possession of a $100 bill. I asked him where he got it, he said someone had given it to him. I’ve dealt with foreign exchange professionally so had a quick look. It was a fake, a very obvious one, printed on paper. I told him it wasn’t real and had to remind him that people don’t just come up and give you money unless your breasts are a whole lot nicer than his are. The official came out saying he wanted 50 euros and caught sight of the dollar bill. He worked out a deal so the money covered the insurance even though the bill would have been worth far more than he offered. He grabbed the bill greedily and just handed us back the change before I could explain. I thought, you know what, keep the bloody thing. He shouted over me while I was trying to explain it wasn’t real so I let him find out in his own way. We rode off with enough money to fill our tanks and then break down somewhere in the desert. We stopped to formulate a plan. Several people offered to take our cards over the border, withdraw cash and come back and give it to us. No offence but I wouldn’t do that anywhere, let alone in a foreign country where I don’t know the people or customs. We had to decline. Marcin just wanted to ride on and see what happened, I wanted to organise something. There was a lake where we knew an English couple on bikes were staying and we could make it. Better yet a German couple were following in a day or so and it took us very close to a border crossing. It was a big tourist town so we thought it was worth a try. We followed the main road and then things got worse...As usual
The main road dissolved into a town. The town dissolved into mud and the mud dissolved into an enduro track. Marcin powered on angrily like the terrain was his enemy and I barely kept up even though my bike was weighing only half as much. We stopped and reconsidered. There was another, bigger town along the main road, Tabriz where there was a good chance of getting some cash. I preferred the other choice. We had enough fuel to cross back in Turkey if necessary and apply for new Visas, not a big job but would hold us up for a few days. In the end the missing road only gave us one option. We carried on reluctantly. My fuel system has not been reliable, maybe due to the temperature so my fingers were crossed. There was a slight pinking noise but we plodded at only 50mph to wrong the best out of the big KTM Marcin was riding and we dragged our sorry arses into Tabriz. The roads darkened quickly, as expected and even through the road conditions were poor we kept up the pace as best we could. As it got darker it got worse. The main roads are a truly terrible place to be at night. Cars don’t have any respect for bikes, they try to nudge you out of the way. They constantly flash you, maybe because we should have been in a different lane, they honk, they drive straight at you. It was not fun. When the stretch of road suddenly had lights it was as big a relief but it didn’t last long, these things never do. I watched my fuel gauge carefully as miles ticked by. All I could do was hope the secondary tank was working and that the careful speed was helping us to maximise our range. We made it to the brow of a hill and I worked out roughly a distance of 20 miles. We could see an ocean of orange lights and it was a welcome sight indeed as out tanks were draining and night had crashed in all around us. We made into the outskirts of town. Marcin wanted to try the banks, hoping that big city banks might work. They didn’t.
We were approached every time we stopped. We were advised to go to the biggest central bank, they should be able to help. We were completely out of money now and our petrol was waning. We followed a lead to a street with some cheap hotels on it and found it thanks to the navigational skills of Marcin. Mine are virtually non-existent by comparison.
I tried the first. An old man eyed me suspiciously and said, “no. We closed.” I tried another. An old man said, “there is no shower.” I said it was no problem. He kept shaking his head and then told me to leave. Ok, I left and tried another. I was told to leave again. By this time I was getting a bit worried. We were in a strange town and it was too late to do anything much except sleep and we didn’t have the money to do that.
We rode around looking for a hotel that was showing on the GPS. We found it but it was long gone. I suggested we had two choices at this point. We could either head out of town and find somewhere to camp or try the airport as they would have free internet, local hotels and some advice. We were cold but by now we were hungry and thirsty, not having eaten anything all day. We decided to give the airport a try and if that failed, we would camp somewhere out of town. The road to the airport was a minor adventure. Dogs were wandering around the motorway and cars with no lights suddenly drove backwards up towards us. Three young men met us as we parked up finally, unscathed but more wary of the driving here. They said they could get us into the airport. To enter the lounge we had to go through a metal detector. We were in full bike gear, mine contained a Leatherman multi-tool, pockets full of spares and other metal stuff. We put our bags on the conveyer and walked through setting off the alarms. The young security guard just smiled and said it was no problem. There was free internet but we couldn’t get it to work. I switched on Mozilla where Google is my home page and got an error message. We found a guy working on an advice stand for an upmarket hotel but we talked him into booking us a reservation at a cheaper place. With directions we headed miles back the way we came and again, Marcin found it with no difficulty. They confiscated our passports but at least we had a room. The man in charge was quite unpleasant, he just kept laughing and making snide comments his staff sniggered at, knowing we couldn’t understand. What we did understand was the beds, the shower, the heater and the fridge with cold water in it. We struggled on a bit with Google and got nowhere. It eventually dawned on us that Facebook, Google, Ebay, Hotmail and even my blog site were censored by the government. It seemed that all attempts to communicate were being blocked. So eventually we formed a plan. Early start, early breakfast and then try to get some money from the central bank as we were told we could. Failing that, a trip back to the border to see what we could arrange. We slept like logs. Stupid, unprepared and stressed out logs...
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  #35  
Old 1 Nov 2011
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PS. I'm now a day behind. We're in Iran and internet is sketchy. We've been too busy so i've not written todays blog yet. It sounds like we're pretty down on Iran and it's true, the start was shaky in every sense but read on. There is light at the end of this tunnel.
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  #36  
Old 2 Nov 2011
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So we woke up this morning full of optimism, went to the bank and then went to breakfast and filled ourselves with eggs, bread and odd little bits of soft cheese. Marcin said he was eating a lot in case we didn’t get lunch but the truth is he always eats a lot and a free buffet is a scary place to be standing in front of him. Breakfast was good, the food was simple but decent and tasted fresh. There was more Turkish/Iranian tea and no coffee... I need coffee.
So with no money we headed out to try our luck. We made an early start, cursing our alarms and got to the main bank as it opened. We took the bikes first, we hadn’t realised how close it was. Once inside we struggled to find someone who spoke English but a guy helped us out and gave us directions halfway across town. Worrying about fuel we took the bikes back. We tried to go down a side street but it turned out to be an alley so we turned about. By the time we got round the police were waiting. They just wanted to give us some hassle, they checked my passport but were only interested in where we from, nothing else. They asked silly questions like what was in Marcin’s case and what was in fuel tank and then they left. We left too and headed back. We ate and contemplated our next move. We had until 2 to sort this out and armed with the knowledge that the central bank could help we decided to walk there. We were not in the best of moods, optimistic but slightly gloomy. We knew we were in trouble, the setback if we crossed back into Turkey could end our trip for good. We were desperate to avoid that. We came up with as many options as we could, none of which were a good solution. Along the way we went into a travel agency. It just occurred to us that they may be able to help or offer some advice. Three young ladies in typical Iranian dress with headscarves greeted us, one spoke reasonable English. We explained our problem and then there was a mad ramble between them for a solution. The two who couldn’t talk were very interested in Marcin. He slouched in the chair they invited us to sit in like he owned the place and the novelty value of a giant Viking sprawling in their sofa reduced the ladies to giggling school girls. Interesting!
The one speaking with me gave me some paper and told me where the bank was. She said we had to get a cab and produced a note. Another girl produced a note and they came around. Marcin and I exchanged glances and then she gave us the money for a cab. We refused very politely but were more than a little surprised at this generosity to a complete stranger with no way to pay them back.
We walked and stopped at another bank for advice and were given directions to the central one we were apparently in need of reaching. We were walking along, noticing the amount of Pergeot 405s there are here, there are thousands, every 3rd car is a Pergeot 405, sometimes called other things but always the same. Then, another one passed us, honking its horn. We had learnt to ignore it. Honestly, there is no point in America invading this country. If they really wanted to do some damage then don’t use guns, they hurt people, just take away their car-horns and the country would slump into a deep depression, their driving would become joyless and empty. We looked as this car carried on honking its horn. It was the guy from the bank and he was offering us a lift. This time we accepted his generous offer and on the way up we were glad we did, it was a long way and he pointed out the things we should see like any man proud of his town. So he dropped us off at the bank wanting nothing more than to shake our hands and wish us luck, this man knew we had no money so couldn’t have wanted anything from us. The Milli bank was large, guarded by police and looked important. For the first time I had a sense that we just might get this sorted. We went in and the man at reception stood up and greeted us with the usual big smile and “welcome to Iran” which is occasionally interchangeable with “Welcome to Tabriz.” We explained our problem and were told the Visa department was upstairs. A strong sense of relief washed over us and the mood lifted. We headed up and asked our way to the department to be met only with a man who explained it was not possible. Dejectedly we sloped outside to form another plan. We were now left with another suggestion that the touts trying to exchange dollars might be able to help us. In desperation I went back into the bank and talked with the man on reception. He seemed quite annoyed that my service had been less than I had hoped and stormed upstairs to shout at the man I had spoken with earlier. This time he said it was possible and began doing the paperwork. It seemed like we were finally out of trouble and it was a nice place not to be. I had my passport copied, I filled in some forms and I waited for my cash. Finally the man came back and asked me for the money. I reminded him that I had no money, I wanted to get some on my card. He repeated that it was not possible, he just thought it might be for a minute and did the paperwork.
So I left and we met up outside the bank. We were beginning to worry. We went and found one of the black market cash dealers who said it would be no problem. He took us to a place with a glowing neon sign that said “Visa Card”. We breathed a sigh of relief. He came back and said it was not possible. We tried a few other people in a few other places and the same thing. We even went back to the visa place ourselves and they told us it was not possible. We went to find tourist information as we’d been advised they might be able to help. They were just typical government officials with their hands out. We told them what was going on, had some free tea and listened to him explain this happens a lot and he could help us. We met some other bikers outside of Istanbul and he let us try to ring them. They didn’t answer and we didn’t know if our texts were getting through. He tried to charge us for the phone call but I told him we’d come back and thank him properly later and he seemed happy with that. In desperation we rattled together our loose change left over from other countries. We had about £7, 6 euros and 50 Polish Zloti. It wasn’t going to get us far and it certainly wouldn’t pay our hotel fees. The tourist guy helped us turn it into the local currency and it should have been enough to fill both of our bikes and get us back to the Turkish border. Of course the hotel had our passports and we owed them money. What I could do at the border I didn’t know, I was hoping I could wing something, bribe an official to let me get some cash at a cashpoint. I just knew we were getting nowhere in town.
Back at the hotel I borrowed a phone and called the embassy. I spoke to a woman called, Sandra who asked the obvious question, didn’t you know about the situation in Iran? Well I would think the answer to that is pretty obvious by now. In the end she had a partial solution. I could transfer money from my account to a company who would forward it to the embassy in Tehran. It was still a long day’s ride and we didn’t have the fuel for it. We also didn’t have any passports or enough money for fuel to get there but I took the details anyway.
We waited patiently for news from our fellow bikers and then finally a miracle. A text got through saying they could lend us some money. We were massively relieved, finally we were getting somewhere. Now we could get to Tehran and collect money once we arrived. It looked like we wouldn’t have to turn back.
We went back out for a walk, this time with a bit more enthusiasm. Marcin wanted to buy a bulb, a H3 spotlight bulb to replace a blown one. We went into one place to be told they didn’t have one and couldn’t help. While Marcin was asking what to do a young lad came round and took us to the best place, a big mini-mall selling nothing but car spares, he then led us to a shop he said would be good. We tried there. The guy who clearly owned it came back with the right bulb, we asked how much and were told, “It’s no problem. It’s a gift.” Before we could really say anything they brought us out free Tea and chocolate. We chatted about the country and left with nothing more than a handshake between us. For the next few hours we wandered and it was the same. People were friendly, interested and just wanted to come and meet us. We stopped to take photos of peoples bikes and in every case they invited us to sit on them, just happy we were interested in them and their city.
At one point we went back to the Bazar in a quest to find booze under the counter. A young lad dressed as Mickey Mouse wanted to have his picture taken with us!
As the hours dragged by we began to worry a bit about our friends as text messages didn’t seem to want to get through. We finally got a message saying where they were and that they could spare us 250 euros. We rode down to the hotel which was only just down the street from ours but it was nice to ride our bikes without the bulk of the luggage on them. My little single managed 201.5 miles before we filled up and still no sign of reserve. I was dead pleased.
They were out getting some food so we wandered about. We found a bar full of old guys smoking those glass pipe things. They saw us looking and started waving so we went in to say hello. We were invited in with lots of hand shaking and tea was brought for us. We were invited to sit down and ended up at the back with the younger guys who spoke the best English. We’re still not sure how they work but the guys didn’t seem to be particularly affected by it. One of them told us, “What else is there to do? There’s no drink, no dancing, no girls!” You can’t argue with that.
So finally we met up with our friends. They’re in Tehran in a couple of days and so are we so once the money situation is sorted we’ll be able to buy them a drink and say thanks. For saving our arse.
The population of this town are amazing. Everyone is interested in what we’re doing and there’s a real sense of pride in the town, the culture, the history and the people. In a way I’m glad this happened. It got us off the bike and got us mixing with a warm and welcoming town in a great way. One of them told us, “The Iranian people are great, the government is bad.” Where is that not true?
We chatted about things during the endless walking we did today and Marcin and myself agreed on something. America wants to invade, they want this country’s oil. We met some soldiers, they were happy to have their picture taken, happy to chat and nothing but friendly but they’re just kids. Kids with guns and the last thing they want is a fight. There is nothing here that could stop the juggernaut of American military power and no reason on Earth other than profit that it would have its eye on this great little country. The people are warm, decent family-oriented people who just want to get on with the business of tooting their horns at one another on the busy main roads. They’re not looking for a fight and they don’t want one. They’ve been sanctioned out of the international banking system so they just got on with making their own and it works fine. They have a really great balance of capitalism where there’s a decent standard of living for most people without the trappings of too much excess.
When I hear on the news that America is warmongering here it will be a real blow. Everyone should visit here and see it for yourself. It’s been amazing. Where else will people offer to help you when you tell them you have no money? Certainly not London.
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Old 2 Nov 2011
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So this morning we left Tabriz. It’s the first time I’ve been a bit heavy-hearted about moving along. The road is always beckoning to show us more but sometime you just want to see more of where you are first. This was one of those times.
I had not managed to arrange a bank transfer because our hotel was not equipped with the latest advanced technology such as touch-tone phones. Calling my bank was a non-starter because I had to sit in an automated switchboard. We decided to get an early start and head for Tehran, stopping somewhere for lunch to make a skype call or borrow a phone around the time the UK banks open.
Breakfast was the same as yesterday, salty cheese, eggs and bread so chewy it was dangerous to teeth. I was woken by Marcin’s alarm which played this slightly odd noise that my brain couldn’t register as an alarm. Then got a hit on the leg and slowly the fog parted and i was alive... and still shattered. We had settled the bill last night so after loading the bikes we headed out. We road past some of the great things we’d seen with a slightly heavy heart towards the touts offering to exchange our euros for local money with which you can’t but . Once that was dealt with we got on the road. The way out showed us glimpses of historical buildings and waterways we’d never been close to before. We’d missed so much but had no time to stop as we were hours late on the road and had a very long ride to Tehran. It took us nearly an hour to get out of the city. We stopped for fuel and paid suspiciously more than we should have and went on our way. The fuel quality here is really excellent, the bikes are running well and the mileage we’re getting is top notch. Marcin’s has a slight issue in that he’s carrying brand new tyres and his rear has canvas hanging out. We’re getting that sorted tomorrow morning.
So once we were out the scenery started to change. We couldn’t get onto the motorway, try as we did but that didn’t bother me. For a while the economic speeds were not just expedient but vital for our survival. The driving was so bad even Marcin slowed down and he never slows down. It’s not that they drive fast so much as that they drive sporadically, changing lanes suddenly, forcing you out of the way and wandering across both lanes. They overtake without warning just to sit in front of you at the same speed, in other words they drive just like Marcin!
We went up again today to around 2200 metres and the mountains were snow covered and cold, really cold. It was one of the coldest days we’ve had. We were reading 6 degrees but the wind was biting through us, especially me with my summer jacket, worn out gloves and no heated grips.
We stopped for a photo and to do our next stupid thing in Iran. We found a nice little place in the mountains but we rode straight through the gravel to the dirt but the dirt wasn’t dirt, it was clay of some sort. It filled our treads and turned our tyres into muddy slicks in seconds. After we got the pictures we headed out. There was a step to ride over to get off the clay, I only got grip enough to jump up but standing on the pegs and bouncing for more weight. It worked and I got out with my dignity more or less intact. Marcin didn’t. His massive extra weight and lack of rubber on his back wheel left him sliding around like a... well, a heavy bike on soft clay, I guess. I ran over to help, grabbed the rear rack and pushed. More sliding. I got a better footing and he gave it some power. I got sprayed with mud and we didn’t move an inch. As we looked up a car stopped. At first I thought it must be police but it was just some local guys stopping to help. I think we probably would have been ok but it was still welcome help indeed. We got her out in a minute with all of pulling and pushing leaving me just a little muddy. We had to stop for handshakes and photographs and then we were back on the road.
At first the roads were amazing, the scenery, even after we joined the motorway was truly spectacular. The sheer scope and scale of the rugged mountain landscape was awe inspiring, a truly magnificent view that you have to experience for yourself. Soft rounded green-tinged mounds built into ragged rocky needles scraping bluntly into the cloudless sky all around us. White snowy peaks blended into the horizons at the edge of our vision. At times there was nothing else, just an endless tapestry of rugged natural beauty as far as could be seen.
Driving down a hill I heard a strange rattle. Not wanting to have any trouble in the middle of nowhere I listened intently, looking for where the noise might be coming from. Suddenly the worst happened. My bike died. She died completely, everything went dead, the dash, lights, everything. I had no power so I coasted to a halt on the shoulder hoping Marcin would notice I was missing and come back up the slip lane. Thoughts flashed through my head of recovery trucks, blogging about how bad these BMW Singes are, pulling fuses at the side of the road, replacing wires, bodging a workaround fix. I looked down and something didn’t look right, the key was moved. I tried it and everything came back on. I must have caught it with my sleeve and turned her off. Third stupid thing in Iran.
So I caught him up and we carried on. We stopped for fuel in the middle of a desert. I had done some calculations in my head and put it to Marcin. We weren’t going to make Tehran today, we had too far to go and it was cold and would be dark too soon. I also needed a phone and internet access as early as possible to arrange the wire transfer. We had hoped to do it in a fuel station at the side of the road but the fuel stop barely had fuel. Looking around there was nothing about and even motorway signs telling you where you could stop to use a mobile phone as there was no coverage anywhere else. We agreed with some reluctance on Marcin’s part to head for a large town on the way only 150 miles ahead. The transfer can take 2 or 3 days so it was vital we got to arrange it today, not so important we made it to the city to collect it. The scenery after that was totally different. It was a real slog, cold and miserable with nothing but a flat, dirt plane to look over with white mountains framing the horizon for hour after hour. The wind kicked up too, not enough to be dangerous but enough to bring an added nuisance to a tough ride. Finally, to break the monotony we hit potholes. It was like the road was just breaking up beneath us. The roads were among the worst we’d seen, the holes were dangerous, smaller bikes would have been in trouble, they were harsh enough to snap a cast wheel if you hit a bad one dead on.
Eventually we found the town after 150 miles with no break or stops. A new personal best for us. It was pretty big with only a couple of hotels so we just stopped at the first one. £35 a night, give or take the exchange rate with breakfast and internet. On the way in we passed an area full of cars and bikes although far smaller than us. We attracted a lot of interest, people stopped what they were doing to stare at the strangers. We got stuck in traffic so Marcin suggested we ride down an alley. He had the only working sat nav so I agreed. He then drove through a market into a narrow alley. I stopped to help him bump the bike round the corner so he could carry on. We just about made it and then he got on a few more yards, looked back and said with a grin, “Shit!” A local guy came up to laugh at us telling us it was a no through road and he was now stuck. Some more bumping and a lot more swearing and we turned it around. Next time we filtered as hard as we could and found our way to the hotel. My being covered in mud from head to toe didn’t go down very well but we got the room and it was pretty decent.
We went out to get some food and found the same problem we had in Tabriz. No kebabs! In London a red and blue neon sign means a kebab shop but here everything has the same kind of signs. I suppose that makes perfect sense if you think about it. We explored the whole town with no luck, no food anywhere other than a couple of sandwich shops.
People here are different. It’s more lively than Tabriz, it’s a university town and people on the streets are younger and more rebellious maybe. A lot of people showed interest in us one way or another. Most people eyed us up and down, Marcin attracted a lot of attention from them, eyeing him suspiciously. One girl didn’t notice him and then shrieked and hid behind her boyfriend when she did. This time though a lot of people were weird about it. We heard a lot of shouts and giggles and had a lot of nasty stares. Several times guys came up to us and asked where we were from but everything was fine when we told them. They just smiled, shook our hands and welcomed us. The problem is people are taking us for Americans. They clearly don’t see a lot of white people here and the prejudice and resentment runs deep. Everyone asks us where we’re from and are always fine when we tell them. We stopped at a motorway toll and asked how much. The young man working there asked where we were from. When we told him he just smiled and let us through for free. No problem. Anyone else visiting I would strongly recommend doing something that shows people where you’re from. Maybe an extra sticker of your national flag? There is a great deal of negative feeling here towards the Americas which is totally understandable because there’s a great deal of equally unwarranted feeling towards them from what they understand as being the whole Western world.
We got some food in the end and were told proudly it was traditional Iran food. I found some Falafel and ordered that. Marcin ordered spaghetti, an Iranian delicacy apparently. We were pretty surprised when both came in a sandwich. Marcin decided that a spaghetti sandwich was fine but just to be on the safe side he ordered another sandwich with chicken and some soup. Washing all this down with a lemon flavoured alcohol-free was very strange. The food was ok, nothing special but it was just a sandwich shop. We haven’t found much else here, there are no restaurants or other social eating places. We’re hoping Tehran might be better in this respect but have read it’s not likely to be very good.
So there we are. All up to date. Tomorrow we’re taking an easy ride into Tehran after getting a tyre fitted to Marcin’s bike. My fuel system has packed in again. No idea why, everything looks fine. My only thought is it could be the cold. It is a pressure operated vacuum system and not a great one at that. When I think about it then it’s only be difficult when the temperature gets very low. I will give her some attention in the morning.
We’re then stuck in Tehran until the money arrives. It’ll be nice to have a break but would be nicer with booze. A good night out with the other bikers would hit the spot just right. We should arrive pretty early so we might be able to source some somewhere.
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  #38  
Old 2 Nov 2011
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Nothing to read on,man! Not yet anyway. Here's where you tell us someone took you to a place with a bed and a hot shower, working internet and bread, olives and goats cheese - enough to fill you to bursting! Yeh so you're unprepared - who else knew this would happen? The Iran tourist board? it's the adventure, even if you end up in a Midnight Express toilet of a cell for 20 yrs...I just wish now more than ever I was there!
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  #39  
Old 3 Nov 2011
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Midnight Express toilet of a cell for 20 yrs.... ahhh that takes me back........


come on, get to it , wheres this light you talk about .... Top gear never had this trouble
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  #40  
Old 4 Nov 2011
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He's either using the skill of suspense rather masterly, or he's helping the Iranian secret police find that stash of mars bars. They're probably looking in all the wrong orifices which only adds to the hilarity. If you had a camera crew and a bagful of fake Rodex watches you'd be fine...
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  #41  
Old 4 Nov 2011
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I find the suggestion that I'm masterful in any sense hilarious.
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  #42  
Old 4 Nov 2011
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So we woke up this morning full of optimism, went to the bank and then went to breakfast and filled ourselves with eggs, bread and odd little bits of soft cheese. Marcin said he was eating a lot in case we didn’t get lunch but the truth is he always eats a lot and a free buffet is a scary place to be standing in front of him. Breakfast was good, the food was simple but decent and tasted fresh. There was more Turkish/Iranian tea and no coffee... I need coffee.
So with no money we headed out to try our luck. We made an early start, cursing our alarms and got to the main bank as it opened. We took the bikes first, we hadn’t realised how close it was. Once inside we struggled to find someone who spoke English but a guy helped us out and gave us directions halfway across town. Worrying about fuel we took the bikes back. We tried to go down a side street but it turned out to be an alley so we turned about. By the time we got round the police were waiting. They just wanted to give us some hassle, they checked my passport but were only interested in where we from, nothing else. They asked silly questions like what was in Marcin’s case and what was in fuel tank and then they left. We left too and headed back. We ate and contemplated our next move. We had until 2 to sort this out and armed with the knowledge that the central bank could help we decided to walk there. We were not in the best of moods, optimistic but slightly gloomy. We knew we were in trouble, the setback if we crossed back into Turkey could end our trip for good. We were desperate to avoid that. We came up with as many options as we could, none of which were a good solution. Along the way we went into a travel agency. It just occurred to us that they may be able to help or offer some advice. Three young ladies in typical Iranian dress with headscarves greeted us, one spoke reasonable English. We explained our problem and then there was a mad ramble between them for a solution. The two who couldn’t talk were very interested in Marcin. He slouched in the chair they invited us to sit in like he owned the place and the novelty value of a giant Viking sprawling in their sofa reduced the ladies to giggling school girls. Interesting!
The one speaking with me gave me some paper and told me where the bank was. She said we had to get a cab and produced a note. Another girl produced a note and they came around. Marcin and I exchanged glances and then she gave us the money for a cab. We refused very politely but were more than a little surprised at this generosity to a complete stranger with no way to pay them back.
We walked and stopped at another bank for advice and were given directions to the central one we were apparently in need of reaching. We were walking along, noticing the amount of Pergeot 405s there are here, there are thousands, every 3rd car is a Pergeot 405, sometimes called other things but always the same. Then, another one passed us, honking its horn. We had learnt to ignore it. Honestly, there is no point in America invading this country. If they really wanted to do some damage then don’t use guns, they hurt people, just take away their car-horns and the country would slump into a deep depression, their driving would become joyless and empty. We looked as this car carried on honking its horn. It was the guy from the bank and he was offering us a lift. This time we accepted his generous offer and on the way up we were glad we did, it was a long way and he pointed out the things we should see like any man proud of his town. So he dropped us off at the bank wanting nothing more than to shake our hands and wish us luck, this man knew we had no money so couldn’t have wanted anything from us. The Milli bank was large, guarded by police and looked important. For the first time I had a sense that we just might get this sorted. We went in and the man at reception stood up and greeted us with the usual big smile and “welcome to Iran” which is occasionally interchangeable with “Welcome to Tabriz.” We explained our problem and were told the Visa department was upstairs. A strong sense of relief washed over us and the mood lifted. We headed up and asked our way to the department to be met only with a man who explained it was not possible. Dejectedly we sloped outside to form another plan. We were now left with another suggestion that the touts trying to exchange dollars might be able to help us. In desperation I went back into the bank and talked with the man on reception. He seemed quite annoyed that my service had been less than I had hoped and stormed upstairs to shout at the man I had spoken with earlier. This time he said it was possible and began doing the paperwork. It seemed like we were finally out of trouble and it was a nice place not to be. I had my passport copied, I filled in some forms and I waited for my cash. Finally the man came back and asked me for the money. I reminded him that I had no money, I wanted to get some on my card. He repeated that it was not possible, he just thought it might be for a minute and did the paperwork.
So I left and we met up outside the bank. We were beginning to worry. We went and found one of the black market cash dealers who said it would be no problem. He took us to a place with a glowing neon sign that said “Visa Card”. We breathed a sigh of relief. He came back and said it was not possible. We tried a few other people in a few other places and the same thing. We even went back to the visa place ourselves and they told us it was not possible. We went to find tourist information as we’d been advised they might be able to help. They were just typical government officials with their hands out. We told them what was going on, had some free tea and listened to him explain this happens a lot and he could help us. We met some other bikers outside of Istanbul and he let us try to ring them. They didn’t answer and we didn’t know if our texts were getting through. He tried to charge us for the phone call but I told him we’d come back and thank him properly later and he seemed happy with that. In desperation we rattled together our loose change left over from other countries. We had about £7, 6 euros and 50 Polish Zloti. It wasn’t going to get us far and it certainly wouldn’t pay our hotel fees. The tourist guy helped us turn it into the local currency and it should have been enough to fill both of our bikes and get us back to the Turkish border. Of course the hotel had our passports and we owed them money. What I could do at the border I didn’t know, I was hoping I could wing something, bribe an official to let me get some cash at a cashpoint. I just knew we were getting nowhere in town.
Back at the hotel I borrowed a phone and called the embassy. I spoke to a woman called, Sandra who asked the obvious question, didn’t you know about the situation in Iran? Well I would think the answer to that is pretty obvious by now. In the end she had a partial solution. I could transfer money from my account to a company who would forward it to the embassy in Tehran. It was still a long day’s ride and we didn’t have the fuel for it. We also didn’t have any passports or enough money for fuel to get there but I took the details anyway.
We waited patiently for news from our fellow bikers and then finally a miracle. A text got through saying they could lend us some money. We were massively relieved, finally we were getting somewhere. Now we could get to Tehran and collect money once we arrived. It looked like we wouldn’t have to turn back.
We went back out for a walk, this time with a bit more enthusiasm. Marcin wanted to buy a bulb, a H3 spotlight bulb to replace a blown one. We went into one place to be told they didn’t have one and couldn’t help. While Marcin was asking what to do a young lad came round and took us to the best place, a big mini-mall selling nothing but car spares, he then led us to a shop he said would be good. We tried there. The guy who clearly owned it came back with the right bulb, we asked how much and were told, “It’s no problem. It’s a gift.” Before we could really say anything they brought us out free Tea and chocolate. We chatted about the country and left with nothing more than a handshake between us. For the next few hours we wandered and it was the same. People were friendly, interested and just wanted to come and meet us. We stopped to take photos of peoples bikes and in every case they invited us to sit on them, just happy we were interested in them and their city.
At one point we went back to the Bazar in a quest to find booze under the counter. A young lad dressed as Mickey Mouse wanted to have his picture taken with us!
As the hours dragged by we began to worry a bit about our friends as text messages didn’t seem to want to get through. We finally got a message saying where they were and that they could spare us 250 euros. We rode down to the hotel which was only just down the street from ours but it was nice to ride our bikes without the bulk of the luggage on them. My little single managed 201.5 miles before we filled up and still no sign of reserve. I was dead pleased.
They were out getting some food so we wandered about. We found a bar full of old guys smoking those glass pipe things. They saw us looking and started waving so we went in to say hello. We were invited in with lots of hand shaking and tea was brought for us. We were invited to sit down and ended up at the back with the younger guys who spoke the best English. We’re still not sure how they work but the guys didn’t seem to be particularly affected by it. One of them told us, “What else is there to do? There’s no drink, no dancing, no girls!” You can’t argue with that.
So finally we met up with our friends. They’re in Tehran in a couple of days and so are we so once the money situation is sorted we’ll be able to buy them a drink and say thanks. For saving our arse.
The population of this town are amazing. Everyone is interested in what we’re doing and there’s a real sense of pride in the town, the culture, the history and the people. In a way I’m glad this happened. It got us off the bike and got us mixing with a warm and welcoming town in a great way. One of them told us, “The Iranian people are great, the government is bad.” Where is that not true?
We chatted about things during the endless walking we did today and Marcin and myself agreed on something. America wants to invade, they want this country’s oil. We met some soldiers, they were happy to have their picture taken, happy to chat and nothing but friendly but they’re just kids. Kids with guns and the last thing they want is a fight. There is nothing here that could stop the juggernaut of American military power and no reason on Earth other than profit that it would have its eye on this great little country. The people are warm, decent family-oriented people who just want to get on with the business of tooting their horns at one another on the busy main roads. They’re not looking for a fight and they don’t want one. They’ve been sanctioned out of the international banking system so they just got on with making their own and it works fine. They have a really great balance of capitalism where there’s a decent standard of living for most people without the trappings of too much excess.
When I hear on the news that America is warmongering here it will be a real blow. Everyone should visit here and see it for yourself. It’s been amazing. Where else will people offer to help you when you tell them you have no money? Certainly not London.
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  #43  
Old 4 Nov 2011
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So this morning we left Tabriz. It’s the first time I’ve been a bit heavy-hearted about moving along. The road is always beckoning to show us more but sometime you just want to see more of where you are first. This was one of those times.
I had not managed to arrange a bank transfer because our hotel was not equipped with the latest advanced technology such as touch-tone phones. Calling my bank was a non-starter because I had to sit in an automated switchboard. We decided to get an early start and head for Tehran, stopping somewhere for lunch to make a skype call or borrow a phone around the time the UK banks open.
Breakfast was the same as yesterday, salty cheese, eggs and bread so chewy it was dangerous to teeth. I was woken by Marcin’s alarm which played this slightly odd noise that my brain couldn’t register as an alarm. Then got a hit on the leg and slowly the fog parted and i was alive... and still shattered. We had settled the bill last night so after loading the bikes we headed out. We road past some of the great things we’d seen with a slightly heavy heart towards the touts offering to exchange our euros for local money with which you can’t but . Once that was dealt with we got on the road. The way out showed us glimpses of historical buildings and waterways we’d never been close to before. We’d missed so much but had no time to stop as we were hours late on the road and had a very long ride to Tehran. It took us nearly an hour to get out of the city. We stopped for fuel and paid suspiciously more than we should have and went on our way. The fuel quality here is really excellent, the bikes are running well and the mileage we’re getting is top notch. Marcin’s has a slight issue in that he’s carrying brand new tyres and his rear has canvas hanging out. We’re getting that sorted tomorrow morning.
So once we were out the scenery started to change. We couldn’t get onto the motorway, try as we did but that didn’t bother me. For a while the economic speeds were not just expedient but vital for our survival. The driving was so bad even Marcin slowed down and he never slows down. It’s not that they drive fast so much as that they drive sporadically, changing lanes suddenly, forcing you out of the way and wandering across both lanes. They overtake without warning just to sit in front of you at the same speed, in other words they drive just like Marcin!
We went up again today to around 2200 metres and the mountains were snow covered and cold, really cold. It was one of the coldest days we’ve had. We were reading 6 degrees but the wind was biting through us, especially me with my summer jacket, worn out gloves and no heated grips.
We stopped for a photo and to do our next stupid thing in Iran. We found a nice little place in the mountains but we rode straight through the gravel to the dirt but the dirt wasn’t dirt, it was clay of some sort. It filled our treads and turned our tyres into muddy slicks in seconds. After we got the pictures we headed out. There was a step to ride over to get off the clay, I only got grip enough to jump up but standing on the pegs and bouncing for more weight. It worked and I got out with my dignity more or less intact. Marcin didn’t. His massive extra weight and lack of rubber on his back wheel left him sliding around like a... well, a heavy bike on soft clay, I guess. I ran over to help, grabbed the rear rack and pushed. More sliding. I got a better footing and he gave it some power. I got sprayed with mud and we didn’t move an inch. As we looked up a car stopped. At first I thought it must be police but it was just some local guys stopping to help. I think we probably would have been ok but it was still welcome help indeed. We got her out in a minute with all of pulling and pushing leaving me just a little muddy. We had to stop for handshakes and photographs and then we were back on the road.
At first the roads were amazing, the scenery, even after we joined the motorway was truly spectacular. The sheer scope and scale of the rugged mountain landscape was awe inspiring, a truly magnificent view that you have to experience for yourself. Soft rounded green-tinged mounds built into ragged rocky needles scraping bluntly into the cloudless sky all around us. White snowy peaks blended into the horizons at the edge of our vision. At times there was nothing else, just an endless tapestry of rugged natural beauty as far as could be seen.
Driving down a hill I heard a strange rattle. Not wanting to have any trouble in the middle of nowhere I listened intently, looking for where the noise might be coming from. Suddenly the worst happened. My bike died. She died completely, everything went dead, the dash, lights, everything. I had no power so I coasted to a halt on the shoulder hoping Marcin would notice I was missing and come back up the slip lane. Thoughts flashed through my head of recovery trucks, blogging about how bad these BMW Singes are, pulling fuses at the side of the road, replacing wires, bodging a workaround fix. I looked down and something didn’t look right, the key was moved. I tried it and everything came back on. I must have caught it with my sleeve and turned her off. Third stupid thing in Iran.
So I caught him up and we carried on. We stopped for fuel in the middle of a desert. I had done some calculations in my head and put it to Marcin. We weren’t going to make Tehran today, we had too far to go and it was cold and would be dark too soon. I also needed a phone and internet access as early as possible to arrange the wire transfer. We had hoped to do it in a fuel station at the side of the road but the fuel stop barely had fuel. Looking around there was nothing about and even motorway signs telling you where you could stop to use a mobile phone as there was no coverage anywhere else. We agreed with some reluctance on Marcin’s part to head for a large town on the way only 150 miles ahead. The transfer can take 2 or 3 days so it was vital we got to arrange it today, not so important we made it to the city to collect it. The scenery after that was totally different. It was a real slog, cold and miserable with nothing but a flat, dirt plane to look over with white mountains framing the horizon for hour after hour. The wind kicked up too, not enough to be dangerous but enough to bring an added nuisance to a tough ride. Finally, to break the monotony we hit potholes. It was like the road was just breaking up beneath us. The roads were among the worst we’d seen, the holes were dangerous, smaller bikes would have been in trouble, they were harsh enough to snap a cast wheel if you hit a bad one dead on.
Eventually we found the town after 150 miles with no break or stops. A new personal best for us. It was pretty big with only a couple of hotels so we just stopped at the first one. £35 a night, give or take the exchange rate with breakfast and internet. On the way in we passed an area full of cars and bikes although far smaller than us. We attracted a lot of interest, people stopped what they were doing to stare at the strangers. We got stuck in traffic so Marcin suggested we ride down an alley. He had the only working sat nav so I agreed. He then drove through a market into a narrow alley. I stopped to help him bump the bike round the corner so he could carry on. We just about made it and then he got on a few more yards, looked back and said with a grin, “Shit!” A local guy came up to laugh at us telling us it was a no through road and he was now stuck. Some more bumping and a lot more swearing and we turned it around. Next time we filtered as hard as we could and found our way to the hotel. My being covered in mud from head to toe didn’t go down very well but we got the room and it was pretty decent.
We went out to get some food and found the same problem we had in Tabriz. No kebabs! In London a red and blue neon sign means a kebab shop but here everything has the same kind of signs. I suppose that makes perfect sense if you think about it. We explored the whole town with no luck, no food anywhere other than a couple of sandwich shops.
People here are different. It’s more lively than Tabriz, it’s a university town and people on the streets are younger and more rebellious maybe. A lot of people showed interest in us one way or another. Most people eyed us up and down, Marcin attracted a lot of attention from them, eyeing him suspiciously. One girl didn’t notice him and then shrieked and hid behind her boyfriend when she did. This time though a lot of people were weird about it. We heard a lot of shouts and giggles and had a lot of nasty stares. Several times guys came up to us and asked where we were from but everything was fine when we told them. They just smiled, shook our hands and welcomed us. The problem is people are taking us for Americans. They clearly don’t see a lot of white people here and the prejudice and resentment runs deep. Everyone asks us where we’re from and are always fine when we tell them. We stopped at a motorway toll and asked how much. The young man working there asked where we were from. When we told him he just smiled and let us through for free. No problem. Anyone else visiting I would strongly recommend doing something that shows people where you’re from. Maybe an extra sticker of your national flag? There is a great deal of negative feeling here towards the Americas which is totally understandable because there’s a great deal of equally unwarranted feeling towards them from what they understand as being the whole Western world.
We got some food in the end and were told proudly it was traditional Iran food. I found some Falafel and ordered that. Marcin ordered spaghetti, an Iranian delicacy apparently. We were pretty surprised when both came in a sandwich. Marcin decided that a spaghetti sandwich was fine but just to be on the safe side he ordered another sandwich with chicken and some soup. Washing all this down with a lemon flavoured alcohol-free was very strange. The food was ok, nothing special but it was just a sandwich shop. We haven’t found much else here, there are no restaurants or other social eating places. We’re hoping Tehran might be better in this respect but have read it’s not likely to be very good.
So there we are. All up to date. Tomorrow we’re taking an easy ride into Tehran after getting a tyre fitted to Marcin’s bike. My fuel system has packed in again. No idea why, everything looks fine. My only thought is it could be the cold. It is a pressure operated vacuum system and not a great one at that. When I think about it then it’s only be difficult when the temperature gets very low. I will give her some attention in the morning.
We’re then stuck in Tehran until the money arrives. It’ll be nice to have a break but would be nicer with booze. A good night out with the other bikers would hit the spot just right. We should arrive pretty early so we might be able to source some somewhere.
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  #44  
Old 4 Nov 2011
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Yesterday was a nightmare, no blog yet. Briefly we got to Tehran. My god, the driving is crazy. At one point I had a car right up my arse in heavy traffic and another blindly crossing the lanes into me. When I sped up to get away the one behind me followed, I couldn't brake and had nowhere to swerve to. I don't know how I made it, i really don't. Marcin was hit twice. Once in traffic and his might Touratech boxes took no damage but folded the truck wing. The driver didn't even get out, just carried on ploughing into things. Mad place! Typically warm welcome. We asked directions and a guy offered to lead is in his car. He took us three hours in a big circle to cover 200 yards because he didn't know where he was going. Nice gesture though.... We overheated badly, my bike pinked rotten and the big KTM kept stalling and the clutch seized at one point. Never seen traffic like it and we're expecting far worse ahead... nice! We're both pinking since we entered Iran, we reckon the fuel might be too rich, both bikes are doing it and didn't before. Our fuel range has jumped up 10-20% as well.
We're still without cash but we now have two sources. We should be fine. More importantly we found the Armenian club. Muslims are not welcome and are turned away from the whole street so the "christians" are allowed to drink freely. For the evening we will be "christians" if that's what it takes. Will blog our solutions so people who are as stupid as we are know how to get out of it.
Sorry for delays... so much censorship here. We can't get online half the times, can't upload pics. Pretty much everything with a .com address is a problem. Can't get to my blog so can't let people know what's happening. CD01, let the old folks know everything is fine, we expect to survive pretty much unscathed. How is the old man?
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Old 4 Nov 2011
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The old man is ok, he went for tests coz hes been having more pains in his chest, turns out its his sternum fixing its self. I had given them this thread to see so they are reading it... Just to correct you on the pinking... its a weak petrol that does that, not richer... you probably have it mixed with water to sell more.
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Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!




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