December 29, 2009 GMT
Iran - Lut desert

Leaving Shiraz I took the road SE to Kerman, which was a good full day's ride through some nice landscapes, mostly mountains and some barren plains. It was good to ride for a few hours - too much city life and too much socialising was getting to me. Riding through a barren landscape for the better part of the day cleared my head and made me feel that I'm traveling again. I was on the road, and the road is good.

I got to buzzing but relatively uninteresting Kerman by the end of the day, found a quasi-decent "inn", dumped my stuff, changed into regular clothing and went out to explore.

Kerman by night: (notice interesting pedestrian overpass circling the square)

PC090025

It was already dark, but I did manage to stumble upon a lovely museum of contemporary art, with an intriguing collection of "resistance" compositions by young artists who were basically passing anti-war messages, albeit peppered with anti-Israel propaganda. The exhibition was funded by the government, so the selection of works was not surprising. Some of the pieces of art were quite interesting, but it was not allowed to take pictures. So no dice for you, dear reader.

I then spent a couple of hours walking around town - plenty of traffic (human & mechanised), noise, dust... all the loveliness of a modern city. I had something like a hot-dog from a bakery in which people were queuing (always a good sign), checked my email (in between power cuts) and went to bed.

My next stop was the desert - a CS friend had tipped me as to the existence of "something very beautiful" near the village of Mashdad, SE of Kerman. The ride there was excellent in its own right, bringing me close to snowy mountains:

PC100026

Mercifully there was a nice tunnel that saved me climbing above 3000m - then led me to an "adventurous area" (whatever that is)

PC100029

and finally delivering me to the Lut desert. My first proper sandy desert. 300m of elevation all in all, dilapidated caravansarais scattered all over the landscape...

PC100038

...palm trees everywhere, me taking off two layers of clothes... ooohhh it's SO nice to not be cold for a change.

PC100041

So the Kavir-e Lut was my first sandy desert. I had to try, hadn't I? I stepped down and checked the hardness of the ground on foot. It didn't look too soft... so I descended from the road with the Vstrom, frolicked on the sand for about 10''... and 80 meters later I was stuck and already agonising about how to get out of there.

PC100044

Luckily with a bit of unloading and a bit of pushing it took less than 15' to get the bike back on nice, safe, hard tarmac.

PC100047

And that was pretty much the end of my sand expedition... until I realised (after meeting more beautiful ancient caravanserais in the proverbial middle of nowhere)

PC100050

...that there is a really hard trail skirting the Kaluts, like a dried mud lake of sorts:

PC100053

I rode that for a few minutes until I lost visual of the tarmac and began to feel that not even the GPS is making this safe enough...

PC100055

So I turned back, leaving all this for another time, another life maybe...

PC100058

A true adventurer on all counts, I wussed out and got back on the tarmac.

Reaching the Kaluts was an experience... gigantic sand formations for tens of kilometres, beautiful, majestic, errie in their inexplicable steady orientation. As if a flock of whales has frozen in time, migrating across the globe, being caught under the desert, in endless waves that go on and on... truly beautiful.

PC100071

By late afternoon the road...

PC100086

...took me to a "desert camping" I had spotted earlier, a big project to build a really nice campsite with structures like mini bungalows.

PC100092

There were 3-4 workers there, building stuff, and noone else. I asked them whether it was OK for me to stay, the guy who could speak a bit of English said "no problem", I asked for the price, he said "no money" (wooohoo!) and I was sorted.

I had noticed some worrying splashes of oil around the engine and I decided to have a look (I needed to at least unscrew something on the bike to get my monthly Alex-the-mighty-mechanic dose). Luckily I had what I needed with me, try catching THAT nut without the proper tool...

PC100100

The "interior" of the bike (under the saddle) where all the tools, spares etc reside:

PC100110

I chose a hut, made my bed, did some washing, cooked dinner, read a little bit, pondered the loneliness, quiet, loveliness of the desert, and around 8 went to sleep...

PC100114

...which was to be interrupted pretty soon by three busloads of juvenile Iranians who apparently raided the desert camping just to find a place to be able to scream their heads off without being arrested... you think I'm exaggerating, aren't you? If only... it was the teenage-girls-rip-off-and-throw-their-underwear-at-rock-star kind of screaming. It was the ohmygod-I-cannot-believe-I-am-watching-Elvis-on-stage kind of screaming. It came and went in waves, from multiple sources. I spent the night twisting around in my sleeping bag and making pleasant thoughts like "my kingdom for a loaded machine gun..." Around 5 or 6 in the morning they got tired (or lost their voices - wouldn't be surprised), so I managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep.

Around 8 they started pissing off, being noisy in the process, so I got up and ran about 500m out of the camp to see the early morning light on the Kaluts.

PC110115

Lovely, innit?

PC110122

Yep, proper sandy-type sand. Walking on this stuff is surprisingly difficult, so next time you find yourself stranded in the middle of the desert think about it twice before "just walking over them sand dunes"...

PC110124

This is where I (nearly) slept. Pretty charming place, really. And warm. Oh, bliss!

PC110133

I was giving the the noisy teenagers deadly looks as they were parading in front of my kitchen (the VStrom with the tea brewing on the petrol stove) and some of them might even have been remotely embarrassed. A man-and-woman team approached me, all smiles, the girl spoke in the most royal British accent and asked me how I was. Luckily I swallowed my default reaction which would be to "verbally abuse" them and it quickly turned out that they were not part of the group of juveniles - they also had had a rough night, so I guess we were on the same boat.

We ended up sharing our breakfast (with me the clear benefactor as they were way more organised food-wise) and had a mini-feast in their hut.

PC110137

It turned out that they were a group of people who work for an NGO that takes care of children whose families were devastated by the terrible earthquake that flattened Bam a few years back. Some of the children would come out to see the Kaluts and play in the sand, would I like to join them?

I politely declined (the default "no" that negative people like me use when they just need more time to think about it), we greeted each other and went our separate ways. After a few kilometers I realised I really DID want to join them, so I turned back and drove the 30km to the Kaluts to join them.

It was a wonderful feeling seeing the children frolic around in the sand.

PC110142

They were genuinely having a great time.

PC110146

We then drove back to the campsite for lunch

PC110162

This is my command centre. You can't get lost with all this stuff (famous last words?):

PC110165

Lunch presented a few practical difficulties for me - try eating your sandwich without making a mess while having 2 kids jumping on you and another 10 talking, singing, striving for attention. Beautiful, smart, witty creatures. They wanted to know everything about me and the trip, they sang a song and wanted me to reciprocate with a Greek song (to my utter embarrassment I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't come up with anything), they told me every word they knew of English and taught me some Farsi too...

When it was getting time to leave I asked if we could take a group picture, which created a little commotion between the elders. A few minutes later, after I had dressed up and was ready to go, I was told that it was not a good idea because if the picture fell in the wrong hands, the government would give trouble to the NGO for allowing sheltered children's pictures to be taken. And so it is in Iran. The underlying threat that one might do something, anything, that one day may be used against them. The constant fear of standing out in any way, which results in self-censorship and an omnipresent stiffness in human relations. A sad state of affairs...

After asking for permission which was happily granted, I took this photo of this little guy who took a fancy to my tank bag. He was part of a visiting family, nothing to do with the NGO, so there it is - the secret sauce - the critical piece of information that the theocracy needs to control - what I could not show you using the lovely kids taken care of by the NGO as example - an Iranian CHILD!

PC110166

After doing two rounds of the roundabout and blasting off towards the horizon standing up on the pegs (hey, if it's a request from the kids it doesn't count as showing off!) (suuure) I took the mountainous road to Bam.

On the map the road looked like a nice, smooth stretch of tarmac. But the map is just a piece of paper. It cannot portray the dramatic twists and bends, the gorgeous scenery surrounding you as the cylinders do their job and carry you and everything you did & will need for 6 months up and down mountain passes, crossing unmaintained, unsurfaced connections between pieces of road that are still under construction...

PC110169

Finding yourself riding on the pegs to safely get over a watery puddle, while following the main road to anywhere, is a relatively unnerving experience. One can't help thinking "can this really be it?", "did I miss something", "am I lost?" etc etc. This is where a GPS and good maps make a big difference. I've exclusively used maps from the OpenStreetMap.org project and am very happy with them for having the most obscure roads of these countries mapped. A big "thank you!" to all contributors who created and continue to improve these maps - I upload GPS tracks as often as I can to do my bit and further improve these freely available maps.

I followed the beautiful road over the mountains heading in the general direction of Bam.

PC110171

Corrosion has worked wonders here:

PC110175

And just like that, the mountains were over and I was on the horrible main "highway"to Bam.

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at December 29, 2009 02:53 PM GMT
 
 

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

Next HU Eventscalendar

See all events

 

Latvia to Australia, an inspirational 5 month journey full of unexpected adventures!


Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

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!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!