The start of our Iran experience isn’t really as good as we’d expect it. After finishing our paperwork at the Pakistani side and saying good bye to our 10th country on this trip, we have to wait at the iron gate to Iran. Apparently the border guards are having a tea break and this just 1 hour before they close the border anyway…
time to pull the africa twin
The friendliness of the people disappears as soon we’re rolling through the gate! From now on we’re being treated differently from all the other countries we travelled so far.
There is not much of English spoken in Iran and the officers at the Immigration or at the Customs are not an exemption. Right away we have to show our passports for “registration” at the guard, then some officer wants to get my carnet and disappears with it, then again passport, carnet, passport, carnet, passport, carnet… all at different buildings. Finally we make it to the Customs just before they close the office.
Very soon we find out that the police want to keep our passports for “security” reasons and give us an escort to the city of Bam, almost 500km away from the border. They don’t get our passports and their harassment starts immediately. I mean, what kind of a protection is a single unarmed police officer sitting on Guido’s bike?
We almost succeed shaking off the police but then the battery of my bike quits the job again and we have to push the Africa Twin into Iran. Luckily Guido is offering to pull my bike to Mirjave, about 15km away, using several luggage straps tied together.
the first stretch in iran is being towed
With a smallish battery mounted we still make to Zahedan this day, without any escorts and without stopping at any of the check posts.
Staying in Zahedan is like being in prison, we’re not allowed even to make one step outside the hotel on our own. In theory there’d be a police officer for our escort in the hotel but they can’t be bothered obviously and so we have to stay inside!
Usually the police would get the passports of the tourists and so you’d have to follow whatever they say or do. That means, stopping every few kilometres and waiting for another escort, endless paperwork and, finally riding in the darkness. In our case we keep our documents on us, which makes the police even more aggressive.
The chase is on! During a filling stop one very angry police officer is screaming at Guido and even takes away Esther’s keys… well, all of this is for our “security” only…
Possibly it is also only for our “safety” not to sell any petrol to us, isn’t it? We actually have to buy the gasoline on the black market as the filling stations wouldn’t give us any.
Having filled up our tanks we ignore the unfriendly police completely and ride off to Bam. We can’t see any escort for an hour or so but then they catch up with us eventually, overtake us and try to stop us at the first check post. Not even slowing down, we pass them waving friendly. This situation repeats many times; anyway we’re not going to be shot for our safety, aren’t we?
Only in Bam the nightmare is over, no more escorts, no more screaming police and even easy access to gasoline at the petrol stations! We can relax again.
Bam was hit by a 17 seconds lasting earthquake in 2003, which destroyed the entire city and buried 40 Thousand of its inhabitants. The famous Arg-e-Bam was flattened during the quake and is being now slowly restored but it will take another 20 years or so till the Unesco World Heritage site is rebuild completely.
Obviously there was lot of financial help flowing to Bam after the catastrophe. Instead of the former mud brick houses all the new buildings are made earthquake proof using modern materials. The city lost its appeal and its number one sight the Arg-e-Bam and won’t see any tourists for quite a while, what a pity!
the distroyed arg-e-bam
at the jameh mosque in yazd
view at the jameh mosque in yazd from our hotel restaurant
jameh mosque yazd at night
amir chaghmaq complex in yazd
which one is for which gender?
Iran is a difficult country to travel in but now even more; as soon as we reach Yazd, the holy month for the Muslims begins… It means for us either to fast with the Iranians (which we really don’t want to do) or shop for groceries in the evening and quietly eat in the hotel room the next day. What a pain!
Some hotels would serve food to “non-believers” like us during the day but this is not only expensive, we’re missing out on local bazaars, eating street food and experiencing the daily life. Well, a combination of the Ramadan, extra boring landscape and mostly unfriendly and not helpful Iranians makes us to cross this country quicker than estimated.
Possibly we just heard too many good stories about Iran and its great inhabitants. For me the only time we were facing a friendly and smiling Iranian was at the Imam Square in Esfahan and it turned out that he only wanted to sell us a carpet.
The teashops inside Esfahan’s bridges are closed down and even the fabulous located teashop in the Imam Square won’t open for long time – I guess these teashops are just too much joy for the Iranians. Young people could possibly meet up there and do something illegal – like looking at each other!
Walking around in Esfahan we find out quickly that we’re being assigned a soldier as an “escort”. Many times we heard that the government is paranoid about us being potential spies and now we’re experiencing the big brother reality ourselves. This is another reason for long hours of riding and passing through this unfriendly and not welcoming country.
Our daily distances double and triples in Iran, it’s not uncommon that we’re riding 600 – 700km in one day!
at the jameh mosque in esfahan
si o sei bridge in esfahan
bridge in esfahan
iranis waiting for the sun to set (ramadan)
the imam mosque in esfahan
manequins in esfahans bazaar
one of the shops in esfahans bazaar
Every day during the Ramadan the TV is broadcasting the exact time of the sunset. Let’s say the sun is setting at 8.28pm this day. You can hardly find any space in the restaurants from 8pm on. Every one is sitting on an empty table and waiting patiently for the minutes to pass. At exact 8.28pm the waiter is trying to deliver the food to every body simultaneously and the big eating begins.
The plan was to stay at least 30 days in Iran and maybe even get the visas extended but we’re more than happy to leave after only 2 weeks…
Iran is getting on our nerves right from the beginning until the very last minute. Upon leaving the country the Custom officers refuse to stamp our carnet and want to see our Iranian number plates. It takes me several hours of persuasion until they finally stamp the papers and allow us to leave. But first they want to check our luggage!! I really can’t believe to hear right when the dumb officer is asking us if we’re having any liquor on us! Right, we’re about to smuggle liquor from Iran into Armenia!!!!
Few more times we have to produce our passports for checking before we finally can leave. I scream joyfully in my helmet upon crossing the bridge to Armenia.
landscape in northern iran
We’re welcomed to Armenia by big bellied Russian soldiers in camo outfits. Later we’ll find out that, even independent, Armenia’s borders are heavily guarded by Russian Army.
No one wants to know if we’re having any liquor on us this time but the immigration officer has his doubts with Jane’s passport. He simply can’t believe that the handwritten, not machine readable passport is not faked. Again, few hours of persuasion and arguing is needed until Jane gets her entry visa to Armenia.
After Iran, Armenia seems to us like heaven! There is people smiling at us, couples walking together holding hands or even kissing, mini skirts and high heels for women, music playing in the streets and lots of food everywhere!
welcome to armenia
In Armenia we’re choosing to stay in private homes and enjoying the delightful local food and drinks. The latter proves to be especially dangerous. 60% strong home made plum vodka seems not to affect the Armenians as they drink it at any occasion. For us it is definitely too strong and we rather stick to Armenian beer…
there is no lack of choice
still lots of russian inheritance in armenia
what else do you need??
Armenia is a mountainous country with lots of history hidden everywhere. The motorbike proves to be the ultimate type of transportation. We’re swerving up and down the forested hills and visiting some beautiful churches along the way. Taking advantage of the clear weather, we’re camping out in some gorgeous spots and even sleep in a cave once before we make it to Yerevan and stay there in a private house again.
Yerevan, the capitol of Armenia, is a very stylish city. People seem to care a lot about their looks and their cars. Strangely enough no one seems to work in Yerevan. More likely you’d see the local women shopping in designer boutiques and the men driving around town in their black, mostly German made cars. The car has to be black and shiny, tinted glass and big engine are a must. Black is also in when it comes to men’s fashion.
For the women the rule is “the sexier the better”. In Yerevan you could spot the shortest mini skirts and the highest heels possible!
Armenia is also a small country and you only want to visit so many churches. After 1 week it’s time to move on and we, once again, crossing few passes to reach Georgian border.
at the noravank monastery
approaching mt ararat
jane at the cinema in yerevan
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