Our border crossing into Iran took just under three hours, 1 hour in Turkey two hours in Iran. Border officials were helpful and most of the delay was caused by so many officials asking about our journey. Carol changed into her garb and immediately complained about the heat. What a fashion statement she made. Not the normal black covering but a plum (pale) gown with gold buttons and a black and white head piece bought in Tunis earlier in the year. The men all turned their heads and the women looked on in envy I'm sure.
Ken and Carol sporting her fetching chador in Bam, Iran.
We ride to Tabriz stopping for fuel at a state owned petrol station. Five US cents a litre is all we paid. Great stuff. The paved road was in good condition although the drivers had little respect for road rules. Arriving at Tabriz we pulled over to the kerb to peruse the Lonely Planet. A crowd gathers and before we know it an escort is guiding us to our selected Hotel. A change of plan recommended by our guides had us heading to a campground which would have been way to difficult for us to find. On arrival our guides Ali and Vahid made gestures and with some broken English that we should stay at Vahids house for the night, We had heard about this hospitality and gladly accepted. We enjoyed two nights with Vahid his wife Mahnaz and Mohomad their 4 month old son. Their hospitality extended beyond belief when they refused to allow us to pay for anything including a service on the bike and some welding repairs. (Centre stand hook and spring). With a Doctor friend and his wife we visited Kadovan, a village carved into rock face similar to Cappadocia in Turkey.
Leaving Tabriz we head to Ardabil enroute to the Caspian Sea. At Ardabil the weather clouded in and we rode through mist and rain for several kilometres before being stopped at a road block. We were ushered around the rock and mud barriers only to find three more further down the road until the last one we could not go around . The rain was quite heavy and the cloud cover very dark when five or six Iranians offerd to lift the bike over the obstacle.
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Locals lifting the bike over a road block, east of Ardabil, heading towards the Caspian Sea, Iran
On the coast (Caspian) the sky improved. Arriving at Rasht we had great difficulty in obtaining accomodation. Efforts of a money changer were to no avail although we all knew there was room at the hotels we were declined. Once again a local came to the rescue and we spent the night with an English school teacher and his wife.
We left late the next day for Tehran and crossed the mountains separating the Caspian from the remainder of a desert like Iran. The area around the Caspian is lush and green. Searching for a non existant campground out near the new International airport saw us return to Tehran around 10.30pm taking the first hotel we could find.
Leaving the next day we got lost and ran smack into army post. A plain clothes chap requested our passports and delayed our departure by almost 30 minutes. We had heard of the virtues of Esfahan and we were not dissappointed. Tree lined streets with greetings of Hello from almost everyone who walked past. The Amir Kabir Hotel although not plush provided a relaxed place to stay. Our Sth African friends Trevor and Noah on the KTM's were also there so our socialising over the next few days was even more fun. They were a big hit with the Iranian women. Plenty of smiles and hello's . We extended our visas here for another five days (giving us 15days) and enjoyed the sights as well as the Gaz (Nougat) and fruit jellies.
It was here that we met Claire and Mark from England riding two XT600's. They were also heading East.
Leaving the next day for Shiraz saw the road take us into some arid dry deserts with bare stoned mountains the only variance in the scenery. Crosswinds turned into headwinds as the local trucks and buses gave us friendly blasts on their many and varied horns.
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On the road in windy Iran.
Approximately 60 kms before Shiraz the ruins of Persopolis had us wandering around clicking our shutters and wondering how and why.
Trevor and Noah were equally impressed. As we parted (Trevor & Noah were heading to Turkmanestan) Claire and Mark arrived. We ventured to Shiraz to stay at the Anvari Hotel (secure parking) A day in Shiraz walking the Bazaar and struggling to find food other than Kebabs was enough.
Yazd was bustling as we rode into town. We copped the mandatory stares and I wondered how Iranians would react if the Western world stared at them when they ventured outside their borders. My attempts to negotiate down the hotel costs ( Aria Hotel) were futile but there was no other so back we went. This time Carol did the negotiating. A reduction was granted. Pure charm and skill. Two Danes riding XT600's and an Irishman (Connor) also on an XT600 found their way to the same Hotel. We explored the old mud city and the Zoroastrian Temple before heading off to Bam the next day.
We were joined by Connor on this leg and succeeded in loosing him twice enroute but eventually arrived together just on dark. Finding a bed at Ali Amiri's Legal Guest House in Bam saw us hook up with Claire and Mark again. We enjoyed wandering around Arg - E - Bam the old mud fortress and city which has been partly restored. During a tyre changing exercise behind the Guest House Connor had his M/cycle keys stolen. Beware!!! There is theft in Iran.
Leaving Bam we head to Mirjave, our party is now five people and four bikes. Just outside Bam we were stopped at a check point and our Passports taken. Questioning the delay I was told that the road ahead was dangerous and we would have to wait for an escort. Almost an hour passed when a uniformed man handed back our passports and said 'go'. As he walked away I called out "Escort" and opened the palms of my hands. He did not even reply. During this time several vehicles had passed through without so much as a momentary glance.
Carol became the group photographer on this leg to Mirjave. Some great photos of the bikes on the move. The only hotel in Mirjave plays a hard game. Charging more than the tourist spots and offering no hot water and quite dirty rooms in what could be an excellent establishment. To top it off they gave an exchange rate of 7,000 to US$1 instead of the usual 8,000 to US$1. Can't recommend this one.
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