April 11, 2001 GMT
South Iran

Go down to Bandar e Abbas from Shiraz to get some warmth. Palms appears. The smugglers run the town, shipping in white goods from across the straights of Hormoz. The police stand aside as the fridges are wheeled across the port road, back pockets bulging.

Meet a British couple in a VW van. They have a motorcycle on the back. We have some fun racing nomads in the desert. Their smaller bikes are no match for our efficient Jap engines. The chaps don’t take too kindly to Samantha getting on the Suzuki DR650 and burning them off though. Choose not to hang around too long. It is the closest I get to seeing a feminist statement in Iran.

Back on the main route we meet our two Dutch friends. Khomeni is now in the prime of his adolescence, as long as the handlebars, at least 10kilos, bobbing along happily, seeing more of the world than dogs twice his age. I wonder did its owner count on the rapid weight gain when she put him in the basket all those weeks ago. Common to all cyclists, she is still beaming with life.

In the manual it says to adjust your motorcycle chain tension with the side stand down. What it doesn’t add is that heavy luggage will further stretch it, so you have to add compensating slack. Without it, the tight chain will be constantly under stress as the huge forces of the engine pull on it. So my chain packs up in the middle of the desert. It is past the last adjustment mark and jumping off the sprocket. Thankfully we are in convoy and I am able to put my bike on the trailer and borrow the DR600. How convenient.

We meet a Macedonian on a bicycle with one brake. He carries a bedroll and water bottle, no more. “I am travelling with without money” he says, “it is ecological statement”. We are aghast. We give him food and ask if there is anything more we can do “Yes, more food”. I am unsure of the worth of his statement, but most I doubt its sanity. He has a 800km desert ahead.

My first desert. Twelve hours in the saddle. Elation overcomes me. Such a long period of concentration—the one transferable skill from my student days. Like my body reorganises itself solely for riding. After this walking is a disappointment. Do Bam to Quetta in two days, including border crossing.

Get a local to take a couple of links out of my stretched chain using the fix-everything tool of Asia. Should prolong the usability for a while but will not last long, and is pretty dangerous. Have to get a new one sent out. This hands-on short-course bike maintenance apprenticeship is proving costly. I now can do tyre pressure, battery water level and chain tension. And put fuel in. Enough to tour the M25 maybe. Now, to cross Pakistan…

Posted by at April 11, 2001 11:17 PM GMT
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