Salam from the Middle East!
Last time we wrote we were in Greece. We spent a wonderful week riding around the Greek Island of Lesvos Island, a lesbian pilgrimage island, with wonderful scenic rides.
Next appointment was with our Turkish friend Baha in his summer holiday apartment! Its amazing the people we have met this trip! We travelled with Baha along the west coast of Turkey for a week and then we drove back along the Black sea coast of Turkey to Trabzon to pick up our Iranian visas from the Iran embassy there. Very easy, US$50 each but it took them 3 weeks to approve us!
Iran....wonderful Iran....how do we tell you about our fantastic time there?
Firstly, its law that women are covered up in public from head to toe. In 40deg heat, its a chore, but its a jailable offence, just like dancing in public or showing affection in public!
Ramadan, a Muslim tradition of not eating or drinking during daylight hours in public for a month was half way through when we entered Iran, so food was very scarce.
The people of Iran have to be the friendliest in the world and we felt very safe, in fact we felt like movie stars and everyone made such a fuss over us to make sure we were happy and everything was OK. One day we had a homeless kid offering us some of his meager rice as a friendship gesture. When we would arrive in a town the "flies"- young guys on motorbikes would drive really close to us to talk to us and touch us and show off doing wheelies in front of us. They would then escort us to the Hotel we were looking for...not bad service and they didn't do it for money...which was refreshing.
Following a group of older Iranian women is like being behind a flock of penguins, all in black.
The food was very boring on the whole... kebabs and rice or kebabs and rice...for 30 days, twice a day....uurrgghhh so dry!
Highlights were Esfahan..the jewel of ancient Persia and one of the finest cities in the Islamic world. Imam square and Imam Mosque are to be seen to be believed, one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.
Yazd in the desert is the best old and still inhabited city in the country and one of the oldest towns on Earth according to UNESCO. Buildings there are made from mud brick plastered with more mud and mixed with straw- no problem as it hardly ever rains in the desert. We stayed at the famous travellers meeting place: Silk Road Hotel for 5 nights and had to drag ourselves away. There were lots of other cyclists and a Turkish biker there and lots of other travellers to share tales with!
Fuel for locals was .10c/litre for locals, but tourists have to pay .40c/litre for leaded and .55c/litre for unleaded if you can find it. We were told that the average income in Iran is US$4000/YEAR, which is half of the average wage in Turkey.
Crossing from Iran to UAE was a long and expensive process. When the boat arrived at 4pm customs was closed, so the bike had to stay and we had to go- we hate leaving her alone! Next morning Pat returned to pick up the bike, 4 hours and US$230 later, we were on our way again, one of the worst and most frustrating border crossings ever!
We then went to Abu Dhabi where HU member David and Rita Mildwater kindly offered to store our bike and gear for a year. We also caught up with Dave, Lynne and Harri Mollenhauer, friends from Cairns now living in Dubai. Oman for a few days was our next destination, then Hong Kong to see Murray and Lieve Frame for a few days and go sailing on their new yacht, then home to Cairns tomorrow, Nov 2, 2008.
What a year it has been! Full of fantastic memories, we met amazing people and survived the dreaded Middle East. Not for one moment did we feel unsafe, except a few close calls driving in Iran and Turkey,where there are not many road rules except avoidance driving and "fill that gap"! As usual people are what made the trip. Travelling to us is not about ticking off places seen, but magic moments shared with new and old friends. Saying that we have now been to 76 countries over the last 5 year long trips!
See ya tomorrow morning Cairns! Cant wait.
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