July 25, 2009 GMT
Iran / Esfahan

Lonely Planet (LP) describes Esfahan : "Iran's masterpiece, the jewel of ancient Persia and one of the finest cities in the Islamic world". Now I definitely don't agree with LP all the time but I believe they have got it right this time. What an amazing place. Beautiful palaces, bridges, mosques and the stunning Imam Square. Not since the Taj Mahal have I been so impressed by architecture!. Esfahan is also quite a liberal city which makes life just that bit easier and people from all over Iran come to visit which makes for an interesting mix and also means that they are geared up for tourists, more than any city I have visited here, the down side is that it pushes up the price of hotels.
My hotel was over priced and the owner was a sleeze, who got my back up as soon as I arrived. I have been pretty calm this whole trip but the old me (Mr angry) came out with this guy which was a shame, nothing major just small things like plumbing not working (it's so hard trying to clean your teeth when the water is intermittent and when it does come you have to be quick to catch the dribble. Hence 20 minutes gone by..AAh!!) I did try to move hotels but it just became too much hassle and left after two days.
I spent early evenings in Imam Square where families and courting couples gather with their rugs to have a picnic (Iranians just love Picnics, everywhere, city parks and all over the country side) I shot a lot of video and chatted with locals on the grass (bad idea) had some very interesting conversations. They are so preoccupied with their image in the west, well who can blame them!!.
Sitting on the grass was not wise I stained a muscle in my back (done it before) and it has been giving me jip ever since making riding quite unpleasant as I struggle to get in a position which doesn't hurt.
I really enjoyed Esfahan but after 2 days it was Friday (holiday) so I decided to make the big push to Chalus on the Caspian Sea. The route would take me to the outskirts of Tehran where I would detour to Karaj and ride the beautiful Karaj to Chalus road which goes up into the mountains.. Oh yes finally.. cooler air, windy roads... fantastic, just one more day of desert riding!!! (well 5-6 hrs till I reach Tehran).

Posted by Ross MacDonald at July 25, 2009 03:09 PM GMT

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