July 03, 2009 GMT
Chandigarh / Amritsar
It's been a few days since i have been able to get on the internet.
Stayed only one night in Delhi and headed to Chandigarh, wow what a fantastic city.
It was built after partition and is beautifully designed big wide tree lined streets set out on a grid, it's the only city so far where i haven't had to ask for directions to get to my hotel. even though I only stayed one night i had a good look around before I left. Lots of gardens and sculptures, very modern as are the people also I couldn't get over how quiet the city is compared to others (no traffic noise).
Arrived in Amritsar 2 days ago, I have always wanted to visit the Golden temple here (couldn't in 1984 as Indian army attacked sikh militants held up in temple...Mrs Ghandi's sikh bodyguards killed her). Anyway I have been to the Temple, fantastic experience and yesterday went to the famous closing of the border ceremony at the India/Pakistan border crossing... think ministry of silly walks. Very interesting time crowd chanting and dancing, qreat time had by everyone. Took Video and stills. A few people have asked why I'm not posting photo's one reason is that internet cafes here don't want us to download and also it takes a bit of time to edit and upload. I intend to make a DVD of video and stills on return and will give to those who request it.
I spent yesterday servicing the bike (oil change, topping up fluids etc) in prep for crossing into Pakistan tomorrow morning.
Information is pretty limited here on the situation in Pakistan at the moment, I was hoping to catch up with bikers coming from Pak.but I haven't seen anyone. The hotel manager tells me that no one has been there for some weeks.
I understand that apart from Lahore internet access is pretty limited so posts may be not as regular.
Really looking forward to the KKH and a new country for me as I have never been there before.
Will post when possible
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 09:09 AM
July 05, 2009 GMT
Here I am in Lahore, feels like dark side of the moon as far as communications go.
I had a very easy crossing of the border, very quick got carnet (bike passport) stamped out of India and into Pakistan no problems. No one even bothered to check my luggage.
I have now been in Lahore for 2 days and must say that I'm pleasantly surprised, Lahore is probably the most liberal and cultural city in Pakistan. The locals are very friendly and I am often invited to sit down and have a cup of tea.
I'm staying in a hotel near, get this, Charing Cross! which is on The Mall (for my friends in England) and today being Sunday most of the shops are closed.... strange for a muslim country, normally closed on fridays.
The first major difference you notice after India is the food. Here it is meat with every thing and still have to say that the food is still one of the highlights of my trip. the other difference is that all food is eaten with out utensils so it's a bit hard for me as I'm a natural left hander.
I had a good wander through the old city this afternoon, very colourful and a lot of people about, masses of stalls set out selling everything imaginable, had a great time just sitting at a tea stall people watching. Re the tea, back home I never drink the stuff, hate it, but here it seems to be the drink to have in this heat (same as India). However I have lashed out today and brought myself a small jar of nescafe coffee.
News on other front not so good, it looks like I may not be able to do the KKH for reasons I won't go into here but needless to say I'm pretty p.......... with the situation. The information I am getting is very limited re routes I can take is vague and can't seem to get up to date info from other bikers. I have posted on website but it appears that few are here at the moment, I certainly haven't seen anyone else on a bike, in fact europeans are pretty thin on the ground although there are about 8 in this hotel (the main foreigner place).
I will have to make a plan tonight re route to take and will set off tomorrow, looks like this may be a quick trip through Pakistan. I had planned on at least 2 weeks but looks like it could be shorter.
Thanks for your emails of support.
(Maori, Be/Stay strong)
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 01:00 PM
July 12, 2009 GMT
Pakistan / Multan
Hi, we have contact......
A lot has happened since my last entry so I will go back to when I left Lahore and continue in a series of brief entries and then give my final impressions on Pakistan as a whole.
Had to make a tough decision and gave up doing the KKH not for security reasons, it is safe to do that route.
I headed of to Multan (recorded highest temp. of any city in the world) Lovely riding (390km) down through Punjab very green and is the food bowl of Pakistan. Arrived in Multan late afternoon and spent 3 hours trying to find a hotel that would take a foreigner (I know now what it was like to be coloured) The issue is security If they take me then they have to put up with police guarding me.
Finally got a room near the railway station and whilst I was talking on the phone to Amanda my personal security guy turned up and showed me his automatic gun and explained that if I go out he will protect me, a taste of things to come....
Don't get me wrong I appreciate the effort that the police put in to guard me but it severly limits your ability to interact with the locals. Probably the point me thinks...
Multan (and every other city onwards) is very conservative compared to Lahore and my presence was not what you call, well recieved, by most locals.
I spent the whole night in my hotel room.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 01:03 PM
Pakistan / Sukker
Left the next morning for Sukker (478km) and again a great ride until about 75km outside of Sukker when I picked up my first police escort. To explain, escorts are a bit like the pony express. The police take your passport and you follow them for around 30 to 40 km when the next escort will take you onwards. Again I appreciate the efforts by the police to take care of me, but oh so slow!!! sometimes only doing 40km/hr. I actually joked with one english speaking officer that at this speed someone could walk up beside me and attack me and I'd rather take my chances at 120km/hr. Can't be done, you have no idea how frustrating this was to get, including waiting around for escorts to show up!!
At least the police know what hotel will take me, big plus, they dropped me off and we arrange time for escort the next day (I quickly learnt to say 1 hr before)
Stayed in hotel room all night.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 01:18 PM
Pakistan / Quetta
The trip (409km) to Quetta will go down as one of the most differcult so far.
Escort was late and when it turned up sooooo slow, even had 2 guys on moped pass us. Leaving early was important because I was about to cross my first desert (Kachhi Desert) and I didn't want to arrive in the middle of the day, I did!.
The trip started ok but from Sibi onwards was tough, dirt, gravel, rough roads and the heat (crossing deserts in the hot season...doh) The Bolan pass about 100km from Quetta was bike/rider breaking, heat, dust, and rough and by this time I had already done a full days ride and I was knackered. I kept saying only another hour then I looked at my speedo and realized I was only doing 40km/hr another hour later I would say "only another hour" and on and on it went.
Finally arrived at hotel Bloomstar (bikers stop) shattered, great hotel with garden and great food (did I mention the food?)
Stayed 2 nights to regather thoughts and strength, gave bike a service.
Have I mentioned the bike (suzuki DL650 Vstrom), I have to say I'm amazed at how much punishment it takes and (touch wood) it hasn't given me any problems. I constantly worry take the suspension is going to give up or I'm going to break it. If that happens here... game over.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 01:37 PM
Pakistan/Quetta to Taftan
I had always been concerned about this part of the journey as it is the only route to the Pakistan border (Taftan), it is all desert, runs adjacent to the Afganistan border and is well known for it's security concerns. I had intended to join up with another biker to do this but of course no one here.
I set off early with escort again slow going (what can you do?).
Beautiful scenery although very stark moon like landscape. What was a bit worrying was that after about 50km the escort disappeared (they were following me). Great that I could put some speed on but a little nervous at the same time.
The road to Dalbandin (half way) was again very rough but with long straights that stretched out to the horizon. I remember feeling very remote but at the same time peaceful as it seemed I was the only one out here. The feeling reminded me of when I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in the 90's. Then out of the haze a truck would appear coming towards me to break my trance. Even though it was hard going I enjoyed this part of the trip. Then escorts reared their head again but this time it was worse because I had to take an armed soldier on the back of the bike. I was not happy with this and argued about it as I didn't want the extra weight on the bike as it was hard on the suspension. I ended up giving way as I thought what is more important, the bike or my life?. This situation continued with changes in soldiers until about 100km out of Dalbandin where I was to break the trip and spend the night....NOT SO! I was virtually run out of town by the escorts, no place to stay here! I was now bloody angry, it was very hot and dusty and I was tired and wasn't sure I could make Taftan before nightfall. Still I had no choice and filled up with gas and headed off. One bit of fortune was that the road from Dalbandin was a lot better and I could make good speed. Escorts continued then I just refused to carry a passenger and rode off. I know that I have said previously that this was my hardest day but No this was! I was so dry when I finally reached Taftan after 12 hours I could hardly speak. The icing on the cake though was that there were no rooms and ended up just sleeping on the grass out side the customs hall at the border. I was angry, damn tired, covered in sweat, covered in dust and hadn't eaten since breakfast. Great last memory off Pakistan!!!
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:53 PM
Pakistan / Summary
What can you say?, Pakistan has problems as we are well aware. My personal belief is that they will get worse before they get better. I had a great time in Lahore apart from one incident which didn't concern a local. The scenery was fantastic, from the green of the Punjab to the isolation of the deserts. Did I enjoy Pakistan? well alot of the riding was very hard but that is why this is my adventure if I was shooting down motorways it would be boring and I had expected it to be hard, maybe not so hard. So from the riding side it was adventurous. BUT here's the thing.... To me visiting a country is about meeting locals and interacting with them and getting to know their culture. Apart from a few occassions this was not possible as I was shut up in my hotel room. I spent practically the whole time alone, most of the Pakistanis I did converse with were very friendly and generous. I had expected to meet up with other bikers but there are none here.
The security issue has dominated the whole journey and is a great shame.
Would I do it all again?
NO!! not until Pakistan is more stable. The dangers were real, most of which you won't hear about in western media, a bomb went off outside Quetta while I was there. (Google it.) The news was full of incidents on a daily basis and not just in the Swat Valley area but all over the country.
I accept the risks of riding and possible accidents but this was too high a gamble for me to repeat.
I accept some on the horizons unlimited community won't like, or agree with my views but thats my experience and I'd advise them to take a different route.
Wow!! most unlike me to offer an opinion.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 06:31 PM
July 13, 2009 GMT
Easy border crossing into Iran. Welcome welcome everyone says.
Still had security to and from Zahedan all the way to Bam, but I'm told that is all over with now.
Zahedan felt like I was still in Pakistan, couldn't leave hotel even to go across the road to get some food. Police were called and they escorted me. Another tough ride through the desert but at least the roads are good.
Was only going to stay one night in Bam and head to Kerman and Shiraz, but hospitality at my guesthouse is fantastic, taken me around the city, fed me and generally made me feel at home, so staying another night. Only one more day in the desert tomorrow.
Bam was devistated by an earthquake 4/5 years ago tens of thousands died and 95% of the city destroyed including the ARG ancient old city went there today and saw how they are rebuilding it to original spec. mamouth task i'd say and will take decades.
Just one last comment on Pakistan, I read my blog and I give the impression it was hell all the time, it wasn't.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 01:03 PM
July 15, 2009 GMT
Akbars Guesthouse Bam
As I mentioned previously I intended to only stay in Bam for one night, I have now been here three.
This is more for the Horizons Unlimited community but I just want to give them some up to date info on Bam.
A lot of overlanders seem to bypass Bam altogether when heading to or from the border and stay in Zahaden (bad choice).
Bam, even though still recovering from the tragic earthquake of 2003 has a lot to offer and despite what you might read in Lonely Planet has no security issues.
I spent time walking around the old city (Arg) and saw the aftermarth of the tradgedy that happened there, the city is over 2,500 years old and is a Unesco heritage site and people came from all over the world to see it. It is still worth a visit to walk around and see how they are rebuilding to original specifications.
I can highly recommend Akbars Guesthouse to stay. Akbar and his son Mohammed run this place in such a laidback but efficent manner (as you like). When I arrived the first thing I was asked was "have you eaten would you like some food and chai?. They are currently rebuilding total 17 rooms with bathrooms and air con. There is secured parking and beds laid out in the courtyard so you can laze around in the shade. Both speak excellent English and for the overlander can offer the following services. Great home cooked meals, mechanic, tours (in and outside Bam, desert tours, and broardband internet. They have also assisted me with getting sim card, third party insurance and changing money. I know that this may sound like a paid advertisment (it's not) I have just been so impressed wth their hospitality and want to recommend to others looking for great value acommodation. Details, email: email@example.com Tel (98 344)231-48-43
Mobile: (98) 913 1444 148 enjoy
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:51 AM
July 18, 2009 GMT
Iran / Kerman
I was sorry to leave Bam I was so relaxed after Pakistan and had a good time there.
The trip to Kerman was to be my last stretch of desert, alas more to come. I left early in the morning to get a good start before the sun got high. I also thought that I had the last of escorts but the local police gave me company out of town and for about the next 50km. Not bad as they keep a good speed, then they just waved me on and that's the last of them.Arrived in Kerman hot and bothered so lashed out and stayed in my best hotel yet $US45, including dinner and breakfast not bad. I'd say 4 star and bloody nice it was too. Room service, large bath (first since I left, no I have had showers!) and all international news channels. I lay in the bath for at least an hour bliss.
Didn't really see much of Kerman but I understand that they make pretty good rugs there.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 08:25 AM
Iran / Shiraz
The ride to Shiraz, 580km, was one of the best so far (i've probably said that before), the scenery was unreal sort of semi desert / arid with mountain ranges, valleys and huge salt lake beds. For weeks now I have ridden long straight roads which stretch out to the horizon but this time I had mountain passes to cross and lots of twisties (bends, for non bikers. We love twisties.) It took a bit of getting used to as the bike felt quite light in the front end with the weight on the back and I had to be a bit cautious to start, but once i got the feel I was chucking it into those corners. I may have to play around with tire pressures to get the bike set up better.
I haven't mentioned it before but it is surreal listening to the I Pod whilst riding here, especially Pink Floyd when you are in the desert and so isolated from everything.
I put the music on random for the ride to Shiraz and had everything from chill out jazz to Led Zep (who put them on the pod?) anyway it was great. I feel like I've done the hard countries first and are much more relaxed.
Shiraz (shame none of the namesake Red stuff)is a mid size city (say Auckland) and laid back. I arrived on Thursday afternoon & sadly yesterday being Friday everything was closed so decided to stay another day.
Shiraz is quite liberal as opposed to some city's here so I thought I could give you the low down on fashions.
For you more mature ladies, black is still in vogue, loose fit is popular... tent shape most common.
For the younger ladies, jeans or light trousers with a light 3/4 coat over top is good of course you have the head scarf but I had noticed the teenagers wear it set back on the head showing about 4in of forehead.... young rebels
As for the young men, Jeans t shirt or shirt but everything has to be tight, I mean skin tight. If you wear a shirt have at least the top 2 or even 3 buttons undone to show off that hairy chest and chain. Think 70's and while you are at it get some gel in your hair. Lovely.
Just before I go here's an example of how the Iranians respond to me and I'm sure all other travellers.
I stopped for a rest on my way to Shiraz and was getting some shade under a tree, the normal amount of people stopped and took photo's of my bike (everyone has mobile phone) any way I was sitting under a tree and there was a family opposite have a break, the man came over and we exchanged pleasantries and then his son came over with a big plate of sliced water mellon and other fruit for me to eat. This is normal here I've had numerous other instances similar to this, its great they really want you to enjoy their country. In fact I'd go as far as saying that they are insecure about how the west perceives them. They feel their rep abroad is unjust and they are right! Oh bloody politics........
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 09:14 AM
July 21, 2009 GMT
Iran / Yazd
Lonely Planet suggests "don't even think about going to Yazd in hot season"
Red Rag... So now I have been here 3 days.
The ride from Shiraz again was amazing oh the scenery (it really is a shame that its so hard to download stills from my video, I have tried too slow internet)
Yazd is supposed to be the oldest city on earth (over 7000 yrs) surrounded by 2 deserts, I know I keep saying I am going to get out of the deserts.... It may not mean it is twice as hot but it is trying. I was invited to go for a free trek in the desert with one of the guides who works out of the hotel here, are you kidding? I'm not going out walking in that with out a huge umbrella and water tanker..I declined.
I am staying at the Silk Road Hotel (said to be the best budget/midrange hotel in Iran LP) I won't argue it is very nice, lovely traditional courtyard in which to lounge around in the evening. Very relaxing which is why I have decided to stay an extra day. There is a fantastic bazaar in the old city which is pretty easy to get lost in but great fun trying to find your way through the maze. The alley's are hemmed in by 3m mud walls which gives you the impression that the place is virtually deserted but in fact the population is over half a millon.
Yesterday I gave the bike a service. I changed the oil even though not really necessary as I'd only done about 3,500 km since the last, but hey oil is cheap here.
It was quite interesting trying to get the right oil though not know the words for synthetic, semi synthetic or mineral oil in Fazi language, let alone 20W50 grade.
Still we managed to make ourselves understood as always and whole job took little over an hour.
I've discovered a new Iranian delight, icecream, I thought that we did pretty good icecream in NZ but I have to concede that their icecream with carrot juice on top takes a lot of beating. I know...carrot juice? but yes it is amazing. Either that or the heat has got to me. I did try an icecream in a cone but not really suitable as you have to eat it so fast before it melts all over your hand, no time for licking.
Tomorrow I head to Esfahan then on to the cooler mountains beyond Tehran.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 08:25 AM
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 03:09 PM
Iran / Esfahan to Chalus
Got up at 6am to hit the road and apart from the back (as mentioned) had an enjoyable ride cruising at around 130km/hr on long straight roads, actually toll roads which motorbikes aren't allowed on (Iranian) got stopped by police a couple of times but no problems (they really only want to look at the bike) and was waved through all of the toll booths..they didn't know what to charge and also the Iranians are just like that with foreigners.
I was dreading hitting the motorway network on the out skirts of Tehran (pop. 15 million) as their reputation for crazy driving is well earnt. I never intended to visit the city, too much hassle, nothing to do with politics. As it turned out I shouldn't have worried, in on one motorway, first sign I saw was posted to Karaj, Quick left turn and I'm on my way. How easy is that!!!. Well one thing I have learnt on this trip is ying and yang. There is an up side and down side to absolutely everything!
Being Friday the traffic was heavy as this route from Karaj to Chalus (160km) is incredibly popular with the locals from Tehran as it gets them up into the mountains and the cooler air and of course the picnic. But no matter it was around 2pm and I figured that they would all be heading back in a couple of hours anyway doh! I was stopped again by the police and asked where I was headed and got a curious look but was waved on anyway. There was a bit of a traffic jam getting out of Karaj onto the hill road and a driver said to me "no matter after 3pm it won't matter" or words to that effect. What??? I thought, is he talking about? Now you can see that this is all leading to something, it's obvious, but why didn't I see it coming, all the signs were there I just ignored them. After a 500km ride all I wanted to do was to get up into the cool air (I've been waiting for weeks, actually since the trip started to get out of the heat) and get to my destination.
The Sting was that at 3pm they close the lane from Karaj to all traffic so that the traffic coming back from Chalus uses both lanes. BUGGER!! about 35km out of Karaj the Police put their hand up "Stop" you can go no further! I asked what time they reopen my lane and was told Midnight!!
I looked at my options... I could go back to Karaj but there are no real hotels there, I could go back to Tehran and get a hotel there, or I could wait until midnight and ride to Chalus in the dark (not a good option on a very tricky winding road.
I decided to ride back about 10km to a restaurant I had passed earlier and figure out what to do. I sat there watching the traffic for hours as none of my options were appealing to me. I just couldn't believe how many cars there were coming back it was like the whole 15 million from Tehran were on this road. In the end I took no action and as it got dark I had no options left but to stay where I was. I got chatting to the owners of the restaurant and they agreed to let me sleep in their garden after closing time (Midnight!!) So I just sat there for 8-9 hrs watching this endless stream of cars (half in my bloody lane) go by. There was some entertainment though as there were numerous near accidents as 3 cars tried to fit into 2 lanes and there were actually 2 cars that spun out and hit the concrete barrier on the sharp corner 50m up the road. So I just waited and waited, it reminded me of the Pakistan border where again I was hot, tired, sweaty and dirty and just wanted to sleep. Soon after midnight I did, I just laid out on the grass and in no time I was unconscious.
Next morning woke at 7am feeling awful, I would have given anything for a shower after sleeping in my riding gear. After a cup of tea headed off for the short (yeah right) 160km to Chalus. Loads of traffic all going my way and they are bloody suicidal drivers (dare I say worse than India) they have no idea of safe braking distance, pass when road is clear, or Hey matey I may not be a car but I'm using this tarmac as well, I was forced off the road a couple of times by cars passing me with oncoming traffic. The scenery was stunning but I was too preoccupied with staying alive to really appreciate it. After 5 hrs I finally made it to Chalus only to find it wasn't very appealing so moved on to Noshahr (Nowshahr) a few km up the road. Found nice hotel (bath!!!!!) so I'm settled in for the night, after servicing the bike. Tomorrows another adventure
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:32 PM
July 28, 2009 GMT
Iran / Rasht/Tabriz
Forgot to mention that whilst servicing the bike in Nowshahr I managed to have a wee accident when I put the bike on the stand it landed on my big toe and with 200kg of bike on it I was not happy. Anyway got to use the first aid kit for the first time.
Leaving Nowshahr I headed all the way around the Caspien Sea coast. What a waste of a good coast line the towns which line it were tatty and unappealing which surprised me because Iranian flock here for holidays. So with no nice place to stay I carried on to Rasht where I stayed for one night.
I have to say though that while the towns weren't great the scenery was! After crossing the mountains to Nowshahr and since the scenery has totally changed from the Deserts (well it would wouldn't it) It was so nice to see the sea again after so long and also the greenery, not seen since the Punjab in Pakistan weeks ago. This area in fact is like the Punjab as it is the food basket of Iran, rice paddy fields and grain crops abound.
The weather here is cooler if you can call the mid 30'sC cooler. In fact just before getting to Tabriz it looked like it was going to rain and when I got a few spots on my visor I stopped to put my jacket on but it proved to be a passing shower, My first shower in 6 weeks or so. I am in Tabriz at the moment ready to break to the border with Turkey.
I know I have mentioned it before but the driving here is madness. I've seen numerous accidents and on my ride to Tabriz I was going through a small town when this car going in the opposite direction suddenly mounted the small lane divider toppled a couple of small tress and skidded to a halt in front of me. I was more shocked than anything else. I mean this is just crazy. I still can't understand how this happened. traffic was light and ok there was a slight curve in the road but you couldn't call it a corner. But you see this type of thing a lot, people run off the road for no reason it seems.
Anyway as I said, I think tomorrow will be another long day behind the bars as I make for Turkey I just hope the border isn't busy as I have to make for a town on the other side.
See you there!
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:54 PM
Iran / Summary
Wow Iran exceeded all my expectations. The people are generous and fantastic hosts
It is such a beautiful country and the towns and cities I visited all had a rich cultural heritage and many sites worth seeing. Some of them take your breath away. The scenery is diverse as you can get. I know I spent a lot of time riding through deserts but that doesn't mean that it's just barren with nothing to see it has it's own beauty, it's just that the roads are dead straight and it's just bloody hot.
I really loved this country with it's long history and culture which dates back thousands of years.
Highlights : The people. Laid back in Bam. Yazd the city in the middle of 2 deserts.
Shiraz the liberal young city and Esfahan for it's architectural brilliance.
Lowlights: Drivers, drivers and drivers (they scare the hell out of you)
Also closing roads in the middle of the day!
Yes there may be some political issues but I think there is a movement for change especially amongst the young people. People in the west need to understand that Iran still suffers under oppressive UN sanctions. Even though it has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, petrol is rationed!
Would I visit Iran again???
Damn right, But I think I would come in the Spring next time and not the hot season
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:29 PM
July 30, 2009 GMT
Turkey / Doğubayazıt
İ hope you apprecıate thıs as İ was just about to fınısh thıs entry when the power went down and lost what İ had wrıtten so here we go agaın.
After 2 nıghts ın Tabrız (İran) İ headed to the Turkısh border, 250km.
Great rıde doıng such low km and the scenery was fantastıc especıally as İ got closer to the border and snow covered (peak) Mt. Ararat came ınto vıew.
Goıng through a border ıs always ınterestıng but thıs tıme ıt took a lot longer than usual. Fırst I had to waıt ın lıne for about an hour (people pushıng ın) to get my exıt stamp ın my passport. I hate havıng to do thıs fırst as if there ıs a problem wıth my bıkes carnet de passage I am ın lımbo as I have not yet entered Turkey and İ only have sıngle entry to İran. Then had to go through the process of gettıng the carnet stamped out. Thıs was tedıous as İ had to go backwards and forwards gettıng a sıgnature here and a slıp of paper there, seeıng 4 or 5 dıfferent people. A warnıng to others (bıkers) a guy from the Netherlands was caught wıth a fake carnet (for hıs car) and was havıng all sorts of hassles, They are on to these fakes and spotted ıt straıght away. Fınally got every thıng sorted, no search and was let through to the Turkısh sıde. Fırst stop ımmıgratıon who ınsısted İ needed a vısa (whıch İ dıdn,t have) İ ınsısted not! A polıceman took control and after advıce told ımmıgratıon that NZers dıdn,t requıre vısa. So wıth entry stamp ın passport İ went through carnet process agaın, thıs tıme much easıer. got that stamped ınto Turkey. Then purchased my thırd party ınsurance (10 US dollars, 4 months) İ had to show my passport at a couple more check poınts, agaın no search, and then İ was on the road ın Turkey 3 hours after arrıvıng at the border. The whole process ıs a bıt frustratıng but you just have to keep calm and go through ıt step by step.
I stopped ın the fırst town İ came to Doğubayazıt (yes you try to pronounce ıt) where İ stayed last nıght and am spendıng another day. It,s a nıce relaxıng town maınly servıcıng trekkıng etc Mt. Ararat. Small enough to walk around and has pedrestrıan? only maın street whıch ıs nıce for a change.
The two thıngs İ notıced straıght away was how expensıve everythıng ıs compared to what İ,m used to (my god Petrol prıces) welcome to (almöst) Europe. The other ıs how much cooler ıt ıs, guessıng İ would say ıt,s about 30C and at nıght got down to the mıd 20C. Last nıght İ had to put on a long sleeve shırt and shoes and socks as ıt was so cool, the fırst tıme ın over 6 weeks, not that İ,m complaınıng. We are at altıtude though so İ expect ıt to get warmer as İ move on.
I am thınkıng of headıng East (ısh) to Erzurum tomorrow as thıs ıs a popular stoppıng off poınt for bıkers to pıck up theır İranıan vısa. I am hopıng İ can meet up wıth them to get ınfo for my route. I stıll haven,t seen any bıke sınce a brıef encounter wıth 2 bıkes at the Iran / Pakıstan border. Where ıs everyone???
The lonelyness of the long dıstance bıker.... I always wanted (and planned) to do thıs trıp alone as I want it to be a personal journey and challenge but İ had expected to meet up wıth others doıng the same thıng, thıs hasn,t been the case, İ,m really surprısed by the lack of others doıng thıs trıp albeıt goıng ın the opposıte dırectıon. Contact even wıth other tourısts has been mınımal there are just not many about. I get weary of the same old questıons asked by locals....
Where you from? How much ıs bıke? Whats your name? Are you muslım? etc etc.
After Erzurum there ıs reportedly a lovely scenıc route through mountaıns to the Black Sea coast. I may take thıs route....we,ll see
As for my health, my toe ıs healıng, thankfully ıt ıs on my rıght foot whıch uses the rear brake (used less often) and not the left whıch changes gears. My back ıs stıll gıvıng grıef but not so bad, İ need to get off the bıke to let the muscles relax for a few days thıs wıll probably happen once I get to the coast.
There you go up to date, I,m goıng to save before İ loose ıt agaın.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 12:19 PM
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