September 25, 2008 GMT
No.15. Iran. Yazd and the Silk Road (Hotel).

'Road to Kathmandu' UPDATE!

Well, I had a successful trip to Germany and 'Tourenfahrer' - THE overland biking magazine - have taken my story on. This means that in every (monthly) issue - starting in the November issue - the whole story will unfold in just 12 gripping episodes. This will be a teaser for the book which (all being well) will be 'launched' in Autumn 2009.

I'll be approaching the British magazines over the next few weeks with the same proposal which means I'll be condensing the rest of the story into about 8 more episodes. Coming here soon.....!

More info? Email me at simongoeseast@yahoo.co.uk


...................................................


Meanwhile, back on the Dusty Highway.......


I reached the desert town of Yazd at sunset. Food, drink and accommodation were upmost in my mind together with the little known fact that Yazd was apparently an important centre for the religion of Zoroastrianism. Something to discuss with fellow travellers over dinner....

I'd been tipped off about a certain 'Silk Road Hotel' by a man I'd met in Esfahan. He talked of courtyards with fountains and wide cushioned benches where one could lounge and smoke hookah pipes. 'There's a restaurant there too - no problem with Ramadan'. Too good to be true? That's what I thought as I pulled up after a long search onto what looked like a building site.

On the far side of the wasteland, a single light illuminated a doorway. It was getting dark. I needed to stop. I'd take a look. I rode across, flicked down the sidestand, and unpacked the bike.

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Click on MORE below for tales from the Silk Road Hotel which, like the Eagle's Hotel California, "...you can checkout anytime you like but you can never leave".

I ducked through the doorway and a narrow passageway opened onto a large tiled courtyard. In the centre an ornate fountain splashed into a circular pond surrounded by potted plants. Cushioned lounging areas were spaced.........'Hey Simon!....Good to see you!'


Jo and Richard, a couple I'd met earlier in Tabriz grinned up at me from one of the lounging sofas. I looked around and recognised one or two other people too.. Ha. This would indeed do nicely. I booked into one of the excellent rooms that were spaced around the courtyard...and rejoined everyone for an evening meal.


We talked into the night about the importance of Zoroastrianism in the region and caught up with each other's news. The KTM had let them down resulting in truck rides and modified parts in backstreet work shops. I thanked Allah that I was riding with basic BMW technology. My time would come....

I spent the following days lounging around in the Hotel's courtyard enjoying the company of other travellers and catching up with my Journal - writing, painting and cartoons


I wasn't completely idle however, and, while taking in the majestic Masjed-e Jame mosque, I met some architectural students who took me to see a restoration project they were working on. As Yazd is a Unesco recognised city there were many such projects underway. I found it fascinating how you could be lead through a labyrinth of dark alleyways, dip through an anonymous doorway and a sumptuous 'palace' would reveal itself with central courtyard, water features and balconies. It was also interesting to see the interraction between the male and female students. They were really at ease in each others company. A good sign.

That evening I was sat with friends, Greg and Doug, elaborating on my journey so far when in walked Martijn, a Dutch biker. As we all sat on the roof terrace sipping wine - which had been procured from somewhere - he told us epic tales. Turns out he'd ridden solo through Mongolia and fought his way across the bleakness of the Gobi Desert. From there he'd been smuggled from Tajikistan on the back of a truck, crossing Afghanistan before riding through dangerous areas of NW Pakistan. My story of breaking down on the Dover-Calais ferry seemed to pale into insignificance......

The following day a bade farewell to all and set off purposefully heading out to the main road. 'Simon', I thought,' it's time to get on with your trip.


............................................

The Dusty Highway rolled beneath my wheels and I visited Shiraz and the wonders of Persepolis before deciding to veer from 'The beaten track'. While looking at my maps I realised how close I was to the Persian Gulf and thought 'This is a bike trip. It's about the roads and the landscape...how cool would it be to ride down the Persian Gulf Highway?'. The next day, I headed South.....

The road crossed through miles of arid mountains with only solitary trucks for company. South West of Bandar-e-Bushehr I saw the thin strip of sparkling blue on the horizon. 'Azure blue is such an uplifting colour in all this ochre coloured land' I thought, artistically. I rode on picturing the whitewashed village where I would watch the sun go down with a cool drink.Recommended as a 'pretty fishing village' in a Lonely Planet I'd seen, Bandar-e-Kangan was the town I headed for.

A concrete dual carriageway took me into the town. Hmmm. The harbour must be where the 'pretty fishing village' is. I turned right and made my way down a pot-holed road. Rusting fishing boats were tied to a crumbling quayside. Men sat around in groups and looked up as I pulled up along side them.' Salaam!' I said, ' Hotel?' A crowd gathered. Moped riding kids, who'd been following me, swelled the crowd and the tension began to rise....' YOU! Come with us!' A shout went out. Shit. The police had arrived. The crowd dispersed and I was forced to follow them to their compound. I rode in and the gates were shut behind me.


My pulse raced. I feared the worst....Now what?

To be continued.......


Posted by Simon Roberts at September 25, 2008 10:02 PM GMT
 


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