So, the long hot English summer slowly draws to a close and it's time to crack on with the Road to Kathmandu 'comic strip'..... Right. Where was I?
Heading south from Teheran to Esfahan.
"Ramadan. Ninth month of the Muslim year, in which rigid fasting is observed during all daylight hours", states the Oxford Dictionary. Hmm...'rigid fasting'...not the best time to cross Iran and Pakistan.
I'd read about Ramadan and felt that it would somehow bring me closer to the way of life in these countries. It did. I met a lot of hungry, miserable locals whenever I pulled over. It's a simple fact, though - as a tourist, sorry, traveller..you need cafes and bars to rest throughout your day. To take stock of all you've experienced. To take in your surroundings. To 'people watch'.
These thoughts, together with 'What I would eat tonight', filled my head as I rode into Esfahan as the sun set.
"Esfahan. The country's loveliest city, with beautiful mosques,palaces, bridges and (more importantly) teahouses", states the Lonely Planet. Surely these celebrated tea houses would be open for the discerning traveller. Yes. After sunset.
And it was after sunset that a bizarre evening unfolded........
click on image to see the full story
Enjoying the stories so far Si, but how did the bike go? Was it difficult to find petrol? Hotels? Is it true that you told locals that you came from Manchester United?
Click on MORE below to find answers to these questions and details of what happened that night......
I'd just made it into the outskirts of Esfahan. For the first time on the trip, I'd come dangerously close to running out of petrol. Not the end of the world, I know, but the outskirts of these towns did not look like good places to run into difficulties.
I had a standard 26 litre tank with a range of around 350kms. Pretty good but I'd heard there were stretches crossing to Pakistan where I'd need more. I'd cross that bridge (and desert) when I came to it. I made a mental note never to leave a town without filling up. Petrol was really cheap, though- once you could find it. I'd often have to be led by a local through the backstreets to an unmarked forecourt.
The bike was going well - strong and comfortable - and I felt I'd made the right choice of bike all those years ago - despite having to push it off the ferry at Calais due to starter motor failure..oh, and the diode board failure in Hungary ( whatever that was).
Hotels were relatively easy to find and the Lonely Planet 'Istanbul to Kathmandu' guide book generally steered me in the right direction with a selection of recommendations.
This particular night I'd pulled up outside the 'Naghshe-e-Jahan Hotel near the Meidun-e-Emam Khomeini square' (try asking for that on a busy junction with a full faced helmet) which was conveniently located next to the Nobahar restaurant. This may have influenced my choice.....
After a plateful of food surrounded by now, happy Iranians, I headed out onto the streets in looking for the 'Azadi Khane teahouse' just east of the main square. After some searching, I found it down a murky alleyway and ordered tea and cake.
"Salaam! Where are you from? Drink tea with us!" A local lad (never did get his name) had befriended Robbert, a dutch guy living in England and was now keen to drive us back to his apartment to entertain us with his guitar playing. Fine. Why not? An acoustic evening of traditional Iranian ballads would be 'most agreeable'.
A high speed car chase across town ended - as they all do - in a dark alley. We climbed the stairway and he opened the door to his apartment. Bright, clean and simply furnished. As expected - barring the Motorhead poster on the wall. And there, in the centre of the room, his ELECTRIC guitar. Turned out his ambition in life was to go to Germany and join a Rock Band.
"Would you like Whisky?" Things were indeed looking up. " First, I must ask my grandmother". I pictured a Monty Python-esque woman in black, clutching her bottle of 'Old Galleon' in the room next door. But there was no sound of a scuffle and within minutes glasses were being handed round as a rendering of 'Ace of Spades' was being thrashed out before our eyes. Excellent.
So, not quite the, er, 'sober' evening I'd expected. Cue raised eyebrow,
Next...On Eastwards to the desert town of Yazd.
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