February 26, 2005 GMT
Last word from Chris
What a trip – you never know what's going to happen when you hit the starter and take the first miles from home. We stayed in everything from a 7 star hotel to bush camping in a field. The Burg al Arab is some thing special, really spectacular. I must have walked around with my mouth open like a gold fish for a day - the splendor of it, Wow! Never did get used to the butler though.
Even stopping for petrol became experience in Turkey - always offered tea, conversation limited but fun.
The trip was always a quick one - 12 weeks UK to Nepal. We did have a few goals: meet the chaps from my bike club in Shimla and a meal in the Everest steak house Katmandu and for me to kayak down a few rivers in Nepal. As it worked out I must be the only person who carried a kayak cag all the way to middle east and back!
But life took over and everything changed. Things like the change in the rules by the Pakistan government you have to take in your stride. Borders close and open. I know we were not the only ones to be refused entry to a country and we won't be the last. So you change your plans, which we did - instead of Pakistan, India and Nepal we ended up going to Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. What was not planned was the 3 inches of snow and riding in summer kit in freezing conditions. So we blitzed it over to Germany to see Uli and Lisa who we met in Iran at hotel no visa (if you want to find out about this read the blog). Thanks for putting us up Lisa.
We have been back one month now Richard is back at Kuoni and I am catching up on the maintanence of the flats and looking to start as an outdoor instructor in the new year.
Did we learn any thing? Yep lots, don't believe every thing the media says. The next time I meet up with a wonderful girl like Lucy I'll marry her. Oh and Phillipe your a lucky chap. Enjoy your trip."
Posted by Richard Stone at 11:56 PM
October 26, 2004 GMT
It would be nice in summer
So those of you who have been paying attention will know that our two heroes (Thats THREE heroes, Edwin) are in Murrat Camping, Doggy Biscuit Eastern Turkey, and the darstardly villians out to destroy the world are only in your imagination.... So what happens next ??? Absolutely nothing exciting at all, we legg it off to Istanbul again... three days 1600 kms and in the process discover one of the finest riding roads the world has to offer... The E80 which goes all the way from the Iran border to some where in Germany is a magnificent ride all the way to Istanbul... it may be the main TIR Truck road out of the Middle East, but it is not crowded, it swoops and curves giving us major mountain views, forest, fertile valleys and two big grins on our faces...
The Border at 'Doggy Biscuit' the ques of trucks is at least 2 miles long
But there is one final piece of sight seeing to do..this fortified mosque
sit about the town and makes for a great walk to clear up a hangover!
The saddest moment is crossing the bospherous agian but from the wrong way!! There is a welcome to Europe sign which Chris promply stick a finger up to, I am just depressed to see it, ... especially the huge neon Macdonalds sign just beyond ..
Blimey we are in Bulgaria ... One stamp in the passport, a quick look at the vehicle reg docs and we are in.. No carnet, no Mr Fixers and no ques... yippee... though there was one bit of naughtyness on leaving Turkey - Yep we got nicked for speeding again - 169 400 000 lira this time (Thats £70 - the Bar Stewards!!!)...
....and Bulgaria uses the cryllic alphabet just like the Russians, can we read the roads signs?, well NO not a lot... about 4 o clock we stop for coffee and ask the waitress where we are... till then, at every junction that was doubtfull we either took the biggest looking road or waited to see a foriegn truck come the other way, we are still trying to follow the E80.. we are not where we think we are, but that OK, its an adventure and we are not far off.. Hotel time, a good dinner, a Bulgarian beer and the world is a nice place again
... In the morning we make it to VT - I dont still know what it is really called, but it its two words - one starts with a V and the other with a T - Some of the guys in the ghetto in Esphahan told us about it.. very pretty old town, great big castle, lots of medieval type buildings and some of the finest looking women you could ever want to see... and its bloody cold.. I dont think 6 degrees is much of a mid day high, I mean what are they using? There must be more powerful stuff then that about! Have you tried Amsterdams finest Aggie Puntjes???
So its cold wet miserable weather and so are we.. we walk up to the castle.. Be nice in summer we say.. We are staying at Rossas Pension which is quickly renamed the Asylum.. This women is Mad Mad Mad, and is in serious danger of mothering us both to death... the place is full of religious icons (the orthodox kind) and paintings by her husband Alexis - now he is a good painter with a great imagination, a lot of the figures are artistic nudes, excellent nubile lythe feminine forms, but all unfortunately with Rossas head on them.. let just say that when they where handing out beauty rations Rossa had already bunked off to get some more cream cake vouchers!!! If everything has an equal and and opposite then she is the opposite to many many of the beautiful girls that VT has to offer...
In the internet cafe we look at the weather for our route .... Its snowing in Romania !!! Not good on two wheels that - Edwin is spending more and more time as it is at the bottom of the tank bag - he is a bear and hibernating is natural to him - especialy when there is any work to be done!!! We have a conference and come to the unanamous conclusion that this would indeed be lovely in summer but we are going home by the shortest route first thing in the morning.... we both go buy thermal undies, and are very grateful for them later on...
Yikes its Yugoslavia home of the Yugo.... Holly Mackeral thats Hungary - Golly we are in Germany already which is where we stay and rest for two delightful days with the utterely utterley Georgous Uli -- and unfortunately her boyfriend Clems as well.. only unfortunately becasue Uli is one of the most beautful women I have had the pleasure to meet that was not pretentious or 'prissey' - we met in Iran, she was backpacking for three weeks with her Mum Liza.. Clems is a fine chap actually - I am but a little bit jeleous - with an amazing grasp of the English language, well he would have really, if you are a PHD in corpus lingistics and your theasis was on the development of Aussie Slang then it is a fair bet that you can split your infinitives and place your pronouns just fine thankyou.. and he learnt his appreciation of the English sense of humour from Blackadder!!!!!!!! Good Man....
"Blackadder, I want you to treat this airplane as if it was your girlfriend"
"Do you mean take it home and introduce it to my parents"
"No Blackadder, I want you to climb inside of it 5 times a day and take it to heaven and back"
Oh, and the most depressing thing yet was in a service station in Hungary, for only 4 Euro you could get 4 litres of Coke and a free Friends DVD - If only I spoke Hungarian... We are back to the Homogenized lands now, but I for one refuse to be pasturized!!
.... and then before you know it, it is late, its dark, it raining and we are waiting for the ferry at Calias!! Why does it always rain when I am in Calias???... But the best bit is the bike wont start, Oh yes boys and girls, Ladies and Gentlemen, Rodders is dead.. For some time he has been loosing power and wont idle.. he gets towed on to the ferry by Chris with the GS and a luggage strap and towed off again... With some fiddling he is coaxed to life and ridden despite protests back to addlestone, our start point all those weeks ago.. when he is switched off thats it, he ablsolutely refuses to go again... Chris recorded 9,463 miles (15,141 kms) and I recorded 9,436 (15098 kms).. I dont know where he went that I didnt????
.. It turns out that I have just paid my dues to the philostines Mechanics Club - The day before we left I thought it would be a good idea to re-tighten the cylinder head bolts (Which in fact was an excellent idea) I just forgot to re adjust the valve clearences as well..so for all those mile he has been running with the valves not fully shutting - by the time Dover came around again there was just no compression left as the valve seats slowly deteriated... But we love a happy ending, this afternoon I have had his heads off, re ground the valves and he is now as happy as a happy thing on happy day - you just cant get away this this kind of stuff with a Japaneese design...
So we have had a tale of hereo-ism, adventure, food, sickness, debauchery death and more.. so how to end ?... well let me tell you this..
The other day I was clearing out some stuff I had stored at my Twins Place (probate has been granted and its up for sale soon).. Now I always thought that you where not old till your pubes went gray, then I saw a note on her wall that said..
You Are Only Old If Your Regrets Out number Your Dreams....
..that was a sweaty eyeball moment I can tell you...
"If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same" - Rudyard kipling
So dream on dangerous dreamers,
PS . So whats next.. well I have a business project to get finished, (Would you like to be financial free some time in your life?) .. and then I rather fancy Deadhorse Alaska to Uashia Patagonia .....
Posted by Richard Stone at 04:58 PM
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October 22, 2004 GMT
The Wrong Way Home
It takes so many squiggles to say 'Welcome??
Without doubt our favourite city of the whole trip - its such a chilled laid back place, We stay in the Ghetto, the backpackers ghetto, aka Amirkabir Hotel - which is just fine with us.. After this long on the road together we have totally run out of conversation - remember we are men, we get a lot smaller ration of words to use every day then women any way.. personally I find that it takes me at least an hour after we have stopped to remember to talk, and to be able to recall all that we have seen that day..when you are on a bike you cant talk to each other! We have a few interesting hand signals for the essentials, ie PPT stops (Petrols, P and Tea)
We rename this place the No Visa Hotel.. one night seated around the tables in the courtyard where no fewer then 12 persons (of all nationalities) in the same boat as us.. no visa for Pakistan, and no obvious way to get one... if you go back to Ankara to get one (if your own embassy will give you a letter of introduction that is) you cant get another Iran visa to come back and cross the border.. This was the only time when we envied Back Packers.. well not the 12 hour bus journies and the early starts, but the ability to get on a plane and fly over the problem.. Me I have 300 kgs of hand baggage if I want to try this!!
Esphan is all about bridges and mosques, beautifully laid out squares and gardens - it is justifiably the centre of the Iranian Tourist industry - we end up staying 8 days here in all .. it where we met Kierstin and Michael, two good Bavarian persons, each travelling with thier own BMW - sensible peeps
Kierstin rode on Pupsi (which means in German one who farts! I kid you not)
das auf den des Rechtes "farts" auch
Pupsi had a very badly leaking oil seal on the gearbox output shaft, Chris's GS had a mildy leaking one, same problem, same bike - Chris being the master technicial had the home made special tools and a replacement seal with him- Kierstin just kept buying lots of oil to top it up with! So we have a technical day.. Out with the gearbok on Chris's, on with the seal and all back together, two hours.. For Pupsi we tread more carefully, outwith the gearbox, make sure it is only the seal, then go off around town with th old one fron Chris's bike to get a replacement... There is no BMW dealer network in Iran, but that dont matter, this is a standard size metric seal, none of your special size got to import it Japanese stuff here.. after much miming in and around all the car workshop places Michael and I are directed to a shop that sells water pumps.. and who sells bearings and seals for waterpumps too.. guess what he has on a top shelf, and it fits perfectly too... Click here for an image of the lads at work.. and no one fell into the pit either!!
Apart from the bridges and the mosques (click on the words to get images) Esphahan will always hold a special place in my heart, it is only in Iran that you get Carrot Jam for breakfast... and it tastes just like carrots and sugar click here ... and here too for images
So our third time back here.. as usual back to Mo and his bro's place, as I chained Rodders to his lamp post I gave him a hug and re assured him that it is only for one night this time!.. We at last did some sightseeing!! Shock Horror!! The Old American Embassy is rather fun...
You will always find a difference between the people of a country and its government.. the ordinary Iranian does not think about "American Imperialism" from one day to the next.. Basically all people in this world want to be well fed and happy.. Despite politics World Peace Is Enevitable...Bet you did not know that a soap box that big could be carried on a bike!!
The Long Road
From here on in our enthusiasm wanes some what.. its the same road as before.. we are forced to break a Rule of Adventuring.. 'never take the same road twice' From Tehran to the Turkish border is all familiar. apart form one bit.. we do a right turn and head off up into the Alboss Mountains.. destination The Castle of the Assasins.. which, yes you have guesses is a large pile of rock!!! But with a great interesting story.. it was here, many many years ago that a religious cult was formed, they gained power and influence by killing political and religious leaders of the day! They kidnapped healthy young men by dopping them up on Hasshish and transporting therm to this big castle way up in the mountains.. They revived to find them selves in lush gardens with very attentive young maidens convinced they had been transported to paradise (I am convinced, can I go please!) The price of remaining here is to return to 'Earth' once in a while and kill a few people... So it was a good pile of rock up in the hills.. When you travel on a bike it is not just the interaction with people, nor the sights that you see that count.. it the getting there.. This road was magnificent, 2 hours of tights switchbacks and turns, up, down and occasionaly sideways if you did not miss the gravelbars across the road from the water wash
.... and then we are off again towards Turkey using our own private freeway!! The new freeway goes to Tabiz, as you approach there is a HUGE sign telling everyone to take the next junction off.. but I dont want to do that. I have played Whacky Races enough for now, the road looks good beyond the sign, flat smooth and black, so we go for it... What we find is a perfectly good three lane highway with No Traffic, at all.. for the best part of 100 km we fly along... some bits are all built and ready to go, white lines armaco the works, even signs, some bits are just the base layer of tarmac, some bits still have some workers putting up signs and laying downlines..
This is fun!!! and no tolls, not that we have ever paid tolls on Iranian freeways yet
One mile into our first ever freeway we see a big sign saying No Bikes.. oops we think.. the next miles we see our first Iranian bike using the road, going the wrong way along the hard shoulder!! Followed in the next dozens miles or so by all his Iranian brothers doing the same thing .. in the end we also follow the Iranian way and are to be found going the wrong way down streets, along the pavements and cutting across the fields to get to where we need to be.. As we slowly approach to toll both, as far away from the parked police car as we can I seriously think we are in trouble.. Not a bit of it, the man in the window leans out and says "Excuse me sir what is your nations?" We then have the first of many a conversation trying to assure them we are English (Inglistan) and not Grmany (Allmand).. there is absolutely no suggestion of paying the toll the road is all ours for free..
But it eventually came to an end, we get to meet the builders of the next section, Ho Hum, back we go a mile till we see the old highway across the fields, down the dirt track and its back to the Whacky races for a short while
That night we rough camp.. we think we are invisible to prying eyes, it turns out the dirt track is the main and only road to that small village over there!!
Two lads go past on an iranian moped, a few minutes later they are back with a handfull of cucumber for us, I give them a chocolate bar each! In the morning an old old guys cruises paston his tractor, moments later he walks back an in mime invites us to his place for breakfast - we decline a spolitely as we can, we need to get going - so off he goeas and re appears a moment later with a flask of tea for us.. we all side on the tarp and sip away, share a few biscuits and try to communicate.. Only In Iran, I am sure of it, if they would ever let me go back I certainly would.. The night before I am laying on the airmatress (did that shatter your illusion of a rough tough traveller then?!) reading a book on outdoor leadership, enjoying the warmth of the engine.. let me quote this to you "Leadership is the capacity to move others towards goals shared with you, with a competancy and a focus they woudl not achieve on thier own"
.... and then it happened, the unthinkable, the unbelievable, on the way to the Turkish border we met another Brit on a bike Mr Richard Tyner was the man, doing what we set out to do, go to India, but yes he did have his Paki visa already.. We have a good long chat, its so good to have the same cultural points of reference and to instinctively know what slang words you can use, no longer did we need to talk with our hands!! We exchanged a fist full of Tuirkish Lira for a hand full of Iranian Rials, and here I must sincerely appologise to you Richard, at that moment I genuinely belived it was 14,000,000 Lira to the Dollar when in fact it is 1,400,000.. If you are at the next HU meeting I will repay the difference, your 6 Dollars was in fact worth60 Dollars...Sorry
Across the Turkish border and back to the infamous Murrat Camping for two nights and many beers - if you ever go say hello to Memet the guy that runs the place, the first ever Kurdish man to summit on Everest and a local hero.. he walks up Mount Arrat most casualy for fun!! Almost as soon as you are across you get great views of Arrat, from all around town there are great views of Mount Arrat
. and now its cold, not just becasue we are at 1800 metres, its because we are moving more and more North to where it is meant to be cold at this time of the year! We chopp up the tarp and make muffs for the handlebars, the coming days will bring rain and snow, dry hands are essential
Murrat Camping is THE place to party in Eastern Turkey, of an evening the bar is heaving with local guys all getting plastered before driving off back down the mountain side to town, the local bands plays all the local Kurdish favourites and the men dance.. which is a surprising simularity to the Time Warp forn the Rocky Horror!
Posted by Richard Stone at 10:12 AM
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October 13, 2004 GMT
On Being Iranian
Ground Hog Day We have left Kashan twice now.. not that its such a beautiful place we could just not tear ourselves away.. we just made such a mess of it the first time it was best to go back and try again!!
Kashan, a bit south of Tehran keep going past the Tomb of the good guy Khomani.. OK lets start with Khomanis tomb - to a lot of people in Iran he was a huge good guy, a reformer, a savior and a great leader, to others he was nothing of the kind - well when he popped his clogs he got a huge tomb just north of the Holy City of Qom - its still a work in progress, the Khomani International airport is now open, but the whole project was vast, and still on going - we saw the central bit, the main event with the coffin, and Iranians being Iranians for many it was a Grand Day Out complete with picnic... When the whole lot is finished - I means its been fifteen years now - it will a Khomani Land Fantasy Park
So leaving Kashan - we started by leaving late - had a fine time at the Bargh e Fin (Fin Gardens) contructed to look like an Islamic version of paradise, good it was too, fountains and pools and shady bits, lots of Iranian Picnicers, a tea garden complete with Hubbly Bubbly pipes.... click here for an image and here for one more too
We left the bike loaded to go near the entrance opposite a army gaurd post - very safe - as as is normal when we returned so did the man who wants to practise his English - there is always one.. the short of it is he tells us a short cut to the freeway, across the fields and on the the highway up a dirt path.. We eventually end up doing a lot of this, cutting on and off the freeway across the fields, up dirt embankments etc... So the good news is we get going fast, the bad news is we are low of fuel at the start
For a country with rediculously cheap fuel, 1 dollar and 10 cents for 20 litres there aint many places to fill up from - I guess at these prices there is very litlle profit to be made in the sale of fuel... Off we go. nice wide smotth highway little traffic, in fact the high is new, not officiall open yet, so when we get to the service station it is closed - well not officially open yet... aaagh, problem, got 2 litres left sloshing in the bottom... But this is Iran, there is always an entrepreneur, and low and behold there is a guy with a plastic bottle of 5 litres of the finest Benzine waiting just for a guy like me to sell his stuff to - for three times the going rate!! Thank you very much, off we go... and miss the turn to the next town to fill up properly ... Chris tank runs dry first... Oh Bugger, but no wait this is Iran, we have not seen another car or truck for a hour, but within 2 minutes along comes a huge fat man in a 1970s Cheviotte Monte Carlo no less, he stops at the mearest hint as a waved hand in distress and we syphon off 10 litres of the good stuff ...
Only in Iran could he turn out to be the former Iran Handball Champion who now
owns and runs Esphahanss best Pizzas restaurant, Pintos Pizza.. Of course he speaks good English - what do you want this to be difficult or something !!! So with 5 litres apiece we cut across the fields to the old highway, back the way we came to the town we missed and fill it up to the brim... As it is now way way past the faffing point of no return, back to Kashan we go, check back in to the Goulestan Inn again and go feast on water mellons and Bannanas.. It one of the rule of adventuring, If its foriegn and you dont speak it, 90 mins before dark stop, start looking for your bed for the night and food..
The next morn off down the same highway, benzine sloshing to the brim we see a pick up truck waving us down - What comes around goes around... Of course you can have 10 litres of Irans finest motion lotion syphoned off our tanks, no charge..
Later on the highway we stop for a Comfort Break.. Chris says 'what again? and I have remind him of that trueism "Small Bladder - Big D+ck'........ Chris turns to face the road and I think 'How Rude', But I learnt the meaning of P+ssing in the Wind - you get wet feet!!
The Big K Himself
One of the Rules Of Adventuring is to eat at the truck stops that have lots of truck stopped outside (aaagh so thats how they got thier name then!) Why.. well as its a truck stop it is cheap, as it has lots of truck outside the food will be good and will also be safe.. you never want to be first of last in the que for foriegn food! - Think about it -... So thats exactly what we do, and what we get is a good chicken kebap with rice, a coke, salads and tea.. When it come time to pay the cash desk man is playing the fool.. which is a bit unusual, the Islamic sense of honour and hospitality runs deep around these parts.. he wants 70,000 rials.. thats expensive I think (10 dollars for the both of us) with a bit of miming and my two amazing sentances of Parsi launched at the man he really does want 70,000.. OK, so I pay up and leave.. as we are fussing with the bike to go an old man come over and addresses us most insistantly - my Parsi just cant manage it, he shows me 20,000 rials in cash and points back to the cafe... Like hell I am giving him more money I think, and a stomping in I go... The scene is an absolute wonderment, the local guys are giving the cafe guy some serious grief, voices are raised, fists look like they are to follow.. we are given 20,000 back for being overcharged and wished well on our way - Only In Iran
A bunch of old rock, but a very interesting bunch of old rocks and the only reason to go to Shiraz.. I mean they dont even make wine there any more.. Unfortunately for us this was to be our turn around point too.. but more on that later
We sat, we stared, we contemplated.. So What has history taught us?.. Mostly it is Dont do THAT again!!... personally I have learnt from my ever so brief time here that there will always be moments in the middle when it seems like it will never end, but it too shall pass... Nothing Is For Ever.. Take this place, how many thousands of years old, at the time this was the centre of the world .. It was the super power of its day.. and now. a bunch of old rocks with backpackers... I like what Victor Frankel said when he was up to his ears in it.....It was the 1940's and he was travelling on a train eastward out of the Germany republic, not first class seating but a cattle truck with 50 other men, Jewish men.. He was off to Auschwich on a one way ticket. For some years up to that point he had been working on his treatise on psychiatry.. He is quoted as saying these word during that journey...
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing - to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way"
He survived his time at Auschwich and later wrote......We had to learn ourselves, and furthermore we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life but instead to think of ourselves as who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly.
click for an image
OK Been sitting in the sun too long looking at rocks.. what we need now is a nice cup of Chai
and then I will tell you all about it later
Posted by Richard Stone at 05:21 PM
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Talk to me
I have just realised that with the comments thingy being switched off because of spammers there are people who cant contact us !!! OK call me bullet! So If you wish to contact Chris or me email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Richard Stone at 04:50 PM
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