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Linda on BMW: Start of the Trip in Castellar

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Report Iran

Hi everyone,

As you can imagine a lot has happened in the last month but I will do my best to be brief.

I finished the last report just over the border in Turkey near lake Van. Before leaving the town I had to equip myself with a long sleeved and bodied top for Iran and, that bought, I then noticed that my combat style trousers I wear for riding had ripped at the knees so I hunted in the bazaar for new ones. No luck but then, in the steret I saw some Turkish miltary police with some on so I rushed up to them and, with sign language, got the name of the shop where they bought theirs. No problem, apart from the length a perfect fit. This means that the new slim Linda has the same shape as a Turkish policeman. Quite flattering really as they are mostly pretty cute looking.

But I digress. I then travelled up north to take the crossing by Mt Ararat. The scenery was spectacular and the palace in the mountains at Dogubayazit really gave an idea of the magnificance of these desert empires. At the campsite there I shared a last beer with an English couple, Mark and Emma, who are doing the same trip but in a Landrover with all the mod cons. We crossed the border together the next day and, thankfully without problems, all arrived safely at the nearby town of Maku to have our first kebab. Though the desert areas in easternTurkey are an introduction to Iran the country still has a different feel about it.

I made a short diversion to an ancient Roman Catholic church in the hills and then refound Mark and Emma at the tourist lake area , El Goli, just out of Tabriz centre. This is where we experienced the first taste of driving in an Iranian town. It is even a nightmare trying to walk across the road, never mind drive in them.

I wanted to get out into the country again as soon as possible so rode out in a south westerly direction and was waylaid by a family in a car who invited me to lunch with them at a roadside resturant and then I followed them to a town where Ghengis Khan had had a few things built , including an ancient telescope. These kind people also insisted on paying for a hotel for me for the night there so I could continue my journey the next day.

I was on my way to find a site called Takhte e Solieman which was an ancient city built around a volcano which gushes out water. There are several other extint, dry volcanos around and the whole area is quite surrealistic. I camped by the gate and was invited to tea and dinner by the ladies in a nearby mud village.

The ride to join the main road again was super, past some oasis type mud villages and through mining areas, though I couldn't make out what was being mined. The roads in Iran are well sealed and a joy to ride when there is no other traffic around. At Zanjan I was hosted by a taxi driver  and his family and then rode down past other ancient sites to find the Valley of the Assasins in the mountains. Freya Stark has written a book about his area which will be worth reading. The assasins where fed hashish and given girls during their training for the massacres and that is where the term "assasins" derives from. Unfortunately the little village near the most famous castle has been spoilt by too much tourism and resembles a building site now with construction works day and night. The castle is also under research and re-constuction so it wasn,t quite as peacful as I had hoped but still worth visiting.

Then I doubled back to the most famous cave in Iran visiting which entails a very long queue to get onto the boats that take you around the underground waterway past the formations. This was made enjoyable by the boys in my boat singing some of their folk songs and of course, I got the whistle out for King of the Fairies.

The next main stop was Esfahan where I stayed in a hostel and met a great Bavarian couple (Danny and Susie) who were travelling home by a Thailand Tuk Tuk. They had come the hard way back through Mongolia and Turkmanestan, amongst other places, and were gald to be heading home after nearly 4 years away. I had a great ime exploring this beautiful city by day (lots of mosques) and smoking hubble bubble pipes with them in the tea houses at night. I also taught a class of young Iranians in a private school one evening. The brown jug polka nearly caused a riot as I forgot that I shouldn't demonstrate it with the male teacher,( no touching) only with the single female student in the class.

Danny and Susie said that the desert city of Yazd was worth a visit so I headed up there and, for the first time the Suzy stopped on the road. Fortunately she started again, I think it was dirty petrol but I cleaned the plugs anyway the next morning and all has been fine ever since. Was a bit of a worry on the desert road though.

I slept on the hotel roof in Yazd as it was cooler, and cheaper than a room and the city shows how water is utilized by means of underground chanels (qanats) and keeps the whole city alive. There was a good museum which explained it all and a helpful engineer to quide me.

From Yazd down to Shiraz. More mosques and mausaleums. The hotel was lovely and I met a dutch guy, Gerard, on a BM who had ridden up from Bahrain where he had been working, crossing from Oman. He was on his way back to Holland and was very surprised to see me. More hubble bubble pipes!

On the outskirts of Shiraz in the ancient city of Persoplolis and of course I joined the throngs of tourists to visit this site. There are other old cities nearby and when I camped the night near one the soldier on duty was kind enough to cook me dinner.

After Shiraz I had a long ride, around a lake and then up into the mountains to find a small village called Maymand which is being reconstructed by the Cultural Heritage organisation. It is in a valley and into the side of this have been cut little cave dwellings, like hobbit holes. While looking for somewhere to camp a man asked if he could help and it was one of the architects on the project who showed me around . He also showed me a report of the project written in bad english and I offered to correct it for him.

The result was that I had 2 nights accomodation in a lovely hobbit hole and was even lucky enough to see a funeral when someone died there during my stay. It would be a great place to do an anthropological study and, indeed, a Japanese girl was there doing research for her thesis on Cultural landscapes. We had a great academic discussion and were well hosted by the Maymand project team.

I dragged myself away from this delightful place and rode on to Keman. While sightseeing the local dervish mausaleum and palace gardens I was again invited home by some students. Ater a very nice evening with them I left the next day to find the Arg at Reyan and then onto the much bigger Arg at at Bam which was unfortunately destroyed together with most of the town in an earthquake in 2003. The whole area is rubble and difficult to find your way around as there are no landmarks! Needless to say I got lost.

I stayed at Bam at Akbars tourist camp, rebuilt after the quake, and had to have a day in bed due to a bad cold -  a bit strange in such a hot place!

Now I am just about to leave for Pakistan.

Iran has been a great experience. Apart from the awful driving the roads are good and the people are wonderfully hospitable. The bike has been going well apart from that one hiccup. I have had to adjust the chain a couple of times and the tyres are looking worn, but fingers crossed that they make it to India!

I will send the fotos when I can.

Thanks to all the people that have helped me on this leg and love to





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