Movin’ n’ Groovin’

Hi all!

The website had some small updates today. I added my previous travels and some sponsor links and removed some small mistakes.
Furthermore I uploaded the Google Earth KMZ file with all the locations where you can find water (W) and food (F) between Tabriz and Theran (Iran). I hope it will be of some use for the highway cyclists.

As I have received various complaints that the web address was hard to remember I decided to move. Thanks to Solid Hosting I will move to a new address soon: My very own domain, hooray :-)
Moving will take some time and as we will upgrade the site to a newer version there might be some downtime of this website. But it will be back leaner and meaner than ever :-)
In the meantime feel free to enjoy my previous travels through Scotland and Ireland and Jordan and Egypt. It is both in Dutch and English.

Have fun and don’t forget to check now and then!

Sea and Sand

Hi all! Sorry for the loooong silence but in Mashad the internet was too slow and in Turkmenistan we were in the middle of the Karakum desert, not a good place for an update :-)

So what did we do since the last update? First of all we flew to Shiraz to visit Persepolis, the old government town of ancient Persia ruled by Xerxes and his sons which was sadly destroyed by Alexander the Great (accidently or as a revenge for the destruction of Athenes by the Persian). Furtunately, enough remains to get an idea of the splendour of this ancient city and it was certainly one of the highlights of our visit to Iran.

Our next stop was the student city Isfahan, the intellectial city of Iran since hundreds of years and we spend a few splendid days walking on the Ghomeiny place, visiting the beautifull mosques and palaces and enjoying evening chai at one of the many bridges crossing the river. It is defenitely the most relaxed and beautiful town we visited during our stay in Iran. Toon organised his visa extention here and got one extra month without any problem the same day. However, they only issue extentions when you visa will expire within 3 days. The office can be found at 32 37.79N 051 37.945E.

After some last great days in Tehran (thanks again Adri and Elhan!) we headed over the mountains for the humid Kaspian sea. The landscape turned from arid into a beautifully tropical green but it was but very, very, VERY humid and rainy and cold at times. In case you don’t believe it just listen to some authentic Iranian rain!
Nevertheless it was a great experience to cycle through the dense tropical forests and ricefields, a huge contrast to the barren wastelands at the other side of the mountains. Swimming in the Kaspian see isn’t bad either alltough it is very hard to reach because of the many hotels and the industy. Marc recorded the new age sound of the Caspian so take a mochito, sit back and relax.

In Gorgan marc organised his visa extention and it was no problem at all. The office is quite hidden at 36 50.491N 054 26.660E. Upon leaving the town Toon had a road accident with a Paikan driven by some young guys trying to take pictures so he had to go to hospital for treatment. The downside of being famous.

Next followed a wild rush up throuh the dense humid forests to the the dessert planes to Mashad, the holiest city of the Shiites (after Mecka). Because of the constant dry headwinds it was a though trip but camping and shopping was made easy by Ali, an Iranian wandering cyclist. All Ali owns is his bicycle and he lives from what the people give him (untill his “rich” father dies). Not an easy way of living but he gets away with it :-) In Mashad we staid in a small family run pension with our carpet selling host Vali and we explored the city and surroundings. We had a great time at his palce and it can be found at 36 16.940N 059 35.747E.

We then set of for one of the hardest parts of the trip sofar, the crossing of the Karakum desert. Temperatures reached around 45 degrees so we got up before sunrise and took a long siesta at noon and started cycling again in the afternoon. Water was available everywhere but of dubious quality coming from wells or canals. But when you cross a desert you cannot be to picky however with the result that marc ended up with some nasty diarea. It knocked him of the bike in the middle of the Karakum, not a good place because you dehydrate really quickly in the desert, and that it was he did despite ORS solution. He had to recover for one day in a small dessert village before being able to cycle to the Uzbek border. The Uzbek border crossing (39 13.709N 063 42.942) was hassle free but for marc cycling was not. He fell ill again and the last 45km to Buchara he had to take a taxi and he is now recovering behind the keybord writing this blog :-) The next days we will visit beautiful Buchara and then head for Samarkant and Tajikstan and the next update will thus be from Dushanbe in Tajikistan. In the meantime enjoy the pictures and the recordings from Iran, Turkemenistan and Uzbekistan!

Marc and Toon

Living on the freeway: Tabriz - Tehran


The day after Ingrids 60th birthday and a very good party, we set off for the 600+ km ride from Tabriz to Tehran. Music from our hosts Adrian and Yosha and from some other Azerbeidjan artist can be found at the bottom of the post.
We cycled from the Iranian highlands at 2000m down to the “lowlands” at 1200m with especially the first part being extremely beautiful because of the multicolored mountains surrounding us. The last part was through the flat plains and it should have been an easy ride if it wasn’t for the constant hot and dry headwinds that bothered us 6 out of the 7 days and the rather boring landscape of miles and miles of grain. The headwinds forced us to constantly look for water, even though we each carried around 5 liters. It was necessary though because the freeway (main highway between T. and T.) does not have a lot of resting places to get water from. On these days we carefully listened for the reassuring plop-plop-plop sounds of diesel powered pumps housed in square brick buildings and they were always a welcome sight.
The positive side was that the road was nearly empty until Zanjan: at times we were the only people on the spendid 8 lane road so no highway to hell for us. Marc has created many water and food waypoints with his GPS, so future cyclists on this road can download these points once they are made available.
This highway is still to be prefered over the 2 lane old road leading to Tehran, as for some reason many trucks and busses still use this road instead of the new highway, probably because of the toll.
Sleeping places are abundant, pitch your tent just off the highway or crawl into your sleeping bag and enjoy the beautiful sky. Half way the trip we stayed at the only big gasstation/restaurant/resting area the road offers: at Khorramdarreh. We were invited by the Iranian Red Crescent (like the Red Cross) to spent the night in their building in real beds, thanks guys! The tough part of the road began arond Qazvin, where the road got real busy with Tehran traffic. We were eventually pulled off the road by the police just east of Karaj, and fair enough, we had seen no-cycling signs for 500 km already :-)
In the meantime, we have received the Tadjik visa. On 22nd, we fly to Shiraz (only 30$pp)and go back to Tehran via Esfahan. We both have to extent our Iranian visa’s as soon as we arrive in Esfahan.
On 27th we start our final part to Mashad via the Caspian sea but not before some relaxing in Tehran so stay tuned and listen to the music from Azerbeidjan and enjoy the pictures

Toon and Marc

Veni, Vidi, Visa (2): Embassy hunting

Last Saterday evening, June 10th, we took the bus to Tehran (6$ pp) to arrange the necessary visa’s for the -Stan countries.
After a 7 hour trip with a horrible Jean Claude van Damme movie in Farsie, we set off for the first embassy for the day: Uzbekistan. The embassy was “relatively” easy to find, however, the Uzbeki visa’s were distributed by the consulate instead. Fortunately, we got a ride on the back of a motor cycle from a Swiss lady also looking for the consulate. I can tell you that numerous eye balls dropped on the streets when we drove by :-)
After 30 minutes of cruising around and getting sent back and forth, we finally found the consulate in a small alley. Much to our surprise instead of having to wait for 10 days we were issued a 30 day visa on the spot as the embassy ladies ‘liked our blond hair and blue eyes”!!

The rest of the day we spent our time looking for the Turkmen and Tajik embassies. The former one was found within 3 hours, where we applied for a transit visa with 10 days waiting time.
The latter one, turned out to be real hard to find. Even the taxi drivers did not know where to go, so we spent hours driving around in taxi’s and getting more and more frustrated as were the taxidrivers who demanded more and more money during the trip altough they had said they knew the embassies, GRRRRR……..
In the end we gave up and went back to our host Adrian, the son of Ingrid with whom we are staying with in Tabriz. His wife Elham made some phone calls the day after, and we had a pleasent drive the Tajik embassy, and wil get the Visa within 10 days.
So, we can get both remaining visa’s on june 21st, houraaay!
A big thanks to our Tehran hosts for their help and hospitality :-)

So to safe travellers from searching all over Tehran with annoying, stupid and stubborn taxidrivers to find the well hidden and ever moving embassies, Marc took the coordinates of them. So here are the the coordinates and or addresses of the consulate/embassies (use at own risk):
Uzbekistan Consulate: 35 48.245N 051 28.555E (Consulate is in 4th Park street or Alley, but cannot remember main road leading to this)

Turkmenistan: 35 48.282N 051 27.091E (first house of the right on Barati street, just off Vata Pour street)
Tajikistan: 35 48.888N 051 28.465E (North of Niavaran Palace, go to Zeinali street, turn right into “3rd Alley End”, number 10)

We spent the rest of the day sight seeing the Shah’s posh green and white palace and especialy the last one is a marvel to see with its walls and roofs inlead with large mosaics of glass. Outside however we saw 5 sad Mercedes 600 Limousine rusting away and 2 hardly identifiable caddi’s. Toon was pretty much upset by this horrific picture and he has demanded the remains of the 5 600’s to be saved!

So if you want to adopt one of these poor neglected cars give us a call, they will be thankful forever!

We were going to show pictures but stupidly Toon dropped his SD card in his cup of tea (ouch). We hope that the data can be rescued…

Welcome to Iran!

Tabriz, 38 01.649N 046 22.208E

Thursday, 07.06.2007

After a warm farewell from Turkey by some bandit shepherds and one stupid angry dog (Marc had to hit him twice on the head before the dog finally got the idea) we safely arrived in Maku, Iran. Crossing the border was not a problem at all and we were friendly assisted by a lady from the tourism agency without having our bagage checked. A shame we did not bring some beer and whisky with us. Next followed a mad rush of 100 km a day to Tabriz to our ‘holiday address’. It proved to be more difficult to get there then expected as we unexpectedly had to climb for 20 km over a long kneekilling pass and in Tabriz we had to climb even higher as our hostess Ingrid lives on the highest hill in Tabriz. So now we are having a well earned relaxing period and enjoy the luxuries like a western toilet (even with toilet paper) and a shower. We have our own apartment here! A big thanks to you, Ingrid :-)

So the next days we will loiter a little in Tabriz before visiting Tehran to organise the Uzbek visa and Tabriz is a great place to do so as it has the largest bazar in Iran. And taken together with the fact that we are millionairs here (finally rich!) we are going to do some RIAL shopping :-) So while we are spending our money enjoy the first pictures of friendly and relaxed Iran!

Marc and Toon