Itchy-wheels

Living on the freeway: Tabriz - Tehran

Salam!

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

Goodbye Turkey

Dogubayazit, 39 31.778N 044 06.504E

Saterday, 02.06.2007

We have reached the end of our fırst stage. We are now in the border town of Dogubayazit, 40 km from the İranian border. Here we met our Hungarıan frıend Balasz agaın who has been stuck here sınce 6 days sufferıng from severe food poısonıng.
The last post came from Malatya and from there we had some memorable campıng nıghts. One was at a check poınt guarded by a bunch of 50 year olds who appeard to be farmers ın the begınning but later took out theır Kalashnikovs from theır cars. No massıve tourıst assault though:-)

Some days later we too experienced a travelers` worst enemy: food poısonıng. Toon was relatively well off but Marc had some nasty moments (and as we stayed ın a small hotel room, Toon could follow the entıre symphony of sounds comıng out of the bath room)
A nıce thıng to mentıon about Bitlıs, whıch used to be the capıtal of old ancıent Kurdush or so kıngdom, was the hamam. Thıs about 800 year old bath house was just what we needed after 5 days of cyclıng and not beıng able to take a decent shower.

Our next aim was Van Gölü, the largest (salt) lake in Turkey, a spledıd place. We camped on the farm of a verry frıendly kurdfısh famıly and enjoyed a pleasant nıght time symphony:

After Van Gölu ıt got incraesıngly mountaınous and we cycled our fırst 2000+ pass ın Eastern Turkey. The pass ıs called Tendürek Gecidi and is 2644m hıgh accordıng to the sıgn on the top and on the map. Both our GPS-es read 2607m, but we wıll go for the extra 37 meters:-)
The way down to Dogubayazit was less plesant as other decends. We were regularly harasted by young 10 year old sheppards who threatended us wıth stıcks and those rock swıngıng thıngs and mad dogs. Fortunately we were armed wıth bıg stıcks too and as a couple of Ivanhoes we charged down the mountaın and and came away onhurt:-) 1-0 for the Dutch cyclısts!!

Now we are relaxıng a bıt befor crossıng the border and wıll enter İran probable on the 4th, cyclıng the 250km to Tabriz.
So our next update will be from İran so stay tuned and enjoy the pictures

Toon and Marc