11-26 August 2010

So here we are at Tehran airport, nervously looking out from under our burka, our pleading eyes begging the immigration official for a visa. He looks at us as though we know nothing, grunts, makes a lot of phone calls and keeps us waiting in suspense. Getting the visa beforehand would have been less stressful, but our planning talents had made this impossible :) Finally we get the visa, yeay!!! Time to start our trip!

Surrounded by three bike manuals, a few tools and some loose screws we try our luck at assembling the bikes, some hours and some frustrations later we both a have a working specimen. We feel proud and talented! We leave for Northern Iran, this is our first ride ever on these bikes, our first ride ever with baggage, and our first ride ever in a burka. Our wobbly bikes bring us to the conclusion that we definitely have to lose a lot of baggage! Maybe we should have done a test ride…

Cycling in Iran we attracted a lot of attention. Cars and motorbikes drove beside us on busy highways, blocking the road and causing dangerous traffic jams. Even the police slowed down to announce over the loudspeaker: “I love you!”. We were often pushed off the road because drivers wanted to make a picture or “ax” of us. Even when we were not cycling we were constantly followed by crazy “axers”, whole families would gather around us to take pictures, one family member at a time.

After a long day of cycling in the heat all you want is a mother. Definition of a mother: female person who provides a shower, shelter and good food. Tactics for finding a mother: get off your bicycle, stand in the shade and look like two desperate girls. This tactic has proven to work exceptionally well in Iran, and we were welcomed into many homes. Iranians are very hospitable, we enjoyed many traditional dinners on the carpet, and slept with the whole family in one room. Thank you Iranian mothers!

Free hotel
One time, in the village of Sarakhs, it looked like our luck had let us down. Trying to find a mother or a quiet place to camp we attracted a large crowd of people, and finally the police, who got angry at us and forced us to go to a hotel. “We don’t want a hotel, we have no money!” we shouted at the hotel receptionist. Thankfully our luck had returned: the hotel owner heard our cries and secretly gave us the room for free, sneaking in free meals whenever he could. Needless to say, we stayed two nights.