samnstew

25 Sept – 7 Oct: Heart of the Middle East, Incredible Iran – and on through the Silk Road

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What appalling weather conditions we had the day we drove into Iran, the day before and the day after had been just fine! The weather just about threw everything it could at us – amazing contrasts and such wild savage on slaught of rain, hail and wind. But we found the Islamic State warm and welcoming, especially the people, with some incredible scenery and wonderful sights to visit on the old Silk Road.

The actual border crossing went pretty well, apart from the money change (always hassle, but we did need some rials, and in the end did OK – we ended up with 10 million for 300 Eu) – Then onto the Iranian side, which was much friendlier. The young woman in the tourist office was taking down our details, and spoke really good English. So we even asked her a few Farsi words; ‘Please, thank you and hello’, just to help us out on the street. As we were getting processed it decided to torrentially downpour for the duration, so we were like like drowned rats by the time we got into the Insurance Office, dripping everywhere. We were welcomed in and given cups of tea.

Then out of the roads of Iran towards Tabriz, about 300 km away. The weather just wouldn’t let up, one street was in total flood. Then we pulled in at one garage, and there was an almighty thunder crack, and lightening – we never thought we’d get as far as Tabriz. It was freezing cold too.

Out into the mountains, it was suddenly dry and brighter, but the huge wide plain was so incredibly wind swept, we were the grips of a savage dust storm.

We did one petrol fill up, sand it was so cheap compared to Turkey, we got 12.5 litres for 127,000 RII, about $6 AUD (that cost us at least $25 AUD yesterday!), and then amazingly we found ourselves on the outskirts of Tabriz.

Navigating in mostly by memory of my sketch map again. Incredibly we did find our way to 22 Mahman BLV, with a bit of help from the GPS and a friendly local on a bicycle, who spoke English and pointed us in the right direction. We had so many friendly toots and waves already in the day. And I spotted Darya Hotel, so the cheaper Iran Hotel should be near. We had to cross over the dedicated bus lane, and then pulled over again. Another friendly chap, motioned for us to follow him on the pavement, 50m and we were right there….amazing. So now to see what the place was like, and how much. It was all good, one of the receptionist fellows spoke some English, and they were so helpful. The place wasn’t the best, but good enough and for $60 AUD a night, we soon paid up for 2 nights; we needed a rest.

There was a secure parking yard behind the hotel, and today we took everything off Fritz. All so grubby and grimy, but we needed to get fresh clothes and new maps out of the boxes. First job though was a nice mug of hot coffee and a bite to eat. Then an hour recovering,

Oh, and sorting out the Millions of Rials, the bank notes, what money we had and what we were spending. There was wifi, but the internet was restricted, I couldn’t get on wordpress – so no blog update for at least a month!! or facebook either.

Around 6.30pm we got dressed, me fully covered with my head shawl too, and went for a wander. Even though it was dropping dark we still did stand out, and were greeted and spoken to in English by several passersby. There was a good mix of people on the street, young, old, kids and families, and the traffic and bus lanes were really busy. We were on the furniture and safety gear street (everywhere). We only found 3 eating places, 2 kebabs, and 1 next to a University College was a pizza place. We soon agreed on pizza for dinner.

SO our first day in Iran had been quite an experience. Next morning we didn’t get up to make some tea till around 7.30am, and tried doing a bit online, but the internet is really slow! We dressed and headed down to check out the breakfast offerings an hour later. There were a few other guests around, and we took an empty table. The breakfast was listed on a sheet, pretty basic options of eggs, cheese, butter, honey and tea. You only got to pick one, so Stew chose fried eggs while I opted for the cheese. They both came with some (not so fresh) flat bread. Well the eggs were scrambled and the cheese a bit of crumbly feta, so not really worth it. We were back in the room half an hour later and working out our plans for the day. The famous old Tabriz bazar seemed like the best option, and so I checked the location online, and found it a pretty easy route. It was a few kilometers, but we were happy to go for a nice long walk for the day (makes a change), and it looked bright and sunny too, such a contrast to yesterday. So I sent the girls a quick email, to let them know we were in Iran and then made a quick sketch map in the notebook, and we headed off with the backpack, cameras our books, and some water. It turned out to be a very long day walk about, and 22 Bahman Blvd, turned out to be the longest street for small engineering shops, tyre places and vehicle lubes. Even one guy tempering springs

The streets were already busy, and we were so pleasantly surprised by how many people just wanted to say hello, and welcome, as we walked along (we must stand out like a sore thumb – even though I thought I was well moderately dressed – maybe it was Stew’s dragon shirt and backpack that gave us away). It was a big roadway too, with a dedicated segregated bus lane in the centre, so not easy to cross at all. We thought we’d walk one side on the way in and the other on the way back. We also had to cross two big road junctions – its a bit of a free for all with the drivers, and you can cross the road if you go with the flow, slowly. There were very few eating places along the way, and what we did see were the usual kebab places. We did see what looked like a fancy new shopping center on the other side of the road, and thought we might call in on the way back too. It took ¾ hr just to get to the Golshan Park (It was in a state of reconstruction, so not that pretty to walk about – there was a huge white tower in the center, surrounded with scaffolding, and two guys were sign writing all over the surface (it would take weeks to finish).

We reckoned we could use this to navigate our way back. On the far side of the park was a kind of small second hand market (and not another female in sight here). It was quite a poor range of goods on offer (most looked like rubbish really!) We then had to walk another half hour towards the main bazar – passing more interesting shops along the road here. There were some clothes shops, and a managerie of pets & animals (chickens, budgies and rabbits), a few more eating places too, including local street food, boiled egg and potatoes. We followed the sketch map easily and it wasn’t difficult to find a way into the bazar; there were brick archways leading into the labyrinth. It was an incredible place – We’d not been into such a big bazar since in Istanbul, but here the shop keepers weren’t as pushy, and you could wander around without getting hassled at all.

Its certainly worth its World Heritage status, and was already famous in the 13 century!! Its an amazing example of the traditional commercial system of Iran. It was a real delight to walk about, and is well reputed for its history of rug making – they still today work in the basement workshops handmaking the rugs.

There was everything imaginable, all separated into different areas. There was fruit and veg, and meat – barrow of cows feet being moved around, and other offal on display too. Other alleyways had dried goods, nuts, seeds and spices, and more had hardwares – pots and pans and crockery. Then there were textiles and yarns, and so many sewing and knitting machines.

We wandered round for ages, and even managed to get to places that weren’t too crowded. And every so often we were simply greeted by the people, both shoppers and shop keepers alike, so friendly. The architecture and construct was wonderful, with some incredible old huge wooden doors.

We were taking a simple route along straight lines and backtracking, so we wouldn’t get too lost, and then we wandered further along the busy bazar street. Here we came to a more open area (though there were subterranean areas too), and amazingly found a Tourist Office sign. We wandered by and were again greeted in English. The guy was from the tourist office, and invited us in, which was great. We could have a sit down, and he gave us some tea, and Stew could even go to the toilet. He gave us a map of the city, and told us a few places to visit, and we asked about money change. He was happy to take us, and quoted a much better rate than we had been given at the border. We were just going to head out when a young French couple walked in, so we chatted a bit more. Then out on the street we bumped into another western tourist, a guy from Portugal – he wanted money change too, so tagged along. At the exchange booth another group of tourists arrived (from Azerbaijan) – so the guy headed off with them. He had been so kind and helpful.

We walked further to the blue mosque (under repairs too), and then on the way back to the bazar we found a nice cold water fountain to fill our bottle. Stew thought he might try the potato and eggs, though he didn’t in the end, and we ended up walking into the veg area, and downstairs even found a supermarket, with a few surprises – digestive biscuits, tins of baked beans (not Heinz though), and salt and vinegar crisps, Oh Stew got a bar of dark chocolate too, and a couple of wagon wheels. There were local shoppers (4 on in one motorbike), and another guy with I think 2 slices of bread? By this time it was already 3.30pm, so we thought we’d wander back

Further along the big shopping centre really looked quite new and posh; typical upmarket outlets but with some differences, one place sold only ladies head scarves!! There were more shop keepers and security guards then shoppers, but we did find a few more people in the top floor food hall (and there were good toilets too). We thought we’d eat here, so we wouldn’t need much later. There was basically kebab type places, pizza or burger. In the end we got burgers – they were big and fresh but not that good (Stew wasn’t impressed, and I did better by separating the contents, to make it more manageable). It was a funny combination with luncheon meat in too! There was an outside terrace, which was a great spot to view the cityscape, surrounding desert hills and mosques.

From there it was only another 15 mins back to our hotel, but we both had quite sore feet by the time we collapsed on the bed in our room – and first job was a nice hot mug of coffee. So not 7 hrs on the bike today just 7 hrs in the city – I’m not sure which is more exhausting. So we relaxed for the evening, Stew read a while, and I had a half hour listening to some music, before we got our heads together looking at the map again, and planning our route for the next few days. We both had a squiz online looking at potential accommodation, and I sketched out a few road maps, into a couple of towns further south. We thought we’d head south towards Terhan, but didn’t really feel the need to go in there, so at Takestan we’d head south again onto Estfahan and Shiraz. We thought we’d get to Zandshan, or just beyond. Having done as much as we could, we bedded down for the night and another reasonable nights sleep, though I did have earplugs in. Stew was up first for the bathroom, and made us a cuppa around 6.30am. We thought we’d get on the road reasonably early, but even so it would take a while with a full pack to do. Stew had to get the bike and put it in front of the hotel door, and we got all the boxes back on. There was hot water, and so we both decided to shower and freshen up. Dressed again, we then completed all the luggage and tyre strapping on the bike. It was still only just 8.15am so we decided we might as well have another go at the breakfast and some tea before hitting the road. And it was an improvement on yesterday, the bread was fresher, and we got some cheese, butter and honey to share too. The tea was good too, and we even had our milk to go with it. Fed and watered we were ready for off, so collected our jackets and helmets and the tank bags, getting out on the road by 8.45am.

We’d had a good look at the online map to find the best route out of the city onto the E2 motorway towards Tehran – and it worked out well. There was a bit of a traffic jam and the roundabout on ramp (a couple of cars had collided – slowly), but Stew steered us round and up onto the freeway. Its not European standard, but pretty good road really.

The day was fresh, bright and sunny – even though a tad cool for the first couple of hours, especially when we were climbing over the mountainous desert region. We made good progress, through spectacular coloured mountain rocky scenery (reminding us if Peru).

We made a quick petrol stop after 40 miles (only $4 !!), and then didn’t stop till we’d covered another 100 miles. And then a bit further on Stew pulled us right off the highway, to a decent spot to rest up 10 mins and look at the map again. We were only 50 km from Zandjan and it was only midday, so we were both happy to drive a bit further. 100 km beyond was Abhar – and hopefully we’d find somewhere to stay there, if not Takestan looked like the next best option. Stew was already on the bike, manoeveiring while I was putting my helmet on, when he suddenly lost balance – I could see Fritz falling in slow motion, but couldn’t move quick enough to stop it. Stew tumbled and Fritz was on his side; we were both up quick to start lifting. Then right out of nowhere a man was just beside us helping. He must have been working in the nearby field – and Fritz was soon back right way up. The man gestured for us to follow, but we gestured back, no thanks, pointing on our way.

Well, we’d passed several toll booths along the way, and at each we were waved on at no charge, but not stopped from proceeding. Even though I’d seen several signs showing motorbikes were not permitted!

The last hour drive was pretty tedious though, we were out of the beautiful mountain ranges and down onto huge agricultural expanses. We were taking the road into Takeshan, and here the GPS did show one hotel, so we followed that – And it did look like a hotel, but when I went in to enquire it was only a restaurant. Again pleasant greetings and the man pointed us into Takeshan centre to find a hotel. So back on the bike we drove slowly into the town – a bigger place than the last, but still not looking good for a hotel. There were several big bank buildings though. We’d just about got through the town, and thought we’d better turn round and take another look, and as Stew pulled over there was a man coming out of a gateway. I greeted ‘salaam’ and asked for ‘otel’. The man pointed just up the street, and a wide arm sweep, indicating a big building. So we set off slowly trying to spot it. Well, there were no signs in English, but one place looked like it might be a hotel.

So Stew pulled over again, and I went to investigate. Good luck this time – I found a door mat saying ‘welcome’ so that looked promising. Opening the door to a corridor, and an office beyond. A fellow came out to greet me, and armed with the ‘Middle East Arabic’ book I said ‘salaam’, and pointed to the phrase in the book, to ask for a room. Yes 🙂 and then ‘how much?’ – 500,000 IRR, ($20) – that would do fine for the night. He spoke no English at all but we soon got organised with a room, left our passports and paid for the night, and there was even parking behind for the bike. We were moving on tomorrow, and so just left everything on the bike, except for the tank bags – and as usual we ended up on an upper floor (third in this case). The room was bright and clean (cleaner than the last establishment), with a big-ish bathroom with squat toilet, again quite clean. There were two single beds, no probs, we’d gone as far as we were going today, then also a TV and fridge. We were also asked to remove our shoes (the room was carpeted). First job was getting water on to boil, so we could make some coffee and have a couple of biscuits. There didn’t seem to have been much in passing for going out to eat, so we just thought we’d make something from our supplies later.

Then there was a knock at the door, and we were brought a bottle of cold water, some mugs and a clean towel – great. We were definitely quite comfy for the night, and recuperated a couple of hours reading and writing. Stew even went off to enquire about internet, but it seemed only available in the lobby – we might have to go down later, to just look for some accommodation for the next stopping place. We browsed over the map again, and from what we had seen on the road today, it didn’t look like there was much ‘between’ major centres to get rooms for the night. So we were looking at trying to make it around Estefan tomorrow (>400 km again) – but it did look a huge place, and so we really needed to look for some hotels on the outskirts.

Stew got his nose stuck into his book, while I made copies of the days photos on the computer, and wrote some diary notes. By 6.30pm we were getting hungry, and Stew thought he’d just have a walk along the road, see if there were any eating places and also check on the bike. He was back 10 mins later, and no signs of anywhere to eat. The receptionist said we would need to drive. Such a good job we travel with a few supplies, so Stew set about making us dinner – using the bathroom for the preparations.We decided on the tin of Baked beans we’d bought yesterday, together with a pack to Swiss potato rosti we still had. The beans were not your regular Heinz tomato variety, but they made a good substitute, and together with the rosti and some bread we had a decent feed. We finished off making more fresh coffee, which Stew enjoyed with some dark chocolate too, and reading our books before turning in for the night.

We knew we had a long day on the road again, so didn’t want to set off too late. But Stew also wanted to do a check on the tappets this morning, so I went to sit lobby dining area and get on the internet. The people we so friendly, and we felt rather inadequate with lack of knowledge of the Farsi language. We were brought round a flask of hot tea, and a plate of fresh grapes. I had to nip out to help Stew; getting the rear wheel off the ground, so he could find the TDC point for the tappet checking, and then left him to it for half an hour. He returned saying everything looked fine 😉 He then sat and had some tea, grapes and checked the days news on the iPad for a while. Getting ready to go, the lady behind reception wanted to take a photo of us – no problem. I’m sure they don’t see many foreign travellers passing through the town. We were on the road by 8.45am.

It was already getting warm; a very milky hazy day, and as we drove along, it was as if apparitions would uncloak from the whiteout as we approached, and then be enveloped again as we passed. We saw stretches of the vast agricultural plains between the distant hills, at times we saw herds of sheep, and at others big industrial complexes, or small villages in between a lot of nothingness. And its just amazing what you see on the road…..here a bike hanging out of truck, and double overtaking up a hill!

It was another long dusty day on the road, but we had such amazing interactions with the locals on the road and when stopping too. We were driving from Takestan towards Estefan over 450 km away. The day kind of got away from us in a haze too. The kilometers were clocking by, and it was only our sore bums after more than 2 hrs that had us stopping. We ended up stopping threes times for petrol and at the second, also getting hungry, we got decent kebab sandwich for lunch. It was so big we shared it, together a can of our favourite drink in Iran – Delster, non-alcoholic beer with lemonade!

At the last petrol stop, we just had to pull over into the shade further along to stretch ourselves out again, and have 5 mins out of the saddle. We were soon surrounded by a group of very friendly and chatty locals (One spoke English quite well, so was translating the conversation for the others) – they were in fact from Shiraz. They always ask where you are from, and welcome to their country. They did say Shiraz was the best place in Iran, and it has a good bazar. They wanted to take photos, and this time we also made sure we got a couple of them too.

We made it to the outskirts of Estefan, at Shahin Shahr, on the main big road 9, into the city. The roads had been pretty decent, not too congested, but at times just too many heavy trucks. Stew really has to keep his concentration up, and I’m always on the lookout as a second pair of eyes. And its amazing just how many cars and trucks passing toot and wave to us. One car (oh, they are mostly Peugeot saloons), had a hand poked out of the window with a smart phone taking video, I’m sure, and we always give a good wave back too. It was already 3.30pm and we were quite weary from the hot dusty drive (>450 km so far), so we didn’t really want to battle another hour into the city itself to find a cheaper hotel. With the aid of the GPS, I directed us off on a right turn into the Shahin Shahr area, to the only hotel in the vicinity the devise located. The whole area looked quite new and under construction, more of an industrial business place. We passed a compound with some military vehicles and next to that quite a big fair ground, and then just beyond the big ‘Atlas Hotel’, quite on its own surrounded by vacant lots. It looked pretty posh, but we decided to give it a go. It looked definitely 4*; well manicured staff, and porters, and most speaking some English. The entrance opened to a huge lobby area, with water fountain, up to a high domed glass ceiling. The room floors were round the perifery for 3 -4 levels. Well, the price was a bit more than we really wanted to pay, 2,700,000 Rials, and I had to do a quick calculation to find this was around $110 AUD. But that did include breakfast, there was a restaurant open, and wifi. I checked with Stew and we were both happy to go for it, seeing as we had only paid $20 AUD last night. The hotel was in a walled compound and there were groundsmen staff too, so Stew was quite happy to just park the bike up next to the entrance, and leave it for the night. There was even a patio garden, with some guests relaxing out on the benches.

We got checked in for the night, and then just taking the tank bags we were escorted up to our 3rd floor room, very well appointed and spacious room. The porter showed us all the facilities, even toothbrushes in the ‘Western’ style bathroom, and how to use the TV. He also told us the restaurant was on the fourth floor, and open for dinner from 7pm. Breakfast in the morning was from 7 – 9 am, and with that he left us. Well, it really was very nice – despite only having quite narrow single beds. We were soon out of our riding gear, and getting some hot water on to boil, so we could recuperate with a nice cuppa and a couple of biscuits. Stew even went off for a shower, just to freshen up, while I was making the most of the decent wifi – the best we’ve so far had in Iran. I was also looking for forward travel routes and sights (being chief navigator), so when Stew was out of the shower he also started looking ahead to Shiraz, and where the hotels were located in reference to the bazar and other tourist sights there (after what the locals had mentioned earlier). I knew Shiraz was too far to make it in one day, as we’d already had a couple of long days already. There were a couple of roads we could take, but on exploring the 65-S route, I soon found a couple of very interesting stopping off places. One was an old Silk Road Caravanserai (where the travelers used to stop over for the night) at Izad Khast (just under 200 km further along), nowhere to stop over now though, but at Abedah another 60 km down the road I did find 2 or 3 possible hotels. That would leave another 300 km to do the next day to get to Shiraz, and here just 60 km north was the ancient Perisan capitol of ‘Persepolis’ – dating to 500 BC. So we sort of had a plan, and by now we were getting a bit hungry, as it was getting on for 7.30pm. We both dressed in our riding pants again, (the only way to look half decent with the bike boots – as we couldn’t get to our trainers out of the bike back box without unpacking), and I had my long sleeve top and head shawl on too, and headed upstairs. It was a pretty big restaurant, with a few other diners, and some tables yet to be cleared from others who had already eaten. We wandered round a bit at first, to look at the view from the windows. Estefan looked massive, all lit up with street and building lights in the distance – I’m glad we didn’t venture in. We selected a smaller table set against a pillar, and was soon brought round a menu, with a friendly waiter who spoke good English. We browsed a while, and found the menu was pretty much kebab fayre, just a bit up market. We ordered a Chinese fried chicken with tartare sauce, and an Iranian kebab, together with a portion of rice and a couple of drinks (just water and lemon). It wasn’t cheap at about 500,000 rials, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable meal. The food was well presented and came with small sides of fresh veg too, and the rice was almost as good as Stews’. I think we were the last to leave the restaurant, and back in the room I was glad to get out of all the clothes again. Stew got into reading his book, while I finished up a long couple of emails. Then it was time for bed, with music over the headphones. Stew had already turned in half an hour before me.

The next day we weren’t rushing as much, less miles to cover, and a breakfast too. We made a second brew, and showered before heading up to breakfast around 8.30am. There were quite a few others already eating, and it definitely looked like there was some kind of convention going on – lots of the same headscarves, and identical conference bags. We found a free table then went to browse the buffet. It was the best we’d seen in Iran, but nothing special…..scrambled eggs, and some gloop, and boiled eggs too. Then there was small sachets of butter, cheese, jam and honey, some slices of creamy white cheese, and varioús breads, including white sliced and a toaster. So while Stew opted for boiled egg, I was happy with toast cheese and jam. Best thing was though, was they had small cartons of milk, so we made sure to take a couple with us when we left. The views of the surroundings were great, we could see the desert road we drove in on, and the kids fair ground just next door.

With the good wifi, I’d also logged into whatsap, and sent a couple of short messages; Sairha, Lacey, Jason and Vic – and great to get quick replies back from everyone but Sairha (I think she was at TAFE). Lacey was on shift at an undercover operation in Coles. We’d finished up, packed up and were ready for the road by 9.45am. It took a good 5 mins to check out, and pay for last nights dinner, and get our passports back. By this time Stew had another curious onlooker at the bike, so I snapped a photo.

We decided we wouldn’t continue on route 9, into the city; the roads looked difficult, and with a population of 1.75 million, probably very busy. Instead we back tracked towards Tehran, and picked up the main ring road, skirting the city as much as possible, amazing to see a couple of cyclists using the road too. Even so we did run into quite a bit of rush hour traffic, but it was a fast expressway, at least dual carriage way and more at times, and following the signs through for Shiraz was fine. We had so many toots, shouts and waves again, its quite amazing.

Then at last we made it onto the quieter route 65-S, and it did get pretty quiet. There were vast distances between small towns, and then often the road would go right through – so there were always the speed bumps to contend with. Petrol and service stations were few and far between, and for both fills today we were getting close to thinking we might just be going onto reserve! It was a bit chaotic with queues too, and nowhere really to park up. So it was a bit of a run round, but it was good to have a tank full again, and we knew it would get us to Abedah, now only 100 km away. As we set off again, we needed a bit of a leg stretch, so Stew pulled in another 30 km up the road; it was sign posted to a service station, but as we pulled in we could see it was only just under construction. There were a couple of workers there, and a car, the driver of which seemed to be the site owner. He came over to greet us in English as we pulled into the shade of one of the half built buildings. So friendly – he said we could make us of a room, but we said thanks we just needed 5 mins to stretch, and have a drink of water, and then we were off again. And again seeing some huge loads on the road.

Now I was on the look out for the turning to Izad Khast, which we found not 15 mins later. The turning took us through a small inhabited town, and we drove on till we spotted a sign for the ancient site. It was just straight on out the other side of town….and then you were right there. It was an incredible sight, a caravanserai of the old Silk Road; a travelers resting place. We skirted it on the paved road at first, winding down the rocky outcrop, and then you could see back into the valley a smaller dirt road leading in,

so we soon turned, and now we could see the full extent of the whole place. There was a partly reconstructed main caravanserai, and on the high cliffs above a castle fortress. The valley beyond meandered with the river, and the remains of a Silk Road bridge was still there in pretty good condition, amazing to think who and what will have passed this way.

There was a main village constructed of mud bricks and clay, clinging to the rocksides, and a much larger fortress perched high on the rock itself. You could drive right up to a great vantage point, and look down on the village and valley.

You really could just imagine it as a thriving community, an oasis along the long road, for food, drink and refreshment, and even an overnight stay. We stayed quite a while, walking around, taking a few photos and soaking up the views. There was no one else around for ages, and then one guy pulled in with a car, and got out sporting a fancy camera with a big lens (taking much better photos than us, I think). We greeted each other and wandered some more. We were just climbing on the bike ready to leave, when the man came back up to us. He’d been back to his car and brought out some drink for us – and he even had plastic cups. What a wonderful exchange, here in the old caravanserai, we were offered drinks on a hot day. With thanks we were on our way; but the gestures of the locals here in Iran, will stay with us long after we have left. It had really been a magic place to stop for a while, thinking back and bringing to life the travelers of old.

As soon as the road climbed the cliff ridge we were back in the searing desert, and the high unforgiving plains. Even when its hard going, I look around and feel so privileged to be on this road at this time. It makes me grin, even when an outsider looking would think there is really nothing to grin about. Onto another 50 km and taking the turning for Abedah. There was a petrol station as we turned off the highway, so we decided we’d fill up again, and be ready for a good stint in the morning. The outskirts of the town were one big military compound – not looking too occupied though. Once in the town, it was rather dreary looking, and not too many hotels were jumping out at us. The biggest buildings were the banks. The GPS showed up one place, so we thought we might as well head there. We found it easily enough the Laleh Hotel, right on a roundabout. It was definitely a few steps down from yesterdays place, but it would have to do for the night. And by comparison it could not be described as value for money. There didn’t seem to be any other guests around – though I’m sure its not a town that attracts too many tourists. The room was 1600000, rials, ($63 AUD), and though it had everything needed in the spacious room, it was rather dated, and a real hodge podge of furniture, décor and soft furnishings. We did get a ‘his’ and ‘hers’ twin toilets in the bathroom, to go with the twin single beds. The wifi was pretty much useless, but there was a restaurant, and we would get breakfast of some sorts.

For now were were happy to park the bike up in the secure parking behind the hotel, take the tank bags up to the room, and make a much needed mug of coffee. Even though we hadn’t drive as far today, it was already 3.30pm, and we were ready to chill out for a couple of hours reading and writing. With a second brew, we both went over the map again, and decided on a plan; we’d drive into Shiraz (only 270 km), and try find a reasonable place for 2 -3 nights. It looked like there was a ITTI tourist centre, with possibly camping, so we’d head there first. If it was OK, we could make a base, and then spend a couple of day going off the see the sights, in Shiraz city itself and out to the ancient city of Persepolis. That sorted it was about time for some food. So we had to get fully dressed again, and headed to the ground floor restaurant – we were the only customers. There was no menu, but the waiter spoke English, and said they had chicken and lamb kebabs (surprise!), rice, salad and yoghurt. So we ordered one of each, and a lemon shandy (non-alcoholic). The food came out pretty quick, and was pretty much the same as yesterday, but not as good – (I don’t want kebab tomorrow!!), plenty of it, in fact too much…..so we ate our fill, though not as enjoyable as last night. I had expected it to be cheaper than yesterday too, given the class of the establishment – but no, it was pretty much the same price, another 550000 rials !! So we paid up and headed to our room, finishing off the evening reading and writing again before turning in to listen to some music.

The next day we didn’t want to be too late on the road, and it had been a warm stuffy night, so it was nice to have a decent hot shower, before we got ready to go down for breakfast. We were the only diners at 8am, though half an hour later another couple of guests appeared too. The breakfast was passable, we both had fresh fried eggs, a bit of cheese and flat bread, with a nice pot of tea. And we managed to get online for a while, so Stew got the news fix, while I sent a couple of whatsap messages. Back in the room we did the final bit of packing and dressing, and I retrieved our passports from the reception.

So we headed out onto another hot dusty day on the desert road. There was a lot of flat nothingness today, a vast scrubby plain between the distant mountains. And a lot of that milky haze again. It only started to get more interesting when the road took us towards the mountains and we headed into a series of long climbs and descents. Once into the next valley there was greenery all along the valley floor, and huge agricultural fields. There was a sign off to the Sivand Dam, which I presume was the water source for all the lush growth.

We had to make one stop for petrol after a couple of hours, and also a leg stretch. Stew managed to pull up in some shade. As we were on the approaches to Shiraz the signposts were also showing the distance to go to Persepolis. I took a note when we got passed the turning, to see how long from there it was to get into Shiraz. It turned out to be about a half hour, but the traffic was building up as we were nearing a big city again. And as so often on the road here, we were passed with toots and waves, pretty much all the time. We passed shrines on the rocksides, and the city appeared as we descended onto the plains again.

I’d had a good look at the directions, and even the GPS had the ITTI tourist complex we were aiming for, so we managed to drive straight there. I knew we were in the right place, but to start with we couldn’t find the entrance, so ended up driving round the block, and found the entrance off the main road. It was a big walled and gated compound, with a security box by the gate and reception off to the right. The whole compound was quite large and set in decent grounds and gardens, even trees. There were several blocks of accommodation, and a larger dining hall, and an outside sitting area – next to the huge pool; It was empty and looked like it hadn’t been in use for quite a while.

We parked up and went to enquire in reception. So we could camp for 500000 ($22 AUD) a night, or a room was 1800000 ($75 AUD) – so we asked if we could look at the camping first. One of the ladies in reception followed us down, passed all the accommodation to the rear of the compound. There was a garden square with picnic tables, another grassed area, and childrens playgound, then another shadier garden area beyond the last block of rooms. We could put the tent anywhere on the grassed areas, there was a small toilet and shower block, and electric outlets on the light poles by the picnic tables. We decided to give it a go, and went back to reception to sign in, and also get some keys for the toilet block. We had thought we might find some other overland travellers at this point; it had been well documented on the iOverlander website. But there were no other foreigners in sight, in fact we haven’t seen any other foreign vehicle or motorbikes on the road through Iran at all yet.

So after a long break since Switzerland we were actually setting up camp again. We checked out the playground spot, and checking the direction of the sun, we thought it would be in direct sunlight later in the afternoon (It was already 1.30pm), so decided to go for the shadier garden spot. It was pretty decent really, and we soon got the tent and canopy set up, and all our sleeping gear inside too.

Then we were both relieved to be able to get out of our riding pants and change into cooler clothes from our bags. I checked out the toilets, also very decent, and spotted a metal bench frame with worktop, that was movable – it would make us a decent camp table, so we moved that across too. Stew got out the camp cooker, and we got all the stores and utensils out onto the makeshift table, and soon had water on the boil to make some tea and coffee. We wanted to eat something, and in the end from the supplies we had, thought we should eat up the haloumi, so Stew fried that up too, which made a nice snack wrapped in some flat bread (note its the bubble wrap type!).

The tent was nicely in the shade, and now we could finally relax a bit. We both went to lie down on our sleeping bags and were soon dozing off. I was feeling quite weary, and it was definitely too hot to go walk about yet. We came round about 3.30pm, both quite thirsty, so we guzzled down the water bottle we had – I think we’re a bit dehydrated. Feeling a bit better, and it was cooling down outside, we ventured out for a wander. We’d made a good decision on the tent location, it was in the shade all afternoon. We called in at reception and great that all the ladies there seem to know some English. We asked for a tourist map, and were given a couple of decent ones, and then also where to find a supermarket. We were directed just out of the compound down the road a little way on the right. So we headed in that direction. It was a busy street, and looked like a lot of the small shops were just opening again for the afternoon. There weren’t any big grocery stores in the next couple of blocks (though I did see at least 5 banks), but there were several minimarkets and a few fruit and veg places too. There was also some fast food places, and a couple had chairs outside – I suggested we sit out for a lemon bir – we were still so thirsty. The place did kebabs, burgers and roast chicken, but also drinks and we got a litre bottle from the fridge. It was so nice, and we drank it down pretty quick, while managing to have a look over the tourist map. Feeling much refreshed, with the day still cooling, we thought we’d just wander one of the mini-markets and see what we could get for supplies. We weren’t feeling too hungry with all the drink, but we knew we’d want something later. We browsed around and spotted some packs of soy protein – great, we could make both curries and spag bog with that. We got a few supplies and another bottle cold lemon bir and 5L of water. Then we called at the veggie place and got some onions, potatoes, and a couple of pomegranates.

It was around 5.30pm by the time we got back to camp, and still no other campers around, but there were quite a few Iranian tourists, taking up rooms in the complex. A couple of teenagers came across to talk to us, one could speak English, and they always seem to like to practice. They were from Estafan and were on some kind of sports trip, and were playing 5 a side football. They just chatted a few minutes then went on their way. We had another drink, but it was too early for dinner, so Stew thought he’d make a start at giving the bike a wash.

I ended up helping out, refilling the bottles and swilling down. It didn’t get a massive wash, as it was already dropping dark, so we thought we better make a start at cooking dinner. I did the chopping, while Stew did the cooking, and half an hour later we were sat down to a delicious mince and potato curry, with rice and flat bread…..so much tastier and nicer than the kebabs we’d had for the past few days. There were some pesty cats around, so we thought we’d better tidy up. We made a coffee to finish off the evening, and then covered all the table goods with my lungi. We headed up to the comfy benches next to the (empty) pool with our books. They were like day beds, and covered with rugs and big cushions, no footware. A few other people we sat out on other benches smoking, so we just got ourselves settled to read.

Someone came over to ask of we what we wanted, we said nothing. She didn’t speak any English, and we really couldn’t make out what she was saying, something about the hotel. We said yes, camping – and showed our keys. I think she gave up on us in the end. So we sat a half hour reading, till another person came across. This time a guy, speaking some English. He asked if we wanted anything – again no thanks. Then he said, please don’t sit here then – its not part of the hotel ! Though there was no sign or separation of the area really, and he wandered off. No probs, we just put our shoes back on and wandered back down to the camp. A bit more reading and some music over the headphones to sleep.

It was pretty noisy quite late into the night. The tea smoking bar was playing music till quite late, and there seemed to be quite a few late comers to the hotel. Eventually it did quieten down and we slept on well. We heard the mosque call at 5am, but fortunately it didn’t go on too long, and we dozed quite comfy till after 7am. Stew got up and make us morning tea, which we had in the tent….the only place I could be half dressed and not have my head covered. After that we dressed and went to the little shop outside the complex, to get a couple of things for breakfast. We bought some natural yoghurt, dates and a sticky bun. Back at the tent we boiled more water to make coffee and have a lovely breakfast of yoghurt, fruit and museli. After we got ready and went walk about in the town – the bazar was closed as it was the Friday holy day, though some outside stalls were open, as well as the flat bread bakeries. It was a novelty to see public phone boxes still very evident, even though most people had smart phones.

The Karim Khan citadel was open though, and quite an impressive sight, both inside out. And though it had had a lot of reconstruction work done, it was well worth the visit.

The bath house was great, and Stew even climbed into one of the personal baths.

And we went for a photos shoot, getting dressed up as Persian nobility – Stew loved the ammo belt and the big rifle! ……..

Here were the most we’d seen tourists all week in Iran. There was a coach load of Germans being escorted around the Bazar area, and in the Citadel a group of Chinese tourists. Mostly we were again called from passersby, welcoming smiles, greetings and waves, but here for the first time a couple of negative experience, first an old man approached as all the others, shaking hands, salaam to me and Stew, then he was suddenly grabbing me close and kissing my cheek, trying to grab more. I pushed him off and we quickly walked on. Then I was lining up a photo of the impressive judicial building, when a young guard came out and shouted across, Oops I’d forgot, I had read you are not supposed to photograph public buildings. The the citadel gift shop, was trying to do a fiddle with the price too. There was a small Iran pin badge, 35,000 and a pack of postcards 25,000, but the assistant actually meant Tomen not Rial. So 350,000 rials for the pin badge and 250,000 for the postcards. We’d only paid 250,000 ($10 AUD) for the photo session and A4 photo, and here they wanted $14 AUD for a pin badge….definitely a rip off. We didn’t bother, even though she was saying OK, OK and asking a bit less. So we just walked off.

It was 4 hours later before we got back to camp. We were going to have coffee, but were pretty warm so just got a cold bottle of lemon bir to share, and then had a bit of a siesta in the tent. By 6pm – The daylight was fading and it was really pleasantly cool. So we headed out for a wander up the road. We decided to make a pasta bologense this evening, so just needed a tin of tomatoes. We also came back with a big cold can of German brewed non-acloholic beer. So we sat by the tent and drank that first. I wasn’t impressed, definitely prefer the local brew with a dash of lemon in. We then set about making dinner. It was delicious, another night of home cooking and I may be ready for another kebab tomorrow!! We finished off the evening with a coffee and digestive biscuit, and then sat an hour by the picnic tables, so I could charge up the computer again. There were revellers in the smoko late tonight, with tribal sheriking and loud music going on till about midnight. The headphones definitely helped, and after that it was pretty quiet.

Up with the Larks – or whatever the morning birds are here. We began the day with the usual cuppa, and then both went off for separate showers. We set off early around 8am, it was already getting hot, but it was so nice to be out on the bike without all the baggage for a change –

We had a great day, not only was the ancient site of Persepolis magnificent (and not too many tourists). It was an amazing place, the seat of King Darius and Xerxes, and then raided by Alexander the Great, who sacked the huge treasury, needing 3000 camels to take away the loot!! All founded around 500 BC, and the site taking over 50 years to build. We had forgotten hats and sunglasses, so the fierce sun was so bright reflecting off all the stone. At least I had my Muslim head shawl, so was managing a bit better then Stew. Even so we still managed to wander round for a couple of hours. The sculpture work was quite incredible, as well as the early graffiti, from 1810 we saw!!

There were palaces and tombs, a huge stone well, and water channels too. The carved staircases were quite amazing, the details in the work was so striking.

Reminders of Efesus and Petra, and definitely one of the great ancient sites we’d visited. The only naff bit was the loud speakers in a few places, telling parts of the history – but it was so bad, and really spoiled the atmosphere where you could hear it. Fortunately the site was so huge you could get away from it. A few coach loads of tourists came in some time behind us, and the place was much busier by the time we left – so we’d timed the visit pretty well too. The heat of the day didn’t see too many people walking up to the tombs, we only saw maybe 4 others and it gave great views over the whole site.

And then we had some great interactions with the locals again. We managed to buy Iran stickers (Yay), and the lads round the shop really wanted a photo on the bike! and we got some 20-50 oil, so Stew could do another oil change on the bike. We stopped to fill up with petrol and saw the local pizza delivery guys too.

We were back at camp around 1.30pm, and definitely ready for a cuppa and bite to eat. I think we were a bit dehydrated again, so it was more water and then a second mug of coffee. I had to do a bit of stitching on my blouse, that I tore on a bench nail at Persepolis, and Stew spent half an hour putting boot polish (we’d bought yesterday), on the leather tank bags, they were getting a bit dry! Once the bike was well in the shade he also did the oil change and finished all the checks on the bike. I was enjoying my siesta, but also managed to get all the days photos on the computer too. While Stew was outside another foreign vehicle arrived, an Italian camper van, who parked up by the toilet block and picnic tables. It was the first foreign vehicle we’d seen. They were a retired couple and we chatted a bit and then with sun on its way down and the heat of the day waning, we set of walk about into town again. Mainly on the lookout for some money change (We didn’t find any), and somewhere to eat dinner (but we didn’t find anything but small kebab and burger places, not appealing, so we didn’t bother) but the bazar was open so we had a good wander round.

And down one of the small side streets, we did find a small shop selling Iran pin badges. I got one for 100000 rials, ($4) rather than the 300000 rials, they had wanted at Persepolis and the Citadel! It was dark by the time we got back, and we were both ready from refreshment – lemon bir, went down really well. We bought some mushrooms, yoghurt and flat bread too, so Stew made us a yummy mushroom curry tonight. So much better than what we could find on the street. I cleared up and washed all the dishes, and left Stew to get an hour of internet, while I retired to the tent, did a bit on the diary and before putting music over the headphones to fall asleep to again.

Our last night in the tent passed much quieter than the previous (no loud music tonight). Stew got up when it was only just breaking dawn. He got back to the tent saying it was 5.45am, and already being up he put a pan of water on to boil !! So I got a cup of tea in bed by 6am. We did need to be up early, but not that early really, so we had quite a leisurely breakfast and pack-up. We were fortunate in that there were clouds in the sky this morning (we hadn’t seen since we let Tabriz), and so that kept us pretty much in the shade while we did all the packing. We had breakfast of yoghurt, museli and Stew had dates too, with a mug of coffee, and then more packing. It takes quite a while when we have everything out. Even so we were doing pretty well, and by 7.15am we were having a last cuppa, and strapping everything onto the bike.

I went to the bathroom for a last visit, and clean my teeth, thinking we’d be off 5 mins later, but when I came out the bike was surrounded!! There must have been a change om shift at the Cultural and Tourism Centre behind us, as there were a couple of ladies and four uniformed guys all out chatting to Stew and the Italian couple. On top of that a group of French tourists were milling around, fascinated by our pack-horse, asking a few questions as they were waiting for the coach to take them to Persepolis. The local ladies brought out some tourist pamphlets and CD, but the guys were more interested in the bike; one of them said he also had a moto. They asked if it was OK to take photos, No problem – and he wanted to sit on the bike too. So we ended up having a few more photos and got quite a send off. We managed to get on the road by 8am.

Stew had checked the map while he was online, and reckoned we could just turn right out of the complex follow the route to the airport and pick up the R65 towards Bandar Abbas. That was over 650 km away, so we were heading for Darab, about half way. Stew had also found a tourist hotel there, (not much else); and that should do us for the night. It was a pretty tough morning on the road, the day was heating up fast, and burning the clouds off, and as we swept through the wide agricultural plains, the wind started whipping up. It became savage and relentless, so much particulate pick up in the air, with mini- and not so mini-twisters all over the place. Then other stretches which were just a complete white out. I could feel all the buffeting on the back, as Stew had to battle along to keep us on track (or on the road).

We made one petrol stop, but again attracting a lot of attention we didn’t feel like stopping (and it was such a wind swept hole, it wasn’t inviting either), so we continued on, and Stew pulled in to a quiet parking spot around 15 mins later, by the side of some very ruined building. There was a bit of a reprieve from the sand blasting, and so we got quite a good view over the desolate vista.

It was only another 100 km to Darab, and the wind came out in force again, so we just kept going. We’d only passed a few very small towns en-route, so we quite surprised when Darab loomed quite large out of nowhere. In the GPS I’d found one ‘Government Hotel’, which sounded like the Tourist Hotel, so we headed there. As we drove in, we found a typical dusty lively town, the streets lined with small shops and workshops. We could tell it was of some size when we had to stop for traffic lights. As we turned the corner, the first building I saw was Post Office – so maybe chance to post a small pack back to the girls. And next door I saw the Tourist hotel sign. It was a decent looking hotel was set back down a wide boulevard.

It looked a friendly place, even though little English was spoken. We asked for a room, with the aid of our Phrase book. We were early, just after 12noon, so had to sit and wait. A local man greeted us and sat down, using his mobile phone, he handed it over to me. I was soon speaking in English to Sara (his daughter, it turned out). They wanted to help with whatever we needed, lunch, dinner, visit. But we said we needed to rest, and Sara asked when would it be OK to come round to the hotel to have a talk. I said maybe 2 hrs later. We then got the room key, and took the tank bags – nice to have a first floor room for a change, and there was a balcony. The fittings were well dated, but servicable, but unfortunately there was no internet. We were soon recuperating with a nice mug of coffee, and Stew made himself some quick noodles too.

Back in the room Stew was still resting, when the phone rang, Sara was in the lobby. Stew wasn’t really up to the interaction, and his eye was giving him some jip, it was irritated and running water, and better laying in the dark – so I headed down. Sara was lovely, and her dad was there too. It is his friend who own the hotel and he helps out with the building. Sara’s dad didn’t know English and Sara had learned at school in Darab and then University (Law) in Shiraz. So we sat and chatted a while, and they were insistent on coming back for dinner, though I tried to explain it wasn’t necessary, as they left.

Back in the room I asked if Stew was up for company for dinner – not knowing what would happen. We went and sat in the restaurant and were doing OK for 10 mins – had ordered, kebab, salad and rice, with lemon bir. But the staff obviously knew to contact Sara and her dad and they soon arrived. No probs, they just wanted to check everything was OK, and left us to our meal. Stew’s eye was still not good. He didn’t finish dinner (not even too hungry) – and wanted to go back upstairs and lie in the dark, and use some of his steroid eye drops.

I spent another half hour with Sara and her dad, and they wanted to take photos with the bike too, which was all good. And we chatted some more. We exchanged contacts, and I learned a new Farsi word – Khardafez (Goodbye). So with thanks and goodbye, I retired to the room. Stew was just listening to some music, and I soon joined him putting my headphones in too.

We slept comfortably, and thankfully Stew’s eye was better – not 100%, but not as puffy and not streaming. We made a morning cuppa in the room before heading down for brekkie, around 7.45am. We were the only guests eating….it was the usual offerings, bubble flat bread, a couple of fried eggs, soft cheese and today some carrot jam, and a big pot of tea. So not exciting, but everything was nice and fresh, so one of the better ones we’d had. As Stew headed back to the room, I headed off to the post office, with the Arabic phrase book and envelope I’d put together yesterday. I was glad to find the place open, and not too many customers. The staff didn’t really speak any English, so the Farsi phrases were really helpful. It all went well, and I think I conveyed everything OK. It was going to Australia by airmail, and I’d got the hotel receptionist to actually write ‘Australia’ in Farsi on the envelope too. So I got a receipt and paid about $30, and fingers crossed it would arrive all good. Back at the hotel room we packed the last of our bags, and tried to check out. And we also managed to get a 1.5 l bottle of cold water to take with us (Which we were so glad of later). It took a while, as the friendly staff wanted to take photos of us on the bike again.

At last we were on the way. We back tracked the way we drove in, and the streets were already a melee of morning vehicles. We were attempting to turn right, and had to pull to a stop, and got nudged by the car behind….They just drive way too close, and don’t give you any room. Fortunately the car was going slow, and in the end just knocked into the side box with the tyre round it, acting as a bumper! As usual loads of all kinds to see…..We got out of town and spotted a garage just on the right, so thought we’d just fuel up.

We were driving south, and heading first through vast expanses of shrubby flat lands, and then through the rainbow mountains, and down onto the Persian Gulf (300 km). The scenery was amazing, primal rugged mountains, displaying all the mighty power of the Earth bringing them into being. Huge jagged rock layers thrust high into the air. It was a feast for the eyes – and yet so harsh and unforgiving

It became scorching hot, as we crossed through the last mountains. There was no shade to stop for a rest. Stew did find one bit of shade under a palm tree by the roadside, but the camber was too steep to get off the bike. We just gulped some water, and so by the time we found a petrol fill up, we just had to get a cold drink. Then when we arrived in Bandar Abbas, I navigated us pretty well towards the Darya Hotel, and we only had to stop an ask once. We were pretty near, but checking in was fine they had a room and wifi, BUT they had no secure parking. So by the time I’d got to the 3rd hotel, I was on the verge of passing out……thankfully I finally got us a room sorted, just got the bike parked up, took the lift onto the 6th floor, and pretty much collapsed on the bed.

Oh, we’d parked up next to an English-German (Jens & Helen) couple just getting in the hotel too, in their Landcruiser. Stew spoke to them more while I was inside – they were shipping the vehicle across to South Africa.We bumped into them again later, after we’d been out for dinner – they were out the back of the car, so chatted some more, and managed to pass onto them, the 4th Millenium book, Stew had just finished. Amazingly it turned out that we had all done the PADI openwater diver course in Airlie Beach in 1991!! In fact it was where they had met – Helen had finished college and went out to Oz for a year. They should be getting the vehicle into a container tomorrow, so we weren’t sure if we’d see them again.

We recuperated in the room for a couple of hours, it took me quite a while, as all my clothes were totally soaked. I felt like I’d been in a hot sauna. I managed to get my jacket off, and then just legged out. Stew got me out of my riding boots and over pants, and then had a quick shower to cool himself he too. He made us some tea, which went down well. We had a really spacious room, a double bed (only the second one we’ve seen in Iran) and 2 spare single beds. So Stew got all the tank bag gear spread out on one of the spare beds. We even had a view (not so a good one), of the ocean from the window. Paying that extra $20 for the room actually gave us a better TV and service. There were a couple of English speaking channels, and so we ended up watching an old ‘Star Trek’ movie.

We headed out about 5pm, asking directions in reception for a money change (the told is in the Zeitung centre along the mainf streer), and we got a local Farsi map of the town too. It was already dropping dark and still incredibly hot, and the streets were just bustling. So much traffic and pedestrians of all shapes and sizes.

It was nice to see the local women generally wearing much more colourful and patterned head gear than we’d seen elsewhere, and they definitely much darker skinned than further north. In fact you were aware of a much larger mix of people, with visitors from over the Persian Gulf too. We wandered the length of the Iman Khomeni blv we’d driven in on, as Stew said he’d seen a ‘change’ sign as we rode in. But we didn’t find it, then on the way back I spotted the Zay Toon Centre – So much like the Zeitung Centre, I’d presumed the receptionist had said, We thought it had to be the right place. And it was, so we soon had another 300 Eu changed, as we were down to our last million! That done we could head off in search of diner, so we walked down onto the waterfront. Not that we could see anything, it was pitch black over the water, and the huge roadway was just teeming with traffic. We headed east, and passed a few mosques and a few hotels, and then we spotted something that looked like an eating place. So we went into enquire – one of the guys spoke English which was great. It was the ‘Burger Bun’- quite a modern take away and eatery. They did burgers, fries, salads and drinks. So we ended up with a really decent meal, sat up on the mezzanine – I think the best we’ve eaten out in Iran, but boy could they do with some variety in their eating places. There are so few restaurants about!! Nicely fed, we wandered back to the hotel and retreated from the heat. We managed to watch a bit of TV, and I did some email before we turned in for the night with music over the headphones.

We slept really well, I think we were both quite shattered with the heat. I made us tea this morning, which we enjoyed lounging on the bed, before we got dressed to go down for brekkie. We’d already decided we’d stay another night, and on checking online for the local vicinity, we really thought it was too hard work and too hot to get across to the Gulf Islands. Hormuz did look geologically an artists palate, but realistically we couldn’t do anything in the heat of the day – not even sure we can get the motorbike across there!

So we headed down for breakfast. There were quite a few other guests (All male), and we took a small table in the dining area. It was a buffet set up, but nothing too exciting again. There was some bean soup though, so we both had some of that for a change. We also had some bubble wrap flat bread, cheese and jam, with a pot of tea. And Stew took a boiled egg for later. The internet was pretty decent, so we were both online for a while, but wanted to head out early enough before it got too hot (It was already too hot). So we headed out at 9.30am – it was an overcast grey day but already so hot. And we saw the Landcruiser had already gone from the parking…..We lasted and hour and a half, and wandered along the harbour front.

It was not very exciting, or comfortable at all. We ducked into one of the large shopping malls, just to get some cold blast from the aircon, but everything was pretty quiet, and a lot of the shops closed. I don’t think they open till its cooler later in the afternoon. So we headed back to the hotel, and whiled away the hot hours; some TV, reading, writing, internet, and a couple of mugs of coffee and tea.

We got ready to go out again around 4.30pm, and bumped into Helen and Jens just walking back up the lane way. So they didn’t get the container sorted today. We stopped and exchanged our adventures of the day – They had spent the whole day at the port customs, and still had to got back in the morning. They had walked as far was the restaurant at the end of the lane way for some food, and were quite impressed when we said we’d walked as far as the fish market earlier. So they were heading back to the hotel as we headed off into town. We were hoping more of the shopping malls would be open, and went first to the Zay Toon centre where we had exchanged money yesterday. It was nice and cool inside, but not much interesting in the shops. From there we wandered down onto the waterfront. It was already dusk, and dropping dark fast, and at least on the esplanade there was a whisp of a cooler breeze. Most of the eating places we saw were only just opening, and some not even open at all yet – including the Burger Bun, where we had eaten last night. We didn’t really fancy burger again, and from what we could see on offer, thought we’d go for pizza. We sat on the harbour wall 15 mins, watching the boats out in the Gulf. Then wandering on we came across the ‘City Burger’, on the first floor overlooking the esplanade. It also advertized pizza, so we thought we’d give it a go. It was a modern, bright plastic place, with young staff in colourful uniforms (a bit like Mac’s really) – but little English was spoken. None the less we did pretty well, and managed to order 1 pepperoni pizza, 1 chicken salad, 1 fries, 1 yoghurt drink and 1 classic bir. It was all quite fresh and the fries and salad were quite decent. The pizza was nothing like pepperoni – but luncheon meat, a few mushrooms, a bit of cheese and chopped chilli. It wasn’t really enjoyable, but filled a hole and would do us till breakfast. We wandered back through the now very busy streets back to the hotel, and called in one of the minimarkets for a few supplies. We flicked on the aircon and TV as we got back into the room – and first had a glass of the cold drinks. We then went down to get the bike all packed up ready for the morning, before we got too lazy (we wanted to make a reasonably early start, as we had over 400 km to cover). It didn’t take long really, and then it made a nice change to was a reasonable TV movie. By the time we’d switched everything off, and got the music on the headphones, it was getting on for a late night after 9.30pm.

We were up early for breakfast at 7am, with nice fresh bread and eggs, but always the same. The soup was more gloopy and green stuff today, so I didn’t bother. It was quite busy with most of the tables soon filled, and the German couple too. As we were finishing up we said bye to Helen and Jens, passing on one of our travel cards, and wishing them luck with the customs work and Africa trip. I retrieved our passports from reception, checking out – and we were on the road before 8am. It was already HOT outside, and so good that Stew had managed to pack away my bike suit linings in his side box. Bandar Abbas was much bigger than the passenger port centre (where we were), it extended on for 8 – 10 km, mostly bland low level concrete block buildings, and roadway boulevards decorated with ‘Matyr’ images, as you see all over Iran. The dominating features are the mosques seemingly springing up everywhere, and where wealth is obvious, all the bigger and higher the minarets.

Amazingly within a couple of kilometer stretch of road here, you find 5 or 6 big mosques! There was a huge one just under construction as we were headed out of town. Then turning away passed the airport we were out onto to the desolate ribbon of desert road. The desert stretches were really quite long and tedious, we were both getting achy bums.

It was over 30 degrees already, and didn’t begin to cool for more than 150 km when we started to climb through the much more scenic rainbow mountains again. It took us over 5 hours to reach Bam, during which time we only did 2 petrol fills, and 2 desolate road stops just to stretch our legs.

With the early start though we reached Bam around 1.15pm, and found ‘Akbars Tourist Guest house’ – the gate was open, but no one was around. It was a nice comfy and shady garden yard, set up with a lounge suite and day beds. I opened the gate, so Stew could get the bike in, and we just got out of our riding gear and sat waiting on the sofa. Stew picked up the guest book on the table next to him, and was reading all the travelers who had passed through.

Akbar arrived maybe 15 mins later, an older guy, not too tall, and quite trim for his age (He told us he’d been retired 20 years as a treacher), He was dressed in decent western trousers and a striped shirts, and had quite a dark shiny complexion with barely any hair on his head, just a few tufts of white. He was quite friendly and spoke very good English. We were welcomed in, he showed us a room, and then made us fresh hot tea and gave us some lovely cool water melon. Before he crashed out on his day bed to sleep. We were pretty weary too and in need of a rest, and were soon laid out on the bed for a couple of hours.

Coming round, we made a brew and then went for a wander around 4.30pm, just getting a few supplies, as Akbar had said it was fine to use the cooker in the communal area. So definitely curry tonight. We bought fruit and veg, as well as water, lemon-bir and some chips to munch on while walking. There is definitely some Muslim festíval coming up – as road side by mosques are being decorated with black flags, and bridges and roundabouts too. We could hear drum practice, and often beat music being played from the mosques too.

This evening as we walked up the street, we were offered some local black coffee, as were all passers by. It was very sweet but quite palatable with cardamon spice too. It was still early when we got back, so we shared some lemon-bir before starting cooking. A French couple also staying at the place, were going over travel maps on the sofa, and we greeted each other, as we went over to the kitchen area. The meal didn’t take too long to prepare – potato, mince, onion and tomato curry with rice and some lovely soft pida bread we’d bought. And we were soon sat at the bench table, tucking into a really delicious dinner. ‘Bon Appetite’ the French couple said. And after we’d finished, Stew was making coffee and offered to the French couple too – the guy gladly accepted, but his wife didn’t drink coffee. But came to the table bringing grapes to share too. So we had a lovely half hour swapping travelers stories, finding out where they had been and were going, and vice-versa, before we all retired for the evening. Another late night, it was after 10pm before we turned out the light and bedded down.

We had quite a peaceful nights sleep, and even without the noisy aircon, it wasn’t too hot. Stew made us a nice cuppa, then we went off to see what delights we’d get for brekkie. The French couple were already sat at the bench table, and it was Akbar’s wife who brought out the food. She was much more quietly spoken than Akbar, but knew a few phrases in English. So we were greeted with a good morning, and she went off to bring us some bread, cheese, tomato and cucumber, and carrot jam. My French is definitely rusty, but I managed to exchange a bit of conversation with his wife, asking if they ate the same breakfast everywhere in Iran – she smiled and said, Yes. I also asked if they had bought any souvenirs. They said not much, but a smaller tapis – a rug cushion (I think). We asked if they needed any more rials, as we had actually changed more than we needed – and they said that would be no problem. So breakfast finished, we returned to our rooms and made the exchange. They were happy to do so, as they had a longer time still to spend in Iran, heading off to Kerman, and Shiraz. It was great for us too, as we really didn’t want to end up on the border with too many rials and get a crappy exchange rate. So we wished them well on their travels, and Stew handed them a travel card, as they headed off around 9.30am.

We spent a few hours in the room, forward planing for the last stop in Iran, at Zahedan (around 320 km away) before heading for the Mirjaveh-Taftan border crossing to Pakistan. I made a sketch map and wrote the addresses of a couple of hotels, there is a ‘Grand’ posh one (but that will depend on how many rials we have left), and there is also a decent looking ITTI tourist inn (which I think will be more our budget around 1.5 million?). And I also wrote down the exchange rates for Pakistani Rupees – we wanted an idea of how much we should be bargaining for at the border. We may have rials to change as well as Euro, but definitely no more than 100 EU, to get us going for a few days. We then both enjoyed the shower, without looking too closely at the hodge podge, poorly cleaned fittings or hair in the floor drain. The decent flow of hot water was the most important thing. Stew then wanted to check the bike. With getting the side boxes off, he could see the weld on part of the frame to attach the side box was broken, and just seeing what he could do to try fix it up. The pannier frame had also broken (Most likely from the nudge we got leaving Darab) – so we’d have to see if we could find anywhere local to do some welding. He also wanted to fill the petrol can from the tank, as it was getting empty, and maybe needed as we cover the 800 km from Zahedan (Iran ) to Quetta (Pakistan).

The days’ forecast was partly cloudy and a warm 30 degrees (from 10 am to 5pm), and the main thing we wanted to do was have a walk up to the big old adobe castle, (Arg-e Bam), so it didn’t really matter what time we set off. I made us another brew of coffee and then before we finally headed out, we thought we’d have a bit of lunch first. I nipped out to the shop to get some yoghurt, and made a yummy plate with chopped apple and grapes, with some muesli. Stew opted for a banana sandwich. We bumped into Akbar again, just as we were heading out around 1.30pm, asking where we were going. He thought it was too hot to wander round the fort, but we felt quite comfortable, and I’d remembered to take the brolly with me too. Bam is quite a dusty place this time of year, and lots of evidence of rebuilding since the devastating earthquake of 2003 (that destroyed a lot of the citadel too)….but its such a hodge podge, and so many buildings less than half finished. Small shops fronts opened onto the street, doing all kinds of trade, engineering, fabrication, (we saw some right contraptions) car servicing, tyres and car wash, then small grocers and a couple of eating places too. But there must be a good water supply, deep channels down the street were flowing with pretty clear water, and diverted for irrigation. There were a good amount of palm trees and surprisingly one of the main boulevards was lined with huge old gum trees – Wonder who and when those were planted?

It was definitely siesta time, the roads were so devoid of traffic and most of the shops were closed, but that made for a much more peaceful afternoon out. It was a good 40 minute walk up to the castle, and here again it was almost deserted. We found a couple of guys wearing the UNESCO symbol sleeveless top, and one took us across to a cabin to buy a couple of tickets. Another guy, checked them and took them off us, as we made our way across the dry moat to the entrance.

There was a cool water fountain, and though we weren’t really hot, we thought we’d start with a cold dink. In fact there was quite a bit of cloud cover developing, and with distant rumbles of thunder, it looked like it could even be raining in the mountains. As we stepped onto the old cobbled laneways amongst the adobe (mud-straw) buildings it was quite something else. The site was huge and way up ahead on a high rocky plateau the impressive castle dominated the sky line. The atmosphere was quite dramatic, so quiet and tranquil, letting your mind fill with imagining the throngs of people who lived, worked and passed through here.

The ingenuity in the build was so impressive, and it was such a warren of spaces – rooms were exposed, with domed roofs gone, yet you could still make out doorways, windows, and even some of the air chimneys, to catch the desert wind and cool the rooms. There were mosques, and Jewish quarters, a bazaar, and caravanserai, noblemens houses, stables and military quarters – and up into the fortress – yet it all had to be maintained, and so easily lost to bad weather and storms.

The earthquake had damaged so much of what was there, so a decade of reconstruction had been underway. The whole place was such a mix of total devastation, props to try prevent further losses, and very impressive reconstructions. A work in progress, and almost a living recreation, as old methods were in use and evident with the restoration work.

It was so much of the living earth, the only colours were of the clays and terracota. We were quite engrossed and wandered round much longer than we thought, time certainly was a little strange – we’d lost ourselves in there for over 2 hours. And in all that time we’d only seen 2 more groups of visitors; a Iranian family and 3 Chinese tourists. As we walked the streets back to Akbars, the town had roused again from its afternoon slumber – traffic was getting heavy, people were scooting about, and all the shops were open and plying their trade. We were on the look out for a car spares place, and soon came across one. The owner greeted us warmly in English. Stew had a small jubilee clip in hand, and asked for bigger ones. After two tries, he got the size he wanted, and then asked for two, and how much. Amazingly the man just smiled, and asked for nothing – saying you are welcome. Such good and generous deeds, really gives you quite a buzz, both in the receiving and in the giving, I imagine. So with many thanks and ‘Khordafez’, we wandered on. It was nearly 5pm before we made it back, and now we needed to see if we could get the pannier frame welded. We didn’t even bother with helmets, as we’d seen a couple of welding shops just up the road. So we  climbed on Fritz and headed out again. Stew pulled over at one workshop, where a guy was welding a door frame on the footpath outside the shop (without a mask, and only a small shield of glass). We parked up and climbed off, Stew showing the broken frame. The man soon stopped his work, looked at the frame and set to work, with Stew giving a hand.

The bike was drawing a crowd, and other guys in the workshop wanted a photo too. It was all so friendly – job done, and again asking how much, the guy shook his head, and waved us on our way. So we’d accomplished quite a bit really, now we just needed a few supplies for dinner, and next pulled over by the larger minimarket we had shopped in yesterday. We were only in the shop 5 mins, picking up what we needed – tin of tomatoes, some grated cheese, fresh pida bread, and lemon-bir, but by the time we came out the bike was surrounded again; and so with smiles and greetings we soon had a couple more guys sitting on the bike taking photos again.

Once we got back to our room, we first enjoyed a 10 min rest and the cold lemon-bir. Stew then spent a half hour getting the bike frame all back together, and we packed up both side boxes, strapping the luggage on too, ready for the morning. It was dropping dark fast outside, so I didn’t recognise a new guest who had arrived. He came across and spoke to us – it was the Portuguese guy we’d met changing money in Tabriz! He had actually grown quite a beard and tash, since we last saw him, and he looked so different. He was just heading out for a walk. Well, we couldn’t pack the back box, until we had finished cooking later, as the frying pan is packed in there. So I then got the photos off the camera, and we did a bit of online work. Stew had it already in his head, that we needed to get in an application to (re)-import the bike back into Oz. So we had a quick look, and it was a painful process, better to start now. I managed to get the online registration done, and application submitted ($50) – it could take a while, as there were issues with the small VIN number, and that we didn’t have an Oz ID plate.

After that we were both getting hungry, so got all our gear together and headed off to the kitchen area. Stew soon had a yummy spag bog on the go, and I headed down to the corner shop to get some water, lemon-bir and crisps. There was a parade going on along the street, marching drumming and flag waving. There were definitely some festivities happening, as there was quite a group of Iranian’s around, family with a couple of boys and girls too, when I got back.

And by the time we sat down to eat, a group of 4 western guests walked back in, Jerry (Irish), a Swiss couple and Huey, the Portuguse guy – they were all preparing to go out for the evening, to see the religeous gym event. So they chatted a while with us before they headed off, with some local Iranians (friends of Akbar). We really weren’t interested to go along, the chanting and drumming has been going on all week out in the streets, So we finished our meal, washed and cleared away the dishes, then headed back to our room, finishing off the evening with an hour of reading and writing.

Another good nights sleep, only waking with the gurgling plumbing when the new neighbours got up to the bathroom. The room was quite dark, but it was nearly 7am, so we got up to make some tea, and also start the last of the packing at the same time. Heading outside the morning was quite fresh and overcast, with quite a breeze – we wanted to get everything strapped to the bike before sitting down for some breakfast. We were the only ones around, but Akbar soon appeared and brought out some bread, cheese jam and dates. Fresh hot tea was already brewed. I also had my own supply of yoghurt and fruit, making a nice tasty small bowl up. The Portuguese guy, Huey, was up and joined us at the table – Akbar had dissappeared again, so we shared what food their was, and not 5 mins later Akbar returned with fresh supplies from the shop. We wanted to get on the road, so I asked Akbar for the bill and paid up. Then jackets and helmets on, Akbar opened the gates and we were on our way, by 8.30am. First stop was a garage, to fuel up. We just weren’t sure of other stations between here and Zahedan, 300 km away. We were soon out on the highway on a quiet Friday morning (the holy day for Muslims in Iran, so no work day), and had quite a decent leisurely run. The landscape was harsh and relentless; desolate, dark flat desert scrub for the first 100 km. The early morning cloud was already burning off and the temperature climbing. The passing scenery was interspersed with a few interesting features; along one section a huge boulder area, and every few kilometers there was a citadel tower (not sure of their purpose, as they were quite new), and also a couple of parking prayer canopies. There was also a huge plume of black smoke, we couldn’t work out what was burning, and  a lovely old ruin of a fort on a hilltop.

The road was pretty good, and not much traffic around today – but it switched between single lane to dual carriageways on and off, as you could see more road under construction alongside. It would be all dual carriageway when finished, but with a strong breeze the single carriageway sections had us buffeted all over when the big tankers passed in the opposite direction. There really was not much in between, except today we did pass a group of camels by the roadside – and I managed to snap a coupe of photos.

Eventually the flat land gave way to a much more scenic rocky drive, as the road wound over the colourful mountain range. At one police checking point (no one was checking) – there was supposed to be petrol, but we didn’t find any. We’d already covered 100 miles, and Stew managed to find the only shady spot by the road, so we could get a 5 minute leg stretch. We should have enough to make it to Zahedan, but were also glad to find another station at a small village 100 km out. The pump attendant was genial, and asked the usual, but now also where was our police escort – we were definitely getting nearer to border. We said from Zahedan (Maybe!)….

Then there was another police check around 20 km before Zehadan, and this time we were stopped, standing out like sore thumbs as tourists. The military dressed guy, asked for our passports and took them across to a cabin, motioning for us to park the bike up.

We were motioned inside, with a few English words – but all very polite and friendly. Pretty much process, I imagine – There was no problem, and having established we were going to Pakistan, were family (married), and that we were going to the Zahedan Tourist Hotel, they photocopied our passports, and wished us welcome in Iran, and told there were no Daesh Iran, handed our passports back and on our way. The next junction was a huge roundabout, and with another petrol station, we decided we’d top up again. It was still another 100 km to the border crossing, which we would be tackling tomorrow. For now I was navigating our way through the large city (Zahedan is the capital of the province), following lines on the GPS; in relation to the sketch map I’d drawn, to locate the ITTI tourist hotel. I managed to get us straight there, passed the big ‘Grand Hotel’, along passed the railway station, and then right at the next roundabout, where we spotted the tourist hotel signs and the hospital opposite. We’d soon pulled up inside the walled and gated compound. It was quite a large area, set in spacious garden grounds, and several buildings.

Parking up and heading inside, we were soon greeted by a softly spoken young female receptionist, and with the help of the phrase book, we were able to get a room sorted. She also asked to take our photo, and of course we obliged. The room was not in the main building (they were full), but in a separate area with ‘cute’ adobe cabins, but it would do us fine and we could park the bike up right outside.

It wasn’t in prime condition, but had all the essentials, and was quite spacious inside too. There was a large shower room separate to the toilet, and the main bedroom (2 single beds), also had a couple of chairs and coffee table, with cups and glasses. There was an old (working) fridge on top of which was sat an equally old tube TV – with only one English speaking news channel (PressTV), much of the rest were all religious indoctrination. We soon got our gear organised, put perishables in the fridge, and got some water on to boil to make a brew, and a sandwich lunch from our supplies. Stew read his book a while, as I sorted out our papers, that we’d need for the border tomorrow. We needed to get some photocopies of the bike rego, our passports and Stew’s driving licence. So we headed off to the main lobby around 3pm, also taking our iPad and laptop, as we could only access wifi in the lobby. There was now a middle aged male receptionist, who spoke a few words of English, but I think we were reasonably well understood. We asked about the police escort to the border, and were told ‘yes, it was needed, and what time’ – we asked for 8am, after breakfast (at 7am). We then asked to get our papers photocopied, and that was no problem, so we managed to get 2 copies of everything, and when we asked ‘how much’, we were greeted with a warm smile and indicated there was no charge; so nice. The lobby – dining area behind reception was quite large, and quiet with few other guests around, so we made ourselves comfy on one of the big sofas, and managed to get on the slow wifi for a couple of hours. We only headed back to our room when we were ready for another brew, making mugs of coffee and a couple of digestive biscuits. Stew got back into his book, while I got out the GPS and SD card, so I could transfer across the maps for Pakistan. I had to head outside to do a bit of checking, and did find Quetta and Karachi, so at least we could get going. I then checked the water supply in the bathroom – it wasn’t really hot, but it was warm enough for me to shower, and freshen up. Stew wasn’t too sure, he thought he might leave it till the morning. And then we got ready to head back to the main lobby, and see what we could get for dinner. It was already quite dark, and we could hear the drum beats off in the city, for more of the Muslim festivities. Even though it was after 7pm there was no one else dining, and the only other guests we could see was another western couple, sitting on the big sofa in front of the TV. There was a waiter overseeing the dining area, and a long table was set up with a buffet spread. We approached with ‘salaam’ and found he spoke English quite well. We could have the buffer for 100,000 rials, a good selection of pickles, salads, tdzadziki, bread and soup.

There was more on offer, fish and kebab, but we both decided the buffet would be fine. There was no lemon-bir in the fridge, but there was mango, so we had that for a change (not bad but a bit sweet). So we sat a good ¾ hr, enjoying the meal and surroundings as best we could (as we really had no idea what the next few days held in store for us). Back in the room Stew now checked the shower water, and declared it was too cold – so he just washed through his shirt, it looked so much brighter, and hopefully would be dry by morning. We were checking round for light switches, as we couldn’t switch off the main room light, so in the end Stew said unscrewed the light bulb when we were ready for bed. Then we both set alarms, hopefully for 6am, so we’d have time for a morning cuppa, before heading off to brekkie at 7am.

Stew didn’t sleep too well, awake well before dawn, and checking the time. He dozed on till the alarm went off at 6am. We made a cuppa and then started packing up again. Stew had a shower too. We got everything strapped on the bike, and into our riding gear getting to breakfast just before 7am. We parked the bike right in front of the lobby, so that the police would find it easily. The young female receptionist was working again, and we checked that the police would be here at 8am, she said yes, and that we should go for breakfast. There were quite a few other guests eating, including the quiet western couple we’d seen last night, and a group of tourists in the lobby (they looked like a bus load). The bike was drawing quite a bit of attention, no problem for looking, as we found a table to enjoy breakfast. It was a reasonable buffet, and Stew spotted some decent fried eggs, so had one. I was happy with the bread, cheese and jam; and several small cups of nescafe, with warm milk (quite a treat). We were ready in plenty of time, and went to check-out, handing in the key and paying for last nights meals. A police car and motorbike arrived on time, and with pleasant greetings, we were asked for our passports (We didn’t get them back for most of the day), and were soon waved off the premises, being motioned to follow the small police motorbike.

It was the start of a quite incredible day, with lots of friendly, curious meetings with various police personal (all male, and of various ages and seniority), lots of waiting around, not sure what was happening, lots of paper work, and ledger filling, and generally being quite well looked after.

The drives were lots of stops and starts, and so in the day we covered a grand total of 75 kilometers. The first was only around 5 km out of town to the local police station. A crowd of around 7 came out, looking at the bike, and checking our passport details and where we were going. The person in charge was writing all the details down on a folded A4 sheet of paper that we followed round all day. There were phone calls made, and we were motioned to wait. So we parked up the bike, and started in some conversation – with some jokes made about the police Honda CG125 bikes compared to ours. A little English was spoken, our few Farsi words and the phrase book made all the difference. There were quite a few young guys, all uniformed and reasonably tidy, but clearly well used, and all carrying weapons too. We were introduced, so there was a Hussein, an Ali, and Ali Akbar, Muhammed and (I don’t remember). The bike stickers were quite a talking point, and we were asked when we were in Iraq – I wrote 1990 in Arabic on my note book. We were asked how we liked Iran (at this and all other stopping places in the day), and where we had been. Hussein was so impressed when we said we’d stayed in Takestan, which was his home town as a boy. We were also asked how old we were, and they were quite impressed with that too, then onto family and children – and more smiles as Stew was able to show them a photo on his iPhone of Lacey in Police uniform 🙂 We ended up sitting in the shade by the wall, as it was going to take some time. Hussein told us that their Interpol, were coming to escort us to the border and we had to wait. So we sat patiently waiting, eventually getting our books out to read, and we saw through one change of staff shift too. Stew asked to take a photo too, which was no problem.

Everyone was so friendly, and  after things had quietened one of the young officers, more quietly spoken made some conversation in quite good English. He told me he was from Mashd, and I even got the map out so we could look, and he asked where we had been, so I showed him the countries on the bike, and where we had driven in Iran too. He said he had a wife a 5 month old son in Mashd. He worked 3 months at the station here, then got 1 month back home. He was appologetic for not knowing how long we would have to wait.

It was almost 2.5 hrs before a desert camouflage Toyota landcruiser pickup arrived, two persons in the cab and 2 riding in the open top. There were greetings all round, our paper and passports were handed over, and we were soon waved off, ‘Mote shekirm, Khor dafez’ as we headed down the road. Thankfully the day was not too hot, there was a decent breeze and we were both feeling quite comfy – and exhilarated as we were heading towards a new frontier. The landscape was quite splendid, open desert flanked by colourful rocky mountains. It was only 55 km to the last border town in Iran, Mirjaveh, by which time we’d passed two more police checks. Before we got to the border command post, we’d changed escorts no less than 4 times; First the local police to their station, then the first border police to their desert station, here we were pulled in again, the papers handed to the next team (It almost felt like a relay race).

They took us as far as border command, where they switched again to a final crew to take us the last 5 km to the border transit area. The border command post was the longest stop, as all our papers had to be checked, but again we were greeted with so many friendly, interested patrol men. We were then on the final approach to the transit area – our last view of Iran and first glimpse of Pakistan

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