Month: October 2016

Today we have our 3rd evening in the Emirates and it feels like we have been here already for weeks.

arriving-in-sharjah

On 27/10 we finally arrived at the harbor of Sharjah and after a very unorganized passport control, we were allowed to enter this amazing country.

nice-skyscrapers

Huge skyscrapers were accompanying us alongside the roads to our Ibis Styles hotel and after checking in, we could park our bikes in the garage.

our-hotel parking-garage

After settlement we took a taxi to Linda, a school friend of Maurice and were invited to meet her local friends in the desert for a delicious BBQ.

jeep-wrangler-sport safety-first

Those guys & Marie are members of a Jeep Wrangler Sport association and drive their pimped cars through the desert dunes. The meat and shrimps were cooked to perfection and a welcome alternative to all the kebab with rice in Iran?. It wasn’t until 3 o’clock in the night before we were heading to our hotel again.

bbq-in-the-desert

Yesterday we made a backup of all our pictures and Marie & her ‘shababs’ (Arabic for guys) decided to show us how to drive a 412 hp Jeep over the huge dunes in the desert close to the border of Oman.

jeeps-in-the-desert

What an experience!!! It takes you about a year to learn how to drive in this funny environment and bring back the Jeep without too much damages.

hmsm-reunion-in-the-desert

Linda and Nicolas (another school friend of Maurice from Hotel Management School Maastricht and both employed in the Emirates) joined us during the long dune rally and we were very impressed by the skills of the 6 drivers. Of course there was tea (zaatar) somewhere in the middle of the desert and we could also witness a flat tire and a Jeep which needed a little tow to move on.

tea-time

 

It was already dark when we returned to the normal street (there is a tire inflating service, because you have to release the pressure to 6-7 psi for sand driving).

only-6-psi-for-sand-driving

Together with Linda and Nicolas, we ate a huge tomahawk steak in the Hide before we left for our hotel and a very very deep sleep ?.

the-steak

This morning after breakfast we dived into the Persian Gulf wich has a superb temperature at this moment. Surrounded by the famous Burj Khalifa (with 829 meters the highest building in the world) and the Burj Al Arab Hotel (for only $ 50.000,-/Penthouse/night the most expensive hotel in the world with 7 stars), we had a real relaxing day off and now it’s time to prepare already for our next track.

beach-with-burj-al-arab

We bought already some survival food and tomorrow we will start biking to the north of the Emirates and Oman to return in about one week to Dubai again in order to meet with bikers from the Yas cycles association. They will guide us to the luxury Westin hotel in Abu Dhabi, where we are kindly invited to stay for two days!

If you think you can rely on the time tables given by the Iranian ferry company to Dubai, you’re wrong! The time table you find on the internet is just indicative and depends on the weather, the season, the number of tickets sold, the faith and mood of the captain, ying/yang and a sniff of Chamber of Commerce… Long story short; the next ferry to Dubai will take off next week instead of tomorrow?. So we had to go for plan B, which meant to cancel our hotel, jump on our bikes a.s.a.p. and try to catch the bus of 12.00h to Bandar Abbas about 180km from Bandar Lengeh. We were just in time, covered in sweat (36°C and 80% humidity…) and the bus left only around 13.00h?

flat-dessert

It will take us 3 hours, plenty of time to write this post and reflect on our trip so far. It’s unbelievable how fast time flies when you’re biking and we never had a dull moment.

ronald-in-truck

Ronald: “One of my sisters asked me how I experience life without a busy agenda and long working days and what this does to me. The answer I provided surprised myself a little: I don’t miss anything or anybody because we’re that busy and overwhelmed from nature, different cultures, meeting a huge amount of local people, seeking for food and drinks and finding camping spots or other places to sleep. We don’t watch tv, have a poor access to internet and live by the day, which gives a great feeling of freedom and makes life indeed natural and simple. A nice example was our host the day before yesterday. When we entered Bastak, we should meet with a guy who invited us at his home. He said he would wait for us at the entrance of the village but we couldn’t find him. Then we asked for a hotel at the corner of the next street and were immediately invited by Aziz, to stay in his house: problem solved.”

maruice-with-aziz-in-bastak_bearbeitet-1

Maurice: “For me the real journey started once we left Vienna towards the Balkan Peninsula. In the 3 weeks before, our ‘holiday’ as we named them, I was more focused on getting into shape and get my body used to the extra weight on the bike.

After Austria we managed to bike through 8 countries in less than 3 weeks, leaving quite some impressions behind. The Austrian hunters in Slovenia and Kiro in Bulgaria are definitely on the short list.

Concerning the landscape, there was a lot of variety from green forests to dry corn fields. This is something we miss out ever since we left the Black Sea coast in Turkey. Now there were also a few things that surprised me about the balkans.

the-last-mountains

From Slovakia up until Turkey you are better off knowing the German language than the English. The differences, in terms of economy but also culture and people, you experience when crossing the borders are far greater than initially expected.

About Turkey I was pleasantly surprised. The country is full with nice and interested people, the food is great and for the sportive cyclist a dream.

water well in the desert

Iran is a country that I cannot compare to any other country I have visited so far. The hospitable mindset of the people is unheard of. Although having read several blogs about cyclists in Iran, who have been invited by families, it is different and a little overwhelming experiencing all of this at first hand. As Ronald mentioned, during the day we are focused on the essential needs of finding food and shelter. This paired with all the situations we get ourselves into ensures that we never have a dull moment.

All I can say, is that I am extremely grateful to have the privilege of experiencing all of this!!”

meeting-a-huge-amount-of-people

So now we’re heading to Bandar Abbas trying to get tickets for the ferry to Dubai for tomorrow evening. Curious how that’s going to turn out.

marice-at-harbor-bandar-abbas

We arrived in Bandar Abbas on time and asked for the right port of embarkation (Bandar Abbas is a huge harbor city with 6 different harbors). Nobody knew anything about a ship to Dubai; this was promising….

fishermen-bandar-abbas

Finally we found a guard who wrote the name of the ticket office in Farsi and it was no surprise at all to us that the ticket office for the ferry is downtown and not in the harbor area. Sounds logical, right??

ticket-office-bandar-abbass

Maurice saw the shipping agency first, went into the building and came back with two tickets to Dubai!! We even saved a lot of Rials and were rich again. Just to clarify; in Iran you can’t get any money out of an ATM with European cards. So you must take all the money, you suppose to spend, with you in cash.

budgetting-issues

Then when you pass the border you change your € or $ into Rials. Be aware of the exchange rates and ask at least 40.000,- Rial for €1,-. You become a millionaire right away?… It also means that you must stick to your daily budget, because you can’t get any extra money!

iranian-atm

Another phenomenal issue is the confusing Toman. The toman (from Mongolian tümen “unit of ten thousand”, is a superunit of the official currency of Iran, the rial. It was divided into 10,000 dinar. In 1825, the qiran was introduced, worth 1000 dinar or one tenth of a toman. In 1932, the rial replaced the toman at a rate of 1 toman = 10 rials (i.e., 1 rial = 1 qiran). Although the rial is the official currency of Iran, Iranians employ the term ‘toman’, meaning 10 rials. This means that when you ask for the price of something, the seller can say, for instance 6, 6.000 or 60.000. It all means you have to pay 60.000 rials, the official currency…
rial-or-toman-or-qiral

Today we have a relaxing day in our nice hotel, waiting for the embarkation at 18.00h. The ferry should weigh the anchor at 21.00h and than we can say a last emotional Khoda Hafez to Iran, a country you will never forget…

view-over-persian-gulf   leaving-iran-via-bandar-abbas

We had a nice and relaxed day off in Shiraz and after the obligatory laundry and bike maintenance, we had a hair cut and visited the Vakil bazaar and Karim Khan Citadel.

maintenance bazaar-vakil

ronald-at-barber-shop maurice-at-barber-shop karim-khan-citadel-shiraz

The day was completed with a dinner in our hotel restaurant Quattro, where a group of other Dutch people were joining us. The day after we moved on in the direction of Bandar Lengeh.

naked-mountains_bearbeitet-1 naked-mountains-2_bearbeitet-1

The altitude of Shiraz was already lower and the average temperature accordingly higher, but we were still very much surprised to see a lot of palm trees and Mediterranean sceneries on our way to Lar.

first-palm-tree

It was almost too good to be true to set up our tent under the palm trees, but at the first knock on the door, we were warmly welcomed by Ahmed

ahmed-and-his-_bearbeitet-1

(the palm orchard boss and the proud owner of a self constructed BMW), where we stayed for the night in his cottage.

ahmed-and-his perfect-camping-spot

That night we ate fresh palm dates, almonds, walnuts and pomegranates with Amal, the Afghane employee. What a taste!!

fresh-dates-and-nuts-from-amal

Yesterday we had a nice day of biking, got invited for lunch and could have stayed for the night with at least 3 different families…, but decided to search for a nice camping spot in the middle of nowhere.

lunch-invitation

Until a motorist passed by and as curious as the Iranian people are, the guy inspected our tent, kept speaking in Farsi (not our most developed language yet), and witnessed how we prepared for diner. Only after Ronald took of his trouser and started changing clothes, he disappeared as fast as lightning and we finally got our privacy back?.

camping-in-the-middle-of-nowhere2_bearbeitet-1 camping-in-the-middle-of-nowhere_bearbeitet-1

This morning a herd of 150 goats, 1 donkey and 1 herdsman woke us at 6.30h, our regular time to get up.

lonely-donkey_bearbeitet-1

We had again a perfect track, met a lot of people underway and found a nice hotel in the new town of Lar (yes there is also an old town of Lar…).

old-lar-new-lar

The shower was refreshing, the internet terrible as always and the pizza and chicken a nice variation to all the kebab from the last days. The owner of the “Pizza Hut” spoke fluent English, as he worked in Qatar for 14 years, and refused any payment for our complete dinner and drinks; that’s the Iranian style from head to toe. They are really eager to modify the wrong (negative) image abroad and like to discuss this with every foreign visitor or tourist.

By the way, coming back to our previous post about the white Peugeots and blue Nissans… Underway you also find a huge number of Mercedes Benz trucks (usually with a orange nose) from before 1979 on the road. That was the year Khomeini took the power…

truck-from-before-1979_bearbeitet-2

Today we are enjoying a day off in Shiraz after biking 14 days in a row and several “wild” camping spots.

camping-in-the-dessert

The roads through the mountains in Iran were much higher then we imagined beforehand so it took us a little longer to overcome them; but what a tremendous views and sceneries!

magnificent-vieuw-4 magnificent-vieuw-3

Yesterday we reached Shiraz after a record breaking 174km of biking and we were truly happy to have found a hostel down town, where we had a great diner (with cappuccino!!!) and a perfect sleep ?.

shiraz-by-night

When you are on the road in Iran you will mainly see two types of cars; white Peugeots and blue Nissans… The white Peugeot (mostly type 405) is an Iranian built car and the government is protecting the market with huge taxes (> 100%) on other brands. This means you better remember exactly where you parked your car unless you want to spent hours trying to find your own Peugeot?.

 

withe-peugeots

Then the blue Nissans, also known as Saipa 25, are rather trucks than cars. They have a special rear axis enabling them to (over-)load the pick-up with everything you can imagine like, cows, sheeps (they travel both economy and business class), haystacks, gas cylinders, Cola, another blue Nissan, moving stuff, etc etc.

ronald-blue-nissan

The truck has been produced by Saipa Iran since February 1983 under the license of Nissan (the Nissan Junior was cancelled without a successor in Japan in 1982). We were happy to find a farmer who let us “drive” his blue Nissan?.

maurice-blue-nissan

As the truck is strong and versatile it has a positive image. The image of the drivers however, is bad to the bone; they have their own traffic rules and in short this means that you always have green light (no matter the actual color shown on the traffic light), holding distance is limited to a max of 5 cm and taking over is always possible, when not left then right over the street shoulder…. and oh yes, when you took the wrong exit on the high way, just turn your Nissan and become one of the many ghost drivers.

cookng-with-mehdi eating-falafel

As we mentioned in previous posts, the enthusiasm and hospitality of Iran is without limits, and we were very happy with the tour through Shar-e-kord guided by Mehdi with a typical Falafal offered by his nephew, a perfect camping spot at the Red Crescent…

camping-at-red-crescent  img_2667

… including tea and kebab, a free breakfast in Meymand, a tea from one of our dear blue Nissan drivers, 6 apples and a camping spot from Amir in Yasuj and all the different sounds of car and truck horns, pushing us to the top of each mountain.

magnificent-vieuw-1 magnificent-vieuw-2

Everybody is trying to have us one more day in order to show us the city or points of interest. We need all our persuasiveness to convince our hosts, that “the road is our goal” and that we need to bike further….

old-men

Maurice just arranged for the laundry and we decided to stay in the hostel one more night. After maintaining our bikes (we had our first flat tire by the way..), we will visit downtown Shiraz and go for a hair cut as well.

flat-tyre

Tomorrow starts our last track in Iran to Bandar Lengeh, where we will take the ferry to Dubai, just before our visa expires, on 26/10.

Linda, Nicolas and Oliver… here we come!!! ?

We are writing this post from a 2-room apartment with a separate shower and toilet in Chadegan. When we arrived we were seeking for “social garden” in the opinion we could set up our tent over there. Instead a nice old man gave his phone so we could speak to his daughter in English. She told us the price of 2 million Rial, which is about twice our daily budget.

appartment  garden

After we told her that the price is out of our range, she spoke with her dad again and he gave the apartment for free to fulfill his duty as Muslim. In the past ten days we were confronted with several ceremonies and processions related to the Muharram. This is a Shiitic Muslim tradition and connected to the mourning of the death of Imam Husayn some 1400 years ago…

another-beautiful-mosque  beautiful-mosque

In line with the tradition we were invited to drink tea or yoghurt-milk along the streets and two days ago we even visited a Mosque where we had lunch (Kebab with rice of course) with about 150 men, most of them dressed in black.

ronald-maurice-with-tea

 

Yesterday we tried a ‘Warm Shower’ host and this was a great success. Omid and his daughter Paniian were super hosts and they took us to a temporary Mosque, where we were treated as VIP guests and where we had the opportunity to talk to 3 different Imams.

ws-host-omid  lunch-in-the-mosque

Very interesting discussions with always the same red thread : “please be aware that we are normal people looking for peace and living together with anybody else, regardless the religion or ethnicity”. They set themselves apart from the extremists like the ones responsible for the attacks in Belgium and France. We closed the evening with a dinner in another Mosque with Abgoosht and yogurt-milk.

iman-in-mosque

We met a lot of people so far and always experienced a deep interest in our background: where are you from?, how old are you?, what is your profession?, are you father and son?, why are you biking?, what religion do you have?, how much does your bike cost?, how much do you earn?, where are you going to? and what’s your name are the top-10 questions…

with-group-of-friendly-people man-with-beard

Sooo Is everything only positive? Well no. Sometimes the overwhelming attention is a little too much (first world problems I guess). Then there are restrictions for some people to host us in their home (journalists for instance). The economy is very low, resulting in a high amount of unemployment (especially under young people). We also had an unpleasant experience with the police (one took our passports and stole a bag of chips of our bike and insisted that we were escorted to the next village. But it was already getting dark and finally we got everything back, thanks to a more friendly colleague). This in full contradiction to the previous contact we had with the police in Kabur Darahang, where a very polite officer, saved us from the crowd and escorted us to a perfect camping spot! The internet is censured and apps like YouTube, Flicker and Facebook are not working, although the president of Iran has his own FB-account?(if you know the right way you can bypass the censure with vpn).

grapes-gift friendly-people-in-mosque

To summarize we have had just one incidental negative experience so far and for the rest a great time with lovely people, proud of their country and with a overwhelming hospitality.

sunset-in-mountains

 

In this post we will try to describe (again) the unlimited hospitality of the Iranian people. After we left Tabriz we met bike traveler Nicolas from France. It appears that he had a German mother, like Maurice and that he was born in Guyancourt, the village where Ronald and Bettina lived during their stay in France in 1985 and 1986. We decided to bike that day together and set up our camp somewhere in the wilderness.

2nd-tent

The day after we biked until Miyanmeh together where Nicolas had a Warm-Shower appointment (WS is a worldwide organisation for providing bikers with a shower and a bed or camping spot). We went on for another 25 km and finally asked at a Red Crescent (Arabic equivalent of Red Cross) station whether we could put our tent in their backyard.

half-moon

Instead we were invited into the station itself and rescuers moved their stuff from the bedroom to enable us to sleep over there. Of course the tea, a warm shower and discussions were included!

half-moon-2

Next day after a perfect breakfast with truckers, we headed to Zanjan. A beautiful track brought us to this 400.000 inhabitants city and during our search for a suitable camping spot, we saw a green oasis after a railway viaduct.

stone-bridge

Ronald went under the viaduct and was immediately invited for tea. This was a farm from the family Houshyar (father, mother, 4 sons and 4 daughters).

farmer-family

We were invited for dinner (cooked on a fire pit), got a sleeping place under the clear sky…

sleeping-beauty

and the morning after, breakfast was served with a large part of the family.

breakfast

We had very nice talks with them and they even invited Farah who speaks perfectly English, in order to understand everything. After several pictures and saying goodbye, we headed for our goal of the day, Qeydar. We stopped for an Internet cafe in Sotaniyeh and a 17-years old boy asked us for lunch, because he wanted to improve his knowledge of Europe and the English language. Long story short, we had a great lunch with Saleh, his father Hosein and his grandma. Just before entering the city Qeydar, a men named Hassan was stopping us and called his friend Ali, that he has found us… Ali was underway to his work in Zanjan as he saw us biking on the other side of the road. He called Hassan to take care of us with diner etc. and invited us to sleep in his house. We were flabbergasted that without asking anything, our evening was already planned and settled!

safe-camping-spot_bearbeitet-1

This morning we woke up in our tent in Kabud Ahang and don’t think it was easy to stay finally one night in our tent. We entered Kabud and were directed to a park for a camping spot. Again we were invited to sleep and eat at someones home. After we made clear that we were grateful, but wanted to sleep the night on our own, a group of 20 “advisers” were discussing our situation. Eventually a very nice police officer, recognized the situation and under his supervision, we were “escorted” to a safe and quiet place for our tent. There was even a guard who took care of our bikes and brought us tea in the morning.

the-guard_bearbeitet-1

Iran is still amazing us every day and we can only confirm the image of great hospitality!!

Just a short note from the administrators of this blog…

While waiting desperately for the next post we could fix the photo issue! We are happy to announce that now all photos from the map are to be found under PHOTOS again, where you are able to watch them more closely. Just scroll down and find it out!  😉

More news from Iran will follow as soon as “more internet” is available.

Yesterday we left Tabriz, after 2 days off, and with pain in our heart. It was sad to say goodbye to our new friend Omid who introduced us to his family and close friends and showed us the insides of Tabriz. But the memories are great! When we approached Tabriz on Sunday evening,

first-dinner

Omid was already waiting on the road to guide us with flashing lights to his very nice apartment. We were offered a warm shower and our own bedroom to spend the three nights. The same evening we were invited for diner together with his wife Azade and friends Mohamadreza and Sahar. The restaurant was situated on a hill overlooking the city. To finalize a tremendous evening, tea and baklava was offered at home.

bazaar-2     bazaar

Next morning after breakfast we headed downtown to visit the famous bazaar ( the biggest covered bazaar in the world and protected by UNESCO) and changed our Euros for Rials against a fair ratio this time… After that, we were impressed by the Constitutional Revolution Museum, we visited with our host.

constitutional-revolution-museum

Next stop was the blue Mosque, who lost a lot of color due to heavy earthquakes in the past. Lunch was served in a traditional bazaar restaurant with kebab and yoghurt.

blue-mosque

Then we drank coffee in an extremely modern shopping mall. Ronald needed a belt (lost too much weight…) and we bought some extra baklava for the tea time at home. In the evening we were invited by Siyamak and Masha for Italian food, which was a nice variation to the kebabs we ate so far. In the evening we met the father of Omid, a very warm and wise person and a famous surgeon in Tabriz. Of course there was tea and a couple of new friends to talk with. And this was only day one…???

Next morning Azade prepared our breakfast so we could relax and take time to change the chain on Maurice’s bike and change oil in the gearbox of Ronald’s bike. After checking all bolts and nuts, the tires and brakes, we were ready to move to Kandovan.

bike-maintenance-tabriz

Underway we were invited for a traditional lunch called Abghoost. A hot boiling pot with meat, vegetables, spices and beans is served with bread. This bread is used to adsorb the bouillon and than you should mash all the remaining ingredients to a paste. It’s absolutely delicious!!

 

ronald-eting-on-the-ground maurice-etentje_

Kandovan is a place (again under protection of UNESCO) where people built their houses inside the remains of a volcanic rupture. The reason is that it isolates perfectly both in the warm summers and cold winters. After a tea we headed to our apartment to prepare for our route to Bandar Lengeh. Thanks to the directions of Omid we will have a safe and beautiful track. The next invitation was waiting for us because Masha insisted on cooking the traditional Kofte for us. After nice discussions, piano music and again gorgeous food (and tea…) we went completely overwhelmed to bed.

kofte

Then it was time to say goodbye and move on with our trek. We like to thank Omid for introducing the Iranian way of living, the culture, the traditions, his family and friends to us. We will never forget this and are enjoying our stay in Iran even more and with a lot of extra and positive knowledge.

Taashaaktor and Goda Hafez!!