Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 180 Persepolis - Shiraz

I woke up completely relaxed after sleeping like a shah. Perfect condition for visiting great great Persepolis. One of the most important sights of antiquity. Build to impress. Still works. Even though most of it was ruined by Alexanders troops. Dont wanna described everything, go there and see yourself!
Back at the hotel I got really afraid of that Behrooz-guy - he seems to have his spies everywhere! Without warning the girl at the reception gave me her cellphone with him on the line - I was very surprised how he could find me this way. It turned out that his fiance is good friends with the reception girl and that she recognised the hotel at my blog (must have been due to the pelicans).
Around noon I said goodbye to the pelicans and started cycling. Easy ride. Shortly before sunset I rolled into Shiraz, the city of poetry and wine - though the latter not anymore. I found a very nice hotel, very similar to the one in Yazd. I just relaxed, read a bit and finally had dinner under the jealous eyes of a very very dangerous beast.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 179 Pasargad - Persepolis

Woohoo, today I checked in at the most expensive accomodation in Iran so far. 300000 Rials! That is after negotiating/flirting with the reception ladies!
But I reside like a king. Literally! That place was built by order of the shah for the head of states attending the 2500 year of Persian monarchy celebration in 1971. It is about 250m from the entrance of Persepolis. It is very comfortable. And it even features a pool with swans, pelicans, flamingoes and other strange waterfowl at the entrance. Totally worth spending 16,66€ !

The day had already started very good. After a cold night (-4°C in-tent) I got invited into Simon and Anettes yellow bus for delicious pancakes and coffee. Later Siggi started to explore the surroundings, including my luggage, my guitalele and my tent. I got a bit jealous: I barely fit in horizontally, but he can stand upright in it!
The ride was very scenic today. Basically I made a big S through a wide river valley. Yep, there are rivers here again - real ones, with water and stuff. Seems that I finally made it out of the desert. The landscape would have been quite suitable for some apaches and cowboys riding along.
I stopped at a shrine when the infamous yellow bus drove by and stopped for a saying goodbye. The shrine itself was closed, but the deserted and very chaotic graveyard was interesting. At some point the valley turned into a wind channel - no matter which way I went, I always had headwind. But no problem, I was not in a hurry. Shortly before arriving at Persepolis I had a quick detour to the huge rock tombs of Naqhs-e Rostam - most probably the tombs of such great names as Darius I & II, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I. Interestingly these ones are facing south - while the entrance to the tomb of their predecessor Cyrus the Great in Pasargad never receives any sunlight.
I arrived at Persepolis at sunset. I will explore the site tomorrow morning, this evening I will just relax and enjoy my kingly accomodation.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 178 Deh Bid - Pasargad

Yesterday evening I stupidly hurt myself by coming to close to the heater - now I have a branding the size of a 2€ coin on my left shank, autschn!
But I also got a christmas phonecall from my family and I was happy to hear that everyone is doing well and all my christmas gifts have arrived.
I got up late and I could still very much feel yesterdays exhaustion. Fortunately todays cycling was easy, relatively short and except for one small mountain mostly downhill. On the way a car with an iranian family stopped and I explained my whereabouts in my few words of Farsi. I arrived in Pasargad around 2.30, giving me enough time to explore the ancient site. The most impressive building is the tomb of Cyrus, strangely reminding me of pyramids in Palenque and other places in nowadays Mexico. The rest of the huge area contains some ruined palaces - very much ruined, except for 1 column only stubs are left.
I asked at the ticket office and was allowed to pitch my tent at the entrance - a very luxurious camp spot with toilets and 24h security. Moreover when I got out of the trent somewhen in the evening a yellow VW bus with German licence plate parked close by: English Simon, German Anette and their son Siggi initially wanted to go to India but as they expect their second child they will slowly go back home. I am pretty sure that I had seen their bus in Cappadocia.
They invited me into their comfortable vehicle and we spent the evening with good conversation, good food and good music by Bach.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 177 Abarquh - Deh Bid

A day of high and lows. I started very angry but I got some christmas presents on the way, yay!
When I had packed my stuff and my bike was ready for leaving I wanted to take a small breakfast and get going as soon as possible. I had no time to lose as I wanted to go over 100km by over 1000m altitude today. But the problem was: all the hotel staff was absent. I searched and shouted and searched and shouted. I would have left without paying, but they still had my passport. After half an hour another guest showed me where the hotel guy was sleeping - in a place where he must have heard me shouting. I left unbreakfasted and very angry. Maybe not so bad, as the anger gave me a fast start. My mood brightened when I stopped for a coffee and cooked at a shop and soon received my first christmas present - a guy just gave me a bag with a can of apple syrup and a can of Istak Lemon accompanied by the words, that I should not forget the Iranian people once I get back home. This guy literally made my day!
I cycled on much happier. In Surmaq the road met the main highway between Esfahan and Shiraz - it had a wide shoulder, perfect for cycling (much better than the small road before Surmaq). From here on the big climb started - and as my second christmas gift I received a massive tail wind blowing me up the mountain. However I had not reckoned that there would be nothing (no village, no shop) the next 40km until the top, so halfway I stupidly ran out of water. That plus the exhaustion from the last days made the climb very difficult. I had to stop and rest several times. Fortunately one car driver stopped and offered me my third christmas gift: a cup of tea and some date-like things (my farsi was not comprehensive enough to understand his explanations on what it was) - this really helped a lot. Close to the top the wind got even stronger and more chaotic - one time I was blown of the bike and just fell sidewards, as I could not get out of the click pedals fast enough. I decided to push my bike for some time until the wind became more steady from the back and helped me to finally reach the top. There was a shop and I took a rest and drank a lot of water. The rest of the ride was easy - despite the wind had turned to headwind I could roll downhill. I was not sure if there would be accomodation in Deh Bid, but fortunately I met the right guy at a shop: he is a painter working in a yet-to-be-opened hotel, which already has one more or less finished room. I immediately took possession of it and was very happy to have a warm place to rest.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 176 Urdunuk - Abarquh

Christmas in the desert !
I awoke in my own little mud fort. Even though it got close to 0 in
the night, during breakfast it got so warm that I did not even need my
jacket anymore. As I had mastered the big mountain yesterday I could
start slowly with an extensive breakfast and a lot of time to pack my
tent. Once I got going it went very fast - more or less the whole day
was a long descent. However not much to see on the way. Basically
nothing. But it was easy, sunny and warm. I arrived early in Abarquh
and had time enough to do a cycle tour through the city after
unloading my luggage at the hotel. As if Abarquh had known that I
would come on that day it prepared its sights: the very christmas-tree
shaped huge ice house and a more than 4000 year old cypress. I will
try to find a decent place for a vegetarian christmas dinner now -
uuuh, that is a very difficult task in Iran.
Happy, peaceful, lovely Christmas to you all !

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 175 Yazd - Urdunuk

It was well worth waiting some days in Yazd - this gave us (Yannik, Erick, Marek) the chance to leave Yazd in a triumphal procession of more than 100 cyclists. All of them on the way to a professional mountain bike race in the outskirts of Yazd. Of course we stuck out a bit with our heavily loaded bicycles and many many fellow cyclists wanted to talk to us.
The way to the bike race also was the last I cycled together with Yannik with whom I spent most of my time in Iran - we did more than 1000km together. Yannik will go deeper into the desert to Kerman, while I took the western road towards Shiraz. It was kind of strange to be alone on the road again. But after so many rest days my legs definitely needed some exercise. About 35km from Yazd I came across some old cave dwellings which would have made a nice camping spot - but I had a huge mountain in front of me and I wanted to get to the other side today, so I kept on cycling. Soon I could see the famous eagle mountain, which really looks a lot like an eagle. Despite the many rest days the ascend to the pass got pretty exhausting - even though it was not very steep, it was more than 1500m uphill - and at over 2600m it was the highest point I reached by bicycle so far. Fortunately I am much more south than at my last high pass in Armenia - here the snow did not even get down to the pass. I reached the top around sunset. A very beautiful sunset. Very very beautiful during the fast descent. I had planned to go until Deh Shir and try to sleep in a mosque or a restaurant, but shortly before I came across an old fort/caravanserai at the highway - I am not sure about its initial purpose as it was already pretty dark when I arrived, but it is for sure a perfect camping spot. Not having planned to camp before reaching the town I had to ration my water for cooking and drinking a bit, but I should have enough to survive the night. While cooking some pasta with beans (accidently as I opened the wrong can) I started to marvel at the magnificant desert night sky, nearly devoid of light pollution. There are so many stars visible here that it is hard to find some common star signs. Of course I found Orion, which is sleeping here - it is nearly laying on its side here. I spent a considerable part of the evening trying to imagine an astronomical model explaining this phenomenon. I came to the conclusion that it should have to do something with me being more south and nothing with me being more east. However for a comprehensive explanation my brain would need access to all the blood which is still in my legs after a long day of cycling.
Or maybe you can help ? Write me a thorough explanation why Orion is (nearly) laying on its left side here and win a wonderful, beautiful, splendid postcard from Iran!!!