Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No landscape day 151 Qazvin - Buin Zahra

Today: no landscape. Really, no landscape at all! Just following a very straight street through a plain. Very plain. No hills, no trees, nothing. Pretty boring actually. The only excitement came in the late afternoon. We decided to try our luck with camping and just wanted to go quickly into the city center of Buin Zahra to shop for some food - however wherever we stopped a crowd surrounded us and started talking to us in Farsi or more-or-less understandable English. Most of them were actually very nice but it took us a long time to get out of town. So we put up our tents during sunset just beyond the city limits close to the highway. We cooked pasta with pretty good aubergine-garlic sauce and after dinner soon retreated to our tents because outside it was just getting too cold. Let's hope it won't get too bad tonight.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 150 Qazvin

Rest day! Sleeping, eating, relaxing!
Surprisingly we still got some things done - after some organizational errands (money change, recharge mobile...) we had a look around Qazvin. On the first view it looked like just another iranian city - many shops, busy traffic etc. But we found some very beautiful parts of town. The basar is very atmospheric and it contains a very nice central place with a mosque and 4 magnificant iwans (portals). On the basar I even found some metal parts which I could misuse to repair my front carrier - it looks pretty adventurous but according to my theory it should work - I am really curious if I am right.
After crossing the basar and some asking around we found a hamam. In Turkey there was one in every small town, but in Iran they are much rarer. After so many so cold days we were very happy to find this one. It was not as splendid and not even as warm as the ones in Turkey but it had a great massage master. He took the term 'full-body massage' very seriously - he used his full body: standing with his feet on your back or legs while massaging with his hands. He certainly knew what he was doing and we felt seriously relaxed when afterwards we had tea and chat/farsi-learning-session with some local men. We only got out of the hamam after sunset. I quickly fixed my front carrier while Yannik aquired a less wild look at a barber. The rest of the evening we spent at a coffeenet and with eating and trying out more flavours of iranian non-alcoholic beer. While 'Tropic' and 'Exotic' are exactly as bad as you would expect from any drink with such label pomegranade is actually pretty good.

Day 149 Abhar - Qazvin

When we looked out of the window it still looked cold - but when we got on the bikes it soon felt considerably warmer. I guess we finally made it out of the very cold zone, yeah ! We started very late because we got up too late, we had a long breakfast and afterwards a price discussion at the hotel - we finally found an agreement around 10.30.
While I was happily cycling, enjoying the warmer weather and the sun my front carrier broke once again. It was not too bad - I could cycle on - but it still does not feel very safe to me. Maybe I can fix it somehow in Qazvin, let's see. During the ride the wide valley opened up and we finally rode along a huge plain. There was not much to see around - just the normal pictures of the Ayatollas and the Martyrs in each town on the road. People however were very friendly - we again were invited several times (and turned down the offers as we wanted to get to Qazvin before sunset). Once we had fought our way through the city traffic and found a hotel we just relaxed, had a big dinner, quickly went to an internet cafe and organized some more food - the best from our respective countries: Swiss fit muesli (which turned out to be very good) and Non-alcohic Bitburger with Tropical flavour (which turned out to be rather strange).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 148 Zanjan - Abhar

I caught him! Some days ago in Bostanabad I was told about a swedish
cyclist going to Oman just two days ahead of me.
We met on the way to Soltaniyeh - worlds greatest brick dome. Yannik turned
out to be swiss - not swedish - but the other details were correct.
I had started in Zanjan after goodbye-breakfast with Mahdi and Elohe. Arya
was still sleeping. Maybe this made the farewell a bit easier - yesterday
he did not really want to let me and Trabant go.
According to the weather report it was the coldest day so far: -8° in the
morning. But there was no single cloud and the sun made it bearable. I was
focused at the huge dome of Soltaniyeh in the distance when I heard someone
shouting from the other side of the road - Yannik had already visited the
sight and was on his way back to the highway. He waited for me while I was
visiting the huge tomb and in the meanwhile befriended some people who
consequently brought us lunch and fruits.
The long way to Abhar was not very exciting - we just followed the street
through a very wide valley. But it was fun to cycle with someone else again
after a long time. Fortunately a parallel highway took most of the traffic,
so we had a chance to talk a bit while cycling. Yannik is an experienced
long distance cyclist - he went from Switzerland to Shanghai 5 years ago
and even once crossed Lake Baikal in winter!
In Abhar we checked in at the only hotel in town - everything went well
until we wanted to go to our room: suddenly there was no room available
anymore because some other guys wanted to have it. It took us about an hour
of discussion until the problem was solved: we got a room with only one bed
and the guys at the hotel carried another bed - which was not an easy task,
so about another hour later we could finally enter our room. We spent the
rest of the evening comparing our travel plans, joking with the hotel staff
and with a short repair of Yanniks bicycle before we went to bed very tired
- after all we both had cycled around 100km in the very cold.

Day 147 Zanjan

Aaaaaaah, what a relaxing day! Mahdi, Elahe & Arya made me feel like a real family member.
Arya gave new names to me (Aga) and Trabant (Didi) - only to declare every once in a while that I should play with him, that I should give him Trabant (Aga Didi!) or that I am really bad (Aga ay!). Fortunately both Mama and Baba were also ay! - So at least I am not alone in all my badness :)
Mahdi showed me around town and took me to an impressive underground laundry house. As it was Friday (Iranian weekend) most other sights were closed, so we just relaxed at home, I played some guitar (whenever Arya would let me) and enjoyed delicious food. They invited me to stay at their home however long I want - this sounds very taunting, but I think I should get into warmer regions as soon as possible.

Day 146 Aydamir - Zanjan

Weather not good => Marek not happy. But: nice people => Marek very happy.
I spent the first half of the day cycling uphill against a nasty cold headwind - at that time I was not very prone to overenthusiastic raptures.
But everything got well when I arrived in Zanjan. My first iranian couchsurfing experience was waiting for me there: Mahdi, his wife Elahe, their son Arya and their friend Shiva gave me a wonderful warm welcome at their home. It was a great introduction to Iranian hospitality: they are very good, very bright, very open people - in the evening I was warm, stuffed and knew a lot more about the iranian way of life. Even Trabant found a very nice new friend who really does not want to let go of him.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 145 Miyaneh - Aydamir

Weather is good => Marek is happy. I had sunshine all day, yeah! So this day saw me whistling and singing on my bicycle which I had cleaned and repaired (nothing serious, just a flat tire) this morning. Without snow or fog the landscape also made a much better impression - all the time cycling up an at first narrow, later widening valley - nothing too spectacular, but nice. I enjoyed my last dried apricots - I have to get some new soon: this stuff is fantastic cyclists fuel!  In the evening (which starts here with sunset before 5pm already) I started my first Iranian Camping Experience, well hidden from the road. The weather report did not sound too bad (i.e. not freezing) and there are no hotels around anyway. It even was one of the few times when I felt like using my cooking equipment, mmmmmmmh.

Day 144 Bostanabad - Miyaneh

This was the first day in a long time that I really made some distance: more than 100km. As this is not so easy in the few hours of daylight I needed some topographic support: most of the ride was a slight, steady descend. It is incredible how much my mood depends on the weather: when the sun came out in early afternoon I suddenly had a much more positive view on cycling through the mountains in November. The road went through a valley which even was quite scenic from time to time. So, in the end it was just a normal cycling day, nevertheless in the evening I am much more happy than yesterday in the rain, snow and hail.