56km Pahnapahn to Bushkan
We started our day by cycling through the flat farmland and palm tree oases that surround the village of Pahnapahn. As usual, our arrival caused a bit of a stir. It’s rather funny to watch men do an about turn in the street and come back just to watch what we buy. Ooooooh, bananas. And cheese! There’s always a considerable amount of chatter as we pick up our very ordinary shopping and often a huddle of girls and women in one corner giggling. We’re not sure what exactly sends them into fits of laughter but it’s good to know we’ve contributed to gross national happiness across Iran. The days of being a show stopper just by being a tourist are certainly not over in the world.
After filling our panniers it was time to head into the hills. There are more climbs than we’d imagined for our trip to the seashore and today we had a series of short ascents and descents that ended up tiring us out quite quickly. Stopping to fix a flat tire didn’t help much with the energy levels either. It takes a long time to pump up a tire by hand, especially when you need enough pressure to support our hefty loads. The scenery kept us amused though; a lunar like landscape that was almost devoid of any vegetation as well as people. Only the occasional car separated us from total isolation. We could sit and relax in complete silence, not even hearing a bird singing or a breeze blowing by our ears.
It was late afternoon before we reached the town of Bushkan and then the peace was broken by the roar of children on motorbikes trailing us everywhere. We thought petrol was rationed in Iran. Where do these kids get the money for gas just to chase us around? And more to the point, why do their parents let them run around town popping wheelies without helmets? We did some more shopping and counted about 20 locals around our bikes when we emerged from the store. Just up the road we stopped to ask where the bakery was. Hand signals seemed to be telling us it was closed but one woman kindly ran off to her home to fetch some of her own bread for us. Earlier in the day we’d been given fruit by a passing motorist. Like Syria, there is hardly a day when we don’t find ourselves on the receiving end of something in Iran.
By this time we were more than a little tired and so we only managed a short distance outside of Bushkan before we decided to set up camp for the night. Lately we’ve been using a dual theory for wild camping: either make sure nobody knows where you are or everybody knows where you are. With three motorbikes still trailing us, we decided the second option was best so we found a field just across from a small cluster of houses. We think it very unlikely that we’ll have any trouble in rural Iran but if we do the neighbours are just across the road and two have already come to introduce themselves.