67km Saghand to Robat-e-Posht Badlam

Today we took life in the slow lane, dawdling towards the last town before a long stretch of desert. We had good reason to take it easy because we were waiting for our good friend Bijan to join us but he was only able to leave Tehran yesterday so we knew he was pedalling like mad somewhere on the road behind us, trying to catch up. While we were enjoying ourselves, taking a long two-hour lunch in the cool shade of a bridge, most of the motorists seemed to be in a more stressed frame of mind. The Iranian New Year is coming up so the traffic is like you’d see during the Christmas holidays at home with everyone trying to get somewhere and all at the same time. Every car is packed with families travelling around the country, particularly to the holy city of Mashhad. We’ve hardly seen a vehicle, from the smallest cars to the biggest trucks, with a free seat and the roof is usually stacked with luggage. To get away from the traffic, we took a short morning break at an abandonned caravanserai. These buildings used to serve as hotels in the days before motorcars and they’re often beautiful designed with patterned brickwork but now they stand completely empty. We climbed to the roof and imagined what life might have been like inside these walls a few decades ago. A few hours of leisurely pedalling brought us to a popular rest stop where we decided to wait for Bijan. We thought he might turn up the next morning but much to our amazement he arrived that evening, after cycling a marathon 186 kilometers! We were impressed to say the least. Unfortunately for Bijan, while the rest stop made an easy place for us to meet, it also turned out to be a rather noisy place to spend the night. When he most needed a good night’s sleep, he didn’t get his wish. We’ll have to try and make for that with a peaceful night in the desert tomorrow.

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