We were warned that the traffic in Mashhad was the worst in Iran and it wasn’t an exaggeration. Coming into a city is never our favourite part of cycling but just imagine trying to negotiate streets when stop signs and red lights are mere suggestions and half the vehicles are from out of town. No one really knows where to go. They just want to get there.
Mashhad brings in tourists from all over the country who come to visit the shrine of Imam Reza and right now, during Iranian New Year, is peak season. Someone told us that over 6 million visitors come to Mashhad during No Ruz – twice Mashhad’s normal population. The streets are absolutely heaving with people going to the shrine and shopping for souvenirs like saffron and turquoise. Of course the vendors take advantage of this and we’ve had to watch prices more here than anywhere else in Iran. Even Bijan, who speaks Farsi, gets taxi drivers trying to charge double what they should.
At least the ride into Mashhad was considerably more relaxed. We had a great night’s sleep just outside the small village of Fakhr e Dawood and awoke to a breeze blowing towards Mashhad. Add in a few downhill runs and you’ll understand why we rolled into the city almost as quickly as the cars!
Now we’ll take a few days here to rest up and get some more work done on our bikes. On Saturday we’ll start the last leg of our journey in Iran towards the Turkmenistan border, where a cold beer and hijab-free cycling awaits.
As an advisory of radio silence to come, we don’t know when we’ll next have internet access. It’s unlikely we’ll check in as we’re cycling through Turkmenistan from April 1st-7th so don’t expect to hear from us until we reach the first major town or city in Uzbekistan.