35km Mashhad to Tangal-e-Shur-e-bala

*Hello friends. Below is our journal for the first day from Mashhad to the Iranian border. We are now, on March 31st, in Sarakhs and ready to cross into Turkmenistan. Unfortunately internet access here is terribly slow (is there a hamster running this network??). We have managed, however, to update our journal on CrazyGuyOnABike (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Travellingtwo) and if we can’t get faster internet in Central Asia that’s where you’ll find our updates for the meantime*

We made our escape from Mashhad today. There’s still a few days before we need to be at the Turkmenistan border but to be honest the city was getting on our nerves.

With so many tourists flooding in to see the holy shrine, it’s impossible to even stroll down the sidewalk easily. Left and right, street sellers have blankets spread out, covered in everything from spices to childrens toys, clothing and household goods. If they’re not on the ground, they’re standing up, shoving things in your face that you just might want to buy. Cheap electric shaver? Flying helicopter? No thanks.

Prices are, of course, more expensive with a steady stream of eager customers and we had to watch what we were being charged more so than anywhere else in Iran. Maybe earlier in our trip it wouldn’t have mattered so much but we really don’t want to change any more dollars into Iranian currency.

Instead we’re trying to stretch out our funds for our remaining days in the country. That meant getting out of Mashhad and so we did after running a few last errands in the afternoon and fielding a host of questions from our hotel manager. It was a stream of consciousness that actually didn’t seem to need many answers, just a listening ear, and went something like this: “What about your parents? What is your job? Oh, you know all about bicycles. I bet your husband knows more than you do. Do you have a house in Canada? Don’t you think you should buy a house and make babies?”

After all that we were looking forward even more to hitting the road. From what we’ve seen so far, the scenery is unremarkable but at least the traffic dies down considerably once in the countryside. It’s mostly flat out here but we managed to find a farm track leading into some small hills and there we found a great little hiding place for the night.

Just as we arrived near where we wanted to camp, a motorbike appeared from the nearby fields. At first we were wary. We don’t like to set up our tent when someone is watching if we can help it. We waited a few minutes and sure enough the two men came over to say hello. Our fears were quickly dispersed. We think we’ve become quite good judges of character during our trip and these men smiled broadly as they asked us if we had enough water or needed anything.

As soon as we assured them we were fine they carried on their way and we were able to set up our home a few hundred meters away in a little dip in the landscape. It’s a good spot. A couple cars have driven up the track but we haven’t seen them and they haven’t noticed us either. A peaceful night awaits and then a relaxed trip further towards the border tomorrow.


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