Iran Journal Entries

More eager Iranian photographers stop us in our tracksIran takes the prize as the country we liked best of the 30 we visited.

We’ve never been left so taken with a country. From the incredibly hospitable people to the amazing cultural sites and the wide, open landscapes, we find it hard to think of a better place to ride your bike.

Even for women, who must wear a headscarf and general conform to Islamic dress, Iran is possible on a bicycle and a joy to experience. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

Iran, we’ve arrived!

Posted on:
3 Jan 2008

After months of anticipation and fretting over visas we’re finally in Iran! The border crossing went much more smoothly and quickly than we expected. No prying questions or searching customs inspections, just a polite official who welcomed us to the country under a huge portrait of the holy leader, filled out all our forms for

29km Maku to Tabriz

Posted on:
4 Jan 2008

Normally we’d love a good downhill run but we couldn’t really appreciate it this morning. The faster we went the more the freezing air blew through our clothes and on our cheeks, chilling us to the bone. By the time we reached Maku, a town flanked by mountains on both sides, we were only too

The bus ride that wasn’t

Posted on:
7 Jan 2008

In the dark and freezing cold we cycled our bikes to a square on the edge of Tabriz, propped our trusty steeds up against a wall and waited for the bus to Tehran. We’d been assured several would appear from 10 o’clock. “Tehran?” we asked some bystanders when a large bus rolled up. “Yok,” the

Escape from Tabriz

Posted on:
11 Jan 2008

Once again we were standing in the bitterly cold winter air, waiting to get our bikes on a bus. At least this time there was a bus. That was the good news; services had finally resumed after four days and we had our ticket for Tehran. The problem now was the bus driver. He was

Shiraz and a return to the saddle

Posted on:
16 Jan 2008

A long trip south by bus landed us in Shiraz yesterday. What a change from Tehran. Green grass. Sun warming our backs. Birds singing in the trees. It was a nice arrival indeed. Only the hotel let us down (slightly dingy, on the other hand it’s good for the budget if nothing else) but we haven’t

96km Shiraz to Jomarjan

Posted on:
18 Jan 2008

It was nothing less than wonderful to get back on our bikes today and head out of Shiraz with the sun on our backs, not to mention a good strong tailwind. Too many long bus trips and hotel stays had made us very eager to get back to the road and peaceful camping that we

46km Jomarjan to Dehbarm

Posted on:
19 Jan 2008

In Muslim countries it’s normally the call to prayer from the mosque that regulates our day but recently we’ve become accustomed to a new rythym; the nightly sound of drum beats and singing that signals Moharram. The Sh’ia ceremony marks the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, and it’s one of

66km Dehbarm to Pahnapahn

Posted on:
20 Jan 2008

A day of cycling in Iran by numbers: Hijab removed when nobody was looking: 1 Showers in a cold stream: 2 People who insisted we must be wealthy: 2 Invitations to spend the night: 2 Mountain peaks climbed: 3 Pieces of bread eaten: 4 Food breaks: 5 Gifts of food: 6 (oranges, apples, yogurt, sugar

56km Pahnapahn to Bushkan

Posted on:
21 Jan 2008

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

121km Bushkan to Bushehr

Posted on:
22 Jan 2008

Our decision to sleep by a village last night turned out to be a good one – not because we had any problems during the night but because of the flat tire we discovered when we woke up. The flat itself wouldn’t normally take long to fix but after plenty of arm-aching work we realised

72km Bushehr to Borazjan

Posted on:
24 Jan 2008

After a day by the seaside in Bushehr we were ready to move on, starting the journey back into the mountains and towards Shiraz once again. There we’ll get our Iranian visa renewed for a further month but there was another visa challenge to sort out before we left Bushehr. Getting our papers in order

The great visa muddle

Posted on:
24 Jan 2008

Some things are more enjoyable than others and for us we would rather be cycling backwards down a 10-lane highway at night than figuring out how in the world to get visas for Central Asia. What a nightmare. It’s impossible to get reliable information (the Uzbeks tell us something that contradicts other travellers and agencies).

59km Borazjan to Konar Takhteh

Posted on:
26 Jan 2008

We’ve spent the last few days being given a taste of southern Iran by the always-cheerful Ali and his lovely family. On Friday we went for a picnic by a local shrine, feasting on delicious chicken kebabs, salads and rice. Then we worked off a few calories with a stroll in the nearby hills and

62km Konar Tahkteh to Tang-e Chowgan

Posted on:
27 Jan 2008

Never camp in a dry riverbed in case it suddenly springs to life. That was the advice we were given by Brahim, one of our friends in Morocco nearly a year ago. Last night we saw his words in action. Thankfully we weren’t tenting in a riverbed but on the banks of a stream. We’d

62km Tang-e Chowgan to Famur

Posted on:
28 Jan 2008

No river came to wash us away last night but we did have another exciting evening, this time with entertainment from some locals. We’d just settled into our sleeping bags and started to relax when we heard voices approaching with the inevitable call of “Hello Mister” coming towards us at top volume. Groan. At the

47km High up a goat track

Posted on:
29 Jan 2008

Maybe we should have listened. So many times we’ve been told a road is too tough, too dangerous, too long or too busy for our bicycles and every time we’ve managed to find a way through so when crowds of locals started telling us the same old story we didn’t give it much thought. And,

86km Goat trail to Ahmadabad

Posted on:
30 Jan 2008

We got up on the proverbial wrong side of the tent this morning, our bad moods brought on by too little sleep and the thought of making our way back through the village whose residents had followed us down a goat trail and then stayed to watch us for hours the day before. Two of

55km Amadabad to Dasht-e-Arzhan

Posted on:
31 Jan 2008

Our grumpy spell gave way today. So many good samaritans helped us out it was impossible not to feel the world was in fact a good place after all. Such are the highs and lows of cycle touring; you never know how your emotions will swing as you tackle the road ahead. Frustrations from the

69km Dasht-e-Arzhan to Shiraz

Posted on:
2 Feb 2008

Our luck in getting a room at the mosque last night was even better than we first realised. A hail storm appeared just after dark and all night we listened to the sound of howling winds and icy rain falling. It would have been a very cold night indeed in our tent we hate to

A visit to Persepolis

Posted on:
5 Feb 2008

We’ve spent longer than expected in Shiraz, notching a few tasks off our ‘to do’ list. Andrew’s shoes have been repaired. They were literally falling apart and a fellow customer at the shop said they should be in a museum. We are hoping they’ll last another six months! Friedel has a new rim on her

68km Shiraz to Persepolis

Posted on:
6 Feb 2008

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day and nothing says love like watching your husband rush down the street to defend your honour. There have been very few incidents during our trip where Friedel has been the target of inappropriate behaviour – even less so in Iran where the vast majority of men behave very respectfully – but

75km Persepolis to Sa’adat Shahr

Posted on:
7 Feb 2008

A chilly morning made getting out of the tent difficult work but once we got up the courage to leave our sleeping bags we had more historical sites to explore than you could shake a stick at. The area is littered with ruins so we spent a few hours going from one to the other,

71km Sa’adat Shahr to Haji Dad

Posted on:
8 Feb 2008

Our police-sanctioned campsite wasn’t the quietest last night with trucks rumbling by throughout the night but we couldn’t knock the perks. The men working at the station brought us apples and showed us to the hot shower in the morning. What a treat to be able to wash off some road dirt, something we hadn’t

91km Haji Dad to Feyz Abad

Posted on:
9 Feb 2008

“Stop! I am Iranian cycling champion!” Well, who can refuse an order like that? It certainly beat “hello mister” and was enough to bring Friedel to a screeching halt beside the man on a motorbike, who was frantically waving his arms by the side of the road. Andrew, who didn’t quite hear the opening line

110km Feyz Abad to Deh Shir

Posted on:
11 Feb 2008

We waved goodbye to Sassan and family this morning and set off for the last leg of our journey to Yazd, crossing the Abarkuh desert. No sand dunes here, just a barren plain covered in stones and thorny bushes. Occasionally an abandonned castle made of mud and straw appeared to the side of the road

98km Deh Shir to Yazd

Posted on:
12 Feb 2008

It was a challenging climb out of our camping spot behind the police station in Deh Shir and up to the top of the mountain range that lies just before Yazd but we couldn’t really complain because the rest of the ride was downhill – a good 80km without turning our pedals around. Beautiful. Our

Adventures in Qom

Posted on:
29 Feb 2008

Under clear blue skies, we scrambled up a rocky path to the top of Khezr mountain. From the peak, the holy city of Qom spread out under our feet, the gleaming gold dome and twin minarets of its famous shrine sparkling in the unusually strong winter sunlight. A single doorway led into the coolness of a tiny mosque, a place of pilgrimage for Muslims seeking help and comfort from Allah. An elderly woman sweeping the entryway looked up with a smile as we stepped inside, only too happy to oblige when Friedel asked for help putting on a chador from the pile available for visitors.

Going to Turkmenistan, Inshallah

Posted on:
15 Mar 2008

It only takes a short time in the Middle East to learn just how much God takes care of here. Coming from the West, we are used to concrete answers for mundane questions. A straight yes or no will do just fine, thank you, when you want to know whether or not the store will

85km Yazd to Kharanaq

Posted on:
16 Mar 2008

We had butterflies in our stomachs this morning as we headed back out on the road after a lengthy break. It’s funny how the pause in our routine made us feel like we were taking those first steps out our door in London all over again. Now that our life is usually on the move,

71km Kharanaq to Saghand

Posted on:
17 Mar 2008

We made an early start out of Kharanaq, something that’s both easier now that summer is on its way and necessary here in the desert as hot temperatures make cycling unpleasant after 11am. A new routine is starting to form: get on the road as soon as possible, pedal until about 11:30 and then find

67km Saghand to Robat-e-Posht Badlam

Posted on:
18 Mar 2008

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

110km Robat-e-Posht Badlam to Kaalzard

Posted on:
19 Mar 2008

We all woke up early this morning. We could say it was our energetic desire to get on the road at the crack of dawn but in truth we really couldn’t have slept in even if we’d wanted to. Even before the sun was up, buses started pulling into the rest stop in their dozens,

90km Kaalzard to Azmighan

Posted on:
20 Mar 2008

The Iranian New Year arrived today and it seemed the whole country was out celebrating. As we rolled into Tabas, the only major town in the middle of the Dasht-e-Kavir desert, we first noticed tents and crowds of people around the mosque. Many little girls particularly caught our eye, skipping and running alongside their families

102km Azmighan to Yaqubiyeh

Posted on:
21 Mar 2008

It’s hard to know what to say about this day. Shocking. Tragic. Sobering. The kind of day that makes you realise just how precious life is. We’d only been on the road for five minutes, maybe less, when we heard a car coming at high speed from behind us, then the squealing of tires as

135km Yaqubiyeh to Anabad

Posted on:
22 Mar 2008

The sheer energy of our friend Bijan is amazing. He’s carrying half the weight on his bike compared with our hefty loads and he’s got at least twice the get-up-and-go. The result is that we’ve been pushing a lot harder than we normally would to keep up with him and today we logged our longest

95km Anabad to a beautiful gorge

Posted on:
23 Mar 2008

It’s not very far from the desert to the lush farming fields south of Mashhad but it seems like a universe apart. In just a day on our bikes we’ve left behind the sandy wastelands, covered in a crusty layer of salt, and come into an area where irrigation channels keep fields of wheat a

108km to Neyshabur

Posted on:
24 Mar 2008

A cluster of fruit trees just off the road looked like the perfect place for a lunchtime break. It was certainly pretty with all the springtime blossoms but it turned out to be a rather costly place to stop. By the time we walked our bikes through a field to the shade of the trees

79km Nyshabur to Fakhr e dawood

Posted on:
25 Mar 2008

There’s nothing like a good shower to set you on the right course and Iran’s hammams have kept us nice and clean lately. We didn’t really think to use them earlier in our trip, or if the thought crossed our mind we were put off by the challenge of finding one without being able to

81km Fakhr e Dawood to Mashhad

Posted on:
26 Mar 2008

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

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

Posted on:
28 Mar 2008

*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)

75km Tangal-e-Shur-e-bala to Mazdavand

Posted on:
29 Mar 2008

We can feel summer coming now that the days are getting longer. By 5am the birds were chirping outside our tent and we were out of our sleeping bags a few minutes later. Before midday we’d already put 50km on the clock through the flat landscape. We don’t need to push so hard just yet

Unending Kindness in Iran

Posted on:
30 Mar 2008

78km Mazdavand to Gonbadli We’re almost to the border but Iran wasn’t about to let us go without a final farewell show of her hospitality at its best. The country’s kindness started in the morning when we stopped at a small shop for some food and asked where the bakery was so we could buy

33km Gonbadli to Sarakhs

Posted on:
31 Mar 2008

Today we’re singing the praises of the humble hammam. We didn’t really start to use the public bathhouses until Bijan introduced us to them going across the Dasht-e-Kavir desert but now we’re converted. For only 5,000 Rials – about 50 U.S. cents – you get a scrub up in your own private room. What could

116km Sarakhs to Hauz Han

Posted on:
1 Apr 2008

You can spot a fellow tourist a mile off in this part of the world so we quickly realised we had company when six fair-skinned young men with musical instruments walked by our campsite. We were eager to find out what their story was so we hurried up with our packing and rushed off to

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