4 hours of sleep is not enough after such a long ride. We had also not set the phone ahead and did not log onto wifi and so we were already 30 min late getting up. We scarfed down some breakfast and rushed down to the parking to find the guys packed up of course.
As an aside this whole women must have their hair covered thing is quite daunting. You can not leave your room without ankles, elbows, and head and neck covered. I am more careful of this when in regular clothes, but when out riding i just pull my buff over my hair and call it a day.
We headed out of Tabriz for our first view of Iran in day light. The plan is was originally to ride 10 hours and 664 km to the coast of the Caspian at Chalus, but after yesterday and 4 hours of sleep we shortened this to 5 hours and 310 km to Astara.
This meant the travel agent changing the hotel for us…We went east on the toll road and then off on the secondary roads. The traffic was a bit of mayhem in the towns. There are no rules, there are always more lanes of cars then lanes, and they turn right from the left lane and left from the right lane infant of you. When in the “left turn lane” there may be 3-4 rows deep and any of them could actually be making a U turn into you as well.
Any time we stopped on the side of the road there was a crowd of people many of whom did U turns to come back to talk to us. Iranians are incredibly friendly and so excited to see and talk to foreigners.80% of cars honk and wave madly! Lots take photos of us. Some super fans did get a bit too e excited and came a bit to close or followed us for a long while!
One of Sara’s SUPER FANS!!!
We could not figure out the whole Panda thing??
We stopped at a butcher to pick up some meat for a BBQ dinner we had been invited to. While parked we were mobbed with people welcoming us and wanting photos with us.
We crossed the plains here and it is dry and mostly flat as far as you can see. Many of the cars that pass us are waving and honking. Sara attracts a lot of attention as they never see a woman riding a moto. She had one super fan who followed (too close) for over 10 km.
We resorted to putting stickers and a yellow dry bag in the guides car so we could spot him from a distance.
Rest stops here have Mosques too!
Heading up over the mountains we were in the clouds. There is only 1 road and it is a single line of cars and trucks. People are passing at high speed. There are hundreds of local picnicking at the side of the road, under the clouds, and surrounded by trash. Not very appealing to us.
12 km before the hotel we were invited to the home of a friend of the guide better known and Old Hussein a famous guide here. We had a kebab meal on the lawn.
The “hotel” was a bit sketchy. The lobby was a construction site and they have a car repair shop in the parkade. There is no wifi of course. The rooms looked like they were once apartments. The bedroom was sparse, but clean. The living room dusty and mildewed. The bathroom a squat loo and the “shower in the room” type we particularly hate. Who thinks a shower directly into the bathroom is a good idea? Well at least there was hot water and air con.
This evening it is drizzling, but we walked out for some tea and a tour of the local Bazaar. The guys stopped for shaves and hair cuts. Here i bought a Manteau, which is basically a longish garment that you can wear over your clothes to adhere to the dress code. The guys were hungry so we got some falafel. .
We then walked out to touch the Caspian sea.
Even grocery shopping everyone wants a selfie for Instagram.
We woke to the pouring rain. The initial plan today was “the long way” to Tehran, but at the time we needed to decide on the route it was still pouring after 4 hours and so we elected for the “ shorter route”.
Almost immediately after we headed south the sun was shining and the topography desert. We were still 260 km from the Capital. We did stop here for a traditional lunch. There was quite a gathering around the bikes when we came out. It is an issue to find food in the day time, but there are some places open for travelers.
The closer we got to the city the worse the traffic and the driving. We were very overheated and stopped for some shade, rest, and lemonade. We had lots of people coming up to talk to us and get photos. One guy came up to me and said hi and when i said hi he said “ wow you are a woman!!”
40 km from Tehran it was game on and you had to concentrate very well. Many drivers hug the line on your side or straddle the line. There are often no white lines and thus more “lanes” of cars than lanes. They exit and enter the highway from the left and the right at high speed and merge between the bikes. We were then stopped just after a toll by the police and luckily the guide had all the necessary paperwork for us. This extra security is related to the recent ISIS attacks. All he wanted was to see our passports.
In the city itself it is a free for all. They mostly stop for red lights except pedestrians and scooters. The round abouts are a free formal as there is no centre core and bikes, people, and scooters are going every way at once. The cars from the right try to block the box and you have to push into the intersection all the while trying not to get hit and avoiding the people who run out in front of you or the scooter that cuts you off.
All this at 37 degrees. The last gas we got was poor and both the 800 sound terrible. The 650 cut out twice and we let it have a rest at the monument to Tehran. The fuel pump may be the issue and we have one. It may just be the heat and bad gas.
Arriving to the hotel they had a great enclosed courtyard for the parking and the standard was much better.
In case you were wondering where Mecca is?
We have had an ongoing issue with the “guide” service (young) Hussein…(not Old Hussein or Kurdish Hussein) He is we find out just a middle man. He is not a licensed guide and he is not a travel agent. His communication is slow, because he has to contact others to get answers. Who ever he used to get the Turkmenistan LOI did a good job and as well the timing of the application for the accusation number after the election. We got visas whereas others did not. The problem now is we revised the tour with him from 16 days to 12 and this was before the visas went thru. He then said he would book a guide and the hotels. He had yet to adjust the cost however. The poor guide Reza is caught in the middle, but he agrees with us. In future I would advise USA, Canadian, and UK riders contact an authorized guide directly. They work directly with a travel agent. (young) Hussein has charged a lot of extra money for doing nothing.
Tonight we went out after 8 when it was cooler and had some traditional Ramada fast noodle soup and and then of course kebab. Me in “the garb”.
The core is closed to cars after the ISIS attacks last week.
We headed first to the Golestan palace
We then walked to the Bazaar. Here we bought some fruits and nuts and had to sneak them as if not we got some dirty look for eating in public.
Then we had a long hot walk to the Jewelry museum. This is basically a vault in the basement of the National bank that is full of the ceremonial jewels of the rulers of Iran. This includes thousands of precious and semiprecious stones, gold, and art works. They have the largest pink diamond in the world, 3 black, and one red diamond.
We took the metro back to the hotel, which is also nearby the former USA embassy with the famous wall graffiti.
Orvar feels his rear tire will not make it to Russia and he managed to find a decent street one here and we will mount it in Isfahan so he can save the Heidenau for later.
Tonight we are driving about 45 minutes up into the hills to experience the Darband region.
“Darband, formerly a village close to Tajrish, Shemiran, is a neighborhood inside Tehran’s metropolitan limits. It is the beginning of a popular hiking trail into Mount Tochal, which towers over Tehran. A chairlift is also available for those not interested in hiking. The Persian term darband translates to “door of the mountain” The initial start of the trail at Darband is about 250 metres long and is dotted with a number of small cafes and restaurants. These are quite popular and are busy in the evenings, as locals and tourists alike visit the many hooka lounges along the trail.”
This is packed with people strolling, eating street foods, and in restaurants. We picked a traditional one with bench seats and ordered Abgoosht, which is a dish cooked in a clay pot with tomatoes, beans, meat and potatoes.
Nutella ice cream shop !!