It´s been over a month since we got into this country, where, at first,we got continuosly wet almost every day and after a while, we´ve been getting the heat and the driest sceneries so far: we are now at the border of the Khavir´s desert.
That is perhaps the most beautiful part of Iran we´ve come across so far: deserts.
Years ago, when we visited Iran it seemed to me like a country of “smiles and moustaches”. We came at that time from Central Asia. This time,, however, it´s been very different: “black cloaks and looks”, this is what it suggested to me. It all depends on where you are coming from and what part of the country you choose to come in: what you see and feel will be quite different. A very different Iran from the one we tasted before; and the fact is that, this country is so large that its great diversity makes it difficult to find similarities from one end of it to the other.
Travelers are honorable people here. Being a traveler is like being a teacher or a doctor used to be in the past: almost like having a degree. A traveler is somebody respected and to whom everyone is obliged to help. The fact that the traveler comes from abroad doubles the interest and the willingness.
It´s said that “travelleres are sent by God” and treating them well and being hospitable gets you points to go to Heaven (that´s a bonus).
In this country, like in most of the others, foreigners are treated more permissively than their own neighbour. That is perhaps, because the differences make the stranger very attractive, and out of curiosity, they allow him to do things they don´t even allow themselves. The local is just one of them, it´s the traveler, the one who comes from far away, the only one “allowed”.
This is how I have taken personal advantage of the situation and I´ve taken some liberties regarding the dress code imposed in this country, and I have discoverd that the crossing line is much further than I had thought. Perhaps it´s because I´m riding a bike or maybe because I´m a foreigner, but there had not been any problems with me wearing a t-shirt and crop pants, neither for swaping the scarf for a cap and show my neck. The only price I´ve had to pay for my freedom is the looks, the constant attention on every movement. I must appear to them like a alien and their faces, gestures and attitudes of astonishment are sometimes close to comedy. To overcome the situation I “open my sight”, I observe the “whole”, I don´t pay attention to details and so I can walk oblivious to the fact I´m a walking circus. I´ve decided it is worth it, and I rather carry the weight of the looks than carrying the oppresive heat when riding dressed as a mummy.
Many of those looks come from women and mostly they come with a smile, a wink of complicity in which I can see their sympathy towards my acting and finally, this is what I care for: the way people reacts to my behavior, and not so much on what is or is not allowed.
It´s easier for Aitor. During this trip we´ve discovered he´s an international guy. His appeareance is misleading. In Turkey they thought he was an Arab, lately he´s been taken by an Afgan, he was tought to be a Kurd too. If he walks on his own, nobody turns the head to look; so far he goes unnoticed, everywhere we go.
We are travelling with Mahdi, our Iranian friend who we met in 2008, when we crossed this country, and with whom we´ve been in touch since then. He joined us in Tabriz and since then we haven´t been apart for one minute. He has picked up our pace with no problems and he´s brought laughs and extra enthusiasm to continue our journey. One of Mahdi´s main features is a particular sense of humour that makes the journey even more tasteful, and of course, due to his knowledge of the country and the language, everything gets easeir: from shopping to finding a place to camp over night. Although we haven´t had problems with camping, because this is a very easy country on this aspect.
In Iran, the worry of being robbed is non extistent, and that encouraged us to imitate the locals and use the “travelers´ parks”, where people stop to eat, rest, spend the hottest hours, sleep…Places where you share time and space with those who come across your journey.
Iranians are picnic professionals. Any road, the edge of a track, a garden or even the shade of a tree on a roundabout….anywhere you can find them sitting down, usually with the family. A huge plastic rug, a gas stove, a thermo, a rice pot, large round and flat breads (thin as a pizza base), tomatoes, cucumbers, yoghourt, cheese…and ready for the feast!!!
Teheran choked us. We planned on getting all the visas to Pakistan but, after a day and a half in the capital, we decided to get out as soon as possible; too much chaos and pollution, too large and hot. We got the necessary ones and we´ll do the rest in Uzbequistan, with more calm.
We crossed the city by car. Yes, although we are very strict, and stubborn on changing the bikes for any other mean of transport, we decided to make an exception this time and went across the city on a hired mini van, where we put all our belongings and passed the chaos without risking our lifes.
It´s not worth it, too dangerours. Teheran is one of the most dangerours cities in the world regarding the traffic and it´s the number one on traffic accidents. Riding here is literally risking your life every moment, and that´s not we´re here for.
We keep on tracing the route as usual: searching for alternative ways.
Secondary roads that lead us to quiet corners. This often means roads are more hilly but the extra effort is well worth it since we get so much fresh life to our souls from those places that all our tanks get filled to the top, and as much tired as we end up, that feeling of freedom and fullness we have become hooked up to always remains