Thursday, 23 August 2012

From Barcelona to Tehran: Epilogue


I would like to thank each and every one of you who helped me get this job done. My special thanks to my dear friends Luis Marmelo, Majid Khosravi Nik, and Stephaen Callahan who helped put my bike and equipment together for this trip. How can I thank those who were with me on this trip by reading my notes and dropping me a line? Knowing that someone would read my blog always gave me more reasons to keep going and helped me beat loneliness. I would also like to thank the people who allowed me to put up my tent on their property or in their village especially in Turkey and Iran where campgrounds were hard to find. And last but not least, I am grateful to those strangers who gave me a glass of water or tea, who shook my hand or gave me a hug, those drivers who sounded their horns to encourage me, the pedestrians who stretched their hands to give me a high five, or just shouted “hi” in English or in their own language. I would like all of you to know that without your support, I couldn’t have completed my journey. Thank you.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 72

Day 72: Home Sweet Home; From Gachsar  To Tehran in Iran 

July 11, 2012; Distance covered today: 117 Km; Total: 6000 Km

It was difficult to go to sleep last night, knowing that I have only half a day ride home. 

Tehran is a city of 12 million people. Its pollution and heavy traffic is notorious. To avoid riding in its heat and smog, I started early. I was on my bike at 6. I had an easy job to get to Karaj, the last city before Tehran, because it was all downhill, but from Karaj, I had to ride on a flat road. In Tehran, the heavy traffic made it really difficult, but I was in high spirit and just kept going. I had to be extra careful to get home safely though. The traffic was insane.  

I should have probably stopped to take some pictures of the scenery, but I only wanted to get home. And I was fast.  Somewhere close to Tehran a gentleman stopped me and introduced himself as the former cycling champion in Iran. He wanted to take me to the federation right away where cycling federation and officials had a meeting. He insisted so much, but I only wanted to get home, and declined his invitation. 

Finally, after 70 days of riding through Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Iran, covering 6000 km, finally, at 11:30 am, I arrived home where my sister, her husband and my niece welcomed me. Job done! What’s next?

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 71

Day 71: The Last Climbing; From Abbas Abad to Gachsar  in Iran 

July 10, 2012; Distance covered today: 120 Km; Total: 5885 Km

Knowing I was safe in the villa, I slept well last night. After eating a good breakfast, I packed up and left. The weather was cool and humid. I soon arrived in Chalus where I had to turn south toward Karaj and Tehran via Chalus road, one of the most beautiful but most dangerous roads in Iran. The road is very narrow with no shoulder. It zigzags up the mountains from the sea level up to 2500 m high in the mountains where the notorious Kandovan tunnel is. And after the tunnel, it’s all downhill.
In Chalus, a gentleman stopped me and introduced himself as a member of mountain climbing federation. He said that he, along with a team, was going to cycle through Armenia, Georgia, into Turkey the next day. He asked me to go to the climbing federation in Tehran and share my experience with the members. I got his contact info and set off for the mountains.

Strange... This is the second wield humongous  bike I saw in Iran

It was the last week before month of Ramadan, so there were a lot of people traveling. My goal was to pass Kandovan tunnel because it would be very difficult to find a spot to camp before the tunnel.
I knew this road like back of my hand. I had been on this road so many times before, so as I expected, in Marzan Abad, riding got very challenging due to the heat. 

Climbing begins

I kept riding and riding. I didn’t stop for lunch or anything… the only thing I ate was some kind of cake (kolooche) with yoghurt. I really pushed it hard to pass the tunnel. My average speed was 7 Km an hour, and the uphill did not give me a break at all. The weather, which is usually foggy and cool in this area, was hot and sunny. It really was hard, but I was pushing it knowing that the next day, I would be home. 

In Syabishe, I stopped and had some more cake (kolooche) with yoghurt when a gentleman and his son came to ask me if my bicycle had gears. I laughed and said that I wouldn’t make it without my 27 gears. He gave me a knife as a gift, and we took a picture together. 

This gentleman gave me a knife to as a gift

At about 7 o’clock, I arrived at the tunnel. Kandovan tunnel is 5 km long and it is very dangerous to ride in. The air is so polluted in the tunnel that even going through it in a car can make breathing difficult. I hitchhiked to go through the tunnel. And after the tunnel, I was the king of the road. I was faster than cars, coasting down the beautiful meandering road to somewhere after Gachsar where I asked a gentleman where I could pitch up my tent. He generously invited me to his cherry garden and let me camp there. 
The Gentleman who allowed me to camp in is cherry garden

After setting up my camp, washing my clothes, and washing myself, I went to his restaurant to have dinner which was some chicken with rice. 

I cannot stop thinking about tomorrow. I am so excited.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 70

Day 70: An Easy Ride; From Khoshkebijar to Abbas Abad  in Iran 

July 9, 2012; Distance covered today: 170 Km; Total: 5765 Km

I woke up at 5:30 and was on my bike in an hour. I felt tired, and very sleepy because I had only 3 hour of sleep last night. I dragged myself to Lahijan, some 30 Km from Khoshkebijar. I then felt a little better and rode strong. There was a little bit of tail wind to help me as well. 

Today, the only thing on my mind was to get home. All I wanted was to cover as much land as possible to get closer and closer to home. The more I got closer to home, the stronger the feeling became. I didn’t want to stop and talk to people or take photographs anymore. I just want to get home. Therefore,  I was fast today. 170 km until 3:50 pm!  
My camping spot

At 12, I stopped to eat a melon, then at 2:30, I stopped to have a drink. At 3:30, I arrived in Abbas Abad where I had arranged to spend the night in my friend’s villa. I didn’t have the key to get inside the building. I could get the key of the backyard from a neighbor, but I had to pitch up my tent in the yard. 

I had no trouble at all with the motorcyclists or drivers. It was very safe and calm to ride my bike today. I don’t know if it is going to be the same on Chalus road which is one of the most dangerous and at the same time, the most beautiful road in Iran. It is very narrow and meanders through mountains and forest. I had been on that road before, some 12 years ago. At the time, I had some trouble with the motorcyclists as well. I should see what happens tomorrow when I am on the road.
I took a shower, washed my clothes, bought my groceries, and had a nap. Tomorrow, I will start very early.

From Barcelona to Tehran: Day 68-9

Day 68-9: Khoshkebijar  in Iran 

July 7-8, 2012; Distance covered today: 0 Km; Total: 5596 Km

I woke up at 9 to have a huge breakfast; organic eggs, cheese, butter, homemade marmalade, and tea. With my sister, I sat in the porch an enjoyed watching the chickens and ducks in the yard. 

My sister's chiks
My sister's

With my nephew, I went to his shop to check my email. He, Bahador, would tell everyone and anyone, “me dayee; Ba charrkh az Espania Bomad Inja. GPS, laptop, hame chi dare berar”. This means, “This is my uncle who has ridden his bike from Spain. He has GPS, a labtop and everything, bro.”  He kind of bragged about my trip. For the whole day, he was introducing me with the same style.

We went to a teahouse in Khoshkebijar which was said to make the best tea in Gilan county! I talked to the owner, Hamid, who said that he would mix a few kind of local tea. It is very common to drink tea in the teahouses in this area. 
Lunch with Vodka
 We went out to have lunch in a very good restaurant. Sometime during our lunch, asked me if I would like to have some vodka with my lunch. Surprised, I asked if there was vodka served in that restaurant. Then he produced a bottle of vodka from under his T-shirt and mixed it with his and his friend’s Coca cola! So much for Islamic country.
The best tea in Gilan County

We also went to the beach where I saw some really upsetting scenes of people being watched, controlled, and ordered. The religious police were omnipresent to make sure people were following “Islam”. They would arrest people if they were listening to loud music even in their cars, if women were not covering their hair, if anyone was drinking alcohol or was under the effect of alcohol, and such deeds. 
Religion female police

When I was on the beach, I witnessed a young boy being rescued by the life guards. He was hanging on a football in high weaves. The ball saved his life.
The ball and the survivor

We went to the only gym in Koshkebijar where I met the coach who was proud to help two obese patients to lose 120 Kilos within a year. I met the champion who had lost the weight. It was amazing to hear their stories and their achievements with such limited equipment.

The magic gym which has set a world record in weight loss: 126 kg in one year

I then went to use the unfiltered Internet in one of Bahador’s friends where I met some young people who bombarded me with questions about the West. I put up my blog and talked for them for about an hour. They were very funny.
Happy kids of the towm

I went back to my sister’s and had dinner.

On Day 69, I did nothing but rested and enjoyed good food.