Express to Esfahan

Saveh – Esfahan The following day we had a short day into Saveh, where we got adopted by a local on a motorbike, Ali, who helped us find a hotel. On the way, some other young guys on motorbikes started following us, and wanted to take some pictures of us. One of the men, surprised to see a foreigner, gave Guy a hug and planted a big fat kiss on his cheek, much to Guy’s surprise. We guess he didn’t realise that Guy hadn’t showered for a couple of days… Ali invited us to come to his house. He asked…

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From Persian carpets to highway underpasses

Zanjan – Saveh About 35km East of Zanjan is the small town of Soltaniyeh, which was built by the Mongols as their capital after they had conquered Persia under the leadership of Ghengis Khan. It was largely destroyed in 1384, but some of the monuments survive. We visited the Oljeitu Mausoleum, which was built by a Mongol sultan and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It has a beautiful blue dome; at 48m high it’s the world’s highest brick dome. The building was more impressive from the outside, as there is a lot of scaffolding on the inside, but considering…

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7,000 km photo

We were in the middle of the Iranian desert, between Bu’in and Saveh. We had just spent two nights staying with some lovely Iranian families who invited us into their house. Freddie had even scored a new pair of fancy shoes as one the families were in the shoe making business!|| Earlier in the day we had been ordered by the police to get a lift in a pickup truck to a junction  some 25km away. The route had been deemed too dangerous to cycle on, which was true, but the police did not understand that we were…

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An Iranian home stay

We had been planning to find a hotel on our first day out of Zanjan, but the lush fruit plantation area we found ourselves in was just crying out for a wild camp, so we made a last minute decision to pitch up for the night. We stopped at a small tea restaurant to ask for water. The men working there were quick to give us what we needed and of course presented us with some tea within minutes. We noticed that there was a large orchard behind the building, so we asked if we could camp there. No problem,…

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High on fumes

Tabriz – Zanjan On the way out of Tabriz, there was – as always in Iran – constant traffic and many trucks and buses. About 40% of the cars are Paykans. These were designed in the 1960s and were almost the only cars on the roads in Iran for a very long time. They only come in white, and they burn 12-15l of leaded petrol per 100km. They don’t have catalytic converters, so the fumes are just terrible. The trucks often spew out big clouds of black smoke too, and it was no wonder that after a little while, our…

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Tourists on parade

Cycling into the dusty outskirts of Mianeh we were greeted with the the usual long stretch of greasy garages exhibiting pieces of Paykans and old trucks at various stages of their life cycle waiting to be welded, beaten and batted and then spat back out on the roads for the next round of battering.|| Once you get through the initial mayhem these small regional towns can be quite pleasant but they are always guaranteed to be clogged with traffic. Cars and trucks jostle for position and motorbikes dart through any gaps that momentarily appear. We know our place…

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Tabriz: an insight into Iranian lives

We spent only two days in Tabriz, but it felt a lot longer. On our first day, we were adopted by a local to explore the amazing Bazaar with its exotic fruits and spices, beautiful carpets and handmade jewellery. We didn’t plan to do too much on our second day, only resting up, writing our journal and sorting through our photos. However, the one thing we did want to visit was the Blue Mosque. || The Blue Mosque was built in 1465, and was one of the most glorious buildings of the era. Every…

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Tabriz Bazaar

Wow. We felt like we had stepped back in time. This was how the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul must have been like a very long time ago, before the arrival of tourism. The Tabriz Bazaar covers 7 km2, most of which is a covered labyrinth. Construction began over 1,000 years ago, and most of the brick vaulting was built in the 15th century. There are also 24 caravanserais within the bazaar – large open courtyards where in the olden days traders with their camels would have arrived. We quickly got lost in the bazaar, and our first interaction was…

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Transitions: adjusting to Iran

In Iran, we are altering our approach to our blogs a little. For the time being, we will not post a chronological account of our experiences. Instead, we will pick out certain events that we will write about in more detail. We will post our usual chronological blogs later when we can find a descent internet connection…|| We had a few interesting days, crossing the border from Turkey to Iran and cycling via Maku to Tabriz. We have entered another world, passing through muddy villages and finding a lot less facilities on the road than what we were…

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Suleyman the Terrible

Marand – Tabriz In the outskirts of Marand, we were stopped by the secret police (we think). A man in a car followed us and stopped us. Two other men were already standing nearby and moved closer as he started to fire questions at us in perfect English. How many days have you been in Iran? What is your planned route? Where are you planning to spend the night? How are you finding the Iranian people? How do you justify your statement that the Iranian people are friendly people? I am Iranian, how do you know I am friendly? What…

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