Rafael Gorski’s motorbike travel from Poland to Iran
The plan for the trip was simple: to get to Iran from Poland on the most lightweight motorcycle possible (KTM 450 EXC) with minimum luggage (less than 10 kilograms) and, whenever possible, stay off the beaten track (a tarmac one), and travel through fields, forests and mountains. To go ahead. Solo.
Day 1-2: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary
The first overnight stay on the tourist track in Czeremcha village on the Polish-Slovakian border. Then a short stay in Slovakia and Hungary. The motorcycle is performing flawlessly. The main modifications made to the factory version include a new seat, roadbook carrier and a larger, 21 litre tank.
Day 3: Romania
The beginning of May still feels like spring at its finest. The sun hid behind the clouds. Snowdrops and spring storms started to appear on my way.
Day 4: Soooo cold!
The day 4 welcomed me with a magical mist and the rain slowly washing the remnants of winter from the Bihor mountains..
On the way to Pensiunea Dacica — a charming place where I intended to spend the next night and dry my soaked tent and boots — I visited Sławek, who was participating in the eighth edition of Enduro Panorama race in Romania.
The next morning could be the last day of my journey. I caused a short-circuit, which turned the heated grips wires into a dynamite fuse. Never in my biking history have I removed a seat faster than this. Farewell, heated grips. I won’t miss you.
Day 5: Under the bridge
“The best plan is no plan” — this was my approach when planning my motorbike travel from Poland to Iran. For that, I used satellite maps of tourist tracks as well as walking routes. On several occasions, I happened to reach boom barriers guarding the entrance to military bases. Other unexpected situations in the forest included a freight train falling off a flyover.
This is why I always ride with my helmet on.
Day 6: A ferry missed
Went by ship through the Black Sea to Georgia and entered Iran from the north? In the Bulgarian city of Varna, however, it turned out that the freight ship had departed two days earlier. The next one was supposed to arrive in 5 days. There was no use waiting.
Day 7: Along the Black Sea to Istanbul
I travelled along the sea from Varna to Istanbul. The picturesque road often led into a shingle beach. I arrived at Istanbul late at night.
Days 9-12. Turkey
To reach the Turkish-Iranian border from Istanbul I had to cover approximately 2000 kilometers. The exceptionally cold May discourages beach goers, which enabled me to enjoy the empty beaches. My KTM 450EXC 2016 was prepared for the motorbike travel from Poland to Iran by DUUST Team (a complete engine rebuilt). The only thing I had to worry about during my travel was to change the oil and oil filters.
When it comes to mechanical issues, my only problems were broken battery terminals and a broken clutch lever. Easy fix.
Palandöken Ski Centre is in southern Erzurum and lies in the east-west direction the summit is 3185m. Erzurum has one of the coldest climates and is one of the highest altitude positioned provinces of Turkey covered with a blanket of snow for 4-5 months during winter.
Mount Ararat has been widely accepted in Christianity as the resting place of Noah’s Ark. It is the principal national symbol of Armenia and has been considered a sacred mountain by Armenians. (wiki)
On the thirteenth day of my journey I entered Iran.
Showt — Quarah Zamin — Nurabad — Mokhur. A gorgeous, though short, route through the mountains to the city of Khoy, the place of my first overnight stay in Iran.
Disappearing Lake Urmia
In the late 1990s, Lake Urmia, in north-western Iran, was twice as large as Luxembourg and the largest salt-water lake in the Middle East. Since then it has shrunk substantially, and was sliced in half in 2008, with consequences uncertain to this day, by a 15-km causeway designed to shorten the travel time between the cities of Urmia and Tabriz.
As I was going along Lake Urmia, my telephone vibrated. I received a new message on Instagram in the “Other” inbox.
“Hey biker! 🙂
This is Ali, a biker and bike lover from Tabriz-Iran. I just met Federik, a German guy traveling with Landrover, who told me about you who are close to Iran. I’m an old member of couchsurfing, who don’t let any biker to pass Tabriz without tasting a tea at this place. You are more than welcome to surf my couch and enjoy the warm shower in return of smile on your face!”
~Ali Reza, Instagram
Tabriz happened to be nearby. After a short visit to the small town of Kaleybar, which is famous for its rock-cut houses, I went to meet Ali who turned out to be a licensed Iranian tour guide. Together we planned the route for the next several days.
Colourful Mountains of Northern Iran
From Tabriz, I travelled to the north-eastern part of Iran.
All residents of small Iranian towns were completely preoccupied with the upcoming elections. The walls, pavements, cars and curbs were covered by campaign posters. Candidates to the town councils invited me for tea and sign conversations.
Enduro lovers are everywhere!
A view of Armenia from the Iranian side.
Beekeeper’s dog, honey and bear
I decided to spend the last night before my departure from Iran in good company. It happened to be a beekeeper and his dog. At first, the dog seemed quite hostile towards me. The beekeeper advised me to set up my tent next to his so that the dog would treat me as a friend.
Then he showed me his bee houses as well as eight hens. After that, he pointed at the sun, showed me nine fingers and… went away.
He left me alone with the hens and the dog. I managed to appease the dog a little bit by giving him a piece of bread I had. At 9 PM I drove the hens to the coop and went to sleep.
I couldn’t sleep at night as the dog was growling at me constantly. The beekeeper came back at dawn. I complained about the dog. The beekeeper looked around the field and started to walk on all fours. He showed me the destroyed bee houses — Iranian bears seem to like honey.
He also treated me to a meal consisting of balls of scrambled eggs and bread in honey. I shared them with the guard dog. The hens got some as well.
Green and wet Armenia. In an allotment garden in the city of Kapan I found a campsite with tiny houses and cold beer.
The hilly terrain of south Armenia begged for wild exploration. I replaced my already bald Michelin Dakar Race tires with motocross tires by an Iranian company Yasa.
Tyre replacement is not difficult provided that the tire has an inner tube. Since I decided to use mousses for my journey, the whole replacement took significantly more time. I spent 5 and a half hours in a tire fitting center in Yerevan. But it was worth it.
Lake Sevan is located in north-eastern Armenia — the largest body of water in Armenia and the Caucasus region, and one of the largest freshwater high-altitude (alpine) lakes in Eurasia. The lake is situated in Gegharkunik Province, at an altitude of 1,900 m (6,234 ft) above sea level.
The new tires gave me even more enjoyment from the ride.
La Grande Bouffe
On the 21st of May, at the border with Georgia, I celebrated my birthday. The ballroom table bent under the weight of plates of potatoes with pork scratching, loaves of bread and a multitude of drinks — from teas to coffee.
I rarely get off my motorcycle during a journey. As a result, I miss out on hundreds of interesting places, museums, amphitheaters, churches and so on. While passing through the town of Sanahin, however, I decided to stop and visit the local monastery.
It’s not easy to leave Armenia when you have landscapes like these…
Georgia, the last country.
The border crossing with Georgia becomes congested in the evening. Not all travelers have their passports, so the road gets blocked and it’s difficult to keep track of the line.
From Tsalka to Tblisi
The last major off road involved a mountain ride between Tsalka Reserve and Algeti National Park up until the village of Rkoni, from where the road leads to Gori. Like the entire May, the morning was wet and misty. The people from the last village before the mountains discouraged me from taking that route.
Cows are the heralds of civilization. We took a few commemorative photographs with the hunters on the other side of the mountain.
They wanted to invite me for Cha-cha (Georgian vodka), but I refused to drink and ride. Besides, I was in a hurry to finally have a shower.