Day # 6 – Agri (Turkey) / Tabriz (Iran): 405 km. Total distance travelled: 3,305km
After leaving and travelling 130Km, we arrive in Agri and the town of Dogubayazit near the border with Iran. Behind the plains you can see the sloping summit of Mount Ararat, standing 5,137m high, on which, according to legend, is the location where Noah’s Ark was stranded. While we wait, we meet a lonely cyclist, Alessandro, a Spanish guy from Alicante, who has been pedalling for more than four months in his pursuit to reach Thailand.
The Iranians show themselves to be extremely kind and accommodate us in a small room where an English speaking officer interrogates us on our trip and informs us about hotels and hotel exchange rates. In this new country we need to once again adapt to the poor conditions of the roads that are full of pot-holes, especially in the towns, with intense traffic and the reckless driving of the local Iranians. Riding around in the coming days will need our full attention. For several kilometres we travel through a partial desert-like area, sparsely inhabited and very hot. Around dusk we arrive in Tabriz, a major city with its one and a half million inhabitants. The usual chaotic traffic adds to the sociable response of many Iranians who greet us with their beeping horns. Tomorrow we will arrive in Tehran. Whilst the road should be good, the heat will still be with us.
Day # 7 – Tabriz / Tehran: 628 km. Total distance travelled: 3,933km
On our approach to Tehran the traffic increases considerably. The excellent freeways give us hope that we will reach the centre in good time, but in the last few miles we are trapped in a river of cars where everyone is trying to advance at the expense of others. The Iranians continue to greet us and film us from their car windows resulting in lots of risky manoeuvres.
In the evening we meet Sorab, the guide that will accompany us over the coming days.
Day # 8 – Tehran
A day of rest which we spend visiting the city. To gain a picture of Iranian history, we visit the Archaelogical Museum with our guide Sorab and we also visit the Golestan Palace,
the oldest building in the city that has in the past hosted some of the most influential sovereigns of the country including the most recent Shah. During our visit, we have the opportunity to see the jewellery of the Persian Crown, which is protected within the vaults of the Central Bank.
Tomorrow we will be moving south to Esfahan.
Day # 9 – Tehran / Isfahan: 527 km. Total distance travelled: 4,460km
We take a freeway … which is apparently not accessible to motorcycles but nobody stops us and we are also exempt from paying toll charges…great! We stop for a quick visit to Qom, the second Holy City of Iran which is the location of the famous Hazrat-e Masumeh sanctuary, which is only open to Muslims. The city was at the heart of the Iranian revolution and still remains one of the most conservative places in the country.
Day # 10/11 – Isfahan
After breakfast, we devote our time to visiting this ancient city, which over the centuries has undergone several invasions, destructions and reconstructions. We enter the Friday Mosque in the Persian Pavilion Chehel Sutun, the 15th century Armenian cathedral of Vank and we stand on the beautiful Si-o-se Pol, the 33 arch bridge, which crosses the Zayandeh Rud.
On the second day spent in this unique location, we visit the mosques and palaces that look out over Imām Khomeini square, once called Meydān-e Shāh (“Shah’s Square”, meaning’Abbās I). Two mosques need a mention, both being adorned with colourful domes and inlaid walls: that of the Shah, the most important for the city on the south side of the square and the Lotfollah Sheikh Mosque built in 1600 during the reign of Abbas I.
During the middle hours of the day, we try to stay away from the heat and we take advantage of the time to carry out some maintenance on the motorcycles, which have so far served us well. In the evening we visit the Bazaar to do some shopping. Tomorrow, we will be heading for Yazd.
Day # 12 – Isfahan – / Yazd: 330 km. Total distance travelled: 4,790km
The sun is already at its peak and follows us on the route from Isfahan to Yazd. We start off by following an uphill road that leads us to Gulla Amad, at an altitude of 2,400m; here the temperature appears to be bearable, unlike the desert plain we had previously encountered and where the thermometer hit 44 degrees! On the motorcycles, if you can keep up a good pace, the heat is bearable. Slowing down in the vicinity of villages makes us really tired so we decide to stop more often to try to recover.
After another stretch of plain hot desert we stop at Meybod where, inside a well-restored caravansary, we admire an Abarbar Kelar: a water tank with 4 wind towers that move the air and keep the area refreshed.
Overall the road is good and everywhere gasoline costs 0.23 Euros: so filling up is a pleasure! Tomorrow we will be spending a day at Yazd, an important centre for the religion of Zoroastrianism.
Day # 13 – Yazd
Its remote location in the desert and the difficulty reaching it has kept Yazd almost untouched by the destruction of wars. Here we visit the Friday Mosque, noted for its two 52 metre minarets and inlaid dome. We enter the Old Town along the narrow streets between tall red clay walls which provide protection from the sun. We also visit the prison of Alexander and the Yazd Fire Temple.
Towards the evening our guide Sorab takes us to watch the Varzesh-e pahlavānī which means “Ancient Sports”: A traditional Persian discipline combining both combat and gymnastics.
Tomorrow we will head south towards Shiraz. The weather forecast predicts there will be no break in the heat.
Day # 14 – Yazd / Shiraz: 480 km. Total distance travelled: 5,270km
To take advantage of some milder temperatures, we leave Yadz at 08.00. Along the way we expect to make just two stops. The strategy works: during the first few hours of our journey, as well as climbing to the inevitable level of nearly 2,500m, the reading on the thermometer stays between 28 and 30 degrees. After 160km we reach Abarkuh and we stop to admire a yakhchal (which literally means “glacier”), a huge brick dome dating back 200 years which emerges from the ground to cover an equally large hole which is used to store snow. From here we travel onwards. The landscape changes and it leads us to walk along a mountainous area to Pasargade. After 120km, the environment and scenery changes again to cultivated plantations, characterised by the colours of green and yellow (grain and vegetables). Tall green and yellow trees appear once again and in some areas they gather to create small forests which change the look of the landscape.
Day # 17/18 – Shiraz
We have two days to stop and get to know one of the most symbolic cities of this fascinating country and the myth of Persepolis. Shiraz is more than 4,000 years old. Before Tehran was appointed capital, Shiraz was the capital of Persia, during the Zand Dynasty (1750-1794).
Day # 17 – Shiraz / Kerman: 570 km. Total distance travelled 5,840km
Immediately out of town we find ourselves in a deserted landscape but our wheels are on the excellent asphalt of a 4-lane road; Poor traffic allows us to keep up a reasonable average speed. After crossing the great Bakhtegan Salt Lake, the road rises up to the usual 2,500m which thanks to the milder temperatures makes riding bearable. In the late afternoon, on riding into Kerman, we begin to feel a little tired and today the journey has felt long. We approach the border with Beluchistan, the largest province in Pakistan. We have a discreet dinner at the hotel, accompanied by beer … non-alcoholic of course: our lack of alcohol over the last 14 days makes the alcohol-free beer taste almost good.
Tomorrow, we will be taking a short journey towards the east. We will be stopping at Bam, a city that was completely destroyed by a recent earthquake and which is gradually being rebuilt.
Day # 18 – Kerman / Bam: 198 km. Total distance travelled: 6,030km
Our departure from Kerman is relaxed. For quite a distance, the road remains at an altitude that makes riding pleasant … but we pay for this during our last 50km where we ride through a floodlit plain where adverse wind and the 45 degree reading on the thermometer prove to be a real challenge.
Arriving in Bam we immediately head to our hotel for a refreshing shower. In the afternoon we take it easy, waiting for more bearable temperatures before visiting Bam.
The city is located within an oasis in the desert and is famous for the production of dates from the thousands of palm trees growing in the area. It is also home to the large citadel made of mud bricks from Arg-e Bam dating back over 2000 years.
Tomorrow we will arrive at the border with Pakistan. It is likely that the border crossing may take a long time but we are keeping our fingers crossed that we pass through quickly.