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23/03/2011 – Khal Khal to Shal – A night with a bright star

May 31, 2011

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A misty wet morning greets us – will we ever have a decent spell of warm dry weather?

Whilst climbing I spot a large group of bee boxes and keen to continue sampling local delights and craftsmanship I decide to enquire about getting a jar. The bees are all asleep I’m told but im invited into the guys small house where BBC Persia is on the tiny TV in the corner. The walls are adorned with all kinds of honey awards presented at fairs and conventions, but one in particular catches my eye. It’s a pharmacology report from Sweden showing the sugar and PH levels of his honey, he proudly tells me that he feeds his bees ginseng and milk to improve the flavor. I tried to buy a jar but he insisted on giving it to me for free in return for putting his photo on the blog.

Khal Khal was cold and we sat in a pizza place, eating peoples left overs, trying to dry out from the torrential downpour that had fallen just after we we’re approached by an unmarked cop car and our visas were checked (our first brush with the Revolutionary guard?). Time pressure hung weightily in the air, In order to see everything in Iran we would have to get our skates on.

We plan to take a track from further down the road onto Masuleh, almost everyone we’ve spoken to about it has told us that it’s impassable due to snow, but not everyone, so determined to see for ourselves and fuelled by another cyclists account of the track online we venture on.

The rain has become a deluge and riding is miserable, soaked through and having to wear sunglasses in order to protect your eyes from the rain drops downhill, we arrive in a tiny town close to the track. We’re shown a tea house and the fire is stoked for the new arrivals, all the customers are old weathered men slightly bemused at our situation but happy to see some travellers.

We pass through a stunning valley before arriving in a lively warm place called Shal, the last town before the track. The streets we’re busy with people chatting outside tea houses, shops and restaurants. Feeling like a warm bed and not a damp tent we decided to try our luck in the teahouse and see if anyone might offer us a place to stay for the night. Initially a teacher tells that we can stay at his but after a phone call to his wife either changes heart or finds us a better option. Outside, slightly confused by whats going on, I’m approached by a very young looking boy who asks if I speak English in a perfect accent. Moustafa, is with his family for No Ruz (New Year) and invites us to his grandmothers, we push the bikes up the cobbled streets slipping on the wet stone and trying to avoid the torrent that rushes down the middle.

Moustafa is a very bright kid, currently preparing for the Chemistry Olympiad in Iran and a Harvard hopeful the conversation rests of a more intelligent plain. The French revolution and Iran’s relationship with the world were some of the topics we covered, Moustafa has big aspirations to become the President, and tells us how he would run the country. Moustafa acts as a translator for the small amount we get to interact with the rest of his big family, but over a huge dinner we get to exchange the usual small bits of conversation with the others.

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