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28th March 2011 – bus shame and a great kebab shop

May 31, 2011

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We are beginning to realise the scale of Iran – curse the guide book for exposing us to all the wonders of this amazing country. If you really want to see Iran by bike, you need to plan to be here at least three months. To connect every place worthy of a visit you are looking at + 3000km. In our time scale this simply wasn’t possible – cue bus.

Buses unfortunately were to become a more regular feature of our ride through this country – though thats not to say we substituted the road for them. Without a bus we would have to miss out on most of Iran’s highlights – Esfahan, Shiraz, Perspolis, Yazd, the Dasht – would have to be sacrificed for the sake of a pure uninterrupted road. If we took buses on the less appealing cycles (ie the highways) then we weren’t losing so much, and gaining a lot.

So the first unappealing stretch of road was the highway back over the Alborz from Rasht to Qazvin – The LP describes it as a death trap, so taking it on a bus would be a welcome alternative – it would also mean we could get to Tehran or Esfahan to extend our visas, as our longer than expected road to Masouleh was putting pressure on our passports.

The bus was less than enjoyable, dealing with staff who didn’t quite understand the precious nature of the bikes, trying to stuff them in the cramped luggage compartment. They then tried to charge us double the price of a seat just to transport the luggage, much to our protest. Our relationship with the bus staff was less than sweet, which was most likely the reason we were dumped quite spectacularly on the hard shoulder just outside Qazvin at 2330, miles away from the intended bus station.

We were in a bit of a predicament – drowsy from the bus, disorientated, foodless and with nowhere decent in sight to camp. Our situation was very soon remidied however by a nearby kebab shop that we took refuge in while we decided what to do. A curious customer offered to pay for our dinner (which consisted of 2 kebabs each-fatties) as well as the kebab shop owner Mohammed, after learning of our camping predicament, offering us to be guests in his house.

We had a great evening with Mohammed and his family, eating nuts, making conversation through a selection of phrase books and watching home videos of various religious festivals they had attended. we lucked out even further when Omid, a friend to Mohammed, offered to take us on a tour of the Alamut Valley in the next few days after we had expressed interest in doing some hiking. He was a keen hiker and mountain climber, and offered for us to stay at his house in a village in the valley, and give us a guided tour. For hospitalily and generosity, Iran cannot be beaten. We went to bed late, excited for the next few days and happy to be in the company of great people.

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