Sunday, 28 August 2016

Tajikistan: Pamirs Part 1

The start of our climb to 4,655 meters through the Pamir Mountains

Turkish Delight

We haven't actually had any Turkish Delight yet, although we do hear very good things about it, but it was some delight crossing over the border from Iran and shedding that headscarf let me tell you.  There was a bin right next to the X-Ray machine that our bikes and bags had to go through which I gladly dumped my scarf into and had a little celebratory chuckle to myself.  I waited until I was outside and away from the border guards to shed the rest.  What a welcome to Turkey it was!

Our first view of Turkey, and where I took off my long legs and sleeves and felt pure freedom after the confines of the Iranian dress code

We've been here almost two weeks now and although the weather here is cooler, and significantly less humid, than in Iran, the cycling has been tougher than anticipated.  I suppose a quick glance at the topography of the country would have had me a bit more prepared for the mountainous terrain, but we don't usually do much of that, preferring to just get up and go and take it as it comes.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Shit that Goes Wrong

I’ve been dying to write a blog post for ages but I’ve been stuck in the debilitating conundrum of either making a video, or sticking up a written piece.  So, in an effort to make up for my lack of writing I’ve decided to write a short post about everything of immediate interest, all in one fell swoop and with a focus on keeping waffle to a minimum. I believe I have a tendency to maximise waffle!  Think of it as a running roundup of the trip’s quirkier events. Like Sport Sunday, but with bicycles and a romantic subplot. I think I’m already starting to waffle! Anyway, I’m also sometimes going to work backwards. Partly because we’re in Iran and they write backwards, and partly in order to jog my memory. So apologies if it reads like were going in the opposite direction. And, just to confuse things even more, this time I’m going to work retrospectively forwards.

I’m going to focus on three themes: shit that goes wrong, people who are gas tickets altogether, and meltdowns! As it's difficult to write about everything that goes wrong in one go I will write about one of each theme when possible, and update additional shit going wrong etc. as the weeks go by. Everybody always wants to hear about the shit that goes wrong. Just part of the human condition I suppose.

Welcome to Iran

'Welcome to Iran' is shouted out the windows of almost every car that passes us.  People in the street say it to us too, followed by 'What is your country?'.  This question is usually followed with 'How do you like Iran?', an easy question to answer - we love it here.  What's not so easy to answer however is when they shyly ask next 'Why do people from the west think we are all terrorists?' Why indeed. 

Our taxi from the airport. 3 people, 3 bother!

Neither Nick nor I have ever been anywhere where the welcome has been so big, so widespread and so overwhelming in its sincerity.  We have stayed in countless Iranian families homes, we have been fed and watered and not a day has gone by where we haven't received something free of charge.  The welcome is huge and across the board: children and adults; city folk and country folk; rich and poor Iranians.  They seem delighted to have people visit their country and ignore the 'black news', the bad press this country seems to generate in the western media.  They do their utmost to help us and leave us with lasting good impressions, to hopefully go home and spread the word.  Which we will, we tell anyone who asks.   The hospitality and friendliness towards us isn't just a bid to change the country's awful reputation abroad though.  It seems to be an inbuilt characteristic of Iranians.  They are a family and community oriented people, and if you enter into their community it seems you get treated as part of it.  It's not a need or a task they feel they must perform.  It's a default response and they seem to get as much happiness and joy out of the interactions with us as we do with them.