Vince was still not feeling the best ….better than yesterday….but still not 100%. So we skipped trying to find any breakfast and just hit the road around 10.00am for the 315km ride to Tehran. Vince stopped for petrol and had a bit of bother getting the pump to work as they need “ration” cards….but it was all good and the fuel is very cheap here …1000 IRR (50cents Aust) a litre…..much better than the $2.50 we have paid in Turkey and elsewhere in Europe.
As we drove along many cars tooted, waved and rolled down windows to welcome us to Iran. The motorbikes here are all small, so the huge monster of a machine that is the ANIMAL sticks out like a sore thumb on the road and we attract a lot of attention.! One family who passed us in a blue car with a couple of kids in the back, held up a sign in English that said “LOVE”…..we gave it the big thumbs up as they pulled along side us. We had to pass through at least three or four toll booths and they all waved us on after asking where we were from and where we were headed….I thought they were being generous until Vince pointed out that there are signs showing no motorbikes allowed on the expressway…..that’s because they can’t keep up with the speeds required. No one has questioned the ANIMAL being able to keep up….even the police who stopped us for speeding the other day just let us go with a caution to slow down….but nothing about not being allowed on the expressway! My husband is leading me a stray into being naughty I think! We saw lots of overloaded vehicles which is common place here …..Iran efficiency I guess…..no OHS? Why make six trips when you can just make one!
As we approached Qazvin we pulled over and there was the family in the blue car also pulled over….we stopped beside them and I called the kids over and gave them each a sticker….they were thrilled. I asked if I could take a photo and the family kindly obliged. They then asked us for a photo of Vince and I with the children and the ANIMAL of course….and we obliged for them. Smiles all round.
We had planned to stop at Qazvin for a break and maybe some lunch…..but by the time we arrived there around midday neither of us felt like eating much due to our tummies…so we just had a pack of chips and a water each. It’s so hot (36 degrees) here and our adventure riding gear is like wearing sauna suits at times so we have to try to keep our fluids up.
As usual, anywhere we stop everyone admires the ANIMAL and Vince is in his element socialising and sharing our stories and our plans to the eager audience. One gentleman, who had seen me give the children the stickers earlier, indicated by sign language that he would like one too …so I gave him one. Whilst we were there two Iranian women from Tehran, Manijeh who could speak some English and her Uncle’s Wife who couldn’t speak English at all, Soghra approached me. Sigher was very interested in the armour in my jacket and kept touching my spinal plate….so I tried to explain by acting out it was in case I fell off….the look on her face was very concerned….I let her feel the armour in my jacket and trousers…she was impressed. I realised afterwards….these women would never have seen a woman dressed like me or on a motorbike (They have only relatively recently been allowed to drive cars). She was very taken with me and spent a lot of time in my personal space….something Iranians don’t bother about! Manijeh spoke to us for quite a while wishing us well and welcoming us…she showed me a picture of her daughter who is married and lives in Canada. Soghra showed me pictures of her grandchild….I shared with them that Vince and I have 5 adult children (3 girls and 2 boys) and that the girls all have children…so we have grandchildren (4 girls and 1 boy)….Manijeh translated for her relative and they were very pleased about that. They asked if they could take photos and we agreed….we also took some….smiles all round again! I gave them a sticker each and we explained about our website. As we said our goodbyes both women hugged me and kissed me three times on the cheeks….I felt very privileged……a very special interaction I shall treasure from Iran.
Back on the road a German guy pulled along side us in his Jeep Stationwagon and gave us the big thumbs up …. a fellow traveller!
Our Garmin/BMW GPS is almost completely blind in Iran – it shows just the major connecting roads between cities, and shows zero street level detail, so for example, Tehran is just a grey blob on the screen. Fortunately I had scrawled a largely illegible mudmap on the back of an envelope the evening before, and that was our sole guidance to the Tehran Grand Hotel. I couldn’t take my eyes off the road to look at the map which was inside the see-through tank-bag, so whilst we zipped along the freeways at 100kmh or so Karen had to remove her sunglasses, locate her reading glasses and put them on under her helmet, and then peer over my shoulder to try and decipher my cryptic notes and diagrams – and she managed this quite well!!!
Tehran is criss-crossed by a network of north-south and east-west expressways and occasionally we’d miss a turn-off as you don’t get much advance warning that they are coming up, but we managed to home into the hotel without too much bother. The traffic was reasonably light and without too many manic moments – I think I’m still a bit shell-shocked from the ride into Istanbul and I wasn’t looking forwards to Tehran, but the drivers here are fairly courteous, and even make a concerted effort to stay within their lanes – when the road has lane markings that is, as often there are no markings.
Once settled in our room we wandered outside for a late lunch and found a delicious pizza place – almost like Pizza Hut !!! (Karen’s note: Black Headscarf makes no difference……a couple of girls still laughed at us but I asked them what was so funny and ended up with an apology). On the walk there and back we saw two car showrooms, both featuring a selection of posh new cars, like the Porsche Cayenne, BMW coupe, Mercedes etc – and this struck us both as quite incongruent as up to now all the cars we’ve seen on the road have generally been old cars – a lot of old and insipid Peugeots and Renaults, some newer Peugeots (305’s I think), and heaps of what look like locally-produced cars. A sign of the international sanctions perhaps.
In the evening I banged out the third round of visa applications for India, but having completed these forms previously in France (enroute to Geneva) and in Ankara, I’m getting much quicker at filling in the forms. Afterwards we wandered outside looking for somewhere to eat, and stumbled across our second below-ground level restaurant where we enjoyed a nice meal, served canteen-style. I think I’ve seen steps leading downstairs before – perhaps in Zanjan – squeezed between street-front shops – maybe it’s standard in Iran for restauarants to be below-ground – further investigation is required!!!!