We skipped breakfast and got straight into packing and loading the bike, and by 10:30am we were in the thick of Esfahan’s morning traffic, making our way south across the road bridge and looking to pick up Route 65. We passed Siosepol Bridge (the Bridge of 33 Arches) over the Zayandeh River, it’s the longest of the 11 bridges in Esfahan. Karen jumped off the bike and walked through the park to take a few photos of this impressive footbridge whilst I plugged Shiraz into the GPS.
Karen was wearing her helmet still as she went to photograph the bridge (to keep her hair covered as we were in public) and our Sena’s were still switched on. I could hear her saying hello to two local ladies that approached her. The next second I could hear Karen over the radio yelling out “Don’t hit me, if you hit me again I’ll hit you back!!!!” What had happened was the younger one had asked for money and when Karen had replied she didn’t have any money (which was true) the girl took umbridge and hit Karen on the shoulder. She was shocked but unhurt. I asked her over the Sean if she needed any help but she was already on her way back to the bike. You meet all sorts on the road!
At one of the major roundabouts we needed to negotiate the traffic was absolutely chaotic, something like seven or eight lanes merging down to four, with buses barging through the gaps and cars weaving all over the place. It was hot already and the cars were barely crawling along, and I managed to stall the bike at the most inopportune time, but a quick restart got us out from underneath a bus and back into the melee.
On the outskirts of Shiraz I pulled over for fuel at a CNG station, already crowded with long lines of cars and trucks. The pump attendant waved us forwards and we squeezed through the cars to the front of a line. We were wedged between the pump island and the refuelling cars, and so I stayed on the bike and refuelled in situ as I couldn’t get off. We had hoped to buy a drink of water and perhaps some breakfast but there were a few commotions in the line behind us and we were starting to get a bit crowded, so we just paid up and took off.
As soon as we’d left Esfahan behind the desert took over again. This time we were on a dual lane highway, max posted speed 110kmh, though we just cruised at 100kmh as I was trying to conserve fuel in case we couldn’t any more fuel on the remaining 460km to Shiraz. We saw a few small dusty shops tucked into a curve and pulled over for a drink. A couple in a car pulled over and started photographing the bike, then got out of the car and carried on photographing, and when I told them not to touch they nodded (the guy at least spoke English), but when I turned my back he was encouraging his female companion to climb on the bike for a photo opportunity. Karen quickly and clearly voiced her disapproval, and they bolted back to their car and sped off. It’s not that we don’t mind people admiring the bike, but it’s unstable when parked up on awkward slopes and it’s not a plaything.
Traffic was light on the highway. One blue dual-cab ute kept on passing us and then we’d overtake it, and eventually it drove up right next to us – so close Karen could have reached out and touched it, and the rear passenger tried to pass Karen a melon out of the window, but a tap of the brakes and quick wiggle had us drop behind and away from the car into some open space. Once again today we’ve noticed that the more the Iranians like you and want to get to know you – the closer they will drive to you, which is very disconcerting at times.
We pushed on through the 35 degree plus heat, and pulled over at Soghad when I saw a servo, ready for more fuel and some lunch. The men in the dual-cab ute where also stopped there, so we had a brief and friendly chat until they drove off and I repositioned the bike out the front of the small food shop.
We got a bottle of water each and some small cakes for lunch, and once again Karen had to admonish some guys that had started to fiddle with the switches on the bike.
Back on the bike we passed a sign saying we had 235km still to ride, so we were passing the half-way point, and it had taken four hours to get this far (it was about 02:30pm at this stage), so I wasn’t expecting an early arrival in Shiraz.
The temperature started to rise and we were both getting quite thirsty, so when I saw signs just outside of Pasergad pointing to a tourism restaurant we pulled off the main road and negotiated some road works so we could double back and find the restaurant, which stood out as it offered shady trees to park under, away from the blistering heat. A bottle of water each and a snack on some potato chips that we’d bough the evening before, and then we headed off again.
We entered a well-defined valley and could see signs of crop cultivation. Soon we could see green crops growing in the fields, and occasional herds of goats and sheep. A deep river bed cut through the fields on our left, but we couldn’t see any water in it. The closer we got to Shiraz the more abundant the crops became. Some of the fields were barren, and in them we could see the goat herders and their goats. In some fields we saw tents and pens of goats, and in another field people were herding their goats up a ramp and into a covered pen, in preparation for loading onto a truck.
About 20km north of Shiraz the traffic started to become more congested, and the riding more challenging, as cars and trucks weaved all over the road in the race to the front. Where I could I’d slip to the back and get some clear air, at other times it was easier to bolt to the front, but that would often bring on a challenge to other drivers, and they would quickly close the gap and swarm all around us.
I’d studied my Google Maps the preceding evening and was able to rely on my memory to get us close to our hotel, but I missed the last turn and took us on a little excursion. We pulled over and asked some locals for directions and they pointed us back up the road, and an elderly gentleman who ran the fruit stall adjacent to where I’d pulled over stopped the traffic for us so I could then squeeze the bike between a small gap in the low fence that divided the centre of the road, and get us travelling in the right direction. I rode up to the mosques as instructed, and again we pulled over to ask for directions, this time from a young man on a scooter. He waved to us to follow him, and after a laborious u-turn we followed the scooter down a little side-alley and straight ahead I could see signs to our hotel.
We checked into the Niayesh Boutique Hotel, and whilst Karen blocked the toilet I unloaded everything off the bike and covered it up, but not before chasing off a hotel guest who had climbed on and was getting the hotel security guard to take photos of him.
Dinner was at the restaurant in the sister Niayesh Hotel, tucked away down a few covered alleys and served in a caravanessi style. I enjoyed my lemon chicken kebab and rice, but Karen couldn’t face her greasy and unpleasant vegetable and meat stew, and left it untouched, and having tasted a bit myself I could understand why she didn’t want to eat it. And so ended another long day on the bike 🙂