Yazd -> Shiraz
Time to hit the road again – we’re heading towards Shiraz. Hoping for a nice red when we get there, but doubting the likelihood of such a simple pleasure. Ah Iran – how you often frustrate me.
With images of flesh dropping from vulture’s beaks into the streets below, we cycled from the Towers of Silence to the motorway intersection up the road. Our host met us there for a farewell cycle out of town and he pedalled his trusty mountain bike beside us for the 20km to Taft. Huge felafel sandwiches and a bag full of carrots were devoured as a final farewell celebration.
With the late start, dusk arrived too soon. Camping options were in short supply. It was time to request something magical from the universe and she delivered. Our very own hand-dug cave network.
Beds were laid down on the floor of our mansion, a roaring fire was started and we were soon smoked like a Tasmania salmon. Note to self – unless there is a through breeze, don’t build a big fire in a cave. Took note of the fire safety adds from my childhood and got down low. Worked a treat.
For morning tea we stopped in a pomegranate garden and gorged ourselves. Big magenta smiles and hands were a give away to our happiness. Adorable old villages with cobbled streets, stone buildings and ancient trees were dotted along the road providing visual splendour for the morning.
Eagle rock gave Dog rock in Albany a run for its money in the afternoon.
After such beauty and a big lunch, a roadside nap was required.
Then we exited the valley and the village greenery dispersed itself between the desert brown. It was a full day of cycling and as we pulled into another village we darted off the road as we couldn’t face another police road block. With such a barren landscape it was hard to find a hidden site for the night. A few hundred metres into the desert we found an ditch in the sand and pitched our tents around our makeshift fire pit for the night.
The morning of my 36th birthday was soon upon us. I enjoyed a cup of tea around the fire to start the day.
My wish for the day was to have a picnic under the 4,000 year old cyprus tree in Abarkuh. We only had 30 km to cycle and many adventures were to be had between here and there. Gifts from the universe and people started arriving immediately. A dozen pomegranates arrived, followed by a bag full of apples. My feminist stick wielding fury was released on two teenage boys who dared to try to intimidate and sexualise us. They learnt quickly.
Once we arrived at the cyprus tree a 4 hour heavenly, vegetarian, birthday feast ensued. Ten minutes after arriving a local gentleman appeared, silver platter in hand, with three tea cups and a thermos of tea. “Welcome to Iran, I thought you’d like some tea” – music to my ears. Could this day get any better? I guess it depends on how you feel about getting abducted while trying to camp, followed by having a lady you just met walk in on your shower and offering you a back rub. This is one birthday I wont forget.
We had a guided tour of the caravanserai the guy grew up in, which is now in ruins. It was fascinating walking through such history. Their daughter had decided I was her new best friend and wouldn’t let go of my hand.
A ferocious headwind greeted us when we pedalled out of town. At the turn off we sheltered from the battering at a service station where we were offered a room with a heater. This was followed by copious cups of tea, and homemade food and sweets sent over by the shop attendant’s parents who had heard we were in town. It was hard to tear ourselves away and brave the crazy driving and wind. Not to mention the guy who tried to grab Jude’s leg as she cycled by. Jude reacted like a super heroine by punching and screaming at him, which resulted in him running away and hiding behind his truck. It is taxing having to be constantly on your guard from creepers, so camp was set up early and we sang songs and told jokes to lighten the tension created by men who would invade our space.
A new day dawned as did happier emotions. The road wound its way through hills and walnut groves where Iranians were sharing picnics in the woods. In true Iranian style we were invited to join most of these and if we had accepted we would not have cycled far that day. A warm river bordered by weeping willows was our home for the night (for cyclists – just before Morghab). The place felt so spiritual, we all tapped into the vibrations of the elements.
The clouds rolled in the next morning and a constant drizzle had us riding in our water-proof gear. The thought of stopping at the ruins of Pasargad in such weather was dismal, so we pushed on to Sa’adat Shahr where for the first time we struggled to find somewhere warm to have a cup of tea and some food. We settled for a felafel joint where the guy let us sit behind the counter to dry our clothes by the heater. The drizzle turned into a hard core down pour without end in sight. Our waterproof gear could only handle so much and within a few kilometres we were all soaked through to our undies. While waiting for the others to catch up, I was called over by a local in a car who, after establishing that we were all women, invited us to stay at his family home. Despite making a huge mud puddle in their house, and annoying their daughter by partaking in the father’s home brew while she was praying, our stay was fun and comfortable.
Time was now running short as we had a visa extension to do in Shiraz the following day. The rain had delayed us too much, so we decided that we would try our hand at hitch hiking – three women and their full laden touring bikes. Truck one was slow due to the amount of opium the driver and his passenger was smoking. Quiz – what is more dangerous: having a gas barbeque burning full time in your truck cabin or having a driver high on opium driving it? Luckily we escaped the opium den unscathed, to be picked up by a man in a small pick-up who wouldn’t let one of us sit in the back. Needless to say after being bent in half for an hour with my head whacking the roof every time we went over a bump, it was time to get out. The final lift was great – truck with lots of room, no opium, no small chat in broken persian/english and a lovely driver. We made it to the outskirts of Shiraz with time to spare, so we checked out one of the gardens Shiraz is famous for before heading to our host’s place for some well deserved R&R. Unfortunately – no wine.
After having our visa extension approved we spent the next few days experiencing the vibrant and frenetic life that comes with visiting Shiraz. When we weren’t enjoying the great company of our host and his friends we were enjoying stunning views of the city.
And exploring the bazaar with our new Kiwi cycle touring friends – Toby and Kate.
Reading the famous Shirazian poet Hafez’s works in the stunning parks that Shiraz is famous for.
Or just exploring them by foot.
Love Astrid xx