And then we arrived Bushehr, a city at the Persian Gulf. In a sticky temperature we set up the tent next to some mangroves and the highway. Next day we had a mission: find the immigration office because our monthly visa had expired and we needed to extend it. In the center of the city we ran into Masoud. A 62 year old pensioner that spoke good English. We asked him for the immigration office and he decided to join us. It was a blessing to have Masoud at our side. He spoke with the officer and helped us filling in the forms in Persian. In the end we could extend our visa for two months! An exceptional situation, most of the time a month or 40 days is the max. We did not had to pay a fine for the delay of our extension and also the extension itself was cheap, 20 euro all together. We left totally happy and noticed our empty stomachs. Masoud showed us a good place to buy fish, we eat it at the pier and jumped in the water, because it was already plus 30 degrees. Sara had to swim with clothes actually also with headscarf, but because there were almost no people she left it.
He invited to his home to have a shower. We met his super friendly wife that gave Sara three beautiful pieces of clothes that her daughter left while moving out. So Sara had a new Iran outfit joehoe! After a shower, coffee, chocolates and nice company we left Bushehr to find a camping spot. We found a place in the middle of nowhere which was very quiet and nice. It was full moon which provided enough light to pitch the tent. On our way we constantly were stopped by people that wanted to host us, but this time we decided to camp. Next day the ocean was more far than we thought and in the middle of the day with the hot sun on our faces we walked a while, discovering a mud hole, but with really funny slimy animals and nice birds. Eventually we could find enough water to have a little refreshment without sinking in the mud.
Pearls of the Persian Sea
We cycled further along the coast but could not see the see quite yet. We stopped at a grocery store, next to a coffee shop, where we got invited for coffee. The boy also wanted to have us at his house, but we were excited to discover the “real” sea, so we went on. After an hour, we arrived at a mystic spot, with old English boats from the 20th century. There was almost nobody so Sara went in bikini which was soooo nice. It was so hot along the Persian coast and then being fully covered is sometimes a bit of a hell. Of course good sun protection, but it feels not free. We parked our bikes next to a stranded ship and decided to stay and camp there. Here we started to notice the beauty of the Persian coast. Water so clear and everywhere little crabs in beautiful shells. We met some fisher guys that shared there fish kebab with us.
The sunset was so beautiful over there with the old ships. It would not be our last beautiful sunset, because the whole Persian coast is great at sunset. In the evening however the water started rising and surrounding our tent. It killed our campfire. We fled into the boat with tent and bikes. But at a certain point the water started to withdraw, we placed the tent back and were surrounded by water on our little island. It was a great camping night.
Sehashgal: Trash in Iran
Next day was a beautiful cycling day, along crazy rock formations. We met Yasser again. On our second cycling day we had chatted with him along the road and he had invited us but we decided to camp. This time we had a interesting conversation with him about life in Iran. Also he had started an Instagram group sehashgal which means 3garbage. He and his friends started an action that everybody should take of course there own trash and three extra pieces that lay around. A very good action, because trash is laying everywhere and people are not fully aware of what they are causing to their environment. Plastic is a pretty recent phenomenon in Iran and the government has until now not shown a lot of priority to policies on garbage cleaning and recycling. So a lot of beaches and along side the road there is lots of trash that people just throw out of the window.
Wolves and fish kebab
But we decided to send Yasser the location of our camping spot and he would come with his wife to have some typical Iranian fish kebab. Chris and I crashed a place in a little village, because Sara had a hunger attack. We saw again a beautiful sunset and decided to go for water to the village and camp in the area. However the people in the village warned us for wolves. After so much warnings from people in Georgia and not any signs of wolves or howling, we laughed about their comments and took off in the dark. We settled outside te village in a beautiful environment with palm trees and a clear sky full of stars. After an hour of chilling at the tent and sending our location to Yasser, we suddenly heard howling sounds. There were lot of dogs in the area and those howl too, but this was a different sound. It was the sound of a wolf. First it was a bit for away, but soon we were surrounded by three wolves. Chris shined his light in their eyes. We made a big fire and Sara fled into the tent, hoping Yasser and his family would soon safe us.
Eventually after some hours Yasser arrived at around 11.00 o’clock while we were totally sleepy and we hadn’t heard any wolves for an hour or so. We made delicious fish kebab though. Yasser told he had a blond brother, he also came later, but blond meant just brown. According to Yasser 2.500 years ago people in Persia were blond, but with the Turkish and Mongoloid conquests the population got mixed and now there almost no blonds anymore. We have seen 0 blond people. Not that it matters to us. But to some Iranians it’s very fashionable.
With Yasser we talked about the love for Hitler of some Iranians but especially the love for the Aryan race. In Iran people are also so fond of Chris his blond hair, because they relate it with Aryan. A lot of Iranians believe that the start of civilization with the Aryan race found place in Iran. They think they are related in some kind of way with the Germans. Some think that the Germanic Aryan tribes emigrated to Persia, others think it was the other way around. Anyhow, most Persians are very proud of their past (which is also pretty impressive with so many empires you cannot not loose count). On the graves of the great Persian emperor Darius I is stated that he is an Aryan from the great ayra.
Iran means also Aryan. We noticed that Chris gets a lot of funny, well let’s say weird reaction if he says he is from Germany. A lot of people are not afraid to reply with: aaah Hitler! Sometimes it follows: Hitler Good! We traveled a lot in the villages and we are being told people in Iran do not learn a lot about European history, so they don’t know what they are talking about. They somehow think Hitler is a great leader and brought Germany from ashes to a world power. With a few religious fanatics it helps they share the same enemy picture. The high educated people often do have enough knowledge and take a distance of this view.
At a certain point our eyes became so heavy, we said goodbye to Yasser, his nice wife, their crying baby and the brother. The wolves had gone and we slept like babies.
The next day, the sun was shining the beach looked amazing and we had our shower. The beauty of the Persian coast was in front of us every day. We had a nice cycling day, although it was pretty hot and we left the coast for a few hour. In exchange we found a lake with a big bridge were we could swim, have lunch and nobody could see us. It sounds strange “nobody could see us”, but in Iran, the moment you find yourself in the public area, on the street biking, walking or whatever, there is no time for yourself, because everybody is fascinated and wants to have contact like mentioned earlier in the blog. So if you can find a spot where nobody is and you can swim in normal swimming suits or loose the headscarf than this is great.
Abbas and Reza, like father like son
In the evening we cycled in a beautiful area, 40 kilometers before Bandar Dayyer. Filled with green fields and palm trees and in the evening light we saw our first “wild” camels in Iran! Joehoehoe. Even with sign that we had to be careful for camels crossing the roads. Isn’t that great. It started to get dark and a young guy on a motorbike saw it as his duty to find us a good camping spot. So he accompanied us for some kilometers. We turned right into a little village, only three houses and one mosque. The boy explained the people we wanted to camp but the two men we met said it was too dangerous. What was dangerous they could not explain. Most of the time, this is an excuse to get you into their house. But with the wolf experience of the previous night, we accepted the offer of Abbas a 53-year old goat farmer. He had a cute little house with a nice inner garden, but we could sleep in the house.
We were invited by the guys in the mosque for tea. So we made a lot of pictures with them and try to chat in our little Persian and their little English. The loudspeaker set got installed for the imam, who started singing in front of our eyes. However all the inhabitants were occupied with their smartphones. In the end we got some great food which we could eat at the place of the women. The women were smoking shisha and were really sweet. After the food prayer time started. In Iran, the Shiite faith involves a lot of martyrdom. So people cry for Hussain that dies centuries ago for his suffering and the suffering of a lot of other holy persons or people they know. So when the imam started speaking the woman slowly covered their faces or looked extremely sad and some started crying. We decided this was a good moment to take a walk. We climbed into Abbas his house, chilled there for half an hour until Reza, the hyperactive son of Abbas discovered us. However he was very nice and invited us to his home in the next city Bandar Dayyer. We also met Fatema, Abbas his second wife, she was very sweet.
The next morning Abbas arranged some great breakfast and after cuddling with the baby goats we left this welcoming place. Our way to Bandar Dayyer was blocked because of a special big event related to Hussain. Thousands of people walked on the street and drinks and food were giving out to the people. It was extremely warm We decided to go just before the little city into the harbor, but that meant that we had to carry our bikes over some stapled rocks that were put there as a fence. On our way we had met the guys from the mosque and probably they had called Reza, because when we came out of the sea, Reza stood in front of us in the middle of a remote harbor. With food. We said we would call him the moment we would arrive in the center of the city. This took a bit, because suddenly the police came. Three police guys, two were really funny, however there was one serious one. There was a lot of talking on the phone we had to give our passports etc. Turned out we could not be in the harbor area. They escorted us out and we were free to go.
In the center we met Reza, who took us to a house of one of the guys in the mosque, Mohammed. He and his brother were staying there while the rest of the family was taking a holiday on the island Qeshm. We stayed there for two nights. Sara got a bit ill, totally out of energy for two days. The young guys of course had a tv and for two days we just had movie nights and a rest of the hot sun, dusty roads and a lot of people. Mohammed and Saeid, the two brothers were super nice. Especially Saeid was very chill and thus it was easy for us to rest a bit. However we were still stuck with Reza. He came in and out and needed attention like a new born baby. His father Abbas could not stop calling Chris, although he could not speak English. So it was a bit of a family thing we guessed.
The road to Asaluyeh, Petrol city
Saeid prepared us great fish though, we could have a shower and wash some clothes. That was wonderful. After two days we were back with energy and we cycled our way to Asaluyeh. Two nights we camped at nice spots. In the evening we thought there was a big bush fire some kilometers away. The next day, we discovered we had arrived at the petrol road. The road to Asaluyeh was thus not so nice. Asaluyeh looks like Mordor, there is a big petrol industry with gas plants. The air is crappy and the landscape too. We tried to hike, but we had no luck, so in the evening we cycled a long way in order to find a camping spot eventually we found a beach behind the airport next to mangroves with a view on the burning city. It had a nice feeling, to be on the other side and have the view on Mordor. In the evening it started raining and we just dived into the tent early.
Next day we found nice shells and we tried our decided to hike the ugly part, because still had plus 500 kilometers to go to Bandar Abbas. Our hike went to Bandar Abbas through the mountains. We got picked up by one AHDH guy Mohammed and the silent but cool Farshot. Mohammed could not ust stop speaking: Persian. After a few discussions and lots of doubts we decided to hike with them all the way to Bandar Abbas. Sara was a bit sad to skip this whole part, but Chris his motto was: we can always cycle back. In the evening we arrived however still 100 kilometers before Bandar Abbas, in the second house of Mohammed. They made chicken kebab and we listened to Persian songs on the TV. Sara got a bit exhausted of Mohammed, so soon went to bed.
The next day, we discovered we were close to Laft Port, that is another port with ferries going to the island Qeshm. A place we wanted to go anyway. So we decided to cycle the next 30 kilometers ourselves and take the ferry to Qeshm! This was an excellent choice. Laft port is more alternative port than Bandar Abbas. We had nice contact with the security guys, and a really nice Pakistani disabled guy that spoke perfect English helped us our. They eventually let us in for free! The boat ride takes two minutes and there we were: on Qeshm! an Iranian island.
The wonders of island Qeshm
Qeshm is a spectacular island. It is Geo-national park and UNESCO heritage. Many natural wonders can be found. When we arrived it was a bit cloudy, windy and dusty. We cycled east and had a nice gymnastic break. When we continued cycling we saw our second camels, just on the road! In the evening we found a nice camping spot in a Star Wars environment.
The next day we decided to cycle to the capital to check out the one and only workaway place in Qeshm. We still had 50 kilometers and we had a strong headwind. This made cycling pretty hard. On our way, we met a 48-year old Iranian cyclist Massoet in army outfit. He was an old veteran and fought in the Iran-Iraq war. He could speak a little English, and we continued together.
Soon we found out we were a bit too fast for him, because he got severely injured during the war. A granate exploded close to him and ruined one side of his body. His left leg had a lot of injuries and he also has a prosthetic eye. So we cycled more slow, which was not too bad because the headwind made us also very tired. Against sunset we took a hike with the three of us for 15 kilometers to the capital. Massoet had invited us for a hotel. We did not completely understand, because we would not want him to pay for us. But he made sure it was free, because the owner was his friend. This was great, in the center of Qeshm we got a hotel. The only thing we had to do is go with him the next morning to plant a tree at the mosque and tell our story to some journalists which was fine by us.
The hotel even had a kitchen, so we could prepare salads and make tea. The next day, we got up early to plant the tree at the mosque. This was a funny experience. There were a lot of people, we met the major of Qeshm and we had to pose with our bikes and plant two trees. We soon noticed that Massoet had a lot of status. We think because of his war experiences. On his bike trip he promoted peace and we missed his great speech in Persian .
Reunions with Mark has become a habit. In the early afternoon we met him in the park. He slept in the park, next to his German friends in a huge truck with their two little cute kids. He was not in a good mood, because he had a little difference of opinion with the workaway people. The couple was German and they had a bit of a misunderstanding about the work that needed to be done in the restaurant. After chilling on the beach, seeing Kiki, a rainbow girl again and chatting with the German family we eventually went back to the hotel. This time with Mark. Chris paid a visit to the Workaway couple. He got along fine, but because they are very organized and have a tight schedule they can fit you in, we eventually did not work at their restaurant. Instead we explored two weeks the island.
In the evening it was Internet time at the hotel. Sara went for a walk and met a great guy: another Massoet. He invited her for tea and cookies. They had a nice chat with his son in law. There is one famous Persian painting that is hanging everywhere, and also at Massoet’s place. Sara loves it. Massoet explained the meaning. That this is nostalgic guy who is thinking of his great love that he misses so much. You can see that in flower that represents eternal love in the mirror reflection of the teapot.
In the morning we visited him again and promised to promote his restaurant on the blog. He has a tiny little restaurant (with eggs for breakfast) and he loves the visits of foreign people. So travel people, go to the restaurant across Plus Hotel in Qeshm. You will meet a super friendly guy.
Bad luck hour
The next day Mark went back to Bandar Abbas and we decided to cycle around the island. We said goodbye to Masoud, that actually wanted us to join him an 12 other Iranian cyclists to go to Hengam, another island. But we decided to take it easy. We had bad timing though. We arrived at the beginning of a two week Iranian holiday, so the island was packed with Iranian holidaymakers. Which meant for us: not so much privacy and being in the center of attention most of the time. The weather had improved the last days, so it was really hot. So we wanted to have a break in the shadow on a nice beach. It was impossible to find a nice lonely beach. Every time we found on, a minute later three cars would arrive full of families to join us at the beach. Also it was hard to find a beach where the water was not full of algae. A common natural phenomenon at Qeshm.
However after Chris his back rack sort of broke we were forced to hide in the shade at one of the beaches. There was only one family and after a fruit break, they saw us and invited us for chicken kebab. It was a family from Kerman. They were super nice and wanted to give all their food to us. The kids were super cute, we found the most beautiful shells with them. The teenagers could speak English and the rest a little. We had a great break with them and noted their numbers down in the case we would come to Kerman.
We continued cycling and camped pretty early. This time not at the beach, but inland where farmers let their camels graze. We found a great remote spot between psychedelic rocks again where we made a campfire. Next day it was pretty hot again. We continued our way to Star Valley. Some valleys have been named in order to make them tourist attractions. This is really effective, because these valleys are packed with people. Star Valley was crowded and for us not so different from some rock formations in Cappadocia. So we had a quick visit and quickly cycled out of there. We had a nice lunch at an empty beach with the most beautiful shells, but unfortunately also lots of trash.
Shooting algae stars
At the end of the day we camped behind some industry, however this turned out to be one of the most beautiful beach areas on Qeshm. The most colorful shells where there, and when Sara did the dishes in the sea in the night her hands started to light up: the algae gave light in the dark! This made us really excited, as if we were in Avatar. So we had some algae fun. Our steps on the sand lighted up and in the water we could shoot with light bubbles. They only shine when you touch them.
The next day, it was bloody hot and we found a bit of empty little beach at the coast. We build sunshade with a boat that was laying on the beach. Chris had a swim, and came back hanging on a fishers boat. The fisher man gave us 6 fish, so we could have a nice lunch. That was so nice. We grilled them by piercing them with Chris his spare bicycle spikes. It was delicious. In the evening we arrived in the village from which the ferries to Hengam depart. Hengam is a smaller island and famous for its big dolphin population and the local clothing with colorful face masks the woman wear, called bandari. And shells, so much colorful shells. We ate some cheap falafel and Sara got some arty Henna on her hand. We chatted with the people there, charged our devices and camped twenty minutes next to the harbor.
The (poor) dolphins
Next morning we discovered that going by boat with our bicycles would be around 12 euro per person, way above our budget. We decided to skip Hengam and its dolphins and just cycle beautiful Qeshm. However when we continued cycling we arrived at a second harbor. Here a dolphin trip with a boat was 3 euro per person. So we decided to go on a dolphin trip with many other excited Iranians. Because of the holiday week, the sea was filled with little boats looking for dolphins. We had a really excited group, with one crazy Iranian screaming and yelling. At the beginning it seemed we were not going to find any dolphin, the sea was silent, the captains asked each other for information, but there were no dolphins. Yet.
Suddenly someone saw them and all the boats went for it. We saw groups of dolphins swimming, an on occasion one jumped out of the water to give us a little show. It was definitely nice to see these beautiful animals, however the way we did it, with all the boat hunting and chasing these animals with over excited people felt a bit strange. And somehow we could not imagine dolphins enjoying this madness. On our way back we made a little stop at Hengam, so we had set foot at the island and we arrived in the afternoon back at the harbor.
We now left the crowded touristy part of the island behind us. We left the concrete roads and cycled the unpaved roads at a beautiful silent coast. Chris made handstands during sunset. We camped in the communal garden full with palm trees of a ghost city. The old houses were partly devastated, but it provided a great atmospheric scenery. Here we saw our first scorpion, a shining light green one. Next day we arrived in a little town.
Sara had to charge her laptop for writing and we also waited for the vegetable shop to open, because we needed a bit of extra food for this remote road. We charged and waited in front of a mosque, until two little boys invited us for dinner. We followed them to their house. Woman and man were separate. They turned out to be an Arabic family with a Persian couple that visited them. Not much people could speak English, but with little Persian and little English, we could communicate a bit. The ladies all had adorable children and so at the ladies part it was more energetic. However both parties got a royal meal. Really amazing food. After three o’ clock the hottest point of the day had gone, we thanked this welcoming family and hit the road.
At the end of the day we found a perfect camping spot: under a rock. So enough shadow and with beach view. We stayed there for two nights, because it was just so awesome. Sara had collected lots of shells and started to make necklaces and bracelets with wool. Chris cooked sea water and collected the salt that remained for our salt stash.
The second night we got a visit by Omit. He was not alone: he had brought a huge fish tasty fish. We spiced and grilled it on the fire. It was super extra nice. Omit wanted to take us to the village, to his house. But we were in campfire mood. He did not gave up and tried hard, but we told him we were just not going to move. Instead he went to the village and got back with some drinks that we drank on the beach. He tried to kiss Sara when Chris was gone, so we lost a bit of sympathy for him.Bur there were always the algae, so we had some algae fun.
The dusty road to the salt caves
After three days we hit the unpaved roads again. We saw some great rock formations on our way and in the end of the afternoon we arrived at the salt caves.
We got invited for food by the security guards and visited the first (sticky warm) salt cave. We camped nearby, so we could visit the second in the morning. In the evening we met two nice Iranians that shared their watermelon with us. One of them was a mountain biker/adventurer. In the early morning we went on a salt cave expedition. Hiked up and ended up at two caves. It was cool to see roofs covered with salt bubbles, as if it was snow. We needed salt, so Chris scrapped handful of salt from the roof in a plastic bag. In the early afternoon we cycled out, but Chris soon discovered he lost his buff, so we went back at the hottest point of the day. Chris was happy, because the security drove him on the motorbike which was an awesome ride. The buff was discovered later that night at his bicycle rack.
Next day we cycled to Chahkooh valley. This was one the high points in Qeshm. We arrived late at the day and there were almost no people. The valley is known for its ancient local water wells, where the locals collect their water. The valley is nice for hiking, sometimes a bit slippery. The rock formations have all kinds of psychedelic forms, and we cycled eventually back with a great sunset. We camped at a good spot near the mangroves.
The next day we continued to Table. One of the bigger villages in Qeshm. There we discovered Mark was staying in a hostel, twenty meters away from us. Mark had gone to Bandar Abbas, to get his second passport he sent to Germany and he returned to the island to discover more. He had met some Belgian travelers and a Swiss guy. Two Belgian girls did also a bicycle tour, however in Iran they took public transfer, because they were told two girls alone would not be a good idea, but mainly it was because of the cold that they had left their bikes in Tehran.
They had met the Swiss Manu, also with a bike. But he had a special story. He started in Japan, traveled all kind of countries by hitch hiking and backpacking, ended up in China and there he built his own bike out of bamboo! What a hero. He had left his bamboo bike and ad joined the Belgian girls and their friends that visited them to the south of Iran. These were awesome people who loves icecream, and were full of energy. We decided to do the mangrove tour with them which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The guy just drove us to the mangroves for one second and went back. Normally you can see a lot of exotic birds, but for us it was just mainly seagulls. We did see a wedding between the mangroves. Well, it was mainly a photo shoot.
After the tour, we got invited to a wedding by our driver. Woman and man apart as usual. The ladies had a peek at the lady part. There were lots of colorful woman and children and the famous bandari woman with the face masks. The man were sitting outside with each other and had food. Later that evening the rest went back to join the wedding , but we still had to look for a camping spot. We said goodbye to these great group ,exchanged numbers and went off.
The next day Chris and I headed to the capital Qeshm again, to get a boat to Hormoz. One of the most beautiful islands of Iran. We ended up in a sandstorm, which was not so bad at all, because we had the wind our back! So went super fast! We camped in a sandy environment behind a hill and tried to make our tent wind and sand proof.
Next day we had a nice last cycling day at Qeshm, enjoyed the beautiful light blue seaviews and arrived in the late afternoon in Qeshm.
We ended up in a mall, because Sara needed lens water and we needed strings for making necklaces. When we got hungry we checked out the horrible foodcourt. The prices for pizza were too expensive, we checked them all out and finally just ate some fries. Until we got called by one of the cashiers, he got a pizza for us for free. Oh, lovely Iran. That’s only possible here. When we were eating our pizza, suddenly Manu stood in front of us. He had seen our bikes and searched all the floors of the shopping mall to find us. We camped with him in the park, met some nice Iranians that played music which is forbidden in Iran. And they had to stop two times, because the police came.
Next day, Manu went off for the early boat to Hormoz, we decided to get the second because we still had to go the post. We would meet Manu at Hormoz. So we said goodbye after two weeks to the fantastic island of Qeshm and took the 1,5 hour to Hormoz.
Hormoz, another planet
Hormoz is a crazy island. Its landscape is as if you are on another planet. The island is small, but at some parts the ground is totally purple from the iron. Some parts are totally white, as if you are walking on the moon. It is also possible for travel and hippy communities to have nice times there, because there are remote beaches. However, we were told that since last year it had become more strict. There was more police on the island and more controls. It turned out that some of the Iranian rainbow people had gathered just two weeks ago and that we had missed it unfortunately.
In the city we first quickly spotted the museum and art gallery of Dr. Nadalian. He is an environmental Persian artist that makes his with and in the environment he is in. He promotes women rights, tries to rehabilitate drug addicts and involves the local poor communities to make art their own. He is fascinated by the world we live in and on Hormoz you can go crazy as an artist, because the sand has almost all colors of the rainbow. But in order not to use all these natural treasures in the amount that they disappear, he makes art that is “alive” he makes fish imprints on rocks and throws them back in the sea. Or makes kilometers of fish and crab prints on the beach. It seems simple little gestures, but it brings consciousness of the world we find ourselves in and the natural treasures we are surrounded by. It was a joy to visit the museum. Which does not charge a fee.
We cycled 10 kilometers to the location Manu was at. We had promised to bring some food and fish. We drove by the old Portuguese fort and when we made a stop at a remote beach we run into some fishers guy. For one euro, we got three nice fishes. At sunset we met Manu on the way, he had just walked up to look for us. He had discovered a great remote beach. It was a crazy way down, steep rocks and we had to leave the bikes at some point. However, we had arrived in heaven. The rocks where super white and we arrived at a beach which is indescribable. The only big disadvantage were the horrible amount of flies. The whole of Hormoz was a fly nest. Big slow flies, or quick nasty fast flies. It was horrible, because they were with so much. With sunset they would disappear, but with sunrise they woke up grrrr.
Fly Nest Beach
The first night we spend at the campfire of two Iranian guys with a guitar. During the day we did some yoga and some gymnastic tricks. Manu can do a backward flip from his feet which was pretty impressive. He told us he also likes to jump from 25 meter height rocks. However this we did not get to see. The second night we moved to the opposite of the beach. There we met another group of Iranians, three jazz musicians and one photographer girl. They were really chilled out people.
After a warm night at the campfire at crazy beautiful fly nest beach we headed the next day for another beach, because there are so many and we needed water. There we stayed another night with Manu and the next day it was time to say goodbye. Manu went back to Tehran and would join the Belgian girls in their cycles to Turkey. It was great to meet this great adventurer and hear his amazing travel stories: buying a motorbike in Mongolia and cross the country in one month for example. Bon voyage! We did a touristy Hormoz day, visiting the view points and the colorful valleys and painted our faces with the colorful sand. We ended camping with a big Iranian group that had also just met each other before. That was great night with a lot of different meals, campfires and tea. Our neighbors were two 19-year olds that shared their doubts about the future after being rejected for a university in Germany. They discussed the pressure they felt from society ,family and themselves. That was very sweet. We shared our doubts, but also the idea that the moment you do what is a priority for you, you do it right. The next day we said goodbye the Iranian island and took the ferry to Bandar Abbas.
In the beginning we were a bit lost in Bandar Abbas, not really know where to sleep ,what to do, where to find Internet. Then we just decided to eat some delicious Shiraz ash. From there on, everything worked out well. The shop owner Eshan next to the ash place invited us, to use the Internet and some minutes later we got invited at his home. This was heaven after weeks on the islands. We could take warm showers, wash our clothes and we got lots of delicious food. second floor of the house to ourselves.
Eshan recently got married. His wife Somayeh was a bit shy but very nice. When his mother saw Somayeh for the first time, she thought she would be a perfect match for her son. Eshan went over, he agreed, and they got engaged. In this engagement they called each other every day, went out lots of times per week and after half a year they knew: this is the right choice. So they planned the marriage. The girl has to move to the house of the husband. Somayeh told her that she misses her mother and brother a lot who are living still in Yazd and that she is a bit lonely, but that she loves Eshan and he is an excellent husband.
She showed us the 1000 wedding pictures. Here we got to understand how important an Iranian marriage is.Thousands of euro’s are spent and many people are invited. In the marriage woman do not have to wear a headscarf and they do not have to cover their shoulders. They look like a princess and the groom looks like James Bond.
In the end there was some confusing about money. We had not so much left but still three weeks to go in Iran at still pay the ferry ticket to Dubai. You cannot use your card and Sara shared her dream wherein she worried about money at breakfast. However Eshan did not understood us well and thought we were asking money. We tried to make clear that we really did not want any, and that we had enough to survive. However when we left Eshan wanted to pay Sara’s new lenses and he gave us a gift card which you can use at any market worth of 25 euro. It is impossible to refuse any gift in Iran, so in the end we gladly took it and thanked Eshan a lot. He drove us to a couple of bicycle shops around the city, because Chris had a problem with his bike and we said goodbye.
We stayed one more night in Bandar Abbas via the website warmshowers. We ended up in a lovely home, with lots of family. the mother was an English teacher. The father was a guy that showed us all the guests he had ever had. And he would continue to do this for weeks via Whats app. The children could speak perfect English.There had a little niece Kiara, which was Sara’s favorite rebel kid of all time. She was five, very hyperactive, but super funny and sweet. She made a drawing for us and we gave her a necklace, then she asked for a bracelet and if it was up to her, she got lots more. We went that night to another family that recently had married and the party still went on. They showed us the honeymoon room, decorated by the family.
It Will Be Lonely This Christmas In Iran
The next day it was decision time. We decided to leave the coast, go up to cold Kerman in order to get some kind of Christmas feeling. Also we still had three weeks before our visa would expire, so why not see a little more. If it would be possible we would do a long route through Baluchistan. A part of Iran where many Pakistani live. However everyone warns you a bit for this area because ten years ago there were some kidnappings of tourists. But lots of travelers traveled in this area and had a great time.
But it meant that we needed to pass several mountains which we were planning to hike. Next day we left warm sticky Bandar Abbas and exchanged it for the cold. We were very happy to hike, because the road was awful, full of trucks and super busy. In the end of the evening we arrived in an industrial town before Kerman: Sirjan. It was cold, we ate a falafel and Sara was tired. Next to us an Iranian couple stopped with their car. They invited us to their home. Sara was skeptic, because this day there was an Iranian holiday to celebrate the end of autumn and the beginning of a new season: winter. She was afraid the whole house would be filled with family and friends. So she followed the car with less joy.
However the opposite was the truth. It was just us four and this night we ate many red fruits and nuts. the thing all Iranians do on this day. Zadaf is an English teacher and moved from Rasht to Sirjan for her husband. We had nice talks, and a warm shower.
The next day we cycled in the early morning to Kerman, took a hike again. Kerman is famous for it’s relaxed atmosphere because of the recreational use of some narcotics and it’s a historical city that got invaded many times, by many different tribes, so also a lot got destroyed. Pateh, is famous here, these are Iranian traditional needlework folkart. According to wiki: Pateh needlework is done in silk and with flourish paisley pattern; popular designs include the cypress tree and the sun, both traditional pre-Islamic Persian symbols.
At the center of the city we called Lili. The woman of the family we met at Qeshm island. She was happy to meet and host us. We followed her car with the bike to her home which turned out to be a pretty big villa. Lili has a certain disease for which she has to take a lot of medicine, that makes her often tired and a bit confused. She is a woman with a heart of gold though and it was awesome to get hosted by her. Chris got his bike fixed and Lili showed us Kerman. We went to the bazaar, ate ash at a former historical bathhouse where two musicians played the santor. Saw another huge beautiful historical Ganjalikhan bath house which was turned into an anthropological museum and we had a nice strolling day through the center.
In the morning Lili prepared a great breakfast and we also visited the Zoroastrian fire temple where they keep the fire alive for thousands of years.
In the morning Lili prepared a great breakfast and we also visited the Zoroastrian fire temple where they keep the fire alive for thousands of years. In the evening we would pick up Lili’s daughter at grandma’s pace, but to our surprise the whole family was invited and they would prepare Kaleh pacheh, the head and feet of the sheep. For Sara, this night became a bit of a horror, not because of the sheep head but because she severely needed alone time and was not prepared for all these excited Iranian woman and man. Although it was one of the sweetest families we met. We enjoyed our time with Lili a lot and in the end she gave us as a remembrance one of hear pateh’s. An awesome but costly gift we tried to refuse. But Lili did not let us. So when we are home our pateh’s will hang on our walls to remember her and Iran.
Pizza, falafel and a hotel room at Christmas night
After three days in Kerman, we decided to cycle to Mahan. In the evening, at Christmas night we arrived. It was very cold, just like we wanted. Because Sara was maybe a bit nostalgic and sentimental due to Christmas and the fact it’s not celebrated at Iran, so she decided to give a night at a hotel as a Christmas present. We checked out the prices and a room was 25 euro’s a night. Why not. We needed Internet the day for skyping with the family, so perfect. It was also a good way to come a bit to a rest, and enjoy a private space. We got some pizza and falafel, a great Christmas dinner.
Next day, we had a walk in the city, and visited the holy shrine of Shah Nematollah Vali, an Iranian mystic and poet.The architecture was astonishing. In the evening we went out for the most expensive dinner in our lives, because we had understood the prices wrong. We legitimated it with Christmas. We hanged a bit around the hotel, Chris could Skype with his family and we asked if we could camp in the garden of the hotel. Unfortunately we had to pay 10 euro for that, so we passed. So when it was 10.00 o’ clock and we wanted to go into the freezing wind, Sara asked again if it was not possible to camp for free. Then the owner said: come, he gave us a key and we got a second night at the hotel for free! Again: this seems only possible in Iran. Waauw, that was so great.
Second day at Christmas: the Kalout desert
For us, it would be an experience to be in the desert at the second day of Christmas. So we decided to cycle and hike to Shahdad and from there on, go to the famous Kalout desert. We cycled our way up out of Mahan and got soon a hike from a jeep with two nice guys from Tehran. They took us all 120 kilometers to Kalout, so in the end we even camped in the desert with Christmas! But not before they tested out the capabilities of the jeep in the sand dunes out with us and the bicycles in it. We got a bit of a wild safari feeling, crossing up and down. We stopped to see the amazing sunset. They left and we stayed in the desert.
The next day the weather was beautiful.We visited the old caravan, an ancient trade spot. That was pretty cool to see and cycled slowly our way back. The way back to Shahdad, the nearest town, was further than expected. We saw a beautiful sunset and we were expecting to arrive just before dark. However, this turned out to be three hours in the dark. It was a bitch to cycle the last part, turned out we cycled 10 kilometers up hill too much, because we missed a short cut, woops.
In Shahdad it was freezing, but it was more the feelings of hunger that needed to be met first. So we bought crackers, cheese, cookies and decided to eat them in front of the supermarket. We wanted to do an experiment how long it would take us to get invited. Well.. no longer than 5 minutes. A guy walked up to us and invited us to his home. He and his wife were super cheerful people, Sara could skype with her parents and we got a warm safe bed. Wonderful.
Next day, we continued our way to Golbaf through the mountains. We got a beautiful hike in a gobi with Iranian music. The driver invited us for tea and pomegranate at his lovely home. We continued the fantastic road to the mountains, we had to climb three hills and then we enjoyed our way down to the valley with Golbaf in the center. We camped just outside the village in a grape farm and next to a waterpool.
Sick at Bam, bam ba pa di dan Bam Bam
Chris slowly started to feel sick. Apparently it had started the cold night of the desert. He could not cycle so much. We had to decide if we are going to skip Bam or not. In the end we decided to take another hike to Bam and to see this ancient city with its old famous citadel that collapsed in 2003 when an earthquake struck the area. It is also famous for its dates. Everywhere are oasis of palm trees. We arrived in the evening and Chris needed to lay down, so we went to look for a camping spot in the dark, cycling through little village allies.
We asked a family if it was okay to camp in this neighborhood, they showed us a bit the way. We put our tent down in a empty piece of land with palm trees. Just when we were ready to get in, the family came and wouldn’t leave us alone. They wanted to invite us in the house. In the end, we gave in and moved our stuff to their house. The whole family had to move out of the living room, so Chris could sleep because he was really not feeling well. It was a big loud family and not the best place to recover. So next day we cycled just around the corner to crash at a date plantation. Chris lay down between the palm trees, Sara got food and water and visited the citadel accompanied by Amir, a tourguide that was not charging. We got some occasional visits of the owners. They were cool with us camping there. We stayed there for two nights so Chris could just sleep and rest.
New Years in Iran
The third night we arranged a couchsurfing place at Bezhad’s place. He was a guy living alone and it was the best place for Chris to recover. For three days we just watched movies, made salads and Chris drank lots of tea with thyme. Bezhad treated us for dinner which was very sweet. Also New Years eve is not celebrated in Iran, because they have a different calendar. The Iranian new years’s is in March Nowruz. They celebrate the end of winter and the new year with spring to come. Actually a much better time to welcome the new year. But this meant we just watched the hangover, Sara fell asleep and woke up half past 12.00. It was not the most exciting new year, but on the other hand, the quietness and the zero expectations made it also very laid back.
After four days, Chris slowly started to feel better again and we headed our way, slowly back to Bandar Abbas. Our next stop was Jiroft. The way from Bam to Jiroft is beautiful, mountainy area. We got a hike of two super friendly guys that worked in Jiroft. We could stay at the place of one of them. He was living alone, because he lives in Tehran most of the time with his family. We had a super chill movie night. His colleague with his cute son dropped by .
Stalkers and the police
In Jiroft, I do know why, we got so much attention from everybody. Cars followed us, people followed us from market to market. We were truly a top attraction. It was however a bit nerve wrecking. The landscape was beautiful, but it was hard to enjoy it with everybody wanted to make you stop. There was a 18 year old girl standing aside of the road with her family shouting us to stop, because she wanted to talk with us. We said we wanted to cycle. Most of the time people jump in their cars, drive next to you and try to convince you why you should talk and come with them.
It was also not such a good move, to turn right after twenty meters into a date plantation in order to have some food. Soon, we saw every family member coming out of the bushes separately shouting hello. Shit, they found us. We made clear we were very tired and just wanted to have a some private space. But our request was discarded. They pretend to not hear it and the girl and the family surrounding us kept asking questions and did not take no for an answer when we refused lunch at their home. Eventually after fifteen minutes they got the hint and went off. At this point you almost feel not sorry anymore, because your being haunted down and they just do not listen to what you say.
To make matters worse, the police decided on our way that we needed an escort. Apparently we took a famous smuggling route and they were afraid of our safety. However we did not know this for an hour, because nobody could speak English. So we tried to send the police guys away, because they pushed our buttons pretty hard by driving slowly behind us and not communicating why and till when and wherefore. There was one guy in charge the whole time, he called his cousin Armin that spoke perfectly English. He explained us finally that the police was escorting us for our safety, we told him to tell the police to please go, because it is very annoying and that we would be fine. Eventually we would meet Armin close to his home town village. He arranged a pick up for us and drove us to his house. He made sure there were not to many people.
At this point we noticed we had become a bit unsocial and that we were a bit waiting to leave Iran, up to the next adventure. Iran is great in so many ways, but being in the center of attention all the time and people approaching you second after second is just very exhausting after a few months. So in these three days, we watched a lot of Game of Thrones, movies and snacked many unhealthy foods. But it was great. As if we were teenagers again. Chris still needed to recover a bit and these additional days were perfect for it. Armin and his cousin were really cool and we totally felt home. So thank you guys.
The next day slowly to Minab, because we still had some days left before our ferry would leave for Dubai. We cycled the beautiful mountains and camped in date plantation, hiding for motorbike boys that tried to find us. But they failed. This was a great spot, surrounded by so many high date trees. Beautiful. Next day we arrived after a nice cycling day close to Minab and day after we arrived in the center. Minab is pretty awesome, has all kinds of cool rock formations and a lovely town. But it’s also very crowded. We camped at a nice spot and next day we cycled back to Bandar Abbas.
In a two hour cycle we were back in Bandar Abbas. We ate our lunch on a bench in the industrial beginning of the city. Soon we got mandarins, oranges and apples from all sites. Dear Iran. We did some shopping and in the evening we got lucky with a warmshowers guy. He told us to wait in the fancy Hormoz hotel. There we used the Internet and after two hours we met our guy Fershat. He had hosted lots of cyclers and cycles himself a lot. He told us his story, how he got attracted to cycling. One day when he was a teenager he saw a travel/biker guy camping in the park. He wanted to approach this guy, but he did not know English so well, so he continued walking. He could not stop thinking what ashame it was that he did not speak with this guy because of English. So he promised himself to go back the next day. The cycler was still there. In broken English Fershat invited the guy at his home. It was a 60 year old Danish guy that traveled the world by bike low budget. It showed Fershat that you do not need a lot of money to travel. Since then he had become a biker and now coming March he will make a world tour with one his friends. Great story.
Fershat took us home where he and his mother lived. Then we went for a bike meeting in the park where we met some Iranian bikers. The next day we did our last shopping and in the evening we were supposed to leave for the ferry. However the schedule had changed and we were expected to be there already at 3 in the afternoon. But not before Chris had his first photo shoot! The photographer at the Hormoz hotel wanted to make pictures of Chris for his portfolio. He was not the first to ask, in Isfahan he also already was asked. Then he had refused, but had regretted it, because it is an experience. So this time Chris went for it. 1,5 hour they sprayed his hair with water, he had to look angry do inventive stuff with his hands. And honestly Chris started to get a hang of it. His picture eventually did not end up only in the portfolio but on a big billboard beside the road. So whenever Chris is out of money, he knows he can always continue his modeling career in Iran.
The photographer gave in return (too much) money for a proper lunch. We went with Fershat to a nice fish restaurant. Had a delicious expensive fish meal and it was time to go.
Time to take our ferry to Dubai. At the ferry we met nice travelers a Estonian guy and a Swiss couple. We had to wait 5 hours for the boat. Which would take 10 hours.
Goodbye crazy super extra nice Iran. You have been so good to us. And sometimes you drove us mental. Up to the Emirates!