Friday, 23 May 2014

Always leave while your Hijab is still wet.

Did you know that in Iran.....
  • You can get 200 miles on a Honda CRF250L on just £2.50
  • They have chocolate flavoured cigarettes
  • It is illegal for women to sing in public 
  • A taxi is paid for by the hour and costs roughly £2 
  • Men can only ride up to 250cc motorbikes (illegal for women all together)
  • Dating is illegal 
  • Imported cars carry 100% tax so most cars here are Iranian built
  • Lead singer of System of the Down is Iranian
What was it Ted Simon said? Something about the best bits being when you break down on the side of the road and wait to see what happens? Well I am on Rhonda the Honda and so far we have not had the pleasure! However, here in Iran all is not lost! There is no need to get the plyers out and start sabotaging your bike! All you have to do is stop for a minute and look vaguely lost!

There is nothing guaranteed more to put a smile on a girls face than to be escorted in to to town by two lycra clad young men on bicycles (holding a shoulder each for a tow), directing you through the traffic and leading you to your hotel! This was the case in Borujard. I wasn't even lost on this occasion but it seemed a shame to let them go!

From there I headed to Kashan, a very religious city where the women seemed to have the serious Hijabs on. All black, all consuming! Once again I felt underdressed and consciously pulled my own hijab forward to cover more hair.

I met up with Mohammad and his friend here, who were my couch surfing hosts for the night. Mohammad was
probably in his 50s and a very interesting character. He was certainly a free thinker and described himself as the father of couch surfing in Iran. He had been doing it for 3 years and had received over 200 guests.

On arrival at his apartment, which was very nice, he asked if I would like a shower. I jumped at the chance as, once again, I was not as fresh as I would like to be. He opened the door to his bathroom and said "surprise!". I walked in to an all pink bathroom and I mean ALL PINK. It had pink walls, pink shower curtain, pink floor, pink bottles, pink slippers and so on. So much so in fact that I was a little taken aback. I asked if he had a daughter, hoping he was going to say yes. He said no. A wife? No. But there were so many girly things in here! I don't mean to be sexist here. Of course men can like pink too but it was pink and fluffy and a room made for a little princess. Cuddly toys, the works!

Turns out Mohammad just likes pink. In fact he loves it and he designed his bathroom to make his guests feel comfortable in his own special way.

I wasn't the only guest that night. William arrived as we were having tea. A French backpacker, who was also in search of a bed for the night on route to Isfahan.

That night we all went out for Pizza and played practical jokes on each other (Mohammads favourite pastime), discussed politics and religion to the point of, at times, getting quite passionate on our individual opinions but we could all take it and were all a lot more informed by the end of it. Very interesting.

After spending a few hours with the guys in the morning, checking out Tabatabaei historical house, I once again
said goodbye to my hosts while my Hijab was still wet (I soak it before I hit the road each morning) and headed just 80km to Abyaneh. A small mud built village in the mountains where it was a lot cooler and I could get some chill time, away from the ever interested crowds.

On route I was stopped again by the police at the toll coming out of the city. Once again, he just stared at me in total disbelief and then could clearly not decide if he should allow this or not. He gestured for me to pull in to the office and then took my passport and disappeared. He came back five minutes later and gave my passport back gesturing once again that I could go. I tried to get my gloves on quickly before he changed his mind but they were sticking to my hands and before I could complete the mission another policeman came out and requested my passport again, disappearing back in to the office, returning with 4 policemen. Oh dear! What was about to happen? Had they decided this was just not acceptable for a woman to be riding a motorbike in their country? One of them asked where I was going, in sign language. "Abyaneh" I replied. He gave me my passport back, smiled and offered directions with his hands before waving me off. Phew!!!

Abyeneh is a lovely place and Viuna hotel has a perfect terrace for chilling and writing. At £12 a night it was particularly perfect. That evening though, 2 months after leaving London, I felt quite tired and quite lonely. I missed my friends and I was travel weary. Just as I felt my self pity head coming on, some guys came over and asked if I would like to join them for a sheesha. I thought some company was probably just the thing to get me out of this mindset and so I accepted. They turned out to be great guys, a couple of them journalists here in Iran and I later joined them for a walk around the village, followed by ice cream and then chill with another sheesha pipe on the terrace.

They have asked if they can feature me in a magazine and also interview me for a television programme, although they were not sure the government would allow it to be shown. If not, then they are going to show it on Satellite once I have left the country! Just to be on the safe side! The government are not too keen on openly free thinking women. Thankfully the Iranian people love them!

My new friends were only planning on being here for the evening but decided to stay the night and
after a photo session for the magazine the next morning, we went for a walk in the hills where we made a fire and cooked iranian kebabs for lunch. The sun was shinning but the air was cool and with some great company and good food, it turned out to be a good day.

I left Abyaneh village the next morning. I could not get on to the road I wanted to be on and ended up giving in and going the long way around straight through Isfahan to Yazd. About 300 miles in all through one big city and then a rather long desert stretch that had more signs for mosques than it did fuel stations. If I ran out of fuel at least I could pray for help!

The coordinates that the website had given me for the silk road hotel where out by about 30 miles (unless I am on the wrong settings again!). Luckily I stopped before I got that far, seeing that I was heading away from Yazd. While I tried to figure out what to do, a family stopped and, despite no english, they said "nescafe" and gestured for me to follow them and so I did.

They lead me in to what looked like a derelict estate full of rubble and broken down houses. Then they pulled up outside some big metal doors. Turns out the houses were still lived in and this was their front door.

I was very very hot so they took me (and Rhonda) in, got the fan going, made some tea and looked over my newspaper article which I had brought out to show them what I was doing. It was the only form of communication I had.

My Iranian phone was not allowing me to top up again and so I had to use their phone to call Javed (another english teacher) in Kashan, who translated to them that I needed a hotel. After an offer of staying with them for the night I made it clear that a hotel would be best.

The husband said I must eat first and then disappeared, returning with 2 big burgers complete with gerkins and a coke! He then set about making a fire and made some lavender tea for us all.

The house was very interesting inside and I got the 5 year old daughter to show me around. It had a basement where they had a

living room and kitchen in one as well as a toilet. Upstairs had no roof but it had tarp down one side where there once was a wall and this is where we had our lunch on a mat on the floor. There was another section up a few more steps and this housed an old broken down Honda and several pet doves. It also housed 2 live chickens and several stuffed ones! A bizarre combination but this family were so warm and friendly that I was completely at ease in their home. I gratefully ate one of the burgers and refused the other.

They then led me to my hotel through the centre of town and I arrived about 9pm. 12 hours after leaving the mountains. It was still hot!

The silk road hotel is a great little hostel with a lovely relaxed courtyard with day beds, a  few private rooms for about £15 a night and several dorm rooms with bunk beds for £4 a night including breakfast. I chose the dorm.

What an interesting country!

(Sorry for the long blog! So much happens and not sure what to cut out!!!)


  1. Long is good - that way we get more. Following with interest.

  2. Long blogs are good, I can imagine I am there on the trip on my CRF - one day maybe......
    Hope you continue to have a great time, and thanks for making the effort to keep all us followers entertained.
    Best wishes

  3. Hey!! Well you said you were looking forward to Iran as you'd heard good things about the people. Sounds fab huny. Well written too!! looking forward to more installments.

  4. Where's the picture of the pink bathroom?!! Mum x

    1. ha ha! I know mum! I really wish I had when I left and thought about it at the time but thought it might be rude! He wouldnt have minded though I'm sure! Opportunity missed!!! Trust me on this one...It was PINK!!!

  5. Wonderful reading as always. I'm so glad you are having so many good experiences in Iran, I know it was an important part of the route for you. How is that water filter bottle doing? Still making you giggle?
    PeteBog. xxxxxx

  6. I so admire you Steph! The experiences and stories -WOW! Keep the rubber side down. Hello from Victoria, BC, Canada!

  7. Continuing to be inspired by your courage and sense of adventure - glad the home-sickness passed. Stay safe!

  8. Long is good. Way more detail as to what is what.

  9. keep them coming, loving your writing style makes me feel like i'm there.

  10. D Blakemore

    I too am enjoying your adventure, I value the comments about everyday things and real life for the people in these places you pass through.

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  12. Long may the rambling both senses of the word :)

  13. Great read. Adventures with Rhonda travel book to publish when you finally get back.

  14. Hi Steph. Am Eric from Gurgaon , India. Are u planning to touch here. Wud Luv to meet you.

    1. Hi Eric. I did reply to your last message. Yes I will be coming to Gurgaon. : 0 )

  15. Hi! You never guess where i am... hotel viuna abyaneh, thanks to you! I got your room and the same price agnd tonight i will camp on the picknick area for free! Tomorowmorning i will start riding to Yazd. Don't knowq if you are still there.... i'll find out... my mom is following your blog, because i havent updated mine yet since armenia... haha! All the best to you!

    1. Hey Heidi. Ah was wondering where you had got to. Bit worried you might have got caught up in the sand storm we just had! Glad you decided to slow it down a bit. My room and my rates eh? ha ha! Wonderul. You are right behind me. Wish I had thought of a cheap nights camping on the grounds though! Good thinking batman! Nice place eh! Enjoy and see you tomorrow. Its a long desert road so make sure you have a full tank!

    2. Oh and hello Heidi's mum! : 0 )

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  17. Hi
    How are you
    Please correct me
    Not Hossein ( Mohammad father of couch surfing in Iran )
    Good luck

    1. HI Mohammad. So sorry about that. I have now corrected it. Hope you are well xxx