|Photo borrowed from Andy's facebook (Nicks group)!|
I hate feeling rushed and this was the case today. I had been overwhelmed by the beauty of the mountains, missed my turn and gone 20 miles before noticing my mistake. GPS down and relying on checking my map and road signs, I just carried on. It could have been worse. Initially I thought I had gone 40 miles out!
My ride from Van was otherwise uneventful despite my concerns. I was nervous for the first 40 miles having been warned not to take this route as apparently the mountains were full of Kurdish PKK militants who were known to stop people on the road and at best demand money. I chose to ignore the warning and ride on through, knowing that several people did use this route on a daily basis and I guessed it would would be particularly unlucky to have any trouble.
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I found it to be heavily patrolled by the armed forces with tanks, trucks, check points and even helicopters and so I carried on, reassured that I had back up! The road was fairly quiet otherwise and the mountain views were stunning.
The border crossing was small and the gate was locked with a long queue of vehicles waiting outside. I rode to the front (bikers prerogative! It's worked every time so far) and instantly drew the attention of the officer on the other side without even trying! A woman on her own on a motorbike wanting to come in to Iran? Not an every day occurrence it seems. The gates were opened and in I went. The point of no return.
After some initial confusion and my desperate attempts to look good in a silk balaclava (and failing), I came across Hossein, my host from Hosseins Biker Guest House, where I would stay for a couple of days and get my bearings. Hossein made the process very easy and so after half an hour of running back and forth between desks, having my finger prints taken and using my first Carnet De Passage (another milestone), I was in! The Islamic Republic of Iran! I'd actually made it! This called for an.....OMG!!!!
|me and my revealing top!|
The most unusual social behaviour I have come across so far is "Taarof". Now several travellers had said to me before I left
"Iranians are so wonderful that they don't let you pay for anything. Not even at fuel stations"
I thought this was brilliant! It was going to be a cheap month in Iran. Then I was told that actually I had to insist on paying 3 times and if they still refused then I was free to leave without paying for the goods.
During my "appropriate" top buying, Hossein explained this process to me and it turns out that "Taarof" does not have a set amount of refusal times. You have to keep insisting until they take the money. This will happen everywhere I go! It would seem then, that many travellers have been getting this very wrong in the past in their misunderstanding of this process! These poor shopkeepers must think Ali Khamenei has a point! Oops! You live and learn, although you have to admit it seems a little unusual (for want of a better word) if the intention is always to accept the money in the end.
Now for the Hijab. After lots of faffing and adjusting and worrying that my Hijab was still in place, I
Top? Tick. Money? Still working on it. Hijab? Tick!
Slowly but surely I am getting the hang of Iran thanks to Hossein, Google and Jenny's emergency hair grips!
Tonight I meet with my dad and Nick Sanders, change my tyres (which they kindly carried on their support truck), get my dad to fix my GPS and pay for a nice hotel room with them (daughters eh!) and then ride with the group to Sanandaj tomorrow, before saying goodbye and going our separate ways.
Rhonda still looking good!
Details of Hosseins Biker guest house can be found here www.beyadeshahidan.wix.com/hosseinsguesthouse
Please note my Bike Trac no longer works in Iran and I will attempt to switch to Spot tracker for tracking. Details to follow.