Sunday, 18 May 2014

Loving the learning curve

There is real freedom in wild camping. No onlookers!
What do you do when you find yourself wild camping with 15 bikers?
Get them to change your tyres of course! Evidently this took one main man, several supervisors and one to hold the hijab while I handed tools out and ensured the supervisors where supervising correctly!
It was lovely to have company from Urmia over to Sanandaj and great to spend time with my dad. I embraced the chaos of the tour and the traffic the next morning as we rode out of Urmia together and hit the road for a mere 300Km (very low miles for a NS day).

We stopped in a village for lunch and as Friday is Iran’s weekend we soon found ourselves surrounded
The supervisors
by the youth of the village who certainly loved the bikes and the guys, but I have to say I was most definitely the main attraction for that hour! I was mobbed by a very friendly bunch of lads who queued and even squabbled (lightheartedly) to have their photo take with me. The WOMAN on the bike (it is illegal for women to ride motorbikes in Iran)!A girl could get used to this kind of attention!

Trying to get out was difficult though and so a couple of the guys from our group flanked me either side on the bigger bikes to escort me out of the crowd! Oh the hardship! We were then escorted out of the village by the lads who had jumped on their own bikes and raced in and out of us cheering and filming as we left!

After several hours on the road we followed a likely looking track up on to a hill with 360 views and started setting up our camp. Within 15 mins we had been spotted by the local chicken farmer who raced up with his friend to tell us that we were camping on mine field and that this spot used to be Iraq. We mulled it over and decided to stay as we had already ridden over most of it so it couldn’t be that bad! Could it? They seemed satisfied and raced off again only to come back half an hour later with 2 dozen fresh eggs, some bread, pans and a big pot of tea.

Nick has an Iranian guide with his tour (the new visa rules) and so I made the most of him as interpreter, sitting with our new friends sharing facts about our different lives and learning as much as we could from each other until the tea ran out and they left. I headed to my tent wishing I hadn’t drunk so much tea!

Needless to say no one was blown up that night.

Despite enjoying my time with the guys, it was important to me to
ride Iran alone and so the next morning, I said my goodbyes and split from the group about 60k down the road and headed for Kermanshah. Just me, Rhonda and a couple of boiled eggs left over from breakfast!

The Kudish guys who brought us eggs.
I was stopped twice by the police. The first time I got high fives and big smiles before being allowed to go and the second time I was stared at in amazement as I lifted my dark visor. “misses?” he said. “Yes” I replied. He pointed at the road, his mouth still open and and I took that as a sign to leave!

It was a hot day in Iran. Wearing the Hijab and a helmet, with the loose material wrapped around your neck, is really not good in the heat! I felt stifled by midday and stopped for some lunch fairly early on. The heat was already getting to me. I cooled down as much as I could and moved on fairly quickly, particularly as I didn’t have my usual crowd of adoring fans to keep me company!

 I arrived in Kermanshah several hours later and suddenly felt quite weak as I hit the city traffic. I had made the rookie mistake of not drinking enough and overheating in the midday sun.  I pulled in as quickly as I could and struck lucky by parking outside a cafe. I dashed in and, dripping with sweat, I stripped off my jackets, not worrying about my hijab as it wasn’t going anywhere on this occasion. It was sticking to my head, as was my wet hair! I must have looked a sight! Thankfully no mobs to watch this spectacle. 

I ordered some water and coke and then some tea and drank them all whist being watched by the cafe owner and his assistant, neither of whom could speak english. I felt sick and dizzy and emotional! Not good signs. It doesn’t take long for heat to get to you if you are not fully hydrated. I have seen it hit so many times and I felt stupid for allowing myself to get in to this condition.

I had a contact in Kermanshah and so got out my Iranian phone (which I had bought in Urmia) to give him a call. For some reason the sim card had stopped working! Now what? 

I just wanted someone to stick me in a support truck and take me to a nice cool place where I could rid myself of this clingy Hijab and put Rhonda away! The realisation that this was not going to happen and that all the onlookers, much as they wanted to offer a soothing word, could do nothing more than keep me topped up with tea. 

Eventually it worked and I cleared my head enough to make hand signals to use their phone. I called the english teacher I had met in the hotel in Urmia and told him I had arrived. Unfortunately when he had said he was in Kermanshah, what he actually meant was that he was NEAR Kermanshah. Actually he was 2 hours away and in the direction I had just come from! This was not the happy ending I had envisaged when I picked up the phone!

He came in handy non the less and eventually several passes of the phone later, with him interpreting between me and the cafe owner, and I was back on the road and following him through the town and to the nearest hotel.

me and my dad
This may be a tough country to get your head around, with signs you can’t read, heat, rules you must obey, crazy traffic and not even a stray dog to keep me company (we always speak the same language) but it is certainly an education and it is made very very special by the kindness of the Iranian people. I am loving the learning curve! The cafe owner had not charged me for the drinks either and despite my previous blog, I could not get him to take the money. He just said “Friend” and who can argue with that?

Now I have a new sim, a comfy bed for the night and this time I’m ready for the day ahead! Shorter days,  more stops and a dampened Hijab I think.

Nobody said it was easy (as Coldplay would say) and there is no way I’m going back to the start! Time to get serious! Just as soon as I've had some Ice cream!


  1. Another cracking read. Lovely to read that Iran is all I've heard.
    If you don't have one, I really recommend a Camelbak. Essential in the hot weather and saved my @rse a few times last summer :/

  2. "Needless to say no one was blown up that night" Hehe, it sounds very encouraging.

  3. Good you survived the minefield Steph ... Keep hydrating lass ... Enjoy those learning curves and hold on to every lesson learned. you'll make it safely to the end ... And in the words of a song by Journey (appropriate for you) ... Don't Stop Believing ... xxx

  4. Good to speak to you tonight Steph. And while we're talking songs, how about some 60's music? Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf (almost a Steph in there!!). The title is appropriate, and so are the words:
    Get your motor runnin'
    Head out on the highway
    Lookin' for adventure
    And whatever comes our way
    Yeah Darlin' go make it happen

  5. From your mum, by the way!!

  6. even having lived in Australia for 20 years I still managed to run out of water in desert. Always carry two litres spare now everytime I head far

  7. Hi Steph
    loving this looking forward to finding you on the map, will be following you with great interest, take care ride safe and enjoy the trip...

    Ian Robertson

  8. Blimey and not even half way, is there anything else going to happen.....of course there is..... keep on going Steph.

  9. A testing day Steph - and you came through it, of course. So heartening to read about the kindness of strangers. Ann and I have booked for Argentina for first two weeks in November. Wonder where you will be then? Much love Sarah X

    1. Hi Sarah. Aw I wish it fitted in with me being there but I wont arrive until January! What a shame! It would have been great to see you both xx

  10. Is it me or does your dad look like Crocodile Dundee? Might be the hat... Another cracking post and that first photo, wow! Stay safe.

  11. Love ur spirit Steph. Take care

  12. There is no joy in it if there was no challenge. Enjoying reading your adventures, Steph. Keep 'em coming!

  13. Enjoying following yr trip, my chap is on Nick's trip with yr Dad they're in Uzbek now enjoying a day off. Keep safe and keep enjoying yr trip. Have passed web info to contact in Oman

  14. What a fabulous story so far Steph. Just take care and keep safe. Can't wait for the next episode! Peter.