Last week marked five months on the road. In that time we have cycled some 4,000 miles across a dozen different countries to reach Iran.
The first two or three months were bliss: following the sun south meant perpetual warmth and good weather for camping outside and cycling late into the evenings. Somewhere around the middle of Turkey that changed and winter started to arrive. Things got a bit harder.
We have been really lucky with the weather and we were prepared for much lower temperatures. So much so that our bikes have been really heavy since getting our winter kit brought out to Istanbul (mine is around 60kg all in) and we have not really needed all of it. But that’s not to say that it hasn’t been tough. Two months of short days (dark by 4pm in eastern Turkey), chilly days (always layering gloves and socks to maintain feeling) and heavy bikes without clip-in shoes (making the hills that bit harder) have been a little draining.
It’s funny because, from the comfort of our living room in London, I’d craved those hard, cold days and waxed lyrical about them for months. And it is not that I haven’t enjoyed them: the first time it snowed I grinned like a Cheshire cat and I was inordinately proud to get my first “explorer photo” with a pitiful amount of ice in my beard. It’s just that I have found it tiring and I am ready for a change.
Hopefully Iran will bring the start of that change, particularly as we make a bee-line south towards the sun. Our original route plan was north out of Iran, through the Stans and into China. This was always the second best option after continuing east through Pakistan, a route we deemed above our danger threshold. Now, instead of more bleak winter in Central Asia and a visa-fuelled dash/bus across China, we are opting for the Indian route. That most likely means south through Iran, boat to UAE/Dubai, cycle to Oman then fly to India (sadly boats are not are a viable option).
I am writing this update from a smokey internet cafe in Yerevan filled with head-phone wearing adolescents playing online computer games. Tomorrow morning we will throw our bikes onto a bus and drive 300km south into Iran. Visa rules are changing in Iran and the official line is that cyclists and other independent travellers may be required to take a guide at the border. We don’t want to do that and although the risk may be small (we’ve not heard of this actually happening to anyone), taking a bus is the recommended way to avoid that happening. Plus, I won’t complain about skipping a few more snow-slushy mountains on an accelerated passage towards the Tropic of Cancer.
Finally, there are restrictions on social media and other websites in Iran. We will do our best to send updates when we can but if our updates are a little more sporadic than usual then you know why.
(P.S. Keen eyes will notice that the photograph above is from Georgia not Armenia. Our photos for the latter are not yet online!)