So we have made it into Iran and, as it happens, are already half way through our expensive 30-day visa (touch-wood, we may be able to extend it).We are in Qom, a holy city with a big holy shrine and – like all Iranian cities it would appear – filled with people shouting:
“Where are you from!?”
“I LOVE you!”
Iran is a fascinating place to be and it is great to be able to speak to the people who populate a country all too often in the news for the wrong reasons. Many are all too aware of this fact and we are constantly asked:
“What did you think of Iran before you came? And what do you think of it now?”
The subtext is clear: we know we get a bad press but I hope you can see we are good people.
Our answer is always the same though: we know plenty of people who have travelled in Iran and they all told us the same thing, that Iran is a wonderful country and the hospitality unprecedented. Our experiences have only confirmed that.
By way of timely example, just yesterday a truck driver pulled over to talk to us and ended up inviting us to his home, 50km away. He drove his truck to Tehran, 200km away, then drove a car all the way back to his home town that evening just to host us. His family welcomed us like heroes, and have been stuffing us full of food at every opportunity since and spent today taking us around the local attractions.
Less good is the return of winter. Or, more realistically, the continuation of winter. I had just convinced myself that the two or three mild days were a sign of an early spring in Iran but we have since had some of the bitterest weather of the trip: a cruelly biting wind that leaves digits painful within seconds of exposure, makes the face ache with cold when not covered and provides a little extra stress to every moment on the bike.
Still, they tell us it’s always warm down at Bandar Abbas (from where we’ll take the boat to Dubai) so we will hold our breath and pedal south as fast as we can.
Next on the agenda are the historical cities and sights of Isfahan, Shiraz and Persepolis. With any luck, we’ll also catch up with our friends, the adventurers Leon McCarron and Tom Allen who fly out here next week for an expedition.
Internet connections in the Islamic Republic are not as prolific as elsewhere in the world (the least well connected country of the trip so far, in fact) so apologies for the comparatively sparse updates. We are, at least, getting plenty of stories and images to fill the blog once reconnected to the world wide web in hyper-modern Dubai next month.