I'm sitting here eating Walmart trail mix and looking at that Turkish Breakfast photo. Dang! That looks good! Was it as good as that photo suggests?
Oh yeah. I mean there is great food in all countries, but usually you have to go into the cities or towns to get it and when you're on the road trying to clock in kilometers there isn't time for that. Here it was great tasting meals available beside gas stations off the highway and at truckers stops. Maybe every 3rd gas station on the road in Turkey had a small restaurant beside serving food like this.
It is kind of crazy how quickly things are moving along and how near in sight sits the end goal for us. Today we started seeing the first road signs with Iran on them. We're in the city of Agri right now about 100km from the border.
If all goes well we'll be crossing it mid-afternoon and then it's just a couple days and mountain pass to be by the Caspian Sea!
Well that was very optimistic no doubt. The weather turned into some of the strongest headwinds we've dealt with and occasional storm clouds, so we didn't get to the border until nighttime. Along the way though we were enthusiastically flagged down by a Turkish family who had been out picking plants for herbal teas. They invited us over for a picnic with watermelons, flatbread with cheeses, rose jam, endless tea etc. and we had a nice time conversing and laughing through phone translations. While we were there the sun came out, batteries got charged, it was the perfect final farewell from Turkey.
As we approached the Iranian border there were fewer and fewer cars on the road until it was totally empty. I was fully expecting to be thoroughly searched given all the electronic gizmos on this contraption, but in the end there was way less grilling or questioning than I have from a typical crossing of the canada / us border. The only real holdup was that once again, all the border / security guards wanted to pause for pictures of themselves with the trike.
And that if anything has been the most constant theme riding in Iran so far. Where we stopped at the hotel in Bazargan crowds immediately came around to take pictures or themselves with this funny contraption. Then people were showing us on their phones how it was already all over the internet on some binanews.ir site.
It might be a translation thing or a cultural thing but everyone called it a 'car', as in "very nice car!". Inside I'm going "no, no it's a bicycle people" but then AnSo pointed out that, really, it looks a lot more car-like than bicycle-like. And there isn't much of a bicycle riding culture at all here, asides from children on bikes who will often follow us very enthusiastically for a couple blocks.
While in other countries we had lots of people on the road taking photos and videos as they drove past and hollering from the windows, here people are frequently pulling over on the side of the road in front of us, getting out of their car and then insisting that we stop. Sometimes it's been really timely, with people giving us bottles of ice-water just as our supplies are low. Other times people really want to chat, take photos, and offer us to stay at their house for the night. We have to struggle a bit to explain that while the offer is kind we're on a tight schedule and have to keep riding till nightfall in order to wrap up our trip in time.
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On our 2nd day we were a little peopled out and just wanted some tranquility and solitude, so we hiked out in the middle of the plains to do some totally isolated camping.
It seemed ideal at first, but then winds picked up. Initially I was grateful for the nice cooling breeze to take the heat off, but then it got sooo intense that our tent collapsed, the trike got blown over sideways, and we had one of our most difficult nights ever. At least the trike blew over in such a way that it was facing the morning sun
We're now readjusting our route plans somewhat based on the limited sun forecast for today and strong winds from the southeast. We'll be veering north to go right to the Azerbaijan border and then down along the coast to the city of Chalus, north of Tehran. It's about 50km more than our previous route plan but minimizes our total elevation gain (nearly 2000m less climbing required) which is good when the weather is cloudy, and it maximizes the time we get to spend on totally flat terrain beside the Caspian sea