Since the start of this trip I was looking forward to Iran the most due to amazing reports from previous travellers here. I have to be honest though because I had such high expectations from this country I think it hindered my experience somewhat. It has been the countries I knew nothing about that gave me the most surprise and the most enjoyment. I loved my time in Iran don’t get me wrong but I couldn’t help feeling that because it is a country that is tainted with a certain image that positive stories are somewhat inflated to compensate for that image. Just my honest opinion.
I started to realise the extent of this image the closer I got towards Iran. Turkish people would tell me I would get my hands cut off, or my personal favourite that I would get circumcised. I got warnings from back home telling me to be careful in Iran. I have had no other warnings for any other country on this trip. I found it funny that I was getting warnings in a place I felt completely safe while watching the riots happen in my own country.
The people of Iran are amazing, I felt like a king while in their country and have never experienced such hospitality.
Arriving late into the city of Tabriz I wondered around trying to find a park I could camp in. I was told of a few parks that camping was allowed. Finally I found the park and was quickly kicked out by the security guy, I’m still not sure why. After being directed to a 5 star hotel by the a few locals I went in to ask for a cheap hotel. The women behind the desk gave me a map and off I went to find a hotel. I wasn’t present more than one hour in the city before an Iranian came up to me and asked if I needed a place to stay. He first took me out for dinner and took me to his friend’s house and then back to his house. I learnt of the struggles he and his family had faced with life in Iran and with all the problems he was the most positive person I have ever met. He spent the next day with me helping me to cross off my to-do list. He gave up his time, his money, his food and his house to a smelly stranger in the streets for no other reason than to help me.
Sometimes cycling Iran can get a little too much with everyone being so friendly and you try to get away but eventually it will catch up with you. After ignoring an invitation while cycling a local guy got on his motorbike and chased us down, he pulled us over simply to give us a melon and quickly rode on back to his shop. Ten minutes later he must have thought, “shit! I wasn’t friendly enough” and chased us down again to offer us a place to sleep for the night.
Sometimes you would experience a panic in an Iranian. While having a small break in the middle of nowhere a bus driver slowed down stopped opposite us and his head popped up with a bottle of water. Having plenty of water we refused, he looked around the bus looking for something to give us. He head disappeared again and he re-appeared with fresh sweetcorn, we had to laugh.
Pulled over by the police – “Do you want a cup of tea”
Welcome to Iran.
Every country has its own rules and different meanings and it’s always interesting to see what they are. Due to language barriers you often resort to hand signals to communicate. Since a common signal in the West is the thumbs up it’s natural to do this without thinking too much. One problem, a thumbs up in Iran means f*uck you. Sometimes you notice doing it but sometimes you don’t. If you get invited into a house you can predict that you will get food. The melon comes out.. mmm it’s good, f*uck you! You will then get chai most likely.. mmm chai good, f*uck you! Next up dinner… mmm really good, a double f*uck you! Ahh travelling.
On drunken night on non-alcoholic beer I planned to strap a bear called Wilson (see below) to my bike and help him escape the evil prison he was captured in. The plan was to strap him to the back of the bike and drop him somewhere in China. It seemed like a good idea at the time but the morning after recovering from my fake hangover we decided to leave him in his prison in Mashhad.
While talking to a local in Mashhad he said something that has stuck with me throughout this trip and will do the rest of my life, I’ll leave you with what he had to say.
Everyone in the West thinks we are all terrorists and want to destroy the world. No one is like that in Iran, we are all just human beings the same as everyone else. It makes me sad that everyone thinks this of Iranian people.
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