We are now in Shiraz, about three quarters of the way down Iran, after 7 days of cycling through the ancient heartlands of Persia (more sand, scrub and plastic bags…but cliff plateaus rising up like lairs of dragons). Not much in the way of official accomodation but Iranians being Iranians the whole country feels like your front living room. On day two we arrived at dusk in a village with zip but the freezing desert cold. Yes, said the Iranian Red Crescent in their little roadside outpost, you can stay in our Ambulance station. And a very comfortable abode it was too. They put blankets over our legs like we were cycle invalids and made us hot sweet cups of tea. It felt like St Johns Ambulance had been forever waiting for us in the nowhere lands.
Stonemasons have been consistent Samaritans. We’re not sure why but throughout Turkey and Iran they have been the most kind and gentlemanly. Perhaps it comes from crafting the stillness of stone all day. They have shared their lunch, tea and civility with us at renovations across the desert.
One night we stayed with a Jeweller in a small town. He played the Zither, an instrument a bit like the xylophone but wih strings. His son played the Ney, a bamboo flute with a wide tonal range.
We stopped over with a farmer who specialised in picking up random road travellers and had a guestbook covering the past fifteen years, plastered with badly lit passport photographs of errant souls. “We are all one under the same sky,” he said. It was a moving testament to Iranian kindness. The farmer taught Jen how to prune his seedless grapes (prune at 5 nodes up, unlike the seeded variety) We met Irans “second strongest Man” near some ruins and camped on a high plateau where it was so cold Jet’s bum felt like it might fall off (despite his fleece sleeping bag, thermal leggins and two pairs of underpants) The desert at this time of year is a strange ‘ole place-cold in the shade, hot in the sunlight and peach plum freezing at night.
But always, when we’ve needed it most, there has been hot sweet cups of tea and a warm bed. Indeed sometimes it has felt like the Iranians have been over hospitable and it has been a relief to turn down offers of a bed and book into a cheap hotel just to have our own space and lie around listening to the BBC World Service. Simple pleasures in jam packed lives.
In a few days we leave Shiraz to begin the final leg of our Iran journey to the port of Bandar Abbas, which we should complete before our visa extension runs out in a couple of weeks. From there we take the ferry to Dubai in United Arab Emirates and cobble together a voyage to India.
For now though its slippers on and bike shoes off.
The Persians in Shiraz have incredible green blue eyes…
j n j x x