Knowing at last we could cycle East we captured our Turkmenistan visa in Tehran and planned our remaining time in Iran.
Realising we hadn’t in fact done much cycling in the country, although we had already spent more than a month in it, we decided to get some cycling done in the Golestan natural park area before we hopped across the border to Turkmenistan.
We decided to hop on a bus to leave the madness of Tehran and head to Gorgan before cycling in the park. We asked around and got the impression the bus would arrive at around 19h, leaving us just about enough time to leave town and find somewhere to camp before it was due to get dark.
It turned out that we were perhaps being told instead they the bus ride would take 7h! Therefore we wouldn’t arrive until 22h instead, way past sunset and camping time. As we debated what to do on one of the bus pee breaks, a young woman approached us, offering us a place to stay in Gorgan.
This woman, named Roshan, together with her family and friends, turned out to be the most friendliest and warmest people we had ever met. We were originally going to stay one night, but with rain and such nice smiles we were easily convinced to stay two. During this time we felt at home like no where else. It was just so relaxed and without realising we felt like we were staying with friends or family.
We left Gorgan hearts filled and again surprised by the Iranian hospitality and ready for some cycling. As it turned out, Tom and Sabine, two other cyclists on a similar mission East had decided to do the same stretch in Golestan. Realising we were cycling only a few kilometres behind, we decided to pedal onwards and meet them in their camping spot in Golestan.
We met them in a calm forest clearing, their tents and camping chairs already set-up. We didn’t not know at the time, but these chairs would be items we would further encounter many times. With all the other Dutch cyclists we would meet along the way… All with chairs, all the exact same model…
After a night’s sleep with the wild boars of the park, we headed of into the jungle… Yes, Iranians like to think of it as a jungle, although it really it feels just like a forest… But I guess in such a hot and sometimes desert country, any big group of trees feels like a jungle. It is said that there are leopards inside, although the only we saw was the one on the road sign.
Although the stretch along the “jungle” was nice, with its green forestation and gorge like cliffs, as soon as we left it, the landscape became bare again and worse than that, we were met with most fierce headwind, making us wonder if we shouldn’t have just gone straight to the border.
Even so, we endured the wind in our pelaton and made our way East towards Bojnurd where we had planned to rest a bit before heading to the border. At last, efforts aside Sarah was feeling sick again so we ended up getting yet another ride in Iran towards town.
Only as we packed to leave did we finally discover the reason for all of Sarah’s recent spate of sickeneeses. In Persian the same word is used for both oats and barley, the last being poisonous to Sarah while the first quite okay. We had been basically poisoning Sarah unknowingly. Digging through our bags, we found to have half our breakfast stash to be poisoness to half of us. Mystery solved at least…
Given the mandatory entry date to Turkmenistan and the distance still between us and the also mandatory border point, we took yet another ride (it seems hard to cycle in Iran… ) to the big town just before. We casually slept in a parking lot in town, as you do, and headed to our last day of cycling in Iran.
Our last and as it happens, our best! We finally found the quiet beautiful road we had been looking for ever since we entered Iran. Amazing cliffs and mountains all along the road and, what seemed impossible after a month in the country, almost no cars!
The next day we were at the border as soon as it opened, changed our Rial to Manat, and were ready for our next adventure: Turkemenistan!