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Old 06-19-2009, 11:11 AM   #136
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Kashan

Kashan

My hotel is in Kashanís old city, which is a great place to explore on foot. Just outside the hotel door is an interesting alley.

A few kilometers from Kashan is Fin Garden, a tranquil place with many fountains, pools, and water channels.

Kashan is blessed with a number of very large Qajar era houses with the typical over the top style of the that period.
Kahn-e Borujerdi:


Kahn-e Ameriha:





Kahn-e Tabatabei:






Nearby is the old city wall and and an ice house.

Some dark clouds are moving in.

The Haman-e Sultan Mir Ahmad is a large, restored, historical bathhouse with a very feisty woman at the ticket desk. I guess the poster reminding women to adhere to the Islamic dress code wasnít there by accident.



The roof of the Haman with its many domes is very photogenic.

Later in the day a thunder storm brings strong winds and a bit of rain.

The mural is a bit creepy.

In the afternoon I mingle with the election campaigners again.



Some of the election posters:





The Kamal-ol-Molk square fountain with modern LED lighting puts on a show of ever changing colors.

I return to my hotel around 10pm.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:13 AM   #137
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Kashan to Alamut Valley

Kashan to Alamut Valley


I let myself out of the Hotel at 5:30 and hit the scenic road from Kashan to Delijan right after sun rise.




In Delijan a man in plain clothes on a police bike asks me to turn off my light. Iranians are strong believers in wearing out your light bulbs. I get the sign to turn off my lights dozens of times a day. On the upside it means it really works and they actually see me. This is the first time I got stopped for it though. I make him understand that there is no switch. He is convinced easily enough and escorts me out of the city, which saves quite a bit of time.
Before joining the main highway I ride a dirt road down to a river for my breakfast stop. I see an old East German W50 truck and take a picture and chat with the driver a bit . Now I know what happened to all of these

Two religious students on their way to Qom have their picnic stuff out and invite me for tea and breakfast. The food is great but the conversation turns weird very soon. When they find out that I’m German they ask if I’m Arian, which happens a lot here. Iran actually means Arian. So then they go on to say that Hitler was a great man, which I have heard here (and elsewhere) a few times before. These two actually take a step further and start listing the names of Hitlers generals. All great man according to them. I wonder which history book they are studying. Something like this is always disturbing but there is not much I can do about it. So I just thank them for the breakfast and move on.

The old highway next to the new Autobahn (that’s what they call the tollways here) is filled with diesel exhaust belching trucks and I decide to try the Autobahn next time, although it is not allowed for motorbikes.
I arrive in Qazvin after noon but the only restaurant I can find is hosting a wedding. So I just grab some snacks, get gas and move on, trying to find the road to the Alamut valley. Most locals have never heard of it, others send me in circles, one guy is certain and sends me down the wrong road. I turn around after a few kilometers and ask again for directions. I end up on the Autobahn and get on and off dirt tracks at the side of it to ask again and again for directions. Eventually I find the road and get escorted a bit by a guy with an Elvis hairdo on a 200cc Enduro.
It is a fantastic ride with lots of switchbacks but its late in the day and very hazy and I’m afraid the pictures don’t do the place justice and I don’t take enough to begin with.




I take a side road to Lake Ovan and I’m blown away by what I see.

I decide to stay here for the night. I find a nice spot by the water and set up my tent. While I’m cooking my dinner two kids show up and ask the usual questions. One of them seems weird and keeps playing with my pannier locks. He is trying to sell me fish, rice, rocks from Alamut castle and who knows what else. He asks me if I have guns to protect myself from the “wild animals”. I tell him I have two. He then grabs my sun glasses and thinks he should keep them. I get up and get them back and tell him to leave. He asks for money and I just tell him to leave again. I don’t have a good feeling about this guy. I turn the perimeter alarm on the bike on and get everything, including boots and stove inside the tent.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:36 AM   #138
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New instalment is great, pictures outstanding as always . Keep it safe in Turkey and ride on
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Old 06-19-2009, 02:56 PM   #139
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boarder06
Iranian Election

Women and young voters have to be won in order to win the election and most Iranians I talked to are just sick and tired of their President making them look like idiots on the international stage and they want somebody intelligent to manage the countryís vast resources.
Sounds painfully familiar from our own recent election in the US. Thank you for your window into this fascinating country and culture at such a historic time.
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:31 AM   #140
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Alamut Valley

Alamut Valley

In the morning all seems well around the camp site and I grab my camera to take some pictures in the early morning light.








I hope you enjoy the next picture because it may have be the most expensive one I ever took.





I see the shifty guy from last night going in the direction of my tent and I think he is probably up to no good. I walk back around the lake to my tent as quick as I can and when I get there my boots are gone from inside the tent. He removed my fuel bottle and stove from the boots and took nothing else at a first glance. So I grab my phone and walk around, trying to find the guy, which I eventually do. I confront him and he of course denies it and he doesn’t have the boots on him. This goes back and forth for a while in front of some other guys and I’m not sure if they are with him or not. I decide that it is probably not a good idea to get physical with the other guys around. My phone doesn’t work either. So I take a picture of him and the license plate of his motorbike.





When I walk back to my tent a couple from Tehran asks me if I need any help. Both of them speak very good English. After they pack up their tent we drive to the next village and ask if anyone knows the guy, showing the picture on the camera. No luck. We ask the guys at the little lakeside restaurant and they say he is not a local. Crap. So we call the police and they show up half an hour later. Meanwhile two of the kids who were standing with the guy in the morning say they saw him with the boots and say they’ll chase him but they return later empty handed.





When the police show up we explain the situation and they want me to follow them to the Station, some 18km away. The police underdog gives me his boots for the ride to the station, because all I have left is my flip flops. I get to ride the curvy road with the police clearing the oncoming traffic for me. Nice! At the police station it gets a bit comical as I don’t speak Farsi and they don’t speak English. There is a TV running with the Iranian version of the Wiggles. The Iranian Wiggles don’t look like they are having much fun, rather like they have been forced by torture to do this.


More and more cops show up and want to see the pictures but they don’t even put a trace for the plate number out or make an attempt to get copies of the pictures. Well, there is no computer in the station. They give me some lunch though. They don’t ask for the make of the boots, or price, or anything. I realize this is a waste of time and at least I get them to write a “report” which I may be able to use for my insurance. This is done manually on a scrap piece of paper. After a few hours all is done and I leave my phone number and email address (they didn’t ask). In all fairness I have to say that the cops back home probably would have cared even less. The cops drive me to a store where I buy some patent leather shoes for 17 bucks. They insist on me getting a receipt, which again is a lengthy procedure. After we return to the station I leave for Alamut castle.





It’s a beautiful ride all the way to the ruins of Alamut castle, one of the Assassins castles which was destroyed in 1256 by the Mongols.











It’s a steep 20 minute climb up to the ruins of the castle which sits on a narrow ridge at 2100m.








Coming back from the castle I look at the local voting station. Election posters right on the building have been painted over but you can still make out the pictures.





I talk to some people and show the picture of the thief but nobody knows him. The people I talk to make it clear that they are Ahmadinejad supporters.


I ride back





to lake Ovan and show the picture of the thief around the little restaurant again. I leave my stuff there and walk around the lake looking for the thief. I’ve read enough crime novel to know that they always return to the scene of the crime On my way back a car comes speeding toward me and the guy tells me that they have the thief and he drives me back to the restaurant. Sure enough it is the guy but again he denies everything. The locals want to call the police but I ask them to wait. We tell the guy that others have seen him with the boots but that I will give him my new shoes if he returns the boots. He doesn’t budge and we eventually call the police.
This time they show up with two cars and the big boss is among the cops. They talk to the guy and the boss slaps him in the face. He doesn’t admit anything and they cuff him and lead him away. There is no Iranian version of the Miranda rights. They want me to follow them again to the police station. Off I go in the dark and in the rain.


When we arrive at the station they say something like “10 minutes boots back” with the thumbs up and lead the guy away. Half an hour later they drive away with him and I think they go to fetch the boots. When they come back after only 10 minutes I know something is not right. Now they say “one hour”. I realize they are just overly confident in their interrogation techniques. There is bit of a good cop, bad cop routine going on. Meanwhile I talk to the young cop underlings outside. Turns out they are doing their two year, mandatory military service with the police. Some of the guys have university degrees. Every time I ask them if the thief has admitted anything they avoid an answer. All throughout the night more and more uniformed and plain clothes people show up, handing in their firearms. Just before midnight I get kicked out unceremoniously. They tell me that I must stay in the hotel and come back next morning at 9. They won’t even let me leave my bike in the police compound.


The hotel turns out to be the second floor rooms of the only restaurant in town. A very gritty affair. The bathroom is even worse than the one at the police station. After some tough negotiation I at least get the price down to a bearable level. The bike has to stay on the street. In the morning there is nobody around and the place is locked. I yell until a feisty old lady shows up and lets me out.



When I get to the police station they won’t let me in and try to send me away. I just wait outside and finally at 10am they let me in and we are best friends again. The thief is handcuffed to the flagpole in the courtyard. He has now admitted to stealing the boots but has already sold them. The cops take the statement they gave me yesterday away again. Slowly the station wakes up and one after another the young kids who sleep at the station get up. Eventually they get some breakfast and offer me some to. I’m not very hungry and give the rest of my food to the thief, which they don’t like too much. Eventually a relative of the thief shows up and all of us walk to the building next door, which turns out to be the court. So I find myself in front of a judge and have absolutely no idea what is being said. The Tehranies who helped yesterday gave me their phone number in case I need some help. Only problem is that my phone only allows emergency calls since yesterday although it has a full signal. I suspect it has to do with the election. It takes me a long time to convince them to call the number for me and even then it takes many attempts on the antiquated phone system. The story is that they think they can get the boots back by noon the next day. I’m doubtful that they can but decide to give it a try. I ride back to lake Ovan and pitch my tent again.


The next day the father of the thief is there and we all go to court again. As expected the boots aren't there. There are a lot of people arguing and I have no idea what is going on. It takes me a long time to get them to call the Tehran number again (my phone is still blocked). They argue with my man in Farsi and then hang up. This is getting comical. They talk to the translator but don’t let him talk to me. Well, long story short. What transpires in the next few hours is that they want me to wait for a few more days and I tell them I can’t and then we start to negotiate how much he’ll have to pay me. I rather take some cash now than wait for a larger amount later. So we agree on $100 and the father dashes off to get the money. Once he shows up we go back to the police. They hand write another statement, which I have to sign with a thumb print. Lots of handshakes and mercies. As I understand it, the thief will be released from the prison in Qazvin they transferred him too. This is a bit of a relief because I’m not sure how severe the punishment would have been according to Islamic law. He is just a kid who has done the wrong thing and a few nights in cell and the rough police treatment will hopefully be enough of a wakeup call.


The next hour I spend trying to get a copy of that statement. They won’t give one to me. Finally the police write something else, which the judge tears up. I get pretty loud and the judge is now ready to make a copy. There are some technical issues with the copy machine and when we are ready to press the button the top cop storms in and argues with the judge. No copy. With much arguing I get them to write something down and I leave as quick as I can before they change their mind again.


This was quite the experience, frustrating, comical, and Kafkaesque at times. Of all things that can happen on a bike trip, having your boots stolen is pretty minor. When you travel you will have to leave your stuff at times and you have to make a decision what you carry with you at all times. Obviously passport, money, bike papers and so on. Boots are not high on the priority list. Who’d steal somebody’s smelly boots? I got my 100 bucks for a pair of pretty battered boots that started to feel a bit tight after they got wet a lot earlier in the trip. Now I’ll have to concentrate on how to replace them.


By the way, the last time I had something stolen it was a pair of shoes too. 15 years ago I was traveling from Belize to Guatemala when the chicken bus came to a screeching halt and everyone shouted and pointed at me. When I got to the front of the bus they pointed to a guy who had taken my shoes out of my backpack on the roof. People just as poor as the thief had seen him and decided to stop him. They gave me my shoes back and asked me what I wanted them to do with the thief. I thought if I joke and tell them to shoot him someone will pull a gun and probably do it. So I just told them to kick him off the bus. We were in the middle of the jungle a long way from anywhere. So all things considered I’ve had pretty good travel karma in the last 15 years. Knock on wood.
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Old 06-20-2009, 03:23 AM   #141
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Alamut Valley to Zanjan

Alamut Valley to Zanjan


By the time I get my legal matters squared away it is well past 3pm and I have to hurry to make it to Zanjan. There are dark clouds everywhere and I ride through quick showers on the way to Qazvin. I get gas in Qazvin and take the old road to the North. At the first chance I switch to the forbidden Autobahn. I drive past the toll booth and Iím greeted with ďWelcome to IranĒ. Nobody is trying to stop me. So far so good. There is very little traffic and I make good time. I ride through heavy rain showers on and off. I used to have waterproof boots. At least it is warm and when the rain stops I dry quickly. I see a few police stations but donít get pulled over. I try to hide behind a trucks whenever I see a police station.
I get off the Autobahn in Soltaniyeh, the old 14th century capital of Mongolian Persia. Oljeitu Mausoleum, the tallest brick dome in the world, is one of few buildings remaining from that period.

Restoration is ongoing and the inside is full of scaffolding.

The walls are covered with beautiful mosaics




and ornate bricks.



The terraces have faulted ceilings

and balustrades.


I arrive in Zanjan right and sunset

and discover John Wane tailor.



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Old 06-20-2009, 03:24 AM   #142
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Zanjan

Zanjan

I spent a day in Zanjan. First thing in the morning I try to exchange my remaining Rials into Euros. I try the bank next door and helpful employees explains that Iíll need a receipt from when I bought Rials from a bank, which I donít have. I explain my situation and show the piece of paper from the court. They suggest I use a money changer in the Bazaar instead and are about to call one for the rate when they change their minds. I fill out some forms and deposit the money and leave with my hard currency.
The news on the internet is not good. There are protests in the bigger cities after Ahmadinejad claimed to have won the election with more than 60%. The riot police is out in the streets of Zanjan in a show of force. I see no protests or clashes with the police though.
Realizing that my time in Iran will come to an end very soon I walk around in town to soak up the atmosphere.



Zanjan: Women in the back, men in the front

Zanjan: You can have a smile like this too
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Old 06-20-2009, 08:20 AM   #143
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Fascinating report!
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Old 06-20-2009, 08:44 AM   #144
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Zanjan to Maku

Zanjan to Maku


At 6am I sneak out of Zanjan. I go around the toll both onto the Autobahn. Iíve learned from my time with the Iranian police force that a) they donít get going before 10am, and b) they canít or donít want to trace a license plate number. I hope to be off the Autobahn before 10am. Iím not sure how far the Autobahn will actually take me. Itís marked as ďunder constructionĒ on my map. I fly along the empty Bahn





and at some point I realize that I should have filled up the tank. There are no gas stations on the Autobahn and I ride faster than usual and thus use more fuel than usual. After 408km my tank is empty. I roll as far as I can down the hill. I have another half liter left in the fuel bottle for my stove. I pour that in the tank and luckily there are only 2km of Autobahn left and there is a gas station 1km after the exit. That was a close call. I take the Northern bypass road around Tabriz. Near the airport I see this sign.





Who would have thunk? Iran of all places.


North of Tabriz the landscape gets greener again.











On the way to Maku I stop at Qareh Kalisa. Itís a beautiful Armenian church with rich stone carvings, built with light and dark stone.

















Just outside the church is an old mill.





On the road to Maku I pass another Golden Boys roundabout statue.


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Old 06-20-2009, 08:47 AM   #145
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Maku

Maku

Maku is situated in a narrow valley with steep mountains on either side





and is, as far as border towns go, quite a pleasant little city.


A few kilometers North is Qajar era Baqcheh Jug Palace.


























I noticed a few curious things around town. A company offers to teach you how to “spek” English.







And there was this nice parking job. Watch the jube dude!





I noticed a Cuban beer advertisement on a Jeep Patrol in Iran:





The Iranian government has really clamped down the internet now. All major email providers are blocked (IMAP, POP, SMTP, HTTP, HTTPS), as well as all the major news outlets and social networking sites. I manage to get my email via sat phone GPRS and read the news using Tor as a proxy. I’m in contact with Advrider strommer about ordering some replacement boots to Van. Eventually I get into my bank's web site and create a credit card number for a shop in Turkey, which I pass on with my last sat phone minutes to strommer, who orders the boots for me.
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Old 06-20-2009, 08:55 AM   #146
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Maku to Van

Maku to Van


I get up at sunrise





to catch a glimpse of Mt Ararat from the edge of town.





Unfortunately this is as good as it gets. More clouds move in later.
I leave Maku after breakfast





and fill the tank with the world’s cheapest gas one last time.





The Iran/Turkey border with Mt Ararat in the background





is not far away. There is complete mayhem at the border. Many bus loads of people, whole families sleeping on the floor, some of them looking more dead than alive. On the Turkish side I have to talk to a gorgeous nurse, who just wants to make sure I don’t have swine flu. I realize that I’m just not used to seeing women’s hair anymore. I can only speculate what impact she has on Iranians crossing the border. I make it through in a little more than an hour. Again, nobody actually looks at the bike.
Just as last time there a cow just outside the border compound.





I ride straight to Ishak Pascha Palace near Dogubayazit.














There is a nice view from the palace and





a mosque is nearby.





When I leave the palace it starts to rain. I pull up at a construction side outside Dogubayazit and put my rain gear on. As soon as I’m done it stops raining. No complains though. Better than the other way around. The road climbs to 2600m and it gets pretty cold as I ride through a cloud layer around 2400m. Could enough for me to turn my heated grips on. What a difference to the desert heat from a few days ago.





Near the lake the wind gets very strong and gusty. I also have to force myself to slow down for the 70km/h speed limit in Turkey. Coming from Iran the traffic seems very civilized now. It’s all a matter of perspective. Coming from Europe it seemed crazy.
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Old 06-20-2009, 08:57 AM   #147
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Van

Van

It feels good to back in Van.





Next day I take care of my 10,000km service at Mesutís Yamaha shop.





A couple of bikers show up while Iím there. You wouldnít get away with a plate like this back home.





The local bike cops make an appearance as well.





They are shopping for new bikes and the Tenere is on their short list. They try sitting on it two up.





Mesut and I later discuss different bikes with the police over tea. I canít recommend the Tenere as a police bike for two up in good conscience. COG is just a tad bit too high.


I just take it easy in Van, enjoying the food and drink. Iím clearly not in Iran anymore.





My new boots arrive quickly and Iím all set to head out again. Many thanks Strommer!
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Old 06-20-2009, 11:31 AM   #148
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Wow, epic stories, Steffen!

What a legal suckfest. I can't imagine it. Well, these are the things that turn into adventure stories as time goes by. Glad you got new boots worked out.

Happy Antarctic Mid-Winter! Jared, Shaun, Amy, Jeff, and Jeri will be coming by for a cookout today. We'll toast to you.
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Old 06-20-2009, 01:09 PM   #149
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You are welcome !
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Old 06-20-2009, 01:13 PM   #150
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Talking What a great story!

Boots, politics, cops, monuments, deserts... this ride report is extraordinarily exciting! It is also remarkably well paced, well balanced and well written. The embedded maps are a great idea, and the photos are stunning. We all know how difficult it is to post to the forum while we are riding, so extra kudos to you for making it so polished as well!

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