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Old 05-25-2009, 01:00 AM   #76
strommer
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I was wondering how the Iran portion of your trip was going. Glad to read all is well, thak you for the outstanding photos.
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Old 05-25-2009, 06:39 AM   #77
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I was wondering how the Iran portion of your trip was going. Glad to read all is well, thak you for the outstanding photos.
All is well Murat, just a little behind on posting. The first three posts of Iran are just above yours though. Currently in Esfahan having a good time and recovering from a major coffee overdose!
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Old 05-25-2009, 08:52 AM   #78
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Awesome, Boarder!

Great report! What camera and equipment are you using?
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:30 AM   #79
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Great report! What camera and equipment are you using?
Nothing special. A Canon DSLR and a Canon DS950 point and shot.
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:34 AM   #80
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Bijar to Hamadan


In the morning I have a very sparse breakfast and walk around town for a while. I find a very kitschy fountain

and it seems the town is gearing up for what I believe to be Khameneiís birthday.

Another one of the ubiquitous roundabout statues catches my eye

and some propaganda posters are hard to overlook.

As promised I call Mohsen on my cell and he shows up ten minutes later to guide me out of town. I actually want to go the Katal Khor cave be he insists it is rubbish and I should go to the Ali-Sadr caves instead, which I already know are the worst Iranian tourist trap. I say no to that one and he insists on sending me off to Hamadan. I donít want to hurt his feelings and follow him, figuring I can always turn and go to Katal Khor. As we say goodbye at the side of the road a guy comes up to me and wants to see me passport. OK, I hand him my passport and he walks away. I ride the bike to the roadblock ahead and him and another plainclothes guy thumb through my passport, clearly having no idea what they are looking at. He stares at my expired Iranian visa from a previous visit but never looks at the current one. Then he develops an unhealthy interest in my American visas. He finally asks which country I am from. I guess itís not that easy to find out from the passport. So he radios back and forth with somebody else and finally declares I can go but I am not allowed to stop anywhere or take pictures. Weíll see about that. The way these two characters behaved, the way they dressed and talked very much reminded me of the East German Stasi. I guess small time secret service man on a power trip are the same the world over. Unfortunately, now I have to take the road to Hamadan and canít turn back to take the road to the cave. I stop as soon as Iím out of sight and study my map and the Zumo map. Looks like I can make my way to the cave anyway. I see some civilian trucks with some military cargo under camouflage nets driving in the other direction. OK, thatís what this was all about. After a few kilometers I turn left on a dirt road taking me past poppies

and timeless mud brick villages

in gentle hills

until Zumo indicates I should take another left and sure enough there is a dirt road which I follow for a few kilometers. After crossing a sealed road I try to pick up the same dirt road behind a little village. I try a few roads but always end up in a river bed. I finally find a road and after a few kilometers two guys on a tractor just stare at me like Iím from outer space. A short time later I run into two teenagers and they tell me that this isnít the road and I should turn back. I do and follow the sealed road a bit before making another left on a well maintained dirt road. This must be the one! I fly along for some time past some shepherds whoís dogs are chasing me. After another village my beautiful dirt road suddenly deteriorates badly and on top of that it starts to rain. I continue a while longer hoping the rain will stop. Well, it didnít and the road turns into sticky mud which my tires and I donít handle too well. So I decide to put my rain gear on and turn back. The cave gets flooded in rain anyway. Once Iím back on the sealed road I follow it in the opposite direction, which I figure will take me back to Bijar. Shortly before Bijar I run into a bunch of military guys at the side of the road. I decide to pack my Zumo away in case the road block guys are still there. Iím lucky and they are gone and I ride toward Hamadan in the rain. In Qorveh a guy almost runs me off the road just because he wants to invite me to his house. No mate, just want to keep going. The traffic from Qorveh to Hamadan is horrendous and at some point I have to take a five minute break to calm down. Luckily the city has an easy layout and is well signposted in English. I find me hotel easily and after negotiating the price down I park my bike in the looked Hotel compound and settle into my room. I have to dry all the stuff from my right pannier, which is not waterproof anymore after the fall at the Karaftu caves. And I thought it wouldnít rain in Iran!
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Old 05-29-2009, 02:42 AM   #81
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Hamadan

In the morning I just donít feel like leaving and I donít. Thatís the beauty of traveling solo. After breakfast I set out to visit the townís sights.
First stop is the 14th century mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai, Iranís most important Jewish pilgrimage site. Itís looks a bit misplaced in the middle of a modern city.

The friendly rabbi greets me outside and after telling me to take my boots off leads me inside through the 400kg, well greased, stone slab door.

There are indeed two coffins inside


and a small meeting place. The rabbi gives the grand tour in a mix of Yiddish, English, French, and German, which reminds me of a colleague of mine from Berkeley who always talks and corresponds in the same language mix. So the guy makes me smile and we chat for a while. I learn that the Jewish community in Hamadan has 15 members from 10 families. I wonder what life is like for these people in an Islamic republic. After some more tourist show up I say goodbye and leave after giving a small donation.
I wander through town past stores


and spend some time on the central city square, basically a huge roundabout with a park in the middle, which has a very ugly relief of Khomeini and some scenes from the Iran-Iraq war.


I sit down and watch people for a while. The old guys meet and chat, the young people walk by busily and I see the ultimate Yuppie macho guy in an ill fitting suit. He wears a fancy Bluetooth ear piece, acting all important, and lets his wife carry the phone behind him. I have a look at a cop cruiser

and walk across town, past a shop window full of fake bavarian non-alcoholic beer

and some strange signs (any Farsi speakers here?)

to the mausoleum of Persian poet, physician and philosopher BuAli Sina, known in the west as Avicenna. He died in 1037 but the impossibly ugly mausoleum is from the 50s. Not a decade known for architectural highlights. The best thing that can be said about this place is that there is a lively park next to it.

I walk back to the hotel and take a nap. I wake up by some loud noise which turns out to be a pretty bad hail storm.

Yep, it pays to listen to your inner voice telling you not to get on the bike today.
P.S.: Who says kitsch and energy conservation canít mix? Clearly the hotel owners have found a way.
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Old 05-29-2009, 07:36 PM   #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boarder06
In the morning I just donít feel like leaving and I donít. Thatís the beauty of traveling solo.
You know it!

Great work with the photography. Looks like you wait for the good light when you can.

All of us in North America are jelaous of your bike!
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Old 05-30-2009, 01:46 AM   #83
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Hamadan to Khorramabad


I wake up to a blue sky and Iím happy that I didnít leave yesterday. I get gas and find my way out of town with a local map I got from the hotel. Just outside town I visit some cuneiform rock carvings and a waterfall next to it.


The rock carvings are very underwhelming but since they were made in three different languages they have Rosetta stone like importances. I buy some very tart fruits from a vendor at the waterfall and give him some coaching in English pronunciation. There are a couple of small ski resorts nearby.
The road zigzags through the mountains






to the little village of Oshtoran, where I explore the mud walled Qalíeh Hamza Khan fortress at the side of the road.



I follow the road to Tyserkan

and I spend some time searching for Jewish prophet Habakkukís tomb. This town has only signs in Farsi and with the help of m local map I can actually find my way. As I walk up to the tomb Iím surrounded by a flash mob of male teenagers. All want to know my name, where Iím from and so on. I donít really get a chance to look at the tomb, let alone take a good picture.

A girl of about 14 or 15 finally walks up to me and apologizes in very good English for the behavior of the boys and asks me if I need any help. I can tell that sheís nervous and it must have taken quite a bit of courage to step in front of the boys and talk to me. So I talk to her for a while and compliment her on her English. With the help of another girl Iíll get a map for my onward travel and one of the boys insists that I take a drawing of the tomb with me. So we find a place on the bike and off I go.


In Nahavand Iím looking for a local biker to show me the way to Haman-e Haji Agha Torab, a former bath house turned museum. The first kid I can stop after a while has no idea but two older guys are up to the challenge. They lead me through narrow alleys and the little 50cc has a hard time with these two. At least we are not racing through traffic. They join me for a tour of the place and it looks like they have never been inside before. The old Haman is a wonderful building with whimsical mannequins standing in for real bather.



I wish it would still be a working Haman. That would have been a treat. The place is secured like Fort Knox with several cameras in each room. My two saviors strike a pose for a picture and lead me out of town.

I ride on to Borujerd, which turns out to be bigger than I thought and I promptly get lost. I stop just before a roundabout to get my bearings and a kid on a bicycle stops next to me. I ask him for the road to Chagalvandi and he motions to follow him. Off he goes like a mad man. Itís quite hot and I feel bad to have him do this for me. At an intersection he asks me if I want some ice cream and I nod. So he guides me to a little shop where I get treated to an ice cream Shiraz style.

Repeated attempts by me to pay are refused and I thank my hosts and the kid leads me to the road to Chagalvandi. I say goodbye and realize he has put me on the main highway to Khorramabad, which I donít want to take. I ask another guy and after a big powwow with some bystanders a guy leads the way with his car. He only leads me farther down the highway before he admits defeat. I wave goodbye, turn around and use the Zumo to work my way to the right road. The road turns out to be a dream. A scenic mountain road with no traffic to speak of. Itís late and I stop for fewer pictures than I should.




I roll into Khorramabad, the capital of the Lorestan province, just as the sun sets and find a hotel with pretty shabby rooms but secure parking. The manager talks my ear off about being a large man, i.e. paying large, but I negotiate the price down to a bearable level.
I walk into town and look for a restaurant. I see a sign in Farsi but canít figure out where the entrance is. I ask a guy and he takes me up with an elevator to the restaurant. It turns out he works there. I order some food with him and he seats me at a table. I watch the families around me. The kids have a blast with a fake Christmas tree which sprinkles fake snow on itself. I sit at my table, wait for my food and drink some water when a bunch of guys take the seats around me without saying a word. Iím surrounded by grim looking guys who donít even acknowledge my existence. This is weird. The guy who brought me up to the restaurant comes over and wants me to follow him. Once we are away from the table he apologizes profusely and seats me on one of the takhts. Iím still wearing my motorcycle boots and I donít want to take them off after riding in them all day. Wouldnít be fair to the other guests. So, I just sit at the edge and get awkward stares from the all women table across. There is something about traveling solo that Iranians donít understand. I get this question a lot and they always ask why and then look very sorry for me. Going out to eat by yourself is equally foreign to them and some restaurants simply ignore you unless you go straight to the counter and order. When my food comes Iíll eat quickly and make my exit.
P.S.: While Iím writing this Iím watching the English news on Iranian TV. The anchor man does a very bad imitation of a CNN anchor man and sounds more like a speech synthesizer. The news selection of course is another story.
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Old 05-30-2009, 02:02 AM   #84
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I saw this guy just outside Germering, on the outskirts of Munich. Looked like he had fallen off the cross and we debated for a while weather we should offer him some help to get back on.
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Old 05-31-2009, 06:31 AM   #85
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Nicer Dicer -- ???
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:29 AM   #86
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Fascinating stuff. And yet more beautiful photos. One day, I'll get as far as Iran (farther?) myself. Till then, these observations will keep me going.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:33 AM   #87
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Khorramabad

After a very sparse breakfast, even for Iranian standards, I take a short walk to the Falak-ol-Aflak castle, which sits on a hill in the middle of the city.


It is not very photogenic on the inside. There is just too much dodgy plumbing, wiring, lighting, and air conditioning marring the historic walls. The castle does however have a very nice museum. Especially the section about the Nomads of Lorestan is very informative and has signs in English as well. Back outside I reckon itís clean your toxic chemicals bottles day.

I first thought the guy is just going to dump them into the sewer. I get on one of the castle towers to have a view of the city


In the afternoon I give the bike some TLC and take a ride to the ruins of the Shapuri bridge

Just before taking the above picture I get rear ended by a little kid on a 50cc. Itís on a field in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around. How he managed that is beyond me. He just bends my license plate and breaks his blinker off and gets a crash course in English swear words.
After yesterdayís dining disaster I look for a different restaurant and come a across this one:


Itís not what you think. Itís a Mashaal and itís even worse than the other other restaurant with the double arch.
On my way back I walk past a spooky playground

Iím afraid that Khorramabad will not make my list of favorite cities. It has so many things going for it: A nice setting surrounded by mountains, rivers running through it and enough ruins in the city and sprinkled around it to make it interesting. However, the rivers have been turned into smelly sewers filled with garbage that everyone just drops wherever they go, the traffic and pollution is of course horrendous too.

Read in the next installment how I wet myself on the road to Esfahan.
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Old 06-03-2009, 04:45 AM   #88
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Wholly #$#%. What a trip.

Where I used to work we had a guy from Iran. He said his native language was Farsi. I told him to speak a bit of it and I was like... Very tough language I heard.

Thanks for sharing!!
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Old 06-03-2009, 05:03 AM   #89
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Aaaah Esfahan, that part I'm waiting for some time, carry on Boarder
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Old 06-03-2009, 06:49 AM   #90
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Khorramabad to Esfahan


I know it will be a long day so I leave Khorramabad early, apparently too early to get some breakfast. I get gas at the other end of town because the gas station in front of my hotel has been closed since yesterday. With some help I get out of town and with a lot of asking I find the road through the Zagros mountains. The mountain roads have been spectacular so far and I want to continue to ride them as much as possible. Itís another beautiful day and along meadows sprinkled with poppies,

past nomadís tents

I ride to the small village of Bished

where I park my bike and take a ten minute hike to a waterfall below the village.

The waterfall is stunningly beautiful, just donít turn around because the place is completely trashed. People have managed to haul the junk here. Why they canít take it with them I will never understand. On my way back to the bike a family starts talking to me and we study the map together. As I thought, I have to ride back 20km before Iíll be able to continue through the mountains to Esfahan. The men tells me I know the roads better than him. I donít know about that.
In the next village I see a bunch of dead sheep lined up at the side of the road and blood stains on the road. Intended killing or road kill? Probably the later, otherwise they wouldnít be laying in the midday sun, I hope. A dog is taking a bite.

I carry on for a while and eventually make my way down through some switchbacks to dusty Sefid Dasht, which sits in a small valley surrounded by high mountains.

The town looks a bit rough around the edges, as you would expect in this location. I stop and buy some cold drinks and food, since I havenít had anything to eat yet. I ride out of town, up the mountains on the other side and the road deteriorates rapidly. I drive through a number of goat herds and the herders confirm that this is my road. I spot a shaded place next to a little stream and decide to take my lunch break.

After lunch I find myself once again on good tarmac after a few more kilometers. I pass many nomad tents and tiny villages

with beautiful mountain backdrops.



Once again the tarmac disappears and I find myself on a dirt road. I come across two guys trying to fix a broken down dozer and confirm once more that this is my road. They invite me for tea but I want to keep moving. I just hope the dozer hasnít been broken for long and the road is in a reasonable shape. I climb up a mountain again and reach the pass at 2960m. The road forks a few times on the way up and I stay on what looks like the most used road

On the pass I meet an older couple from Aligudarz who confirm my choice of road and invite me for tea and cookies. As I come down itís just dry dusty mountains.

The road now alternates between dirt, excellent tarmac, and disintegrated tarmac and I have to go slow, never knowing what is around the next bend. As the area flattens out I look back one last time before heading to the highway

OK, one more look

Once I reach the highway Iím surprised how well maintained it is and how little traffic there is. Itís four lanes with about 200m between the opposite directions. I let it rip and sure enough I get pulled over by a cop with a laser gun. Luckily I was only doing 110 km/h in that section which is the speed limit. He wants to see my passport and asks me where Iím from. Ah Germany, he points to his parked Mercedes and says ďVery goodĒ. He then gives me the sign to go slow and waves me on. Very nice cop. I see a few more radar traps along the way but they leave me alone. At one point the semi in front of me decides to switch lanes for no apparent reason, as they often do, and I have to hit the breaks hard. As I do this my pants are getting wet. Oops, what just happened? Not what you think. I hit the breaks hard enough to slide forward in my seat and the mouthpiece of my camel bag gets caught between me and the tank bag and releases some water. Nice and cool. I should do this more often.


At a gas station I have something to eat and have a chat with a Kurdish biker gang (their words) on 50cc motorcycles. I use the Zumo with the Iman Square GPS coordinates and the location of the river to find the way to my hotel without a single wrong turn. Just 1km before my hotel an overzealous cop pulls me over and wants to see the passport again. He doesnít say a word and waves me on. I check into the trusty Iran Hotel, where I have stayed on my last visit, and three of us maneuver the bike up some stairs into the lobby where it now sits under the hijab. After a shower I walk down the street to the Venice restaurant. The only thing authentically Italian about this place are the snotty waiters - one with a recent nose job - but they have a salad buffet and pasta. A welcome break from the monotonous Iran restaurant kebabs.

Read in the next installment how a caffeine overdose keeps me Esfahan.
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