Short version: took a dangerous road – took an easy road – met a Zamyad – left Iran – lucky to be alive but not kicking…

While cycling in Iran everybody and their brother had advised me that I was cycling the wrong road. The road I had taken was boring and I should have taken the road along the Caspian Sea. There, everybody assured me, a paradise awaited. Of course you have to be careful with advise such as this; most Iranians are from the desert, to them a lonely miserable tree on a muddy beach lining a murky sea  must already be paradise. From Karaj, close to Tehran, there is a road that goes by the name “Chalus road” and it leads to…Chalus! It’s supposed to be the most beautiful road in Iran (I won’t repeat the previous disclaimer) and I was advised to take it and not take it at the same time: too narrow, too steep, too many cars, busses, too dangerous.

Chalus Road

Chalus Road

I left Tehran with Hendrik, a pleasant German guy I had met previously at the Uzbekistan embassy. The ride out of Tehran was forgettable as was the rest of the journey until we reached the river that flowed from the artificial Amir Kabir lake. We had lunch at a seemingly popular picknick place at the river side. It took us a while to find a spot that was not already taken or littered with garbage. The locals don’t seem to mind garbage; there were numerous lovers smoking hubblybubbly together on their carpets neatly placed in between garbage piles. The road became increasingly beautiful from here on. We passed the Amir Kabir lake and spent the night in a prayer room. We were invited to have tea at the little store next to us and were provided a nice dinner as well. The gentleman running the store was selling self made goodies which we didn’t buy but consumed in large quantities, for dinner and for breakfast as well. From here we climbed to 2600 meters where we entered a tunnel from where it was mainly downhill, all the way to sea level. The surroundings on the other side of the tunnel had changed dramatically; no more bare mountains but forested hills and rocky jagged peaks reminding me vaguely of the Italian dolomites. Beautiful road, not too steep, but there were indeed too many cars.

We passed Chalus and reached Now Shahr where we were hosted by the brother of my sister’s beautician, Vahid and his family. What an amazing family…a house to feel at home straight away.

312-IranThe next day we made progress, averaging probably 26km/h on a flat road. I hadn’t cycled on a flat road for a long time. We were looking forward to cycling along the Caspian Sea and go for swims in the evenings, and the road was getting closer and closer to the beach. Unfortunately for me I would never make it to the beach. I vaguely remember an ambulance and then remember being extremely thirsty in a hospital but being denied a drink. Then a lot of injections against the pain and stitches on my head, a support for my right shoulder and bandages around my knees and elbow. I had been hit by a Zamyad I was explained. A pick-up truck which had been driving way too fast and luckily for me first hit a parked car prior to hitting me. I can’t remember a thing. The doctor explained to me my collar bone had been broken and advised it should be operated in my home country. The police, who apparently is ever present in Iranian hospitals, asked me if I was angry with the driver who hit me. Apparently, the dude was still locked up at the police station and if I was no longer angry with him he’d be set free…weird…

I was never left alone in the hospital. Relatives of the driver were there to help me most of the time and Vahid visited me often and had his son stay with me one night. While I was being lazy in a hospital bed, Vahid and Ali, a friend of my friend Bahar, were helping me out with paperwork for the court and police. Thank you so much Vahid and family and also Ali for helping me so much…

My insurance company booked me a flight back from Tehran to Amsterdam via Istanbul. In Tehran I stayed with my friends Reza and Shideh who also helped me to get to the airport and check in my luggage the next day thereby probably missing a wedding party. I had cycled over 7000km for 5 months and was back in Amsterdam in a few hours flying.

So that was Iran for now. As a final note I just have to say that this country is a great place to visit. I don’t think the cycling is that great; most roads are fairly boring appart from a few areas in the North.I know many cyclists who actually took busses for this reason. I would not do that though. When you cycle you meet people, and I met many. Where hospitality is amazing in Turkey, in Iran it becomes embarrassing. I wasn’t allowed to stop eating and many stores provided me with whatever they had without allowing me to pay. As guest I always had to go first, even if the locals were there to guide me the way. Of course Iran has downsides and for me this obviously was the restrictions that the country places on its own people, mainly women.

I am typing this with a painful but hopefully repaired right arm. The operation went fine and my wounds are healing alright. Reovery time is about 2 months…and then what? The future will learn…as you probbaly know by now, I am not the kind of person who takes predictable decisions…:)

For pictures of the last bit of my trip, click here!