And so we eventually leave Behshahr 2 days after we first arrived for lunch and head towards the Caspian sea. Traffic is nearly non-existent as most people in the north of Iran sleep between and 2 and 4 in the heat of the day, except that there are numerous little villages along the road, nearly like one almighty long village. At the entrance, throughout and at the exit of each village are speed humps, most of which you can’t see. Because of the state of many cars and their poor shock absorbers, they practically stop as they approach these humps to take them on sideways and 2 lanes of traffic turn into 4 or 5. It’s a juggling act – we have to be nimble and keep cool… That’s when opening up the throttle helps as we don’t need to slow down on our bikes for those humps – occasionally, we might stand up to take them, that’s all.
Because of the heat, we are ‘done’ by 5 pm and start to keep our eyes open for a place to spend the night. The first 2 are fully booked – no wonder as it’s the week end and summer holidays. We find one by 6pm, just before Nur. It’s perfect. And we decide we’ll spend 2 nights to give us time to catch up on the blog and other admin tasks.
Usual chores are done that night: hand-washing and hanging as best we can throughout the room with only 2 coat-hangers. Adjoining the hotel is the Burrito Cafe. A customer comes over to help with the ordering. We order a couple of fresh carrot, apple and celery juices and one plate of chicken and salsa and chips to share. Perfect. Breakfast in the same Burrito cafe and I have my second espresso coffee since we left!! Yummm. The day is spent napping and desperately trying all sorts of ways of uploading photos to the blog but to no avail. We don’t feel like going out and exploring as it is so hot and sticky. The internet is too slow and there are various blocks on sites here. It is frustrating. We eventually go out for a walk along the beach and watch families enjoying a dip in the sea: men in shorts and singlets, women fully covered, of course… Here in Iran, or the north of Iran at least, women either wear a full length black chador or a head scarf and a ‘manteau’ – a light coat of a certain length which has to cover the female curves.
Dinner at the Burrito cafe and breakfast there again before heading off. As soon as we arrived for breakfast, a young man whom we hadn’t met before comes over and hands a piece of paper to Anthony together with a book. The note is a short letter written in English, introducing himself and welcoming us to his country. We are speechless and deeply touched. We keep meeting the kindest people on our travels and we have no way of expressing to them what their kindness means to us, and of course no way of returning it to them. As we are about to leave the hotel, all the reception and management staff want photos of themselves with us. So I take a couple too.
We have a day and a half to get to Karaj where we are meeting Afrooz’s friend Sohrab at the villa. We continue our way along the Caspian coast. It gets quite beautiful once we get to Si Sangan. It reminds us of the coast North of Cairns – with deep lush forested hills coming down close to the coast.
Eventually, we turn south at Chalus, away from the coast and up through the mountains. We pull over at a road side cafe for a rest and a drink and a couple on a small motorcycle pass us, wave and return for a chat. They are carrying everything for a day at the beach – beach tent, food and a hubbly-bubbly pipe.
The Chalus road is very beautiful, taking us along a lovely gushing creek, steep and deep gorges, the scenery changing very abruptly from lush green to stark and impressive rocky mountains.
The traffic however is horrendous. We are literally in one long traffic jam, stop, starting for hours. And avoiding head on traffic too many times to recall. We can’t find anywhere to camp. The riverside is jammed packed with families camping or just eating. We continue until 4.30pm when we decide to give a ski resort road which we had just passed a go. We do a u-turn – easy as the traffic is stopped – and head back up the mountain.
Even on this side road, we find nowhere to camp but Anthony’s gps had one hotel listed up the mountain so we continue. We arrive at the ski resort of Dizin, find a pretty sad looking hotel, the Dizin hotel, check if they have a room, the price is rather expensive and doesn’t include breakfast but we are tired and know there is no other option so decide to take it. We heard from a fellow traveller the next day that he barters at hotels – we never thought if doing that so it’s a god tip. We are told the restaurant is closed so order tea and biscuits for dinner. Just as we finished, the restaurant opened!! Ha, hadn’t realised it wasn’t open now but opening later. Too bad, time for bed.
Keen to get to our meeting point with Sohrab in time, we skip the hotel breakfast, have a couple of biscuits with some mango juice we’d bought the previous day and head down the mountain.
Traffic is so much better than yesterday although there are lots more cars heading up today than we would have expected as it is the first day of the week and no longer the week end.
Once pretty close to our meeting point, we know we have time to stop and enjoy the running creek. We pull over and as we start walking down to a cafe, we spot a fellow biker, Roland from Munich. He pulls over and we decide to have a cuppa and a chat. What a spot we chose – lovely gardens, right by the river. He is traveling the way we came from so we manage to exchange some of our left over Turkmen and Uzbek money for local Rials. We have a feeling we will meet up again somewhere in the world.
We eventually find the square at the end of Chalus road ok except that we arrived very early (I hate being late!), earlier than Sohrab, so, not spotting him or being clear of exactly where he would be waiting for us, we continued around the square. At that point, I was leading and took the wrong turn, turning too soon! And so off I went, and we agree I’ll find Anthony somewhere at the square. Over a bridge, over the square, through a tunnel, and down a windy road I went before I could turn back. We all found each other at the square eventually.
Sohrab leads us to the villa. A ‘villa’?! A mansion more like it. His friend, Samane is there too. It is her parent’s week end family retreat.
Sohrab decides to go shopping for food for us so Anthony goes with him. Samane and I chat about life and families in Iran, I am asked again why we don’t have kids. I have learned over time that it is easier to put my hands up with a questioning look, as if it just didn’t happen, and that is usually enough, no more questions asked on that subject, because it is incomprehensible in some cultures that one would chose not to have children. But today Samane specifically asks if it was our decision. So we talk some more. When the boys get back, Sohrab and Samane prepare lunch for us. We cannot do anything – just sit and relax we are told – we are treated like royalty. They have both taken a day off work to welcome us and prepare us lunch.
We find out that Sohrab has done an enormous amount of research on our bikes so that he can help us with any maintenance we might need to do.
Tomorrow is our 40th anniversary and we are told Sohrab has a surprise for us… They eventually leave and we are left to relax in this huge house. Perfect time to catch up on our blog but there is no wifi and our new data sim cards are not activated so we can only catch up on writing notes.
We reflect on what we were doing and what our dreams were 40 years ago…