About a lovey-dovey trucker, too many potholes, “adding some girls”, a threatening taxi driver and the end of the world
Tuesday 17th of July 2012
By bike from Yerevan to Iran part three. Before we made our way we visited the ancient observatory Qarahunge that was situated just a kilometer’s walk away. Then we started cycling. The wind blew strong into our faces and we could not let the bikes roll down at all. Finally the last ten kilometers we enjoyed a nice ride downhill. The street was in a horrible condition – potholes, bubbles, bumps and gravel made me drive slalom like in Mario Kart avoiding the bananas. Trucks blew their black and warm fumes into our faces and we rode highly concentrated.
On this day we met some other cyclists from Iran. They came for a short visit and looked pretty sporty as well.
Armen in love
We arrived to Sevan where one of the hardest passes would follow. It would take us several days to cycle the two passes down to Meghri by the Iranian border and our visas did not allow us that much time. We were lucky and found two truck drivers who gave us a ride till Kapan. The one, Martin, was loud, funny and looked a little crazy. The other one, Armen, was chubby and quieter. We tied the bikes and bags and squeezed all together into the driver’s cabin. What a fun ride. The view was amazing and the hills very steep. Wow, I was so happy to watch them from the inside of a motorized vehicle! After a while we stopped and Roberto and Martin went to check the bikes. Armen continued driving and the other two stayed in the back of the truck.
When we were alone Armen spontaneously fell in love with me. I did not understand him, he did not understand me, but his gestures were clear. I felt very uncomfortable and squeezed more and more towards the door. He did not mind that I kept talking about my “husband who I have two children with and am very happy with” and who was inside his truck as well. When we stopped for a second time I jumped into the back of the truck as well. By the third stop we got our bikes off the truck and went on cycling. Martin apologized with both of us for his friend’s behavior.
Bang goes the money
The last kilometers down to Kapan were downhill. In the center we asked in a travel agency for the cheapest possibility to get to Meghri. Well, there did not seem to be trains, busses would not leave until the following morning and it was not sure if they would have a problem with a bike. The Lady recommended us a taxi.
The driver asked for 13,000 Dram (26 €) for the entire way or 7,000 (14 €) for the ride up to the 2535 meter’s pass. We decided for the pass, loaded our bikes and got started. The first part seemed possible for cycling, but the last part up to the peak would have just been too much for me. It started raining and we drove directly into a huge thunderstorm. Apart the auto gas was going to run down. When we arrived at the top I thought it was going to be the end of the world. There was a vivid flash of forked lightening every two seconds. This did not seem like the best weather to camp on the peak of the mountain next to a bunch of steel tubes. It was too dark and too dangerous to cycle the rest of the way down, so our driver offered us to bring us all the way to Meghri.
When the gas was empty, Roberto and I jumped outside to pull the car. The lightening was bright and close, we could not see anything through the wet front window and the road was too small for the other trucks and us. Still, somehow we both felt very safe in our situation. Being with a closable vehicle makes a big difference in times like that.
When we arrived our driver found out that there was no LPG station to get gas in Meghri. He would have to go 10 kilometers further towards Agarak. And he wanted us to pay for that drive as well. It was our fault that we have ended up here, he said, now we have to go with him to Agarak. Roberto complained. “You were the one who offered us to go down to Meghri and when you did so you already knew that we were running out of gas!” he gave back. None did understand the other. Roberto spoke English, the driver Russian. It did not take long and the driver started yelling at Roberto. Then he turned back, looked to me and repeated his yells a bit quieter. So there we were, within flooded streets in the hard rain inside a car yelling in Russian and English.
When our driver got out and came back with two other young men I got afraid. They squeezed on the back seats next to me. Roberto and I both agreed quickly that our driver seemed to have the better arguments and paid him the extra money to get his car to Agarak. He let us out at a hotel where they wanted to charge us 20,000 Dram for a night in a tiny room without bathroom use. The lady in the travel agency told us that 6,000 were normal for a normal hotel. When we just decided to leave and look ourselves for a place they lowered the price down to 10,000 Dram. Still – no way. We were fed up with people asking us for triple prices or more and forcing us to pay more. We do need to say that when travelling for too long you need to expect this sort of things, and most important try to understand them. That is what empathy travel is all about, a few extra dollars or bad times cannot and never should overshadow the best times. Finally, we got our bikes and bags and decided to look for a place on our own. Our driver, who had been very helpful in tying the bikes on the roof was sulky now and did not lift a finger to help.
Add some more girls
It was dark night, the rain had stopped but we did not know the town at all. Anyway – enough was enough. Surprisingly we found a place to sleep after a very short time. Under a huge publicity for a night club there was the word “Hotel” written. The price was also 10,000 Dram but the room had a bathroom and the owners were far nicer than the ones of the other hotel. We were happy to have found a place, moved in and enjoyed a warm shower. They offered Roberto several times to come and visit the strip club. When he pointed at me and explained that I was his wife (not being married with children yet is a synonym to being single, so we tell people that we were married) the young employee just shook his head and replied: “Well, if you want to add some more girls, we have got them downstairs in the strip club.” The value of women is not as high as I was used to and respectful behavior towards them is not always taken for granted. But we have both made a lot of good experiences in this beautiful country as well and those bad behaving men will not change, and they exist in every country.