The doctor’s order: Today no border!

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By bike from Iran to Turkmenistan

About a long, long bus ride to Moshooooood, feeling like movie stars, a powerful shrine and the cycling community

The bus ride to Mashhad hurt our egos. We wanted to cycle but we had lost too much of the little visa time in Tehran, so we were forced to take a bus in order to make it in time to the Turkmenistan border. It was my birthday and I could not wait to arrive in the city, have a nice dinner and some alcohol free beer and play domino or backgammon. Instead the bus made one long break after the other and it was 11 pm until we arrived. In Mashhad we experienced once again how much the Iranians love to help foreigners.

Mashhad is full of curiosities

Mashhad is full of curiosities

Movie stars

It was right in the middle of a roundabout that a car stopped us. “Where are you from?” It was a young couple, they got out of their car and kept asking us: “You want hotel?” we had been asking a few prices beforehand and had been shocked of the results. Since we got so used to cheap guesthouse prices the 25-30 € that they wanted to charge us appeared ridiculously expensive. The couple started explaining us the way to the city center. While we struggled understanding each other, another motorcyclist stopped. “Hotel?”, he asked and started explaining us the way to his uncles place. The woman had been searching through her purse for a while and finally found what she was looking for: her cell phone. She took it in her hand and pointed it towards us. I posed for her picture and smiled stupidly for some 15 seconds until I found out that she was taking a video. Another four people got curious by the little crowd around us and soon we were the center of a group of strangers all explaining different hotel directions and asking where our children were at and how we like Iran. A second cell phone was pointed at us and we felt a little like movie stars taking a walk without bodyguards. When the police took notice of the growing group of people in the middle of the roundabout all our fans spread away to different directions.

After a couple of hours and approximately 10000 hotels asked we went back to the motorcyclist’s uncle’s place. It was a private apartment, where they only had a windowless “suite” free. It was 16 € for the two of us. This was the best offer of the evening, it was 2.40 am and we really needed some sleep.

Imam Reza shrine

We arrived to Mashhad with a couple of days ahead of schedule, with enough time to visit the Imam Reza shrine. A sacred complex that is much more impressive than any other one we had visited before. It is considered the third most important sacred place for the Muslim world along with Medina and of course Mecca.

Roberto and I entered from different rooms because the genders were separated, but we were able to meet inside. What we did not know was that we entered just in time for afternoon prayers.

As everybody was taking their place along the carpets, Roberto and I did not want to do or say anything that would appear or sound disrespectful to the people present there. Neither did we want to fake a prayer nor stand around and stare stupidly at the praying people’s bottoms. So we did what we thought was the most appropriate behavior, we observed in silence in the very back and kept away from any other main passage point.

It is hard to describe how beautiful this place is. Unfortunately it was strictly forbidden to take pictures inside. The dominating blue and turquoise colors proper for the sacred buildings in the Muslim world contributed to the mystical and peaceful atmosphere we felt. We had the opportunity to observe the massive and collective prayers of the people who bowed down to the floor as a sign of humbleness and obedience to what they believe in. The atmosphere brought several warm chills to our empty stomachs. This was indeed a sacred place. Almost at the end of the sunset we heard the chanting and saw how the reflection of the golden decorations of some doors invited us to insightful thoughts.

We both went out feeling extremely sensitive about the topic of faith. We had indeed visited a sacred place.

Our hosts for a night

Our hosts for a night

“The world might be big, put the paths are very few”

Our time in Mashhad was short, visa reasons were hurrying us. Within the next two days we managed to cycle to Sarakhs, the border town with Turkmenistan. We spent a night outside a mosque with a family that sold watermelons and another one camping right in the desert. Just before arriving to our destination we met Jamie, probably the most intensive cyclist we had met till date.

He is cycling for a very noble cause, for the children´s hospital he once used to attend. He told us about his plans to cycle back home to England. He planned to do it within two months. Two months! It took us nearly a year to get here and he would need only two months to get even further away. So that is how slow we are. We talked to him about all the cyclists we had met along the way and shared stories about them. The cycling community is strong and everybody seems to have heard of or met with everybody.

A silent night in the desert

A silent night in the desert

We found out that Kim was feeling better, but Danny was ill, Mark waited for quite a while in Tajikistan for the Pamir highway to open and another yet unknown German couple was ahead of us. Since he had not heard of Philip and Pascale they must be quite far ahead of us. How comes that we all keep meeting again and again? Jamie knows the reason: “The world might be big, put the paths are very few” he said Some weeks later, when we met a Anne for the fourth time in a different city, we were sure that especially in Central Asia this thesis can count as proofed.

Crazy Jamie

Crazy Jamie

Bed or border

In Sarakhs we managed to fix my lose handlebar, repair Roberto’s saddle and buy some bins for the long 500 km ride through Turkmenistan. We ate a giant dinner to gain some strength for the first 100-kilometers-desert day. We had been training hard in the last weeks and felt well prepared for the marathon. At night Roberto felt that the dinner may have been too big. His stomach hurt more and more and he spent half night at the bathroom. We wanted to be at the border at 8 am. Instead we sat at the doctor’s where Roberto got an IV and a couple of medications. The IV, treatment and doctor’s service cost 10 $. If you ever decide to get ill and be treated cheaply – do so in Iran. The clock had no mercy: 4 ½ visa days left to cross the country and Roberto was too weak to even walk far. We had no other option than sleeping a lot, drinking tea and water and hoping that he would be better soon.

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  1. REZA says:

    the story and the way of expression , impressed me a lot.
    Thank you

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Hello Reza,
      thank you for your comment! We are happ that ou like our story. And I am happ to tell that Roberto is a lot better now. Best wishes,
      Annika

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