Well getting out of Tehran was pretty easy. The 6:30 start meant there wasnt too much traffic. Once away from the centre I found a signpost to Qom, but it was heading for the expressway. There were major roads and flyovers everywhere so I just followed the signs. Every now and then I asked the way and also checked that the road was ok to cycle on and I was always told it was. Eventually I arrived at the expressway with toll booths, police and a sign saying no cyclists. I asked the police the way to Qom and they just pointed through the toll, so off I went and didnt even have to pay. It made getting out of the city easy and added to that there were no trucks allowed on the road so it was quieter and less poluted and I had the hard shoulder to myself. My intention then was to get off once away from Tehran, but when I saw the other road, single carriageway and full of lorries I stuck to the expressway all the way to Qom, 140k of it that went surprisingly quickly. The scenery was very different to before Tehran as it was now just desert, no villages, farming or people. The road passed very close to a large salt lake and that was just about the only highlight. The driving standards were much better on the expressway and I only saw 2 cars reversing on it. There were no end of police and speed checks and to start with I expected to be stopped but they just waved to me. Once in Qom I easily found the hotels I had arranged to meet Andre and Judith at, but finding them was more of a problem. I arrived at 13:30 and by 16:00 they still hadnt turned up, so I went off to visit the holy shrine. Its a massive place and really impressive (photo) with lots of different areas for prayer, all very different from each other and fanastically decorated, the best for me being the blue tiles. Qom is very conservative, probably due to the shrine, and every female is covered from head to foot in black. There was still no sign of A & J so I sent them an email setting a meeting place for the morning and went off for dinner.
So tomorrow we really are off and hope to arrive in Esfahan in 3 days. The plan is to stop there 5 days or so, for a `holiday` as Andre calls it.