Saturday was about as lazy as it gets, but it was enjoyable. At breakfast I met Gail and John (its so much easier to remember names when they are the same as mine) and we didnt leave breakfast until it was time to go to lunch. They were the first English people that I have spoken to in weeks, may be months. After lunch I was back at the hotel and played backgammon with Andre. With such a good panorama, Mt Ararat to the left and the Palace to the right, there was no need to leave and see a grotty town. None of us could believe how quick the day went.
So Sunday we were at last on the road again, all fit and well. The route to the border was easy and we were able to bypass the kilometre queue of lorries. I always hate border crossings but this was about as good as it gets, but not the quickest. As we queued in a slow queue a guy approached us and said he was from tourism and we should go with him. We did reluctantly but it was a good move. He took us into his office and took our passports and got them stamped and took us into the bank rather than queueing. He suggested one of us go with all the money as we would only be charged once and I was nominated as I was the `father`. We changed 100 Euros each and we were all millionaires as I came back with a barrow load of notes. Once our business was done the queues for the x-ray was moved aside and we were allowed to go. We made good progress in the afternoon but could find little food suitable for cooking. We found a suitable area for wild camping but it was beside a river and the were too many mossies so we moved to the other side of the field. A man working in the field came over and told us to move into the next field and as we set up camp he brought us handsful of courgettes. Later during the evening 2 other men arrived and they too brought us courgettes. The night was warm and we sat outside looking and the stars and chatting away, wonderful.
In the morning as we had breakfast another man brought us more courgettes, we showed him our bag full but he insisted we had more. A woman and a girl arrived. Not more bloody courgettes! We took them with us and gave them to somebody in the next village was passed. Food was again a problem, not just due to Ramadan, there are just far less food shops around and the villages are much poorer and scruffier than in Turkey. We had no food to camp but we asked to camp beside a resturant and the man said it was no problem and free. Before we had started to unpack he came and told us we could sleep in the office. We had full use of water and a nice hot shower. The only thing wrong with the room was the smell of petrol from the trucks filling up outside.
At 6am the flies arrived and I could no longer sleep as there were dozens of them and it was a constant struggle to keep them off me. We had breakfast outside of honey, sour cream and bread, thin stuff like chapatis, but quite dry. We made good progress before a 30km climb past a grotty town. The climb was only gradual but it took a while. As we neared the top a car stopped and we were each given 4 peaches before we shook hands and he departed. The descent was gradual so the next 20km were fast and by the time we reached the next village it was only 30k to Tabriz. We plough on and as with any big city it was a horrible road in with large cement works being about the highlight. We took a wrong turn and found ourselves heading out on a big busy road and took our lives in our hands as we crossed on foot to the other carriageway. The driving standards here are pretty poor and we have already seen 3 accidents and 2 near misses. Once in town it was getting dark and there were no shortage of people to help us. We were guided in by a taxi but the hotel he took us to was too expensive then a cyclist guided us to another but that was full. From here on we went our own way. Most hotels didnt want us but we eventually found a cheapie that would have us once we had persuaded them to put the bike in the back garden. Its an odd place where the hotel staff keep coming in the room without knocking. By the time we went out to eat at 21:00 everything was shut. During ramadan the is a rush between 6:30 and 8:30, then it is all shut again.
Today we have been wandering about Tabriz. It has a massive bazaar, 1km square. The tourist information said they could get us Lonely Planet guidebooks for 3 pounds by 5pm and they were true to their words. They are copies but it is hard to tell the difference from the real thing. We were in a large resturant by 6:30 and it was like a big party. All the tables were laid and food was set out and it filled quicky, some tables women only other for men. The at 6:45 the eating started, a good meal and cheap too.
Tomorrow we are off again and will hopefully be in Tehran in a week. I dont expect to see an internet cafes before then. There is no time to download photos either as the cafe closes soon. Also there is no mobile network coverage at all for our phones and I have heard that travellers cheques can not be changed in Iran. I am in for some hard times!