Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Day 153 - Shiraz

The ride from Yazd to Shiraz has been some of the best scenery in Iran and came as a real surprise to us.

We said our farewell to Erik and Tjeerd in Yadz and who knows, we might meet up again in the future as our paths are likely to cross. The day out of Shiraz was reasonable, but after a few days rest and a nice hotel, none of us really wanted to be cycling. Added to that it was uphill all day and it was 2885 calories before we went downhill at all and that was only into the village of Ali Abad where we decided to stop the night. We bought some food for the night and asked if there was anywhere suitable to camp and we were taken around to the mosque. I loved the idea of spending a night ina mosque but sadly nobody could find a key. I went to look for somewhere to camp but when I had returned we had been offered a place for the night. It was in an empty house with the only things in the rooms being walnuts laid out to dry. We were up at 2250m so as the sun went down it became cold. We hadnt even unpacked before a proccession of gifts arrived. First we were given some bread, then a guy arrived with more bread and a third with yesterdays dry bread! Next they brought us a carpet, blankets and pillows and it was beginning to look pretty snug. Salad and cheese soon arrived and our hosts stayed whilst we ate so there was no need to cook despite them providing us with a portable gas stove.

At 7 there was a knock at the door and I leapt out of bed put, some trousers on but forgot the shirt in my rush. The old lady was at the door and didnt know what to say or where to look, so I made a quick exit...oops! Within 15 mins she was back with breakfast along with others carrying more food. The hospitality in Iran is wonderful and it is done without a second thought. As we set off we climbed through trees and it was hard to believe we were in Iran, but they soon disappeared revealing a bit more climbing to do before we reached the pass at 2555m, then followed a long descent, then it was gradually downhill for the rest of the day. The mountains gave way to desert as the vegetation rapidly thinned out leaving nothing but sand and stones. We arrived at Abarkuh where we decided to call it a day as there was a hotel here. It had `Tourist` in its name, never a good sign, but they obviously were not used to tourists or even any type of guest come to that. They wanted 320,000 for a single room to start with but we managed to get the price down to 110,000 but it took about 20 mins. It was a big hotel but not as big as my room number 4017 would suggest. We were the only people staying there and clearly it was too much effort for them. The restaurant was large though there was a distinct lack of food. We eventually went of `Spa Getti` as they wouldnt give us ricew with anything as it would apparently keep us awake all night.

Breakfast the following morning was just as bad. There was an early rush as all 3 guests arrived at breakfast at the same time. They only brought breakfast for one and looked totally blank when we tried to explain that there were 3 of us, but things were alot easier when Andre went into the kitchen and sorted it out. The day turned out to be another day of climbing. We chose a village on the map to stop at but we managed to pass through it without even noticing it. There was little ahead that we could reach during the last hour of light so we called in at a works unit to ask for water. We also asked if we could camp there and were told we could, but very soon after were told we couldnt. It was a bit confusing as it turned out that the reason we couldnt camp was because it would be too cold at night and they wanted us to stay as their guests in the accommodation block. The works unit was for a railway that is being built from Shiraz to Esfahan. We didnt need to be asked a second time and we were soon shown to a couple of rooms in a prefab building with showers and the heaters on, bliss. Tea arrived soon to be followed by dinner for 2...Andre and Judith. I was invited into the engineers block for dinner and even had a table to sit at with the 6 other men. Lots of questions were asked and when I told them how old I was some of them clapped. I didnt think I was that old! Later in the evening they said they had a DVD of The Queen. It turned out to be the film which thankfully they became bored with after about 15 minutes. I was invited to sleep in their block and the beds were as hard as a butchers slab but I slept remarkably well.

When I woke at 6:30 the other 3 beds were empty and I could here them having breakfast. By the time I got up the place was empty so I went back to the room where Judith and Andre were and waited outside. The cleaner from my block saw me and offered me breakfast and I went to the dining area where the remains of breakfast hadnt been cleared away. I helped myself to a tea and the cleaner gave me the remainder of the manky bread and a bowl of half eaten something, it looked remarkably like cat food, complete with used spoon...yum yum! When he left I made a quick exit and had breakfast with Judith and Andre. It was another short climb to the top of another pass at 2536m then it rolled along nicely but enough downhill to make progress good. We passed a petrol station that was a bit like one of our motorway service stations and it looked very well kept with cut grass on raised flower beds and there were also places to eat and 2 well stocked stores. We had wanted to go a bit further but it seemed too good to pass by so we got permission to camp and made ourselves at home, the raised beds making very good kitchen tops.

The night was cold and dropped to 4 degrees so the eggs for breakfast the following morning went down very well. The days riding was excellent and weaved through the mountains in a valley that had vegetables growing and at times was remarkably green. We bowled along at a very good speed and the kilometres passed unnoticed, the scenery was that good. We were heading for Persepolis but first called in at the Royal Tombs (photo). We stopped there about 30 minutes but it was too hot to hang around in the sun. It was just a short ride to Persepolis, one of the hightlights of Iran. They are very well preserved ruins and the stone reliefs are just amazing (other photos), although to Andre they were just old stones. I asked at the ticket office if there was anywhere to camp and was told very agressively there was nowhere here to camp, so I asked if there was anywhere nearby and he pointed to a grassed area right in front of the old stones. The contradiction confused me somewhat so I asked the same question in as many ways as I could think of and he always pointed to the grassed area, excellent. We were told we couldnt camp until the place shut at 17:00. When we went in a family layed a rug down and invited us to drink tea with them and they soon invited us back to stay at their house, but our marvelous campsite was too good to miss so we declined the offer.

We had packed camp by 8 the following morning and as entry to Persepolis was so cheap we went in for a second visit, but it wasnt long before tour buses were arriving. We left at about 9:30 for Shiraz and it turned out to be the only bad bit of the journey from Yazd as the road was busy and the fumes on the climbs gave me a headache. We arrived early in Shiraz and looked at about 5 hotels before settling for on which only had a name in Farsi but had a very friendly manager and good clean rooms.
After a lie in today we have done a bit of sightseeing and completed a few chores. I only have one day here as I need to get to Bandar Abbas in 6 days as the ferry to Dubai only goes once a week. J & A have decided to chill out a bit and take the bus there, so I have a few days on my own again. Judging by the map I think I have 2 night in hotels and 3 camping, spend one night in Bandar Abbas and take the ferry next Tuesday to Dubai.

I still forget that J & A`a English is not as good as mine and every now and then I say something and they look at each other and say `uh?`. Andres forgets some words so my mini water boiler has bem come as the `hot maker` and a towel is a `drying machine`.


Caff said...
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Caff said...

Ironic isn't it? You receive such outstanding hospitality by wonderful sounding people. But, when you get to a hotel and pay for the hospitality, they don't want to know!!
I've been shown an article from Travel Guardian 20.10.07 about the first bus journey going from London to Sydney. They have just completed the Bam to Quetta section which was far from easy and not without its problems. They arrived at one hotel in Bam where a tourist ventured out alone the day before and hasn't been seen since. I think your alternative route sounds far more exciting, for both you and us. :-)

Caff said...

Sofia has informed me that "Bandar" means harbour and it also means "monkey". She amusingly thought the latter would perhaps suit a description of you - can't imagine where she got that idea from!!! :-)