Welcome to Iran – Km 67,150

“Welcome to Iran”, an about 50 year-old soldier, tells me when I crossed the gate to enter to the Islamic Republic of Iran.“What do you have on your bicycle?” someone asked me few meters further on; “do you have alcohol?”. But it was not necessary that he checks it; so a couple of minutes later I started to discuss whom changed money.

After almost 9 years of my first ride, I was in Iran. It was noon and the weather was a little cloudy. Once in route, I began a subtle slope down which took me for more than 40 km; the Ararat mount had left behind, and in spite of the 100 km away, it still keep being striking beauty. I remember that, that night while I looked for a place to camp I was surrounded by four dogs, and if it would not have been by that shepherd, I would have been attacked. So I had to accept the invitation of a Turkish guy who in a small office next to the route controlled the weight of the trucks. That night I camped very close of him and I also cooked some spaghetti which tasted anything.

TabrizOn the route to Tehran, the capital city, I stopped in Tabriz for a couple of days, where I had to buy a English map, but how difficult it was because of all the maps are in Farsi, the main language spoken in Iran and which is wrote with Arabic alphabet. There, in a bookstore I met Aydir and his friends who told several times to not camp on the route, because could be dangerous; anyway the climate was cold and I wasn’t thinking to camp.

But one night I wanted to camp with a farmer family and to get in touch with local people a little more, so at the end of afternoon I left the route and I came closer to a small house where from far I could sight a group of people next to a fire. But I was wrong; it was not a house but a deposit, and neither a family but about 8 or 9 men who were counting money and who after seeing me became very nervous; so at once they asked me if I was alone, from where I was coming and where I was going. So, I was scared, although I didn’t show them and I preferred to seem a stupid tourist who ask for water. We understood each other only by signs; there was not another way of communication. After few minutes I was surrounded by most of them, who snooped my bicycle while one spoke to me in a tone threatening and so close. To few meters there were also two big trucks which seemed to hide something under a great quantity of straw.

Some areas of Iran together Pakistan are part of the drug’s route which is transported from Afghanistan to Europe. Afghanistan produces the 75% of the opium world production, and it is also one of the main countries on the hashish producing. But in Iran a strong smuggling of alcohol also exists and the law sentences as much as to the drug.

So I felt that those men were doing something not so clean and for it, I preferred to don’t watch too much; I knew that I was in the wrong place. I was waiting during several minutes that someone bring me the water, so I kept doing the stupid and the nice guy with all of them. And finally when I got the water, one of them ordered me to leave. But after I left three men followed me and one of them explained to me through signs, that I had to leave and don’t come back, because that guy who bothered me more than the other wanted to rob me. So I didn’t doubt it, and I left as fast as I could, and in spite of the darkness of the route, I kept cycling other 20 km till I reached a restaurant.

On the way to Tehran

On day later, when I entered to a small town a man came closer to me on his motorcycle and he invited me to sleep to his house, but once we arrived there, his mother didn’t like; so the man who was so ashamed had to ask me to leave. I could not believe it, that man at least was 45 or 50 years old and his mother no less than 70. Later I arrived at the Nashrullah house, and I explained to him, by signs, that I was looking for a place to sleep, because the weather was so cold to camp and because there was not any hotel in the town. And he didn’t even think, Nashrullah who was also an old man invited me to come into his house and then to have dinner. That night I went to bed late. And what the heck, in the morning when I got up I had more than 40 flea’s stings. I could not believe it, I had gone to bed with clothes and during the whole night I felt an itch, but I believed that it was only the contact with the blanket.

01 - On the road
With Nashrullah

The night before to my arrival to Tehran I stopped in Hashtgerd but there was not any hotel there, so a guy who spoke good English advise me to go to the police and we walk together to a police car which is to 100 mts from us. When we come closer I stop behind the car and the guy goes to speak with the official. He takes no more than one minute so that the official confirms by radio that the police would help me and that they would come for me; but also one minute is enough so that 40 or 50 people surround me. Perhaps for it the guy who was assisting me disappears while the official tries to move everybody away from me. But people gather around me more and more; I can not believe it, I seem a Martian. On top of everything, the official to my care doesn’t have better idea than turn the siren on to move the public away, who very curious observe me or try to communicate with me, there are also who scream me or tease me, or inclusive who start to touch the bicycle. So the situation becomes uncontrollable because the siren the only thing that causes is to attract more people. I am immobilized and probably already among 120 or 150 people. And I don’t like it.

Suddenly another guy come closer to me, who uses to be called “Captain”, he differs from the other ones, he dresses very well and he seems very educated; and in a good English he asks me if I need any help and he invites me to sleep to his house. And I don’t doubt it, I accept. But at once several policemen arrive who furious due to the situation grabb me by the arm and order me to leave with them. I explain to them that I no longer need of a place to sleep and that I prefer to leave with my new friend, so I thank them and I leave. But the police follow me and also many people; they order me to keep walking with them till the police station, then they ask me the passport and they check it. After some minutes I leave, but suddenly 6 or 7 policemen begin to run me, as if I was a bandit. The police car also follows me and it makes sound its siren.

I can’t believe it; they order me to stop again. The multitude accompanies us; but now I prefer it. Now the police don’t allow me to go to the Captain’s house and once more they request me the passport to check it with the secret police office. I don’t understand anything, Captain is who translates me. They carry us to a shop because there are many people in the street; it is not possible to stay there. Some of them say to me: “Welcome to Iran”, others: “This is not a free country”. The people begin to understand what is happening, most of them support me, also several of the officials, I can see in their faces, but who seems to be the boss is become obsessed with my security. He wants to send me by taxi to the next city, to 30 km, to sleep in a hotel; he asks me if I have money. But through Captain, several times I explain to him about the trip, and that I don’t want to take a taxi, people support me; so once more I ask him permission to leave, I also say to him that, that day I had cycled 130 km and that I am very tired; and to be amusing I kneel down. The boss for first time smiles, but he doesn’t give up, he insists on looking for a government building, he makes dozens of calls, but he doesn’t find anything; I threaten him with calling my embassy, I take the telephone but he took it off me. I am very nervous, people of the shop try to calm me down, they offer me a soda, tea, and to sit down; but I don’t want, the only thing that I want is to leave from there. I am upset. Also Captain, who wants to leave, but I don’t allow him to do it, he is the only person whom I can communicate, he is as patience as a real friend.

Capitan and his familyFinally after two hours of arduous discussion they force me to leave with them, I am very tired and I accept. Captain accompanies me, he is a nice guy. We are escorted by several officials. We walk almost1 km and we arrive to a government building where finally they offer me a room, the dinner and where I can take a shower. It is 23 o’clock, I am exhausted. Then a soldier comes closer to me and he asks me: “Do you like the place?

In the next morning I get up early because Captain come to pick me to have breakfast in his house. And I don’t have doubts; Captain is one of those people whom is a pleasure to talk.

If you wish to know more about my trip, get the documentary: The World by Bike