I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Uninsured - A Sobering Fact of Life

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Back on Track

We crossed the border from Iran into Armenia on Sunday-29th June. Therefore, as far as the Internet is concerned - 'Normal Service Has Been Resumed'

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Wednesday, 18th June

After a 10-hour overnight passage across the Strait of Hormuz our ferry docked in the port of Bandar Abbas around seven o'clock in the morning.

It then took nearly another eight hours to clear immigration, customs control and the port authority's red tape procedures. Too late to contemplate anything other than a short ride into town and the relative comfort of our first Iranian Hotel.

Time to stick a new flag on the black beast.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Dubai, Oman and Iran

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IRAN FACTS:
  • Area: 1,648,195 km2 [636,372 sq mi]. Iran is a HUGE country; more than 150% bigger than France and Germany combined.
  • Capital, and largest city: Tehran 
  • Population (2013 estimate): 77,176,930 
  • Religion: Shia Islam 
  • Official languages: Persian (Farsi) 
  • Currency: Rial Toman (x10 Rial)
  • Time zone: UTC [London] +3:30
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Thursday-19th

Away from Bandar Abbas, heading northwest.

.. and into the fiercesome heat on the southern Iranian desert towards the township of Lar, more or less halfway to Shiraz. Quickly discovering, with a considerable amount of delight, that the price of a litre of standard-grade petrol in Iran is around 20p. The quality is, however, very questionable. The bike's V-twin engine told me so, coughing and spluttering in protest, especially when riding over mountain ranges at heights above of 2,400 metres [8,000 ft].

After chatting to a couple of local bikers it was suggested that I should insist on 'Euro-4' (European standard) petrol. Unfortunately this type of fuel is only available in-and-around Tehran. The nearest alternative to Euro-4 is 'Super' grade petrol, which provides a still inadequate power potential because of its lowly octane of 88 .. and even 'Super' is not universally available throughout the whole of Iran. I cringed everytime I was forced to accept the standard-grade stuff; apologising to the bike in the process.

Police check points are commonplace along most Iranian highways. I got pulled over at the very first confrontation with one; more from the police's curiosity than anything else I suspected.

During the quite jovial at times interrogtion I heard steady hissing sound from closeby. 'Sounds like someone's got a puncture, I reckon?' .. I thought to myself.

Question time over, I attempted to pull away in the mid-afternoon heat of 45°C [113°F] .. BUGGER! .. 'twas my recently fitted new 'heavy-duty' front inner tube that had split which was making all the noise a few minutes beforehand.

Irreparable, I had no other choice but to change the tube. Ordinarily no real problem .. but in that brutal heat it was very hard work.

Plenty of help was on hand though to sort the problem, particularly from a young man called Ali Rastgoo (26) - pictured above - who afterwards absolutely insisted that we went back to his place, located about 5 km away in a nearby local village.

Were we encountering our very first experience of  "Ta'arof" we wondered? I had read-up about Ta'arof beforehand, during the winter months at home, before embarking on this leg of the trip.

Just to clear up: When you meet someone in Iran and you are told come and stay at my house this is Ta'arof, a system of formalised politeness that can seem confusing to outsiders (like us).

For example, an offer of food should be turned down before being accepted.This gives the person making the offer the chance to save face if in reality they cannot provide a meal. A good rule is to always refuse any offer. When a shopkeeper, restauranter or a hotel manager refuses payment when asked for a bill, it should always be remembered that this is just Ta'arof - The buyer should always ensure that he or she doesn't leave without paying!

Learn more about Ta'arof by clicking on this link

Was Ali simply demonstrating Ta'arof  .. we weren't sure? But we accepted his kind offer in any case - and soon thereafter were treated to a tasty feast, prepared in no time at all.

Iranians - the kindest people in the world, with or without Ta'arof.

Onwards to Lar, arriving there by around 6:00pm.

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Friday-20th

Then to the city of Shiraz, typically drinking between 3-4 litres of water each during such a typical 360 km [224 mi] ride. If there's no convenient shelter around .. then make your own, with the aid of an umbrella!

Great roads all around Iran, which means that rides of 500+ km [300+ mi] can be contemplated; something you would think twice about in say .. India for instance.

We spent two nights in  Shiraz, especially to pay a visit to the Police for Immigration and Foreign Aliens during Sat-21st; to be informed that our visas were good for 30 days from the date of entry (June18th) - and not just until the expiry date of June-22nd, which was in fact the last possible date that we could have entered Iran (and thus start the 30-day visiting time limit.)
 
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 Sunday-22nd

We spent 2-3 hours wandering around the ancient ruins of Persopolis on the way to the city of Yazd located a short ride of 60 km [37 mi] from Shiraz.

There's Ellen in the centre of the above picture, which gives you a good idea of the size of the stone columns.



Alexander the Great sent the main force of his army to Persepolis and captured the city in the year 330 BC.


There's loads of Bas-relief in-and around Persepolis, dating back to 500 BC.





During the afternoon, on the way to the city of Yazd. Always in constant need to drink more water.

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Sunday-22nd

Yazd

Masjid-e Jame (Friday Mosque), dating back to the fourteenth century. Its minarets are the highest in the country.

From mid-morning we rode the 315 km [196 mi] journey westwards to the city of Esfahan ..

.. along more great roads

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

Climbing up to a height of 2,500 metres [8,200 ft] the V-twin engine started to struggle badly for the first time. I put this down to a simple case of poor quality (low octane) fuel, which was all that was available at the last service station fill-up.

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Monday-23rd &Tuesday-24th - in Esfahan. The oldest but in many respects the most modern and strangely the most familiar for us (in a European-esque type way) city in Iran so far.

Tue-24th

A visit to Naqsh-e Jahan Square. But first ..

.. some Chai with a local merchant that befriended us; curious to know what we were doing in his city out of season .. in all the heat!

Any Persian will tell you that they love to drink Chai (pronounced Cha-ee)

With two mosques - the Imam and the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosques - and the bazaar. Naqsh-e Jahan Square is an important historical site, and one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era (circa 1600 AD.)

With such fine mozaic detail it's no wonder the Imam Khomeini Mosque took almost 20 years to complete.



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A Muslim praying to his God.

The interior dome roof of the Iman mosque. A mozaic masterpiece - and a wonder.

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Evening

A walk around and across the Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge) - 1650. Widely accepted as the finest bridge in the province of Isfahan.




Ice creams on the way back to our lodgings. Just like a Kelly's Whip (.. without the yellow dye!)

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Wednesday-25th

We left Esfahan and headed for Abyaneh Village for lunch.

I managed to drop the bike (left-hand side) sliding down the steep polished marble tiles leading up/down the embanked approach and entrace of the Abyaneh Hotel; managing to bend, and scar some more bodywork. BUGGER!

After leaving Abyaneh we passed alongside the highly controversial Natanz uranium fuel enrichment plant on the way to the city of Qom. Anti-aircaft gun emplacements surrounding the facility guarding its 160 centrifuges, which operate eight metres underground - and protected by a concrete walls 2.5 metres thick. Quite scary, but utterly fascinating at the same time.

Obviously we got stopped by security police who demanded to see our passports. The young copper (a Tom Cruise lookalike) phoned through to The Powers That Be - I heard him repeat my name 'Stanley Hooper' into his walkie-talkie, which presumably all checked out, as we soon we were free to continue our journey. 

We spent the night in Qom, which is one of the holiest cities in Iran, and indeed throughout the Middle East; entrenched in centuries of history. The most important aspect of Qom is the Fatima È Massummeh Shrine.

We received a free guided around the Shrine by two young post graduate guys keen to show us Iranian hospitality and practise their English.

The Shrine certainly is a 'special' place; you can feel the vibe as soon as you enter.

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Thursday-26th

Heading further north towards the Caspian Sea, by-passing the western outskirts of Tehran.

Up into the mountains reaching an elevation of more than 2,700 metres [nearly 9,000 ft]. The vistas along the way were very rugged and green, in complete contrast to the arid southern deserts; a reminder of the Alpine region of central Europe.

The bike started to play-up - I decided that I must check everything the following day - the problem could be more than just bad fuel. Thus we enjoyed two days on the shores of the Caspian Sea .. and we didn't complain about that.

Sunset fishing from the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, which is minus 28 metres (- 92 ft) below sea (ocean) level.

The locals do a lot of fishing in this part of the world. Along with camping, picnicing .. you name an outdoor family-orientated activity .. and Iranians love doing it.

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Saturday-28th & Sunday 29th

The engine's knocking noise turned out to be nothing more than a slack drive chain, which I adjusted to the correct tension. The chain and sprockets at this point had covered 33,000 km [20,500 miles] therefore I really should bring back a new set with me from the UK in late September before I head off, westward and homeward bound, into Turkey and Europe beyond, on what will be the final leg of this incredible trip-of-a-lifetime .. to England. Right way round all the way from New Zealand.

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

From our Sat-28th overnight stopover in the city of Tabriz, on Sun-29th we were northbound to the Armenian border. The vistas continued to get better and better ..

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

[Panorama - click to enlarge]



.. as we passed-by remote mountain Azeri settlements.

A truly breathtaking moment at 2,600 metres [8,500 ft] north of the city of Tabriz - getting very close to Armenia  - at the Norduz (Iranian) – Agarak (Armenian) border crossing.

[Panorama - click to enlarge]

The view from my perspective - really quite sensational.

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SUMMARY:

I'm going to write a summary of my experiences in Iran when I can think of the right words.

The near two weeks during which we rode more than 3,000 kilometres with no travel insurance, because you are considered uninsurable by all insurers whilst travelling independently in Iran .. and zero alcoholic beverages .. why, and why not?  I'll need to give it all some more thought. Right now it doesn't make sense; or perhaps

.. maybe, it's simply the Armenian beer getting the better of me?! .. whatever, I'll get back again soonest.

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