Heart-warming Iran

By Daaf

We wake up in Saqqez after our very miserable day through the snow a day before. The world seems a bit brighter today, the sun is out, we slept well and we have an alternative plan brewing.

In a few stages, about a day behind our original schedule we make it to Isfahan. And here we instantly fall in love. The city welcomes us in to its ancient arms. Since we are ‘travellers’ and not ‘tourist’ we have not done any tourist homework, we just wander in to the city and find it’s beautiful treasures, ancient mosques, typical bazars, great coffee and lovely food. But what gets to us most, is the wonderful laidback atmosphere. People sitting in parks, enjoying each other’s company, smiles almost everywhere, no shouting, no obnoxious drunken people (that was to be expected). The city is clean accessible and seems very safe.

On of the days we split up for a while, I go looking for someone to repair my tank-bag, which has a broken zipper. I get pointed to the right neighbourhood and then get moved from one shop to another, not because they don’t want to help me, because they are sure their colleague three doors down, or across the street, or around the corner, can do better. After five hops I end up in a tiny shop, dedicated to repairing luggage! The two gentlemen won’t hear of replacing the zipper, it’s only broken, they’ll fix it! And so they do, by hand, while I sit and watch from a chair found buried under a heap of old suitcases. The result is perfect. Quality work!

After a wonderful dinner at a way to fancy restaurant I meet up with Moshen, a friendly guy I got talking to in a coffee place earlier. He takes me to a stunning tea house, where we sit and talk about life in Iran, in Europe, about politics and love, about good food and great coffee, a priceless evening. As I stroll back to the hotel, through night time Isfahan, I realise I still do not feel uncomfortable unsafe in these dark streets, at all.

In Iran there are no motorcycles bigger than 250cc, it’s simple not allowed. Most are small 125cc Hondas that weave through traffic everywhere, like maniacs. Where ever we come people lookup, in wonder, sometimes bewildered, at us and at our ‘huge’ bikes. Then their faces open up and they smile and wave. Dozens of times per day. At traffic lights people pull up next to us and want to know where we are from… ‘Holland? Ah, Arjen Robben! van der Sar!’ common ground established. At stops, usually at petrol stations, we have the same, very basic talks: ‘We come from Holland, we go to Mongolia, yes, really, by motorcycle! What? 3 months, no months’. People ask us if they can take a picture with us, or maybe, of them on one of the bikes? Then we shake hands and head on again.

We are following the original planned route through Iran, postponing the choice that is now weighing on us, do we continue on, or do we turn around? This route leads us up in to the dessert that we thought was Iran all along towards Turkmenistan, raise your hands if you’ve heard of that country before. The Iranian-Turkmen border will be our point of no return, once we cross in to Turkmenistan we’ll have to continue, our visa’s simply do not allow for a way back from there.

The desert is an enchanting place. Its vastness is hard to explain or exaggerate, for almost two whole days we ride through landscape that reminds me of Philip Glass: endlessly repeating and yet continuesly imperceptibly changing. The night we spend at a heart-warming guesthouse, with the most lovely people, adding even more to our trip.

Throughout our days in Iran the kindness continues, peaking perhaps on one of our last days. As we sit at a rest area, eating an apple and some pistachios a gentleman comes over to admire the motorcycles. We talk a bit, smiles, nods, no deep philosophical discussions. He moves on and then returns with two sweet rolls and some chocolates, for us! We happily accept this addition to our lunch, thank him, several times and say goodbye, what friendliness! We’ve not had time to take more than a bite or two from the rolls when another man shows up, from a car parked nearby, carrying half a watermelon, already partly cut up, their knife still in it. He offers us the fruit, explaining he’ll come pick up the knife after his prayer. We look at each other dumfounded, do we look like beggars in dire need of food, sitting here enjoying the sun? Of course we accept this too, it’s rude to refuse. A third generous soul, perhaps inspired by the others adds two apples to our growing lunch and when the second man returns for his knife after prayer, he throws in two small cucumbers to finish it all off. Now, I’m not above exaggerating a bit in my stories, but this happened, exactly as described.

Perhaps the choice was already made the evening before, but for the stories sake let’s just say this was the moment Pepijn and I looked at each other and decided to continue our adventure!

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