The days and countries are passing by. By reaching Iran we have already passed fifteen land borders, some are boring and others are unforgettable. The gaze of the people on the road, waving people hanging out of the windows and the many cows on the road are impressive for us. So many impressions which are sometimes difficult to process, the holiday feeling is gone and the traveller feeling has now really started. We enjoy the moment of every minute on the road and support each other in the most strange situations. We were already a happy couple in love, but now also start to become a perfectly matched motorbike team! BEontheroad !!!
Tuesday 11th July 2017 Tbilisi town
Today, it’s Erik’s turn to work hard, the video has to be mounted. Fortunately, there is more than enough room in our king-size room to place 8 office workers. However, we have come to the conclusion that update a website continiously seems to be more work than we anticipated. Fortunately, after the hard work (usually) we are satisfied with the end result and we secretly hope that we are not the only ones who read our stories with pleasure.
In the afternoon, Erik is finally ready with the movie and it goes online with a slow internet connection. Always an Eureka moment! Now let’s explore Tbilisi. We walk through busy streets towards the centre where we walk past the Kashveti church. It’s busy inside and we decide to take a look. Bertha has not yet implemented her headscarf protocol, but fortunately, there are some head scarfs at the entrance for visitors / tourists. We sneak in and are overwhelmed by the many images of icons and the rituals that the believers undergo. Most kneel, hit a cross, muttering kissing the icon after which they slide to the next icon. In this way, every visitor makes a tour through the Orthodox church. Full of amazement, but also with appreciation for this wonderful ritual, we leave the church.
We interrupt our walk for a ‘good’ cup of coffee near the puppet theater where there is a cute clock tower, running ten minutes behind. After we have waited patiently for almost an hour, out of the window comes a woman who hits the bell a couple of times. We did not want to miss this, most beautiful travel experience so far! After the amusement park show, we walk to the Anchiskhati Basilica church to amaze us about the next ritual. Inside and out, countless priests are cuddling with everyone or performing a hand-laying. It looks very friendly and we almost want to get a hug too. Still, we decide to keep us apart and do not take any pictures. The last thing we want is bad karma.
With the tourist cableway for which we are in line for a long time, we go upstairs to see Tbilisi from another point. Above there are other laws, a piece of melon exceeds even Amsterdam prices and we can win prices by shooting with a Kalashnikov. All very cozy but we decide to walk to mother Georgia, Kartlis Deda. From our position you can make beautiful pictures, especially when you are a butt-lover-man 🙂 Unfortunately, the front cannot be seen at all from here.
We smile about the statue, wave away a few sellers with monkeys and parrots on their shoulders and go down with the cableway again.
We enter the old town and find the picturesque streets with the bars and restaurants. After a while we find a restaurant that eventually turns out to be the wrong choice. We order ten times a beer but only drink 1. When we pay the dry chicken without side dishes, the waiter tells us that there are still some beers to come. We look at each other and decide to make it clear to the waiter that when he is more assertive next time he could also sell more beers! We walk through the many underground tunnels located under the city highways and go back towards the hotel. When we suddenly hear loud music, we knock on the steel door, no party without Bertha and Erik of course! It does not open and we decide to walk on. We are not even ten meters further away when the steel likes to explodes and a bodybuilding figure comes out in combat position, followed by a thin face painted dancer. We estimate the situation quickly and decide that this is unlikely to be a B & E party and continue our walk. Back in our hotel we conclude that we cannot really close Tbilisi in our hearts. Maybe next time …
Wednesday 12th July 2017 Tbilisi – Şəki (Azerbaijan)
For Erik it took a long time before he felt asleep. At midnight there is still so much noise on the 3rd floor and at the reception desk. After counting countless times to ten, Erik decided to do something about it. The children on the 3rd floor went back into the hotel room so the reception is the next step. Upon arriving, he sees a guy on the couch yelling in his phone while two receptionists are likely to make an unsuccessful online audition for Idols. His patience has already been lost, but Erik tries to ask whether they could make less noice as some people try to sleep. They look at him as zombies, but they understand all too well what’s going on. Back in the bridal suite, the rest is finally there and Erik falls asleep.
After breakfast, we leave for the wine fields in the Kakheti region, but not before we have put all the ‘escaped’ bunnies back in their cage. The noisy children last night have apparently not had a good education from their parents….
The morning stage is not very elevating, the arrival at the wine town is even more disappointing. There are two wineries where you can buy a tasting but vineyards are nowhere to find. After getting rid of a terribly annoying old woman who eventually offers the entire guesthouse for free we change our plans. We are leaving for the Azerbaijan border crossing today. Just before the gas is opened we are addressed by a lady we have met before in Vardzia. She has looked on the site a few times and wants to follow all our stories, but unfortunately we only write in Dutch. We explain that there is also an English version of the website and follow our road with a wide smile. Always nice to hear that people are interested in your stories!
After a few hours on the road, we reach the lovely road sign ‘Azerbaijan Border Good Luck’ near the border. We exchange the last Georgian Lari to Azerbaijan Manat and go for an energetic experience.
At the gate we are held by a young GI-Joe male who asks Erik about cigarettes four times. When we try to ignore him but not to offend at the same time, we notice that there is another Dutchman in front of the gate. Bas is on the bicycle from the Netherlands and will try to reach China. After half an hour, the GI-Joe male says something useful, we can pass the gate! We are not influenced by the chagrin of the Georgian customs officer and continue to Azerbaijan customs. Here it’s all a lot more friendly and after the formalities we soon get to the last gate. Here we are stopped by the GI-Joe male again (where does he come from?) and again he asks for cigarettes. With his last patience, Erik once again explains he has no cigarettes and he can pass by. Bertha can also drive on after receiving numerous advances (you look nice) and there we are in Azerbaijan!
After more than an hour, we are stopped for the first time at a police station in Azerbaijan. We expect a short call but eventually get a two-hour delay. The friendly police officer does not speak English but tries to make it clear that the papers of our motorbikes are not correct. Convinced that we have done everything correct at the border we shake our heads, but eventually cannot leave. Erik gets an English-speaking lady on the phone who screams that we have to go back to the border to make our papers in order. Erik stays calm but after three times quitting the phone conversation because she is so screaming he starts shouting himself on the phone. The police officer decides that it is enough and takes us to the neighbouring police office. Here we get tea and cake and put all the papers in the picture. Through Whatsapp, all photos are sent to the customs so they can still check-in the motorbikes. Meanwhile, it’s very cosy on the desk and we take it as it is. Bas also passes by on his bike and wishes us a lot of strength, he is already looking for a hotel.
Eventually, a good English speaking young man brings us a paper that we still have to sign, after which we can finally pursue our trip. It took a long time but happily it was a cosy experience.
Thursday 13th July 2017 Şəki (Karvansaray Hotel)
We wake up in the Karvansaray hotel in Sheki, a beautiful 18th century monument. The bed also resembles the 18th century. When we get our bones back in shape, we go on discovery. For 20 cents we take a bus to the church of Kish, a church that may have been serving in the 7th century. We will have a nice tour of a woman with such a bad dent that we notice later that she also looks terribly shy. But her English is understandable and she talks so enthusiastically, keeping us captivated. The people who have found here at archaeological sites indicate extreme lengths above two meters. Smiling, she says, we look very much like them.
Back to the city centre we share a taxi with an American woman. The taxi driver must have been active in the F1 circuit before, we go extremely hard down. Bathing in the sweat we get into the centre and pay the driver 50 cents for the roller coaster adventure. We walk towards the palace of Shaki Khans where we have to struggle through the tourists. When we buy an ice cream, the seller tells us that all those tourists from the oil countries only come to buy and are not interested in history or anything else. Our guide at Kish’s church already told a similar story and we laughed a way to the palace. In the palace we get a tour of an English-speaking guide who plays the story so fast that there is almost no time for questions or mental processing. That we cannot make pictures from the inside also does not help. But it is a beautiful summer residence where there is a clear distinction between women and men and much of the palace is decorated with unique paintings and stained glass.
Back in the Karvansaray hotel, Bertha gets back on the nail bed to give her a stomach ache / traveller diarrhoea a little rest. Meanwhile, Bas has also arrived in the same hotel and we have dinner at the hotel restaurant in the evening. It’s nice to talk with fellow travellers and share experiences. We understand each other a little faster than when we meet vacationers. Bas makes videos for Discovery, which can be seen on the YouTube channel ‘D Tour’.
Friday 14th July 2017 Şəki – Baku
We are paying the allegedly alcoholic parking attendant for ‘guarding’ our motorbikes and drive with an empty stomach to the village. After some bread and goat cheese we drive to Baku. The first part of the day’s stage is still quite attractive, we even drive through a wooded area. But quite soon we drive through a deserted landscape that asks to fall asleep on the motorbikes.
When we wake up we suddenly drive on the Formula 1 circuit in Baku! That Formula 1 was driven in Azerbaijan we knew, but not that it was in Baku. All colours, billboards and fences along the road make driving not easier. We stop at a Harley Davidson dealer where we try to buy a chain spray. He has nothing in stock but gives us a half full sprayer. Also, the chain of Bertha is strained. Great service, sorry it was not a Honda dealer.
Near the hotel, where we get the smallest room so far, we are lubricating our chains. We doubt the Harley engineer’s result but decide to review this the next day. Despite the belly of Bertha we go on a small discovery trip in the centre.
Saturday 15th July 2017 Baku – Lankaran
When we have made the first mile of the day, Bertha’s chain does not seem to be well tensed. We have to do it ourselves, let’s start! In front of the Bibi-Heybat mosque we spend an hour in the burning sun, but hereafter the chain is as it should be. Next time we will do it ourselves or by a ‘real’ mechanic. That Harley stuff is worth nothing 🙂
The road to Lankaran is almost as boring as the day before, the offroad part or the lack of good asphalt makes the day’s stage a little adventurous. Meanwhile, Erik also has an extreme pain in his stomach. For men, the pine limit is likely to be lower, Bertha must constantly hear the moaning through the intercom. We try to find mud volcanoes on the way. We find a lot of beautiful rock drawings in a nature park, but unfortunately no mud vulcanos. After an hour through the desert we give up and drive further towards Lankaran.
When we finally arrive at the hotel, Erik is completely broken but still finds the strength to negotiate the room price. The hotel seems to be extinct or even closed, but when we walk back to the motorbikes, there are four males in front of our nose. Room is affordable and looks like a bridal suite and the motorbikes can be parked in the courtyard. We do it! As he wants to drive again, Erik dropped his bike for the first time, fatigue demands his toll. After a massage shower and a good meal, Erik recovers a little bit and together we play the game Beverbende. A fun game, especially if Erik wins! All this while enjoying a bottle of wine, received from the hotel owner in Tbilisi. This one has to be finished before we cross the Iranian border!
Sunday 16th July 2017 Lankaran – Rasht (Iran)
An exciting day today, we are heading for Iran. This is the first country where we will need our Carnet-De-Passage, a kind of temporary import exemption for our motorbikes. Without this document, we cannot go into Iran, so very important. After the evasion of some police stations, we finally find the border crossing which seems more in an industrial area.
At the 1st post we need to show our passports and pay a small amount. The second post is more official, but at the end it turns out to be okay as well. Here, especially the girlfriend’s picture on Bertha’s suitcase attracts much attention. Through the no-man’s land we drive to Iran’s barrier where we find our adrenaline level rising. Bertha wears here headscarf for the first time while Erik makes the first attempt to enter the country. Many people are struggling with each other and there seems to be a fighting party between a customs officer and a citizen. Eventually we are ‘helped’ by someone working at customs. The passport check runs smoothly and after which we have opened all of our bags and panniers checked for inspection we go to the next office. Here is the wonderful theatre of stamping the papers (Carnet-De-Passage). Together with the customs officer, Erik walks from one office to the other without a logical order. Here and there, a lot of money is shifted and we check the motorbikes together with the papers together with another freaking customs officer. When we have finished all the desks, we have to report to the big boss who puts the last stamp.
Once outside this does not appear to be the last stamp and we have to go to the next office where we can also put our signatures. In the end we get the last stamp with a smile and we can enter Iran! The customs officer advises us that we just have to drive straight to Tehran, but first we have to pay for his activities. We pay him a few dollars and are glad that we are finally together in Iranian territory! While we are cooling down from this little adventure we get a cold drink from the nearby supermarket. Not yet we get a cake and two cold bottles of water. When we want to pay, the man does not want to receive a cent and we experience the warm hospitality of the Iranians for the first time.
The first kilometre we see many Iranian flags and images of religious leaders (Ayatollah). We also wave to almost every car that welcomes us in a hurry, filming or welcoming us in Iran! We fully enjoy! During the refueling, we will have another nice surprise, two full petrol tanks for no more than six euros!! This country is good for our daily budget!
We dine early, probably pay too much and decide to camp near the highway in the woods. In the beginning it’s still noisy from the picnic people but eventually it’s quiet in the woods. So quiet that we even get a little scared. When we think to hear wolves in the vicinity, we quickly crawl in our tent and hope it’s getting light soon. Shortly thereafter we wake up, but then from artificial light. The park assistant with two aids parked his terrain car almost in our tent and begins to shout unintelligibly. When he realizes that we do not speak Iranian, he grabs his cell phone to get an English-speaking Iranian on the phone. I get the phone pressed in my hands and from the other side I hear someone shouting. You have leave forest, too dangerous!! There is no interference and the person seems to be able to speak English only. So we decide grab our bags and tent around midnight and look for another place to sleep. This is the moment when we are happy that we are fully matched and that even in the dark packing the tent and getting the motorbikes ready does not cause any problem. It gives our state of mind an unexpected boost and we drive without jerking behind the forest guard towards the exit. At the exit they ask “where go you” a number of times, but any answer from us gives a puzzling face. When we have decided to try a hotel that is at least an hour’s drive, one of the helpers says thate we are able to sleep next to the entrance. Glad we do not have to get back to the highway soon, we take this offer quickly and put the tent up again. Then we put our ear buds in and sleep well next to the highway until the sun rises.
Monday 17th July 2017 Rasht – Tehran
Wake up next to the highway, who does not have that on its bucket list? We cannot get enough of it! After a visit to the bush toilet, we stripe it from our bucket list and we gently wave to the forest watchers. We also survived this adventure, let’s go to Tehran!
The highway to Tehran is well maintained, but a bit boring. The desert landscape constantly asks the question: Do you find me attractive? The question is difficult to answer, perhaps it makes sense that we drive around on our own motorbikes, which makes every landscape beautifully. However, a glance at the fuel meter makes us nervous. In Georgia we often had a petrol station every 100 meters, here in Iran we really have to keep our eyes open. When the day counter hits the 300 we see a gas station sign and an abandoned gas station draws up. No luck, but almost immediately there is something that seems to sell benzin! We refill full of happiness, do a pee in the desert and continue our way.
We drive into the busy Tehran, in all a busy city. On two-way roads, five cars drive next to eachother, small bikes try to interfere. The smog hits our eyes and throat and the heat does not make it all easier. Time after time we think we would be hit, but after some good navigation by Bertha we stand for the door of the hostel. We staple tile tiles to drive the motorbikes into the courtyard. Unfortunately, they do not have a double room but we can rent a dorm as a private room. Always nice, eight beds for us two! After we have dinner, we are looking for a currency exchange office nearby. In Iran, it is not possible for us Dutch people to use pin or credit card. In the previous countries therefore we had to take Dollars for the full spending budget for Iran (and Turkmenistan). Crazy enough, we can exchange in Iran Dollars into the local currency. In the middle of the city, we ask around to find an exchange office and before we mention, we drive with the three us on a moped towards the exchange offices. It seems like every Iranian really wants to help us!
We exchange $ 300 for a rubbish bag full of Iranian Rial and go back to the neighbourhood where we are staying. The subway is very clear, really cheap, cool and full of friendly people.
Tuesday 18th July 2017 Tehran
Bertha executes the headscarf protocol and we start our discovery of Tehran. We try to find a road map of Iran nearby but decide quickly that we will not be successful. We take the metro to Tajrish where we want to visit a palace and the bazaar. When we are above ground we cannot find it, but in Iran you only search for 20 seconds, after which you will be helped by someone!
After visiting the bazaar, where we see a lot of herbs and olive oil, we arrive at the Imam Zadeh Saleh Shemirah Mosque through a side street. This was not on our list, but it is a wonderful surprise. Of course, the men and women are also separated here and the women need a Chador. Bertha is addressed directly by someone of the security “You chador!”. We do not understand it immediately but are helped by a friendly lady, Sahar, who takes Bertha with her. Erik stays behind with some men who speak fairly English.
Although Bertha was told at the border crossing that the rules according a headscarf are not that strict anymore and that she could even wear a hat, here it is significantly stricter. Here, besides her headscarf, she has to wear a chador, according to Erik, it is more a curtain than a beautiful piece of clothing. Later in the day, Sahar told us that we should especially watch the green police cars in Tehran, this is the ‘clothing police’. They are watching if you are sufficiently in line with the Quran’s rules. The blue police cars are there only for traffic.
Once in the mosque we first go to the tomb of a son of an old imam. Women kiss the Musa al-Kadhim tomb and give money in the hope of getting something back for it. After the golden room we enter an impressive room with mirrors. Here are many women on the floor and individually read the Quran. Sahar makes a picture of Bertha and hopes that this does not give her a bad karma.
In a next room there are also many women, it is a space where Sahar also often comes to rest for a while. Not only because the temperature is relatively cool here, the space gives you some positive energy. While Sahar gives continuous explanation of the rituals and different rooms, Bertha’s chador has fallen off several times and she is almost done with it. Then, she is again addressed by the ‘clothing police’. This time, Bertha’s Chador is not proportional to both sides. Sahar’s clever snapping makes the agent scared and he goes away. Also, Sahar is not used to be pictured by many woman from 1 meter distance and she talks with them too. Bertha seems to be the attraction of the day!
In the distance, Erik sees the shower curtains again and after Erik has visited the male side of the mosque we are invited to Sahar at home for lunch. We pick up her car in the garage and drive to a good part of the city. She lives with her daughter Jasmin and her dog Lexy in a beautiful apartment overlooking the backyard of the embassy of Germany. Full enthusiasm we share stories and experiences with each other during lunch.
Sahar and Jasmin travel a lot, they have even visited Amsterdam. Next time they visit our city they will stay with us! After Jasmin has played great songs on the piano, we leave for Sadabad Royal Palace. Sahar brings us to the palace, we thank her for her hospitality and say goodbye with three big kisses.
The visit to the palace is somewhat disappointing. The gardens are beautiful but inside it’s all a little bit of shameful glory. We finish the tour, but depart quite quickly to Meydan-e Enghelan-e Esmali where we look for a road map again. In this district there are quite a lot of (study) books, but besides these books we can only find a map of Tehran in the Persian language. When we meet outside a young man, we finally find a road map thanks to his help. We thank him most kindly and decide to purchase all major road maps (per country) before our next big trip.
Wednesday 19th July 2017 Tehran
We sleep late and leave after breakfast to the Golestan Palace. When we get out of the subway station we cannot find it, but are helped again by a friendly Iranian guy. He appears to live in Scotland but is currently visiting his mother. We are dropped off in front of the Palace. We decide to buy a ticket for a visit to the photo museum and the big palace. In the palace garden we drink the most expensive cup of coffee so far (€ 3.50 for an espresso) and we visit the photo museum where only photos seem to hang of less handsome Iranians. There is no guide or English-language explanation but we can hardly imagine that pictures of noble families are displayed here. After the photo museum we continue to the palace where we are blinded at the entrance by all the mirror glass. Unfortunately, we cannot take pictures here, but it looks beautiful.
After visiting the palace we look for Bertha for a suitable blouse / dress for Iran. She does not feel comfortable in her clothes she has specifically bought for Iran. In a very busy shop with intrusive staff, she finally finds the perfect long blouse, we pay and leave quickly.
In the hostel we try to make a homemade vegetable soup, even though it is quite difficult in Tehran (or Iran). Unfortunately, the diversity of vegetables is limited to tomatoes and cucumbers, probably that’s why we have stomach problems for already a few days.
Thursday 20th July 2017 Tehran – Kashan
Erik wakes up with an overall sense of weakness. Before the motorbikes are packed on the street, he has been to the toilet four times to flush the pipes at high speed. Belly stitches and diarrhoea, a perfect combination for driving a motorbike. Nevertheless, we depart from Tehran and arrive after an hour at a super-fast road restaurant. Outside we drink tea and we eat a delicious pizza. In the meanwhile we talk to many people and our motorbikes are widely admired. We are enjoying the moment and Erik’s stomach ache is a bit less.
After a short drive we arrive in Kashan, where we both feel quite bad. Bertha goes back to bed and Erik is waiting for the opportunity to park the bikes. We can park with the neighbour who has a closed garden. At last they are locked and he can also go to bed to hopefully become better.
After a few hours of sleep, Bertha feels much better and takes Erik to the nearest restaurant in the old town. It is surprising what is behind the front doors. The restaurant we visit appears to have a basement of 8 meters below street level.
There is very little on the menu and what we order does not taste too good. We are going back to the hostel where Erik immediately falls asleep and Bertha finishes the 2nd part of Millennium written by Stieg Larsson.
Friday 21st July 2017 Kashan-Isfahan
After breakfast we get our motorbikes at the neighbour and leave for Isfahan. It is a short drive but for Erik far enough, every bump is felt in his stomach. On the way, at a speed of 100 km / h, he receives a shawl by a car driver, perhaps this brings happiness?
At the hostel we can park the bikes in the backyard and we have a private room with shared bathroom and toilet. Erik goes to bed while Bertha makes her first movie. When Erik wakes up after a few hours Bertha is almost finished with her movie. Jealous Erik thinks that he never goes so fast! At the setting sun, we visit the Khaju bridge where we make beautiful pictures. Despite the physical downturns we really enjoy this country!