Germany to Iran and back

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Boarder06, May 3, 2009.

  1. Happy Buddha

    Happy Buddha Explorer

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    Really appreciate the great write-up and photos. Someday.
    #61
  2. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    I arrived in Van during the Sunday evening rush hour as everyone returned from their picnic at the lake. A football game had just ended and cars sped down the streets honking and waving the flag of the winning team. The sun was shining directly down main street making it impossible to see. So I just parked the bike and had an ice cream. This was some seriously good tasting ice cream! Not sure how they make it but it is somewhere between chewing gum and normal ice cream with a very intense flavor. I went back for more. They guys also make a big show of filling your cone. <!--Mime Type of File is image/jpeg -->[​IMG]
    I then walked around to find myself a room and with that squared away and the bike safely parked I explored the city.
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    I ended up spending a few days in Van, taking it easy and exploring the surrounding area. Right at the edge of town is Van castle
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    I met an older Kurdish gentlemen and his sun at the castle. He had tossed one of his tooth into one of the collapsed buildings and kept showing me the gap in his mouth. Not sure what that was all about but the chap seemed nice enough.
    10 km out of town is Yedi Kilise, yet another Armenian church. When I got to the village and stopped to look around this little fella
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    came up and jumped on the bak of my bike faster than I could say no. He lead me to a hill 2km down a dirt road. Hm, some old ruins for sure but not a church as far as I can tell but he kept saying that this is it. I looked around for a while
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    and then returned to the village and then I saw the church. Little Yesun led me on top of it where I could look inside through the collapse roof. When I wanted to go around to go inside he kept saying no and shaking his head. Well, I went around anyway but he stayed behind. He clearly wasn’t going to set foot into a Christian church. The door to the church was covered with a wooden fence, almost like they were trying to hide it. Some guys came up and I asked if I could have a look inside but they told me the key is in Van. I stuck around anyway and the key eventually appeared and an older gentlemen showed me around. After taking some pictures I made a donation in the provided box.
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    The whole experience felt a little odd, almost like they don’t want people to see the church. When I left the village Yesun stood at the side of the road and wanted a ride to Van. I took him for about a kilometer but didn’t want to leave him stranded in Van.
    Dinner was the standard Tavuk Doner. The guys told me that everything in their shop was Kurdish. Kurdish doner, Kurdish tea, and Kurdish hot peppers, which I had to try.
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    Doners to go come with a little zip lock bag of hot peppers.
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    The men play games and have tea.
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    They are selling this stuff everywhere right now.
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    After I took this picture the guy gave me a sample and showed me how to eat it. Very tasty and refreshing but I still don’t know what it is.
    With the help of some locals and Murat in Ankara I also lined up the 10,000km warranty service for when I return from Iran. Turns out the mechanic of the official Yamaha shop in town is a XT660 rider himself. They also had a GS in the shop
    #62
  3. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    I decided to attempt to cross into Iran at the less frequented Esendere-Serou crossing. I couldn’t find out whether it was open for individual travelers with private vehicles but figured I should try. Good thing I did because this turned out to be very scenic drive through Kurdistan.
    My I first stop was at Hosap castle
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    Mountains and more mountains all around with some bizarre landscapes thrown in.
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    There were some dodgy looking characters around smuggling fuel. Who can blame them with the price differential between the cheapest fuel in the world and the probably most expensive? The only serious military checkpoint was at the Yuksekova turn off. I was invited into the hut and one of the soldiers spoke English pretty well. I filled out a form and got the chair in front of the riffle rack. So I don’t think they felt threatened by me :-). I was stopped at another checkpoint but the guys just wanted to check out the bike. I declined an invitation for lunch.
    At the border I drove past the waiting trucks and buses straight to the front. They only let a certain number of vehicles into the holding pen to processes them. It was a bit disorganized but my new found trucker friends gave me food, tea, and moved me along the various desks. After finishing the Turkish side I had to wait again in front of the Iranian gate. I killed the time sitting in the empty bus behind me. I studied the Iran map with the drivers over cold soft drinks. Once on the Iranian side the process was straight forward and the whole crossing only took 1.5 hours.
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    The Iranian side seemed markedly drier than Turkey.
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    I moved on to Orumiyeh, where I promptly got lost. A local rider guided me to my hotel which had elevator music and an English speaking manager, who was a goldmine of information. The room came with a free camel pack, forgotten by some biker more than a year ago.
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    After a shower I walked around for a while and had the Iranian version of pizza for dinner. If you think you can’t talk on a phone, hold a baby, eat, drive a taxi and shout for customers at the same time you haven’t been to Iran. I was very impressed by this guy.
    I came about this roundabout statute of the Golden Boys
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    #63
  4. byker_tr

    byker_tr Fenabahce

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    there is no such country. it's a shame that you dont use the proper name of the area; south-eastern Anotolia (guney dogu Anadolu)!!
    #64
  5. danno626

    danno626 Boom goes the dynamite!

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    Don't tell a Kurd that!!!
    #65
  6. danno626

    danno626 Boom goes the dynamite!

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    Incredible photographs Boarder, it seems you hit so many historic and scenic structures...planned? Maybe??
    #66
  7. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    Not planned really. I just take it one day at a time. It's just something I'm interested in.

    Also, to the last couple of commenters: let's keep politics out of this. It's a ride report and nothing more. Don't read anything into it that isn't there.
    #67
  8. cyprys

    cyprys Been here awhile

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    I'm on board. Cannot wait till you get to Iran. This is my favorite country so far. I wonder if it's gonna impress you the same way it did impress me. Keep riding and posting!
    #68
  9. seanshaf

    seanshaf Engineer

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
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    Toronto
    My Dad and I are planning to do a trip from London, England to Tehran but my Iranian Passport hasn't been issued yet! I'm still waiting with fingers crossed..

    How do you like the zumo 550? The only thing stopping me is that I've already planned my ride thoroughly on Google Earth and I'm unsure If i can export it to the GPS..Is it even possible to program a route as big as Germany to Iran on the Garmin?
    #69
  10. KL__07

    KL__07 ride your own way

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    South Hamburg
    Don't read anything into it that isn't there.[/quote]

    I do agree! Lets enjoy the report and the stunning pics. Thanks für sharing. Great rr. Keep it coming. :clap :clap
    #70
  11. RogerDe

    RogerDe Dust In The Wind

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Texas
    Great Adventure, Fantastic photo's of the old ruins, & church's, beautiful country over there...Ride On....:clap
    #71
  12. SpitfireTriple

    SpitfireTriple Seek Truth

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    Bristol, Britain
    Yet more gorgeous photos. Also love the historical bits, and the interactions with locals.
    #72
  13. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    The manager of the Reza Hotel in Orumiyeh suggests that I visit Takht-e-Soleyman. I had never heard of the place but it sounds nice enough and wasn&#8217;t that far away. I had enough Iranian Rials left from my last visit to pay for the hotel and gas but I need to exchange some Euros before leaving town. The bazaar is across the street and I knew from my last visit that a money changer is usually nearby, which is the much faster option compared to banks. Well, that one was easy to spot!
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    With a map drawn by the hotel manager I find the gas station and my way out of the city easily.
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    I ride next to the Orumiyeh salt lake for a few kilometers.
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    I get gas once more in Miyandoab. I have a few phrases of Farsi written down and one is asking for the next gas station. I stop a teenager on a bike and he leads the way. I also learn what you do when you ride over one of the many hidden Iranian speed bumps: nothing, just hold on to your baseball cap! From Miyandoab it is a very scenic ride on a road with very little traffic. At some point there is a guy at the side of the road waving a little flag. I hit the breaks and discover that they just &#8220;tared&#8221; the road with what basically looks like some every thick oil. There is a dirt road right next to the road. Guess which one I take? That stuff would have been a very nasty mess.
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    I keep moving, admiring the views along the way
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    Before I left Turkey I downloaded the GPS coordinates of all the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iran. Takht-e-Soleyman is one of them. Although I only have the Garmin World map for Iran it is easy to find, just heading in the general direction on the Zumo, using the paper map, and asking for directions quite often.
    In the 3rd century Takht-e-Soleyman was the spiritual center of a then Zoroastrian Persia. Since then it has been modified and added to by the various powers occupying the area but today it is just ruins in a magnificent setting around a crater lake.
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    After having a stroll around the ruins I decide to stay for the night. I ride 4km back to climb Zendan-e-Soleyman, an about 100m conical mountain that sticks out like a tooth from the surrounding area. I just tried to kill some time and get a good look at Takht-e-Soleyman from a distance but once I reach the top I&#8217;m surprised to discover a huge pit. It is basically a hollow tooth. It won&#8217;t look good in a picture but is actually quite impressive to look at in person.
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    I pitch my tent just outside the ruins and I&#8217;m later joined by a German couple in a huge truck on their way back from India. The lone soldier guarding the site comes down for a chat and although his English is limited we have a good time. We tell him that we might attack the place in the middle of the night. So he better be ready.
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    It is a cold night (it&#8217;s above 2700m) and I get up for the sunset and climb a hill to have a look at Takht-e-Soleyman in the first light of the day.
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    When I come back to break down my campsite a group of pretty rowdy teenagers surrounds me. They all want me to start the bike, sit on it and keep touching everything on the bike. I have none of it and have my hands full stopping them from touching my stuff. They hang around for 30min, just to be followed by some better behaved Iranians. All this makes for a late start despite getting up so early.
    #73
  14. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    Well, just convert the Google Earth KML files into Garmin GPX files with GPS Babel (Google that).

    I haven't planned a route at all. All I know is that I want to go as far as Shiraz and then work my way back. I do think there is such a thing as over planning, which keeps you on a tight schedule and stresses you out. I'm a big believer in chance encounters, getting advise from locals and other travellers and just going with the flow. I have time and this works for me. YMMV. I just get the basic facts as far as security, visas and so on and then just go for it.

    I do recommend to get the Iran map from the Reise Know How Verlag in Germany. It's good and indestructable.
    #74
  15. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    The German couple from last night recommended stopping at the Karaftu Caves. According to them a nice secluded spot where I could camp. I’m always weary of caves. They usually turn out to be the biggest tourist traps of any given country, with Lebanon winning the first price in that competition. However, with a firsthand recommendation I decide to go anyway. I stop at an Internet Cafe in Tekab and then make my way on a rapidly deteriorating road.
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    After a few wrong turns I finally find the right road to the caves and when I come around the last bend and see the parking lot I let out a small curse. It is jam packed with every kind of vehicle imaginable. So much for secluded. I cruise around on the nasty flagstone parking lot to find a spot and before I even come to a complete stop a guy comes running up to me and practically rips my hand of the handlebar to shake it. So, I hit the deck and I’m immediately surrounded by dozens of people. At least there are plenty of hands to pick up the bike. A quick survey reveals that there is no damage to the bike but the right luggage box has a nasty dent at the front corner. Waterproof no more. That’s OK, I think. It won’t rain in Iran. I wait for the crowd to disperse and start climbing up to the caves, which frankly don’t seem impressive to me at all.
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    Once I’m up I see a bunch of people gathering around my bike again, touching everything. I make my way down quickly and leave as fast as I can. Lesson learned. Never go to a “secluded spot” on a Friday!
    I have to backtrack to Tekab and press on to Bijar to get some gas, where I find the friendly 22 year old Mohsen who guides me to the gas station in his car. While I get gas he asks me what my plan is. I say that I don’t know and I just want to grab some food and figure it out later. He guides me to a couple of restaurants in town, which are closed. Once we find one that’s open he orders some food for me and drives his mom, who has been sitting in the car the whole time, home. He returns to the restaurant and while I’m eating my food it starts to rain. So much for “no rain in Iran”. I ask Mohsen if there is a hotel in town and as luck would have it there is one right above the restaurant. Very basic but also very cheap. We move the bike into the empty shop next door and all is well.
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    I just settle into my room, take a shower, walk around town a bit and later check my email at the internet cafe before going to bed.
    #75
  16. strommer

    strommer Ride for balance

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    Beantown
    I was wondering how the Iran portion of your trip was going. Glad to read all is well, thak you for the outstanding photos.
    #76
  17. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    All is well Murat, just a little behind on posting. The first three posts of Iran are just above yours though. Currently in Esfahan having a good time and recovering from a major coffee overdose!
    #77
  18. locorider

    locorider Loco, pero no estúpido!

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    Great report! What camera and equipment are you using?
    #78
  19. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    Nothing special. A Canon DSLR and a Canon DS950 point and shot.
    #79
  20. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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    In the morning I have a very sparse breakfast and walk around town for a while. I find a very kitschy fountain
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    and it seems the town is gearing up for what I believe to be Khamenei’s birthday.
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    Another one of the ubiquitous roundabout statues catches my eye
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    and some propaganda posters are hard to overlook.
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    As promised I call Mohsen on my cell and he shows up ten minutes later to guide me out of town. I actually want to go the Katal Khor cave be he insists it is rubbish and I should go to the Ali-Sadr caves instead, which I already know are the worst Iranian tourist trap. I say no to that one and he insists on sending me off to Hamadan. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and follow him, figuring I can always turn and go to Katal Khor. As we say goodbye at the side of the road a guy comes up to me and wants to see me passport. OK, I hand him my passport and he walks away. I ride the bike to the roadblock ahead and him and another plainclothes guy thumb through my passport, clearly having no idea what they are looking at. He stares at my expired Iranian visa from a previous visit but never looks at the current one. Then he develops an unhealthy interest in my American visas. He finally asks which country I am from. I guess it’s not that easy to find out from the passport. So he radios back and forth with somebody else and finally declares I can go but I am not allowed to stop anywhere or take pictures. We’ll see about that. The way these two characters behaved, the way they dressed and talked very much reminded me of the East German Stasi. I guess small time secret service man on a power trip are the same the world over. Unfortunately, now I have to take the road to Hamadan and can’t turn back to take the road to the cave. I stop as soon as I’m out of sight and study my map and the Zumo map. Looks like I can make my way to the cave anyway. I see some civilian trucks with some military cargo under camouflage nets driving in the other direction. OK, that’s what this was all about. After a few kilometers I turn left on a dirt road taking me past poppies
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    and timeless mud brick villages
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    in gentle hills
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    until Zumo indicates I should take another left and sure enough there is a dirt road which I follow for a few kilometers. After crossing a sealed road I try to pick up the same dirt road behind a little village. I try a few roads but always end up in a river bed. I finally find a road and after a few kilometers two guys on a tractor just stare at me like I’m from outer space. A short time later I run into two teenagers and they tell me that this isn’t the road and I should turn back. I do and follow the sealed road a bit before making another left on a well maintained dirt road. This must be the one! I fly along for some time past some shepherds who’s dogs are chasing me. After another village my beautiful dirt road suddenly deteriorates badly and on top of that it starts to rain. I continue a while longer hoping the rain will stop. Well, it didn’t and the road turns into sticky mud which my tires and I don’t handle too well. So I decide to put my rain gear on and turn back. The cave gets flooded in rain anyway. Once I’m back on the sealed road I follow it in the opposite direction, which I figure will take me back to Bijar. Shortly before Bijar I run into a bunch of military guys at the side of the road. I decide to pack my Zumo away in case the road block guys are still there. I’m lucky and they are gone and I ride toward Hamadan in the rain. In Qorveh a guy almost runs me off the road just because he wants to invite me to his house. No mate, just want to keep going. The traffic from Qorveh to Hamadan is horrendous and at some point I have to take a five minute break to calm down. Luckily the city has an easy layout and is well signposted in English. I find me hotel easily and after negotiating the price down I park my bike in the looked Hotel compound and settle into my room. I have to dry all the stuff from my right pannier, which is not waterproof anymore after the fall at the Karaftu caves. And I thought it wouldn’t rain in Iran!
    #80