Outside Ardakan – Esfahan 189km

Day 92-93: Outside Ardakan – Esfahan 189km – Distance travelled so far 4,958km ” More Flat Desert”

Anyone looking at our map will think we should have headed straight to Qom but we heard great things about Esfahan and felt it was a minor detour worth taking. So we put the heads down (as there was much to look around at!) and peddled hard for Esfahan.


Back to more of the same….Long….mundane…but damn perfect roads 


Brian feeling snappy


The weather has begun to remind us of home..


I’m cold and bored!!


We finally hit Esfahan and Mike nearly hits a bus!

We stay in a very expensive hostel as its the Iranian new year of “No Ruz’ from 21st March (our calender year) to early April….(think its the 8th)….

After a shower we go for some quick power site seeing – sraight to the Jameh Mosque.


For anyone who’s interested


Still friends


Jameh Mosque

Next we head to the local market where we spot some very funny mannequins so of course we had to have some fun…..


Nice mostache


Who looks better?


Blue Steel


Paul bumped into his brother…(Mike you cannot deny this!!!)


Howday partner!!!!!!


Ohhhh My God!!!!!!


Two door knockers..One for a man..one for a woman…(both have different type sounds)

After the market we head for the impressive Imam Square. It is the second biggest Square in the world at 512m long and 163m wide and houses two very beautiful Mosques.


Paul and Mike in Imam Square (shaggin freezin in this!!!)


We stop for refreshments in a local Tea House


The Si -O-Seh Bridge built in 1599 used as both a bridge and a dam


There is huge emphasis on family gatherings in Iran


Esfahan Park


Beautifully maintained parks….


Iranian’s love to Picnic

This picnic’ing sight is so common in Iran. They just love the outdoors and love nothing more than to sit around and chat….We spot this sight every day on the road…Family values and a sense of togetherness are very important to Iranian people…It’s a primary part of their Muslim beliefs….ie, the parents being central and pivitol to a good family…Respecting ones parents plays a huge part in The Holy Book of The Quran “Koran”


Chilling…Iranian style


We head back to Imam Sq when the weather brightens up


The square is practically unchanged since it was built


A lone lady c/w chador walks the hallway of Imam Sq


Imam Mosque


More Picnicing locals


Father and son


More of Imam Sq…


Nice mosaic


Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Yazd (Rest days)

Day 90: Yazd (Rest days)- Distance travelled so far 4,658km

Yazd is a pretty popular tourist destination and luckily one of it’s centre pieces, The Mosque of Amir Chakhmagh overshadows our hotel bedroom (very classy!!!)….


The Mosque of Amir Chakhmagh


The Mosque was something special come nightfall…Awesome!!!


Going up…Mosque style


Mike and Paul navigating through the narrow walls right at the top of the Mosque


Fresh fruit and vegetables are pretty common sight here….


Mike cutting up some handmade sweeties…Everything sweet is adored in Iran…


Women must respect Muslim religion by dressing appropriately…


Women getting ready to enter The Mosque


The streets are tree-lined and very clean…


Brian fitting new pants behind the shop counter….

Yes we have ditched our Pakistani clothing as they do not appear to be an obligatory outfit here…and they are a living nightmare to cycle in…Oh yes…and they also get ridiculously dirty….


Brian eats Frog Spawn for lunch….Rupulsive stuff!!!!!!!!!!


Get it all into ya!!!!!!!!!!!


Mosques are beautifully tile decorated….


Mike and Brian…doing some mid-sun sauntering through Yazd’s busy streets…


At Yazd’s Water Musuem…(Nothing too exiting as you might imagine!!)


More Water Musuem…power sight-seeing at its best…..


That’s pretty decent plaster work….


The Culhane Brothers posing (Hawkins style) in front of The Mosque “Amir Chakhmagh”


A look from the top of The Mosque onto Amir Chakhmagh Square in Yazd


Leaving Yazd…trying to find some spare tubes….No luck here though!!!..


Paul reliving his youthful days..He is such a lovely young lad….that Paul!!!

Day 91: Yazd – Outside Ardakan 111km – Distance travelled so far 4,769km ” Flat Desert”

Today was an extremely boring day. Its been the same old desert scenery with the odd mountain thrown in the distance. Thankfully the winds stayed away and we quickly hit the 100km mark.


Leaving Yazd

Our camp just outside Anur – Yazd (134km)

Day 89: Our camp just outside Anur – Yazd (134km) – Distance travelled so far 4,658km ” Dirty Headwinds, Make your own Kebab time and beautiful Yazd”

We woke at 6.30 this morning to a very cold desert. After filling our flasks we hit the road to complete the 130kms or so to Yazd.

The first stint was a gruelling 35kms with a nasty head wind. We were averaging a miserable 16km/hr but once we got to the other side of a small hill the wind died and our average speed soared. We stopped at a small town for an hour break where we gobbled up some cupa soup, bread, tuna fish, kiwi’s and cake. We eat like pigs on the road!

When we first started cycling way back in Thailand, our average speed was hovering around 15km/hr. It didn’t take too long to increase that to 18km/hr. These days (with normal road conditions) we are regularly push 20-22km/hr

In Iran, the roads are impeccable. Unfortunately the prevailing wind is right in our faces, so progress can be slow but when the wind gives us a break we reckon we could keep up with Sean Kelly or Stephen Roche (at their current age!!!) Today we got a break….

After our little feast we hit the road for a town call Mehriz that lay approximately 60kms away. With near perfect conditions we quickly picked up steam and hit the town in just over 2 hours. We were averaging close to 30km/hr. In Mehriz, we stop to have a feast of kebabs (delicious). They simply give you large “pitta” style bread, a bowl of onions, a bowl of roasted tomatoes, chunks of lemon slices, a bowl of fresh yogurt and kebab meat (What is Kebab meat?)…..We do not know what kebab meat is….but it tastes damn good….


A Perfect Iranian road. Hope “The Department of Transport” are watching!!


Paul burns down a hill.


Shadow theatrics


Brian fights through the glare of the sun amid traffic on route to Yazd


Who’s the man now…who’s the man now….


Morning time, Jackets still on


We think this to be an ancient ruins of an Iranian mosque.

We reach Yazd at approx 3:30pm….It is a fantastically beautiful place, bustling with trade and grand architecture….We shall stay at the Hotel Amir Chakhmagh for 2 nights, to unwind and soak up some of Yazd’s hotspots….After this we will head northwards again towards Qom and upwards to Dizin on the outskirts of Tehran where we plan to experience some of the Iranian snow season….We are eating up the kilometers and enjoying Iran to the maximum….What a class country…..

We would like to take this oppurtunity to sincerely thank everyone for the support they have given to both ourselves and our chosen charity, The Share a Dream Foundation thus far. You really have made a great and significant impact on some child’s life…..

Until the next time, thanks for reading our blog…….and keep those guestbook comments flying in!!!

Warm Regards/Slan agus beannacht

The lads.

 

Rafsanjan – Outside a place called Anur (119km)

Day 88: Rafsanjan – Outside a place called Anur (119km) – Distance travelled so far 4,524 km “More Iranian Hospitality, a puppy dog named Iranian Mongo and Operation Desert Storm”

Our sleeping quarters turned out to be a little different than our expected Glorious Mosque last night…..To cut a long story short…..there was slight smidgen of communication breakdown between the good pastor and ourselves as to whether or not we could in fact bed down in the magnificant enclosure of the Mosque for the night….

Yes…..The Mosque was indeed a no-go for us, but the good preacher hooked us up with alternative sleeping arrangements… and this came in the form of a school, approx 2 minutes down the road….It was a result in any event, so not securing the Mosque was not a biggie….but rest assured folks, WE WILL SLEEP IN A MOSQUE IN IRAN….

This morning we hit the road for 7am. The weather is comparable to an Irish Spring morning so it is fairly conducive to a good morning’s cycle. We are pretty lucky with the weather to be honest because, just over a month ago, Iran would have been icy cold in the mornings…Happy days for us it is!!!!


988 green bottles hanging on the wall……..


Oh deer!!…We haven’t seen one yet….


Woof Woof!!!! – Found this stray puppy blatenly abandoned in the middle of the desert

We toyed with the idea of bringing the little scamp (named both Mongo & Iran) back to Ireland, but trying to lug him around would have been too testing for both ourselves and the cute canine…We instead opted, to bring him to the nearest town (in Mikes pannier bag) and away from harms way…..We found some people at the town who promised to take care of him……Best solution and result all round we feel…..


Mike tries to see if somebody needs a puppy…..No joy here though


Too cool for ice-cream…..granted, they are not as good as Jimmy Whelan’s but for now they shall suffice!!!!!!!!!!!


Red beards 4 ever…Awww!!!!!!!!!!!…..


An Iranian underpass heading to Yazd….Different features are really exiting to us at the moment!!


Inside The Kebab Shop…and not a pint of beer in sight!!!!


More gifts from locals…Pistachios for the boys…Get in!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Free water melon, oranges and ki-wi’s too…Decided to eat these in a park to relax


Mouthwatering stuff….not bad watermelon either!!!!!!!!


Not every day you see a Camel crossing…….


Mike and Paul wait while Brian checks out accommodation options

 
Brian speaks candidly about “camping spots”


No Country for old Men


Baton down the hatches ….Stormy night in the desert means that we build up walls..Nice job Brian (and not a builder’s crack nor a spirit level in sight)


Cosytown…..fire…good food, craic and totally alone in the middle of Iranian desert…Perfect!!!!!!!!


Brian …those sardines are bubbling….


Middle of the desert …….Sardines on Toast …Delicious!!


…..but they are so dreamy!!!!

 

Kerman – Rafsanjan (109km)

Day 87: Kerman – Rafsanjan (109km) -Distance travelled so far 4,405km “The Iranian bleakness, the Iranian hospitality…and the matter of The Mosques”

We reached Kerman in Iran around 6pm feeling pretty shattered from the long stop/startish bus ride from Zahedan. We thankfully found nice lodgings Guesthouse Milad….Aghhh…Beds at last….Zzzz….

Tomorrow, we will take a day off, to recouperate and catch up on emails and general correspondance….

Kerman is a fairly big place with a decent amount of grocery stores and plenty of Kebab shops (and we are not even in Turkey yet!!)…There is no shortage of bread, cheeses and confectionaries here. Water is also drinkable in many parts which cuts down our expenditure on bottled water….


Enjoying a nice meal with some fairly static locals


A problem shared, is a problem halved

We met this guy on the morning we departed Kerman. He spoke of his woes and asked us some pretty deep questions (for 7am) such as;

1) What is the secret to happiness?

2) How do make my wife happy?

3) Does money bring me happiness?

After he kissed Mike on the neck, he took some of our words of wisdom on board, ie; (that he should hug/kiss his wife a little more ofter). We then made a swift exit from the guesthouse parking lot and onwards on our journey into the heart of The Islamic Republic of Iran (our 7th country)…..Its a good day, temparature 25 celcuis, with slight gusts moving down from the North….


Starting our 7th country, 3 months on the road….feeling good


Inscriptions on the hills of Iran…It’s a baron, harsh landscape here..


Paul complete with orange jug..

This orange jug was given to us by the good ould guesthouse staff back in Kerman……We used it with a water element to boil water for tea/cooking in places like hostels/rest areas etc….It works out great to fill our thermos flasks with boiling water for days on the road…..


Bread or “Nun” as it is refered to as in the local dialect Farsi….Some words are just invaluable….


I think they are getting prettier by the day…


Housing like this one is common sight here in the desert…


20km stretches of dead straight Iranian tarmac…Yippeeee!!!!!!!!!!…..God bless ipods all the same


These guys pulled us over and offered us pistachio nuts and fig cakes….(It is worth pointing out that these gestures are very common practice in Iran)


Paul making light work of those Iranian tar and chips…


The Mosque in Rafsanjan…

As referred to earlier, Iranian people are extremely hospitable and are obliged by Muslim religion to help/assist any person in need. Mosques can be used as a place of shelter and sleep….of course by asking the caretaker’s permission)…We were let into this one after we signaled our intentions that we needed a place to sleep….It seemed to work out pretty well……


To Mosque or not to Mosque…that is the question!!


Behold our glorious bikes ….almost angelic in this picture, don’t you think?

 

Leaving Quetta/Entering Iran

Our final day in Quetta was spent preparing for the 12 hour bus journey through the Taliban occupied region of Balochistan. We stumbled upon a bakery where we got a large supply of hot fresh bread. Check it out…..<

 
The road to Iran was nothing more than a rocky dust track and we didn’t get a wink of sleep. There were numerous police check points where our passport details were taken in order to track our movements along the route.

We arrived at the Iranian border at 5.30 in the morning where we exchanged our money and warmed up on some chai and chapati bread. We would have to wait till 9am for the border to open.


Made it


Took a sneaky pic outside The Iranian Border Control. Picture taking is forbidden

We met a lovely Spanish couple at the border who had converted an old Fiat van into a camper and took off on a trip of central asia. They did a fantastic job with the van.

When we got to the otherside of the border we found that the security was much tighter when it concerned tourists. We were not allowed to use camera’s/recorders etc…but Brian recorded a typical conversation with a border security official…Trying to cycle in these parts would be a pretty dangerous business indeed.

We had to wait at the Iranian border for about 2 hours while they tried to organise a bodyguard for the trip to Zahedan where we would be placed on a bus to a safe haven named Kerman.


Our transportation to Zahedan


Our Army Bodyguard who fell asleep mid journey. We’re in good hands!!


Brian and Paul try to catch up on some sleep. Complete with dribble!!

We were dropped off at a polcie station in Zahedan where we had to unload our bikes and cycle to the bus station. The pickup driver informed us that he couldn’t drive us to the bus station for reasons unknown so we had to get an armed police escort for 10kms to the bus station. During this little cycle we passed through 4 different districts, meaning we had to be escorted by a different police unit every 2kms or so. This was driving us mad as we had to wait for 5 to 10 mins every time for the next armed escort to arrive. This waiting around perched us up like sitting ducks for anyone with intentions of kidnapping/extortion. (pretty likely outcome for tourists here). It made loads more sense for us just get the pickup to the bus station and get on a bus all in one go!!….Jobs for the boys we reckoned….and no doubt, a heafty dolllop of district beurocracy!!!…


The many escorts through the districts – complete with AK 47′s

 


We also had an armed guard for our bikes as we organised bus tickets.

After another gruelling 8 hour bus journey which was also full of police check points, we finally arrived in Kerman. Kerman is a large and more importantly, a safe city situated well outside the notorious Balochistan region of Iran. For anyone a little anxious for our safety, you need not worry anymore, we have been informed by the Iranian police and also by fellow travellers, that the remainder of Iran is both a very safe and hospitable place. Hospitable to the point that Iranian people are oblidged to provide food and shelter to foreigners…..Sounds good to us!!!!

Quetta


The baron Balochistan


Arriving in Quetta


Lehri Sajji House, the kitchen at the side of the street

Lehri Sajji house is a restaurant in Quetta that we quickly fell in love with. It came highly recommended in the lonely planet and it didn’t disappoint. The kitchen is on the side of the street comprising of a large bbq surrounded by chicken and mutton skewers. We have really missed good old plan meat. We’re getting closer to home!


Succulent Chicken, a relief from spicy rice dishes


Our companions for diner

We sat beside a group of local Balochi businessmen for dinner. They informed us of Balochistans strief with Pakistan and knew a great deal about Northern Ireland’s history.


Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

We were lucky enough to catch the grandslam clincher in an internet cafe. We discovered a great website that allows us to watch an major sports event over the net. Doubt there were too many people watching a game of rugby in Pakistan that night!


An earthquake memorial in Quetta


Notice a lady called Mary Burke


A street in Quetta


Should we do a swop….


Lots of old cars and Vespa autorickshaw’s here


This kid demanded we take a pic

 

Lahore – Raiwind (87km)

Day 76:Lahore – Raiwind (87km) -Distance travelled so far 3,747 km “Where are the road signs? and the late night wheat bed adventure”

 

We decided that taking the highway all the way to Multan was not an option…Highways are too boring, too long and too dangerous…The secondary roads provide better cultural spots, more camels and offer us, nice and quiter camping opportunities. We are sacrificing the better highway roads, but again highways are just plain and simple long and boring…..


Paul chills outside a supermarket, check that Kameez!

Today roadsigns are not really featuring as much as we would like them to, which is a problem….so we resort to asking some locals…(normally a very hit n’ miss method).


A working Donkey, we asked these guys for directions as well

The cycle is pretty good today and we find a nice remote field (complete with shed) to set up our camp. Its a tidy spot with nice running water too. Sweet deal!!!


Preparing for our first nights camp in Pakistan


Peanut butter sandwiches and mosquitos

 

Day 77: Raiwind – Chunian (95km) -Distance travelled so far 3,842 km “A day at the Park and The Bamboo Field Camp and Happy St Patrick’s Day for the Lads”

We wake up this morning after a pretty good nights camping. We do have a visitor who watches us pack up our gear. We try to avert his attention away from the fact that we used some wheat (as camp bedding) from a neighbouring field (potentially his own). He is not too concerned though….

We hit the road early which is now increasingly more patchy and potholey (google that one!!)….It is St Patrick’s Day today so we get a good couple of texts from all our loved ones in Ireland…..It will be a Guinnessless and dinnerless St Patricks Day for us boys….

After about 40km or so in we stumble across a Forest Park…and as we are enjoying proceedings at the moment, we decide to venture to our first Park in Pakistan….(Well that’s lovely isn’t it!)

Luckily for us, food is getting damn tasty with more fresh bread on offer, meats and lots and lots of tea. There are also lots of quality road side (quicky mart) stops like this one named “Bonjour”…Oh la la!!!….These Parisienne roadside shops are always guarded with guys with either shotsguns or AK47′s…..Fantastique!!!!


Roadside stop, oh la la!!


Don’t mess with us -we’re Pakistani

We do encounter another nice roadside food…..Chips!!!!!!!!!!!!!…..They love them here….and wouldn’t you just know it…so do us Irish boys


Chiiiaps


Yummy

Just another short pedal down the road, we hear drums and see kids head-banging…Of course we have to establish the nature of this madness…..Check out what we witnessed….



The dancing kids

 

After a nice stop at Bonjour we, head to find another camping spot….we quickly see a bamboo forest beside the main road…..We wait for ages until traffic clears and make a burst for it deep into the heart of the bamboo’s….We chill for a good hour until dusk encroaches down on us….and then we get set up camp..using bamboo leaf’s as bedding…Cushty or what?…..We prepare soup and anything else we can stuff into us…sardines, nutella and nuts etc etc…We spend the night chatting over tea all the while dodging goat farmers with their herds passing through the bamboo forest….You are never too far away from people in these parts…..It is an unusual but pretty class St Patricks Day and Night for us….Camping in a Bamboo Forest in the Middle of Pakistan….Noice!!!!!!!!!


Bros


Early morning set down

Day 78: Chunian – Sahiwal (130km) -Distance travelled so far 3,972 km “Feeling Tired….Pakistan Heat and Puntures”


Good auld spuds, getting close to home

The nights camping was again pretty good and we roll back onto the road from the Bamboo Field to some looks of sheer disbelief….”Where do you come from?”….Its pretty funny to be honest to see these facial expressions….

There are a number of questions we are contanstly asked while we are cycling…..We find ourselves answering the same questions over and over again…We will give you a taste of our favourite chestnuts….

From where do you come from?

You are from Holland?

Your thoughts of Pakistan?

Pakistani People? You like?

What is your name?

Would you like Chai? (tea)

Again it’s tedious, but to be honest people here in Pakistan are so glad to see us here…..They offer us drinks, help and rest areas on many occasions. Muslim religion dictates that guests are to be treated very well and we feel pretty humbled by all the acts of kindness….


A young boy watches over his brothers

At this particular rest stop, we are offered chai by the owner. He is extremely happy to chat with us about Ireland and other places all around the world as he was in a previous profession, a geological engineer. The weather is really hot today and we figure that it has peaked over 30 celcius…

The roads are extremely rocky in parts and wouldn’t you know it….there are punctures. Mike suffering from two to his back wheel. The locals are extremely helpful as we have said so good roadside “AA” assistance is never too far from hand….


30kms of horrendous road just like this


Puncture no.2 today for Mike


We stopped for a coke and spotted this cordless Iron

We belt onwards to Sahiwal (having ot take the highway for 30km)….We are happy to be finished today simply because it was a belting hot day and we are starving with the hunger. Our arrival at Sahiwal decends into chaos as scores of people gather around touching both us and the bikes (which is really annoying!!)…The Police are pretty soon at hand to give us a escort straight to the door of a nice motel in town…Hotel Endus….We scrub ourselves up and head out for a serious feed…Chicken Sandwich, Chips and salad……….You will not understand how good these meals make us feel inside…Its a warm fuzzy feeling…sort of like LOVE….Mmmmmm!!!!….A cold beer wouldn’t go astray either….but we are prepared to wait another month (at least) until we are out of both Iran and parts of east Turkey….

We bed down early tonight feeling pretty tired but enjoying the cycle in Pakistan so far…..

 

Day 79: Sahiwal – Vihari (107km) -Distance travelled so far 4194 km “Baron Landscapes and Dusty Bikes

Today is consumed with long dusty roads…some pretty poor. The towns are however bustling with trade, with lots of emphasis on textiles (carpets, rugs, clothing and scarfs and pashmina’s etc)…

The landscape is becoming increasingly more baron in appearance and dust/sand storms are visible in the distance. Our bicycles having started out as green, are now pretty patchy with dust and muck clinging on like glue….The bikes are still doing very well and bar the odd puncture have not being causing us any major problems.


A dusty market


Banana’s to go

Aside from needlessly “pimped up” trucks…..Donkeys are the prefered method of transporating goods in Pakistan for alot of locals. The thing about donkeys in Pakistan is that they are really tiny……and look very forlorn trodding along on their journeys….


Little donkey


Needlessly pimped out truck


Drying Barley

After a another day on the saddle we find a roadside truckstop & hostel and bed down for another night….

Zzzzzz

Day 80: Vihari – Multan (102km) – Distance travelled so far 4,296 km “Police Patrol”

Our trip to Multan today is pretty uneventful until we find ourselves on it’s outskirts. Friendly Police stop us at a check point and after establishing that we were planning to cycle onwards to Quetta, they informed us that at the next Police checkpoint, we would not be allowed to go any further. Both the Police and Pakistani Governement cannot ensure tourist safety in The Bolochistan region of Pakistan at this moment in time……


The police inform us of the situation up ahead, Paul seems bored

We had heard plenty of instances of overland travellers being forced onto trains/buses through unsecure regions of Pakistan and none more as recent as back in Lahore when a Dutch cyclist was forced to take transportation through The Balochistan region of Pakistan….We have thus decided to head back to Multan and to take the train to Quetta and then onwards to Taftan (bordering with Iran)….

We head to Multan and prepare the bikes and ourselves for the trip to Quetta…..and onwards to Taftan…

Days in Lahore

Days in Lahore: – Distance travelled so far 3,473 km “The Last of the Visa’s and Pakistani Protests”

We cycled into Lahore from the Wagha border (approx 30km).and were firstly greeted by some press photographers, who took some quick snaps of us. Nice way to keep a low profile we thought


Thaireland in yet another newspaper

The weather is damn hot though and we are pretty relieved to reach our hostel (The Regal Internet Hostel) in central Lahore….We shall stay in this hostel for the next couple of days to pick up our last visa (Iran) and to prepare for a long cycle into the belly of Pakistan…Whoo Hooo!!!!!!!!!

Our hostel is a funny place…housing a mish-mash of travellers who seem stranded waiting for visa’s to either Iran or India – (some being in Lahore for 3-4 weeks). We only plan to stay at the most 4-5 days………….

The current political situation is pretty tense so there is heavy police presence on the streets….Its all pretty relaxed though, therefore we do not feel overly threathened but having said that we are not going to take any risks in Lahore and going forward on our cycle through central Pakistan…..


Things are getting heated


The police wait for trouble


Lahore Fort, away from the protests


Kite festival in Lahore, a kid retrieves his kite


Shopping in Lahore, Mike purchases traditional dress of a Shalwar Kameez