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Thread: Riding The Roof of the World (Kazak, Kyrg, Tajik, Uzb, Turk)

  1. #17
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    Great stuff. Keep it coming
    We should learn from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism. [/I]

  2. #18

    Turkmenistan

    21-11-2009

    Lisa writes:

    A good day playing tourist in Ashgabat. After a bit of breakfast we headed into the the Tolkuchka bazaar- a almost legendary market and the largest in Central Asia!





    After 10 minutes we knew we were in trouble, its more like a city than a market, you can quite literally buy everything and anything here from Jewelery to camels.





    We were looking for something for me to wear for when we enter Iran. I am concerned about my dress ‘code’ for when I am on the bike.

    After meandering, which is a polite way of saying ‘getting lost’ for 3-hours we didn’t manage to find an Hejab but did find a dress that would go over my motorbike trousers! It looks awful but it'll conform to the strict Iranian dress code.

    By 2:00pm we’d arrived back at the hotel and then walked into the center of Ashgabat, to our surprise we even managed to get permission to take some photos.





    Walked past the Kopet Dag stadium, down Magtymglu sayoli street and then towards the Arch of Neutrality which has a huge 12m golden high statue of Niyazov on it that follows the sun! Off to the right the Earthquake memorial with a huge bronze bull and child which is a baby Niyazov! Kinda creepy commisioning a statue of yourself being held aloft by your dying mother as the world around you sucks everyone in and to their deaths.



    We then went up the arch for around 40 cents and were able to take all of the photos that we were denied on the ground. I took a panoramic view of Ashgabat’s Independence square, the Golden Palace of Turkmenbasi, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Fairness(!?), Ministry of Defense and the Ruhyyet Palace… all a big ‘no,no’ to take photos of! But everyone was doing it from the view platform. All in all quite an unusual day. Ashgabat is a very different place to the rest of the country.



    22-11-2009

    Spent the day being ill. We’ve both got food poisoning again!!! We had food poisoning more times in Central Asia than on the rest of the trip put together. We’ll head across the border tomorrow. Our transit visa’s last day is tomorrow – so we have to leave even if we are still feeling unwell.

    Off now to the loo..again to throw up!
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  3. #19

    Out of the Stans and into Iran!

    Well, having posted this much I figured I might out as well carry on and put our travels through Iran.

    3-11-2009


    Well, luckily the food bug appears to be just one of those 24-hour things, this time round.

    One of our big concerns for travelling in Iran is accessibility to cash. Because of the global sanctions foreign credit cards and plastic are useless, which means no banks and no ATM’s for us? With this in mind we ended having to look pretty hard to find a bank in Turkmenistan that would allow us to use one of its ATM’s and draw enough cash for us to live and travel through Iran. Having not been before we simply had to take a wild guess as to what it would cost. Fingers crossed

    We grabbed a beaten up taxi, which dropped us at the imposing ‘State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs’ about 5km away from the centre. The only place you can use a foreign cc in Turkmenistan. What an amazing building! Absolutely huge. Initially we thought we’d got it wrong and we were stood on the steps of a palace of some kind. Shame we couldn’t take photos ?


    Lisa dressed and ready to enter Iran

    With money in our pockets we followed the GPS up the winding valley and up to the mountain border crossing from Howden to Bajgiran. Our documents were quickly checked at the Turkmen station and then we enjoyed the best ride we’ve had in Turkmenistan – up and over through Kopet Da for around 35km. We’re so glad that we didn’t leave yesterday, it had rained all day and this wonderful road would have been slick. Today was sunny although a little cold.

    Turkmen paperwork for exiting took a lot longer that we had hoped. No problems – just lengthy- considering we were leaving the country! But we did have the young guard take us to all of the correct offices which was very helpful.

    Lisa writes:

    Crossing into Iran I was nervous – I’m just not too sure what to expect, or how I’ll handle it – a bit worried about the whole ‘hejab’ (head covering) thing….I am wearing a long skirt to cover up over my motorcycle trousers…cumbersome and very awkward when getting on and off the bike and probably a little over the top, but I don’t want any problems at all when trying to cross the border!

    On the Iranian side things went so smoothly! Easily finding the right office, our Carnet was stamped – essential for entering Iran. (Nice to use it again as it costs us such a lot!) To our surprise but relief, each official in turn then personally led to the next office to continue the entering process.

    Wow, we’re here...Iran. Just a few months ago we didn’t even think that getting a visa for Iran was a possibility, to actually be here feels a little overwhelming.


    stunning Iran




    The ride to Quchan was beautiful, with valleys and stunning rugged scenery. Out of the customs area the road transformed from broken and pitted tar into a wonderful strip of good asphalt all the way to Mashhad. Approaching Mashhad the traffic increased, with our bellies rumbling we pulled over and parked up in front of a small but basic café. The initial scowls of uncertainty from the other diners quickly turned to welcoming smiles, with hellos exchanged.

    The owner a large chubby man in a white vest and apron pulled out a set of heavy wooden chairs and laid a place at a white plastic table. Seeing we were chilled he placed us in front of a huge metal oil heater. Black tea washed down a simple meal of rice and stewed chicken.

    As we warmed up the conversation turned to that of wives and children. As we don’t speak Farsi and with only a little broken English on their part it made for an interesting experience. Much like we’ve had before the conversation quickly focused on why Simon had a wife older than him?? Inconceivable!

    Our chubby friend was instant that Simon should send me back to the UK, whilst he chose two new wives, each half my age and more obedient.

    The café owner – proudly told us he had 2 wife’s and 13 children…….Simon tried to convince them that I was more than enough……and that he definitely didn’t need two and that the age ‘thing’ is neither strange or even a issue in Europe. I don’t think they believed him.

    We’d left the café much later then we’d planned but the experience had been worthwhile and we’d needed the food. By the time we rode into the outskirts of Mashhad it was dusk and night was coming in fast. We were now entering the city centre in rush hour traffic. Not good!


    our first glimpse of Iranian suburbia

    Bedlam ensued, with insane traffic, no lane usage, and anything and everything criss-crossing. Throw into the mix pedestrians running out and trying to get themselves killed and no-one stopping…for anything or anyone. It was getting to be bedlam and dangerous for us, to make it worse we had no idea where we were going or even where we were. We’d had not managed to get a guide book for Iran prior to entering.

    We ended up stopping at the first hotel that we saw. Never a good idea but the risk of staying in the roads was worse. Yeah it was that bad.

    The hotel was expensive – but going back out into the frenetic traffic was out of the question.
    We met Vali – but said that we couldn’t go to him as we were only here for one night and then off to Tehran and our visa for Pakistan…we hope!

    24-11-2009

    We’d been stopped by an enthusiastic but slightly eccentric Iranian man last night on the steps of the hotel. Introducing himself as Vali and announcing his guest house was inexpensive and a veritable shrine to foreign travelers.



    True to his word Vali turned up at 11:00 with a used Iranian Lonely Planet’s in hand (we need to buy one) and we were soon getting the low down on this excitable man and his guesthouse. 20 minutes later and we were zotting in and out of Mashhad’s traffic frenetically trying to follow Valis taxi, which was leading us to the guesthouse.

    Turning finally into a small alley metal door was swung open and we drove both bikes into the basement guesthouse. We both smiled at the idea of parking the bikes up next to the beds. Ahhh...sleeping with our bikes, yeah we’re a pair of daft gits!


    our sleeping area in Valis next to the bikes

    Ten minutes walk from ‘Vali’s non-smoking Guest House’ to give it full and official title, we knocked on the door of the Pakistani Consulate and shortly afterwards were being given the bad news. Visas are only issued to Iranians. Dam we were hoping to spare ourselves a long ride into Tehran.

    25-11-2009

    We’re both pretty tired so after a late start we spent the day walking the local street of Mashhad, as much to get a feel of Iran as gauge its reaction to us. We can already feel an undertone of uncertainty by those we pass on the streets. Lisa had asked Vali’s wife last night, if it was necessary to wear the hijab when inside the guesthouse, i.e. not in public. The simple answer was yes. I know that Lisa will have an issue being covered continuously.


    Hejab here is an absolute must – as advised by Vali as Mashhad is meant to be the Holiest city in Iran.
    Evening meal at the home stay was really good.

    26-11-2009

    Lisa writes:
    We were undecided as to whether to visit the Harem or the holy temple as its better known, but after deliberating we thought it was one of the reasons we were here – well, apart from the fact that it’s the closet city to the border crossing we had just used.

    I’m already having a difficult time with the whole ‘keep your head and body covered at all times’ thing.
    Women on the streets seem to be a non- entity. OK, so we’ve researched Iran, the religion and the culture and we’re still being surprised, perhaps naively.

    I’d dressed this morning and was starting to feel claustrophobic. In order to gain entrance to the Holy Temple, I was now wearing the mandatory Hejab (veil; the modest dress required which should cover your hair, and neck) and a ‘chador’ (the black cloak which has to cover a woman’s body, except the hands, feet and face). OK, I’m not happy about this but it’s required if I wish to visit the Harem.





    Dilemma. I am in their country so should abide by their laws……since the revolution in 1979 all women, including foreigners, are required to cover their hair and to wear loose-fitting clothing to disguise their figures……however difficult this is for me to understand and awkward to adhere to it’s the law. Ho-hum…however it’s interesting to note the interpretation of this by many Iranian women. There are many more young women showing an awful lot more hair and wearing quite tight fitting clothes than I would have imagined! I hear that Tehran is becoming even more liberal.
    It appears however that the Government has a crack-down now and again though……

    Before reaching the holy temple, our small group (Jay, Tatikata? And Vali and us) visited Vali’s carpet shop and saw the other carpet merchants- had tea and discussed carpets.



    Using the bus was a ‘different’ experience for me, as a woman. I was forbidden to enter by the front of the bus, but had to enter by using the middle door. If I had been on my own I would have to had leant through the front door (but not put my foot on the step) and shown my ticket to the driver and then enter by the middle door. As it was, Vali had all of our tickets. I still then had to sit at the back of the bus with all the other women. Very strange and very difficult to be considered (as it is in my mind) a second class citizen. However, it turned out that I was able to have a nice ‘chat’ to the other women (actually girls) on the bus. No English but I got the jist until one girl got on the bus who did have a little English was able to translate more. It turned out that they all wanted to know why I was in Iran…what did I think about Iran (that is a question we have been asked almost continually since arriving here) and why was I wearing a Hejab, was I also Muslim? When I said no they said surely then … I was ‘free’…..and it was not necessary for me. When I explained that it was still required they were amazed. They were excited by the fact that I was riding my own motorbike…and then asked when I mentioned Simon they all knew straight away which man he was…he was the only tall fair-haired guy around! When we got off they all were giggling and told me quite shyly that ‘your husband is beautiful’……(he has been getting many stares and looks on the street!)



    Of course I told Simon…he told me if I didn’t be quiet, as any ‘good wife should’, that he would arrange for the locals to stone me! Nice!

    The carpet visit was nice. Everyone knew that we weren’t there to buy just to see and take photos – Vali made sure of this!

    Wow – we saw some absolutely beautiful carpets for less than a 1/3 rd of the cost they would be in the UK. Vali said when we are ready for carpets to let him know – however many years that may be – I might very well take him up on that offer because the selection was just so wide and quality seemed to be so good.









    Vali is a carpet merchant but was a carpet repairer for many years too so he should know his stuff! We took a ton of photos – had tea – and then left to have a snack in the Jahan hotel restaurant as this has great views over the Harem. Got some OK shots. Food was OK but not that great nor that cheap – not surprising though.

    Dumped our bags at the baggage deposit (not allowed to take in anything) and I donned the chador. I had already been wearing the hejab as advised by Vali. When Simon turned around from the bag depot he had real trouble in locating me as I looked just like all the other women there.

    As we went through our separate sex entrances I was met with a wall of black. A hundred women not forming any kind of queue were just pushing and shoving to be the first through into the first square of the Harm. First however you have to be frisked (very nicely I may add) by a female inspector. During all of the pushing and shoving some ladies waiting to go in ( in a group I think – a day’s outing as it was Martyrs Day) were passing around sweets – I was included as one of the group. I found that the wearing of the chador was making me accepted without question. Yes, of course I don’t look like a local – but that didn’t matter I was wearing the recognizable uniform of a woman in this part of the world. Once through Simon and Tatikati were waiting -Jay had gone on.

    We crossed the huge Razavi Grand courtyard – non-Muslims are allowed in the outer- courtyards we understood but not in the inside complex of the Holy shrine or Gohar Shad Mosque nor the Enqelab or Azadi courtyards…….However….as we walked along none of us were stopped from entering. Quite suddenly I was swept up in the wave of women who were all pressing hard to enter where the shrine building where Imam Reza’s tomb is. It was not an area that I intended to enter but upon reaching the doorway there was absolutely no way I could even turn let alone stop. The throng of women around me led me straight in – I was in a wave of human bodies that would sway back and forth and then rush onwards towards the ‘zarih’ – the gold-latticed cage which covers the tomb. There was no way out and so it took quite a few moments to extricate myself and push my way back towards the entrance. As you walk you have to be careful not to tread on the many women who are there sitting on the floor praying and reading the Koran – some it appears have been there for hours and hours – maybe even longer. Hundreds seem to be in a trance like state. I’ve not seen anything like this before.


    Simon had also made his way back out stating that it didn’t feel quite right to be here – especially as it was for the Iranians such a religious day! To be a tourist on this day wasn’t something that we felt good about. It felt disrespectful.

    Walking back to Vali’s home stay there were many things that were confusing us. Considering the restrictive dress code for women why were there so many clothing shops selling wonderfully sequined and glittery evening gowns and matching shoes and also tight fitting trench coats and high-heeled boots and so on….?? Why would any woman buy this if it was required to be covered?
    Later on we met Masoud, a friend of Vali’s, and we posed this question…..his answer was interesting to say the least.


    The Holy Temple in Mashhad
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  4. #20

    Out of the Stans and into Iran!

    27-11-2009
    We had decided to stay another day here as the Pakistani embassy is closed on Monday due to the festival of Eid-e-Ghorban being celebrated today – this makes it a holiday weekend including Monday, so we are to understand.

    Masoud has also asked us if we would like to go to his university in Semnan (around a 10 hour drive from Mashhad on the way to Tehran) in order to ‘talk’ to a few people about our trip…..we have yet to organize precisely what this means…however he has invited us to stay with him on Sunday night.

    No sight-seeing today – just a quiet day catching up on notes and small jobs that always seem to crop up. The diary always takes a while when we are prepping the photos to upload with the associated journal. We also had some letters that needed to be written in order to ‘support’ our application for our Pakistani visas. The other day we had at least been able to get all of the visas in our passports photocopied (another thing the Pakistani embassy requires). This was a huge job as we have around 33 visa stamps each! I then had to collate the dates with the stamps just to make sure that all is correct before we put this in a document! Luckily the notes and dates in the dairy have helped with this.

    28-11-2009

    Left Valis around mid-day. Journey was fairly uneventful. Lots of people getting too close then overtaking only to stay by our sides…making it difficult for us to then pull out around other vehicles….then they’d overtake us and then slow down…so we would have to then overtake them…!! Why? Because most of them were taking photos of us on their mobile phones or some even had video cameras. Many waves and smiles….but all a bit dangerous!

    We arrived in Sharhud just as it was getting dark. Getting here had taken us a lot longer than we'd expected.

    On the outskirts of town we'd been pulled over at the first police checkpoint (they had waved us over but we were going to stop and ask for directions anyway!). At the checkpoint an excited young frozen officer had shaken my hand firmly and I watched his colleague offer the same to Lisa. "This'll be interesting" I told myself knowing full well that no-one had realized Lisa was female.

    The lanky officer held out his hands expectantly and Lisa still on her bike cautiously took it and then decided...'what the hell' shook it firmly and said "hello, good evening' in a 'chirpy-chappy' English voice. The cops reaction would have been hysterical if not so sad.

    Still holding her hand he slowly and wearily bent his knees, crouched down and horrified peered up and under Lisa's helmet. With his fears confirmed that he had in fact touched a female infidels hand and that he was now dammed for all eternity, he recoiled with such disgust and horror that the he almost fell over backwards. His colleagues realizing what had happened simply stood and laughed. I instantly felt defensive husbandly emotions rise. Pissed that my brilliant wife (who happens to be worth 100 of these daft scroats) had just been slighted, and pissed off on Lisa's behalf, knowing that she was powerless to react to the situation.

    Stopped for the night at the ‘Sharud Tourist Inn’ after a reasonable ride of 314-miles and settled in a quite area in amongst the pine trees as heavy rain socked us to the skin. At GPS: N36 26.079 E54 58.249
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  5. #21

    Iran, the journey continues...

    29-11-2009

    After having peaked through the curtains of the hotel room at 7:30am we knew we were going to be in for a cold and uncomfortable day. The now steadily falling snow was going to see to that. By the time we’d made half a dozen treks to and from the bikes to load up, our hands were already numb and we were soaked.

    Lisa and I had had a few pissy moments, each of us taking out our discomforts on the other. As I trudged back into the hotel to pay, Lisa made the last few adjustments to her bags. She looks thoroughly dejected.

    Open frozen plains dusted with fresh snow turned to tight and twisting curves as we climbed higher up and over the Alborz Mountain range deep in the Parvar Protected area. Try as we might relaxing was impossible between the black ice on the newly laid asphalt and the biting cold we were both holding the handlebars with a death grip. With each 1,000 feet climbed the temperature dropped until finally at 7,000 feet I had to pull over. Ice had formed over my gloves and around the switch gear, Lisa was the fairing no better, although it appears her tolerance for this is clearly higher than mine…she was keen to keep going.





    As I lifted my visor an audible cracking gave me cause for concern until I realized that the sound had been from the ice breaking in the hinges of the helmet and not the visor itself breaking. Peeling off my gloves and giving them a couple of good whacks against the seat loosened most of the ice. Not content we then spent ten minutes pacing the road whilst our gloves thawed, laid over the scolding cylinder heads of Tinkerbelle.

    We were both cursing our decision to send our winter riding gear back to the UK.

    Ahead of us, seemingly without end, a long straight road delivered us to the outskirts of Semnan. We were soon absorbed into the hectic traffic of the city and once again playing dodgems with gawking road users, many still leaning out of the windows reaching to take our photo with their cell phones.

    Thirty minutes later and the waving arm of a police officer from a new looking sedan had us pulling up on the side of the road. I thought the timing was brilliant, the cops didn’t know that I’d been looking for someone official for the last ten minutes in the hopes of getting some directions to the area where Masoud lives.

    With documents asked for and quickly handed over I was soon asking for their advice and assistance. No matter what the uniform, everyone likes being asked for advice, it adds to their sense of self importance; especially in this kind of situation where they feel they already have the upper hand. I certainly wasn’t going to tell them that all the documents they were holding from driving license to ID cards were all fakes, the result of my Photoshop tinkering. Instantly the atmosphere had changed, relaxed. Our protagonist had suddenly becomes new friends eager to help with directions and advice as to how we could best find and contact our friend, until finally one of them handed me his cell phone and offered that we call Masoud.

    The screech of tyres behind me had me spinning around as an unmarked car pulled up hard and fast behind us. As I spoke with Masoud the tall and stern stranger was demanding our passports. I was curbing my knee jerk reaction of wanting to tell the guy to ‘fuck off’ as I was clearly busy and on the phone. Besides I had absolutely no idea who he was. “New country, new rules, new lessons to be learned”, I told myself silently. Masoud would be here in five minutes. With the call ended I could give my full attention to this new guy, who was now getting prissier by the second.

    Again the demand for documents came. With one of the police translating I politely declined, whilst wearing my best disarming but cheesy smile. All this to the obvious frustration of this new stranger. The fact that both the officers were bending to his authority told Lisa and I immediately that he was indeed an official of some kind. I politely explained via the police officer that this stranger was in an unmarked car, had no uniform and had offered us neither any identification nor reason for his request.

    Bizarrely this logical explanation of our subordinance deflated what was quickly becoming a tense situation.



    Masoud had now arrived and after a few warm hugs of hello with me (not appropriate for Lisa) I was knee deep in questions. Who was he? Who were we? Why were we here? Were we with the press? Did we have authorization to ride the motorcycles here? Had we been anywhere near the restricted area to the south of town? Etc, etc.

    Twenty minutes later and we were through. ID had been shown our angry little ‘X-files’ encounter had been explained. “…yes, no It’s OK now, he was Iranian Secret Service”, Masoud explained. “They know you are coming from Turkmenistan and then Mashhad” Masoud continued. “They knew?” I blurted, surprised by the idea that we’d been tracked. Masoud carefully chose his words to explain that the secret service is everywhere and they have what he called spies in every town. I'd gone from thinking that meeting the secret service was cool to now being more than a little intimidated.

    With a wave to almost forgotten police officers we were soon following Masoud and within minutes pulling into his concrete garage beneath his rented apartment.

    It turned out to be an interesting evening as the apartment filled with Masouds flat mates, a group of typical young students all attending the University. Lisa’s evening was going to be more frustrating. Being the woman here it seems as if she was expected to cook. There was no question. Don’t get me wrong, Lisa loves to cook – but when it’s kind of expected…presumed, merely because of her gender – that pisses her off a bit. No one likes being taken for granted. Not wanting to offend our host, Lisa bit her tongue and cooked up a large bowl of spaghetti.

    After note: we’ve just been visited by Shams, the English professor whose classes we will be talking in tomorrow. He’s just left having stayed for 45 minutes. Basically he wanted to look us over and ‘ensure’ we understood what can and ‘CANNOT’ be spoken about. He was very keen to understand how we will deal with any questions regarding religion, politics and what he referred to as other inflammatory subjects; although he assured us that his students would not pose such questions as they understood what ‘is correct’!!!

    30-11-2009

    A different type of day.

    After sleeping only in patches last night, we were up early and wearing our cleanest clothes, having agreed to speak to the students at Semnan University.

    Shams, the professor of English had paid us an ‘interesting visit’ last night and laid out a few ‘ground rules’, relating to how best handle what he described as problematic questions. Fundamentally he was checking us out and making sure that our liberal and honest answers didn’t’ open up a can of worms. It was noteworthy.

    By early morning we’d arrived at the university having been picked up by Shams as promised. With another quick chat concerning those delicate questions we were whisked into the auditorium, and sat in front of a hundred or so students. Mic’s were turned on and the show kicked off. This was a bit more than we’d expected, which had basically been to chat to a few small classes.



    The questions came thick and fast; what did we think of Iran? Why were we here? How is it different to Europe? Was our marriage traditional (arranged) or a love marriage? Were just a few of the earlier questions? Shams ruled with an iron fist, firmly stomping on questions that he deemed inappropriate.





    Many of the questions that were stamped on were clearly going in the direction of “how is the UK different from Iran, does the government dictate how you must live and interact”?



    It’s not surprising that most of the students believed that as westerners we were infidels, unclean and of low moral standing. Just like the west criminalizes Iran, Iran does the same. Painting the west as a place of loose women and criminals where we stab each other in the back on a daily basis.

    I remember later in the afternoon and talking with Shams English class a particular instance. Shams was sat to my right and Lisa to my left. A student had just asked a question which required an answer that put a positive light on the idea of women deserving the same rights as men, although my answer had not been anywhere near that succinct . Needing to equal the balance, Shams leant forward and spoke earnestly; “Simon, you would have to agree though, that when back in your own country, England…when a women walks in the streets naked, it is…distracting”. I waited for the punchline and then remembered where I was. He was serious! I asked carefully, “do you mean naked metaphorically as in not wearing a Hejab or do you mean naked literally”? “No, no literally…you have many naked women in your streets….yes?”. I’d noticed that when Shams became a little flustered his grasp of English faltered. Lisa was giving me a look that stated “I want to punch this stupid man in the head”.





    I wanted to answer this ridiculous question carefully and not leave any room for interpretation. My answer went as follows. “…you see, I knew that Iranians had a great sense of humor…its sad that Iran promotes this ridiculous idea that the west is a den of sin and populated by people of low morals, just as it is sad and inaccurate that the west promotes the idea that Iran is full of or those that would do harm to all westerners. In reality, in England and the west we simply don’t have naked women walking the streets”. I was absolutely desperate to add ‘more’s the pity’, nudge, nudge wink wink.



    “…you must understand that the only way this bizarre scenario could play out, is, if a mental patient escaped from a hospital for the insane. Of course she would be quickly arrested and returned. That kind of behavior is totally unacceptable and is disrespectful of women and society in general”. I was already patting myself on the back for my answer.

    A look of shock crossed Shams face as though his world had just been rocked. I continued, “ We certainly have a different dress code and it is not unusual to see women wearing short skirts with their lower legs visible, however seeing the body is not taboo and therefore we do not see the body as a simple sexual object. “..but you are not distracted or attracted to wrong behavior when you see a women's knees?” Shams asked firmly.

    “No of course not. Knees are merely a mechanical device that allow the leg to bend and allow us to move forward. Women make up 50% of the world population and they all have them, for that matter 100% of the world population have them, they’re really not that special or terribly interesting??!!!” A muffled giggle swept through the classroom, as if to agree with my logic.



    A young man in the back of the class with his arm raised then quickly asked if we lived together before we were married. He was actually asking if we had sex before we were married. Shams felt the need to confirm…”you are both married aren’t you?” “yes I have the bills to prove it” I’d answered trying to laugh off this stupid question which we’d gone over last night.

    “but in the west being married is unusual..yes?”
    “No, it’s is normal, a boy meets a girl, a girl meets a boy, they fall in love, get married and start a family” I answered matter of factly.

    The can of worms had been opened.
    “but why do you get married, because everyone has many sex with no marriage, so why get married?”

    Lisa had been quite for a while, that was about to stop.
    “”not everyone has sex before marriage” Lisa said The look on the student’s faces was incredulous. They obviously didn’t believe her.
    She carried on;” most religions state that sex outside of marriage is a sin, including Christianity, the major religion in the west”…..more looks of disbelief.
    “It’s up to the individual to decide as to how to live their lives which is of course affected by their own religions leanings and whether they believe that they’re actions on earth will determine where they spend eternity.”

    Her answer seemed to hit home the message we were now quietly yelling from the roof tops. The class was still getting to grips with the idea that what the Iranian government had been telling them all these years was in fact not true.

    “Shit”..That was deep for and afternoon chat,I remember thinking!

    The reality is they’re just as indoctrinated as we are about what goes on in the countries of the western world as we are with their country. Mind you, their negative beliefs are not that surprising as most of the western films they see (illegally) portray women as loose, sex starved with legs on hinges that swing open faster than a broken gate! Lisa was honest enough to admit that there are some of those around too!

    Lisa was eventually asked if she was Muslim, well, she was wearing a hejab. When she told the class that even as a western tourist she had to comply with the law of covering her head, many of the class appeared to be truly shocked by this, especially when Lisa explained that it was a possibility that if she declined to cover her head and dress modestly she would run the risk of being arrested. They genuinely seemed to be shocked by this news.

    For a brief moment the mood of the class and the students lifted when Shams had to leave the room. For those few minutes he was away the students relaxed and tried to ask many of the questions they knew their professor would squash. However, he didn’t stay out long enough for us to have a real open chat with them and visa-versa.

    It was obvious that when Shams called a halt to our ‘talk’ as time was up that the students had many many more questions they would have liked to ask. Many of the girls who had been quiet during the talk now all stood clamoring around Lisa trying to ask as many questions face to face rather than out loud in the class. Lisa later said to me she thought that they were afraid of Shams and his terribly strict and unbending rules.

    What a sad situation.

    With a quiet evening sleep came easily and quickly.

    01-12-2009

    So here we are in Iran’s capital Tehran. It’s a bit surreal really to be here after hearing the name and seeing it on the TV over the years.

    It had been an easy 3 hours ride form Masoud’s to Tehran. The driving was some of the worst we’ve seen anywhere and at times just plain dangerous. The usual swarm of mopeds and small bikes swarmed around us as we hit the city proper. Lisa rode well; she rides so much better when she pissed off.

    Finally admitting we were totally lost we’d pulled over at the side of the road and ended up then following two guys on mopeds who’d kindly offered to lead us through Tehran to find the hotel Firuoza, which we’d highlighted in our Lonely Planet. Quickly picking up on the fact that there was no secure parking we headed around the corner and checked into the Hotel Kayyman as somewhat dark and somber looking place but with a good vibe none the less (you can find it at GPS: N35 41.232 E51 25.733)- with good and secure parking.

    We spent the entire evening prepping all of the documents we’re going to need to apply for our Pakistani visa’s, which include a printed itinerary of all the countries we’ve visited and a photocopy of every visa stamp in the passports. Great!!!!!!

    02-12-2009

    A day of running around chasing our tails.

    With an early start we headed out into the already bustling streets amongst the throng already busy perusing and haggling with the shopkeepers. Like so many towns in cities in Asia, each street specializes in a particular type of good. A street for fish, another for tools, another for clothes and this area, quite clearly for automotive from bearings to car horns.





    It had taken us nearly two hours, 3 taxi rides and secret meeting with an African shaman to finally locate the Pakistani Embassy. OK I totally made that last one up (Pak embassy at GPS: N35 42.801 E51 23.105). After all our effort our meeting was disappointingly short. We would now need to to make our away across Tehran and acquire a letter of ‘no objection’ and recommendation, which I believe are one and the same. Here in lies what I see is going to be our next big problem. Currently the UK Foreign Affairs website has a travel warning for all UK passport holders, advising against ‘all and any’ travel to Iran. In which case although the British government can’t stop you applying for any visa they can and do turn down requests for the ‘letter of recommendation’.
    So with that troubling reality rattling around our little heads we pitched up at the intimidating UK embassy complete with its 25 foot high wall, bomb proof gate and razor wire. I’d already formulated an entire sales pitch, which involved copious amount of bullshit and groveling in the hopes of acquiring above mentioned lovely letter.

    Inside the walls of the compound we passed half a dozen security checks which stopped short of a finger up the ass and a female cavity inspection. A pointing finger from a security officer lead us to a small and charactless office, which looked more like a backwater post office than part of an embassy. Behind 2 inch thick glass an attractive young Iranina women her head uncovered, asked how she could help in perfect English.

    “We need two letters of recommendation to…”

    I got no further and didn’t come close to delivering the intricately worked and verbose monologue I’d been preparing in my head all across town.

    “Right, OK. That’ll be 36 pounds ($70) each. Are you married?”

    “er, yes” Lisa answered a little surprised by the forthright way the question had been asked.

    “Oh right, well then why don’t I just write you one letter and save you some money! Can you hang for 20 minutes and I’ll get it typed up now. Would that be convenient?”



    Brilliant! No hassle no drama. We’ve become so used to everything we do becoming involved, convoluted that we’ve come to anticipate it. True to her word 20 minutes later and we were clutching our shiny new ‘letter of recommendation’ complete with a rather impressive UK Embassy stamp and elaborate water mark. Jumping in a taxi we high tailed it back to the Pakistani Embassy, this time made all the easier as we’d GPS’d it. Our run of good luck was about to fizzle. We’d missed the cut off time by 10 minutes. There was no getting around it. We have no choice but to come back on the Saturday the 5th as Thursday and Friday here is their weekend.

    03-12-2009

    Wandered the street a little and worked on webs and diary very cold day but bright.



    04-12-2009

    Worked on emails.

    05-12-2009

    Taxi’s the world over smell the same, a nasty mix of cheap plastic and a hint of old vomit.

    Outside the Pakistan Embassy twenty or so hopefuls were already shoulder barging each other for the best position to get in when the gate opened at 10:00am.

    The gate finally opens and joining the throng I take advantage of my size. With my elbows cocked I make sure we’re first through the narrow door that leads into the application room.

    Stood at the small visa window we spoke with a very pleasant man, his perfect English rounded with a soft Pakistani ascent. We’d asked a few times if he foresaw any problems with our attaining the visas, his mocking laugh was actually reassuring as much to say ‘of course they’ll be no problem”.

    Some 30 minutes later and having checked all the right box’s and officially declared we’re not terrorist’s or smugglers and our reason for entry into Pakistan would be for tourism only, we handed over our completed application forms and our stack of supporting documents. An hour later again and we were called in for our interview. Now, we’ve been interviewed before; the last time was on application for our USA visas. The questions were heavy handed and fairly intense, the officials making sure that it was not our intent to do harm to the USA or basically live there. We were expecting something similar here.

    …nope! After a few simple questions we spent the next hour talking with the two jolly officials about motorcycles and traveling. Being served fresh tea and biscuits half way through just made it all the more surreal. I remember thinking to myself…”so this is what it feels like to be Ewan and Charlie?”

    When our time was up it was a ‘given’ that we’d passed whatever test that was meant to be, or at least met whatever requirements we were meant too, in order to qualify for our visa’s, although again, we’ll have to wait another two days as we’ll need to pay the visa fee at the bank and there’s another friggin bank holiday tomorrow. Grrrrrhhhhh!

    The rest of the afternoon was spent going through our mounting emails at a small coffee shop inside the shopping centre Laleh no 66#, just a few minutes’ walk from the embassy


    Back at the hotel we worked on the website.

    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  6. #22

    Iran, the journey continues...

    06-12-2009

    OK, I’m officially fucking sulking….!

    So today is my 40th birthday and we’ve just spent 5-hours walking around Tehran in the pouring rain and cold in the hopes of finding ‘anything’ open so as to at least acknowledge I’m now old.

    …but it’s an Iranian public holiday: Eid Ghadir Khom day. Everything and I mean everything is closed. Banks, businesses, coffee shops the lot. What a crappy 40th birthday.

    07-12-2009

    There was a feeling of deje vue as we sped through the busy streets of Tehran in a taxi. Hopefully for the last time. At the Pakistan Embassy the line was larger than usual, the gates still locked because of the large student protest planned later for today and the real threat of attack on official buildings.

    Through the mess of people in front I managed to catch the eye of the young man who’d seen us a few days ago and after a few minutes was handed the payment slip which would allow us to make the correct payment at the bank two blocks around the corner.

    We easily changed $150 into Iranian reals at the travel agent next door to the bank and handed over the lot, along with our slip to the cashier.

    Handing over the slip now marked ‘PAID’ through the gate our young friend asked if we’d like our visa’s tomorrow. I replied “today would be better” with hopeful grin smeared across my face. 30-minutes later and after he’d spoken with the consulate he came back outside and agreed that we’d have them by 4pm.

    After a 3-hours internet session at the Café Hosini coffee bar we headed back to the embassy, knocked lightly on the side door and were issued our visa’s. We are absolutely thrilled, not to mention massively relieved, if we’d not got them we would be absolutely screwed. It feels like we can take a full breath for the first time in months. Pakistan we hope is going to be our last real hurdle in terms of logistically going over land en-route to Australia.

    08 to 09-12-2009

    Not a lot to write we’ve basically spent the two days between buying a few provisions, writing diary, working on the web site and servicing the bikes. We’re heading off tomorrow. About bloody time.

    10-12-2009

    With a few wrong turns made Tehran finally spat us out at around 9:00am and after picking up some very suspect gas we slid into the slip-lane that lead us onto the highway 9.

    Out of the capital and we could once again appreciate the Iranian country side; dry, arid rugged and vast. Sixty miles later and we’d passed the small village of Ahmadabad and were skirting the edge of lake Houz E Soltan. The 9 stopped abruptly at the town of Qom, where we easily joined the A80. Our route had mostly been due south until Qom but would now lead us south east. We’d kept up a good speed until now but already knew that if we were to try to reach Yazd we were going to have to maintain it.

    The heat of the day was taking its toll on our concentration. We’d already opened up all the zips and vents on BMW riding suits and had now simply unzipped them completely. The parched dry air whipping over us was now sucking us dry of any perspiration. Our mouths are parched and the dusty air leaves an unpleasant metallic taste behind. Our nostrils are clogged with dry nose dirt.

    Today was going to be a slog and we both knew it.

    By late afternoon we’d covered just over 300-miles and needed to fill up with fuel for the second time today. The fuel in Iran is subsidized and everyone is required to use a fuel card to buy gas, as a tourist you can buy the cards but so far we hadn’t found we needed them. We simply roll up, order the fuel and the pump attendant would use his fuel card to allocate us his ration of fuel, (these guys get paid next to nothing and certainly don’t have the cash to buy a car) of course we paid a little over the going rate for his service but the fuel is so cheap it’s inconsequential.

    In the high plain to the north west of Yazd the air is freezing and in stark contrast to this mornings heat. Each side of the main road the snow is lying heavy on the ground. The air smells cold but pristine. In the distance we can can see patches of clear sky between the heavy set grey cloud. Every 30 or so kilometers we pass green road signs, each marked with beautiful Farsi script. We’ve no clue what they say?





    With frozen faces and now numb hands we find extra reserves of energy knowing that Yazd is near.

    As the last light of the day fizzled we were deep into the traffic of Yazd and had managed a good day’s ride of 401-miles. Watching the GPS screen keenly we negotiated the smaller streets of old Yazd before finally turning down an alley way of old mud brick buildings and pulling up outside the famously named ‘Silk Road Hotel’. A veritable oasis of comfort and even a little familiarity. This place has been a sanctuary for overlanders traveling through Iran for years and for good reason.



    Ducking inside the low small front door we weaved through the tight hallway, Lisa and I are both wondering if we’d taken a wrong turn. Two dim lights had barely lit the dark hallway. From the other side of a heavy and drab curtain, western voices gave us a clue that we were still on track. Pushing back the material revealed sanctuary; a large square courtyard complete with a fountain. A dozen or so smiling faces looked up from the neat tables that were scattered around and then returned to their conversation. The once open roof-top is now covered in a plastic wrap ensuring the warmth from the giant oil burning heater is retained.





    The entire courtyard is full of warmth and good vibes. Delicious foods being delivered to the tables fragrances the air and both of us realize we’re starving. In our push to get here we’d both forgotten to eat today.



    With our bags now inside we chose a small and beautifully decorated room off the courtyard, the other option had been the hostel style communal sleeping area. Sure it was cheaper but now and again you just have to say screw it. Besides I didn’t want to share Lisa with a bunch of tourists. A little privacy goes a long way.

    We’d already met Nico out front when we’d unloaded the bikes, an east German lad travelling on his Africa Twin. His bike was already taking up the only bike parking the hotel has and so just a few minutes later and we’d been escorted around a the labyrinth of alleys that makes up Yazd and had parked the bikes in a locked yard belonging to the ‘Silk Road’s’ sister hotel. With the bikes safe we can relax. Bloody hell I’d kill for a cold beer! But No chance as Booze is illegal in Iran.

    We ate in the courtyard surrounded by fellow travelers. The food is great and it’s nice to meet up with another biker and compare notes.

    Leaving Lisa downstairs I wound my way upward, careful to mind the narrow and tightly packed steps that I’d hoped would lead me to the roof. On the roof top the cooler night air felt refreshing. The sky is lit with a million little lights and a stone’s throw away the two tall minarets of the The 800 year old Masjed-i Jamé mosque of Yazd stand like sentinels.



    Around and below me I can hear locals packing up shop, finishing up their days and laughing. It strikes me suddenly that Iran is truly beautiful. There is so much history and ancient culture here and so much that we’ll never really understand, disguised and mostly buried beneath so much propaganda and political bullshit. For now I’ll just take in a full breath and enjoy what I can. Stood on the roof alone in the night, again as so many times before I am struck by that feeling of privilege!

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the privilege is two fold; 1, the privilege of actually being here, in this foreign country, with all the differences and it’s similarities to be savored and pondered, but at the same time the privilege of actually seeing, capturing this unique moment, as the wind touches my face, the smell rises from the restaurant below along with the laughter of the guests, the dark sky above me and all the possibilities that lie ahead. To be conscious enough to understand that this moment will not happen again, to understand how important it is and to grasp it with both hands until I allow myself to be distracted. To be free, if just a little while of all the normal distractions both mundane and impactive, that take up our precious time; now, that’s privilege, found in each one of those moments.

    Downstairs and finally inside our small room we collapse on the bed the soft mattress yields to our weight the soft sheets feel like home. Traditional throws hang on the white washed stone walls and above our heads is a single circular porthole, our window to the stars. This feels like a good place.

    Sleeps comes easily and quickly.
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  7. #23

    Iran, the journey continues...

    11-12-2009

    The smell of strong fresh coffee lures us out and into the bright courtyard far earlier than we’d planned, and so by 7:30am we’d eagerly scoffed down eggs on toast and savored the great coffee.

    We haven’t played tourist in a while; today seems like a good day to just wonder the back alley’s of Yazd. At least we can get a feel of the real Iran and not just one or two key cities and the capital.



    A quick check on the bikes puts us at ease; they’re still tucked up safe and sound. The The 800 year old Masjed-i Jamé mosque cuts an impressive silhouette, the narrow street we’re now walking leads right up to the Grand Iwan (Arched entrance). The two minarets are the tallest in Iran. To the left of the entrance small shops spill their goods onto their street; a mixture of throws, scarf’s, woolen goods and other odds n’ sods. A brightly colored selection of scarves displayed in colour order catches our attention. The shop keeper yells a welcome and with a wave of his arm beckons us in. “Later, we’ll come back “, we yell truthfully.


    the tallest minarets in Iran


    The grand iwan of the mosque.



    Old Yazd is literally a warren, a tangled maze of narrow and sometimes subterranean allies leading in every direction. Crème and or light green paint colors the street walls and off each alley dozens of low small wooden doors lead to homes that have been occupied for a millennium. Much like our time in Morocco, the older traditionally dressed locals cautiously squint as we pass, wary of the infidels and the problems we may bring.



    We are buzzed continuously by the young men on mopeds or beaten up 150cc bikes as they speed down though this stone maze, the handlebars at times scraping the walls.


    Lisa pose for a quick photo




    getting buzzed by the small bikes




    the quiet back streets of old Yazd

    I take what photos I can until in the afternoon I pluck up the nerve to ask an older man permission to take his photo. To my surprise he agrees, if a little reluctantly. When I’m done I pass him a few coins for his patience and Lisa and I take the time to talk with him as best we can. He’s been homeless or 12-years, his children now all dead, from what we don’t know. His face and demeanor that of total rejection and resignation.


    an old homeless man that allowed me to take his photo

    It’s been good to just walk the city, take in the feel of the place, the smells, the history and the culture of what I romantically think of as the ‘real’ Iran’, all a million miles away from the international whirl-wind of uranium enrichment and control of political power.


    taking bread back to the home.




    through the crack in the door

    Like most of the world we’ve seen, people here are more interested in getting through their days as cleanly as possible, protecting their own and providing for their families.
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  8. #24

    Iran, the journey continues

    12-12-2009

    With Nico on his Honda, the 3 of us say a sad farewell to the Silk Road Hotel, as we negotiate the congested streets of Yazd and after 21-miles of bumper to bumper traffic; we easily pick up the wide and fast A02. The excitement is growing in our new group at the idea that we’ll be in a new country in the next day or so. We are a little concerned as to how our crossing of Pakistan will happen as we’ve all heard that we’ll need a full military escort. The travelers rumor mill suggests that they’ll be no cost…we’ll see. Everything costs!

    By early afternoon the A02 had taken us from Yazd at 4,000 feet, down through the low valleys to the east and all the way back up to 8,500 feet south of the town of Kerman. For the most part we’d kept a good speed and maintained a good average. It felt great to open up the bikes and be out of the cities.

    By late afternoon the 3 of us were in need of a bum break and so pulling up in a lay by we stretched our legs. A few seconds later and we had new company as Andy, a British lad in his bio-fuel converted school bus rocked up behind us. “Hello there” Andy chirped in a very English accent. A few minutes later and we had his story; he was traveling Asia in his bus burning only used cooking oil as fuel. The large collection of corporate logos plastered down both sides of his bus confirmed Andy had done well acquiring sponsors. It made his endeavor look that much more prestigious. Well to me anyway.





    Andy and his bio-fuel bus

    It looks like we’ll meet up with Andy again at some point as he’s also heading into Pakistan and like us he’s heard the rumors of military escort. I have to say that I hope that at no point are we actually following him; bio-fuel may be green but his bus smells like an old fish or burger fry shop, it bloody stinks.

    As we approach the city of Bam the sky finally clears and the low sun paints the mountains to our north in gold and orange. The lingering clouds turn mauve and dark blue.







    We hoped to reach Bam in the daylight but had conceded that idea about two hours ago. We’d been aiming for GPS point: N29 05.430 E58 21.750 otherwise known as ‘Akbars Guest House’. In the dim lit streets we pass it twice before retracing our steps.

    To be honest it looks more like a building site at the moment. It doesn’t mater right now I’m sure the 3 of us will be happy to sleep anywhere. We’ve covered a good 344-miles and the order of the day is a wash up and then some food.







    Akbar shakes our hands firmly followed in short order by Alex. Another traveler transiting Asia by bike; his steed of choice a Suzuki V-Strom, and in case your’e wondering of course we gave him a ton of mickey taking shit about his ‘road bike’ before the night was through. He knew it was all in good fun and besides, the Strom is as good as anything out there. A great engine and it pulls like a train. Still the fun poking had to be done…right? ?







    The small shabby room had seen better days and I’m pretty sure that Moses was alive the last time the sheets were washed, good job we have our own sleeping bags. With our kit thrown into the room and with a quick swill making us feel a little more human we accepted an offer from Akbar to drive the 4 of us over to a small café he knew would still be open.

    There’s little point trying to guess, we have no idea what the hell we ate, it was pretty bland and was finished off only because we were all so dam hungry.

    Back at Akbars the conversation was kept to a minimum, it looks like Lisa, Nico and I will head off tomorrow as Alex want to see the ARK, a world heritage site of Iranian BC architecture.

    Once the ARK was a jewel on Iran's attraction list but in 2003 Bam and the ARk were hit with tragedy on a massive scale. On December 26, 2003 a large earthquake of magnitude 6.7 (Ms) shook the Bam district. About 80% of all its buildings totally collapsed and several dozen villages were destroyed. The devastation hit without warning and more than 45,000 people were killed, and 30,000 were injured. The devastation left after the quake also explains why Akbars looks like a building site…it is.

    Tragically Akbars entire family were killed when the quake hit and his business and guest house was crushed. It's pretty humbling sitting with Akbar, someone who has suffered such overwhelming tragedy and yet here he is, rebuilding a business that had taken a lifetime to build and getting on with life. Some may say that he's just doing it because he has to? Personally I think Akbar one of the gutsiest guys I've met, he wears on outward smile, treats other with kindness and is living his life as best he can. We wish him only the very best of luck.

    After Note:
    To this day we have not met up with Andy again. We heard just recently that Andy was arrested and imprisoned whilst in India for having a satellite phone. Illegal in India! After a little research we did find out that Sat phones are illegal in India but had not heard of this piece of legislation anywhere before. Not even Lonely Planet mention this. We're not sure if Andy is still incarcerated but we'll try to find out.
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  9. #25
    Subscriber Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Simon and Lisa

    Brilliant photos and diary, looking forward to the Pakistan write up, I really loved the country.

    Keep safe

    Simon

  10. #26
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    GPS

    Simon and Lisa

    Brilliant photos and diary. Thanks for all the GPS coordinates

    Keep safe

  11. #27

    ...Simon and Lisa......we're back online!

    Hi guys.
    well....we know the last post was quite a long time ago...and we have loads of new stuff to put up.
    but a little explaination as to why we've been a bit preoccupied.

    As some of you may know Lisa suffers from a heart condition and now and again things get a little bad. Since leaving the UK almost 8 years ago she was made to promise that she would get regular scans, angiograms etc etc. errrr... of course we havent been able to do much for the last year and so she paid the price.
    After feeling so worn out most of the time, lying down, sleeping, suffering from palpitations that would make her pass out and getting explosively high BP readings (she carries all the stuff with her!) despite taking a handful of tablets everyday.....nothing seemed to be working ..she was worrying me and she needed tests.
    these have taken a while and with a few language difficulties she is now in working order again-thank God. she had me worried.
    luckily her sister is a Doctor and has been able to interpret many things we were unable to grasp in Hindlish!! (Hindu and English mix!)

    So once again sorry for disappearing on you all like that.

    we have now been really busy on bringing things up to date and I am uploading as we speak!

    BTW - we have a lot to place up as we are now in Thailand- our 70th country after almost 8 years on the road. and our last post still had us in Iran

    BTW - for those of you who have followed us since the very begining....you may remember Lisa celebrating her first birthday on the road. She was 41 and in Norway standing astride the marker for the Arctic circle! Who remembers that?!...its now my turn. I celebrate my 41st on Monday- it seemed so far away all those years ago and now here it is!

    Look below for new posts and our crossing into Pakistan etc..unfortuately the time of year was wrong for us to go up into the mountains and security at that time would not allow it. next time perhaps.
    __________________
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  12. #28
    Thanks for update and look after yourselves
    KEA

  13. #29
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    Happy Birthday

    Happy Birthday for monday fella,and thanks you guys for taking me away from my humdrum life everytime i read your adventures.........Ride safe, stay safe..................
    Everyone dies but not everyone really lives....

  14. #30
    Oh Yes.... Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timolgra View Post
    Thanks for update and look after yourselves
    +1
    take care
    Perfekt ist nicht gut genug.

    UKGSER-A place where I've wasted so much time, learned so much, laughed a lot and cried a few times.

    Every bed of roses has pricks in it!

  15. #31

    ...roads, rides, rifles and Pakistan

    Yeah baby we're back!

    Sorry for the delay but at least you a little insight in to what has kept us preoccupied of late. Lisa scared the crap out of me and the medical staff we dealt with.

    OK, so on with the ride.. hope you enjoy and as usual all comments are welcome.

    We left you with our last entry on the 19th December so it's seems sensible to pick up on the 20th. Wow my sense of the obvious is overwhelming:rofl
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    23-12-2009

    Today Alex was packing up in readiness of moving in for a few days with his friends who live locally. We bought his spare rear wheel from him as it fits Simon's bike –plus it’s a Conti TKC 80 – and we are unlikely to be able to find these let alone import them as the import tax in India is 500%!! It was quite expensive compared to the prices we’d been paying in the USA (Euro 140) but a sensible decision. Now I have to try to sort out some for my bike as they are now dangerously worn.









    With Alex gone I decided that I would stay at the ‘campsite’ to watch things despite there being the 20 or so guards milling around. You never know.

    We had found out that all the guys last night were military and that this was their base. They were here to make sure the area and surrounding area was secure. With one of them behind a pile of sandbags manning a huge machine gun I guess we may be safe! Anyhow I still wanted to ‘suss things out plus I had quite a few things to do during the day.





    Simon and Nico went off to the Indian High Commission to start the visa process. Halfway thought the morning Simon came back in a taxi and running up said that the embassy is only giving a single entry 3 month visa…. (Usually for Brits is a 6 month multiple entry)…but they would consider 6 months multi if we were on some kind of expedition…he had come back for all of our info that we had done for the issue of our PAK visa. Unable to find it I remembered that they guy from the Pak embassy had kept it all. I spent the rest of the day doing odd jobs and reading up and notes etc…..whilst getting colder and colder.



    The chief security organizer guy had come for tea as he’d seen the water boiling…however I was having coffee which he had but threw half away …don’t think he liked my coffee as no sugar! So after trying to warm myself up with hot drinks I finally got fed up of being cold. The last few days had been warmer but now we were a little more north again. By 4:30pm I had given up and gone into the tent and got into the 2 sleeping bags!

    more to come soon.

    Simon
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  16. #32

    Pakistan continued...


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    24-12-2009

    Even for us this camp site is just too bleak and lonely to spend Xmas, so after a slow packup we’ve moved ourselves into the Alpine Lodge Hotel just 1km from the camp spot. The oddly named Alpine Lodge has just been refurbished and I’m pretty sure we’re the first guests, the price is just a few dollars and compared to the camp site it’s heaven. You can find the Alpine Lodge Hotel at GPS: N33 42.974 E73 05.572


    A 5:30am breakfast inside the freezing tent/barracks with our army guards

    Xmas Eve…..and it doesn’t feel like it at all…we had been spoilt over the last couple of years but this year is going to be a non-event rather like Simon's birthday! Mind you, how many other people can say they spent Xmas day in Islamabad eh? Well other than the people who live here of course! Duh.

    We decided that we should go out…somewhere? In the end we went to The Marriott (where we knew there was a bar…but would they serve non-guests?)

    We treated ourselves to a meal in one of the restaurants there –Thai- and then went downstairs to have a drink. A long dark subterranean room devoid of atmosphere and the kind of place you expect to see dodgy arms deals going on.

    As it turns out they had closed the bar as no one was in it….but re-opened it just for us. It was a lonely one drink (G&T) and one game of pool affair and after wishing Nico a Happy Xmas we took the ride back to our guest house. It had been nice to dress up and had made us feel a bit more Christmasy. On our return even the hotel had a lit up a Christmas tree in their small reception and had thrown on some decorations…no music though.

    25-12-2009

    With a lie in and some TV watched between the power cuts –today was just another normal day.

    A stroll around the market (within walking distance) turned out to be a good day for me with Simon remembering that he said he would buy me some material once we were here so I could have something made up.


    The street leading to our small local market where we had Lisa's cloths and our number plates made up.

    Amongst the throng of fabric sellers we found some wonderful rust/orange/gold material that comes in the standard lengths cut for the traditional Pakistani dress – shalwar kameez – that is the 3-piece dress for women – 2 metres for trousers – 2.5 metres for the shirt and 2.5 metres for the shawl. All for 1200 Pak rupees.




    Lisa happy with her new material and the shopping almost done.

    Clutching my beautiful new material we followed the beaming shop owner across the street to the tiniest shop we've seen in years. Two men frantically stitching away in a space nothing bigger than a telephone kiosk. After my measurements are taken and a price for 450 Pak rupees agreed they confirmed they'll make up my clothes in a matter of hours.



    Now I need some shoes– some low –heeled glitter for 300. Simon during all of this ‘taking tea’ with some of the other stall holders whilst taking their photos – he even had one stall holder come up and specifically request photos to be taken!




    A local vendor dye's soft leather to make into shoes







    After this Simon decided that the day was only going to get more expensive for him, and called it a day.

    26-12-2009

    With Lisa still in bed, Nico and I hopped on the bikes and headed the short 8-miles down to Rawalpindi and into the chaos of their legendary traffic jams. 30 minutes later and we were neck deep in belching car fumes and being buzzed by the nutters on the mopeds.

    We’d heard of a bike shop that had parts for larger machines but after an hour of semi-conversation in chopped and broken English it was sadly clear that they had none of what we needed.

    Back in Islamabad we dropped by the Nikon service centre only to find out it was just a store front and the shop hadn’t opened yet.ah well.

    With the day seemingly wasted we were back at Aspen Lodge by 6:00pm and tinkering with Nico's bike and adjusting the valves on his Africa Twin.

    27 to 29-12-2009

    Spent the last few days writing diary and sorting through the thousands of new photos. Weather outside is cold and bleak.



    Without the sergeant around I talk this young soldier into allowing me to take a few photographs.




    30-12-2009

    OK so after a bad night Simon ended up not being well at all and spent most of the day in bed with me being nurse! I also think he is coming down with a cold as he says he feels he aches all over.

    There have been confirmed cases of swine flu here…..must keep an eye on him – but he has no fever.
    He improved by the end of the day but is now coughing and sneezing…..joy of joys.
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

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