The welcoming Iran
On Wednesday, May 25, we left in the morning for the caves of Katale Khor. Very beautiful and large caves. We have seen caves before, but these are definitely among the most beautiful because of their size.
At the caves we met three Iranians who were on vacation with an American van, which apparently cannot be insured in Iran. There was also a girl who lived in an old Russian camper van with a three-legged dog. She had studied English and occasionally did work as a translator or guide. She had run into these people the day before and then they had hung out together for a while. Did lunch with them and were able to talk a lot because his could speak English so well. The owner of the van was proud that we ate with them and had our picture taken, so he wanted to pay for the food for us as a thank you. Took another picture for the restaurant owner as he wanted to add to his Instagram page. Was urgently needed after being closed for 2 years due to the Corona lockdown.
On the road where we stop, we are immediately approached, those big motorcycles work like a magnet on the Iranians. Often they have to take pictures and sometimes they even film when they overtake us. We are often shouted at from driving cars to ask where we come from. We navigate in Iran using places that we save in Google Maps, then we can drive them in order using the offline maps. Works reasonably well and is a solution until we are out of Iran again and can use our other navigation with the offline maps.
We slept at Hotel Parsian Buali in Hamadan, large and luxurious hotel with good rooms. The motorcycles are parked at the entrance of the hotel in their own parking lot. In the evening we had dinner at an Italian restaurant where we were allowed to taste a pizza in Iranian style, which was something else than meat skewers.
On Thursday, May 26, we left Hamadan in the direction of Esfahan. We wanted to leave on time, but woke up a bit later, probably because we were working late on the blog until 01:00.
Turns out it's best to follow the yellow roads on the map, which are fine and not as busy as the larger red roads. Along the way we met an Irishman on a motorcycle who was driving from Dubai to Ireland. He was taking it easy, but on a limited budget. 200 km a day and 80 km/h was the maximum he wanted to do. He gave us the tip of the Jolfa hotel in Esfahan.
You can still see old forts along the road, these seem/are the shelters for the traders who used to follow the Silk Road. We stopped at one to take pictures and later at another where we could even drive inside. Here you experience a bit more the old times of the Silk Road.
The Jolfa Hotel is indeed fine with its own garage for the bikes, wifi and a good breakfast. We are in the middle of the Armenian quarter, where the evening is busy with many restaurants and cafes. We had a nice dinner at Simon's (touristy and therefore more expensive with € 20 for 2 persons), then walked around and ended at a cafe near the hotel. There we met a couple (he studies architecture and she is a hotel manager) and got talking. When we mentioned that we were still looking for a guide for tomorrow, both spontaneously offered to be the guide. We will be picked up at the hotel at 11am tomorrow for the tour. The historic buildings will be closed, as this Friday is a holiday here. However, there are plenty of other beautiful things to see.
Friday, May 27 is a holiday in Iran, so it is nice and quiet on the streets. After breakfast we dropped off the laundry at the hotel and tried to exchange money, but all exchange offices are closed because of the holiday. Martin went to check on the local hero on the back of his moped, but that was of no avail either. At 11 am we were picked up by Mohamed and Paaarii for the tour of the city. We started at Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which is the second largest square in the world. This was a famous ancient post on the Silk Road where merchandise could already be offered and exchanged. Shah Aman's palace is located on the square with a large balcony, on which he could well follow the (sort of) polo matches. The bazaar is attached to the square and in the bazaar we had a drink in a tea shop. We didn't like the local drink with yogurt, but we did like the tea. Took a lot of pictures, because it is a very beautiful location.
All the old buildings are about 400 years old in the city, those were the heydays of the silk road for Esfahan.
Then on the way to the bridge we admired the Madi, the water system in and under the city to water the trees.
There are 2 old bridges in Esfahan, we went to the Khajouw Bridge, which is also the most beautiful of the two old bridges. Walked around it and then went to lunch together at the best and most famous restaurant in Esfehan, Restaurant Sharzad. It was so full that there was a waiting list, but after fifteen minutes we could go in. Although we indicated that we only wanted a small bite, it was again a full meat meal with rice. Very tasty though!
Driving through the city we passed a tower where they kept pigeons, unfortunately it was no longer open for viewing. The pigeons were kept for the shit, every week the shit was scooped up and used as manure for the land.
Had another cup of tea with Mohamed and Paaarii and then went back to the hotel.
Early in the evening we had a cup of tea and coffee at a beautiful and old cafe across the street from the hotel. At 9 pm we met up with Mohamed and Paaarii at the cafe where we met them on Thursday. After that we walked around a bit more and then dove into our nest.
On Saturday, May 28, after a day of no driving, we were allowed to start the engine again. However before riding we first went to Armenian Vank (Cathedral of Isfahan) after breakfast which was around the corner and was closed yesterday. Beautiful cathedral and well worth a short visit.
Then we stowed everything on the bikes and left. On the way we changed money, because the exchange offices were closed yesterday because of the holiday.
First part we thought we were driving highway, but we were sent back at a checkpoint because motorcycles are not allowed on the highway. They only have small motorcycles here that can't reach the speed. Bummer, but in hindsight lucky, because the inner roads are much nicer to drive and there is much more to see. Like the cattle market we came across on the way.
This is the first day in Iran that we have driven winding mountain roads, unfortunately with lots of dust, oil and other muck on it, making the roads extremely slippery. Every day we have a refresher lesson of the skidding course. The advantage is that the tires don't wear out anymore, because without grip you don't lose rubber.
The last 100 km it got really hot, as it turned out later it was something like 37 degrees at that place at the time, so it was right. Finally after more than 500 km we arrived at Bishapur Ecolodge. We were the only guests today, luckily there were some others who had gone swimming in the Persian Gulf (and had used some), so a few more hours of conversation. In the evening our host prepared a lentil dish.
Since we have no Internet (no Wifi and no range for the hotspot) and ordering a bottle of wine didn't work out, we went to bed early. In doing so, bed is a big word, as there are carpets on the floor and in the corner you can grab pillows and lounger cushions to lie on. Together with our sleeping bag and double lounger cushions it was doable, fortunately there was air conditioning so it was nice and cool.