After some of the most intensive weeks of my life I arrived in a new capital. After Skopje, Sofia, Istanbul and Yerevan I am now in the capital of Iran, Tehran. I wanted to quickly pass the last 700 kilometers from Tabriz to Tehran. I was looking forward to a week of rest, a week of not cycling, a week with a little bit more comfort then usual. In Tehran I had a meeting with someone.
“You are a guest. You come from Holland. Holland is beautiful. The country of flowers. You do not pay.”
This is what I am told by the owner of a road restaurant just after Tabriz when I want to pay for a Persian lunch with soup, a plate of rice, chicken and vegetables. It is what Iran stands for, how people treat me. Not a day goes by without someone that stops, curiously asks where I come from and then invite me to dinner. I feel even safer than anywhere else, it’s great to finally experience this welcoming country as I’ve read many stories about it from other travelers.
I pedal the last 20 kilometers for today. Today I want to cycle at least 200 kilometers. An hour later I put exhausted my bike against a tree. I look proud on my odometer and see 201.54 kilometers. Today I achieved my goal, I think to myself while I look tired around me for a place to pitch my tent.
Not that I’m a really fast cyclist, no not at all. Yesterday, I only cycled 23 kilometers and the day before that just 51. I was frustrated. Every time I wanted to make a good day I was called from the road. It always starts with a brief conversation but often ends in an overnight eating and sleeping. Not today, today I have thanked already 20 people who asked questions from beside the road. Every time I do this with my hand on my heart. I just had to pedal. I wanted to Tehran, the capital, where I was expected by the family of a well-known in the Netherlands.
A motorbike beside me beckons me to stop. It’s Rahim, a villager who makes a sign that I am welcome for a cup of tea. With some other people he builds a house and care for a field not far from the busy road that leads me to Tehran.
I follow Rahim to this place and enter a little brick shed. There is not much more than an old TV that disturbs, a stove, a refrigerator and a Persian carpet which can be found in the shed. In a corner somebody smokes something. Rahim explains to me with hand gestures that I can sleep here. I have to get used to the situation but decide to accept his offer. There is no furniture in the shed, and I have to get used to drink tea from the ground. It fascinates me how minimalistic this people live. Rahim takes me to the roof of the house that they are building and let me hold one of his pigeons. I already feel at home and will spend the night in the shed.
No bed, only a blanket, a pillow and dozens of flies that wake me up in the morning. I sleep for an hour with my head under the blanket to keep the flies from me and then get awakened by Rahim. After a breakfast on the ground I leave again to disappear into the horizon. Forever out of sight of other people that I will never forget. I could not even talk to them.
A few days later I cycle not far from Tehran, five kilometers to be exact. I start to swing and notice that my rear tire has a puncture. I decide to repair the tire at a petrol station. Curious is Ali approaching me. He asks me if I need help. I’m tired and irritated, not in a position to use any curiosity. Ali continues, buys a bottle of water and a cola for me. Ali continues to offer help and bring me some time later with bike and luggage to the center of Tehran. The place where I will be picked up by Delyar, my planned meeting in Tehran.
It is the beginning of a week where I will discover a wonderful city and arrange my visa for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China. A beautiful week but with some bureaucratic challenges to overcome.