A policeman looks at me with a deadly serious face from behind his desk. I smile kindly to him. From head to toe he scans me, then makes eye contact and ask: “Are you sick?” A large question mark pops up into my head. I wonder if he knows for what question he has just used his minimal English vocabulary. I answer him polite that I do not feel sick and ask curious whether I am not healthy-looking. Deliyar, my Iranian host, standing beside me and translates what I just said in English. The policeman nods and then proceeds to violently questioning Deliyar. We are in the so-called Police Office of Foreign Aliens, the Iranian police station where you have a chance for an extension of your Iranian visa.
For weeks I have been fascinated by life here in Tehran. Lately I have seen many of this city. From visiting elaborate buildings to watching an Iranian movie in the cinema. Delyar helps me, teach me to speak Persian and makes sure that I properly understand all the rules of this society. I adapt myself to the Iranian lifestyle. If we go out, we drive around in the city in circles, catching up and smiling at other young people who do the same. Sometimes cars stop, probably to exchange numbers. The real parties are private and forbidden in Iran. Do I really miss something? Not really, I think it has its charm how Iranian young people enjoy themselves.
After a lot of hassle, including three interviews, I may come back after the weekend to get a stamp for 30 additional days in Iran. In the days after that, I’m covering time by taking a walk in the park in northern Tehran. Especially since the Ramadan has started there is a lot happening here in the evening. Musicians, children playing and families who sit in the grass on a blanket eating their long-awaited meal. Street vendors are everywhere. One night Deliyar and I decide to spoil us with a hot corn. Delicious at that time, but the next day it turns out to be the dumbest thing I’ve done in my entire journey. After three days of heavy war in my stomach the mother of Deliyar insist that I see a doctor. Well, in fact not me. Delyar goes with my complaints to the doctor. Doing so will save some costs because Delyar is covered by her family’s insurance. If the doctor prescribes an injection it start to be more complicated. Fortunately, we are in Iran and here you can just walk out the door with the injection in your pocket. Later on at a clinic I’m a little bit confused when a nurse start to give me a complete infusion.
Fortunately the whole thing helps and in a few days I start to feel better again. Well, ready to go! Deliyar drives me for a last time to the Uzbek and Turkmenistan embassy to get the last formalities ready. The Turkmenistan visa I can pick up a week later in Mashhad.
On Monday, June 29th I leave from Tehran to attempt to cycle the 845 remaining kilometers to Mashhad in eight days. In Mashhad I have a meeting with my new Dutch friend on wooden shoes. Tuesday, July 7th we agreed to see each other in Mashhad.
When I finally left, I am beginning to wonder seriously if this will be ever possible. Snow, rain, cold, mountains, I’ve experienced it all, but this!?
My hands hurt from hot glowing handles. My whole mouth is dry, even though I drink liters of water. The sun burns into my skin. The fierce headwind is so incredibly hot that it makes me nauseous. I fall down every two hours to rest somewhere in the shade, at least if I can find shade.
I am asking myself, exhausted from the first day of 108 kilometers: how on earth I’m going to cycle to Mashhad in eight days in this circumstances?