Iran, another world!

Newsletter n°13

From Friday August 5 to Tuesday August 9, from Dogubayazit to Trabiz in Iran

Easy this entry in Iran

This Saturday, August 6, we are leaving Dogubayazit, a city located in a desert area in eastern Turkey and heading for Iran, another world. We still have 30 km to go before crossing the border.The road that takes us there is frequented by hundreds of trucks. The latter, about 6 km before the border are parked in huge car parks awaiting customs formalities. It is terribly hot there, their waiting time must seem very long and painful. 

By bicycle, it is easy to reach the border post between Turkey and Iran. Pedestrians and cyclists pass through the same airlocks which are very narrow and it is difficult for bicycles to enter. The Turkish customs officers are not very pleasant and they stare at us for a long time, no doubt to detect possible problems. In the end they end up affixing the stamps which allows us to access Iranian control. Unlike Turkey, it takes less than 10 minutes to clear Iranian customs. Here all photos are prohibited and to avoid any incident it is better to respect the ban.

That seems complicated

At the exit, a rather impressive crowd of people awaits us and offers us various services: accommodation, various aids and change. In Iran, there are three different currencies: the Rial, the toman and the new toman. It's very complicated, especially since for 150 euros you receive almost 60 million rials. There are no coins, only banknotes, some of which have almost no value, the largest banknote of one million rials is worth 3 euros. We agree to change our money although it is illegal, it starts badly.

We leave the border area, but on the road like phenomena, we are constantly stopped either for a photo, or to offer us something to eat or drink. Our progress is relatively very slow and it must be admitted that it is disturbing.Sign that we are in Iran, the national flag flies everywhere.

Three holidays and a very local soup

To complicate our entry into this rather mysterious country, for our first three days in Iran, it is a public holiday throughout the country. Everything is closed including the restaurants. Difficult to find accommodation and food. The first night we sleep in the city of Maku. An unofficial guest house that a guy recommends to us on the street. The comfort there is quite basic, but it is not expensive. As it is a national holiday, Iranians are in the street and are singing loudly there, most of the night there will be noise, not easy to sleep. 

Sunday second day in Iran, we drive all day in a desert setting under very high heat. Only an isolated village on our route, and always difficult to find supplies. Fortunately an Iranian offers us a soup, it is thick and green in color. Without really knowing what was in it we swallowed it in one gulp. In the end, she wasn't that bad. A very friendly owner will welcome us in his official Guest house and will prepare us a good meal to recover from a very difficult day. 

Monday is the last public holiday in the country. The heat is terrible, almost 45°C. We literally dry out on the spot and swallow more than 15 liters of water and soda during the day, a few drivers stop to give us fresh water. Everything is closed, we have to travel more than 110kms. It's too hot to camp in the wild. We end the day exhausted with a private individual who will host us. 

Iranian hospitality

Tuesday, a beautiful day and the temperature was a little milder (35°C). On the other hand this morning the country woke up after this bank holiday weekend and the traffic became intense. The framework of our progress is always so exotic in the middle of these desert landscapes and magnificent mountains in red colors. We arrive quietly in Tabriz, a city with 1.5 million inhabitants. Traffic is insane, no red lights work, it's anarchy. On a bicycle it is difficult to change direction because the cars want to pass at all costs. The signposts are in Persian and therefore incomprehensible to us.

An Iranian will help us to buy a Sim card because it's a bit of a hassle when you don't speak Persian. It will be a great help, to find the suitable store it will take no less than three hours.

Another world

After this holiday period, we discover life in Iran. A universe that we cannot imagine in Europe. Old cars, mostly Peugeots, people drive phones glued to their ears and pay no attention to pedestrians crossing.Of course the wearing of the veil for all women including foreigners, the crowd in the streets in an indescribable din, the buses with two compartments for men and women. We are really in a country with another culture and a total change of scenery.

Did you know :


In Iran, foreigners cannot pay or withdraw money with their bank cards. They must arrive in the country with sufficient cash for their stay

Did you know

Northern Iranians speak Azeri, a Turkic language. They use Persian writing which is unreadable for us Europeans. I let you look at the photos. 

Met :

Where are we

During these 6 days we traveled 334 kms.You can find the route on the attached map.

View full screen

Anatolia and Covid

D on saturday July 23 to Wednesday August 3, from Trabzon to Dogubayazit, near the Iranian border

tea culture

After a good rest in Trabzon and our visas for Iran in hand, we are off again towards the Iranian border, via the plateau of Anatolia.We are leaving town in insane traffic this Saturday, July 23. After a few tens of kilometers we leave the seaside to sink towards the interior of Turkey. We cross an area where tea is grown, the national drink of the country. The fields are on the mountainside and many people are busy picking up tea leaves. We share a few moments with pickers before continuing our journey on an axis with little traffic but with real difficulty, crossing tunnels without lighting. Sunday evening we will stop at the foot of the Col d'Ovit in the small village of Ikizdere. 

The smell of the barn

This Monday morning we attack the climb of the Col d'Ovit, 35 kms for 2000 m of elevation gain. The first part climbs at a fairly steady pace in a natural setting. At the 25th kilometer surprise a tunnel of 14 km, to avoid it we choose to take a mountain road with a difficult climb, the slope is between 10 and 13%. It will take us 3 hours to reach the summit, in the fog and a temperature close to 0°C. Despite our warm clothes we are cold. Ecevit and Elmas a farmer couple welcomes us to their farm. They prepare a gargantuan meal for us (tomatoes, cucumbers, mutton, fries, cheese, tea, honey, jams, butter, bread). We will sleep in a room located above the barn, as the floor is not waterproof this has some olfactory disadvantages, but on the other hand we benefit from the heating produced by the cattle. 

The valley

Tuesday, after a very calm night, we leave our hosts who, before leaving, offer us a magnificent local breakfast. This morning the fog has disappeared and the view of the valley from the pass is sensational. In winter this region is totally covered with several meters of snow.
Unlike the day before, the day is easy, we have a long descent of 34 km on a road that alternates bitumen, dirt and tunnels, and there is almost no traffic. We cross sparsely populated areas, the few people who live there live in fairly precarious housing. We will end our day in a small village where, as everywhere, the population takes care of us. 

Anatolia and bears

Wednesday 27, today we are on the Anatolian plateau located at 2000m. Despite the altitude it is 35°C. You have to open your eyes to enjoy the show, a postcard setting. An almost uninhabited area where it is very difficult to find accommodation or a place to camp. The few people we met confirmed the presence of bears and advised against camping. The region is conducive to the production of honey, there are beehives everywhere. Finally we meet Alperen, he welcomes us to Rizeken in his village and offers us accommodation for the night. We sleep in a place of prayer on carpets. In this village life seems very rudimentary and without comfort, but the kindness of the inhabitants is invaluable.

We will leave Alperen in the early morning to reach Erzurum for a short break. The town is connected to a ski resort, Palandoken. Here you can ski up to 3200m on the Anatolian plateau. 

A little change

After this short break, we resume our journey towards the Iranian border. It is very hot, regularly 40°C and the roads are endless with their long straight lines but little traffic. You have to be careful and bring enough water, because the supply points are quite rare and the few towns are quite distant from each other. As always we are really very well received, such as at Eleskirt where the number of invitations is such that we could have eaten 5 times in the afternoon.

Iran, Noah's Ark and Covid


Finally after four days on the Anatolian plateau, on Tuesday August 2, we reached Dogubayazit, the last town before the Iranian border. A city located in the middle of nowhere near Mount Ararat, the mountain where Noah according to legend would have stranded. It culminates at 5135m and its summit is covered with eternal snow. In Dogubayazit the population is Kurdish and we sometimes feel during our conversations, the political malaise of this people who are not officially recognized in Turkey. Moreover, in the fairly recent past, speaking in Kurdish was punishable by imprisonment. Visit of the magnificent Ishak Pasha Palace built on the old Silk Road and located a few kms from the city. 

Before leaving we will try to treat ourselves because we have all the symptoms of Covid, but here there is no test to check. In a few days if all goes well we will be in Iran.

Do not miss our next article a few minutes zapping on Turkey.

Did you know

Tea is the national drink and the Turks consume very large quantities of it.

the 20 million Kurds who live in Turkey live in the East of the country, officially this people is not recognized in Turkey.

Met

  • Ecevit, his wife and children the farmers who hosted us
  • Alperen and his mother who hosted us at Rizeken
  • Javis and Gunta a biker couple from Latvia
  • Many Franco-Turks encountered Eleskirt

Where are we

During these 13 days we traveled 612 kms. 

You can find the route on the attached map.

View full screen

Along the black sea

From Tuesday June 28 to Friday July 22, from Istanbul to Trabzon

It's not that flat

We chose to follow the Black Sea coast from Istanbul to Trabzon, a city located in the northeast of Turkey. It is a long journey of more than 1300kms. We will alternate deserted roads and those with heavy traffic. In this northern part of the country, the nationals are almost always two lanes. But unlike France, you can come across cars as well as bicycles, tractors or horse-drawn carriages. As they are in steep areas, we find many long and poorly lit tunnels, crossing them is stressful.

For more than 25 days we drove along the Black Sea, which despite its name is very blue.

This part of Turkey is very steep with a very accentuated relief. It is not uncommon to travel roads with percentages over 12%. The setting is magnificent and the interest of this part of the country is of course this wild environment. We also cross urbanized areas with mosques with different styles and aspects.

national tourism

The shores of the Black Sea are little frequented by foreign tourists. But during these 25 days along the coast, we met a lot of people. The population, not used to foreign tourism, is very welcoming and curious about our trip. She regularly invites us to share her meal.

It is a region where coal mines are still exploited, we crossed one which still has 600 miners. In this northern part of the country the climate is quite temperate, which is why crops are very numerous. In a few days, we can go from very high temperatures to rains and storms.
Like this Monday, July 18, when we stopped at one of the few existing campsites. Located on the beach, it is extraordinary. However, torrential rain disrupted our day and in one night the beach was covered with an unimaginable number of tree trunks and plastic waste.

The main axes

Tuesday, July 19, after two nights at the campsite, we resume our journey to Trabzon. We follow the coast for about a few tens of kilometers before reaching the main road and the only way to Trabzon. It is a very busy route that we have to take for about 300km. We drive on the hard shoulder and cross many tunnels.

We are lucky to have a very favorable wind and the speedometer regularly shows more than 30km/h. Our stages exceeding one hundred kilometers, we quickly arrive in Trabzon, where we settle for several days. A city frequented by tourists from border countries such as Iran and Armenia.

It is in Trabzon that we wait for our visas which will allow us to go to Iran.

Did you know

Turkey is the world's largest importer of hazelnuts. The production is done in the north of the country and the Kurdish population carries out the collection by hand.

Some encounters

  • Bahatti 75 years old, 48 marathons to his credit, including 19 in Berlin.His record 2H46mn in New York
  • Tofig and his wife. They live in Azerbaijan.
  • Murat from the warmshowers network
  • Sarah and Jacob two Turkish women traveling to Russia
  • Turks who invite us
  • Selfies with the police
  • Aurélien, a Frenchman on a bike from Mayenne who played an accordion tune for us. 
  • Amin an Iranian who travels by bicycle only in Turkey.

Where are we

During these 25 days at the edge of the Black Sea we traveled 1365 kms.We are heading quietly towards Iran.

You can find the route on the map below.

View full screen