On Her Bike: Iran from top to bottom

Along with Mongolia, Iran was THE country I had been dreaming of. And despite hearing some criticism, Iran managed to positively surprise me. It’s on an entirely different planet I must admit.

Currently the law in Iran states that you cannot enter the country on a motorbike bigger than 250cc and that women can’t ride motorcycles at all. When you arrive at the border you don’t know if they’ll let you in. I rushed through Turkmenistan to the border - with my four-day tourist visa - to find out. I had a double entrance visa for Uzbekistan, just in case. Luckily they let me in without a fuss.

My trip began in the north east, which is a very religious part of Iran. Religion in Iran prohibits men from inviting other women to their houses without the permission of their mother or wife. However, that didn’t interfere at all with the number of invitations I received. Moshen Qomi, whom I met through Facebook, was the first one to invite me to stay, at his aunt’s place in Bojnord. I stayed with them for one night and he helped me while I was preparing for my trip: exchanging money, buying a sim card, etc…

One of the things you need to take into account is the Iranian traffic: it’s terrible. When you get to the cities you realise there are no roads. People who have travelled India say that Iranian traffic is actually worse. That’s how bad it is! But there’s a trick to it: Iranians have a break in the middle of the day - from 1pm until 4pm. They go home to eat and take a rest. And so the streets become quite empty. At 5pm they open all the shops again and until midnight everybody is on the streets socialising. The vibe is always vibrant!

I started my trip through Iran looking for Ezmeyghan, a village lost in the middle of the desert. I ended up being the one who got lost trying to find it. As luck would have it, the end of the road led to this amazing canyon. “Perfect!”, I thought. I set up my tent on the edge of it, no one bothered me for the whole night and I woke up with this beautiful view:

The next morning, Moshen helped me to find Ezmeyghan which was only seven kilometres away. Mind you, everything is really compact there, the streets are so narrow that at some point you need to leave your bike behind and put your feet towork. Staying over? You should! You’ll pay a small-not-so-small amount of 25 dollars per night - three meals included - and though you’ll sleep on the floor, it’s worth it!

Next stop was Yazd, a stunning religious ancient city. You can check my drone footage here to have a better idea of how amazing its architecture is. It looks like a desert city, with very narrow streets (again). It seemed different from all the other cities that I visited later. It’s quite a special place and I definitely recommend anyone to go there.

My accommodation in Iran was either wild camping, staying in hostels or with people I’d contacted. Iran is great because you can pretty much set up your tent in any city in designated parks - for free. That’s how Iranians travel. Hotels are quite expensive and the country is big, so everyone has a tent. They pull over anywhere, set it up, sleep and move on.

But believe me, you’ll have a hard time trying to be on your own. People will always try to offer you accommodation.

After Yazd, I went to look for one of the most distinct places Iran has: the cave villages.

I ended up at the rocky village of Maymand, a desert-area where people dig holes in the mountains, make caves and use them as holiday houses. And there are hundreds of them! “How long did it take for these people to dig holes like this through the rock?” I kept on wondering…

That weekend I was invited by Mohamed, who contacted me through Instagram, to stay with his family in Shiraz, one of the big cities in the south.

It was interesting to meet his family: they are very religious. They pray three times a day and most of their conversations are about God. The food is the main focus point, so the sixteen of us spent the weekend eating, talking, laughing and dancing. Though they were very religious, they didn’t mindabout my religion or my culture. It was a really nice experience.

And then….I got in trouble!

I headed east to get to the border with Iraq. It was getting quite late so I decided to camp somewhere. Close to my impromptu campsite there were ruins that made theperfect shelter for the night. I set up my tent behind the ruin walls, but Chillie was sticking out a bit. It didn’t take much time for it to spark the locals’ interest.

The first man that approached invited me to his place, I kindly declined trying to explain that I was just fine. So he went away and came back later with water and grapes, just to make sure I was. Can you imagine? How genuinely caring and kind can people be?

The second man was more persistent. I could tell he didn’t like me being there. I ignored him after trying to explain myself for a while and he decided to call the police.

Yes, you guessed right, I was arrested!

I packed up and followed them to the police station. Uponarrival I found out that my sentence was to stay at the local town’smayor’s place for the night. The whole fuss was just because they were truly worried about my safety.

At the risk of repeating myself, it was again a really nice experience. I spent the night there, we had breakfast and then he drove me around Ebrahim Abad and showed me all the tourist attractions. It was also his wish that I would tell everyone how beautiful their village was and that all travellers are very welcome. So, now you know!

The mountains and the sea

As much as I love the desert, the mountains with the border with Iraq are absolutely incredible. This region is the Iranian Kurdistan. It’s stable, not a problematic place to go through, at all.

The road is amazing, it’s paved but it’s just so beautiful. It’s such a scenic place that I absolutely recommend everyone go see it. Even those with off-road bikes!

I headed further north to visit Osku and another ancient village - The Kandovan - in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province. It has amazing natural rock formations. I flew my drone and from a distance it resembles a termite colony. And this village has connected water and power, so people actually live in those caves. It’s pretty incredible!

After such an intense trip, the Caspian Sea seemed to me the ideal place to take a deep breath, calm the pace and bid farewell to this phenomenal country!

The beach was packed with tents and I hadn’t the required special swimming outfit, but I enjoyed the 98% humidity and the thirty-five degrees heat under a nice shadow.

Iranians are definitely something else! I never felt more welcome or safer. There’s no crime! Maybe because the death penalty is common or just because these people have an awe-inspiring humanitarianism. I trust it’s the latter.

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