Sunday, 9 August 2015

Day 394-402: Last days in Iran & start of Turkmen dash

Little princess

Top & bottom: 2 sides of the carpet

 With the woman (left) who started this place. She says she has nothing but only the skill to make carpet which her mum taught her. She hope to help other women and started this place which grew to what it is now, there are more than 30 women working here...

 I'm not sure how they know I'm in town but I was offered an opportunity to meet 7 ''socially active women'' and helped with the shooting of a documentary. I can only say, I'm no natural actress. hehe

 Visiting an orphanage, this is the Iranian version of Mother Teresa.. least this was the impression she gave me. A soft-spoken, petite woman, a mother so kind and full of love

 Handmade gifts from the children... unfortunately I couldn't take all of them on the road so only choose a leather key chain

 The children teaching me how to make leather wallet

 Feeling emotional for many reasons

 Have a peach :)

 The loving mother. 
She says she didn't know how to do it but just knew that she needed to help these children. It took her many years, with one vision, learning along the way, she started this place and raised many bright children some of which are now happily married.

 In the background is her son, a mountaineer who has climbed Everest before but sadly lost his life in one of his climb in Switzerland...

 When she hugged me goodbye, I almost melt in her arms

Also thanks to my friend who took all these photos with my camera.


 Nice welcome from my friend

 Imam Reza Shrine Complex

 Typical Iranian breakfast - butter, cheese, jams and bread

 Pistachio spread - this is really good and it doesn't have a layer of oil in it

 I always asked what my friend is cooking but he just says ''just something to survive'' haha

 1,2,3.... AWWWW... Its my first time holding a baby bunny. 
Irresistible cuteness don't you think?

 If you have been following my post, you will remember my Japanese cyclists friends' bunny Ku-chan... these are her family

Friends from France! They arrived when I was about to leave - Oyo-Oxo

I tried to look for a place to camp but police officers found me and took me to the Iranian red crescent to stay for the night. Looking through the file of the forms they require tourist to complete, I realised the whole pile were cyclists who have stayed here previously and some were my friends. But just when I was all settled in, the staff suddenly told me ''my boss says you cannot stay here because you are a woman'' (against religion). I told him the POLICE OFFICERS insisted. If you have a problem and want to kick me out, you have to answer to the police as I don't have any money for HOTEL! After a long wait, many phone calls, I was allowed to stay in one of the room by myself.
The next morning, I was the first few to enter the checkpoint when it opened at 0630. A guy in plain clothes in the office took my passport away and disappeared off, came out and told me my bags need to be checked. He didn't want to return me my passport. I waited and waited, still no one checked my bags. The fire in me was burning and I am getting pissed off. I angrily asked the guy what is the problem and what am I waiting for? Blah blah blah... I was making a big fuss and then saw someone on the phone and he mentioned 'tourist....' It sounds like he was chasing someone to come quickly. By 0830 a guy finally strolled in and he was the one who supposed to check my bags. Yes only he can checked bags, so many other officers who were there earlier than him couldn't do it. He asked me to open 2 bags, didn't even dug in and just said oh this is your kitchen and that is food bag... that was it. I wasted 2hrs for this. When I pedalled out of the gate, the officers stopped me again and took turns to flip through my passport. In my head, I was like Seriously? Will you stopped nosing? Its just a passport! I am in a hurry mate! Of course I held back shouting at them and kept calm. Then one of the officer who spoke good English said, ''Sorry for the bad behaviour of my colleagues just now''. I smiled and pedalled on. Goodbye Iran, short stay, got my Turkmenistan visa sorted unlike many others who got rejected recently and spent more time with people than cycling. It was especially an eye opener for me to meet those women who took a step further to make a change to their life or people's life. My initial impression was women here married young and stayed home to be a housewife but apparently not. Even though I still felt a strong sense of inequality between genders, it seems like more women are getting higher education and becoming ambitious... perhaps times have changed.. which is good to see.
 I have again a love/hate feeling for this country and was also disappointed that I didn't have time to cycle all the way to explore more of this land. People here are so nice and ever so welcoming.. Still keeping the reputation when it comes to hospitality.. sometimes even before reaching my destination I have people stopping me and inviting me to their place in the next city.. 

 Arriving at Turkmen checkpoint, my temperature was taken, was told to pay USD12, filled in some declaration and off load my bags for scanning. Again officers here passed my passport around and started nosing flipping through every pages repeatedly. Ok calm down Phoebe, at least they didn't hassle me like what some others experienced. So I remain calm. Then one of the officer looked at the flags on my bike and asked where is Turkmenistan? I smiled and said I don't have it yet. And he gave me this badge and told me to pin it on my clothes. Okies, thank you officer. 
By the time I'm done with all these, it was about 1100hrs.... hot, hot, hot.

  I was dying to find shades...

 Hiding under shrubs to stay away from the boiling heat

 Getting bored with the view

 The mosquitoes almost ate me alive when I was pitching my tent the night before

 Big pot holes, will be a disasters to fall into one. Exaggerating but I would describe some of the holes were big/deep enough to swim in.

 Lake! Check time... er no time for swim... sobs.. moved on

 I thought its a flat tyre

 Turns out its a tyre burst. Shortly after I had this burst, the tyre of a truck in front of me flew out too, luckily it flew straight to the side of the road and not into my face

 Had to patch, sew and tape round the tyre and keep my finger crossed hoping it will last a few more hundred kilometres, at least let me finish my Turkmen dashed.

 Pretty details :)

 Mongol rally going on...had lots of them waving and giving me a thumbs up

 Out in such heat, I think the tomatoes will be cooked soon

 Unbearable 48deg, thankfully I spotted this perfect spot to rest.

 I was lying under the tree having a movie session when I suddenly smell 'shit'... yes the air smells of shit and when I looked up I saw lots of camels... then I went omg camels, omg so many camels, shit wheres my camera, omg wait don't go and quickly snapped a shot.

 Was happy to find asphalt in the dark to catch a few hours of sleep.. even if it was by the roadside I passed out into deep sleep very quickly. I woke up with a leg over my bike, guessed I must have used it as a bolster or was I subconsciously protecting my bike?

  Start before sunrise and end after sunset has been a daily norm

Daily view was sand and more sand

 Looks flat? Its not.

With the heat and sand blowing in my face, I had to cover up like a bandit

 Beware, camels crossing.. but me see no camels eh.

 Most of the time, the road condition is like this

I secretly snapped these photos... I'm not allowed to take any photos... police will catch me... shhhh

 Turkmenistan woman - a mix of modern & tradition

 The tandoor (clay oven) for baking somsa
I made it to the border right before they closed and was glad everything went smoothly. I was frantically checking the time when I was racing to the border against the wind worrying that I will not make it. It almost felt like a victory when I arrived and the officers let me in, helped me pushed my bike up into the passengers hall, got my passport stamped and left.. no questions, no fiddling through my bags. Lucky me as I've heard enough horror stories from friends about the officers here.
Turkmenistan has been tough not with the terrain but mentally fighting the wind, distance and heat. Almost every 5km I needed to stop to drink and 7L on the bike was insufficient that I had to stop trucks / cars for refill. I made it with a smile but was disappointed I didn't have enough time to see the country. It felt like all I can remember was sitting on the bike for long hours getting sore bum, painful knees and lack of sleep. Nevertheless, like many others, I too made it! :D

04 Aug 15: 21km [Sunny]
05 Aug 15: 63.06km [Sunny, headwind]
06 Aug 15: 112.33km [Sunny, headwind]
07 Aug 15: 105.9km [Sunny, headwind]
08 Aug 15: 151.6km [Sunny, head/cross wind]
09 Aug 15: 78.09km [Sunny, headwind]

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