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Update Iran - From Shiraz to Bandar Abbas

Date: 31/07/2009

After spending some relaxing days in Shiraz with Amir, a friend of Farid, who is a biker from Iran I got to know in Turkey, I started my trip to Bandar Abbas. Although everybody told me that it would be too hot and that it’s not possible to take that particular route by bike, I wanted to see for myself.

I left early in the morning and passed this wonderful salt lake after 1-2 hours, the first sign that it would get fucking hot during the next few days. On the first day I covered 150km and got a few hours of sleep despite the 35°C. Luckily it wasn’t that humid so it was quite ok if you kept the tent open, although I was still sweating like hell.

On the second day, I had covered 100km by midday and slept in a park for 4 hours. When I continued my trip it was still hot like hell and so I decided a pickup after 30km to get a ride for the next 60km. The driver told me it was suicide to sleep out in the stone desert because there were lots of black scorpions there. I had read about them but I also knew that they lived near rocks, so I had assumed I would be safe by choosing sleeping spots without any rocks. After a long talk about the animals I decided to ride for another 20km until I reached a police station where I could spend the night.

It really was a horrible night: I was sleeping outside the police station on a concrete platform at 40°C and the platform was so hot that I was sweating like in a sauna. Every two minutes a truck stopped in front of me, the constant beam of the headlights making it impossible to sleep.

After 5 hours of sweating I decided to continue my trip. I got onto my bike and covered 70km before stopping another pickup for the next 10km. Unfortunately, the driver dropped me off in the middle of the desert and it got really hot although it was only 11:00.

I decided to spend the next 5 hours in the shadow of a bridge and tried to get some sleep, but it was impossible to get some rest although my body was craving some sleep. After 4 hours, I climbed up a mountain, slowly pushing my bike forward. After about 4km, I suddenly reached a tunnel. Lots of trucks were passing me by and entering the tunnel, where it was about 60°C hot. That really was the first time I was scared on my trip: Istanbul was tough, Tehran was frightening, but this was the first time something seemed "not possible" to me, as I had heard so often in Iran.

But I had to find a solution. I stopped my bike to talk to a driver who had problems with the brakes of his truck. The guy didn’t speak a word of English, but he offered me some tea and melon. Gradually, one truck after another stopped and they all got out to help the poor guy repair his ride! One of them offered me a ride to Bandar Abbas and I didn’t have to think about it for a long time: I just said thanks (merci) and jumped onto his truck.

I spent the last 70km on the truck, with a crazy guy that didn’t speak a word of English and no A/C. After 2 hours we reached Bandar Abbas, where I got to see the "sea of trucks". I have never seen so many old trucks in one place!

I got off, said goodbye to Mohammed and made my way to the city center. By now I was really feeling the strain of the last days. I nearly fell asleep on the bike, I was sweating like in the sauna and when I arrived in town, the children were following my bike and touching everything - I simply was too exhausted to shout or push them away.

After about 5 minutes a car stopped. It was Ali and his friend Muhsa, who insisted on taking me to their house. First I didn’t really want to, as I just wanted to get a hotel room and sleep, but like so often it was impossible to say no. So I got to spend two wonderful days in Bandar Abbas, visiting the construction site of the new airport, the Iron Oil Company of Ali and swimming in an indoor swimming pool. I really have to say that Iran is a wonderful country! I will write more about it soon and tell you about the culture shock I experienced when coming to Dubai!





Update Shiraz

Date: 21/07/2009

After one week of riding, I finally made my way from Esfahan to Shiraz. Lots of things happened on my way: I passed amazing landscapes, was invited by local farmers, attacked by opium dealers and got the chance to experience the Iranian lifestyle even more closely. Iran is a country that will always stay in my heart, although it has been really challenging!

As always I’ll just describe one day of my stay in Iran for you. Three days ago Ben and me were camping near Yasuj behind a bale of straw and were getting up early as it gets really hot during the day. We were doing a short downhill and then rode through a wonderful valley with a small mosque, finally reaching a 2600m pass with a small skiing slope on top.

It was awesome to look down the mountain we were going to pass. After resting for a bit we went down and tried to find out how many kilometers we would have to go to the waterfall. But as often, the information we were given ranged from everywhere between 3 to 30 kilometers. As it was constantly going up and down, this information was really depressing for us.

After 30km of riding up and down during the middle of the day we arrived at the waterfall, where we immediately got invited for lunch. After that we were happy to jump into the water and enjoyed the afternoon at the amazing waterfall. In the evening we wanted to continue our journey and as we couldn’t get any good information we just took the risk of riding down a road to the south.

Once again we rode up a mountain and then went down into a wide valley, where the road turned into a dirt road. The farmers on the fields were shouting "koda hafes", which means "don't get tired", and they told us that we were on the right way. After that wonderful ride we met a farmer on the road who invited us to his home. When we entered his village, we were followed by a group of children and people on motorbikes. When we finally arrived at his home, we were invited for tee, dinner and nuts. We played with the children, they washed our hair and we danced until we were so tired that we fell asleep in the tent we put up in front of the house – a perfect end to an exciting day in my life right now!





From Qasvin to Esfahan

Date: 13/07/2009

Iran is a wonderful country. After writing about the Tarof problem, I also want to talk honestly about something else that I experience deep in my heart. Although Tarof exists and people seem to worry too much about their guests, all people we met so far in Iran have been wonderful to us. Just one example: In Qasvin we were supposed to sleep at a CouchSurfer, but in the end we stayed with a friend of a friend of a CouchSurfer for one night and the next night were supported in Tehran by a cousin of a friend of a friend of a CouchSurfer. This cousin also organized two friends in Esfahan who tried to help us there.

So when we arrived in Esfahan, two Iranians were waiting for us. They showed us around town and served us a wonderful breakfast and all kinds of different things. However, this one situation was really strange. When we arrived at their home, the police called and wanted to know our names. We didn’t know how they had found out about us but anyway. After three weeks of staying at people’s homes, it obviously was now a problem to stay at a private house for one night. In the end we decided to stay at a cheap hostel and enjoyed meeting other travelers from all over the world for a change.

Unfortunately I also have a negative story to tell. Ben, the guy I am traveling with, nearly got robbed yesterday by a motorbike gang. Luckily he managed to get away without losing anything except his sunglasses by shouting and running to the hotel. It’s quite strange that this happened in the first tourist area we have been to so far. It really seems to be the same all over the world: as soon as you enter tourist areas and big towns, things can get dangerous.

Tomorrow I will stay in Esfahan while Ben is going to Tehran and then we will start our last biking week in Iran and go to Shiraz!






Update from the road

Date: 07/07/2009
Teheran, Iran

At the moment we are in Tehran and everybody’s told to stay inside. The official reason is that the air is too polluted because of a sandstorm, but I believe the real reason is to keep people off the streets and away from the expected demonstrations. Anyway, we’ll just stay here for another two days and then we’re on the road again.

Next I will be heading to Dubai as Pakistan seems to be too dangerous at the moment and several regions cannot be entered by bike. Instead I’ll try to find a small boat in Dubai to take me to India. Maybe I can even work on the boat for my trip!




Iranian Hospitality - Tarof or no Tarof

Date: 07/07/2009

I have now been here in Iran for two weeks and I’ve had a great time. People are very welcoming and the landscape and culture are as diverse as I expected. However, one thing is different here to all the other countries I visited before.

When I was in Turkey or other countries, people invited me to stay with them and even if they didn’t have a lot, we still shared one pot of rice or soup and had a great time. I had the feeling that both the hosts and me enjoyed spending some special moments together. We talked about private things, about politics and culture differences and it was always a great experience. This allowed me to make lots of friends in a very short but intensive period of time wherever I traveled. The atmosphere was always dominated by honesty and that’s what made my stays so awesome.

However, in Iran things are different, as hospitality is influenced by something that does not exist in other languages: Tarof. It’s difficult to explain when you haven’t experienced it yourself, but it destroys a lot in this society because it makes it difficult to trust people here.

Anyway, I’ll just try to explain it to you. When you get invited in Iran, you are not allowed to say yes the first time someone asks you. Even after the sixth time saying no, you can still not be sure if the person offering you something just does it because he really wants to or because of Tarof.

So basically every time people help you or speak to you, you can never be sure if it’s genuine hospitality or Tarof. This makes it really difficult for me to find friends in this country. It even makes it difficult to have private conversations. In Austria, friendship is based on honesty and social interaction, but when you never know whether the person you’re talking to is really motivated by Tarof it makes life difficult.

I think that even for Iranians this makes things difficult because they can never be sure if close friends are just motivated by Tarof or if they are genuine. I think this is really sad as I have met so many nice people on my way, but since it is so difficult to tell honesty from Tarof here it is hard to make real friends.

Often this makes relationships more superficial than in other countries and that’s really sad because Iran was the most welcoming country I have been to so far. But Tarof destroys a lot in interactive conversation and personal life in this country.

Maybe some Iranians will be sad when they read this blog, but I want them to know that I really enjoyed every single minute here. However, for me enjoying means enjoying things together and to do so you have to be honest every single moment! Please think about it and try to respect friends and guests this way. It makes life much easier!






Update Teheran

Date: 05/07/2009
Teheran, Iran

Hi my friends

I am right now in Tehran. The city is hugh and there is not much to see! It is crazy to get from one side of the city to the other! But people are nice. I have to decide if I go to Pakistan or I take the route to Dubai and then to get a boat to India. The options are both tempting! I will have todecide the day after tomorrow. Today Ihave been to the Austrian Embassy and I got there a recomendation letter to go to Pakistan! Then Iwen to the Pakistan embassy which took my 3 hours waking, taxi, metro, walking, taxi, walking! It was crazy and when I arrived they told me that the embassy is closes although it should have been open. Furthermore they informed me that the letter of the Austrian Embassy is not enough! So I have to go back to the Austrian Embassy tomorrow! We are today invited at Hanif who is an awesome guy and really funny. We enjoy the discussions with him. He is really an open minded guy and we got to know a lot about his life and his way of lifing in this hugh city! For me this city seems to be a little bit depressed. There is some military around but mainly it is really quiet! We have really a good time here!

I hope that I will beable to send u more infos soon!






Update Teheran

Date: 04/07/2009
Teheran, Iran

Hi everybody at home

I have been in Iran for two weeks now and everything is different from what you would expect! People are wonderful and the landscape is amazing! But instead of telling you all these general things, I’d better describe one of my days here in Iran for you. Although come to think of it, it’s pretty hard to choose one of them!

Anyway, a few days ago we stayed by the Caspian Sea, having found a great spot to camp directly by the seaside, with only some fishermen to keep us company. We cooked together with them and they put up a light so we wouldn’t be afraid, which was an awesome thing to do.

The next morning we wanted to go along the sea to Rasht, but after 10km we got stopped by a teenager who offered us a kebab and some cookies. We had a little chat and then he had to leave.

We continued our journey but after another 10km we were stopped by an English teacher called Yasar and he insisted on inviting us to his house. In the end we spent the whole day there and had a great time with his mother, wife, brother and friends.

We repaired our bikes and cooked for the whole family after they had invited us for lunch. We visited the village and also dropped by at his brother’s small café.

However, this was by far not the only time we got invited by someone – in fact it’s like this every day! The people here are wonderful and it is hard to believe what other countries think about Iran because for me it is one of the most welcoming countries I have ever been to!

Right now I am in Teheran and I enjoy every single moment of it!

Hope to see u all soon!





Update Rusht

Date: 30/06/2009
Rusht, Iran

No problems in Iran!

You cannot imagine how wonderful my first 10 days in Iran have been!
We’re really having a great time here and there are no problems except that it is hard to move on as the people are too friendly! We constantly have to stop because we’re being invited to eat or chat with people or stay at their house.
The landscape is amazing too and we’re really enjoying ourselves. It’s hard to believe what we hear about Iran in the local as well as international media!

Stay tuned for more stories from Iran – unfortunately internet access is not that easy to find here!



Update Iran

Date: 26/06/2009
?, Iran

Hi my friends! I’ doing fine and have finally arrived in Iran. I really have to say it’s a great country with great people and we really enjoy the time here. Unfortunately it’s a bit difficult to communicate with home though. Also it’s strange hearing all these bad things about Iran when I’m spending a great time with the people here, enjoying the nature and culture!

Please also check out, where you can see real time images of Ben and me on our trip!

Hope to send a longer update soon!




Update Van - Final message from Turkey

Date: 19/06/2009
Van, Turkey

I don't want to bore you with a lengthy summary of my stay in Turkey, but I’d like to tell you in a few words what I’m taking with me from this country. For me, Turkey is a country of amazing landscapes, warm and welcoming people and wonderful culture and history. No matter if it was Turkish or Kurdish people I met, everybody went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I love Turkey - thank you for this wonderful stay!

I’d also like to tell you about my last day here in Turkey because I think it gives you a good impression of my feelings. Yesterday at 11 am I went to the hospital to visit my friend Aslan, an English teacher I met on the road to Van.

He had quickly become one of my best friends and I’d like to thank him for everything. Because his wife is expecting triplets, they had some tests done and since everything turned out fine Aslan and me decided to go on a bike trip.

We rode about 50km to one of Turkey’s most impressive spots called Akdamar Island, featuring this really picturesque small church. After 2 hours of biking and 15 minutes on the boat, we arrived on the island and experienced this funny and touching story.

We were sitting on top of the island and looking down on the cliffs when Aslan’s daughter called. He put her on the loudspeaker and translated for me so that I could understand. Aslan’s little girl wanted her father to bring home a little bunny. When he said that this would be difficult, she said that he should just throw a stone at the rabbit while the uncle (I guess that was supposed to be me) should try to catch it.

After the phone call Aslan and me went to swim in the amazing lake and quiet bays and on our way down the cliffs we saw this black rabbit. Of course it was gone in the blink of an eye, but we soon saw another one hiding between the cliffs. And believe it or not: Aslan really was able to catch it with his bare hands! The only problem was how to get the rabbit back the 50km to Van, but as I had the front bag of my bike with me, I simply emptied it and we put the bunny inside. You should have seen the little girl’s eyes when Aslan showed her the rabbit! It was an awesome moment and it gave me back the energy I had almost lost after the bad story in Van! Afterwards I was invited for an amazing meal and slept really well, as I’m sure Aslan did! :-)

Now that I’m leaving Turkey I want to thank everybody in this country who supported me on my trip. You shared some special moments in my life and have all been amazing!

Thanks Emel for showing me some folk dancing and Trkirdag. I was really lucky to have a person like you for my first night in Turkey! I hope that you and your love story find a happy ending!

Thanks Jonny for letting me stay with you in Istanbul! You are a really cool teacher!

Thanks Yamac for spending such a relaxing time at your place. You will always be on my mind and I am looking forward to enjoying life as you do on this trip.

Thanks Yacin for the nice discussions and your hospitality. Say hi from me to your mother and girlfriend! We really appreciated the stay at your place. Danke fuer alles!

Thanks Hasan for your hospitality and please send me the documentary you are doing. I would be really interested!

Thanks Tekin for everything! Your help was great and I enjoyed every single moment with you and your family!

And finally thank you Aslan and your family for giving me such special moments in the country you love.

Now it’s time for me to leave this wonderful place and I am looking forward to seeing something different in Iran! I hope it will be just as amazing as Turkey!

Thanks to Turkey and everybody I met on the road. By the way, thanks to Adam, who joined me on the main trip through Turkey! You have become a really good friend and I appreciated every single minute with u guy!




Update Van

Date: 18/06/2009
Van, Turkey

Finally I have also got something really positive to say about Van: I really found an awesome friend here! His name is Aslan and he is a teacher. We had a really good time together and he helped me organize my train ride. We also went to a Volleyball match of his school, visited his cousin’s pharmacy and had an amazing discussion with his friend. It was really interesting and I got to know a lot about the situation of Kurdich people in Turkey. I just don't understand it all as the solution would be so easy: Just give them the right to live their own culture, language and identity!

Tomorrow I will be taking the Oriental Express for the next 300km to Iran. I hope I’ll be able to keep you up to date from there as well!




Update Van

Date: 17/06/2009
Van, Turkey

Yesterday I got robbed for the first time on my travel! It was not in the countryside, where the people are poor and sometimes don’t even have electricity – no, it was in my cheap hotel room. The thieves took 100 Euros, 50 Lira and 10 Dollars. The rest they left. I am sure it was one of the two guys who cleaned my room. One of them couldn’t even look me in the eye and almost started to cry when I told him that I thought one of them had stolen my money. I called the owner of the hotel and wanted to go to the police. Finally he proposed to give me 200 Lire, which means I now have a damage of approximately 50 Euros. I am not sad because of the 50 Euros but because it was my one bad experience during my stay in Turkey. However, it doesn’t stop me believing in people’s goodness and I am looking forward to going to Iran!



Some links to kurdish music! More will follow!

Date: 16/06/2009
Van, Turkey

Willi Resetarits "Be a Mensch" -- Finale
sivan perwer Willi Resetarits cane cane



Update Van - Sensitive Military Area – Tekin, a man of honor - Mt. Nemrut Volcano and a silent ferry travel

Date: 16/06/2009
Van, Turkey

After leaving Hasankeyf I had an amazing ride along the Tigris River and finally arrived in Batman, where I met Hasan, a great photographer and amazing host. I spent the evening with him and his friend just walking around town, but as he had to work the next day I decided to leave Batman and ride on to Tatvan.

Again, it was an awesome ride. The landscape slowly changed and I was really happy to see the mountains again, especially because it also meant that it was going to be cooler again. On the one hand, the area was amazing because of the marvelous landscape, but on the other it was a bit weird because it was a military area, meaning that the army is watching your every step. Therefore it wasn’t easy for me to find somewhere to sleep. When I finally set up my tent in a small valley, I noticed that I could even see an army observation hut from there.

When I continued my journey the next morning I was invited for cay after about 3km by some truck drivers. They told me that the road was going to be really bad for the next 30km and they turned out to be right. However, as the landscape was really nice it wasn’t too bad after all.

Finally I reached Van, where I got to know Tekin, another CouchSurfer and a man of honor. He is the owner of a construction company and I enjoyed every single moment with him and his family. Although he did not quite understand the purpose of my journey, we had a really interesting discussion about Kurdish culture and music. I spent one evening with him in a Hamam and he invited me for a great meal.

The next morning after breakfast I decided to climb the Mt. Nemrut Volcano and it was to become one of my most impressive days so far! It is difficult to describe my feelings when I reached the top of the mountain and looked down into the Volcano seeing three amazing lakes.

I spent the whole day in this area and really enjoyed it. However, as the day was more than exhausting because the roads leading to the Volcano were like desert sands and I often had to push my bike, I decided to take the ferry to Van on the next day.

It turned out to be a good decision as I was the only passenger on a boat for more than 300 people. I guess because the ferry has no time table nobody wants to use it, but I enjoyed every single moment! Right now I am in Van and I love the city next to this beautiful lake surrounded by amazing mountains!

Images: Batman to Tatvan
Images: Tatvan and Mt. Nemrut
Images: Quiet day - ferry to Van



Update Midyat - Mor Gabriel and Hasankeyf

Date: 11/06/2009
Hasankeyf, Turkey

Update - Midyat - Mor Gabriel and Hasankeyf

After I left Mardin I was heading towards Midyat, where I wanted to visit the unique Monastery of Mor Gabriel. I arrived there and as always got invited for several cays. I really enjoyed sitting together with some guys from a car repair shop, using my hand and feet along with my small knowledge of Turkish to talk to them. We had a great time and they showed me some amazing ancient coins.

Next I wanted to go to the monastery. According to my map, it should be in Midyat, but it actually was 25km outside Midyat on the way to the Iraqi and Syrian border. Since I hadn’t known that I arrived there pretty late. However, after all the welcoming Muslims I had met, I was really shocked by the way I was greeted there. Although the bishop let me sleep in the monastery, nobody talked to me! After evening service and dinner I sat with the monks for 1 1/2 hours, but although some of them spoke English nobody wanted to talk to me!

The next morning after the service and a small breakfast I wanted to leave the place, but then I finally was invited to meet the bishop. He told me that the situation of the monastery is really difficult as they are not allowed to teach their religion and they are afraid that the Syrian orthodox church will die if the situation doesn’t change soon. Anyway, I was still disappointed by the way I was treated there and was happy to be back on the road being Mustafa!

When I reached Mediat, I stopped by at my friends’ car repair shop and they told me that something was missing from my bike. It turned out that I had forgotten my spare tire, so I left my bags with my new friends, whom I trusted with all my heart, and started to go back the 25km to the monastery.

Two hours later I was back and after a small lunch I was prepared to continue another 45km to Hasankeyf, a really magical place where I stayed at a small restaurant by the River Tigris. They offered me to sleep there and I could go for a short swim and wash my clothes - just look at the images! It was one of the most impressive places to sleep and the next morning I climbed up to the castle, which is an awesome place. I hope they won’t flood it to build a stupid barrage! It would do great damage to human history!

Anyway, what I learned during the last few days is that it doesn’t matter what kind of religion you’re practising. There just are good people and bad people! I really thank the monastery for letting me stay there, but I prefer to feel welcome and stay with people who show me so with all their heart. In moments like these I’m not proud of being Christian and I am sorry to say that!

Güle Güle Mustafa


Images: Mor Gabriel
Images: Hasankeyf



Update Mardin - Syrian service and the birthplace of Christian monasteries

Date: 08/06/2009
Mardin, Turkey

After two days of riding through desert areas along the Syrian border and just 100km away from the Iraqi border I have now arrived in Mardin. Mardin is a gorgeous town and I really enjoyed hanging out here for one afternoon. I also attended a Syrian service and I have never seen anything like it before! It was just me, another English backpacker, the priest, a small child, a girl and a guy singing in the small chapel. Everything was a bit unorganized, which sometimes made me smile. However, the chapel was amazing and the whole ceremony was so different that it is hard to describe! Just wait for the images from Mardin and the chapel!




Update Urfa - The city of the Prophets - Goodbye Adam - Cooking Lammacun

Date: 07/06/2009
Urfa, Turkey

As always, too much has happened since my last update! Anyway, I’ll try to give you a short summary of the last days.

After a great time in Kaman we headed towards Cappadocia (Nesehirs Görem), which turned out to be a nice place with all these amazing houses build into stone. However, it also was quite touristy and so we left after one day and a half and set out on the amazing route to Kayseri.

On the way there it was raining quite often and so we decided to do a little shaving. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the images of me with a beard and then without it but still with the hair, like it was modern in the 1960s!

In Kayseri we spent one day with our great host Yacin and his mother and girlfriend and we had an amazing time cooking Wienerschnitzel for them. Yacin was a really interesting person and we learnt lots about Turkish history.

Next we continued our way to Maras, where you get the best ice cream in the whole of Turkey. The landscape was amazing but the temperature differences in the mountains and the town were bigger than you can imagine! Yesterday it was 3°C in the tent and today 29°C at 9 pm in Maras!

The day was great, but doing 290km in two days was really tough,
especially as there were several passes along the way, one of them about 1900m high, the other 1610 m. We were totally knackered when we arrived in Maras, but thanks to the police, who gave us an escort into town, we found a cheap hotel for 12 Euro and I’m really happy to go to bed soon!


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