Since I can remember I have always been a curious and independent person in every aspect of life. In 2011 when I was travelling to eastern Turkey to Mt. Ararat on my bike with my friends Lee and Mike, I met Matteo at a military check point. I immediatly had a good feeling about Matteo. I thought he shared the same values in life and that he was curious and independent just as much as me. Sharing the passion for travelling on motorcycle did not hurt either. For that very reason over the years we were able to achieve what was a dream for both of us. A complete around the world ride on our motorcycles.
This year the plan was to make it to the Pamir Highway along the Whakhan Corridor, on the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In order to make it there, we have to cross Greece, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In 2011, on our way to Mongolia, we avoided Iran and went across the Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. This year we instead decided to visit Iran.
When we told our friends and relatives that we were heading to Iran, the reaction was mostly of misbelieve. They all showed some sort of doubt of why we made such a decision to cross a country that appeared to be unstable and dangerous at this particular time. Again being curious individuals made us stick to our original plan on visiting Iran.
As a Mongolian proverb says: “it is better to see once then hearing a thousand times”
Entering Iran was for both of us of a bit nerve-racking but we were immediately positively surprised by the Iranians. Everywhere we’d stop it was tangible to see the expression of happiness and surprise on people’s faces. They also were quiet surprised to encounter tourist on bikes. Maybe because of the extreme heat, but reality is that we have not seen one tourist in all our stay here. What a pity. Rarely we found ourselves more welcome in a country anywhere in the world other then Iran. At every stop someone would insist to invite us at their home for lunch or to share a cup of “cay” (tea). It appears that the message they want to spread with outsiders is always the same: let people know that Iran welcomes tourisms. The idea that Iran is an hostile country can’t be further from the truth. It is actually everything but hostile.We always felt very welcome here. Iranians are one of oldest civilization of the world. So much culture and history here.
Our impression of this magical country is drastically opposite of what our “Western media” wants us to believe. Iran is extremely safe to visit. Only problem is the heat in the summer. If you have a chance to go, JUST DO IT ! Absolutely worth it. Take your wife and children along.
The tile of this post should actually say: IRAN – NOT ONLY THE MOST WARM PLACE ON EARTH BUT ALSO THE MOST HOSPITABLE AND AMICABLE.
We loved Iran. Can’t wait to bring our families to visit Iran one day.
SEE YOU SOON IRAN
American Embassy Teheran
American Embassy Teheran
After crossing all of Turkey we finally arrive at the Iranian Border. The passport control procedures to get out of Turkey are smooth for both myself and Matteo but when we get to clear Turkish customs things change a little for me. The person in charge advises me that my bike has to go through a complete scan under a massive X ray machine. Only mine not Matteo’s. All of a sudden I have cold blood running through my body. In a glimpse I can’t stop thinking of the movie “Midnight Express”. When we travel we usually never take all of our bags into our room for the night. Usually we live some of it on the bikes as it would be to much of an effort to always load and unload them. What if someone the night before knew we were heading to Iran and put some illegal substances into my tool bag I think to myself ? I really started to be extremely nervous but there was nothing I could do but to start the X RAY procedure of my entire bike…….
I am told to join a line of other vehicles in a special part of the customs parking. There must have been at least 150 trucks before my small motorcycle. It is 11 AM and you can start feeling the heat. About 36 degrees celsius. I know I can’t wait hours so with a big smile and waving hello to everyone like an idiot I jump the line until I reach the front where a hangar with some customs officers were waiting for me. Let me tell you that the mind can play terrible games. I was terrified. Anyway, my bike gets into this machine while I waited for clearance. Few minutes later a young customs officer approaches me and tells me to pick up my bike. I am free to go. I was clear from Turkish customs.
With a big release I join Matteo that was waiting for me in front of the gate before entering the Iranian border. Together we start the Iranian procedure. Passport control takes forever as we are waiting in line with at least 100 people, mostly truck drivers. We are the only tourist around. After half an hour, thanks god a “fixer” approaches us and tells us to follow him. He promise us he will handle all procedure for us for a small fee. We usually don’t use the help of fixers at the borders during our travels but this time was different. We knew that if we did not take advantage of the offer we would have been at the border for hours. To cross into Iran with your vehicles you need a “Carnet de Passage”. Basically a passport for your bike. Mine was not stamped correctly from the agency in Rome so in order to fix that of course I had to pay an extra fee. Baksheesh is common in this part of the world.
After months of anticipation we are finally in Iran. Now the challenge is to understand as quickly as possible the driving habits of the locals. It is our number one rule when driving these big and heavy bikes in new far away countries. Immediately we understand that in order to move forward you have to drive aggresivly as we drive in Naples. Being both Italian it is not impossible for us.
It is now mid afternoon and I look at Matteo with a face of discomfort due to the extreme heat. We decide to stop at a restaurant when both of us agree that driving in these extreme heat condition is impossible. We are all geared up and a heat stoke could very possibly happen putting our health at risk.
We start thinking that maybe the initial road planned will not be possible. Travelling south of Iran to Shiraz and Esfahan, crossing the Dash a Lut desert in the summer on bikes is virtually crazy. We actually learned that the Dash a Lut desert is the hottest place on earth with a maximum registered heat temperature in history reaching 70.7 degrease celsius. After speaking with some locals they tell us that in the South temperatures can easily reach 50 degrease celsius. NO WAY !!! Definitely a change of plans have to occur. We decide to go to Tabriz and visit northern Iran instead. The Elburz Mountains south east of Tabriz, the picturesque village of Masuleh, Teheran and Mashad are now part of our new plan on our way to Turkmenistan. Departure is set at 5 AM every day until noon. For sure, even if the original plans for Iran have changed, the new road will give us a fantastic view of what appears to be another magical country.
Mt. Ararat. Border Turkey – Iran
Central Bazar of Teheran
One of the thousand Martyrs on the streets of Iran.
Today a much better day. Not to much happening as it was mostly a driving day. We had to stay an extra 24 hours in Thessaloniki to find the missing part for Matteo’s bike. At 9 Am the new CDI part was in our hands and by 6 PM we reached Marmaraereglisi a small town by the sea of Marmara in Turkey where we decided to rest for the night. The plan is to depart at around 6 AM and try to make up for the delay. Unfortunately we did not spend anytime in Greece. That will be a different trip. We both love the Greek people. So nice.
It is disturbing though to see what happened in the big cities such as Thessaloniki. The crisis that hit the country is very tangible. Most of the retail shops are abandoned. There is only a small part of downtown that is still vibrant. The rest is pretty sad to see. If Europe does not change quickly the vision of a strong united European State I don’t believe it can last for much longer. It is obvious that what happened was not created by the Greek people but by a bunch of burocrats in Brussels. Really sad if you think how fast it all can happen.
Tomorrow we will cross the Bosphorus strait that will lead us to Asia. Since it will be mostly driving for a couple of days crossing Turkey, I doubt we will have anything interesting to post. Looking forward to taste the fantastic Turkish chai on the road once again…….
See you in Iran.
Not such an early departure this morning. Leaving my home and family this time was harder than expected. The bike is way to heavy to ride across the many “off road” roads that we have planned on maps and GPS many month prior. To make me feel better I tell myself that I will have time to lose some pieces of cargo along the way.
I arrive in Ancona early to pick up the tickets for the ferry for both Matteo and myself. As soon as I get to the check in office, I already can feel a sort of excitement because I am immediately surrounded by people from different ethnicity and countries. Strange enough not many Italians boarding at this time of the year toward Greece. It is unusual, I was expecting many bikes on that ferry. I order myself a coffee and I am enjoying the moment.
Couple of hours later, here comes Matteo. I can see immediately that something is wrong. Not even the time for him to take off his helmet and he tells me he is not coming. WHAT ? Completely shocked I asked him. His answer was that to many things went wrong with his bike arriving from Voghera to Ancona and he thought of that of being a sign of destiny. To be honest I thought about a similar scenario in the past so I was somewhat ready to depart alone. Maybe not all the way to the Wakhan Corridor but I was determined not to give up such an opportunity to visit territories that always created great imaginary attraction to me. No way I would have missed this opportunity to visit Iran and the Pamir. By that time I was ready and determined to board the ferry and complete the trip alone. I wasn’t happy about it. That is for sure. Having Matteo with me was a much better scenario. We travel so well together.
Some time passed and It was almost time to board the ferry when I tried to convince him one more time before it was too late for him to join. Thankfully I managed to get him a coffee and talk it over with him. He said that the bike did not feel right. I managed to persuade him to board the ferry and that the following day we would have stopped at a mechanic to have a look at every concerns he had with the bike. He was obviously just tired and stressed.
I really did believe he was not going to go. Ouch!!!!!
Matteo is now on the Ferry to Greece
LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN………
Here we go again with the request for Visas. This time the countries we will visit are Iran – Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan – Tajikistan – and Kyrgyzstan. The reason is to travel to the Pamir Highway along the Wakhan Corridor along Afghanistan on the Kyrgyky side. The plan is pretty challenging to put together but Matteo and I are extremely exited to get back on the road together as a team. Matteo has put to sleep his old trusted Honda Dominator. Don’t worry….. She is still alive and sound but she is now retired for occasional Sundays outings. A well deserved retirement for the old Dominator. His new baby is a 1987 Transalp 650 that with the help of his good friend and mechanic Silvio, he has carefully rebuilt new for this more demanding journey. As for myself I will travel with my 2016 Honda Africa twin that replaced my beloved KTM 990 Adventure after the completion of our epic journey around the world.
Roberto’s Africa Twin.
Matteo’s Honda Transalp.
Our planned departure is set for the first week of July. According to the map below the journey will be approximately 11,000 Kilometres and will take about 40 days to complete. Even though internet access will be limited, we will try to post our progress of the adventure as much as we can. Make sure to follow us on the road HERE for our current location.