After leaving Azhang and Bita we continued to cycle out of Shiraz. Traffic was heavy due to it being a weekend, with lots of people heading out of the city to spend a day in the surrounding countryside.
After a few too many close over-takers we decided to try our first hitch in Iran. Iranian drivers really are the worst we’ve ever encountered, even worse that Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan.
Hitchhiking isn’t that common in Iran we’re told and the road we were on was pretty fast moving but eventually a truck did stop and a lovely chap dropped us 25km down the road where the traffic was beginning to thin.
Very soon we turned off the main road leading to Isfahan and took a rural detour via Sepeydan. When we reached the town we stopped for an ice cream and got chatting to a local who eagerly showed us pictures of his mountain bike. He had it in the back of his car along with all his gear so he ended up cycling with us up the hill for an hour.
In true Iranian style, a carpet was laid over two large slabs of styrofoam and a pot of tea, complete with silver tray, and a huge bowl of fruit is produced. It was a lovely way to end the day before we found a secluded spot to pitch our tent.
The next day promised a mix of climbing and long downhill sections. The landscape was pretty brown after the long summer.
A long downhill section awaited us the next morning which would take us towards the town of Yasuj. We needed to spend some time there changing money and food shopping.
A small point of interest along the way down was what is known as the Persian Gate. It’s a steep valley where the Achaemenid army took its final stand against Alexander the Great’s oncoming Macedonian forces. The battle that took place here is as historic as the famous Persian-Spartan battle of Thermopile because it’s outcome really decided the fate of the war and the numbers of each side were heavily uneven. Unlike Thermopile it was the Persians who were the underdogs at the Persian Gate (10,000 v 700) but by using the terrain to their advantage they managed to wipe out huge swathes of Alexander’s men forcing them to retreat and regroup. Unfortunately for the Persians, their victory was short-lived, and Alexander managed to find an alternative route up the mountain, ambushing the Persians and slaughtering most of them. He then marched onwards, unchallenged, to Persepolis.
The valley also offered up a rare opportunity for us to wash our clothes. Iran seriously lacks water at this time of year as it has no major rivers running through any of the country.
We were very worried that the next stretch of road would be really busy but the cycle ended up being incredibly scenic and the road had a descent hard shoulder and wasn’t too crowded.
Day 4 promised a lot of climbing but with it the scenery got better and better.
We also had to navigate through a lot of tunnels.
After a particularly long climb we free wheeled down into this beautiful valley where this picturesque town overlooked tiered rice fields, mountains completing the picture behind.
Ab Malakh waterfall is situated 10km off the main road. Visitors need to get down the very steep dirt track to the river and climb up the other side to the tiny village beyond which acts as a base to walk the 2km to the falls. We were certain we’d be able to get down to the village but had no inclination to, or conviction that we’d be able to, cycle back up the next morning. This meant we needed to try and organise a lift.
The thing about travelling with a tandem for nine months is that you end up thinking that anything is possible and that everything will be OK in the end. So we descended the steep track confident that we’d be able to communicate what we needed to someone in the village. Of course we were happy to pay any costs.
However it was all good. We reached the village and met two young lads called Ibrahim and Hassan who had a very small amount of English. With a our limited Farsi and lots of hand signals we managed to communicate that we needed a truck or car to pick us up at 11:30 the next morning, they said no problem, they could arrange it. Experience has learnt that 99.9% of time you can completely trust people. Sorted!
To top it off a local family in the village offered to host us that night and we spent a lovely evening eating barbecued fresh fish caught from the waterfall and sleeping on their porch.
One of the sons (I’m afraid we’ve forgotten his name!!) offered to take us to the waterfall the next morning so at 8:30 the three of us set off.
Then we caught sight of the waterfall which looks like it’s just pouring down from the middle of the mountainside through a rich green arch of vegetation to the river below.
Over the years the river has carved out a new path through the rock creating a short tunnel. At the same time, an underground spring inside the mountain found an opening where the landslide had occurred; hence the water cascading down over the tunnel made by the river.
After a while we realised he had a plan to tow us and the tandem up the slope… ‘Ummm… I’m not sure that’s going to work’ we said.
We’ve managed to get tandem on every kind of transport imaginable… Trains, buses, trucks, tiny cars… we even got it on this canoe boat once in Myanmar…
But we had never got it on a motorcycle before… Until now.
Our lovely guide went to fetch his other motorbike and together we took the bags, wheels and seat posts off and strapped tandem across the first bike with Paddy perched on top. Unfortunately we have no photos of this…
The second bike took me and most of the luggage. Somehow we managed to get everything up in just three trips. The guys were absolute heroes. Here they are at the top looking pretty pleased with themselves!
It was 1:30 before we got back to the road and we had some serious climbing to do. We were heading to the town of Semirom where we planned to catch a bus to Isfahan. It didn’t really matter if we arrived that night or tomorrow morning so we didn’t push it.
On the way up we were given gifts of water, cakes, apples, a bag of walnuts and a huge box of dates. Iranians really are the friendliest people ever.
We camped off the side of the road 40km from Semiron and tucked into the dates… Iranian dates are like little droplets of heaven, I can’t eat enough of them and they are particularly nice spread over a digestive biscuit. 🙂