Thursday, April 30, 2009

DAY 159 TILL DAY 163

Time was ticking on my Iranian visa, and I still hadn't entered Iran yet. It was time to pedal out of Erzurum and continue east to the Iranian border. I expected Erzurum to be a backward eastern Turkish city. But its really a city of contrasts. Its a thriving university city with the liviest pub (Cafe 79) I've been to in Turkey. But yet the influences of the Islamic Republic of Iran (to give it its full title) are very visible. Now more than ever do I see women dressed in chador,ie everything is covered except their eyes. And chador happens to be Farsi (the language of Iran) for "black tent".
Henrik,from Sweden,whom I met in the Mavi guesthouse in Istanbul, was staying at the same hotel as me in Erzurum. He was over landing through 'the Stans' and into China, then Pakistan. And we spent the evening chatting over beers, maps and guidebooks. The main topic of conversation- Visas. Speaking of which, I have something up my sleeve for the Turkmenistan visa, but I'll tell ye about that later

DAY 160
40KMs outside Erzurum and the chain breaks. Luckily I'm near a bike shop and we get it fixed. 10KMs down the road and its gone again. This is not good. I camp up for the night and decide to sleep on it.

For once the bike is at a higher altitude that me. Its strapped onto the roof of the bus I'm sitting in. We're going back to Erzurum. I change my chain every 6000KMs and I only use XT Deore components, because there is nothing better for touring. I got this chain in Istanbul. The packaging it came in was labelled "for use with XT Deore". I have my doubts.I'm about 3 days away from Iran. According to my guidebook, "domestic flights are no longer as ridiculously cheap as they were, but you can still fly from Tehran to Esfahan for only US$17. And in Iran its 5c for a litre of fuel. Basically, this all means that the poorest of the poor use motorised transport. The bike must be 100% before we enter Iran. If Iran has no bikes,then it has no bike mechanics or no bike parts.We get the chain fixed and get a spare. It may be some cheap brand but its the best I could find. I find an internet cafe and book a night in an Iranian hotel along the Caspian sea two weeks from now. And then go on to a website selling bike parts and have a XT Deore chain sent to the hotel. We load the bike back up onto the roof of a bus and continue cycling from where we stopped. The next bus I get on will have an Irish registration plate. And I don't care if it costs US$17 to fly halfway across Iran, "I AIN'T GETTING ON NO PLANE"

DAY 162
Head down, legs turning. We did over 100kms which included getting over a 2200M pass. Chain seems fine.

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