I am in a really good mood, feeling mischievous and full of energy. I am hiding in my tent all by myself on track running between lush green fields being grazed by cows. The fields are also being prowled by some kind of howling animal, maybe jackals. If I was with someone else I might suggest going for a walk in the dark while telling ghost stories. On my own, I think I’m just going to get some rest. Somehow though, I don’t feel exhausted.

When I woke up in the morning I felt terribly tired, and on entering the busy main road I was easily irritated by the lack of thought given to me by passing cars – here, it’s quite normal for cars to give you about 30cm of space as they fly past at 80+kph. As the day went on my mood slowly picked up. I think it was because of a combination of things: my article being published, the road in relatively good condition, my pace good, seeing the Caspian Sea again, leaving relatively barren land and entering an increasingly fertile area, riding in the shade of massive trees lining the road, making better distance than I thought I would, realising that I can easily cross into Iran tomorrow, and people seeming to become increasingly nicer. From Lankaran onward people were incredibly friendly. In the town, a trio of old guys befriended me and one guy in particular – when I was able to convey that I rode from Australia – kissed me on my cheeks, shook my hand vigorously, got a selfie, wished me well with god on my side (yep, I understood this from sign language), then came out of the shop with a Mentos packet as a gift. When I stopped to chat to a group of men a little later, one ran into his shop and brought out a 1L Sprite and packet of wafer biscuits as a gift.

As the day went on the scenery changed dramatically. I slowly approached and then rode alongside forested hills on a winding road that rose and dipped in a gentle fashion, taking me past fertile land filled with fresh produce like strawberries. I was in two minds about whether to camp or find accommodation in Astara. I never expected to come close to Astara but good progress meant that staying there became a possibility. Camping won out in the end. I left the main road and headed towards the Caspian Sea on a little road that turned into a dirt track running between beautifully green grassy fields. I was hoping to find a way onto one of the fields but the track was lined on both sides by deep ditches and walls of blackberry bushes. I continued down the track, past a point where it got rough and muddy – good news for me as it meant people don’t drive down it, so it should be quiet. I eventually settled on a flat grassy spot next to the track. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t camp in a field – through the evening I have heard guys herding their livestock on the fields and I am perfectly hidden on the track.  As soon as I had parked my bike I went for a walk and gorged on fresh blackberries. I would have kept eating them for ages if I didn’t have to get my camp sorted. I cooked noodles with tuna and vegetables for dinner and I am already looking forward to waking up and feasting on blackberries again come morning.

Two of the trio

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 124.32km
Average cycling speed 19.1kph
Total distance ridden 23,605km