Hills. Or I should say, one gigantic hill. That was my day. Despite the hardship (my body having not faced proper hills for a while), it was a beautiful ride as I headed inland from Asalem. Dense forest towers over the road, so for most of the day I was riding in the mottled shadow. Being out of direct sun didn’t stop me from sweating though and I felt like I was back in Indonesia, able to wring out a cup-full of sweat from my shirt.

I experienced an incredibly nice start to the day, just a couple of minutes after I’d turned off from the main road out of Asalem. I stopped at a little shop to buy a few supplies (tomatoes, baked beans, apples, fruit bar and coke). The nice lady invited me to sit down on the platform out the front and have some tea. Not only was I brought tea, but the lady’s very beautiful daughter brought me a full breakfast, consisting of fresh bread, cheese, sweet fruit chutney, grapes and tea. What a way to start the day! In return I gave them a bowlful of dried apricots, dates and walnuts from Azerbaijan.

I was treated to more tea and snacks as the day went on. Every flat patch of roadside was occupied by families stopping for a picnic. I accepted invitations a couple of times. The first was with a cute little family of four. We couldn’t really have a conversation, but it was still a comfortable situation nonetheless. I was treated to tea and melon.

All the while I grew increasingly exhausted, despite not making good distance. I have stopped just outside the small town – I am not sure of its name as it is written in Persian on my map. I had stopped to take a photo and when I climbed the embankment to get a better shot, I learned that the top of it consisted of an attractive grassed area that extended away from the road. I went for a quick scout and found a flat spot where I could pitch my tent that would be out of sight of the road, and out of sight of nearly all the settlements in the area. I am surrounded by hills dotted with homes, but feel that I won’t be disturbed. When I rode to the spot I passed a couple of oldish guys out for a walk. They came back past after an hour or so carrying bags of shopping. By this time I had set up my tent. We greeted each other and I think (it was with sign language) one of them asked me why I don’t put my tent on the flat spot right on top of the hill. I have put it off to the side on slightly sloping ground so I could be hidden from people as much as possible. Their query had helped me feel that I’m not doing anything wrong by camping here.

Soon after I stopped riding I started getting cold and it has continued to get colder. I think I am going to have to be in my sleeping bag for the first time in a while. Lately I have been using it like a blanket and even then only in the very early morning when the night is at its coldest. Tonight I’m going to have to get snug inside it from the start.

(Almost) On top of the world

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 37.86km
Average cycling speed 7.5kph
Total distance ridden 23,764km