As mean as it sounds, I couldn’t wait to leave in the morning. Javod was incredibly nice and genuine, but there is only so many times you can hear, ‘I love you’ and ‘I am delig-ted you are here’ without it becoming annoying. In this case, it was at least a hundred times on both accounts. I should have been more prepared with a language app. Javod just had a variety of screenshots of English phrases and he took great pleasure in repeating these over and over. I was treated to a nice breakfast before hitting the road, consisting of bread, cheese, honey and tea. Then, with another round of warnings about how unsafe the road to Masouleh is, I set off on the road towards Masouleh. I had 11km kilometres to prepare myself for disappointment, as it was at this distance that I was hoping to find a way across a river and to a road that will take me in the direction I want to go. Maps.me doesn’t show a way across the river, but with the layout of roads and villages in the surrounding area, it made sense for there to be a way across. I was ecstatic to find the dirt road I wanted to take, and even happier when there was indeed a track leading down to a bridge to take me there. My worrying overnight was for nothing. And so began a hard day on the bike.
The dirt track wound up the valley for a kilometre before I took a right turn and immediately came to head to head with a climb that rivals some of the steep, dirt roads I came across in Nepal. Some of it was impossible to ride as I simply couldn’t turn the pedals fast enough to stay upright. I rode and pushed my way up, stopping every 80m or so for a breather and more often than not take a photo. I continued to climb for much of the day, though with a bit more up and downs, winding through the mountains. The scenery is spectacular out here. Mountain range after mountain range, dry, barren, brown. I came across only a few small villages. At Kahal Darst, I did something I have taken pride in not having needed to do before – ask for water. I was running low and without knowing when I would next find any, I thought it best if I asked. I passed two young guys chatting to an elderly couple on the track running through the village (they, and another old man in his garden, were the only people I saw) and asked them if I could find water in the village. One of the young guys disappeared inside the house we were next to and came out with 1.5L bottle of water, which I poured into my bladder. A few times in the day I came across forks in the road and didn’t know which way to go. Fortunately, even though I was passed by fewer than ten vehicles all day, one always seemed to come by at the right time and I was able to ask for directions. I started the day with little power in my legs and I remained pretty tired throughout.
It was about 5pm at the end of one steep climb that I came across a magical sight. Brand new bitumen. It could have been laid that day it was so fresh. The bitumen led me into a spectacular descent down to a small village. The bitumen didn’t actually last very long, but the rest of the way down had been graded in readiness a new road surface. It was an epic descent. Down in the village I only passed old people. I kept an eye out for a market but I don’t think there is one. When I got to what seemed to be the end of the village I turned around and rode back up to a group of old men. In classic style, they were sitting in a row, walking sticks in hand, chatting the afternoon away. A few ladies were around as well. I asked the men if I could find water around. The ladies then took it upon themselves to help. One opened her gate and came out with a hose. I dug out my other bladder and filled it up. Another lady gave me a frozen bottle of water.
I left the village, hoping to find a place to camp soon. I came across a perfect site where the road hits the water course. It is obviously a well-used area for picnics: perfect green grass and clear running creek. I explored it a little before returning to my bike, almost completely certain I’d move in here. Then, when at my bike, I saw a group of three enter the area, a boy and two young ladies. They saw me and seemed uncertain about showing themselves. I decided to look elsewhere, not wanting to encroach on their picnic and make the girls uncomfortable.
I followed the watercourse downhill, hoping to find a similar spot to camp. I never found anywhere ideal. I have ended up in a lower part of the village, below some really ancient (and derelict) looking homes built into the side of the hill. I came across a bit of a scrappy looking picnic area. A couple of families were just leaving the area, having obviously had a picnic. I scoped out the area and had chosen a spot deep along some small tracks when an old lady called out to me. There is a little home nearby and she obviously lives there. She seemed nice but kept talking and gesturing at me. I had no idea what she was on about. She was really dirty and her hands and forehead were red. A couple of her gestures seemed like she was asking for money. She put me off sleeping there and I instead retreated to a backup option closer to the road. As I was setting up my tent and starting to prepare dinner she appeared again. She stood nearby for a long while chatting every now and then and gesturing. She could have been saying I could have a wash at her house, but then she was also rubbing her fingers together as if she was asking for money. I basically ignored her and she eventually went away. Dinner consisted of rice, with fresh potato and onion, mixed with baked beans and a can of beef stew. It’s now pitch black and really starting to cool down. Time to get snug in my sleeping bag and hopefully regain some body power overnight.
|Distance ridden today||49.86km|
|Average cycling speed||10kph|
|Total distance ridden||23,877km|