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.

Finding my way

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 49.86km
Average cycling speed 10kph
Total distance ridden 23,877km