Today was one of the hardest days I have had on the bike in a long while. Based on my assessment of the location of waterways on my contour-less Maps.me app, I was expecting/hoping to be rewarded with a downhill soon into the day. This wasn’t to be. The climb continued for more than ten kilometres. My body was on the brink of giving up the entire time. Of course, I was only 2km into the day when I got a flat tyre. In a way, this made things slightly easier as it turned everything into a bit of a farce to which I completely surrendered. Instead of worrying that the day might turn to shit, I could get on with facing the fact that the day had turned to shit and there was nothing I could do about it. No amount of positive thinking was going to turn things around. Once I’d accepted my fate for the day, I was able to put feelings of hardship aside and just get on with surviving. The 11km took me to an obvious peak, after which I faced a most enjoyable downhill. As soon as I crossed over the top I was able to cast aside my negativity and relax. The world was a nice place to be again. My pain and desperation had evaporated.

Such feelings of joy didn’t last very long. The downhill run that I expected/hoped would take me all the way to Zanjan ended after just a few kilometres. It’s been a long time since I have been on the verge of collapse from exhaustion, but I reached such a point today as I battled the hills that finally dropped into the city. I made my way downtown where I lay down in the shade of a tree within a small park. I’d made it.

From the lowest of lows, my day ended with a great high. Earlier in the day a couple of guys had pulled over to gift me with choc-milk and cake and ask me about who I was and where I was going. This was how I met Aliresar (the other guy being his driver). Ali invited me to stay in his home in Zanjan and we swapped contact details. He was visiting another town on business and would be returning to Zanjan later in the afternoon. By the time I had reached the small park I had a missed call from him. We got in touch and arranged a place to meet. I then followed Ali and his driver to the northern part of Zanjan where he lives. As we entered his neighbourhood I began to realise I was in for a treat. The area was obviously well-off. We stopped along a quiet tree-lined street in front of terraced townhouses. I could hardly believe my eyes as I entered the home Ali shares with his sister and parents. It felt palatial. The living area is open and lined with high-backed wood-framed chairs with decorative padding inlay. The wooden floors are covered in several carpets. The walls are wall-papered. The ceiling is decorated with several chandeliers that light up the space. The kitchen is large and well-appointed. At first I refused to sit down on the beautiful chairs, worried by dirty riding clothes would leave a stain. I eventually conceded and sat down, receiving a deliciously iced fruit drink. After being introduced to the wider family (Ali’s other sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew) I was able to make use of the bathroom and have a proper clean. Being in such a lovely home and surrounded by well-dressed people, I felt compelled to wear my nice trousers rather than my travel pants. Through the rest of the afternoon I had a lovely time getting to know my hosts. I disappeared for an hour to have a rest, but failed to fall asleep. After I emerged, we continued to hang out before deciding to head into town. We drove to a national park where there was a small dam (Gavazang?), then to the top of a hill overlooking the city lights. We also visited a memorial to unknown soldiers. On the way home we picked up sandwiches for dinner. By the time I got to bed it was after midnight.

My new mate Ali

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 47.7km
Average cycling speed 13.5kph
Total distance ridden 23,975km