With the day drawing to an end – it being 6.20pm and almost dark – I feel as if I have been through a lot today. I think this feeling has come about because of how varied my experiences were. I woke up to the calming sound of flowing water interrupted by the occasional whoosh of passing traffic. The sky was clear. As I continued the climb to the border, I appreciated that the gentle incline wasn’t too challenging and the scenery beautiful. I spent the last of my Iranian money on water, biscuits, cola and canned chickpeas before negotiating the crossing. Border control felt quite disorganised but I think this was only because I didn’t pass through standard channels. Instead, I was allowed to bypass the main lines and get ahead of everyone else waiting. The perks of being a very out of place foreigner. I ended up making friends with one of the soldiers (an English teacher who was 11 months into his 21-month military duty and feeling as if the experience was pulling him backwards in life) and he helped me pass through Iranian customs quickly. At one point he joked that his mum wears tights like the ones (cycling ones!) I was wearing.
On the other side a stern-looking guy said ‘Turkey stamp’ and I stupidly responded, ‘I’m going to Turkey’. I thought I was still in Iran and he was asking to see a departure stamp, but it turned out I had actually crossed into Turkey. The guy took my passport and disappeared into a little office. On his return he said I needed to buy some kid of document. I said I didn’t know anything about this and that I already had a visa. Looking annoyed, he announced again, a little more forcefully, that I needed to buy a pass before I could enter the country. It was at this point I realised I hadn’t given the printed piece of paper that represented my visa. He took it and the passport back into the office and after another couple of minutes I was waved in. I followed him through the office, realising I was again bypassing a long line of people. Along the way someone made a comment about my cycling tights. Passing through customs was easy, as the officer I faced only looked in one bag. Then I was free to leave.
I was surprised when I wasn’t faced with any kind of touts as I entered Turkey. No one asking me to swap money or anything. Just an empty road. The climb continued and I slowly made my way into the storms swirling around the pass. It rained a little, but not enough to soak me. The wind was horrendous though and at times it almost had me at a standstill. On the odd occasion I passed someone I tested saying hello, receiving a blank stare from an old guy and happy smile from a boy. I had thought I might be able to make it to the town of Van, but the wind killed this idea.
Right now I am camped right beside the main road, but completely hidden from sight, being at the bottom of a steep embankment leading from the road to an open field. I just got my tent up when proper rain arrived and I spent some time just lying still and resting. The sun came out after a while I took the chance to prepare some food for dinner. While doing so I got a shock when I glanced up the embankment and was confronted by a shepherd boy squatting nearby, watching my every move. He asked a lot of questions but not knowing what he was saying I couldn’t give him any answers and he eventually moved off with this flock. As I ate I enjoyed watching the day come to a close. While the sky darkened, I looked out across the field towards a tiny village nestled in the crook of some hills, where lights began to twinkle. I found myself wishing I was from the same kind of quaint little village made up of a handful of buildings. A place that I could look on from afar like this and say, ‘See that little cluster of homes? That’s where I’m from.’
|Distance ridden today||84.34km|
|Average cycling speed||16.4kph|
|Total distance ridden||24,606km|