Riding has always been a good experience for me. Until today. I can honestly say that today was the hardest day I have had since the beginning of my journey. It all started the night before, when I could already hear the rain tumbling down. At this point, only one thought crossed my mind : Ohhhh.. Shit.
I woke up the next morning to find that the rain had left a lot of rubbish all around the city. It had stopped raining though, and I was ready to go for my longest stage : 519 kms. As a security, I thought I would put on the rain gear, just in case. A little back-up story about why I had to do such a long stage today : there are 3 main borders between Turkey and Iran. 2 of them were pretty close to Van, where I stayed, and one is about 200 kms North. The 2 closest borders were closed because of a conflict between the 2 countries (nothing is really clear about the exact reason, but one thing I heard is 8 Iranian trucks got burned down, and 11 people working at the Turkish side of the border were kidnapped). So I had to use the only border that was still open, which meant going 200 kms North, crossing East, and going back 300 kms South in a sort of loop.
Getting close to Iran
And so I left. There was a little rain on the way, and I got cold pretty quickly. I was getting close to Dogubayazit, which is the last town before the border to Iran, and I just had to pass one last mountain, which was pretty high (2600 meters at some point) and therefore pretty cold. Also, I was chased by 2 dogs who got really close to the bike, and got thrown rocks at by kids from a higher rock on the mountain. These guys can’t even aim. Try again, loosers. I saw 2 of the trucks that were burned, and there was not much left of it.
A few kilometers left !
I finally went through the chaotic town of Dogubayazit, which means I was only 23 kms from the border now. I was getting excited. As I approached the first checkpoint, one man came to me and told me where to stop and show my passports. He also offered to change money, which I usually would not accept to do in a border, but I was ready to take the risk and change a little amount (50 euros) just because I really needed to fill up fuel on the other side. I was willing to lose a bit of money on the exchange rate. I would only realize how much I had lost later that day. I followed him to the next checkpoint, where I had to have my passport stamped for exit. People were extremly rude, not caring about the queue whatsoever, jumping everywhere, throwing huge bags of merchandise all around, but I finally got my passport stamped. I got back to my bike, and went back to the first big gate that separated Turkey from Iran. We had to wait 20 minutes until they opened it and let a few vehicles cross, me included. I had done half of the procedure.
I was welcomed on the other side by one of the men who fix all the paperwork for a little money, and I had already given up on doing it all on my own, since there is no indication anywhere and the place is just one huge administrative maze. He took my passport and Carnet de Passage and made me jump over lines, went to beg some crooked officials (who were really mean to everyone, almost slapping and hitting some of them) to sign the documents, and finally got everything sorted out after running around the whole building. I was relieved, and he asked for 40 euros. We agreed on 20, which was the price I read on the internet. One last thing, he said. I needed to get insurance. Without it, they would not let me pass the border. My green card didn’t cover Iran, and it made sense to get one, but I wasn’t sure about the price. I wanted to keep driving and get the insurance the next day, but he would not let me and still had my passport and Carnet in hand. I followed him to the insurance place, and they wanted to charge me 120 euros for it. I called my friend in Iran who confirmed that the insurance should not be more than 75 euros. I was getting tired of all that, and managed to bring the price down to 80 euros, which was still a bit too much. I am pretty sure I got insulted in Persian, but got away safe and free, and more importantly with all my documents in hand.
I had not even done half of my stage, and was already exhausted by all that. And then, the rain showed up again. Heavy, heavy rain. For 250 kms, it would not stop. Every minute was a torture, and my rain gear wasn’t enough to stop it all. I could feel my boots getting more and more soaked, then my pants, jacket, jumper, t-shirt. I had never been so cold in my whole life, and I could not afford to stop or I would get even colder. I had to keep going, pushing the limits. I don’t want to sound like the ultimate adventurer or anything by using such words, but it actually is how it felt, as this was a really difficult stage. I started shaking 180kms from my destination, Urmia, and it would only get worse and worse. The last 100 kms seemed to be the longest ever, and my whole body was so tense it started to hurt. I found the guesthouse, got off the bike, mumbling a few words as I could not speak properly because of the shaking. I went straight to the shower and had the best and longest shower of my life.
“Oh, hey!” I said coming out of the shower. “I am Flo!”.
At the guesthouse with other bikers
By the way, remember those 50 euros I exchanged at the border ? Apparently I should have gotten about 1’850’000 Rials for it. Yeah. I got 160’000 instead. If I catch that old bastard, I’ll make him eat his 160’000 Rials. And I do not mind wasting that, because it is only worth 4.5 euros.