Culture and moral police

Trip report: Iran 2013. Souks in Esfahan - Motomorgana, nomads riding around the world on a motorbike adventure.
Souks in Esfahan
After our little problems of the last few days, it’s great to be in a more populated area again. Again temperatures rise and traffic gets crowded, but we both needed a bit of variation. We are lucky to find a great and unbelievably cheap hotel and with the advice of friendly locals, we end up in ‘the most posh restaurant in town’. And that wasn’t an understatement. Waiters dressed like penguins serve us the most exquise, traditional Iranian meals and the setting is just awesome. A glass of wine would have made it complete but for the price, we aren’t exactly in the position to complain.

We don’t feel like walking back to the hotel that evening and just as we want to take a taxi, a car stops next to us and opens the passenger door. “Are you a taxi driver?” “No, but I want to speak English with you. Get in!” The man proposes to show us around the city and even invites us for lunch the next day. Just like that, free of charge. The Iranian hospitality is unbelievable and we decide to spend a couple of days in Isfahan to enjoy the city, its architectural treasures and its friendly people. As we stroll from palace to mosque tobazaar and enjoy the local free guiding services, Caro’s wrist gets better so we can continue our ride further south.

The twisty road to Shiraz takes us through pretty remote areas and just as we are looking for a nice camping spot, an enormous hotel arises at the horizon. The parking lot is empty and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. But the hotel is open. During winter time this spot appears to be a skiing resort. During summer they offer top luxury rooms at rates no one will probably believe. It allows the hotel manager to make a little extra money off season. Luxury is all ours!

Meeting other travellers has been pretty limited so far. Not that we ar not open to other people. There are just no other foreigners around. Except in Shiraz. The cozy atmosphere of the traditional Persian hotel attracts people from all over the world. The cool patio looks like a scene from Alladin and as you lie down on one of the many couches and pillows, it never takes long before you have a nice conversation and thenyou end up with even more people and more coziness. This is also the only place where I have seen women take off their veil.

Outside the hotel walls, the atmosphere is different though. What once used to be the wine region of Iran with its world famous Shiraz grape, has now become the territory of the conservative moral police. As opposed to the north, where people even used to offer us illegaly distilled alcohol every now and then, the south seems much more strict ans disciplined. ‘Unwanted’ behaviour is immediately penalised and women are chased away from the park by shouting officers. Men are left alone. Emancipation has yet to be introduced here I guess…

The hottest place on earth

Our next destination will be the more eastern town of Kerman. In an attempt to avoid the heat and the traffic of the city, we are in the saddle at 6 o’clock AM sharp. Sealed roads make place for some nice dirt and in this stunning environment, our simple eggs-and-tasteless-bread-breakfast tastes divine. Fully recharged, we take the bikes for a blast on the Bakhtegan salt lake, an excellent surface for our rally tyres. Caro does pretty well and as I stop for a picture and see her riding along, I can’t but conclude that her self confidence just got a serious boost! “That’s my girl!” By the time I tucked my camera away, she’s already pretty far ahead of me and I have to make some serious speed to catch up with her. But as I am getting closer I notice that dot in the distance isn’t moving anymore. pretty soon am faced with my Caro lying under the bike at the end of a long skid mark. She is crying in pain. This is no good… I lift the bike and try to assess the physical damage. Breathing is difficult and she has a fierce pain at her left rib cage. Staying there is not an option. A shot of pain killers brings some relief, but Caro has to get out of the lake. Riding her bike off road in the sand is just impossible for the moment. And then, out of the blue, there’s that helpful Irani who offers Caro and her bike a ride in his pick-up truck so we can rejoin the sealed road. Caro is back on her bike now, but from there we slowly run out of painkillers as kilometers go up.

Trip report: Iran 2013. Dasht-e-Lut desert - Motomorgana, nomads riding around the world on a motorbike adventure.
Dasht-e-Lut desert
Kerman is known as the door to Dasht-e-Lut, the desert that accounts for the worlds hottest surface temperature ever measured. Peak temperatures up to 65° are quite common here during summertime. Our first concern is getting Caro to the hospital where she is diagnosed with bruised ribs. She won’t ride the bike for four days, will take loads of painkillers, smear tubes full of some sort of Iranian herbal cream on her rib cage and lace herself into a tight corset. After a few phone calls of the pension owner in Kerman, Caro is able to join a Swiss and a Spanish tourist in a car to go see the desert. I will go by bike. It’s already past 4 PM as we ride out of Kerman and temperatures are moderate to Iranian standards, that is below 40°C. Higher in the mountains we even see 25°C, but riding down to the desert goes along with temperatures rising to a whopping 49°C at 7.30 PM. The car is making speed now to make sure we can enjoy the sunset over the desert, but I am struggling big time to keep up with them. Speeds over 100km/h kind give me the feeling of being grilled alive. I clearly underestimated the heat.

But the beauty of the desert makes up for the heat. Fierce winds have sandblasted this place and have shaped it to an impressive scenery of tower like sculptures and silhouettes that come up against the orange sunset sky. I feel excited as I go for a play in this giant sandbox. This is the ideal playground for the KTM! A local garlic farm serves as an improvised hotel and after a delicious evening meal, it doesn’t take long before falling asleep like a log.