Wednesday August 27, 2014, 112 miles (180 km) – Total so far: 5,197 miles (8,364 km)
Wednesday August 27, 2014 Since we are in a nice hotel we decided to take the day off in Shirvan, Iran for much needed maintenance on our bikes, web site maintenance, catch up on email, Jocelyn start an online school course and a nap or two. We did all that and then some. We also worked with our tour leader on updating our tour schedule and route since we will not be crossing the border into Turkmenistan. Since we are ahead of schedule and saving the three days to the border from Mashhad we will cycle to Mashhad in a roundabout way to take in the sites surrounding this very historical city. We are scheduled to fly from Mashhad, Iran to Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Monday September 8th (our Taj visa start date). This will work out good and save us many dollars on the Turkmenistan visas (about $800 USD) and changing our Uzbekistan visa dates ($320). Jocelyn keeps up with a Facebook page about cycling the “Stan” countries and the latest is that Tajikistan will close its land borders for two weeks in September. So we would not have made it anyway.
Saturday August 30, 2014 two days 112 miles We left Shirvan and continued northeast to Mashhad. The riding was flat and fast which is a first in Iran. Ali had arranged for a friend of the family living in the village of Sayid Abad to host us. We were warmly welcomed when we arrived at 6 pm. Once there we drank chai and enjoyed delicious cold fruit of melons and grapes. All along our ride today the grape vendors were out in force so it must be the season. A few hours later we feasted on a traditional Iranian meal of chicken and rice. The living room was very interesting as there was no furniture at all except for an abundant supply of very comfortable pillows.
The next morning we decided to stay and explore the local villages and were invited to our host’s brother’s home right next door. Our bikes were already there and we rode off to explore the communities. It was a fun touring ride and we returned in the mid-afternoon for a delicious lunch of spaghetti and salad prepared and served by our host’s wife and several neighbors. The carbo loading was great. We also had our laundry done – a real treat! After that our host took us to a local ice cream maker’s shop for a unique tour of how the shopkeeper has spent the last 40 years making ice cream in this village. That evening we again feasted with the large family on a traditional Iranian barley soup. Dinner was served at 10:30 pm, the normal time, with a desert of melon at midnight. These late nights can be tough but the family camaraderie is fun to participate in. We were soon fast asleep on our sleeping pads.