Thursday, October 4, 2012

Welcome to Iran! here's the bill.

I’m happily across the border and excited to see and taste a new country. I was thinking this is the first of the dangerous ones, well, apparently so. So far, it's good, the roads appear better than Eastern Turkey, the landscape is pretty much the same and  apart from several cars and buses, no one has tried to kill me. I'm heading for Umria just across the border to meet a Facebook friend who has invited me to stay there. Since I'm well behind schedule, I'm thinking maybe give it a miss and head towards my mate Jeroen waiting for me in Tehran, so for the very least I can drop by to say hello and thanks for the offer. As I park at the side of the road to set my GPS, a white Peugeot 405 draws up in front of me and out jumps a young handsome, happy guy with a big white smile, its Hossein, my host in Umria. "Hi there, follow me" he gestures. He’s been waiting on me. How cool is that!

Courtyard of Hosseins house.
Fifteen minutes later we arrive at Hossein's place and I'm unsure the protocol here. The bike is 
parked within the walls of the closed residence but now what. Should I tell them I want to continue to Tabriz now or wait? However, the family make me feel so welcome; I decide it would be bloody rude to leave now. When I explain "I have to go tomorrow" I feel this isn't received so well. "You must stay longer"! they say, "I can't I must catch up" I stress.

Inside the house, Hossein shows me a room with a small table, a laptop, some blankets in the corner and a door to a small courtyard. "You make yourself at home here, please use my internet”, this will do nicely I think to myself, meanwhile still trying to work out in my head how early I need to leave to get to Tehran before dark next day.
I’m impressed with a guest book Hossein has put together with a list other travellers who have entered a page of thanks you’s and how wonderful it all is. I will do the same. Hossein’s younger sister also asks me to fill in her guest book which I do gladly.
Hossein’s family are nice people and we sit in the front room for lunch. They prepare a spread in the middle of the room on a rug. We all sit on the floor to eat. OK this must be the norm, although I can't sit too long or my ageing left hip pains me. A bit weird but I can go with it. Then mother sits in the corner away from the rug, as if she's been told off or is not allowed to eat with us. I'm trying to work this out but no one else notices. We have some lunch and afterwards I try to catch up on emails and other things on Hossein’s laptop.  Hossein asks that "he can show my bike to his friends? I’m ok but he wants to drive it! I never allow anyone to drive my bike; after all, I need it to get me to Australia and can’t risk any damage. However, since these people are going out o their way for me and against my better judgement I relent and after many, "be careful", "are you sure you're OK with big bike" or words of that nature I hand him the keys after turning it to face the 
Hossein and his 220cc Indian bike
gate. "Only for an hour" I'm sure he says.

At the same time, the family is locking up. Again I'm wondering what’s happening. "You come with us to town" or words to that effect beckons dad. At least I think that’s what he meant.
OK, that’s nice of you, taking me a tour perhaps, still not sure as I sit in the front seat, I did try to offer this to mother but there’s none of that here, men sit in the front. Mum sister and Hossein’s little energetic brother jump in the back. So.. I'm wondering where they will take me. Five minutes later I find out as we stop at a petrol station, Hossein’s dad, who’s mentioned money a few times already, mentions it some more. "You buy benzene" Oh! OK I see, I pay petrol and you take me tour, I understand, that's fair, so I hand over a wad of notes wondering if it’s enough, he fills the tank from empty to half full. That should do, meanwhile I'm still distracted and very anxious about my bike and is Hossein OK with it. The little brother starts to get on my nerves a bit as the additives in the chocolate chip cookies I mistakenly gave him start to work.
Dad takes us for a drive through the centre of Umrie, not really impressing me at all but I smile and 
Hossein, Dad & Mum
appreciate the generosity of the family bringing me here, then the tour I expected ends promptly and we find some highways on which the car stops several times at fruit sellers on the side of the road. I'm still not sure what’s happening but I'm not really caring about this at all now. I’m more concerned at the safety of my bike. The anxiety is becoming overpowering and after about 90 minutes hopping from fruit seller to fruit seller, I'm starting to worry more. I'm trying to ask when we're heading back, just as we stop at an orchard. What seems like an eternity, and with hyper-boy now really getting on my nerves, the family buy two large boxes of apples and lift some grapes from nearby vines. I help carry them to the car to speed things up and we finally head for home. Ah great! I feel relief starting to settle as I'm heading back to my bike however the little brother maintains my stress level as he tries to climb in the front using up the remains of his sugar overload.
Fifteen minutes later we arrive back at the family home and I'm stunned to see no bike. "Where is Hossein"? One hour I'm thinking. Is he close? I ask the dad who tries to call Hossein, I can hear the beeping from his phone that you get when the phone is out of range or switched off. He does this calmy several times in silence.  He nods negative. I'm far from calm and starting to get even more annoyed now. I've never loaned my bike to anyone, no one. Ever! This is my punishment for being stupid. In my head I’m trying to convince myself all is fine and I’m making a mountain out of a molehill but my inner voice is telling me I’m a liar.

My place of worryship for several hours.
Sitting by the computer waiting.
Two hours later and I'm now angry, I hide in the bedroom, trying not to think about it and trying not to let this kind family feel my stress. I can’t stay here forever so head to the front room in an attempt to make conversation with dad about family and so on. I show my family pictures and as always around these parts, they latch onto Suzanna, the blonde with big boobies picture. He points at picture, touching Zans boobs with his finger, “who is this”? I’ve already moved it away as if he’s molested my kids and now  I need to kill him but discount the thought very quickly, it was an accident perhaps. This is Suzanna she’s 20. “Hossein marry your daughter and live in Australia, send me money” he mentions “No fucking way on earth mate” was my thoughts still trying to forget his finger on my wee girl, but lightly shrug it off with “We don’t want her to marry until she wants to, and then hopefully in her 30’s”.  I don’t think he understands.

Eventually, after several cups of tea, me tapping on things, looking at my watch and what seemed forever, Hossein returns well after dark with the bike appearing intact. I'm jokingly trying to ease my stress with, "where have you been, my baby" and even hug my bike! All seem to be jolly but inside, I'm annoyed as hell. That was no hour, “where the hell did you go”? I'm thinking.
He mentions “I even filled it up for you” but i see the fuel level is around the same as I had left it, I must be mistaken.”You didn’t have to do that” I reply, rather perplexed.
Anyway, a few deep breaths and sigh’s  I'm now settled that the bike is OK as we head out for pizza by car. All good, we get some non alcoholic beer and now most of my stress has gone, either that or the relief has overcome my anxiety and I try to forget the way I’d felt about all this most of today.
Its late, Hossein drops me at home, goes off to work, night shift in security somewhere and will return in the morning. I find a bed has been made on the floor but this has no mattress and I cannot lie directly on a hard surface so set up my camp bed and sleeping bag making sure the family don’t see me do it. Next day I'm up putting away my bed before everyone and whilst visiting the bathroom find bodies sleeping in the front room, I realise all of a sudden that my bedroom is theirs. Crikey, this family has given up their room for me, how nice is that?  I feel guilty about any negative thoughts from the night before and try to be quiet as possible, knowing Hossein, who's been staying at work overnight will be here to take me to insurance office and to pick up some currency soon.
Hossein arrives on schedule and hands me an Iranian sim card I’d paid him for the night before but I’m surprised that phone shops were open this early. I’ve shrugged this off and after waiting for some time and some tea, he then kindly drives me around town to get insurance and several banks later we obtain a large wad of local cash.” I’ll cut and fit the sim card later when I get time” I think, keen to get moving.
Hossein and my baby
Then as I leave, dad who mentions at least every minute that they have little money asks me for some. "Fifty dollars" he says. "I'm jokingly repeat," you want money from me, for what"?  "For you staying here" he states without changing expression. I’m a moment of astonishment I'm thinking, I've missed something here, maybe someone told me this earlier and I didn't hear I was being charged. I give him the benefit of the doubt. "OK", I hand over 50 Euros,” it's all I have, no dollars”. He gives me some change in local currency which I stupidly don't count, I'm still in shock at this. I'm thinking, maybe this is normal and I've just learned my first Iranian culture thing. Welcome, here's the bill mate!  I try to shrug it off, but this eats at me the rest of that morning.

Trying to ignore what has just happened I take some photographs, bid farewell and I’m on the road. Out of town now, I'm passing over the causeway of lake Umria stopping for some more photographs and some video. Lovely place I’m thinking, I'm back on the road and the sick feeling of having to stump up payment earlier has gone. I’ve also learned another lesson and I’ve put away the picture of Suzanna deep in my wallet.
Lake Umria

Many cars and trucks beep and people wave "Welcome to Iran!" These people appear genuinely pleased to see a stranger from another land. I feel a lot better after several “Hello’s” and now I'm back into it. Perth to Perth - Yes!
Yes, this is the thing, to be on this trip, now I’m finally in the swing of things fully, no worries, no delays, I’m in it. All I have to do is stop for petrol and a drink or even eat, the simple life. Forget the negative thoughts you had earlier and move on.
I’m heading for Tehran and after several hours of happiness and the simple life have passed I'm curious about just how far I've travelled since Perth in Scotland. The last time I looked was around 10,400 kms. The distance button on my GPS now reads 346kms. What the fuck! I double check the trip meter on my GPS, yes 346. I hit the brakes as if a kid has stepped out in front of me and pull over to check the bike trip meters, press No. 1 - 610kms, What?. Press No. 2 - 610kms! What the fuck is going on?
Where are my proud 10,000 + kms I've been savouring as I go? What is happening here? I didn’t reset these! Why would I? Why would anyone?

The penny drops, and so does my camera!


  1. I think you were had, Iranian style. But I REALLY can't believe you let Hossein take your bike! Must be something in the water. It surely made for an exciting blog entry!!

  2. What an experience! You must been to Hosseins place just 4 or 5 days before us and he did pretty much the same with us too. Altough I'm happy to not let him driven my bike!
    I guess they have to relay on that money from the foreigners passing by very hard!?