Where is Ali Baba?

xxxlm, xxxxx
800km and 2,551 meters altitude gain (5,378km and 36,539 meters altitude gain in total)

 

25 November – 9 December, 2015 – We couldn’t wait to see the sea again and were very curious about what to expect as neither our two travel guides nor our extensive internet research would deliver any results. Would it be purely industrial with one petrochemical site after the other? Would it be desolate with little settlements? Would it be dangerous as we were told?

After a few more twisting roads and ups and downs we reached the coast. The first village was pretty with a little beach and a lot of fishermen. We could stock up on food but unfortunately had to continue along the main highway as that was the only coastal road. It suddenly was hot again with temperatures rising up to 30 degrees. We loved it but still had to get used to it as we were coming from the mountains with overheated houses at freezing night temperatures. Leaving that village, the scenery suddenly became dreadful: All day long we cycled along petrochemical plants. We could smell the gas and it felt very unhealthy and we thought that our nightmare might have come true. Later we learned that the gas extraction plants we passed were one of the biggest in the world. Still the Ali Baba warnings in our ears we stayed in Assalouyeh at an overly expensive hotel very anxious about the coming 400 kilometers as we feared it would continue just as that.

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Ambush interview with an Iranian radio station
Ambush interview with an Iranian radio station

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Right around the corner is the first fishermen's village
Right around the corner is the first fishermen’s village
The sea, the sea!
The sea, the sea!

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The world seen from an Iranian perspective
The world seen from an Iranian perspective
Still pretty...
Still pretty…
...becoming more industrial...
…becoming more industrial…
...not so pretty anymore.
…and now not so pretty anymore.

But it didn’t. In fact, it was the most beautiful landscape we had seen in Iran. It looked a bit like the Grand Canyon in the US at the seaside, just a little smaller, with its many canyons and reddish rocky mountains. To the right the turquoise sea roared and we cycled from one amazing site to another and through little fishermen villages. Still, after every turn we feared to finally meet Ali Baba, but he must have been busy with other things and most likely isn’t too much into cycling.

A beautiful and protected nature park right after Assalouyeh
A beautiful and protected nature park right after Assalouyeh…
...and sadly the beach is still full with garbage
…and sadly the beach is still full with garbage.
Is he Ali Baba?
Is he Ali Baba?
The pyramid next to the road is a water reservoir, which are abundant in this part of Iran
The pyramid next to the road is a water reservoir, which are abundant in this part of Iran
Which was first? The road or the power pole?
Which was first? The road or the power pole?

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Two nights we spent at a small village as we surprisingly discovered that there was a Warmshowers host. Warmshowers is a community for touring cyclist offering a bed, showers and often food for free. As we had contacted Mehran only the day before and he would not be back from work before 8pm we were welcomed by the village people, sat next to the road drinking tea and eating fruit. Mehran told us that either his father or uncle – a teacher – would pick us up. When an English teacher arrived and urged us to quickly come with him, we of course thought it was Mehran’s uncle. But he was just a teacher keen on having visitors which we only learned later when Mehran arrived asking “Who stole my guests?”. Hassan, the English teacher, turned out to be a little paranoid. He has had a rough past as he had been tortured while he was a student for his clear anti-government attitude. He constantly stressed that he has been taking pills against a depression for the past ten years, but when he told us that Merkel had been a spy for the KGB, we got our doubts about a lot of other things he told us about his country. Nonetheless we had a wonderful stay at Hassan’s house with his wife spoiling us with delicious food.

The welcome committee at the village
The welcome committee at the village
Suddenly the women wouldn't wear merely black and I looked much less like a bird of paradise
Suddenly the women wouldn’t wear merely black and I looked much less like a bird of paradise
If this isn't delicious...
If this isn’t delicious…
Sightseeing with Hassan
Sightseeing with Hassan

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With Hassan, left of Johan, his son and a friend

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Family photo with Hassan's family
Family photo with Hassan’s family

The second night we would eventually stay with our ‘real’ host after Mehran had organized a short cycling trip with the village children. We were lucky having met Mehran’s parents as well as his father is a very educated man, a writer and very knowledgable about literature and other things. He asked many questions about our culture, politics and Western views on events and we spent a wonderful evening discussing the World. Thank you Mehran and Maria for a wonderful time at your place!

Just some of the kids joining our little bike tour
Just some of the kids joining our little bike tour
We've had sooooo much fun!
We’ve had sooooo much fun!
Mehran's family. Mehran is the second from the lefthand his father is carrying his baby with me standing between Maria and Mehran's mother
Mehran’s family. Mehran is the second from the left and his father is carrying his baby with me standing between Maria and Mehran’s mother

Here we also learned that the coast was very safe to travel and that all we heard before was bullshit and going back once more to religion: The majority of Iranians are Shia Moslems whereas almost all Sunni Moslems live at the Persian Gulf. Sunni Moslems get often discriminated with not having access to the same infrastructure as Shias. E.g. the roads in this area are much worse, there is not always access to electricity or water as in other parts of Iran. Sunnis speak mostly Arabic and are disparagingly called “Arabs”. Hence, these animosities.

One evening when looking for a place to sleep, a man, who led us to a mosque, offered Johan money for me, after he had ‘accidentally’ touched me twice. Johan got very worried, that this man would show up at night and we very happily accepted an invitation of an Arabian living and working in this village.

On the road again
On the road again

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Tailwind!
Tailwind!

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At the Arabian's house
At the Arabian’s house

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Coffee break behind an abandoned building
Coffee break behind an abandoned building

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It's very hot
It’s very hot
Dinner with fish at a family's house
Dinner with fish at a family’s house
Our hosts - the woman with the facial mask was clearly the boss of a huge family
Our hosts – the woman with the facial mask was clearly the boss of a huge family

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A nice fishermen's village
A nice fishermen’s village

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A typical beach in Iran: small platforms - with or without roof - and a barbecue in front. At the back toilets and showers, perfect for camping as long as you don't mind people's chatters until the wee hours
A typical beach in Iran: small platforms – with or without roof – and a barbecue in front. At the back toilets and showers, perfect for camping as long as you don’t mind people’s chatters until the wee hours
Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset
Beach cleaning at sunrise
Beach cleaning at sunrise
Johan and his least favorite friend
Johan and his least favorite friend

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Great load factor
Great load factor
A typical roundabout usually featuring something typical from the region - the Quran can be found most often, no surprise
A typical roundabout usually featuring something typical from the region – the Quran of course is displayed most often…
...and here some prawns for a change.
…and here some prawns for a change.
Even the youngest ride a motorbike
Even the youngest ride a motorbike

After more than a week in this remote and stunning area we took a ferry to the more touristy island Queshm and we spent a few days at a relaxing guesthouse. We met two other touring cyclists, cycled and walked through a Unesco Geopark before we finally returned back to Bandar Lengeh to take a ferry to Dubai.

Squeezed in between the cars on the ferry
Squeezed in between the cars on the ferry
Cycling through an old fishermen's village famous for its many wind towers
Cycling through an old fishermen’s village famous for its many wind towers
The same village seen from the Portuguese castle or what's left from it
The same village seen from the Portuguese castle or what’s left from it

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The old harbor
The old harbor
A lot of camels
A lot of camels
Shipyard where wooden ships are still built like 100 years ago
Shipyard where wooden ships are still built like 100 years ago
Ali Baba?
Ali Baba?

At the Unesco Geopark:

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At our guesthouse with the owner and the two other cyclists Heiner and Patrick
At our guesthouse with the owner and the two other cyclists Heiner and Patrick
Last day on the island
Last day on the island
A refugee camp outside a small town back on the mainland
A refugee camp outside a small town back on the mainland
Enjoying one more Iranian hospitality
Enjoying one more Iranian hospitality – the kids of our host
Fresh crabs as a starter...
Fresh crabs as a starter…
...and shark as a main.
…and shark as a main.
Our room for the night
Our room for the night

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Last full day cycling in Iran
Last full day cycling in Iran
Last time camping in Iran at the beach
Last time camping in Iran at the beach
Last night spent with an Iranian host
Last night spent with an Iranian host
At the harbor - and no, this is not our ferry
At the harbor – and no, this is not our ferry
Our luxury speed boat to Dubai
Our luxury speed boat to Dubai
Bye bye Iran
Bye bye Iran

Our two months in Iran were filled with lots of pleasant encounters with the most hospitable people we’ve ever met. However, people are very unconfident. Never ever had we been asked so often to tell the World that Iranians are good people. While people are very proud of their heritage, they aren’t of their government. They would always avoid political issues, be it because they feared any consequences or because they were afraid about our opinions. Iran has many humanitarian issues to be resolved, freedom of expression isn’t existing, the media are controlled by the Iranian mullahs and internet access is blocked to an extend that it really gets annoying. The country is run by conservative clergymen, the president acting as a puppet.

Given the amount of traffic and the lack of smaller, traffic free roads, we weren’t in cyclists’ heaven but still felt safe on the road at all times. We were sad leaving behind this hospitable country but very excited about our next destination, the United Arab Emirates.

8 thoughts on “Where is Ali Baba?

  1. Oh! So nice to see those photo’s! I did the same route, along the coast. Wonderful memories although I had a lot of trouble there, cycling alone. But the coastal road was so amazing pretty and quiet and not much trouble either there. GREAT PEOPLE! It’s unbelievable how hospitable the people are. Very nice photo’s too.

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  2. I look forward to each instalment of your travels. Your photos are becoming more beautiful. Is that salt along one of the roads? Thanks for sharing! Hugs.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this..from someone sitting in Australia and living vicariously through your words and pictures on a lazy Sunday morning..

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  4. Reblogged this on Moss & Bush and commented:
    For those that don’t know, Eb and I want to cycle across the Middle East sometime this year. This is a great blog showing what it is truly like in Iran. Reading this blog has made us feel so excited to go there.

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  5. Hallo Johan en Bärbel. Wat weer een prachtige blog met die schitterende foto’s. We hebben weer genoten. Weten jullie al hoe de verdere reis er uit gaat zien? We hebben nog een mooie foto gevonden van Henk als acrobaat op een tandem, zittend op het achterste zadel en gestrekt naar het stuur. je heb het fietsen dus niet van een vreemde, Johan. Ik weet alleen niet hoe ik de foto moet oversturen, maar we bewaren hem wel voor jullie.
    hartelijk groeten uit Zuidlaren van Corry en Eltjo.

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