Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Detour to Esfahan

Since we had some time to kill we jumped back on the bikes and headed south for Esfahan.  Waiting for the Uzbek visas in Tehran would have been very boring and eaten up a good chunk of our limited Rials. 

En route we fought against some strong winds and even in the night when we were camping, the wind was so strong it toppled our bikes over.  I got real annoyed with the wind.

As we were closing in on a town called Natanz an old Toyota truck stopped in the distance and a person got out and ran across the road.  Then I notice it is an army guy and he flags us down.  We go over and he asks to see our passports.  I ask to see some ID but he just says ‘police’.  I then see a gun in the back of the truck so that was ID enough for me.  I start to worry as his partner starts jotting our details down and films us.  Then they ask us to open all our bags and want to see all our camera devices.  We comply and they start looking through everything.  They make a few calls to base and then end up waiting for a return call.  As they wait the one guy asks me if I like the USA and Israel.  I keep it short and say they are good, obviously not really wanting to open up.  He then says they are terrorists and they kill children.  As he says this he takes his gun out and pretends to shoot children.  I say I wasn’t aware they did that.  Finally after asking about our religion he gets a call back from the base.  They then temporarily  confiscate all our electronics and say they will look at them in further detail with their computer back at the base and will give everything back to us at this police station located about 15km down the road in Hanjan.  I really didn’t like giving them all our stuff but we didn’t have much choice but to obey their orders.  We were very thankful they didn’t thoroughly check our bags as they missed getting our computers.  Had they found those I think things would have taken a very long time.  Anyway, we cycle to Hanjan and notice we are passing through an army base.  We hear guns and artillery going off as we pass.  There was also ‘no picture’ signs up.  At Hanjan we wait about 20 minutes and they return with all our stuff.  The guy gives everything back to us and also for the trouble gives us a juice box each.  That was very nice of him.  I have been held back by the USA border control more times than I would like and they have never given me a juice box so that was a nice gesture.  I must say, if we were Americans I think we would have been really screwed here.

We continue onward to Natanz and notice there are more ‘no picture’ signs.  Days later we discover that the army base we passed was actually Natanz Nuclear Facility, also recognized as Iran’s central facility for enrichment!  So the route we took to Esfahan probably wasn’t the best one with all these sensitive areas we passed.    

We made it to Esfahan eventually and spent a couple of days there before returning to Tehran by bus.  We are now back on the bikes and making our way towards Mashhad where we will hopefully pick up the Turkmenistan transit visas.  We only have until October 7th before our Iranian visas expire so time is of the essence!  We can’t afford many more delays.

The holy shrine of Qom.  This was on the last day of Ramadan and plenty of worshippers were out and about around the mosque doing their thing.  Both Trevor and I are kind of glad Ramadan is now over because before we were always paranoid to eat and drink in public.  We tried to get out of sight as best we could but it wasn’t always possible.  Though we did see some locals eat and drink too when it was on, but certainly not a lot.

I had always been on the lookout for pomegranates ever since we entered Iran.  Apparently this delicious fruit originated in Iran way back when.  Or at least I think it did.  They cost about 50 cents each which is quite cheap.  But the one shown here had white seeds inside and it didn’t taste as good as the red seeded ones I was used to.  I tried another one and it too had white seeds.  Maybe that is how they do them here, I don’t know. 


Trevor taking it all in at Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Esfahan, the jewel of ancient Persia and quoted as one of the finest cities in the Islamic world. 

Trevor was told by a former colleague of his to try ‘paludeh’ and here he is doing just that.  I had one as well… not bad but nothing spectacular.  Not a huge fan of the rice flour but I did like the rose syrup that it was smothered in. 

Outside the Imam Mosque.  Quite nice.

The exterior of the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque.  Impressive.  

The interior of the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque.  Also quite impressive.

On our second day in Esfahan we chilled for a long time in this particular park.  There, we were approached by many people asking about us and our trip.  A few of them offered for us to go back to their place to rest up and eat before we catch the overnight bus.  We politely declined yet again.  A gardener gave us some chai and another nice guy insisted on getting us something so he returned with two ice cream bars.  Another group of guys spoke with us, took pictures and recorded our conversations.  One of the guys asked if we had nose jobs and we said no.  I was confused but apparently nose jobs are a big thing in Iran. 

After some hard bargaining in Esfahan to get the bikes aboard the bus we made it back to Tehran.  We needed to be back in time to pick up the Uzbek visas so cycling back wasn’t an option.  Besides we both don’t like covering ground we had already cycled.  It was a 5 hour bus ride so we got back to Tehran in the middle of the night.  We cruised through the empty streets in the dark and eventually stationed ourselves near our hotel at Imam Khomeini square.  Trevor is catching some shut eye here.  Or at least trying to.

I return to the hotel with dinner after playing real life Frogger outside.  To cross a street in Tehran you have to just get in there and go.  Vehicles won’t stop so you have to keep on walking much like how it is done in Vietnam.

Finally!  The Uzbek visas are in our hands!  Getting these has been very frustrating to say the least.  First, as I alluded to in my previous post, to get to the Uzbek consulate is a bit of a trek.  Roundtrip consisted of a 10km walk and 1 hour sitting on the metro.   Also to beat the lines we got up extra early and thus missed our free breakfast at the hotel.  I never like passing up free food.  Anyway, when we submitted our documents and application the lady told us to return on August 26th.  So we did just that.  We presented her our passports and she then asks us what dates we want and all seems fine and dandy.  It looks as if we will be off again in no time.  Then all of a sudden she returns and abruptly says with a serious look on her face the visas won’t be ready today as it is the weekend in Uzbekistan.  I am confounded.  Why tell us about a week and a half ago to return on the Sunday if you knew that the visas couldn’t be issued.  I would think one would know the working days of their home country?!?  So basically the whole thing was strange and confusing.  Of course I couldn’t really argue since I didn’t want to risk our chances of getting the visas.  The next day rolls around and again we skip breakfast and make our way to the consulate.  We are seen first but the lady tells us to wait an hour and the visas will be ready.  An hour and 20 minutes later she calls us up shaking her head.  I thought we had been rejected.  She then says they are not ready again as they have to be approved by the Ministry in Uzbekistan and to return tomorrow where they will be positively ready.  I remained calm but once we left the premises I flipped out.  Trevor and I were very annoyed.  Seemed like they were toying with us and our time wasn’t precious.  I really hate it when people just waste my time.  Not like I have an infinite amount of time.  You only get so much time on this Earth and I personally don’t like spending it walking 10km roundtrip and sitting on the metro for an hour only to be asked to do the same again the next day.  Not much we could do yet again but oblige to come back the next day.  So we returned the following morning not knowing what to think.  Will we get them, will we be rejected or will we be asked to return again.  All in all, the whole thing was getting ridiculous in my opinion.  Again, we are there first and the lady asks for our passports and reconfirms the dates we want.  Things were looking up.  About 15 minutes later this guy sitting in the office asks us for $210USD.  Success!  We were approved.  I didn’t want to argue but I thought paying the $105USD each for urgent processing was a bit unfair considering that price is for 1 week processing and we pretty much had to wait 1 and a half weeks.  I think we should have got a discount.  But I didn’t argue it and just paid the money.  In hindsight, I think it would have been best to have come prepared with an LOI instead of the Letter of Recommendation we had because it seems all applications need to go through Tashkent.  Plus we spoke with and heard of other travellers getting their Uzbek visas on the spot with an LOI.  If only I had a clearer understanding of the process beforehand.  Argh. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

They Do Exist, And I Was Propositioned By One

Entering Iran we were swarmed by some men who requested a picture with us and were interested in Trevor’s solar panel.  At the border we exchanged the last 20 Lira left over from Turkey and worked off of that for the next couple of days.  We were each stocked up on two tubs of chocolate spread we picked up in Turkey so we didn’t need to spend much on food early on in Iran.  We miss those chocolate tubs from Turkey.  They were so delicious and went very well with the yummy bread here in Iran.

From my research prior to entering Iran I was aware that the people are very friendly.  It didn’t take long to see just that as we were stopped by a few guys in a truck and they gave us melon shakes as well as a plum each.  Later we stopped for some fruit at a stand on the roadside and ended up sharing a complimentary melon with these two generous guys.  Pretty much every day we received at least one freebie from someone. 

Many people drove up to us and asked about what we were doing and if they could help us out in any way possible.  In Zanjan, we met a nice man who offered for us to spend the night at his place.  We politely declined as we wanted to do a bit more cycling that day.  Plus Trevor feels a bit out of place and under their control in a stranger’s home.    

We did have a few instances where we were yet again confused as to what just went down.  This one particular guy we met was a bit too friendly for my liking.  Entering Tabriz we were stopped by this man who got out of his car and then repeated something in Farsi numerous times I didn’t understand.  Then he says thanks and gets into his car.  After reclining his seat, he asks me to massage his thigh.  I was obviously very confused.  He showed he was having leg spasms and wanted me to massage his leg.  I was thinking massage your own leg, you have two free hands.  So I got weirded out and said no sorry and then cycled on.  He said okay thanks and drove off.  After Trevor said he got huge gay vibes.  I guess my gaydar was off at the time because I didn’t think of that when speaking to him.  But in hindsight I guess that was probably the deal.  According to their president, they do not exist in Iran but I have to say… pretty sure they do.    

And second, this motorcyclist zoomed by us and mimicked machine gunning us down.  That left us a bit down and out that morning.  Didn’t quite understand the gesture. 

It had been a while since we met fellow bicycle tourists but one day we passed two.  The first was an English guy who is in the homestretch of his around-the-world journey.  He had been on the road one year and cycled from Nova Scotia to San Francisco, then cycled around New Zealand and Australia, then from Singapore all the way to Iran.  He said he has another two and a half months to go before he makes it back to his home in the Lake District of England.  I could tell he felt very happy to be nearing home.  The other cyclist was a Swede who started in Sweden and plans to take the Pamir Highway into China.  The Pamir Highway is one route I would like to tackle someday but not on this trip.

All the dry air I was breathing in and being on a diet of chalky water and dry bread early on caused me to have some more ‘plumbing’ problems.  In the past, I had problems of constantly going and now it was the other way around.  I think though it may have been dehydration that caused these recent troubles. Water is a bit more difficult to get here as there aren’t any roadside water fountains like we had in Turkey and the Balkans.  As such, we usually filled up with chalky water at gas stations. 

The grades were quite gentle all the way to Tehran.  Never had any real steep hills to climb which was a pleasant change.  We did have some fierce headwinds that weren’t fun.

In northwestern Iran there was an earthquake that hit almost a week ago.  We had no clue there was one but we were actually quite close to it when it happened.  Trevor guessed maybe 60 to 90km away. 

We arrived in Tehran a few days ago and have applied for the Uzbek visas.  Unfortunately there is a holiday sometime next week so we now have to wait a further three days on top of the one week we already had to wait.  We both hate waiting.  Plus Trevor seems to have stunk up the hotel we are staying at with his smelly feet.  The smell was so bad on the first day he was asked to put his shoes on the rooftop.  I don’t think the staff at this particular hotel are very fond of us.  So this gives us more reason to get out of Tehran as quickly as possible.  The plan now is to jump back on the bikes tomorrow and head south towards Esfahan.  Then take the train or bus back to Tehran when the visas are ready for pick up.  

Here I am working on one of my tubs of chocolate in this sheltered hut we found by the roadside.

Trevor fixing a flat he couldn’t locate early one morning.  Almost every day Trevor’s tires are a bit flat.  He has inspected his tires but cannot find any puncture.  He suspects a small leak somewhere but isn’t bothered to do a thorough examination.  So he just continues to pump his tires every so often.
Some nice mountainous scenery en route.

Here I am in Tabriz downing some chalky water.  I read in my Lonely Planet that this city may have been the gates of paradise to the Garden of Eden.  Well that is according to some biblical clues.  I don’t know much about that stuff but I must say the city didn’t look like paradise to me.
A quick stop to take in the scenery. 

I was wondering when it would happen.  For the first time on this trip we had been discovered while stealth camping.  This sheep herder found us after his dog barked at us.  We tried to speak to one another but he knew no English and I knew no Farsi so the exchange didn’t last long.  He was cool about us camping and let us be.  Nice guy.
Sad to see my President’s Choice water bottle go, but after four and a half months of reusing the bottle I think it was time to replace it.  It had some green stuff growing inside it so it has been tossed.  Same deal for Trevor’s water bottle so he threw his out too.
Had a huge scare which left me shaking in my shoes.  We were cycling down a road and all of a sudden there is an explosion right next to us.  Dust and debris goes flying everywhere and the noise was damaging to the ears.  I immediately stop trying to figure out what just happened.  I thought maybe the trucker ahead didn’t like us and wanted to bomb us.  But Trevor said no, that kind of thing doesn’t happen in Iran.  Turns out the back tire of this truck blew up.  
I still don’t quite get the sanctions going on in Iran.  I thought we wouldn’t be seeing the name brands we see in the west.  But here I am with a Canada Dry.  It does note though the product was made in Iran but under the authority of Schweppes Holdings Limited.  But I have seen other name brands where their products were made in the USA or Europe.  Or maybe these sanctions just apply to stuff like oil, petrol, banking and shipping.  I don’t know.  Another thing that confuses me is the exchange rate for Iranian Rials.  Inflation is crazy here.  When I check online for the rate it states 1USD = 12,300IRR and 1EUR = 15,090IRR or thereabouts.  But the rates we have received are 1USD = 21,000IRR and 1EUR = 26,000IRR.  So I am confused once again. 

Trevor taking cover from the hot heat.  It’s very warm here.
Entering Tehran was complete chaos.  The city is a nightmare to cycle in.  Cars and buses everywhere; motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic coming from all directions; traffic lights not working.  We saw two motorbikes collide and a fight break out coming in.  With all this madness, I needed a milk break. 

The Swiss embassy got me out of a pickle yet again much like they did when I was robbed in South Africa back in 2010.  Tough to figure out online what is true when it comes to visa procedures in different countries.  I had the understanding going in that Swiss nationals did not require a Letter of Invitation for Uzbekistan.  After walking 5km from the metro station to the Uzbek embassy in Tehran and then waiting 3 hours outside the embassy we were shunned away for not having an LOI.  I was down and out as an LOI takes two weeks to retrieve.  That would have meant 3 weeks to get the Uzbek visas and we would have to extend our Iranian visas as well.  That said, they also would accept a verbal note from our embassy in place of the LOI.  This I did not know and I don’t think is well known over the Internet.  So we raced to the Swiss embassy the same day after walking many more kilometers in the heat.  Very nice walking into the Swiss embassy as everything was clean, calm and cool inside.  At a cost of 780,000 Rials they issued us a verbal note on the spot.  This was a HUGE relief.  My dumb luck paid off.  I could have played it safe and arranged an LOI three weeks ago but thought I’d see what the deal was when we arrived in Tehran.  We don’t have them yet in our passports but things are looking good.  After we get them, the stress will continue as we will need to get the Turkmenistan transit visas but plan to do so in Mashhad with the help of a man named Vali who runs a homestay there.  Hope things go to plan because our Iranian visas end September 7th, 2012 and that is around the time we plan to cross into Turkmenistan.  All in all, I am a bit stressed out because if something goes wrong it could really suck.  Ahhhh… the joys of ‘Stan visas…

Trevor excited and thrilled to be in front of the Azadi Freedom Tower in Tehran.

To kill some time here in Tehran I went for a little stroll around town today.  Not much was open though as it is Friday which is like our Sunday.  I always enjoy checking out bazaars and walked through a few of them. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hills, Horns, Heat, Hellos and Hounds

Not a day went by where we didn’t have hills, horns blasting, blistering hot heat, constant hellos and hounds chasing us.  All in all it was tough going through Turkey, especially in the east.

The grades were really steep on the coast but lessened a bit as we headed inland.  However, the hills never stopped.  Everyday up and down and up and down and up and down.  I wondered many times if TCK (the Turkish road builders) made the correct decisions as to where they lay the asphalt because I am sure I saw flatter paths than the routes they have in place.  For example, on the Black Sea coast we had to climb a hill a bit inland but if they constructed the road right on the coast it would have been flat all the way through.  Just saying… then again I am no transport engineer. 

We obviously don’t mind support from passing drivers but the honking of the horn got real annoying really quick.  Especially the drivers who honked very loud right beside us.  It is deafening.  Most of the time it is for support or to show you they are cheering you on.  But seriously the noise brought on a lot of mental stress.

This time of year it is super hot in Turkey.  Temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius pretty much every day.  When climbing up hills the heat sometimes was just too much. 

As we progressed east we received more hellos.  This reminded a lot of what it was like in Vietnam when we cycled through there back in 2008.  When you are cycling for kilometers on end every day it takes a lot out of you to say hello back to everyone.  And most of the time it goes down like this: they yell hello, I say hello back or wave, and then they keep saying hello.  I think one hello should suffice.  Can’t keep saying hello back and forth.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I think though they just wanted to try on the little English they know. 

I love dogs but the hounds here were extremely irritating.  These rural sheep dogs chased us and barked at us all the time.  Kind of worrisome at times as I read some are not vaccinated. 

In Ankara Trevor needed to get his front rim replaced as he didn’t have much confidence in it getting through the rest of the Middle East and the ‘Stans.  As such, we went to a bike shop in Ankara but needed to stay an extra day because the mechanic wasn’t in on the Monday we were there.  We ended up spending a chunk of the afternoon at this park where I watched a few movies on the netbook and later Trevor went off to explore possible camp spots.  Shortly after he left I was approached by this scrawny guy and he asks me my name and where I am from.  Then he starts asking me for food, drink and money.  I raise my voice at him because he is harassing me and I wanted him to leave.  I quickly pack up my netbook and toss it in my pannier bag.  Then he starts threatening to light his match on fire and blow up the bikes and all our possessions.  He gives me his ID and this card which was about his Islamic religion.  He kept speaking in Turkish but I kind of got the drift at what he was getting at.  Basically he wanted food, money and drink and for me to praise and worship Allah.  He kept insisting that I kiss the card or do something with it.  He would never leave me alone.  I then start moving the bikes out of the park to get on a busy road where things are out in the open and hopefully can get some help.  He spits on me and then threatens me again with the matches and also pretends to get his friends over who he says have knives and will stab me.  I get out of the park lugging both bikes one by one.  He then follows me out there and keeps insisting I praise and worship Allah.  By the way, if he was such a devout Muslim, I wonder why he was sipping on an orange pop before he approached me given it is Ramadan.  Sheesh.  Anyway, he then takes out a small two-by-four from his pants and acts if he may use it as a weapon.  I see a man smoking a cigarette at the building nearby and ask if he knows English and can help.  He kind of shrugs me off.  Then the dumbass harassing me goes to the man and shows him his religion card.  He then bums a smoke off him and returns to me only to threaten me again with the matches and I think cursed death upon me.  He finally goes back into the park and leaves me alone.  Then a man comes out of the building and asks me where I am from and where did I start the bicycle trip.  I answer and then tell him I am frustrated at the moment because I am being harassed and threatened by this guy.  He then asks where he is at and I tell him.  He walks off towards the park and I notice he has a gun in his back pocket.  So I assume he is security for the building.  He then returns with the dumbass and questions the both of us.  I didn’t understand what they were saying but I got the impression the dumbass was accusing me of taking his religion card or he was just telling him that he wanted to pray with me or something that clearly wasn’t true.  The security guy asks me if I want him to call the police and says if he does I would have to go with them.  I didn’t want to go to the police station as I don’t have much faith in them since nothing usually happens unless there is clear evidence… in this case it would be his word against mine and what would he get for doing what he did?  Maybe a slap on the wrist?  I don’t know but I don’t have much faith considering my previous experiences with foreign police.  So I said no.  Then he said okay, he must apologize and so the dumbass smiled like he got away with it and insisted on shaking my hand.  He was full of crap and obviously didn’t mean it.   But at the end of the day I just wanted him out of my sight.  He then scampered off like the worthless excuse for a human being that he is.  I then stood there waiting for Trevor to return from his long walk because I was worried the dumbass may go grab some reinforcements or a weapon and return to steal our stuff.  So I was on my feet anxious to get out of there.  Trevor finally returned and we got out of there.  Then later Trevor and I got into a major fight mainly because I was anxious to get a camp spot and I wasn’t feeling well.  He didn’t like the way I spoke to him so he ignored me and sat on this bench outside this other park we were at.  I kept yelling at him because I wanted to set up camp asap given my crappy day.  In hindsight I admit my nerves got the best of me and any little thing that annoyed me that day I got really pissed.  So it took until the next morning for us to be at peace with one another.

From Ankara we dipped south for a bit until we hit the D300 which we were on for most of the time.  A lot of semi desert landscapes.  My favourite spot probably was cycling along the north side of Lake Van because it was somewhat flat and calm.  Once Lake Van ended and we had to head north things got much worse.  We kept on passing stupid boys yelling ‘money money’ at us.  The area from Muradiye to Dogubayazit has a lot of poverty.  We had a few instances where we both got real pissed.  The first one occurred when we were zooming down this hill shortly after completing the 2600m pass.  A kid herding his few goats jumped out onto the road and pointed his stick at us trying to stop us and yelled ‘money money!’.  I had to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting him but also had to watch out for the oncoming truck.  Then later we were on a flat stretch and notice a teenage boy running up to the road.  When we see this we start booking it as they begin to throw things at us.  In this case they threw their herder sticks at us.  I assume they are trying to get us to crash and hopeful that they will get money from us.  They are complete idiots in my view.  The last incident (but believe me there were many just like this in this particular area) we were cycling into Dogubayazit and again we see a few boys sprinting to the side of the road and then all of a sudden we are dodging big rocks that are being thrown in our direction.  Again, what is with these little brats?  It is always boys and young males who are the idiots who perpetrate these acts.  Never would you see a female do such a thing here.  Then again, we never saw many females wandering about.  I feel safer when I see females out and about.  It was always males and boys dilly dallying about doing absolutely nothing with their lives but cause trouble for us.

We are pretty much done Turkey and are camped out just past Dogubayazit with a nice view of Mount Ararat.  We will enter Iran tomorrow.  

Trevor packing up at a water fountain as a cow looks on taking a piss.  By the way, I went back to drinking the water at the fountains as it wasn’t the water making my stomach feel like crap but the dough I was eating.  Stupid me, I remember my mom saying to me when I was younger not to eat the dough as it causes tummy troubles.  Well it did just that for me on numerous occasions.  So no more flour dough eating sessions for me. 

We met a few touring cyclists en route while climbing this treacherous hill.  One was a Swiss guy heading east with an open ended itinerary and the other was a French guy cycling with a German (who was still pedaling up the hill) who are also heading east.  Always great to meet fellow bicycle tourists.

I always enjoy finding new foods I like.  This one wasn’t exactly new though as I discovered the rose flavour in Singapore when introduced to bandung (which I can’t wait to have again, as well as an ice kacang).  Anyway, I have never seen rose jam on the shelf so I had to try it.  It was delicious so I kept picking this up whenever we hit up a Kipa, which is pretty much Tesco in Turkey. 

At the bike shop where Trevor got his new rim I was also in the market for a new tire but they didn’t have the Schwalbe Marathon.  We were directed to another bike shop called Gungorler Bisiklet and this one was much more welcoming, friendly and relaxed.  There we met Gurkan Genc who was super nice to us and took us out for lunch.  He cycled from Ankara to Japan in 2010/2011 so he gave us a couple of tips on the road ahead.  He is gearing up for his next adventure which is to cycle around the world touching all 7 continents for 7 years.  Also while at the bike shop I was interviewed by the other guy in the picture who manages a site of bicycle touring blogs and all things related.  He did a quick article on our trip and if you can read Turkish, you can view it here: http://www.bisiklethaber.com/2012/08/kanadali-hansen-kardesler-turkiyede/.

My Schwalbe Marathon tire had served me very well.  I remember the bicycle mechanic in London saying it wouldn’t get me out of England, well it got me to Ankara and I would have cycled on it further but as I said before it would most likely be difficult to get good parts in Iran and the ‘Stans.  As such, I played it safe and got a new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire.  Feeling good about that.  Trevor is risking it and still is on his original tires.  So far they are holding up just fine. 

Gurkan gave us directions to a friend of his south of Ankara about 20km before a town called Kirsehir.  We cycled to Gol Restaurant where we met Serkan and his friend and had a delicious lunch by the lake.  He offered for us to spend the night at his residence but we wanted to cycle some more as it was early afternoon.  His friend then arranged with the police of Mucur, a town about 40km away, to find us a camp spot when we arrived and provide security overnight.  We definitely felt quite safe that night! 

In the region around the city of Malatya we saw many apricots drying on the side of the road.  Apparently this region is known for this delicious fruit.  We were given a few free handouts by a couple of generous farmers. 

Here is Trevor in Elazig on a hot day.  He saw some construction workers jump in and take a dip to cool down so he followed suit.  I regret not doing the same as he said it sure cooled him down for quite a while. 

This has got to be the biggest grasshopper I have ever seen.  Or at least I think it is a grasshopper.  Sure looks the part.  It landed on my tent while I was just about to go to sleep.  It took some time to get it off my tent only for it to return later.  I really don’t know what it was because it seems way too big to be classified as a grasshopper.  Maybe it was a cricket?  I don’t know. 
As we kept heading further east we were swarmed by boys who liked to stare at us.  They would park themselves quite close to us and just stare.  This got rather annoying so we had to pick our rest spots carefully.  Couldn’t always do that though, like when we made our Bim stops.  Bim was our go to supermarket through Turkey.  I consistently ate cornflakes with milk while Trevor usually had a daily ice cream float.  We will miss Bim as supermarkets make us happy. 

A patch of sunflowers.  Nice and yellow.

When Trevor isn’t cycling this is what he does.  Head down and looking at the GPS.  He likes his electronic devices.  

Here I am today in front of Mount Ararat, the highest peak in Turkey.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kevin’s a Funny Guy: Dumb Logic

Today Kevin had a rough day. He doesn’t like hills (or more literally mountains) and heat. We had both in large doses today. All morning was spent going 1200 meters up hill and the rest of the day was spent going up and down smaller hills. All that climbing was done in 43 degrees Celsius heat according to one temperature display in one of the towns. However I’m not so sure the display was very trustworthy since it had the wrong time. I’m thinking it was more like 35 degrees Celsius. Either way Kevin was dying of heat exhaustion (wimp, I was doing fine by the way). If he’s finding this hot then I don’t think he’ll be liking Iran or Turkmenistan very much. Suffice it to say, Kevin didn’t have a good day and was in a grumpy mood.

At a gas station just after coming down from the 1200 meter climb. Which, by the way, gets Kevin really mad: why go all that way up only to go all the way down again? Anyways, at the gas station Kevin noticed that my GPS was showing a distance of ~50km rather than >60km which is what he’d thought we’d actually cycled so far that day. Well he was correct as I was having GPS problems earlier in the day and accidentally turned off the logging function on the GPS and didn’t record the 10km or so of downhill cycling we did that morning.

I had noticed my mistake earlier but didn’t say anything to Kevin knowing that he’d probably flip out or something. Yes, it sucks that I missed recording 10km of our cycling, but it was bound to happen. This was my first screw-up of this kind so far. In 15000+ km of cycling I’ve now missed 10km. All in all I think that’s an okay record. Also my GPS tends to think we are sometimes moving even though we are stationary (like when we are between tall buildings where the reception is bad). So it records distances we haven’t actually done. Therefore, I think it all works itself out in the end. I told Kevin as much but he didn’t care and flipped out saying that he wanted a perfect distance recording and that I should manually add in the 10km. I, not about to waste my time with what essentially amounts to a minor rounding error, was also not going to waste my time listening to him spew his dumb logic. I put on my headphones and pumped up the volume, leaving him yelling into the wind. Which, by the way, also gets Kevin mad: wind, heat and hills are not Kevin’s idea of a good time.

As we left the gas station with him still yelling, I was reminded of another instance where he applied his dumb logic. During a bicycle tour we did some years ago from Singapore to Tokyo we were in Japan and about to head into a Manga Kissa for the night. Up until this point we had done cycled at least 100km every day. This was according to a little odometer attached to Kevin’s bicycle (we didn’t have a GPS on this trip). On this day, however, we had stopped at the Toyota headquarters and checked out the museum; therefore, we only ended up cycling ~98km. Kevin wanted to keep the 100km streak alive so he applied some of his dumb logic. He started cycling around the parking lot to rack up two more kilometers on the odometer while I stood there yelling at him to stop being an idiot. How is cycling around the parking lot going to accomplish anything? It gets you no closer to Tokyo. In the end he actually ended up hitting 100km on the day. So while we both reached the same destination that day Kevin did it in 100km while I did it in 98km.

If I were him and intent on hitting 100km, instead of cycling around the parking lot, I would have just flipped the bike over and spun the front wheel. Kevin, though, likes to do things the dumb way.

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