The KMZ file contains all sections of the route.
These files were not collected by us as we went along because we didn't have a GPS then, but were made using Bike Route Toaster to view our route in Google Earth.
Finally we reach the end. We’ve had our adventures and made loads of friends, especially in Iran, and over the last 12 months we’ve learned so much about the world, about different societies, cultures, languages, history and about how all these disparate people deal with life in the varied regions through which we’ve cycled. Mongolia, Pakistan and Iran were highlights but everywhere was interesting in it’s own way.
We’ve had time to reflect upon the things we’ve seen, to bore people with our experiences (they did make the mistake of asking) and increasingly to spend more and more time following the valiant attempts of the Iranian people to get the freedom that they all wish for and so deserve. ‘Where is their vote?’
We’re starting to crave bacon, sausages, different clothes, a little bit of consumerism and we miss our friends and family. We’re not really sure where home is so we’re off to England and then Canada before heading off to Dubai to teach there for two years.
The route guides should be good for a few years of cycling so feel free to make use of them, visa info changes constantly so make use of the Thorn Tree on Lonely Planet of you need more up to date info. Feel free to email us for information using the email link if you’re thinking about cycling anywhere along this route yourself and want advice. If you use the guides and they’re wrong then let us know and we’ll update them.
Thanks for reading and a huge thanks to all our friends who helped us while we’ve been away….Jules, Jo and Rob, you’re all absolute stars.
Simon Taylor and Isabelle Bedard June 2009turkeyontheroad
’Women must be covered to prevent men becoming sinful, it is for their own protection!’Women we asked just said that they would take it off tomorrow if they were allowed and moaned about how hot it was to always wear something on your head.
‘Women are so beautiful, they must be covered to keep their beauty precious’….
The rules are designed to protect women from men, and to help prevent men from having sinful thoughts when they see the shapely body of a woman.
To this end, women’s clothing should be shapeless and most of the body should be covered. Iranian women in the countryside generally wear a black sheet called a Chador (Farsi for Tent) whenever they are outside the house.
Most younger women wear a headscarf and a shorter more fashionable black top called a ‘Manteau’ which covers their bottom and thighs. Inside the home most people wear ‘western’ clothing although in the countryside the women may well keep their head scarf on while guest men are in the home.
The woman in the Chador is the often shown image of women in Iran, but in the cities this style of dress is fading out fast as young women everywhere push the boundaries of what is allowed, by wearing shirts or stylish dresses over trousers, which are most commonly jeans, and wearing coloured manteaus with belts around their waist, and head scarves with patterned designs of every colour.
Heads are still covered but the percentage of hair covered reduces to a token scarf hanging on the back of the head in cities like Tehran or Shiraz and the more affluent areas of most towns and cities in Iran. Women still cover their heads but great pains are taken to have the most fantastic hairstyles showing but still covered in a way that will not get them into trouble.
Tourists are given a lot more leeway and to be honest most tourists just wear trousers, shirt and a head scarf so that they are still respecting the local rules.
It is easy to buy a manteau and many of them are made of light material and look really good.
We saw women with maybe 10% of the hair covered, half length sleeves and 3/4 length trousers, and many young couples holding hands as they walked down the street in Shiraz. We met one Irani woman who posed as a tourist in Yazd so that she could wear a shirt rather than a manteau. She said it was great but she still felt like she was taking a risk.
In the religious cities such as Esfahan, Mashhad and Qom, clothing is a bit more conservative in some areas, although if you Couch Surf, most people live in areas where clothing is indistinguishable from Tehran and Shiraz.
A black manteau is ridiculously hot in sunny weather and it is also difficult to organise yourself as the temperature changes throughout the day. On hot days it’s impossible to remove a lower layer so most Irani women just have to suffer if a restaurant is too hot.
I would recommend a man’s shirt or top that would allow you to wear only a bra underneath it when it is too hot. No-one seems to mind about the colour of this top so make it light coloured to keep you cool when cycling on really sunny days. I have a $1 shirt made in India and it works perfectly.
The head scarf can also become unbearable, so try to get a natural fibre one, or one with loads of holes in it, easily available in the bazaars of every city (ignore the Lonely Planet warnings..things have changed)
For cycling you would be much better with a bandana or a ‘buff', a tube of material which can be used in many different ways, from relaxed and groovy to positively pious (good for mosques) – see the pictures.
You will need photographs for your visa (2) or visa extension (2) with all your hair covered.
Some tourists also said that it was really hard to find hair clips to hold your head scarf on, so bring plenty of them from home
Wear exactly what you feel like while cycling, t-shirt and shorts are fine. Iran’s dress code is great for men.
I’ve stayed nice and cool throughout the desert, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.
Iran’s a great country to travel in and I’ve had no problem regulating my temperature.
Wind-stopper cycling leggings can be useful in very rural areas…just pull them up and women will be able to take their eyes of your legs.
We both thoroughly applaud the attempts of the government to help prevent men having sinful thoughts by covering up so much of a woman’s body, but both of us really worry about the poor women who can see men everywhere wearing body-hugging little t-shirts and tight jeans yet get no help avoiding those same sinful thoughts.
There’s only one solution….all men should wear a Chador as well, then everyone could remain pure.
It was partly about helping the class practice their English but what was really interesting for us was the things they wanted to know about our world compared to theirs……
The teacher was lovely and spoke really good English, as did most of the class, she’s obviously doing a good job:
They started off with the obvious questions:
What do you think of Iran?
Where are you from?
How old are you?
But very quickly the questions became more interesting:
How do boys and girls meet in your country?
Is it true that many people don’t get married?
If you have a party where do you have it and how many people go?
What do you think of our government?
What religion are you? (Devout Atheist went down well)
Where would be the best place to live in the world?
We had our pictures taken and off we went back to the sports institute for our night in the dormitory.
Another great evening in Iran!
Just over the mountains from Mashhad is the small town of Neyshabur where miraculously there lives a thriving community of cyclists, thanks to one ex-Olympic cyclist who lives there and trains cyclists at the Sports Institute.
There is also a thriving weekend cycling group and a fantastic shop with all the spares that anyone could ever need and an excellent mechanic. They even had Schwalbe tyres and 36 spoke wheels and hubs.
The owner doesn't speak much English but is very helpful and has friends who speak and read English well. You can email him for help at: email@example.com
We also managed to stay at the Sport’s Institute in one of their dormitories for free while we got a new rear wheel for Isabelle’s bike – it was the compromise one we bought in Kathmandu to replace my broken wheel rim and the spokes kept breaking. Isabelle is now really happy with her 36 spoke Alex rims.
Iranian’s are the best!!
A friend in Mashhad had put is in touch with Masoud, a cyclist in Neyshabur. When our wheel broke again, he came and picked us up and took us into town to sort everything out, found us a room at the Sport’s Institute and then gave us a great tour of the city.
Masoud was very proud of being Iranian and wanted to show us the best that the city had to offer.
Masoud and Mohammed were really great and if Mohammed’s enthusiasm and energy were amazing considering he’d worked all night at a gas station before he met us.
First we visited the museum, where the staff were really friendly and helpful:
There was a great collection of a stuffed animals plus a potato shaped like a dog and a gruesome human foetus:
Then we visited an old Caravanserai:
Then finally a Mausoleum on the edge of town: