Into Iran

Kimaliye felt a bit like a ski resort after the season. Plenty of closed restaurants, quiet and peaceful. We stayed for 2 days. The 3th day I inquired at the small bus station outside our hotel for the bus towards “Van”, a trip of many hours. They told me that this bus was parked in front and would leave in 10 minutes…what??  We ran and stuffed clothes, shoes, toiletries, helmets, camera’s, electronics, books, and all the rest in 12 bags, carried them down 3 sets of stairs, dismantled 2 bikes and packed all this in the bus luggage compartment in just over 10 minutes. Our record.

We had a stopover for 7 hours at Malatya to take the night-bus to Van which was another 7 hours drive. We arrived early in the morning at the Van Bus Terminal and at dawn we cycled to the “Van Backpackers Hostel”, a cosy place with a mix of travelers from all over the world. There was Alex, a 22 year old Italian who is traveling on his Vespa to Australia and Simon and Felix, two German guys on their bicycles going East like us. Also a historian from Argentina and Zahra, a lovely young Iranian woman trying to find some future outside Iran. Inspiring people.

For the first time temperatures dropped below 16C (cold!) and cycling towards Iran meant climbing to 2500m where it would be freezing and minimal possibilities for drinking and eating so yes, we took another bus to the Iranian border. Simon and Felix went on their bikes and told us it was very cold particularly in the night.

Customs always make me nervous. They never laugh or joke but look at you as if you are a criminal and something is wrong. This time we sailed through the Turkey side until we presented our visas and passports to the Iranian official on the other side. Looking dismayed at our papers while shaking his head he made clear that something was wrong and that we had to go back to the Iranian Embassy in Ankara. We were speechless! What was wrong? We ran from one official to the next but without success. Once outside we took all papers out of the Embassy envelope and there we found, stuck behind another paper, 2 identical looking papers like the ones before, same color, same layout, pass photos, signatures, everything the same except for some words and a number in the corner. We went back and when we gave our man the right papers he happily let us through. Outside we met Simon and Felix so together we cycled into Iran.