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Standoff with the Police in Iran

So there we were, cycling along minding our own business on a road between Takeb and Bijar in Iran when 3 guys in a white pickup truck, parked at the side of the road, wave us over. Nothing unusual about that, we get people stopping to wave us over all the time in Iran, either just to have a chat or more often than not to give us delicious fruit!

The guys seemed to have a bit of a discussion about which of them was getting out to talk to us; probably just a little unsure of their English I thought. The two guys in front get out and the man who I shall call Smiley asks where we are from, nice and friendly like; but before we had chance to answer his friend, Shifty; a small, round man with big hair, a leather jacket, a walky-talky and stumpy teeth from grinding; demands to see our passports.

Fake Police Car

I didn't take any pictures at the time - but here is a fake Turkish Police car to pad the update out

After a slight moment of bemusement I clock that they must be police… after all, Shifty is carrying a walkie-talkie; however, we had read in the Lonely Planet of a scam involving unmarked cars and ‘plain clothed policemen’ that steal your passport – the advice being that basically if this happens to you, you should ask to show your passport at the station and not on the street. Not getting scammed today, thank you.

So I ask to see some ID – which two of them can’t produce and when the third man, who I shall call, Stone Face, produced a tatty bit of ID that could have been anything, I wasn’t impressed… so I refused to hand over our passports, very politely explaining my reasons and offering to show it at the police station in the next town. Might I add at this stage that none of them really had a grasp of English, Smiley could speak just a little.

Well, this produced several reactions, (I don’t think people say no to the Iranian police much) Smiley found it pretty funny and continued asking us questions in a friendly manner, I think half because he was interested and half to ‘check our story out’; Stone Face continued to have a stone face and made some calls; Shifty kept asking for our passports and I kept telling him that I’d be happy to… at the station.

Well, this goes on for 10 mins or so, with calls being made and me imagining the news reports about ‘two cyclists detained in Iran’ when all of a sudden two uniformed officers turn up in a patrol car. ‘Ah, so they are police, fine’ I was all ready to relent and show them our documents, but the two new guys just wanted to check out our bikes and look at the odometer, tutting, (a sign of approval in Iran) at how far we’d cycled. So without another word about passports they wave us on with a smile, (well, not from Shifty or Stone Face – they continued to look shifty and stone faced) and we didn’t show them jack.

The moral of the story is probably that American hikers are idiots.

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