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Erzurum to the Iranian Border

So, Iranian Visas in hand, we set off from Erzurum; after a slightly longer stay than expected, (due to us both coming down with a nasty little stomach bug) we were pretty glad to be hitting the road and excited at the prospect of landing in Iran in a few days’ time.

Mosque Pattern

Mosque Pattern

The route we planned to take is a pretty tried and tested one, (following the D100/E80) but we thought it could prove useful to some if we shared a few of our experiences. After our bout with illness in Erzurum we thought it best to break the journey down into bite-sized 80-100km chunks and get to the border in 3 and a bit days rather than trying to boom on through and make ourselves sick again; we’d then hit Iran in the morning on day 4 rather than late in the afternoon on day 3 – always good to enter a new country at a sensible time if you can, (helps with getting your bearings). The town of Horasan, being a convenient 85km away, made for a good day one target.

Day 1: Erzurum to Horasan, 85km

Pretty unexciting ride to be honest, but at least it was flat/downhill and the wind was at our backs for the most part… exactly what I needed as I wasn’t feeling too great still. The main downside to this bit of the ride was the road condition; potholed, gravelly and ‘under construction’ for quite long stretches – which squeezed you into quite narrow road with the lorries, etc. We did see our first ‘proper’ Turkish cyclist on the road, team kit and everything, very exciting as the Turks don’t ‘do bikes’.

Sky Castel

Sky Castel

We did however, make very good time and arrived at Horasan just after lunchtime; and with my stomach not quite up to camping we checked into a cheap (although overpriced… because it was a bit shit… Otel Karaca) hotel… who’s only redeeming feature was that it was next to the Awesome Mo Guys shop. Our Friends who arrived a day behind us found the local teachers hotel, (Ogretman evi; great cheap places to stay!) and we recommend searching this out instead of the place we stayed.

Best Mo Ever

Awesome... just... awesome

Day 2: Horasan to Agri, 97km

We woke on day two, to dark and foreboding clouds gathering in the sky, the poor weather being an even more grim prospect as we knew we had a 2210m pass to ascend. The first 15km were the hardest, harsh headwinds, an upward gradient and frequent stops to put on/take off layers because of the changing weather conditions made for slow going and I was starting to worry we wouldn’t arrive in Agri until very late indeed.

Horse Washing Machine

Saw this on out way out of town

The wind improved as we climbed further but we were starting to get hungry and we had set off foolishly forgetting to pick up any snacks for the road… there are always places to get stuff… right? Yeah, no places at all so a quick roadside stop for oats and honey in a mug was the best we could manage… classy! Fortunately the summit came sooner than we had expected and we began our decent through a rather surprisingly spectacular landscape through a narrow valley with trees displaying all the colours of autumn.

View From the Road

View From the Road

Food came in the form of a rather sparsely stocked petrol station at km 55, although in typical Turkish fashion the guys were nice enough to let us sit inside and ply us with sweet, sweet çay.

The rest of the ride was a breeze, pretty much downhill for the rest of the way, although the bad road surface and wet conditions did mean we couldn’t take full advantage of the opportunity for speed. However, we did make it to Agri before 4pm.

 

Agri isn’t the nicest place we’ve been to by a long shot, no real charm to speak of, the Kids there are also little shits, a few of them shouting obviously negative things at us as we cycled by – the first time we’d really experienced this attitude from children in Turkey, (note – Kat is making me say that she didn’t think the kids were that bad and there were many good ones in the centre… we disagree on this obviously). Other cycle tourists have also reported having negative experiences in Agri, nothing serious to worry about I don’t think, but just be mindful. Adults there were all cool though… as usual.

Day 3: Agri to Dogubayazit, 95 km

Leaving Agri proved no problem, a fairly unremarkable climb to stat with turns into a pretty stunning gradual decent with views of Mount Ararat.

Ararat in the Distance

Ararat in the Distance

And to think we nearly got away without any dog or bratty kid problems… turns out, it’s true what they say about the wild east. Two separate dog incidents, the first, the snarling beasts came from behind giving us no alternative but to keep peddling and when one got particularly aggressive I was forced to deploy the bear mace… stopped chasing pretty quick after that.

Bear Mace

You want some fucking bear mace!

The second set were less of a problem, (although there were about 6 dogs) we saw them up ahead and stopped to meet them, giving them some barking of my own which forced them to back down; dogs love to chase things but given the possibility of a fight with something bigger and equally aggressive they soon lose their bottle… bloody cowards.

The brat incident came when, on the way into Dogubayazit, some little fat kid threw an empty coke bottle at Kat; it was a very half-hearted throw but enough to really piss me off, so I chased the little fucker down on my bike and gave him a verbal beasting so severe that I’m convinced he actually shat himself. This was made all the more funny when a man pulled up in a car, also shouted at the kid then apologised to us. Little fat fuck will think twice before messing with cycle tourists.

Dogubayazit itself I found to be a pretty unremarkable place, I think the recent development of buildings there has wiped out any charm it may have once had. We Stayed at Hotel Tahran, (great budget choice and the owner speaks excellent English and we had a good long chat with him about Iran and the Kurdish part of Turkey) and had a very nice, (and welcome) Hamam visit. However, despite the adults being as friendly, nice and welcoming as there are in the rest of Turkey, the presence of so many bratty kids who insist on shouting things as you walk by and generally acting hostile, gave the place had a bit of a negative vibe and we didn’t feel like lingering any longer than necessary.

We talked to Bilal, (the owner of Hotel Tahran) about the problem with the kids; he agreed that many of them, (not all of them of course, some were very nice and just wanted to have a little chat in English) were little bastards due to poverty, boredom, lack of education and jealously, (made all the more heightened by the fact they now have satellite TV and can see the difference between their lives and those of many people in the west). This of course all sounds very reasonable and logical, but having travelled through many places where the kids are arguably worse off than East Turkey I was still left wondering what the X factor is that makes these kids such hostile little shits.

Day 4: Dogubayazit to the Iranian border, 35 km

Not much to say about the ride to the border, pretty flat, fast and with a view of Ararat; a couple more incidents of bratty kids on the way, one kicked a football at us so I threw it in a ditch. I know it seems like I’m going on about this but It’s a real shame that despite the awesome time we had in Turkey and the real regret I was feeling about leaving a few days ago, I now felt a strong desire to get out of there, (and to Iran, where I had been assured that the kids were much more well behaved) due to the attitudes of young people in the East.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat... Later Turkey!

About 5 km from the border Kat put on her Iranian costume, (very stylish) before we got to the line of trucks waiting at the crossing, it’s seriously crazy long, literally hundreds of trucks, but it’s pretty easy to scoot round them. No problems to report about the crossing itself, nice Iranian people came to talk to us and passport and visa checks were all pretty painless and no different to many other borders I have been through; baggage check just involved opening by rear panniers and a guy peering in and waving me on, Kat didn’t even get checked.

Iran Cycling Fashion

Iran Cycling Fashion

And before we knew it, we were in Iran…

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