Archive for July, 2010

Day 159

Monday, July 26th, 2010


“The maples and ferns are still uncorrupt, yet no doubt when they come to consciousness they too will curse and swear” Ralph Emerson

So the embassy that shall not be named said come back on monday.

I came back on monday after sitting for four hours outside only to be told that the man in charge is not coming into work today. Of course he is not.
This is after going to the bank and being to stand and wait for half an hour as the women who i need to pay the money too walks round reading a comic…
The Egyptian ambassador for culture could do no better and he sat and fumed alongside me as I tried not to scream “who do i have to bribe in here”

This is all after four hours sleep. Going to the pub last night with friends and being given a wolf skin with all the important bits still attached was a novel experience.. This is after the owner of the bar karate chopped a vodka bottle with his bare hand and lit the patio area we where sat in with wool and mutton fat candles due to yet another power cut…

So walking from the pub back home with a fair sized wolf skin slung over my shoulder, 2 large bottles of beer in one hand and an ice cream in the other i try and gate crash a wedding. Being told no quite obviously it was somewhat of a surprise to walk 25 metres further down the road and be invited very warmly into an even larger one.

Free food, lots of free vodka, being given money as we danced for the crowd and then a speech by each one of us in front of at least two hundred people thanking Uzbekistan for its hospitality to be met by cheers and applause…
I missed the best moment though.. the bride apparently walked out towards the dodge car with gull wing doors(!) only to projectile vomit as she passed down the main aisle…

Yesterday I saw Tashkent in a different light, it is very slowly starting to grow on me and the people are incredible at times.

The afternoon before the festivities of the evening where spent at a flea market, maybe the largest I have ever seen full of the debris from the soviet factories amongst a million and one crazy items. In no particular order:

- A complete glassware set taken from lord only knows where that would get you arrested in two minutes in England. Crank lab anybody?
- A hunting dagger with a clock and a torch on
- A soviet ice cream cone making machine
- A fold away record player that packed into a tin no larger than a standard CD player
- A toggle switch made out of Bakelite that was rated for 4500v. Perfect for that sub station I want to build..
- Gin traps (when did you last see them?)
- Woks a metre across
Get the idea? So much randomness and to be topped off by a fight with a drunk guy and a fat woman who could ask for more?

So off to find a seamstress who can sew me a winter hat out of a dead wolf as I wait for somebody to do their bloody job.

Day 156

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

This post is brought to you by today’s sponsor: http://www.locotuning.co.uk/ that has to be worth a pint no :)

- Tajikistan tick.
- China tick.
- The country that shall not be named…. when they decide not to have a day off and open they tell me too come back at three. No worries we go to the bank and pay the crazy amount they ask for in advance. Clever no?
‘I would like to pay for the visa for ‘The country that shall not be named’ as their embassy is now closed’
‘No paper no pay Mr’.
‘What time does your bank close?’
‘3′
Checkmate.

So here till Tuesday then due to a mixture of my own incompetence and bad luck… Not all bad though, yesterday I went and had a pint on a faux wooden ship in a soviet amusement park on the edge of a lake overlooking the peoples friendship palace with an affable swedish chemist. Bet you have never written that sentance before :)

Then dinner with Fabien who I met back in Bukhara (here because he lost his flight ticket in the airport and has to wait until the next flight out to Bishkek… Sorry, but the more people that here the story and smile the less the joke costs no?!) and three other French people; an anesthetist and two girls travelling together who where a professor and an asylum seeker worker, the latter you could look at for a very long time…..
At breakfast with a sore head I learn that the anesthetist I had been eating with the night before had sailed solo from Africa to France over a period of three years…
If you are reading this Mr anesthetist then please send me an email as I have a multitude of questions to ask you :)

So back to sit outside the embassy for another 3 hours until somebody can be bothered to actually do the job they are paid for.

Day 153

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010


Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. William Morris

So the stomach has been healed by some crazy Uzbek tablets that I swear would stop the BP oil
leak. Taking medicine that you have no idea what it is or what it does or how much you should take is fun kids. Over dosing on it is not… Good and bad.. good and bad….

Aside from such such inflicted disasters the best part of travelling in this part of the world is the people that you meet also travelling in this part of the world.

Conversations regarding esoteric cold war knowledge and constructing a pick and place machine with a 24 year old South African; a French Guy who dreams of running a Yurt resort then travelling the other six months of the year; meeting Mitchell the South Korean again who has been on the road for 16 months and is approaching his 75th country in total; the English girl who was not allowed to leave Mashhad due to being accused of being an Uzbek spy and was then forced to take the next available flight out of the country – too India; Rob and Anna the Polish couple travelling with Ben from England (http://www.cyclingnomads.org/ Keep an eye on their website for an idea of what cycling through this nonsense is really like.); Rayhan the guy from Oz who is riding his BMW from India up to London and had his motorcycle airlifted by the Pakistani army over the flooded KKH…; The German who made his own frame and cycled it here – you get the idea… :)

The people who come here want to be here and so a different type of person is found. You do not go through the sheer hell that is the visa process without being determined and bloody minded.

Me.. ha! well I came here because Pakistan was closed.. That and I thought it would be good to cycle the Pamir as Malte will never get too.
So it leaves me here in Tashkent running round embassies, jumping on buses and relying on the help of the travellers here who all seem to have a better idea of what needs to be done (and who can also – give thanks – speak Russian…).

It appears touch wood to be working so far.

Today I was granted my 45 day visa for Tajikstan (75 dollars US) and a permit which means I get to cycle down a road where you can throw stones quite literally into Afghanistan..
Tomorrow I have to pay 110 dollars US to spend two days in a country that I do not even want to visit. I will let you work out which country that one is…
The day after I have to get on bended knee and request a 90 day visa off the Chinese. I think I will get 60 if I am lucky.

The news on getting through Tibet is that there is no news.. If anybody knows anything email me or leave a comment. Thanks.

Changing tack completely there is a sign as you enter Tashkent that reads ‘Privatisation brings prosperity’ To whom may I ask? To the people who live in the decrepit Soviet built flats that surround the city and line the entire country? Same game, different field. The rules it would appear never change.

Something else that made me stand still was walking through the meat market here in the main bazaar. Want to see and smell every single party of an animal hanging up in the forty degree heat? How about an old lady shouting for your attention and then motioning for you to buy the contents of a steel bucket that contained, the front hooves of a calf with about 5 inches of leg still attached, what looked like the entire intestinal tract flushed clean and the head balanced precariously on top with the eyes gazing listlessly up at me. I am by no means squeamish but the stench was beyond comprehension. I walked out to find a street lined with blacksmiths, knife sharpeners and a guy working sheet metal in the middle of the street using nothing but a hammer creating a cooling vent the old fashioned way. A joy to watch. A Trumph is impressive
and I still want one, but the old way, well the old way worked and still does. I might go back
tomorrow to see if I can bribe them to teach me a few things.

On the subject of making things, something that I am starting to see more and more as I head further into Central Asia is that everything appears to have come out of a metal press or a concrete former. The old socialist way of making things at the lowest possible cost which leads to the drab straight lines that make this environment so reminiscent of eastern European countries like Romania.
The artistic flourishes that can be seen in the small carvings that gild the houses of German villages are never to be found except on Mosques and much much older buildings that survived the onslaught of the bland.

Why bother I suppose? Weld some rebar, paint it blue and that will do.

I am frustrated beyond words by this mentality and I do not know why as it does not matter to me. I do not have to live here? In all likelihood I will not travel to a vast majority of these places ever again so why expend energy even thinking about such matters? But I walk past so much bad craftsmanship and I wince every time. some of it is just simple stupidity and crass money saving but it is not a question of money as people have always spent time decorating their possessions ever since we where nomadic as a people.
It is the view taken by planners,governments then passed down to the people who hold the tools that ‘that will do’, a lack of money, resources and education is not the excuse.
People have to live in these places, why for the love of god can they not spent just a little bit more effort and make them work. The environment I am starting to witness plays such a critical role in how people interact.

I should hasten to add I include my own city in this as well so the problem is universal.

On a brighter note I have been taught how to steal water, gas and electricity here. If anybody wants their meters bypassing upon my return you know how to get in touch :)

Day 151

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Nothing to say other than breakfast in Uzbekistan is a fried egg, a sausage, chips and a slice of cake. Try eating that on a bad stomach…

Oh and one more thing, if George or Giselle reads this, well thank you for company in the last couple of days. It was a pleasure to travel with you. I hope to keep in touch and visit you in the south of France when all this is over.

Day 150

Friday, July 16th, 2010

“One more coffee, one more cigarette. One more morning trying to forget” Van Morrison

150 days… ouch.

Right, where to begin… Justifications and excuses first followed by lewd stories later.

First a big thanks to Vali and his son for the hospitality. The trip to Kang was memorable for more reasons than just being in a car crash. Why i had a premonition before it happened i till to this day do not know.. Anyway… thankyou to the people of Iran for your help and kindness and just so you now your next door neighbours are bastards.

Turkmenistan did not enamour itself to me from the very start. After seven days waiting for a five day transit visa in Mashhad I visited the consulate with Vali and they refused to accept the extortionate price I was being forced to pay in US dollars as two of the notes had a crease in them… Luckily a Hungarian was at hand to swap the bills and a very expensive piece of paper was added to the passport.

As my Uzbekistan visa had already started by this point I decided to team up with George and Giselle a french couple in their sixties who where heading in the same direction. So… once again the bike went in a taxi and we drove to the border. Two hours of currency declarations, jumping through hoops and forced smiles allowed us in. We walked out of the ramshackle building straight into the desert.

Losing a third of the value of my money due to the sheer complexity of the Turkmen money system in combination with my own stupidity and the thieves that change money there left us in a taxi with a man who after telling me that my money change was ok, stopped for a cigarette then told me i was crazy for giving away so much money. This is the same man who careering wildly down the road to avoid the potholes said the taxi ride would cost 16 dollars then demanded sixty… Lesson #1: Central train stations and borders are an international magnet for the flotsam and jetsam of the human gene pool it would seem.

But we made it through the desert to Mary. Amidst hurricanes of sand, camels and a thermometer that stubbornly persisted in sitting at 43 degrees in the shade.
Sat in the front seat of the car all I could see was death. Death is all around you in this environment. I am scared to even drive through it. If you have a mechanical problem or a crash there is nothing, and I really mean nothing for miles… to think that people have cycled it in the past… well they are better (wo)men than me. In winter I would have a crack but in the height of summer you are taking a very serious gamble with your life…

We arrived in Mary had a shouting match with the aforementioned taxi driver then booked into an overpriced ex soviet hotel. Being shown the rooms when they finally fixed the lift we here show a single room for me, a double for the french and the option of a very large room with red curtains, red sheets and a red lightbulb… ahem, thanks but no thanks.
Out of the hotel round the corner and then my good god, beer and teenage Russian girls in tight shorts serving it. After not drinking since Goreme it was all a bit much suddenly being able to see women and alcohol again.
Maybe aware of this fact the Turkmen operate a curfew for foreigners. So off the streets at 11pm despite being able to see a night club directly across the road from the hotel…

In the morning we went for a walk to see the golden statue of Turkmenbashi who is just your average dead crazy dictator.
Read the following links to get a general idea:
http://www.neatorama.com/2007/06/11/craziest-dictator-ever-turkmenbashi/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saparmurat_Niyazov

Maybe George taking a photo of the guard outside the national ministry of security no less in a highly paranoid country was not the best of ideas. Cue twenty minutes of justifying why he had taken photos of old ladies at bus stops… Lesson #2: Men with hats and uniforms do not think. At all.

Another fight with a taxi driver left us in Turkmenabat. More sand, more oppressive heat and just one tyre blow out on the car in front as we raced at 80mph across the road that was reminiscent of the quality found in Romania. That bad.
The driver of the car in front swerved into the sand when the tyre went, somehow regained control and then got out nonchalantly smoking a cigarette in a manner that suggested it was all just too tiresome and it was the second time it had happened today.. Kids in the back with no seatbelts, 50 degrees, driving like a teenage boy… The taxi driver said the last one he saw like that left four people dead.
Lesson #3: Treat people like children and they will behave like children.

Turkmenabat is situated next to the Amu-Darya which gives enough water to sustain the second largest city in the country. It too is a mess of soviet planning, decay and general feeling that if you where to end up living there you would choose walking into the desert or the bottle.
The people surprisingly though are nice. Not a patch on the Iranians who have won a special place in my heart but good people as a whole.
My own highlight was the floor lady of another dilapidated soviet hotel holding up the shower hose with the shower head conspicuous in its absence, flashing a broad smile with her gold teeth and simply saying “turkmenistan”. Mosquitos, beds harder than the floor, no locks on the door and a bathroom that left you feeling deeply uncomfortable for only 15 dollars each. If you had not already worked it out you are not wanted in this country so take it on the chin and smile.

The floor lady did take a particular shine to George. At 40 years old and widowed after her first husband was killed by the Mafia she invited him to her room then whipped her dress of to stand naked but for a pair of socks, hairy legs and a shaven fadge.. Prostitution it would seem is par for the course here.. George declined and came back to sit in the bar with me as i sat there blissfully unaware of what had just happened working my way through the bar arguing in vain with a woman that it was “Steven sEgal” not “Steven sIgal”

I sit here now in Bukhara in Uzbekistan where there is Plov, water that is more expensive than cigarettes, lots of tourists surprisingly and a heat that will not decline. 35 degrees last night… When we crossed the Uzbekistan border we where told that it had hit 54 degrees the day before which makes a mockery of the doctor who examined us with a digital thermometer to check that we did not have a temperature…

From here well, three more visas are needed. So straight to Tashkent to bang my head against a wall and set fire to more of my money then I start cycling again from Samarkand to the Pamir highway.

Lesson #4: If you are going to cycle this way go north and take a ferry to Kazakhstan then come down or do this route in the winter. Or just get a ****ing flight direct…..

Day 141

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain” Lenon

More spurious thoughts that emanate from Iran.

Yesterday was a day that I will not forget for a while. I went for a walk to the shrine. The third most holy site in the Shiite Islamic world. And there is me wandering through to the section where non Muslims are banned.. and then being caught up in the what can only be described as mass hysteria as people frantically tried to touch the mausoleum that houses the body of Imam Reza… You ever felt very out of place?

The problem was that I got so lost that I had to make the same journey back through thousands of people in order to get out. The second time, the door kissing, screaming and the carrying and hitting of dead bodies was only slightly less disturbing but the fact I made it through without somebody putting a hand on my shoulder is truly remarkable.

Not as remarkable though as going to smoke a water pipe with 11 girls up in the hills. 3 offers of marriage a couple of pints of non alcoholic malt beer and the discovery that you can have temporary marriages. Get married for a week.. why not :)

The girls last night confirmed again the prices imposed for fingernail painting (5 dollars per hand) and hair colouring (50 dollars) and my favourite 18 dollars for having sunglasses pushed back and resting on the front of your head. Flouting all these rules quite casually they warned me that things are starting to get stricter and that the government is pushing things back to how life was just after the revolution. How long this will endure I have no idea.
With America launching its latest round of sanctions and the story today of how Iranian flights are being refused avgas out of Iran it seems that push will come to shove sooner rather than later.

Sanctions are a state of war it is undeniably so. It is a tactic that is as old as the hills. Starve them out of the castle. They might as well resort to using trebuchets to fling plague ridden cows onto Tehran.
The real problem is that the government will not suffer. They never do. The people on the street however are already starting to feel it though. Petrol is up and continues to rise, the price of bread and basic amenities are up too and new notes are being introduced to cope with the inflation that is in real danger of running away.

Contrast the behaviour of Iran in the last ten years with that of Israel and see who should be being watched. My greatest concern is that the lies and misinformation circulated in the west about this country will ultimately result in yet another debacle that our western governments are so good in initiating.

Rant over. On a slightly happier note have a recipe for free:

Iranian soup

To be eaten when it is xxxxing hot outside

You will need:
- Ice cubes or cold water from local mosque.
- Basil
- Tarragon
- Parsley
- Iranian spring onions (get spring onions and use the green stalks, same taste just the bulb is never seen here)
- Yoghurt
- Flat bread with the little stones that the baker has not taken out to dislodge your root canal work
- Raisins
- The smallest and most evil green peppers you can lay your hands on
- Walnuts
- Salt and pepper
- Radish
- Cucumber
- Garlic

(1) Grate a whole cucumber into a bowl
(2) Do the same with the radish and garlic
(3) Shred the herbs and add to the bowl
(4) Add green pepper, walnuts and raisins
(5) Pour in yoghurt and ice
(6) Season to taste

Eat sat on a carpet using flat bread with a fan set on max as close as possible to you. Enjoy.

Day 139

Monday, July 5th, 2010

“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.” Paulo Coelho

Game over.

Game starts again with different rules.

483.5km (302.2 miles) from Mashhad, after 4629.5 miles (7407.2km) of cycling I had to listen to my body. I took the bus to Mashhad.

Sitting at the bus station the decision was not as hard as I thought it would be as in my heart I knew it was the right one to take. The next town is 60km away. The chance of finding water or shade anywhere in those next 60km other than hiding under the road in one of the infrequent low tunnels or waving down lorries was not high. Added to the culmutative effect of dehydration from the past five days, and a head wind that meant despite waking at 3.45am I was forced to cycle at an agonising 6-7mph as the air moved west from the rising eastern sun…
Well there are times when you have to accept that there are limitations to what you can do. Could I have got to Mashhad on the bike? In my heart I know the answer is yes but I would not have been able to carry on, the journey would have finished in Iran as it would have taken every single thing I had. And then some. I would rather look back at this trip in ten years time and think, well I had to cheat a bit, than not to be around in ten years as I am dead in a ditch by a nondescript section of road.

The problem was exacerbated heavily by my own stupidy in regards to the Uzbekistan visa. After the consular finally decided to show up, he issued the 30 day visa then asked when I wished for it to start. I then had 30 seconds to pick a date. Not having the map for Iran with me is not an excuse as I should have worked out when the Iranian visa was due to finish then extrapolate from there. So anyway to cut a long and painful story short I said the 10th. Which is in 5 days…. The Turkmenistan embassy was visited today with Vali (from vali’s homestay) and I have 5 days of waiting before they give me a 5 day transit visa. Which is just enough time to sprint across the desert… at 120km a day to get to Uzbekistan… The question is wether or not I an sustain the level of endurance needed to get across this stretch without having to resort to transport again.

I learnt on the last attempt that I am not good with the heat. Blame it on genetics or poor breeding stock :) But anybody who can cycle in 50 degrees day after day.. well they are half man half lizard.

So justifications and excuses over and done with, I should mention some random moments that made the last few days slightly more bearable.

Seeing Martin and Sybil at Vali’s was great. They both left yesterday to attempt the Turkmenistan crossing. All I can say is that I hope that they make it and hopefully I can get up to speed and catch you up. Again. It must be like having a stray dog following you around :)

Arriving at Mashhad coach station and having a member of the IRG come and ask me if I am ok with virtually no english. I explain that I am waiting for a friend to come and meet me with hand gestures and motions of phone calls and looking at watches.. he smiles then comes out completely unprompted with the best quote of the trip so far; “John Terry is a son of a bitch yes?”
Yes John Terry is a son of a bitch.

Leaving Mashhad bus station and cycling against the traffic of a three lane road, round a roundabout the wrong way and then having a motorcycle with rider and pillion pull a wheelie directly at me.

Standing outside Vali’s homestay next to a mosque and having a random taxi driver/tour guide/? come out and ask where I am from which quickly descended into being shown a video on his mobile phone of George Bush with frantic exclamations of ‘Satan, Satan’ as he vigoursly slapped me. Asking my belief I took the extremely diplomatic line of saying that there is but one God and I am a Christian (very loud cough), we are all brothers etc.
Smiling he then showed me another video of Palestian kids ripped to shreds by Isreali bombings, a video of a factory that is making shoes to mark the wonderous moment that some brave soul stood up and threw his shoes at the clown (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/3902981/Bush-shoe-throwers-brother-slams-Turkish-shoe-factorys-exploitation.html) and then a montage of clips showing masons, anarchists, marylin manson, goths and various people with 666 tattoos etc.. as he struggled to say the word ‘armageddon’. He managed ‘end times’ though.

I was then asked if I would like to go to his house. I politely declined. The problem is I might have left the impression I wanted to visit tonight…

The food at Vali’s. I will try and get pictures up as it is just insane. That and there being a smoothis shop round the corner where you can get a hamburger next door as well for a combined price of a quid. The game is now to put as much weight on as possible in five days. Seriously.

Day 136

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

“there is a thin line between being concerned and being scared” some soulwax radio mix..
you find it

This trip has rammed the point home enough times to make me truly believe it that when things are bad, soon they will become good. The problem is it works both ways.

Good: Sitting watching the world cup in a 2.5 million dollar flat in tehran with an art dealer, an artist of national standing, a new york times journalist, a t4 producer, somebody high in advertising here and me, Kris and Adam.

Good: discussing politics with the aforementioned new york times journalist

Good: the view from the balcony over a couple of million people

Bad: going back to our hotel to rejoin the flies and cockroaches

Good: Going out when I would have otherwise stayed in bed to meet two random couchsurfing Iranian Girls who took Adam, Kris and I to the palace of the Shah where we saw a small exhibition about two Iranian explorers who spent 10 years travelling the globe. That and one of the girls was stupidly cute.

Bad: Saying goodbye to Adam and Kris who rushed off with bicycle packed in boxes to start again in India in the midst of a shouting match with the owner of the hotel/scrap metal yard. Best of luck lads, have a curry and a beer for me, stay safe and keep in touch.

Good: Finding a man that could get money out here as no cash machines take western cards.

Bad: Staying awake till 1am to wait for his brother to give me the money which scuppered any plans of leaving the following morning at 5am.

Bad: Cycling out of Tehran. even at the crack of dawn they still drive like they are pissed.

Bad: Going into the desert and realising it will be like this for a looooong time.

Good: Hitting the distance I needed to ride and seeing a sign for a motel

Bad: Motel is closed

Good: Sleep in the garage why dont you? give the afghani 2 dollars for a shower and drink tea with him and his brother. Discuss how the taliban and the us are joined (rub two fingers together in the eastern manner) for the 10th time now… (as an aside i am starting to think there is truth in this… there was the ‘airlift of evil’ and god knows how much opium is coming out through american sources but the opinion on the ground here held by everybody is that the uk and the us are joined at the hip with the taliban. Make of that what you will.

Bad: Losing an incomprehensible amount of fluids through the night (sorry it does not get any better from this point on…) as my tent turned into a sauna

Good: Using the toilet and trying to pay the afghan who stood outside. Turning me away i was confronted with a ‘why do you not have too pay and i do’ from an early morning worshipper at the adjacent mosque

Bad: Finding out that I am dehydrated before I even start cycling

Bad: Drinking 8.5 litres of water and only still just managing to stay in the game

Good: Arriving at a town that has never looked so good, literally an oasis in the middle of a desert. Eating a pizza, meeting an english teacher and drinking pineapple beer until the stomach cramps arrive. I stock up on food and head to the mosque where i have been told i can sleep in the gardens. Upon entering the gardens I find that a dozen coach parties occupy every square bit of space that has anything remotely like shade. Giving up and being lazy I ask if there is a hotel in a nearby shop. The owner shakes his head and walks me back to the mosque.. lo and behold i have my own private room after photos with 5 teenage girls who crowd round me as their father takes pictures…

Bad: Having to get on the bike and leave at 4am as i try and force food down to a place that it does not want to reside

Good: Finding that the shops are open, i can get cold water and see the look of a man who comes over and stares at me like i am utterly insane.

Bad: Realising after 5 miles that the road is going up. And there is a strong head wind. And its hot. How hot? Try 50. Hot enough to breack the speedo. It is that hot.

Good: With a broken speedo you have no idea how slow you are going…

Bad: With a broken speedo in the desert you have no idea when water is coming… That is true fear believe me.

Good: Iranian truck drivers, bless them, stopping and giving me ice cold water, cans of peach juice and water melons. The guy who had recieved a blow out and was sleeping under his truck, for letting me climb under and collapse down beside you, for giving me a cup of the foulest tea i have ever drunk with 7 sugars in and understanding that if i eat any of the food you offered i would vomit… i thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Bad: Cycling through the town i aimed to stop in. Yes, seriously actually going through the xxxxing town and not realising. To this day i will never know how. All I can say is that it lead to another two hours on the bike going up and over the lower mountains that never ended… all of this after being told it was first 6km from water, then 16km.. then just giving up, head down, not even looking at the road, just making sure the white line is on my left, occupying the hard shoulder, breathing through my nose, trying to conserve as much energy as possible and feeling my head slowly go as i sip water and wonder what the xxxx am i doing…. all the time as i dream of ice lollies by the seaside as a child

Good: Reaching a supermarket in the middle of nowhere, walking in and buying an ice lolly and a can of coke.

Bad: Then collapsing outside.

Good: Being allowed to sleep outside the door next to the pet rabbits who where freaking out with the heat

Bad: Being woken up in the night by a little xxxx who wanted to know where i was from…

Good: Finding out that the road did in fact go down and after 40 miles arriving at a mosque where there was a shop that i could buy pineapple beer… then seeing there was only 5km into town

Bad: Dry wretching 2 minutes after drinking the pineapple beer as I cycle into town

Good: Being taken to the most expensive hotel in town by some kind soul, who then told me where the cheapest one in town could be found. Another kind soul took me to the cheapest one. The cheapest one is not open till 2pm… hmmmm try again. Another kind soul then took me to the mosque.. sleep here. Thankyou. After a nap I wake to water melon an english professor an ice cream and a visit from the police. ‘No no everything is ok, we want to help you, understand that we are all brorthers and it is our duty to look after you’. Cue following a small 125cc motorcycle back the way i came to, yes you guessed it.. the most expensive hotel in town where i started.
‘Our instution will pay for you.. we hope you enjoy it here.’ and with that they where gone.

So from being on a bike in the middle of the desert getting very very concerned to recieving gifts beyond simple comprehension.
My head is a mess.
My body is a wreck.
I have 549km to get to Mashhad.
I am still in the game.