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The Caspian Sea. The water of it was a little bit salty.
From Tehran to Mashhad, there are 2 main roads. One is the desert way along the range of high mountains and the other one is green way along The Caspian Sea. I took the green one because I really missed it after the monochrome landscape of Turkey and Iran in the winter.

It was not really green but warmer and humid. A friend of mine said Iran has 4 seasons at the same time. That makes nature beautiful but made me sick.

When I arrived at the small town called Azad-Shahr, I was stuck in a terrible fever because of irregular weather. It was like early spring when I arrive…

but the next day was like this. What was worse, the road to the next city was blocked by heavy snow and even cars couldn’t pass. I was going to be mad with a fever and time passing. My schedule was really tight, so I had to skip to Mashhad.

Mashhad is the biggest Islamic holy place in Iran. The famous holy shrine complex is worth to visiting even if you are not Muslim. Most of mosques have one strong direction to the Mecca, but this place is completely symmetrical to 4 directions, which means this is the center. This fact is also shown by the behavior of pilgrims. They turn around the prophet’s tomb touching it and go out of the room facing it. Never show your back to the tomb.

From Mashhad, I’ve been cycling with Ben, from Belgium. We met by chance at the embassy of Turkmenistan at first and got together again in Mashhad.

As well as the many borders, the border to Turkmenistan is high mountains. The highest point is more or less 2200m. We climbed a long slope and it was already dark when we passed the peak. There was no town, building and even light but fortunately found one restaurant for truck drivers. We rushed into their small cottage and stayed over the night.

We couldn’t see anything in the night but found there were completely covered with thick snow in the next morning. The road was quite icy but mostly just goes down.

The last town in Iran is located in the valley. It was silent, dark and only had a long line of trucks. It’s just exciting as the place crossed by the people who are going beyond the border.

After cycling in the mountain without any building or people(but soldiers), we suddenly came into the city, Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

There are many tall apartments of unique and gorgeous style and parks with a lot of green, water and the statues of the president, Turkmenabasi. I couldn’t find any rubbish on the road because many women were always cleaning in everywhere. Super clean, no pollution and drivers are exactly following the traffic rule. We were so surprised that it was a good contrast to Iran. Also in bad meaning, however. There was no tourist visiting huge palaces or even no local people who were enjoying picnic in beautiful parks. No activity of life. Imagine that you are alone in Disney Land on closing day. It’s like that.

When we came to this area, a police man told us to get off the bikes and not to take a picture. There were many police men around the city, as they can watch each other, in order to make control network. That’s why people seemed to be quiet, apathetic and huddled up by the control in public space. Even in the station, with hundreds of people, there was no noise. It was just weird.

However, people were actually kind, friendly and interested in communicating with us. When we were walking on the street, they let us come in their shop and gave us cups of coffee. They talked about their life or politics, and we found out that they were not really satisfied but also not so much depressed, because they are not free but not poor too, controlled but have a good(or not bad) quality of life. It’s so small country that there is not so much inner conflict. That’s also nice contrast to Iran.

In the main bazar. Everything was fresh and high-quality but not cheap…

One drunk man bought everything around him for us! The smell of vodka always reminds me that I’m in the Soviet countries.

Then we took a train to the other side of the country because the embassy gave us only 3 days visa, which is too short to cycle for 500km. (they used to issue 5days but there is a restriction for tourists now, due to the election a couple of week ago. Actually the gate was closed until 5days before we entered) It’s disgusting. Actually I and also Ben were so much nervous with too much skip, not cycling from Iran(I always got visa problems and he as well) I don’t know how many times I tried to burn my passport…what a stupid system…

To the next border just in 3days.

Uzbekistan! Blue sky, a nice sign and a long long road is exactly what cyclists need.

Cool! Should be the good cyclist in the future.

The first day in Uzbekistan was perfect, then we arrived at Bukhara, the historical city on the Silk Road.

It’s 100 dollar. It’s a headache especially for cyclists…please don’t make my luggage heavier.

Repairing a flat tire was a big showtime for Uzbek people. He got 30 people in a minute. It could be a good business if we ask for fee.

People in Uzbekistan are very kind and hospitable as well as Iranian or Turkish. Actually they have a same origin as Turkish people and Uzbek is really similar to Turkish( and a little bit to Persian) Of course they will help you when you knock their doors.

The man said he made this house himself. Sometimes people without education or technology do much better than professionals. He only used the materials he could get here, made thick wall with cray to keep comfortable temperature without machines, and divided the space into some types of room according to the necessity for inside and outside.

OK, you are free to watch the show.

Samarqand is also a important city on the Silk Road.

Uzbek people made this amazing blue on the earth as if the God painted the sky blue.

I like all the people here (except some people who try to cheat foreigners) but especially children are really nice. They are innocent, honest, and open-minded. Even if adults are a little bit afraid of us, their children always get close to and help us. They are cute as all children are but also more polite and individual than some adults. I guess this is because most people in countrysides are farmers and children help their family a lot, then they are aware of the difficulties to get food or make a living throughout their daily life. respectable.

Well, we’ve been really fast so far since we started cycling together, actually we’ve done 330km(Samarqand – Tashkent) for 2days. We’ve stopped at Tashkent to get my Chinese visa(sorry Ben…) and been a bit afraid to wait for long again but it would be fine in tomorrow morning, owing to the help of the nice guy in the travel agency(Axeleit tour, thanks!). We are leaving soon and continuing on the Silk Road.

Tehran – Tashkent

6402 – 7673/1271km

the next way: Tashkent – Bishkek


Yu Ito

March 2012
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