Yet another cycling adventure is waiting for me, this time I go to a beautiful exotic country with some peculiar politics and culture, Iran. It´s interesting to note that in Persia was born the first monotheistic religion of the word: Zoroastrianism. A religion that may disappear in just a few decades.
More than 1100km have to be pedaled, and it could be much more with detours or taking wrong directions. Due the fact that I have a cheap three-gears bicycle, I have chosen for the moment to follow the main road, which spans in the middle of Iran through Tabriz – Zanjan. It´s the fastest and flattest route and it seems to be the best for me, cause the distance between Yerevan and Tehran is huge and it will take months otherwise. My main stop will be Tehran, hence I will be cycling for almost one month nonstop, taking this fastest route.
Other cyclists have told me great stories about Iranians and their great hospitality. Iran is quite safe and cyclists friendly.
The adventure starts here!
The online procedure of the Evisa from the Iranian government works the 20% of the times. I don’t suggest to use it cause then you are stuck and you can’t apply by agency (which costs about 20€) until you don’t get an answer: it can take weeks or months.
I applied online, waited for 17 days, called several times (maybe 10) to the embassy but nobody could help and they would give me the wrong number. Finally, once I got to Yerevan, I went to the Iranian embassy (which is also on a mountain out of the city) to hear from the clerk that my request has been refused. She told me to apply again with an agency and she even gave me the visit card of the agency.
Probably they want to make it complicated, have some ‘relationship’ with the agencies, or they want simply to work less and have the agency do all the work.
For this trip I needed normally to do some changes to the bicycle, three gears may be not enough to go 5.190 meters uphill, but I will challenge myself and still be with three gears! Pushing the bicycle up the mountains.
Komoot and Gmaps will be my main information source, I will not use the internet, so I have to rely only on offline maps.
This time I have more gear with me: full-body reflectors, fisherman rain-coat & solar-powered batteries; however, I have just a few pieces of clothing to fit all the stuff and the bigger sleeping bag, cause now the temperature will be a bit colder on the mountains.
Click on the pic to open the details of the tour
TBILISI – YEREVAN CYCLING DIARY Personal feelings and some useful Trip notes for bicycle travelers.
Main points about the trip
I felt Safe all the time,
There are many water springs on the way, in both countries,
The folk is hospitable & they like Europeans, Georgians and Armenian are similar, even though they have some contrasts between each other, Cold on the mountains in the nights,
The month of October has great weather for cycling (not too cold, not too hot), Not too much traffic and cars keep space when they were passing me, being really polite.
Ready for departure
Daily cyclo diary
TBILISI – KVEMO TELETI 30KM
It’s late when I realize that I don’t have a sleeping pad.
I had to throw away a battery in the standard trash cause in Georgia there is no recycling going on.
Gas stations don’t have air for tires.
No one friendly met on the way, expect a fruit seller and a tire shop owner.
I get some pain in the left leg, I don’t enjoy too much going on the mountains with a three gears city bike.
Testing the solar panels, they seem to work great, I already project to make some permanent installation.
I went to sleep early, I got asleep soon but in the night many thoughts came to my mind. It’s so hard to get empty.
Cemetery. Both Armenians & Georgians have a heavy worship for dead people
KVEMO TELETI – MARNEULI 46 km (tot 76)
Cold in the night
Freedom feeling in the morning
Disgusting smell of exhaust gas from cars
I buy a one-year-expired sweet from a small shop
Hygiene issues: while the seller serves the customer the food falls on the ground, then the seller put it aside, but does not trash it, after five minutes the food is back on the shelf; several shops did this.
Cool kids in the street with bicycles cycle with me.
Car accident, yet another.
Horse with a small lace between legs and neck.
A local asks me what’s my religion, I reply: ” the bicycle” and everything circular.
A fruit which I have never seen before attracts my attention: it’s green, hard, as big as an orange, smelling a bit like a citrus fruit, it has spiral patterns on the skin, and I don’t manage to open it.
In the night there is a mix of different sounds:
Music, like a folk festival
Dogs, many of them, barking
Train, slow and as noisy as a drill machine.
My back hurts.
I manage to get car’s attention with all that reflectors
MARNUELI – SHNOGH (ARMENIA) 34km (tot 110)
It rains, so I stay in the tent and play some harmonica.
Cows licking my bicycle.
All Custom guards are eating while checking my documents.
Friendly custom control.
Arrived in Armenia.
The streets are a bit worse here than in Georgia.
The Armenians I crossed look similar to each other; many men have flat dark hair going on the forehead, a mix between Dracula and Calimero. Several Armenians I have seen have gold teeth, I am not sure if it is a symbol of wealth.
The night was cold. Many animals were roaming around the tent; for sure groups of dogs, some kind of foxes making an acute sound, and maybe even wolves, or maybe they were just dogs. I have heard animal’s sounds that I have never heard before, some kind of sad dogs group crying, even though they could have been other animals too.
I have heard another scary sound, like an army with many tanks, moving slowly next to me; then I realize is just an Armenian train. Same happens for the trucks on the road. Two similar slow metallic sounds.
In the morning my tent is still wet due to the dew. I pack anyway.
Camping in the fields
SHNOG – DSEGH 80km (tot 156)
Many cars in panne in the street.
Indiana Jone’s bridges.
Abandoned cable car hanging on the cable on top of the village.
High voltage electricity wires about 2 5 meters from the ground.
I didn’t meet any attractive Armenian woman or girl yet
A bicycle traveler crosses my way, he doesn’t even smile to me.
Surrounded by dogs around the tent.
I get sick, maybe the food (kebab or fish), maybe the water, maybe just influenza; my belly, muscles, and head are painful, I vomit four times.
Locals are extremely friendly
DSEGH – VANADZOR 20km (tot 176)
Today I am fasting
The sun is high in the sky and I am still in the tent, sick.
I have finished all the three bottles of water.
My solar panels don’t seem to charge the battery
I try to get some motivation and energy to pack and leave :
I need water,
It’s hot in the tent,
There is too much noise from cars here,
And, if I arrive soon to Yerevan, I will probably meet a cool girl there.
I start to cycle even if I am sick.
Armenian drivers behave with cyclists as Italian drivers behave with girls: they annoy you by using the horn for no reason.
The way is uphill, I have to push the bicycle; nevertheless, there is a positive thing: Yerevan is not like Rome, where ALL the streets bring you there, for Yerevan there is only one street and not even much traffic.
Luckily the road has been flattened, however, there is no protection net for rocks falling from the mountain.
I struggle to find a place to set up the tent, finally, I camp near an abandoned industrial site, full of trash in the grass, as often happens in this trip.
The mist is the enemy number one
VANADZOR – SPITAK 38km (tot 214)
Today there is a lot of mist.
Regardless of the fact that this location is a bit grotesque and full of trash, I didn’t get disturbed by vehicles or dogs, so I had a good rest.
I still feel a little weak, but I have positive mental energy, probably I will fast today too.
When I look at the map in the mornings, I see there is a long way to go, nevertheless, as I start cycling, I regularly get surprised of myself about how far you can get just with a bicycle.
Even though I still feel sick, by cycling I feel better.
Thinking of my mother, I wonder if she had ever had big traveling adventures.
All cars have dark windows, even the front ones.
Smelly, polluting, and extremely dark smoke comes from the exhaust pipe of the majority of the vehicles.
It’s incredible how many car’s tire shops there are in Armenia.
Two men invite me to a warehouse where I meet Saro, the manager. He is really kind and speaks English, I get invited to eat with them but I am still not feeling good with my stomach, so I prefer not to eat.
Mountains are all around me, they seem made of velvet.
The silence and quietness of traveling by bicycle are priceless.
I am about fasting today too, but finally, I eat some grapes.
It seems that between Armenians and Georgians there are not great relationships.
I have to climb mountains again and my back hurts.
The night is freezing cold, I absolutely need a warmer sleep bag and extra clothes.
Someone comes to visit me in the tent during the night, I don’t understand if he needs help or is offering me some.
A kind man came to offer his help while I was repairing the bicycle
SPITAK – APARAN 33 km (tot 247)
This is the third day of fasting.
Many birds roam around my tent.
I have a flat tire.
A kind man offers me tea, accommodation, and little help to repair the bicycle.
I was thinking to climb these mountains yesterday before sunset, luckily I didn’t do it, because I would have ended up in the darkness on a mountain with nowhere to camp and a flat tire.
Finally, I realize that the many cars horning at me, do it just for friendliness, while in Italy they do it also to annoy and make stupid jokes at you.
After the wheel reparation, the tire seems to be damaged, so the bicycle is riding wonky.
I get invited for a tea from a kind man.
Suddenly, I am in the middle of a wedding, they ask me if I am hungry, I reply: “a bit” (I didn’t eat since three days), the people of the wedding go to ask others, probably asking if I could join the wedding, after a while they go to the supermarket and buy me food: sweets and chocolate. I do eat the food, but I didn’t have to, cause I am still sick, so I am about vomiting again.
Both in Armenia and Georgia—even though there are no bicycle lanes and cars don’t drive good—I have to admit that the most of the vehicles take a large distance from me when they pass me.
Safety is also not an issue here, for so far I have traveled, people don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don´t commit crimes; for sure not as much as in Europe.
Aran is a nice small town to stop.
I camp when is still about 17:00, I am afraid to not feel well enough to cross the next village.
There is a nice spot to set up the tent, I have a great view and some privacy; the only issue is the nearby traffic, noisy and smelly: from the tent, I cough because of the disgusting oily smoke from diesel vehicles. They have probably engine’s issues and therefore a lot of oil is burned. Luckily there are many other vehicles that run on methane.
Yet another freezing night, regardless the fact that I have even put gloves on my feet, they were still cold.
APARAN – YEREVAN 47 km (tot 294)
It’s sunny and I am not that sick anymore.
Today I will absolutely fast.
Everyone has talked to me in Russian in this trip, assuming that I would speak—or be—Russian; some people thought I was American, when I told them that my family is Italian they loved me, they like Europeans in general.
I find trash even next to a worship place.
While I am cycling there is a bicycle passing me on the left, I turn my head and I see a group of cyclo travelers, we cycle until Yerevan together, sharing food, drinks, and information.
They are kind Russians, I try my best to speak Russian, but of course, I can just say basic concepts.
I am happy to arrive in Yerevan and take a break, I love to cycle but I really needed some rest, a better sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.
I don´t manage to fast this last day.
Learing Georgian & Food
Thanks = Madloba
Hello = Gamarjoba (gamargioba)
GoodBye = Nakhvamdis
My name is = chemi sakhelia
Nice to meet you = Sasiamovnoa sheni gatsnoba
No = Ara
Yes = Ki
Maybe = sheidzleba’Me = me
You = shen
They = Isini
I like = me mikvars
You are really kind = dzalian chkviani khar (zalian cikviani kar)
Girl = gogo
Boy = bichi
I love you = me shen mikvarkhar
I love Georgia = me mikvars saqartvelo
You are beautiful = shen khar dzalian lamazi
You have beautiful eyes = shen gakvs dzalian lamazi tvalebi (eyes)
I like your skin = me mikvars sheni kani
Are all Georgian girls beautiful like you? = kvela qartveli gogo shensavit lamazia
Can I kiss you? = sheidzleba gakotsoDo you want to watch a movie with me = ginda chemtan ertad kinos kureba
I would marry your brother just to be near you = shen dzmaze davqorwindebodi rom shens akhlos vkopilikavi
Extremely hospitable and kind people, I have got helped in all kind of ways, even with money.
I needed food, they gave me food.
I needed a ride, they brought me with them.
I was thirsty, I had free water.
I had no money, people spontaneously gave me money.
No, is not the Bible, it’s just what happened to me. Many times. Both in Armenia and Georgia.
It seems that both, Armenians and Georgians, are in competition for whom is the most friendly and kind.
Free water as fundamental right.
Until about 2014, the water at home was free.
Yerevan, city of mirrors. You don’t have to carry a mirror with you, there are hundreds of them around the city
Armenian gastronomy: Persil & Coriander everywhere. Unlucky me that I don’t like coriander!
THINGS THAT COULD BE IMPROVED
Builders working on an expensive hotel construction don’t have any safety equipment
Small kids drive mini electric car toys, these cars are mini luxury cars and have even loud disco music integrated, to make the kid fully similar to the father.
I have seen more porches car here than in the wealthiest countries of the world.