Not riding in Iran
One would think spending a full week in a country that you’d actually see more then one city. My plans for Iran had really been dashed after having to repair the clutch – I was very disappointed. I had wanted to visit the old cities of Isfahan and Shiraz and go riding through the northern mountains… but as adventure dictates, sometimes not everything goes in the direction you want it to. It was time to start the run backwards, from Tehran to Tbilisi.
While waiting for the clutch repair to finish up, I’d spent my final few days in Iran giving Mahdi some extra english lessons. Mahdi had been studying hard for his IELTS exam and wanted some extra help with his english literacy. So, over many cups of tea, coffee and the occasional smoke, we worked together on the floor, in the comfort of his lounge room.
Getting Trumpet back in time for Tehran to Tbilisi
Saturday came, and with it a message from Reza letting me know that Trumpet was finally ready to go. Hallelujah! I’d been having a bad case of motorcycle withdrawal all week, and was more then ready to eradicate the symptoms that persisted. Unfortunately Reza wasn’t at the shop on Sunday when I picked up the bike, but Mohammed was. He filled me in on what work they had done on the bike (while being translated from farsi by Mahdi)
– re-adjust and weld the crash bars
– weld front mount plate
– weld headlight cover bracket
– repair bolt holes
– replace clutch
– repair right hand mirror
– repair fog light attachments
– change oil
It wasn’t so expensive, considering I had to get the clutch replaced. They’d even washed poor Trumpet, who’d gone without a clean in quite a while. Mohammed gave me the keys with a wink and a cheeky grin on his face. Time to leave Tehran!
976 Km – Tehran to Igdir
Leaving at 7.30am that monday morning, the plan was to cover 1500 kilometres from Tehran to Tbilisi before the end of the following afternoon. After an hour of mucking about in Iran traffic, I finally got on the highway – which by the way, you cannot legally ride on, but no one cares anyway. I only got stopped once by police that told me I couldn’t use the highway, and then they told me to use it anyway.
Slugging out the boring straight road, I pulled up after the first 200 km to refuel both the bike and me. While slamming down a snickers and a cup of tea, I continually shook hands, posed for photos with Trumpet and answered the curious Iranians questions. I wondered if that’s what it feels like as a movie star. As usual, everyone was very polite and friendly, welcoming me into their country and wishing me safe travels. A rather impressive bunch of people.
Another 250 km later, I pulled into the next fuel stop and got on with it. Sitting down at a table outside a small shop, I was entertained by an old man who found all my gear quite curious. He tried on my sunglasses, played with my go pro and toyed with the idea of wearing my helmet.
Looking up after lubing my chain, 2 young Iranians were looking on intently, like I was a magical mechanic. Sorry guys, I’m just a bloke who rides a bike, without much of idea of fixing anything. They handed me my gear when I’d finished, shook my hand with a smile and said goodbye.
The sunset was great on the way to Bazargan, the driving was horrendous. It was expected for people to just overtake as soon as they caught up to someone – at points I was squeezing myself to the edge of the tarmac to let haphazard drivers finish their ‘manueovering’. It was a another, do whatever you want driving spree on a two lane road.
On and on we rode, and slowly the kilometres ticked over. 600… 723… 841… until at long last I was at the border town of Bazargan around 7pm. Refueling with cheap Iranian fuel for the last time (nooooooooo!!!), I then headed to the border house to have my carnet stamped.
After a group chat in the customs halls about the carnet, everyone sat down at the closest desk and started smoking. So I just joined in for the fun of it – evidently it was going to be a ‘yes, we will stamp you out, just not yet’ kinda scenario. Whatever dude, Turkey was just across the way, so no rushing here… Close to an hour later, stamped documents in hand, they opened the gate and back into Turkey it was.
Into Turkey… again
Things were much quicker on the Turkish side of the border and before long I was on the road to Izgir to look for a place to sleep. I was stopped on the way through at a military checkpoint and was attended to by a fully armed army private, helmet and all that whiz on. After realising I couldn’t speak turkish, he tried arabic, and when then didn’t work, walked around my bike, torch flashing over Trumpet. Looking curiously at me his mouth twitched.
‘Why you waiting?’
‘Why you waiting?’
‘Why am I waiting?’
‘Go, GO, HURRY UP’
‘Gee whiz mate, relax your sacks’ I though to myself. No idea why he was so moody. Maybe it was the weather.
976km after leaving Tehran, I finally stopped at the first hotel I saw – really it was just a block of flats. Still, it was nice and clean, if lacking hot water. I wandered off at 11.30pm to buy some dinner and a 15 lira (5 euros) later I had a bag full of kebabs, soup and salad. After having a picnic on the bed listening to turkish football commentators, I passed out. Tehran to Tbilisi was over halfway completed already!
512 km – Turkey to Georgia
From Igdir to Tbilisi was another 512km, so Trumpet and I were whizzing through traffic at 9am. The road was virtually empty the whole way to the Georgian border – lots of straight roads (which seems customary for Turkey) made for quick travel. The only encouters that we had on the way were another four military checkpoints on the way to the Georgian border. They just quickly waved me through, not sure why it was so easy with a camera attached to my helmet though.
By 1.30pm I’d stopped for a smoke and pee in the bushes at the Turkish border control. They were really quick with paperwork at the border – 5 mins and I was through to the Georgian border – who then proceeded to empty out every conceivable bag and box I had on the bike.
Getting searched at the Georgian Border
It was quite bizarre at the Georgian border. Customs checked the tank of the bike, the seats and tapped every panel. I ended up with my current life displayed on the road for all the world to see. They even brought over ‘Boris’ the sniffer dog, to go fishing for who knows what.
All I had were some bananas and snickers bars – which one border official eyed off. I offered him a banana but he didn’t seem very impressed… ‘Well you’re not getting my bloody snickers bars you bugger’ I thought to myself. To top it all off, three separate officers decided they needed to scrutinise my passport. It wasn’t until a few days later, I thought it might’ve all been due to the worsening political issues in Turkey.
Tehran to Tbilisi is complete
Well, being back in Georgia sure felt great – it was sort of like going back home for a while. Everything was familiar again. ‘Ahhhhh, life is breezy’ I thought as I rode through the twisting road out of the small town of Vale. As usual there was police everywhere, but unlike Armenia, no one seemed to getting pulled over. Maybe it was just a good day to be on the road!
At 4.30pm, I rolled into hostel M42 on the steep hilly streets of Tbilisi. There, Mamuka and Dina welcomed me back after parking trumpet up in the driveway. With beds full, I pitched up that ever reliable tent of mine on the balcony and kicked back with a beer and the guys (Vova, Dina, Mamuka and Tamara) at M42. Cheers!
While relaxing with a cold beer, I located the owner of the ruski cruiser – Den. He had just finished cruising through the steppes of Kazahkstan and also spent some time cruising through Armenia too. As usual the banter about riding and bikes began and I spent an enjoyable evening trading stories from one rider to another. Tehran to Tbilisi was finally done and dusted. ‘Phew’
Applying for a Russian Visa in Tbilisi
Reading reports about the Russian Interests office located inside the swiss embassy led me to believe that the place was absolutely nuts. Reports of chaos and lots of pushy people in the way… well you can’t believe everything you read
I turned up at a lazy 11.30 am, looked at guard and flicked my passport over to show the Australian coat of arms on the front. He waved me over and I bypassed the Georgians all waiting to get inside the office. I walked out 30 mins later with a ‘how to’ lesson in my head. The paperwork was to be submitted in Russian only (Read about applying for a russian transit visa here – attach link)
That afternoon, Tamara and Dina spent the better part of the rest of the day translating all my paperwork into Russian. Even the application form was to be filled in Russian. Once this was all done we ate dinner together (pasta) and began a game of Durak with the residing Ukranians and Danes… which carried onto the small hours of the morning.
Back I went to the russian interests office the next day, where I walked out half an hour later with a visa slip in my hand! Pick up in 10 days! Woohoo – mission complete. I was over the moon about the Russian visa – when I was in Iran, I’d missed out on the Turkmenistan visa (read here) so I had begun to wonder how I was ever going to make it to Torugart pass in China by the 25th for a group meet up to cross the province of Xinjiang.
Because the visa process was so long for Russia, that was the reason behind the 1500km run to Tbilisi in two days.
The next step
Time is going to allow me 7 days to cross Russia, Kazahkstan and Kyrgyzstan to the Chinese border at Torugart – more then enough time (one would hope anyway!) To give one an idea of the distance, it’s around 4435km – which works out to be a 663 km a day average.
Now that the important stuff is out of way, I really can kick back, eat cheese and get fat for the next week or so. I’ll do another service on Trumpet just to clean up any ‘rusty’ spots, and get her ready for the rush run to Kyrgyzstan – amongst seeking some more georgian off road! For now though, Tehran to Tbilisi is complete.
Thanks for reading Tehran to Tbilisi!
Next week – touring Georgias gorgeous national parks!