Well… things in life can change quickly. Especially when you’re on a bicycle expedition, traveling from Iran to Turkey. Military and kids make a difference!
After a great cycling day through a landscape full of mountains I reached camp after approximately 140 kilometer. Camp was a little bit further than planned because the initial camp side turned out not to be suitable. So we ended up on a nice piece of flat land, 25 kilometer before the border crossing and a kilometer from the high way. Nice, quiet, and with good views on mountains and farming land. No one around except a shepherd walking around with his cows.
During dinner a couple of cars pulled up. Military men in green army suits, a few police agents and a couple in normal clothing started a discussion with Ali, our local guide. He speaks Farsi and knows how to talk to government officials. Apparently, we were camping next to a gas pipe. This gas pipe has exploded whatever kilometers further and there might be a possibility that it would explode on this specific place again. The government officials were very much concerned that if it would explode, the newspapers would report that the Iranians had bombed so tourist, among them some US citizens. I am not making this story up! Relaxed as we were most of us went to bed around 21:00 hours. Until our tour leader woke us at 23:30 hours. The military and/or police had arranged a hotel in town, a passenger bus and a truck for our bicycles!
The hotel was next to the border crossing and from the border it was only 25 kilometers to out camp site. From the road I could see Mount Ararat clearly. According to the book of Genesis, Mount Ararat is where Noah’s ark came ashore. The border crossing went quickly. Leaving Iran was no issue and on the Turkish side I had to purchase a Turkish visa for 20 US Dollar. The visa was basically a sticker and stamp in my passport, but I didn’t want to cycle back to Shanghai… well… maybe I could… Anyway, the 250 meter border crossing makes such a difference. Once I was cycling in Turkey the road was basically an airplane start/landing runway. Smooth and wide asphalt! I was cycling with Ross and Dudley was approximately 1 kilometer behind us. One of the two boys in front of us crossed the road; the other stood still in the middle of the road. Just like in Iran I was happy to see some kids because it’s always fun to have a chat with them. I slowed down a bit to say hello. When Ross, cycling now in front of me, passed the first kid he warned me that the kid on the right had a stick. One second later kid number 1 threw the stick into my wheel while the other threw a stone in my stomach. I stopped quickly, dropped my bicycle on the asphalt and started to run after the kids. I saw Dudley behind me do the same. After 10 meters I felt pain in my hamstring! Not good… I more or less collapsed from the pain and stopped the chase. I was angry, surprised, frustrated and confused at the same time. How could this happen? Since Shanghai I had met only friendly people! Where did this came from? What did I do wrong? The pain was severe and I was happy camp was only 20 kilometers away. This was certainly unexpected!
In camp, Haldun, our local guide in Turkey, managed to get some ice for my leg. I was still angry, surprised, frustrated and confused. In the next couple of days I understood this part of Turkey a little bit better. Stones and sticks are used by many people to manage sheep, cows and dogs. It’s what the kids learn from their parents. And it’s the only ‘tools’ they have to be naughty. In addition, this is a really poor region. Apparently, tourist are an easy ‘target’. The more we cycle to the west, the less irritating the kids seem to be.
I got some cream from Haldun and some patches from Mun Yew and got rid of the pain in 5 days or so. Cycling of course continued! Istanbul is close! I wonder what unexpected things I can expect more?!?!