The idea to take a bus from Isfahan to Borujen wasn't a wise choice. First we cycled for hours on the crammed streets to get to the right bus terminal (There is at least three of them in Isfahan). I've had a pleasant chat with a manager of a steel factory in the bus. Then we had big arguments with the bus driver who wanted five times the regular ticket price for carrying our bicycles. Kathrin is not smiling anymore. Just after that incident solved, a young civil police guy insists to see her passport while I'm in the bathroom. He'd show an ID with him in uniform, but all in Farsi. Maybe he was a police man.

We're happy to escape Borujen, yet the odd vibes follow us. Heavy head wind slows us down. The truck and car drivers need to express their excitement about us with loud horns. Somewhere out here, a strange guy in rags follows us on his motorbike for half an hour (at 10km/h). He insists that we follow him to his home, in Farsi. All my “mochakera, nemifahmam, choda hafez” - (thank you, I don't understand, bye bye) doesn't help. In the next village, Kathrin stops to chat with some women sitting on a pick-up truck on the side of the road.

SAM 7617 Semirom

They are fruit farmers, and happily smoke their water pipe and offer us tea. Not long and we get their husbands to know. A little later our bikes are on the pickup, and we sit in a car zipping some 50 kilometers off-map. It is a fast-and-furious convoy drive into the wild. Incredibly, out here in the dessert there is green patches of fruit trees. We reach the one-horse town by sunset. The family of ten lives in a two-room cottage with few furniture. Chicken BBQ is prepared by the man, and their cheeky boys are very curious to talk to me. As far as my Farsi skills go, I can ask for names and ages and stuff. Little English is spoken. I would have loved to understand their jokes. The full moon rises.

Meanwhile Kathrin sits inside with the women, and apparently enjoys it. Food is served on the floor on a plastic tablecloth. The boys scan Kathrin's phone for bikini photos and the likes. After dinner, the grown-up men sit and do what men can do out here – smoke and drink Cai with big lumps of sugar. Kathrin and I play a few songs on guitar and harmonica. Distant family members and friends call to invite us to visit them over a noisy phone connection. A Farsi-English dictionary is around to enable some communication, and Kathrins picture dictionary. Later, mattresses are laid on the floor. Men and women sleep in separate rooms and my aching head gets some rest.

After a great breakfast and lots of “Choda hafez” we are on the road again. By lunchtime we reach Semirom, from where we continue towards Yasuj. The idea is to cycle a few more hours, and then hitch to Yasuj and stay in a hotel. Our wild-camp ambitions have evaporated. Selfishly, we fancy a shower tonight, and a room for the two of us. So we ride through the dessert, up some colorful mesa-like mountain roads. A few shrubs, a few goats, some nomad camps. Families in their cars stop by for a chat, for a photo. They spoil us with cookies, dates and grapes. It is custom in Iran to reject each offer three times, then we have to take it.

Semirom

Somehow the distances on our map do not match reality. By sunset there is still no trace of the next town, and hitching proofs difficult. We are in the middle of nowhere. A first attempt to hitch brings us in a strange situation with a handful of man. We get our bikes back on the road and cycle on. Muhammad, a bus driver waiting for his group tries to stop a few buses heading for Yasuj with no success. All full. Hitching a pick-up is not a good idea he says, he wouldn't trust the people here. If we wanted to go back to Isfahan with him. We are both devastated for the ruined bike trip and happy to get to a hotel.

Fantastic Landscapes Nomads
unbreakable Mercedes trucks Goats

His tour group arrives half an hour later, agrees to take us with them. Soon after departure, the young folks start to dance in the passageway of the bus, despite the switchbacks. How they can dance, how they enjoy this trip - in their country without night clubs, where no relationships outside marriage are allowed. What an amazing bus ride!

We reach Isfahan just before midnight. One more time we cycle through the busy streets, eventually find us a hostel and enjoy a good night of sleep.

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