Thursday, May 25, 2006

Near Mashhad

I had one objective for today, get to Mashhad without becoming part of the awful Iranian road toll statistics. More than 25,000 people are killed every year on the roads in this country & I saw a couple of good examples of why this happens while going up the highway to Mashhad. I saw overtaking on blind corners, overcome with oncoming traffic so close that a high speed collision was no more than than the smallest part of a second away. The 'best' was to be forced off the hard shoulder of the road because there were so many cars coming in the oncoming direction overtaking each other that they had used up all the road! The road I took, had to take to get to Mashhad was too busy to cycle on, at least for my comfort.

Arriving in Mashhad was much easier than I'd supposed it would be. It's the second largest city in Iran. I had visions that it would be difficult getting into the centre to meet Mohammad, with whom I was to stay.
I phoned him from the first call box I saw on entry to the city but kept getting cut off. I assumed that I must have transcribed his number incorrectly so decided to go to the centre & find an Internet café so as to get the correct number. A short while later someone on a bike came up to me while I was on the way, it was Mohammad searching for me. He'd guessed where I was.

It was a short distance to his house. Which was a nice old place in which all the rooms were clustered around a courtyard above which there was myrtle tree dropping eatible fruit. There were chickens in the courtyard. It was quite a surprise considering it was so near the centre of the city.

He had estimated correctly when I'd arrive & waited to have lunch until then. It was so nice to arrive to a meal cooked by his mum, it was one of the tastiest of the trip so far. He made me feel really welcome.

We relaxed at his house for a couple of hours then went to meet a friend of his across town. The plan was to drive out of town to a place where the local rock climbers go, camp for the night & go walking. I needed to adjust to normal people's time from my sleep with the stars & wake with the Sun routine. By the time we set up camp & had dinner it was almost midnight. I slept like a log.

I cycled 105 km in 6 hours & 48 minutes
Total so far 5726 km in 77 days

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