The Levies escorted me down to the Taftan customs office at 9:30am. I had asked them to stop at a petrol station before we went to immigrations and customs as I needed to fill up for the trip to Zahaden. They took me straight to Immigration and customs.
When I arrived at the office the customs officer was rushing through the carnets he had on his desk. He told me to sit with my carnet. I thought, this should be quick. He completed all the carnets on his desk and then got up and walked off. I had to wait 30 minutes before the guy came back and did anything with my carnet. He was away on his tea break.
Once I had my carnet stamped it was off to Immigration to get stamped out of Pakistan. With my passport stamped out I was a free man again, at least that’s what I thought.
Next it was to Iranian customs. I was sent down a lane where a soldier checked my panniers and then sent me around the corner to the Customs and Immigration departments. I took my carnet and passport to customs and he got on the phone and then someone from immigration came and took my passport and told me to stay. Five minutes later a soldier came around to me.
I was starting to think the worst. I had been told before I applied for my Iranian visa that you were not allowed to ride unaccompanied through Iran and that you should be part of a tour. An Iranian travel agent told me the government have really tightened up on this over the last six months and if travel agents were to get authorisation numbers for people doing this then they could face some heavy fines and even suspension of trading licenses. To get my visa in Bankok I said I would be taking public transport. I thought if I was to put I was riding a motorcycle unaccompanied I would have no chance of getting a Visa and therefore no land route through to Europe. I was hoping this hadn’t come back to bite me.
Another soldier came and joined me. He spoke English and he was actually getting my visa and Carnet stamped for me. What a relief.
Once all the documents were complete the soldier said” follow me”. He went outside where my bike was parked and an army land cruiser appeared with armed soldiers in the back. Yes, yet again I had an armed escort except this time it was the military. I told them I needed fuel and they informed me there were no petrol stations until we get to Zahaden. They said they would get some fuel for me from their stores.
Before we headed off they wanted to fill my bike with the fuel they had in a container. I said I would see if I could make it to Zahaden on the fuel I had. They said they wanted me to fill the tank with the fuel they had, I reiterated that I would see if I could make it on the fuel I had. They told me to fill up as they did not want me to stop. Begrudgingly I filled the tank with the fuel.
We headed to Zahedan and stopped at three different military posts and switched vehicles and personnel. My passport was checked at each of the posts... The last part of the trip I was escorted by the police. They took me to a hotel.
When I arrived, the staff could speak no English. They wanted to charge me US$50 for the night. I said that is way too expensive the maximum I will pay is $30 they disagreed and I said please give me my passport (the police had left it with them. It is policy in Iran that the Hotel keeps your passport overnight) I will find another place. They gave me my passport and I was turning around to walk out the door when they agreed to US$30 for the night.
Tomorrow, I head 380km south west to Bam.
Yay!!!, I will be free to stop and go where I like. What a great thought after a week of supervision.
I was up early and ready to go just after 6:30 am. I jumped on Winston and travelled about 20 metres when he cut out and wouldn’t start. I was low on fuel but still had 80 km before I ran out. I tried to start the bike again and it just missed and died. By this time the police had arrived to see what was going on. I asked them if they could take me to a petrol station to fill up my Rotopax fuel container. They obliged and I came back, put 11 litres in and tried to fire Winston up. He was a no go. I pushed Winston back to the hotel.
No one at the hotel speaks any English, the internet doesn’t work, and the alphabet and numbers are totally different to the west. I have no Iranian sim card I felt totally isolated.
I checked in for another night and went out the back to work on Winston and stripped him down. I thought it was a fuel pressure problem. I took the fuel pump out of the tank and the filter was pretty dirty.
I cleaned the stepper motor arm and the throttle bodies. I took the spark plugs out and they looked ok. I opened the fuel cap to make sure there was no high fuel pressure I tried to fire Winston up and for 10 second he ran great and then missed and stopped.
I was stumped. I was unable to communicate with the hotel staff about the Wi-Fi not working. Actually, the Wi-Fi was working there was just no internet connection. It is so difficult to get anything done when no one speaks English and there is no access to information.
Because there is no internet, I needed to get a sim card for my phone. While I was out looking for food last night, I found a phone shop. They wouldn’t sell me a card because they needed my passport. I decided that I would get the sim card first thing. I asked the receptionist at the hotel for my passport. She rang the police and motioned me to sit. I lost the plot at this point because I knew the police wouldn’t be able to speak English and we would drive around aimlessly for hours looking for a sim card and return without one. This is indeed what happened.
Because I’m foreign they will not give me an Iranian sim card.
When I had lost the plot in reception, I ranted I only needed to get a sim card because your internet is not working. They must have felt bad because they sent me out with one of the hotel guys and he brought the card under his name. I paid for it, what a feeling, at last I have internet and access to information.
I decided I needed to give Triumph UK a call and speak to one of their technical guru’s. I asked reception if I could borrow the phone and call England. They didn’t let me. I decided to walk up the street to find a hotel that had English speaking staff. I found a hotel after a while. I needed to show the receptionist my passport, I didn’t have it as the hotel keeps it. She had to ring the police because I was a foreigner, after an hour they let me use the phone to ring England. I managed to get hold of one of the technical guys and explained my situation. He was very helpful and said he would fire me an e-mail with something’s to check, He also copied in the US.
When I got back, I stripped Winston down again and went through the stepper motor arm.
I put him back together and still no go. I had decided at this point that my only option is to ship the bike to the nearest Triumph dealer. This unfortunately is over 4000km away in Istanbul. How I was going to organise this in a country that doesn’t speak English had me thinking. I have a very limited time. My visa is only for twenty days.
Day 223 Sunday 12th April 2015
I had another email with a few more things to try on the bike. I stripped Winston down again. Ensured the injectors were squirting petrol, made sure the spark plugs sparked, checked all hoses, removed the fuel pump and managed to open it up and clean the fuel filter. Put it all back together and no go.
The guy at the hotel had motioned that he would arrange a truck. Even with Google translate I could not understand. I rang the New Zealand Embassy in Tehran and explained my position. He rang the hotel and talked with the owner. The owner has arranged a truck to take me and Winston to Tehran. How we get from Tehran to Istanbul will be another story.
Day 224 Monday 13th April 2015
The truck was supposed to turn up at the hotel at 9am. Of course, it didn’t. At 11 a small pickup truck arrived. The guys checked out the bike and tried to double the price to Tehran. They were obviously not interested and went away. I rang the embassy and got the guy to speak to the hotel owner about the truck The owner arranged another one. When that turned up an hour later it was another small pickup. These guys were not interested either mainly because they had no way of getting the bike on the back. I rang the embassy again and got them to speak to the owner about getting a truck with a ramp or tail lift.
Two hours later a small truck arrived. Of course, there was no ramp and there was lots of shouting in Persian on how to get the bike on the truck. They found an old balcony railing and put an old door on it. As we pushed the bike up the ramp the glass in the door started breaking. When we finally got the bike on the truck, I had to strap it down. There were no hooks or tie downs provided. I was fortunate that I had brought 4 with me from NZ.
I managed to tie the bike as secure as I could and at3:30pm we were ready to go. We had to have a police escort and we managed to travel only to Bam which is 330km in 9hours. We had to keep stopping and waiting for a new police escort when we passed through a new jurisdiction.
I lost count of how many times I had to show my passport.
At 12:30 am I was made to check into a guest house while the driver Mehdi slept in the truck.
From Bam we were free of the Police and made good progress. At 12 am we parked in a truck stop and slept in the truck for the night.
Day 226 Wednesday 15th April 2015
We were on the road by 5:30am. The NZ Embassy guy had told me that Mehdi the truck driver would take me to the Turkish border. I couldn’t ask Mehdi because he spoke no English.
When I rang the Embassy this morning, I was told that he wouldn’t be able to take me to the border and the Embassy would see if they could find another trucking company in Tehran. What they actually did was ring Mehdi the driver and tell him to find someone to take me to the border.
We arrived in Tehran and I had no one or nowhere to drop the bike. Mehdi drove to a truck stop that has trucking company offices. I had the Embassy guy translate. These companies would only take me to the border and no further. The Embassy guy was only interested in getting me out of the country. I told him I do not want to be dropped at the border with my bike and find there were no trucking companies and be left stranded.
I asked him if he could find a company that shipped to Istanbul.
He finally found one and I was lucky that the company representative spoke English.
I had to go to a bank in Tehran to exchange US$ for Iranian Rials so I could pay Mehdi for the trucking transport. We were cutting it fine and the company representative was heading to a meeting and they only work half days on Thursdays.
We were given an address of a warehouse and we dropped Winston off there.
When we arrived the Warehouse Manager Soroush came out and spoke excellent English. The relief to finally be able to communicate with someone was heart-warming.
Day 227 Thursday 16th April 2015
I jumped in a taxi and went into Tehran city centre to Airland office and spoke with Laleh. I discovered she was Soroush’s sister and the business is a family business founded by their father.
I wanted to transport the bike to Istanbul by truck and ride alongside the driver. It looked like this was near impossible as they couldn’t guarantee when the truck would leave because it will only go when it is full of cargo.
The bottom-line is I will have to airfreight it at great expense.
Soroush had invited me along on a trip to Chalus by the Caspian Sea north of Tehran with Massah and Baron. We headed off through the mountains. The mountains would be a geologists dream as the layers of the earth’s crust have been thrust diagonally and vertically into the sky.
As we travelled further north the scenery went from gold to lush green. There was snow on the mountain peaks and there was something interesting around every corner we travelled.
We stayed in a newly built apartment and spent the night having a couple of cognacs washed town with beers. Sorush cooked chicken on skewers over hot coals. It was a great way to end a very pleasant day.
Today we left the apartment and went to the mountains where we got a cable car to the top. The top third of the mountain was covered in the cloud. It was a shame about the cloud but it gave the mountain a calm atmosphere.
We made our way back to Tehran. The traffic was good as they turn all the outgoing roads from Tehran to incoming lanes at certain times of the day in the weekends.
There were lots of people picnicking by the sides of the road, all with teapots on the go. Iranians love their tea.
I went down to the warehouse to get Winston ready to put in the crate. I had to whip off the panniers, Mirrors, and screen. Then drain the petrol and oil and remove the battery. This seemed a bit extreme but these are apparently the rules for dangerous goods in Iran.
Once this was done, they made the crate and Winston and the gear was encased.
It was down to customs with Winston on the truck. It took the company representative all day to get the many signatures and paperwork done. We went to the local customs and were then sent to the airport customs. Each department we went to had to have a donation slipped in with the paperwork to help things along. We arrived back at the warehouse at 3:30pm drained by the day’s events.
Just before dark Soroush and I headed to Tehran Milad Tower. Its seven years old and surrounded by water features and sculptures.
At the top of the tower, you are able to get a great view of Tehran and the mountains.
It was a day at customs again. We headed off to the local customs office to cancel some paperwork that was done yesterday. We went in the truck. There was the old rotund driver with missing teeth. The bald-headed guy who dealt with all the formalities and the guy who holds the brief case and tries to stay awake and I all sandwiched in on the bench seat at the front of the truck.
From the local customs we drove the 35km to the airport customs. Again, as we did yesterday, we went from department to department getting bits of paper signed and stamped making the obligatory donations. I finally got my carnet stamped at 10:30.
We didn’t finish until 3pm and at the end we had the airway bill and Winston will fly out on Wednesday.
I also picked up my bus ticket to get to Istanbul. The bus leaves on Friday and it is a 38-hour trip. That’ll be something to look forward to hmm hmm.
Day 232 Tuesday 21st April 2015
There was a last-minute change of plan today regarding the freighting of Winston to Istanbul.
I had e-mailed the Triumph dealer numerous times to verify the shipping address and never received one response. Then the shipping agent in Turkey wanted US$1600 dollars to clear the bike through customs and said it would take a week. This is just ridiculous and a total rip off. When I asked them to justify the costs, they would not respond except to say they would knock $200 off.
For a few hundred dollars more than the cost to get it to Turkey I can get it to London where there is a dealer near Heathrow Airport. I will also be able to reuse the crate to ship Winston to Canada to start the Americas leg of the trip.
The breakdown in Iran has been a war of attrition. The only saving grace is the hospitality and kindness of Soroush and Massah.
Day 233 Wednesday 22nd April 2015
Soroush and I went to visit the Czar’s old Palace. The Czar was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
All the vehicles and possessions were on display.
I received the invoice for air freighting my bike to London. Total cost of shipping bike to Heathrow now US$2500
As it was my last day in Iran I decided to go for a walk around the local area and through the park. It was a sunny warm day and good to just chill out and watch the world go by.
Soroush took me out for dinner in the mountains. It was cool and next to the river. After a great meal we headed back to Teharan.
We arrived back at 12:30am and Soroush ordered a taxi for me to get to the airport which is an hour’s drive from the house.
I thanked Soroush for his kindness and incredible hospitality. I really enjoyed spending time with him learning about Iran and their culture. These are the experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your days.
I was flying Ukrainian airlines. The airline had cheap tickets as the Russians had shot one of their planes down a few weeks earlier. The flight stopped at Kiev, were I caught my next flight to Gatwick airport in London.