A small amount of snow had come down last night, we were well sheltered from it under the overpass, but we were a little worried that the pass into Tabriz higher up would be covered with snow. The sun came out early in the morning though, and the pass, by the time we got up there, was clear.
Up at the pass it was quite cold but exhilarating being right in the snowy peaks now. The climb had been relatively easy, with a stiff headwind to make things interesting. At the top while stopping for photos a truck driver pulled over and handed us some oranges.
The descent was short out into a wide plateau. It was early afternoon now and we pulled into the first rest stop we saw, standing alone by the road in the windswept landscape. There was a small market there with a little stove warming the room and the young guy who ran it ushered us in and sat us by the stove to warm up. A couple of rounds of tea and a wrap of eggs, potato and cheese and we were well warmed up and ready to go. The shopkeeper chatted away to us all the while.
From where we were to Tabriz was about 60km, not all that far and over flat ground for the most part but a stiff headwind made the going slow. We passed through desert type terrain, arid stoney landscapes but all covered with a light dusting of snow. At one point we passed a small heard of camels off in the distance.
There was one more pass to cross before getting into Tabriz. The light was fading as we starts up it, but the sunset glinting off the snowcapped mountains up at 1800m was spectacular which spurred us on, giving us the second wind to finish the long days ride.
Over the peak and down the other side, first into the wide valley that held the main road into Tabriz and then a night cycle into the city itself. Cycling into a new city at night is always exciting, and this our first big Iranian city made it all the more so. Huge neon signs in Farsi and yelling out their window to us as they passed us in the highway ‘Hello sir’ ‘Welcome to Iran!’.
We wound our way through the traffic choked streets to the center of town by the big historic bazaar (a UNESCO site, biggest covered bazaar in the world). On our way to a cheap hotel recommended by the guidebook (no internet to checkout the usual accommodation websites, a refreshing release in its own way) we gottalkjgnto two local lads with bikes of their own.
They were pretty pleased to meet two foreigners in the first place, but that we were travelling by bike really excited them and they were very helpful, showing us to where we were going to stay and arranging to meet up with us tomorrow and show us around.
It had been a hard last few days on the bike. checking in with the front desk, manned by a amicable guy with a masters in English. He was happy to find out we were Irish having studied a lot of Irish writers in University (‘ah Ireland! Land of the writer poet’ he said as we gave him our passport) and even done his thesis on James Joyce, specifically Ulysses. When we got into the room we collapsed on the beds, tuckered out from this cold but rewarding leg.