We were riding downhill today for the most part, a long gradual decline that made for an easy day. No big cold passes to cross and the longer we descended the warmer we got. The road followed a river all the way, with a couple of tunnels here and there. We were framed on both sides by hills with a light dusting of snow that became lighter the more we descended.
It was a quiet road by and large, the old highway. It was ignored by most traffic which opted for the bigger freeway that ran in generally the same direction but about 50km South of us on the other side of the hills.
At lunchtime we pulled into the town of Miyaneh. We stopped outside a kebab shop to have lunch. The owner came out, a young guy, making a phone all and indicating it was for us. Finn answered. In the other end was a guy named Amir, who was going to ride out on his bike to meet us.
Amir was an avid Warm Showers host. He had hosted hundreds of people that came riding through over last five year and a lot of people in town knew to call him if they saw bike tourists arrived. He was a really enthusiastic guy which I found pretty impressive especially after having looked after so many people. He had set up a tourist house, a small one room building in a park with toilets and a shower where bike tourers could stay for free. We weren’t planning on stopping in Miyaneh but Amir’s attitude was infectious so we figured we’d stay.
We took a break in the tourist house for a bit and then went out to look around town. Amir was a great guide, first leading us to a coffee net so we could get some emails out then to an ice cream place run by his friends. We had Persian ice cream and were informed by some local eating there that the Iranian ambassador to Ireland was from Miyaneh.
After we happened across by accident a nearly complete hall under construction that would be used for traditional Iranian wrestling or ‘vazesh-e pahlavani’. This is something we had not really heard of before and after having it explained and then demonstrated its still kind of hard to describe. From Wikipedia: ‘a traditional Iranian system of athletics originally used to train warriors. It combines martial arts, calisthenics, strength training and music.’ We stumbled upon the place as the finishing touches were being made to the ring (or octagon). An older guy who seemed to be in charge walked in and greeted us with big smiles. He explained some of the symbolism of the hall to us and then even demonstrated a few of the exercises, he couldn’t have been less than 60 and he was really giving it socks down on the mat.
It was a lucky encounter and a bit of surprise cultural exchange. We wandered back to the tourist house pretty pleased with our decision to stay in Miyahneh.