Every new country brings new challenges for us. India wasn’t an exception either. I guess it’s not a secret to most that India is the second most populated country. It is said that there are 1.4 billion living there. However locals joke that these are the registered ones.
Even before we entered India we were warned to be extremely cautious when choosing the place for our tent. Sure enough, very quickly we understood why everyone tried to warn us — people are everywhere. Same as endless farm fields. And around the fields there are small towns and villages. Very often the villages are only a few kilometres apart. We didn’t feel safe to pitch our tent there as shepherds are roaming these areas with the herds of goats or buffalos.
On the first days of March the whole India was covered in colours. Everyone was celebrating Holi, also known as the celebration of colours and spring. On the eve of Holi people are making huge bonfires in a shape of a person which resembles the evil goddess Holika. These bon fires symbolise the victory of good against evil.
One of the most horrifying things I’ve ever done in my life was riding a bicycle in the city streets of Iran. Cities are just like bee hives always buzzing – not only with people but also with an incredible amount of vehicles. Most cars are old and crippling, locally made. Only very few of them are global known brands. Imported cars are extremely expensive in Iran as the government taxes them heavily, making them only affordable to select few. The stench of exhaust gas gets into the nose and tickles the throat. …
In 1979, Iran underwent a revolution which changed the country unrecognisably. A monarchy, which had lasted 2500 years, was replaced with religious party. First of all, the government decided to make the whole country Islamic. Every single citizen must be a muslim. From then on, people wouldn’t have a choice as propagating and preaching about other religions could lead to death sentence.
Women of Iran and their fashion
For me personally the most interesting part was women’s clothing. Islamic holly book Quran says that muslim women must wear something that covers not only the full length of arms and legs but has to also cover their bum. And most importantly, the hijab (scarf) shouldn’t be forgotten. But if a woman is a ‘good’ muslim she not only covers herself with scarf and long sleeves but also wears a chador. A chador is a big piece of cloth that that’s wrapped around the head and upper body, leaving only the face exposed. Curiously, chador can be directly translated into English: it means a tent.
We always knew that we wouldn’t be able to plan such a trip to the smallest detail. To be honest we never even wanted to do so. And when a few weeks ago we realised that this is it – the time has come to decide what we are going to do about the coming winter and trip to Himalayan mountains – we didn’t really stress too much about it.
When we started our trip we weren’t able to calculate exactly when we would reach Tajikistan. We only knew that we have to start as soon as possible. We roughly calculated and hoped to be there in September. In which case it would still be possible to reach high mountain passes before winter starts.
We’ve been cycling for four months now and we have some sort of a rhythm and a decent understanding how we want / like to travel. We are slow travellers. We like to enjoy places. We like to talk to people. We like to take in as much as we can. If we would stick to this rhythm chances are that we would reach Tajikistan only in the end of November.
We reached the border much later than planned. A long queue of cars, people waiting around, chatting, looking at us – we’re falling out of the context with our heavily loaded bikes. We’re unsure about the procedure and what we should do – we’ve never crossed a regulated border on our bikes before. We’re secretly hoping that we don’t need to join the back of the queue, because you can’t see the end of it.
Sky was shrouded in grey clouds. The border patrol buildings were empty and disused. There were several trucks on the roadside. And I felt strangely excited and proud with myself: we would soon enter the second country of our trip.