Monday, 13 August 2012

More theft, Helpful villagers, and Earthquakes

I'm now in Turkey in Erzurum! We'll be here for a few days to get things fixed up before heading off to camp along the black sea coast. So far Erzurum is clean, lots of shops, and has moderately good traffic behaviour. There are also things like Internet and McDonalds. So very different to Iran, it's very disorientating.

I'm still sorting through photos from Iran too. But for now some more Iran story time!

Theft Number Two

I stopped in the town of Qeydar to wait for Drew again (because Vespas are slow). Knowing I was in a small town alone again I sat on the bike to wait this time. I locked up everything I could and put the keys in my pocket while still sitting on the bike. I'd learnt my lesson from last time.

Of course in this small town I stand out like a giant flashing dollar sign however.

Two guys on a bike stop and start asking me questions about my bike, all on Farsi of course. They were pointing to different parts of the bike and discussing amongst themselves and then asking me questions. Every time they ask something I reply with 'no farsi!'. Then they move to the back of the bike and keep up the questions, but I'm not looking that way and my right mirror has my helmet on it so I can't see them too well. Another guy in a car rocks up on my left and starts trying to talk to me and of course, 'no farsi' to him. At this point the two guys are sitting behind me just out of view while I'm doing my best at not communicating with the guy in the car. One of the bikeguys(tm) gets on their bike and starts it and then the other walks past quickly holding something under his shirt. Curious. I didn't see them carrying anything when they got there. But carguy(tm) is still trying to talk to me. I reach behind me and sure enough the cap to the PVC pipe is now lose. They've taken the stainless steel water bottle that was in there.

The water bottle I don't care about so much, but the fact that they're doing this right in front of me is very annoying. I make my displeasure known to the guy in the car, who doesn't understand me at all.

After more time I'm now surrounded by about ten people all discussing me amongst themselves. They limit questions to me though because they know I don't speak farsi by now. I try to explain to the group what the first two guys did through angry arm waving but this is all lost on them. I forget to say the word 'theif' but I'm not sure if this would have helped as every other word I could think of when trying to explain what happened didn't translate either. One of them goes of to get someone who can speak English because they want to talk to me it seems. Meanwhile, the thieves have returned and so has my colourful language when telling them they're no longer welcome.  Everyone standing around is wondering what is going on, but the thieves know what they've done and they turn around to leave again. This time I remember I should get the number plate but I'm not that fast at reading farsi numbers and there's about eight of them, they're gone before I can figure out the first three digits.

The English speaker turns up but he doesn't know the word theft, so it takes a while to explain that this is the second time In Iran that people have stolen from me and returned and that I'm not happy I'm part of this new game. After explaining to him a few times he gets the message and then everyone else in the group now knows why I'm not happy. Englishspeakingguy(tm) is embarrassed that this has happened and he asks if I want to go to the police. I decline because they won't speak English either, and it is just a water bottle (this time). But still they all just hang around chatting while I'm suitably annoyed.

By the time Drew has turned up there's about ten cars and more bikes all stopped so people can come over and have a good look at me. I inform Drew of what has happened and then we go to leave. But since we're such a large event they have to start reversing cars for us to get out. Another town I'm glad to get out of.

Helpful Village

Vespa's have small fuel tanks, so we stop in a small village to find fuel. We asked a few people and they gave vague arm waving directions and we set off where they pointed. Somehow we were missing where to go each time but Drew ends up down at a park where all the older villagers seem to be gathered. He asks which way to fuel and they start explaining again but realising there's no common language one of them gets on his bike and we follow him to the petrol station. He waves and rides off as we arrive.

When leaving the town there was a guy and his son on a motorbike who was carrying a pipe across the bike which length was the same as the width of the road. They had to stop when there was a truck blocking a lane. They turned slightly to let us pass but they were laughing at the absurdity as much as we were.

Once just outside of the town I stopped to get a photo. A car pulls up and a family from Tehran gets out just to have a quick talk to us and say hello.

Not everyone is a thief in Iran!


We'd stayed in Zanjan the previous night but it's pretty nondescript. After fighting traffic through the town we decided to try the expressway which goes all the way there. On the entrance ramp there is a sign with all types of slow vehicles in red circles, no strike through the middle of any though so not sure what it meant. We decided to give it a go and see what happens. A little up the road there is a toll booth and Drew asked a policeman if it was OK to be on the road, he seemed to think so. Then he asked if we needed to pay a toll. The answer looked pretty vague, but we rode through one of the unused toll gates and no one seemed to care.

60km of freeway and it was booorrriiinbngggg. It goes the full 280km to Tabriz but I had to get off it because I was falling asleep. We got off at the next stop for fuel and took the much quieter free highway that runs close to the expressway. Because of the mostly empty roads I decided to put my headphones in after a drink stop. I haven't been using the headphones on this trip overseas because I like to have some hearing. I think with the altitude changes the bike is running poorly and with my reduced hearing I didn't hear the bike stall when making a turn. I lost my balance and dropped the bike. First time on this trip! ( happened many times before though).

Lots of cool roads though the hills with tunnels and nice vallys. Very enjoyable riding day In Iran, finally!

We got to tabriz and navigated through the traffic mayhem to a hotel. The hotel was charging a fairly high price but we decided to stay because they had internet. Once we had stuffed all our belongind in the room we went downstairs to abuse the internet for a while. All of a sudden I feel a very large sway and then more and then everyone starts running for the door. We all gather in the carpark watching cars shake around and have the odd feeling that the ground is still moving, even though it may not be.

Survived my first earthquake it seems!

It dies down after a while and then everyone goes back inside. We stay downstairs, but near the door just in case.

Then the second one hits but this one feels a lot bigger. I casually remove myself from the building (I don't want to trip and get stuck!). On the way out I really noticed the steps moving around this time, but with everything moving and no steady reference points it's a very odd feeling. We stayed outside a lot longer this time watching everyone move their cars away from the building and people standing on the street wondering what's going on. Eventually people start going inside but we hold out for a bit longer. We were wondering what we'd do if we can't get to our stuff. The bikes were parked in the garage under the building and everything but the clothes I was wearing, my phone and laptop was upstairs in the room. And the hotel had our only form of ID. I note that in future I should always carry my wallet with me (and a copy of my passport?).

After about half an hour we managed to get on the internet again from outside and found out there'd been a magnatude 6 earthquake about 60km east of Tabriz. The day after the news said that there were two separate earthquakes, one 6.4 and another 6.3. The first was 50km east of Tabriz and the second 10km closer. That explains why the second one felt stronger.

Eventually the  ground seemed to stop shaking, or our perception of it stopped at least.

We thought about our options for a while and we had all our camping gear (in the room). We decided we'd get our stuff from the room and leave to camp somewhere. Waking up to the hotel shaking around us wont be pleasant.

So we dashed upstairs packed quickly and rushed the bikes out from the garage and got out of town. On the way out every petrol station had almost kilometre long lines out, not sure if that was normal or everyone was expecting the apocalypse again (Tabriz is a biblical city after all, it's meant to be the gateway to eden).

We tried finding a few spots on the way out of town but everywhere seemed industrial or had villagers follow us wherever we went. Eventually we found a spot a short way from the highway and set up camp there.

In the night I could still feel more shakes. Apparently there were more than 40 aftershocks just that night. At least in my tent nothing would trap me.

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