We land in Kars in eastern Turkey and set off on a loop ride that takes us east into Iran at the Bazargan crossing, through Marand, Tabriz, then south and around the huge salt lake of Orumiyeh, then back into Turkey at the southern Serow crossing, over a 2,700m pass, into Van. Then we take the train ship across Lake Van to Tatvan and cycle the southern coast back to Van and its airport.
It is always exciting to arrive in a foreign and remote place to begin a bike tour. You don’t know what to expect. You are on your own and depend on your bike reliability, your fitness and your wits. Here we are disembarking at Kars in the far east of Turkey.
The vastness of the terrain is awesome. Plenty of exercise in traversing it. It is mid-summer but so high up here on the Anatolian plateau that the temperature is pleasant.
Two naughty shepherd boys. They dangerously grabbed onto one of the bikes as we rode past. So I went to the nearby police base and they rounded them up and brought them in, with their father. I was asked what punishment I required and I said that their father should scold them in front of the commander and me. Basically, they were bored and thirsty. That’s why they did it.
Passing Mt Ararat and approaching the Iranian border. Looking to the NE towards Armenia. The Turks and Armenians have disputed the borders here for centuries.
Coming into Tabriz. In all countries there is the regime and there are the people. Here the regime portrays a fearsome side but the people are as kind as you can find anywhere on the planet.
Stunning and gorgeous architecture in Tabriz, Iran. An old bridge entirely made from bricks.
On the road today from Marand to Tabriz we picked up bunches of roadies and in Tabriz are being welcomed at the main road shop, Capital Cycles. Naser Menchov.
Iran has a unique way of honouring its fallen soldiers. They name sections of highway after them and feature them in huge billboards.
A tourist in a bus or car would not see this. We are able to get close to the farmers and the shepherds.
It is about 400km around this salt lake. For 4 days we are beside it, occasionally going right down to marvel at the colossal volume of salt and the weird landscape it forms.
Back in Turkey. Turkey is a land of high passes. At the lookout we meet a pair of Austrians. The four of us joke about how they, upon introducing themselves, have to correct people who mishear and think they are Australian whilst for us we have to correct people who think we are Austrian.
A Kurdish shepherd and his trainee son. Turkish people are so kind that we are frequently stopped for tea. Today even an armoured van stopped and they opened the back and got out the tea.
What drove people to build such fortifications and sanctuaries? In this part of the world they aren’t uncommon.
Turkey is a great country to tour in. Sometimes the regime appears unappealing but the people are wonderful, the roads are good and the food is great. I love it.
A scene from the trainship out of Van. This ship was built on the lake specifically to carry entire trains with seating for 200 passengers on the route from Istanbul to Tehran. Nowadays the passengers take the bus from Tatvan to Van but trains still go on the ship. We are the only passengers.
On the last day of a bike tour I always look out for a high pressure water washer. Sure enough this one is perfectly located on the way into Van. The family insists on serving tea. A fitting end to a tour of Eastern Turkey and NW Iran.