DAY EIGHT… 38.25 miles (61.25 km)

Large breakfast, in fact, the best so far. Buffet style so absolutely no limits on what you could eat.

We left Esfahan in the van (city centre traffic is mad) and then cycled through little towns until we reached a mosque. Here the plan was to get back in the van but a man on a motorbike assured us he could show us a quiet road out of town. This was not to be. We followed him for a long time, receiving gifts of various vegetables from him as we cycled along. I had no other option but to put my gift of beetroots in my bra (plenty of room there!).

Our enthusiastic guide bearing gifts of beetroot

He led us eventually to a motorway where there were 40 tonne trucks whizzing past us. Not ideal. Why do Iranians love huge fast motorways for cycling on?

No option but to hang about for Medhi and then pile back into the van. I have to add that this procedure of getting in and out of the van was laborious. The bikes had to be put in a certain way or they wouldn’t fit and then we had to squash in around all our massive amounts of luggage and food.

We drove to a little town and began cycling again. The plan was to cycle for forty-five minutes but we hit a very powerful headwind making progress extremely difficult and slow. We struggled on till about 3pm when we reconnected with Medhi and then drove to a park for lunch.

It was getting late by the time we had finished lunch and everyone was getting tired, but we drove to the top of a pass, the idea was to free wheel down. Not so! There was the most ferocious head wind imaginable. Anna got pushed off the road and Barb and Mike retreated to the van. Four of us continued till near dark, the wind dropping a little as we came down from the pass, but still fierce so we had to work hard, even having to push our pedals downhill. It turned out to be an exhilarating ride through absolutely beautiful scenery.

Evening descent, pedalling against the wind
Sublime mountains & desert sunset

When we got back into the van, we did not realise that we then had another one and a half hour drive in the dark, to our destination for the night. For some reason we had been booked into accommodation right off our route. It turned out to be an eco-lodge and the hosts made an amazing attempt to welcome us and make us comfortable. NO beds, just rolled up mattresses to sleep on and piles of blankets for cover.

It was comfortable enough. We were given some glittery dresses to dress up in (girls only, here). Not sure why, and photos were taken. I was keen to get some food. We were told that it would be cooked on a fire that looked dangerously dead. Food did arrive eventually, delicious! Our hostess, Mrs Reza, made a big effort to accommodate our veggie needs as well as catering for the meat eaters (Ali and Medhi). Only one shower, so the morning routine going to be quite slow.