Monday, June 28, 2010

Turkey Experience: Ups and Downs with Casa

We spent a few days in the Cappadocia region, known as the Grand Canyon of Turkey. We thoroughly enjoyed it with Casa, who fared well even with some ups and downs.


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This post is dedicated to our friend Sonya and Sonya-alike, who encourage us to more blogging. :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Turkey Experience: Fell in Love with the Back Door

It is common for tourists to enter Turkey through the western region, like Istanbul. However for us, we had to take the back door after Iran: Northeastern Turkey, and we saw the endless grass pastures, open horizon, peaceful lakes, free-running horses, wild flowers, gorgeous mountains.

It was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. And we so fell in love with it. 

P1000306 P1000369 P1000381 P1000475 P1000493 P1000519 P1000566 P1000618 We will go back to this amazing place on earth one day. We simply have to.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Iran Experience: English and Motorcycle Angels

It is our firm belief that in every Iranian city or town, big or small, there are at least one Iranian who speak just enough English to help translate any motorcycle problem we may have, and invite us home for dinner – we call him our English Angel; and one Iranian who seems to know a whole lot about motorcycle mechanics and can either fix the motorcycle problem on the spot - he would be our Motorcycle Angel. And the best part – both these two guys would magically appear within ten or twenty minutes of us stopping and without us looking around for them. Okay, five minutes tops if in the dead centre of a small town – I know, much faster than Abu Dhabi ambulance service. We had two breakdowns with Casa in Iran to enforce our belief.

Breakdown #1 – Day 6 in Iran. Casa’s rear inner tube suffered a spectacular rupture – turned out the special-tough tube was too thick for the extreme hot weather we were riding in. And to my brilliance we ditched the backup rear tube just before we left UAE because of my concern with the weight we were carrying. So there we were on the side of busy highway trying to fit the 21’ backup front tube into the 19’ rear tire as a temporary solution. There were several delightful show of Iranian hospitality during this rather painful process: some police gave us some water, one truck driver gave us a hand, and another one offered us much needed food.

As mentioned in previous posting, big motorcycles are scarce in Iran due to government regulation, so finding an inner tube of right size became a real challenge – not to mention it was a Friday (weekend) so all shops were closed. Delijan was the first immediate small city we stopped in. A couple minutes in front of the only hotel in town resulted in a fairly large group of spectators, including our Motorcycle Angel Hussein. He quickly made several phone calls and his cousin Mehdat – our English Angel appeared. After an hour of Hussein riding in and out, we received two inner tubes for US$ 14 only on the spot! Mehdat explained to us later that Hussein managed to find a store that had the tubes, called the shop owner to open the shop and got the goods for us with us sipping chai all the while!
Mehdat invited us over to his home where we can replace the new tube more comfortably. That was a great idea, so was a mid-afternoon watermelon break, followed by a refreshing shower, followed by a picnic with Mehdat’s very curious family, followed by a lovely dinner in a family picnic house, followed by a sound night of sleep in their guest room. We loved how Mehdat answered all our requests with “Why nott?” and “Yes, you are rightt!” – you can imagine how grateful we felt. Above: Mehdat and Hussein

Above: Picnic with Mehdat’s family. By the way, Iranians are obsessed about picnics!

Above: Dinner picnic under grape vines.

Breakdown #2 – Day 8 in Iran. We stopped for a photo, and then Casa refused to move again. It turned out that the rear bake pads were completely eaten away due to a poor adjustment made the previous day. This time around we were in the middle of a small town – so small it was not in our map! Professor Salman, our English Angel appeared just in time to help Q communicate with our Mechanical Angel who was apparently a local motorcycle shop mechanic. I reckon the shop got a flurry of emergency phone calls that sounded like this: “Is this the motorcycle shop? Yes, we have two tourists who are stuck here with their motorcycle. No, they don’t seem to have much clue of what they are doing. Yes, it is next to the bridge. Okay, so someone is already on his way.”

The whole drama was over in under an hour. As we pulled away from the site everything quickly returned to its normal state like nothing took place. Well, except we now have an invitation to Professor Salman’s for dinner.

It was an interesting dinner. I was asked to cook the only Chinese dish I knew – yes, some Chinese women can be that undomestic. Judging from how quickly one of the guys switched back to his leftover Iranian stew, I am not sure the locals enjoyed the food as much as Q. After dinner we received an invitation to stay up to one month in their house if we can be English tutors to their two college relatives. “Please”, said one of them, “we beg you to stay!” It took some effort for us to decline the offer – the Salmans may still be puzzled as to why the two budget travelers would turn down offers of free food and accommodation. Looking back now, as much as we felt frustrated and desperate, everything with Casa worked out just fine in the end. In addition, we gained some priceless experience interacting with locals. So maybe it is not so bad to have a mechanical breakdown once in a while after all. In Iran that is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Iran Experience: Casa Craze

The Iran leg of the trip has been full of challenges and surprises. One of them was the crazy reception our motorcycle received, which by the way we have lovingly named Casa – yes, that’s Spanish for “home”. :)

Casa drew a sizable crowd very quickly wherever we stopped – at gas stations, grocery shops, restaurants, hotels, you name it. Not only the crowds would continuously ask us questions, they would go as far as touching and posing next to the motorcycle. As we found out soon enough it is illegal for Iranians to own motorcycles with over 200 cc engine capacity in Iran, so with 800 cc, our Casa naturally stands out in this motorcycle-popular country. At first we found the unwanted attention very annoying and frustrating, later on we still found it annoying and frustrating, but got used to the crowds and started taking photos of the crowds. Check them out!






So much for a celebrity experience! I am pretty certain I heard a huge sigh of relief from Casa when we left Iran. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hello from Iran

We started our trip from Abu Dhabi on Friday 4 June and 2,500 km later we have arrived at the Caspian Sea coast in Iran. We plan to cross into western region and Turkey in the coming couple days.

So far the biggest excitement was spending eight gruelling hours at Bandar Abbas port, having a spectacularly ruptured rear inner tube and trying to find replacement, and driving through crazy traffic via the scenic pass to Caspian coast. Reliable internet is hard to come by so this is just a quick note informing everyone that we are doing well.

We miss our friends in Abu Dhabi dearly and want to give a shout out to all of you for your support during our last few days in the Dhabi!

And BIG thank you for all the family and friends who have "donated" your support - Sorry I seemed to have confused a lot of people in my last post - we don't want any money donation - your encouragement is the best gift we can ask for.