Day 54: The Last City before Iran; From the Highest Point near Erzurum to Erzurum in Turkey
June 23, 2012; Distance covered today: 75 Km; Total: 4411 Km
Last night was what I have been hoping to be doing while traveling by bicycle—camping in the wild and enjoying the nature.
By the time we were ready to leave it was 8 o’clock. We had only 100 meters to the top. We stopped for a photo and for the first time in Turkey, we coasted down on a good road—I mean, there was no potholes or tar on the road, so we were super fast.
|The top: 2057 m|
We thought there would be another mountain to climb before Erzurum, but we were wrong. After the downhill, we rode on a flat road at about 1800 meter altitude until we arrived in Erzurum—the last important city before Iran-Turkey border. I have only 300 Km to cross the border, to enter Iran, to do the last leg but not the least leg of my journey.
|Again, invited for tea by road workers|
When we arrived in Erzurum at 12 o’clock; we were hungry. We found a cozy restaurant rather away from the hustle and bustle of the center and had Sorba, rice, and some kind of stew. Then the part that I hate began—looking for accommodation.
We had heard that there was a kind of hotel called “Teachers’ House” (in Turkish) which is very much like youth hostels. We found it, but it did not look like a hostel by any means; it looked fancy. Anyway, I went in and told the reception that my friend and I would like to stay there for a couple of nights. The reception said that there was no vacancy. I didn’t believe her. I thought she didn’t like the scruffy look of mine.
We checked some other hotels but none was good; either too expensive, or too dirty. We finally found one which was cheap and clean, but no vacancy. I don’t know why the owner didn’t want to lose customers like us, so he looked through his list trying to see if there is any way to accommodate us. Finally, he said he would have a room tomorrow if we agree to sleep in different rooms. We left, thinking we would come back tomorrow if we didn’t find anything better.
There was an Iranian guy staying in the hotel. He said that he knew Erzurum like the palm of his hand. He walked with us and showed us some really crappy hotels where we could not even walk in for the smell and the filth. I said goodbye to him and went back to the same small hotel. We were ready to sleep in separate rooms. The owner of the hotel gave us the designated area where guests say their prayers: a very small carpeted area on the second floor. We would have no privacy but it was only for one night. We would sleep in our sleeping bags and wear our earplugs.
So we did. We took a shower, put our clothes in the washing machine, and checked our emails since we had been in the wild for the last five days.
Then we saw the Iranian guy again. He was an “I-know-it-all” kind of guy, but he knew nothing about anything. As soon as we would mention the name of a place, he would say that he had been there or something about the place which would be actually wrong. For example, he said that Spanish was widely spoken in Canada! When we wanted to go out for a bite, he also walked with us and showed us a couple of restaurants. I wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, so I talked to him, gave him some credit for what he would say, and take his advice about which restaurant is good or bad. He recommended a restaurant where we had some really plain food. When it was time for footing the bill, I split the bill, and said that each should pay such and such amount. He asked me to pay for the food then he would pay me in the hotel. I knew where he was going but I considered the money a total loss and paid the whole amount. But after that moment, I stopped talking to him. Fausto also did the same. He stopped talking to him. In the hotel, he came to me and reluctantly asked me how much he owed me. I said, “No worries. You could be my guest”, but in Persian culture, that’s just a complementary thing to say when someone owes you some money. And the person should pay you anyways to save his/her face. Not to my surprise, he said thanks and put his “coins” in his pocket. Several times after that moment he asked us questions and wanted to talk to us or give us suggestions about things, but he was faced with deaf ears and ignoring faces. He then said goodnight and got lost in his room.