Yazd, annoying cops and a breakdown.

Quick update from Yazd, another little city in the Iranian desert.


Arrived here at 3pm in 41deg heat, 450km today.

For the first time we were hassled by the police this afternoon for no apparent reason, just on the side of the road for a break and a car pulled up and asked to see all our documents and for us to empty ALL the luggage so they could search us… what an unnecessary pain in the ass!

Sal saw red instantly (yes really!) and started angrily taking things out of the panniers and basically throwing them at the policeman, who wasn’t impressed. 


It was getting quite tense when he then refused to return our passports, and then started asking me why my woman was being so crazy.

This prompted Sal to get even more in the guys face, demanding to be spoken to directly rather than through me. 

The men here don’t know how to relate to women at all, they don’t really interact with anyone but their wives who presumably are obedient, so this was a bit much for the guy, and he took me by the arm a distance away to talk some more.

Now a few days ago at the Turkmenistan border, the border officials tried several times to separate us, we suspect as a way to intimidate us for a bribe, but we didn’t fall for it and stuck together, refusing the directions of “you go there and you wait here” eventually they gave up and waved us away without even inspecting the bike… it was really weird.

Anyway, so this time, with the police taking me away, Sal was onto it, and to the exasperation of the policeman, she soon came over too demanding to know what was going on.

At that stage the cop was drilling me over us being there without a guide, (which we don’t need), but he was one of these people who needed to have the last say… and so I was envisioning a trip to the local police station for more questions.

“Babe can you please stand over there so this dick can be the big man and have the last word?”  (He didn’t understand English)

Sal wandered off seething, the cop then  gave up, seemingly pleased enough that the woman had been dismissed, and waved us away.

As we repacked and got going, the crowd of people watching all looked at us with a “we’re so sorry” expression, but we actually felt sorry for them having to live with that crap.

Times like that you really appreciate the freedom and rights we normally take for granted at home.

A couple of hours later we pulled up in a little alleyway in Yazd to check out some guest houses when Sal heard the hissing sound of the motor leaking coolant.

Shit. I looked down to see a green puddle under the bike. Shit!

Did it overheat? I asked, flicking the ignition back on. Nope, not hot.  Relief.

I looked back down the street for a trail of coolant, but it had only started then and there, which is incredibly lucky.  Ten mins earlier and we’d have been on the highway where I might not have noticed the gauge until the engine really overhead.

So Sal went to see the guesthouses while I looked for the cause of the leak…

Half hour later we checked into one, and I went to work pulling the plastic work, tank, air filters, carburetors and air box off Betsy to expose the hoses on top of the motor. 

Exactly what I felt like doing in this heat after a long days ride.

Not much was visible, so I removed the lot to find a crack in a coolant hose.  We walked down the main street of town stopping in hardware shops and motorbike repair places but no luck as all the bikes here are air cooled.

Eventually one shop owner got his lackey to take me around town on the back of his motorbike looking for a hose. It took 4 stops but we found a piece of old hose I could cut down to fit, and they dug out some clamps too, $6 thanks! He even took me back to the guest house with it all.  Very friendly helpful people here!

Fast forward 2 hours and the bike was back in one piece, so we went out for a walk and some food.

Tomorrow we’re going to check out some of the sights around the city, hopefully that old hose holds together!!


(Dean) It’s bloody hot here at the moment,  over 40 deg every day, which means that walking around cities (where everything is closed due to Ramadan!), looking at monuments or wanding in the desert is not really fun during the day.  So we’ve got a bit of a routine going on, we do something in the morning then sit around in the afternoon until 4pm, at which time we head out to see something else.

Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset

From Kerman the two main attractions were the Kalouts in the desest, 150km NE of the city, and an old fort, about 100km south of the city.   So we headed off to see the Kalouts at 5pm, reasoning that it would take an hour to get there, which would be enough time to see them before sunset, and then put up our tent in the desert and hope to god that it cooled off enough to sleep overnight.

The Kaluts

The Kalouts

The ride out there had me remembering Death Vally in the US, another occassion when I assured Sally it would cool down overnight… it didnt.  We didnt sleep.  It sucked.  So here we were riding through another desert in 45 deg heat, with me once again saying “dont worry babe, it’s a desert, they get really cold at night time…”

Of course Sal no longer believes a word I say regarding deserts, but it was nice of her to play along anyway.

The Kalouts are these really unique rock formations in an otherwise sandy desert, that look like tall buildings poking out of the sea of sand.  Sounds boring doesnt it?  Actually it was really cool.  We arrived half hour before sunset, rode around the dunes (motorbike playground) for a bit before deciding on a campsite, and then sat on one of the taller Kalouts and watched the sun set.  Really pretty.

Dean gettimg ready to set up camp

Dean gettimg ready to set up camp

There’s no wood to burn in sandy desert, and our camp stove is out of fuel, so we ate cold “shit-in-a-can” for dinner and lay and watched the amazing starry sky for a couple of hours before going to sleep.

By the way, shit-in-a-can is canned corn kernels, canned chickpeas, canned tuna, fresh tomatos, parsley, lime juice, chilli and olive oil all mixed together – try it, it rocks.

Another one of many

Another one of many

Sleep is a generous word to use when we’re in the tent and it’s hot, but we did close our eyes for a bit.  Lucky for me, it did cool down through the night, and we had an almost pleasant breeze blowing through the tent.   In the morning we got up to watch the sun rise, (something we may never have done before), ate left over shit-in-a-can, and headed back to Kerman.

This little 150km trip was interrupeted by the local petrol station not working because of a power outage, so what should have taken an hour and a half took 4 frustrating hours, involving a group of Iranian taxi drivers syphoning fuel out of someones car to get us to the next town, by which time the power was back so we filled up at the pump on the way out of town anyway…

Anyhow, we bundled back into the hotel in Kerman, collapsed on the beds and slept until 3pm!  Then another repeat of this to go and see a fort, which unfortunately was nothing too special.

(Sally) We’ve spent the last few days here in Shiraz. Once upon a time the centre of red wine production for the Middle East with 300 vineyards, until the Islamic Revolution in 1979 which made alcohol illegal overnight.  That made all those vineyards redundant and now they just produce dried table fruit. Imagine that!

We spent a long day riding through the desert to get here. It was hot… And boring.. There really isn’t much to see. Thankfully there are highways connecting every city here so we can make miles pretty easily.

A Persian mosque

A Persian mosque



Shiraz is a bit more happening than anywhere else we’ve been so far in Iran. There are some coffee shops that remind us of Melbourne (but they aren’t allowed to open before 8pm due to Ramadan) and some women that rebel against the black cloak get up and wear brightly coloured headscarfes instead. We’ve visited some mosques and markets which have been nice – very Persian, and this evening for our 5pm excursion, we visited Persepolis, some Ancient Persian ruins, 2500 years old, which were very impressive.

One of the stone carvings at Peresopolis

One of the stone carvings at Persepolis

A winged bull with the head of a bearded man

A winged bull with the head of a bearded man

The people here are mostly very friendly, generous and welcoming… Sometimes we get strange looks but that’s probably due to my efforts of wearing a headscarf as unconventionally as possible 😁. The food is getting more interesting with very different flavours to what we are used to which is great!

Tomorrow we are heading to a town called Yadz which is in the middle of the desert and is 44 degrees…

Long hot day

Another long day on the seat, 560km through the desert to reach Kerman today, not helped by the 40deg temp and a bout of gastro… After lunch we literally poured litres of water over each other to stay cool in the hot wind.

After 5 days riding we’re staying here a couple of days to catch up, rest and see the sights.

Sally booking our flights home for October

Sally booking our flights home for October

So far Iran has been quite interesting, from the first city where every single woman was wearing a black sheet over her head and looking like spook the ghost, “it feels like Halloween”, to the lovely people inviting us into their homes to stay the night (unfortunately we already had a hotel), and the three guys who helped us sort out our sim card problem by buying us a new one and charging it up at their own expense – Hello Mojtaba, thanks again for all your help!!

With Mojtaba outside his Iran Cellphone shop

With Mojtaba outside his Iran Cellphone shop


if you find yourself in Ferdows, go visit Mojtaba for a cellphone or simcard :)

if you find yourself in Ferdows, go visit Mojtaba for a cellphone or simcard 🙂

It’s Ramadan now, so the streets are totally deserted during the day, hopefully tonight things liven up a bit!!


What a shit country.

We finally got our 5 day transit visa and after 5 hours at the border we were free to go. I won’t go into the details about that day as I think dean is in the process of writing that blog post but it was epic.

We have managed to blast through the country in two days and today we are entering Iran. 

The way Turkmen seem to view tourists is walking USD ATMS. Suck as many USD as you can from them on their way through the country and kick them out. There is really no reason to come here. It’s a desert with a few cities in between and nothing endearing about any of them.

In Ashgabat, the capital, they only accept USD from tourists (bad luck if you’ve changed all your money into the local currency, Mannat) and the prices of the hotels are exorbitant. What a local will pay $12 for a tourist has to pay $60. Now usually if we have to pay more than usual for a room there is a part of me that is happy because it means we will get a night of comparative luxury (clean sheets and air con) but these rooms are back to the standard of Indonesia but for 6 times the cost. These details make the end of a long hard day even harder.

So there we were with $70 worth of manat that nobody would take and nowhere that gave USD as the country isn’t allowed to sell foreign currency. After 3 hours riding around the city in circles we finally succumbed and handed over $50 for a really really shit room. I then found out that the headband that I’ve worn every day since I left home had been left in the previous hotel. This doesn’t sound like much but when you travel with bare essentials, you really need everything. Realising that I no longer had this was the last straw. Dean tried his best to calm me down and then suggested that I wear a pair of his boxers on my head instead. At first I ignored him but then I realised I had no choice … And so I am… This is where I’m at. I am wearing deans pants on my head and probably will do every day until I find something better… I never thought my life would come to this! Dean however is pretty chuffed.

Despite the corrupt government and poorly managed country, the people here are really lovely and warm. We’ve had one restaurant refuse to take our money, a guy gave us a bottle of juice, somebody gave Dean a loaf of bread at the petrol bowser and a lady in a shop has just given us two bags of shopping for free… Chocolates, biscuits, salami, bread and milk… Wow…. We had to give back the milk 😉

Now at the Iran border and I can hear the call to prayer. Everything fun is illegal in Iran and its time for me to cover up head to toe despite 45 degree heat. It’s Ramadan at the moment too so we are not sure how easy it’s going to be to get food during the day. Heat and hunger make Sally a little bit more feisty than normal… Let’s hope Iran is worth it!

The Turkmen Bridge Fiasco

a border guard eagerly looks at every pic i have ever taken on my phone as we wait to find out if we can get into Turkmenistan.

(This post could also be called “The Psyco White Chick”)

Days like today only happen rarely, which is good because otherwise we’d be hating things and possibly home already, but conversely it’s a shame because in retrospect they are totally awesome and memorable and the reason we travel to these fucked up countries in the first place.

Sally is screaming at the policeman, literally screaming.  She’s pushed her way into his office, sat down on his chair in the middle of the room and demanded for our bike permit to be returned…

“I’M NOT MOVING FROM HERE UNTIL YOU GIVE BACK OUR PAPER!!!!!!!!!  GIVE ME BACK MY PAPER!!!!!!!” (i cant emphasis the volume and screaming enough)

While I’m a little surprised/bemused by her outburst, the poor Turkmen policeman is totally out of his depth, and starts to look around the room for support.  Which is course there is none, all the other guys have excused themselves and hastily run outside to avoid the confrontation with the crazy blonde haired girl and her boyfriend.


This all began about 30 mins prior, when after a frustrating 5 hour / $300 border crossing (another epic story in it’s own right), we were stopped at a bridge just past the border and asked for a $15 fee to cross it.  $15 might not seem like much to you just now, but after paying $300 in fees for everything from vehicle sanitation (that didn’t even occur) to fuel taxes and bank fees, in 42 degree heat, we were in the mood for a fight.

So pulling up at the bridge, we were waved over and then cordially asked to pay $15 to cross it… while every other car was throwing the equivalent of less than a dollar through the window.

(Bear with me here, because I’ve had more than enough beer and some vodka to boot – just don’t judge me, you didn’t have the day I just had)

So the policeman asks for $15, I say no way, and start a conversation about how much this would be in Manat (the local currency), then Sally offers the guy $1 saying this is all we have.

Part of the confusion has come about because in Turkmenistan, there are not one, not two but three currencies concurrently being used.  There is the old Manat, the new manat and the USD.  Then for each of these currencies there are two different exchange rates on offer, the bank rate (only idiots pay the bank rate), and the black market rate.

Earlier at the border, I asked one of the guards what the rate was, and was told 17.5 Manat for one dollar, meanwhile the bank rate is only 3.5…

What I didn’t know is that that rate was for old Manat, meaning 17,500 manat for one dollar.   Then there is a fixed conversion between old and new manat at 5000:1.   So the 17,500 for one dollar, was about 3.5:1 for new manat.  Keeping up?  Dont worry, I didn’t.

So anyway, we went into this little bridge situation thinking that the real exchange rate was 17.5:1, and consequently when they told us the fee was 30 manat, I offered them about 2 dollars, which they laughed at, and asked for $15 again.  The policeman realised we weren’t going to pay so he refused to return our permit, which made us even more angry, and it went on like that for about an hour.  Leading to the sit in at the guys office.

The poor policeman even offered to change USD for us at 5 manat for a dollar, actually a pretty good rate, (and totally illegal here in Turkmenistan where you can only change USD legally at the bank so the government can rip you off), but because I still thought the rate was 17:1 I called him a corrupt man, and continued to yell a lot more.

Of course we did have a lot more than $1 on us, actually we had more like $1500 on us, but having already committed to this argument, it was impossible to pull a $100 bill out and not look like idiots.

So we argued some more…  and some more, and some more, then there was the sit in, which the poor man really didn’t know how to handle, he raised his voice and everyone in the room scampered outside except for Sally, who sat defiantly on his chair demanding our paperwork.


“you go back Uzbekistan??”  now he’s looking slightly shocked


Now it’s just him, Sal and I in the little room, Sal is fuming, the policeman is at his wits end, and I’m starting to think we should just pay and get out of there.  So I slip Sal a ten dollar note, which she adds another $2 to, and offers the guy $13…

At this stage I’m still sure that he’s ripping us off, so I assume the $13 will seal the deal, but NO!  He says it’s still $15!!  WTF???

This makes both Sal and I see red, so a new round of yelling ensues, now joined by a truck driver trying to get his paperwork signed.

Later on we worked out that Sal didn’t realise the police were willing to change USD for us, so she genuinely thought that we only had $13 to give them (that or a $100 bill which she thought they wouldn’t change).  Hence all the yelling and screaming.

Anyhow, in one of the more vehement sequences of “GIVE ME MY PAPERWORK BACK!! WE WILL RETURN TO UZBEKISTAN BEFORE WE GIVE YOU $15”, I see the poor guy looking totally lost, and shoot him a look of “Please help me out here buddy, my wife is a total psycho, I live with this every day… please!”

He looks at me in genuine sympathy, nodding his head in one of those  “better you than me” moments, and starts mumbling something about us coming back tomorrow to pay the outstanding $2…

He returns the paper we’ve been asking for, and then sits down at his desk and writes out the receipts for the fees, takes me to another counter where Sal literally throws the money at another poor man in disgust, who we think took $2 out of his own pocket to pay the bill, and then we’re free to go.

It wasn’t until later that night that someone else explained that there are two different currencies, with different rates, which then made us feel a little bad for the policeman.  That didnt stop us enjoying a nice cold beer in a garden near our hotel, where we eventually worked out the confusion, and then toasted to the crazy but very funny situation we got ourselves into!

Ah well, I’m sure the Policeman has a great story to tell his family over dinner…

“You would not believe the two psych tourists that came into my office today, especially the woman, I’ve never seen anything like it… her poor husband!”

Ashgabat, a horribly sterile city full of MASSIVE white marble buildings while the rest of the country is in ruins. How stupid.

Ashgabat, a horribly sterile city full of MASSIVE white marble buildings while the rest of the country is in ruins. How stupid.

Anyway, $15 to cross a bridge when the locals pay one dollar… it set the scene for the following days in Turkmenistan, where the government’s lust for foreign currency makes tourism a total pain in the ass, the country is falling apart except for the larger than life capital, Ashgabat – which is a monument to the Prime minister’s stupidity, but the average person is incredibly kind and helpful.


We got the visa! maybe…

This just came from the Turkmenistan consulate…

Hello Mr. your visa ready code TJ-5009 visa invitation is not sent to me as I get what I sent to you and your visa starts from 20 to 24 June the border Farap-Howdan

If you can understand it please explain it to us!

Either way, it’s positive!!

Friday afternoon

So here we are… Friday afternoon and suprise suprise no news from the Turkmenistan embassy!

Due to cross the border Monday morning but still we have no confirmation of visa. 

So… All we can do is continue with our plan and head down to Bukhara and hopefully get something from the on Monday! If we don’t hear anything we have to travel 2000 kms to Kazakhstan and then apply for an Azerbaijan visa and then get a two day boat across the Caspian Sea into Azerbaijan and then in to Iran. A very long expensive boring way round that puts us about 3 weeks behind but we literally have no other choice.

Feeling pretty over it 🙁

Goodbye Tashkent


I keep saying ‘never again’ to carrying tyres, but it keeps happening…

In the end, both Eugene and Valentina found us a tyre ☺. We opted for Eugene’s as it’s a good brand, but it’s quite worn out so we’re delaying fitting it for as long as the current one holds on, in the hope that it will then get us home.

We said goodbye to Eugene and Alena this morning, they’ve been very kind to us and we hope to see them again one day!

Eugene was keen  try out Betsy before she disappeared again, I was a bit nervous about it, but I gave him the keys anyway…

As it turns out sometimes you need to listen to your gut… but no damage done, the tree probably came off worse than Eugene or Betsy 😜  I hope you got some ice on that bruise Eugene!


Then we said another sad goodbye to Valentina, who has been extraordinarily kind and helpful to us again.  Such a lovely lady! She took us out yesterday to mail some clothes forward, then sight seeing in Tashkent, and eventually  spent a few hours finding us a dentist and fussing over us in the clinic.

We enjoyed a meal together last night, spent looking at photos and making the best conversation we could with the help of Google translate.

Today we rode 350km to Samarkand, narrowly escaping some bad weather, as we pulled up the heavens opened and it’s pouring rain now ☺

Waiting nervously here for news from the Turkmenistan embassy, they were supposed to let us know about our transit visa today, but nothing. If it’s rejected we need to go back to Tashkent and apply for Azerbaijan… that would suck!


lovely friends in Tashkent

7 years ago Paul and I rode into Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan), tired and lost, and were befriended at a set of traffic lights by three lovely ladies who literally gave up their homes to give us somewhere to stay.

That was another story from another trip, but now Sally and I are here, and instead of three, there is only one lovely lady, but the warmth and generosity is still unbelievable.

Valentina took a taxi to meet us in the restaurant we stopped at on the way into the city, and brought us to the little apartment we’re in now. Then she showed us around the place she’d freshly cleaned, filled with some food and snacks, soap and shampoo, and asked us to give her our dirty washing before disappearing until today at lunchtime 🙂

Then she returned with a sim card she’d bought that moring (we aren’t allowed to buy one as foreigners) – already preloaded with data, and some birthday presents for me, then took us out for lunch in a lovely local restaurant!

birthday lunch :)

birthday lunch 🙂

We only know about ten words of Russian, and Valentina is the same with English, but with google translate and a bit of patience we all make ourselves understood.

Then there’s Eugene and Alena… who I also met 7 years ago. Eugene invited Paul and I to lunch after meeting us in Valentina’s carpark, and helped us exchange some money among many other things. I contacted Eugene and Alena a few days ago to let them know we were coming to Tashkent again, and so we’re headed out for dinner tonight to celebrate both our birthdays, Happy birthday Eugene!!

The tyre problem seems to be nearing a conclusion, we made it here, 350km without it deteriorating much, so there’s a positive, and now we have Eugene and Alena, along with a friend of Valentina’s all looking for a replacement for us in Tashkent!

I’m not holding my breath to find a good replacement, but hopefully we can find something that will get us out of jail. Even if we find something old or the wrong size, so long as it will fit and get us a few hundred km (in case the current one fails) then we’ll be happy.

Huge thanks to Valentina, and Eugene and Alena for all your help, you guys rock xoxo