Silke and Hauke

We are Silke (24) and Hauke (28) and this summer we left Germany for a cycling trip towards Asia. silke.grabhorn@web.de haukehinz@yahoo.de
Living in: Elsfleth, Deutschland
  • Day159

    Hospitality continues

    February 4 in Oman

    Our first interactions with the Omanis made the impression that they would be more unobtrusive than the Iranians - but as kind and helpful. It didn't take long and we were invited into some houses for, no, not tea, but Omani coffee and dates. They grow a lot of dates in Oman and refine them with sesame or spices. The delicious coffee is flavored with cardamom and cloves and served in mini cups :)

    We should also learn how steep the Omanis build their roads. We had heard that before and since then pushing our bikes has become part of our daily cycling. However, the hard work is worth it! :)
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  • Day157

    Oman, here we are!

    February 2 in Oman

    We decided to not do what everybody does (cycle the highway to Ibri and Nizwa), used the border crossing east of Al-Ain and went straight into the mountains. A great decision!

    The roads were paved, there were no cars and the scenery was beautiful - the perfect start into a new country we're really looking forward to. But there were no ATMs as well, and nobody wanted our credit cards... Luckily we carried enough provisions for 3 days and they have public drinking water supplies everywhere along the roads.Read more

  • Day153

    Al-Ain

    January 29 in the United Arab Emirates

    After we had left Dubai behind, the landscape turned into a desert of sand dunes. We've never seen it like this before
    but the continuous hum of traffic (there are only a few highways crossing the desert) made it less idyllic. And meanwhile, 'dune bashing' with motorbikes, quads and other vehicles became so popular that you can hardly spot an area without tire tracks.

    We had not that much luck these days: Our try to get on a less frequented road failed because we were not allowed to continue at an Omani border checkpoint, the road was for locals only. Two flat tires followed and Hauke's cold got worse. But Al-Ain should become our oasis, for relaxation and cure :)

    As cyclists, we enjoyed a preferential treatment in a 5* hotel and received a suite, enjoyed the rooftop pool, sauna, jacuzzi and took time to explore the Al-Ain oasis in the heart of the city, an UNESCO site. The cleverly designed irrigation system, the lush green and the tweet of the birds are impressive and made it easy to imagine being in a tropical paradise.

    Then we're ready for Oman!
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  • Day150

    Dubai - what a craze

    January 26 in the United Arab Emirates

    The megalomania in form of steel, glass and concrete, oversized cars, consume and materialism, cosmetic surgery and entertainment made us feeling out of place - the contrasts to the last 2 months were just too overwhelming.

    A superficiality, rudeness, recklessness, hectic and artificiality leaped out at us in the people's behavior and our host explained us that this is what life in Dubai is about - no place to stay longer-term.

    On the other hand, the spectacular laser show at the Burj Khalifa thrilled us and we could forget those impressions.
    However, the lack of history and culture makes this place still acting as an empty shell. Dubai put up a big front - and we believe that many visitors might better not want to see behind the curtain.

    As Dubai is made for cars only, the cycling was rather annoying and we were quite happy when we left the city behind :)
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  • Day147

    Good bye Iran!

    January 23 in Iran

    It's been more than 3 weeks now since we left Iran after spending 2 months there and we're still struggling to process all impressions of a certainly intense time. So, this is a try to roughly summarize:

    We found it incredibly easy to travel through this country. The selflessness, helpfulness, ease, hospitality and kindness of the people knows no limits and when we realized that after some time, there was in fact absolutely nothing we had to worry about. Maybe we've lost this feeling at all and that's why it felt really weird to board a ferry that would eventually take us to another country, where things would be different - and new, which made it exciting of course, as well. After all, that's one essence of traveling.

    We must admit that we felt safer than in any other country and thefts are probably a good example. What's going on in Germany and other European countries regarding bike thefts? It appears unthinkable to us that this would happen in Iran. There are always exceptions, of course, but we got the impression that criminality only plays a marginal role in the Iranian society - the social interaction is simply too warm-hearted! And we're pretty sure that the religion, especially the prayers as a form of meditation, and the absence of alcohol play a key role. It is certainly striking that there seems to be no stress but only calmness, everywhere. We finally got clear about this when we encountered the rude interaction of people in Dubai for the first time, and were kind of shocked.

    We're also wondering which value love and sexuality have in a society where it's almost impossible for boys and girls to get to know each other because they grow up apart (meaning separated classes, sports and music activities, no bars and clubs) and the traditional 'marrying somebody off' is still common practice. Some unmarried men in their late twenties told us that there is a 'modern way to get married' as well, but we felt that they were desperate to find or even get to know a woman. When they asked us about our relationship and we started talking about emotions and feelings, we could feel their uncomfortableness and consciously didn't mention 'love'. We don't want to judge about all Iranians, but we've thought and talked about this topic a lot and we believe that the various restrictions of the Iranians by their government prevent a development of love and sexuality from happening - with exceptions, which, in the public, immediately catch one's eye.

    The Iran is absolutely huge and so diverse, you can go skiing in the North and swimming in the gulf in the South at the same time, the variety of landscapes and climates, the natural beauty, the contrasts between bustling cities and the silence of mountains, deserts and coastline, the fresh fruits and vegetables, the spices, the tea and bread culture, the picnic and camping culture - traveling through this country is an adventure and each day is a different story.

    The fake news in the media and the fact that World War II propaganda is still alive is certainly one of the sad stories we experienced. How often did even young people praise the 'strong leader' in our past or tell us that Iranians, Japanese and Germans are of the same (Aryan) race? How can a father be so proud that his son looks 'almost German', after dying blond his hair? How can a TV program spread rumors that 1.7million Canadians are threatened by starvation in their country (we saw this in the police office for foreign affairs where we extended our visa - and where Iranians try to collect their passports to leave the country, Canada is a popular destination...)? Not everybody is questioning things and makes use of other sources to overcome the manipulation. We see the root of many issues in the educational system which is probably the strongest weapon of the government to keep control over the Iranian folk - and we hope that the Iranian people will never lose their courage, for a better future, and for more freedom.

    Here are some statistics of 59 days in Iran:
    Cycled kilometers: 3052
    Wild camping: 32 nights
    Hosted: 18 nights
    Hostel or Guesthouse: 7 nights
    Hotel: 1 night
    Max/min temperatures: 30/-14 degrees
    Fellow cyclists met: Karamat, Lena & Silvio, Mohamed, Abbas, Jan & Hannes, Valerie & Stijn, Gabriel, Lorenzo, Dennis, Anneke & Tane, Lorenzo, Frederic, Robert & Florian, Jakob, Philipp, Jean-Baptiste & Stephane
    Invitations, selfies, honking and waving, consumed bread, tea, fruits and nuts, mountain passes >2000m: countless :)
    'Where are you from?' answered: 15 times/day in average

    Cheers!
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  • Day144

    .. in the Persian Gulf

    January 20 in Iran

    The island's coastline is dotted with small, sleepy fishermen villages and we encountered only very few cars till we got closer to Qeshm Town in the East. There are many more Geopark sites on the southern coast such as the Namakdan salt cave, one of the longest salt cave systems in the world, and the Kharbas caves which are embedded in an almost vertical limestone cliff.

    Sleeping under clear night skies, going for a swim in the gulf, spotting dolphins, watching the banderi life in the fishermen villages and marveling at the hand-decorated sewings made by local women rounded up our pretty relaxed time on the southern coastline.

    In Qeshm Town, a shopping paradise cluttered with malls and hotels, we finally should experience Iranian hospitality for the last time. Majid approached us when we're hanging out with Gabriel at a falafel shop and invited us to stay at his apartment over night. We couldn't refuse and finally had a great evening with him and his friends :)

    A quick note on the 'sustainable development' the Geopark is promoting on Qeshm: For us, cycling around the island was still like cycling through an almost untouched paradise, except the area around Qeshm Town, but we have doubts that the island will manage to preserve its special flair... It is rich in gas and oil deposits waiting to be exploited, you can see that port facilities are being built into the sea in every little village, they've started but stopped building a bridge to the mainland which would increase traffic volume dramatically and there are discussions about building a deepwater port. As if that weren't enough, shark oil, soap and shampoo is sold by souvenir shops - thumbs down for that.
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  • Day141

    The dolphin island ..

    January 17 in Iran

    Qeshm is the largest island in the gulf and has not only the shape of a dolphin but also many of them along its coasts. Master nature has created an exceptional geology on this island through seismic activity, water and waves.

    To make visitors aware of the bizarre geosites, the local government has created a protected 'Geopark' in corporation with the UNESCO a few years ago. Thus, tourism is still in the beginnings which made the island perfect for us to discover places off the beaten track.

    The Chakooh Valley shows nature's talent to erode spectacular canyons and on the west coast we found our island escape - there were just the camels and us, perfect for some relaxation. We could even swim naked during the day, certainly a special experience in the Islamic Republic.
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  • Day138

    Endless great ocean road

    January 14 in Iran

    We easily noticed that people are dressed different in this region: Turbans with colored checks are common and there are ghosts passing by on motorbikes, their bright white clothes fluttering in the airstream. The women are wearing colorful dresses with metal masks on their noses. Even the mosques and minarets look more modest and we're missing the blue tiles. The clue are the many Arabs living here and being the majority.

    The landscape is partly adorned with cisterns and we're wondering how life looks like in summer as it goes already pretty slow at this time. But surprisingly, we also spot verdurous fields with tomatoes, beans and peppers surrounded by date trees and the powerful green appears almost surreal to us.

    When locals advise us against taking a road, we take the challenge, of course. After all, we want to stay at the coast! But this road has definitely been impossible for cars: Deep, sandy creeks, coarse gravel and rocks. We had to push our bikes many times which reminded us of Samuel's Iceland stories, save that we stayed dry and could jump into the sea anytime :)

    Can you ever get enough of this coastline?
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  • Day135

    What a great ocean road!

    January 11 in Iran

    We left Asaluyeh and the highway behind and the road was ours then. Just Gabriel, sleepy villages, the ocean and a fresh sea breeze, a few camels and turtles, and us. The villages were indeed so sleepy that we're afraid our tires on the gravel would wake the people up.

    The remarkable rocks, sharp ridges,
    formations reminding us of dinosaurs,
    picturesque beaches and palms tempted us to rest again and again and some laziness sneaked in. We went without pitching our tent from now on, sleeping under a clear sky, the sound of the sea in our ears, watching the fascinating, fluorescent microalgae in the waves, waiting for the green turtles to lay their eggs and counting falling stars to fall asleep.

    To be continued... :)
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  • Day133

    Persian Gulf!

    January 9 in Iran

    We cycled as close as a few hundred meters to the sea until we could see the Persian Gulf for the first time - tension till the end, and still 1 hour till sunset. It was perfect timing, wasn't it? The feet of the mountains reach all the way down to sea, but we could easily find a spot for the night and then there was this unspeakable feeling: The summer is back!

    From now on, we could sit outside as long as we want, the beauty of the coastline ahead, no more mountains to climb. But first, we had to pass Asaluyeh.

    The area around it is pure madness, refineries and burning waste gas as far as we could see. The engineering achievement is certainly striking as the oil pipes are coming straight through the towering mountains and the region employs tens of thousands. But what about the consequences for the environment and the people living there around the chimneys and under an ever-present ochre grey smog cloud? What comes after the oil and gas?
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  • Day131

    Iranian Grand Canyons?

    January 7 in Iran

    After we had climbed the 2000m pass south of Shiraz, we thought that was it - 250km downhill back to sea level from that point on. But then we recalled the terrain map of the southern Iran. Fan-shaped mountain ranges are laying parallel to the coast. It felt like our road was cutting through the sharp ridges of them and our navigation app said it all: 2800 more meters to climb in total make 4800 height meters downhill, nice!

    The road is hard to beat in terms of scenic beauty (if you like mountains). Dramatic canyons, vertical scraps, serpentinous creeks, dry rivers and beautiful valleys reminded us of 'The Land Before Time'. Unimaginable how it would look like if there was more water, maybe in spring?

    The Red Crescent, comparable to the Red Cross, provided us an oasis for relaxation. We had heard that they would accommodate cyclists and we never had the timing to stop by at the end of the day. But this time it was perfect. We had just cycled a new daily record with 117km and then there was their building next to the road. Let's try it! They opened their door, let us in, cooked delicious food, offered us a shower and a bed and we spent a great evening playing ping pong and Iranian card games together. Thanks for everything Mohammed, Reza, Peyman, Ali, Achraf and Erfan!
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  • Day129

    No wine in Shiraz

    January 5 in Iran

    It was not the perfect season to visit the famous gardens but we saw other things like the beauty of the first lights in the 'pink mosque' and the holy shrine 'Shah-e-Cheragh' (probably the last one we would see in Iran). We cruised through the city to ascertain that everything is calm and peaceful and spent some time to maintain our bikes, to free them from all the dust, salt and sand of the weeks before.

    In this country, it's always exciting to get something done, like getting shoes repaired in Shiraz. You usually just ask randomly chosen people who send you to someone somewhere who sends you to someone somewhere else and so on. Thus, Hauke dipsy-doodled through the city, met tons of people, found himself on a lot of selfies and ended up in a pharmacy where he was fed biscuits and sticks of cinnamon and told to wait for an old man who would appear at the corner of a street sometime. Eventually, the shoes got fixed by this old man and the experience would be remarkable.

    Contrary to this, Shiraz has also been about a sad story because we had to say goodbye to Valerie & Steijn who want to be in Nepal by the end of January to help building a hostel for kids of a remote school. Time passed by rapidly but the last weeks with you two and the others were really incredible, see you in Nepal guys!
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