Going to the ‘Stans of Central Asia had never been a priority of mine and a visit to Iran hadn’t ever crossed my mind until a few months ago. But after being invited by Tour d’Afrique to cycle part of the Silk Road through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran I can honestly say I have been pleasantly surprised.
Not only has it been an enjoyable and pleasant experience but I have been reminded once again why travelling is such a valuable experience and why you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the news.
1. For a cheap taste of the Alps, go to Kyrgyzstan. The Pamir Mountains isn’t known as the Roof of the World for nothing; just remember to dress warmly, winter and summer.
2. Prepare to eat meat in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and lots of it. Boiled lamb, grilled lamb, rice boiled in meat broth, eggs fried in animal fat. The only veggies you’ll find are tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and aubergine.
3. The more dill in your salad, the better.
4. Tea (or chai as it’s called here) is a great thirst quencher and goes perfectly with any meal.
5. When a local tells you it will take 18 hours to drive 600km you can believe him.
6. The people of Central Asia are some of the friendliest and most hospitable you’ll ever find.
7. The people of Iran are even friendlier.
8. In Iran, bread isn’t just bread.
9. There’s no coffee at hotel breakfasts in Iran.
10. There are some awesome coffee shops in Tehran though.
11. The USA has New York. Britain has London. Iran has Tehran. Make sure you spend some time here.
For more information about the Silk Route bicycle tour visit Tour d’Afrique’s website at www.tourdafrique.com.
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