Kurdistan once more

Just a few kilometres after the border we make our first acquaintance with Iranian hospitality, which accompanies us from now on.


So there it is, the last border we will cross with our bikes. But we hardly have time for such thoughts, because it is also the border with the most formalities. We had already applied for and received the visa in advance. Nevertheless, we have to queue at various counters to collect the necessary stamps. Fortunately, everything is there, including a negative PCR test. Hopefully we won't need too many more of these in the future. After this is done, we queue up again, this time to have our luggage checked. This goes faster than expected, as the border officials leave it at two randomly selected bags. It is hard to shake the feeling that they were mainly interested to see what we had on our bikes. A few metres further on, another queue awaits us, because now it's time for the actual border crossing. Our passports cause some confusion, because even though most Iranians are familiar with Switzerland, the same cannot be said of our passports. After some back and forth, however, everything is in order and we think we have the formalities behind us. But it is not quite that simple. We are led into a room where we are questioned by a policeman for more than thirty minutes. The conversation fluctuates between chit-chat, tourist information and interrogation. But then it is finally done and we are in Iran.

We take the first metres on Iranian soil under our wheels and drive along a lake in the direction of Marivan. But actually not much has changed. The landscape is the same, we are still in Kurdistan - that is the name of the Iranian province here - and Ramadan is also not over yet. Nevertheless, as after every border crossing, we have to learn the customs and approaches of the new country. For once, this is made really easy for us. When we arrive at the hotel we have chosen for the first night, we are approached by an Iranian. He doesn't speak English himself, but quickly has a friend on the phone who helps out. This encounter turns out to be particularly helpful, as all the hotels in town are fully booked. The end of Ramadan is coming up and so many people from the big cities have travelled to their families to celebrate this festival together. The friend on the phone, however, arranges for us to stay in the flat above that of his parents. We are super grateful and are escorted there. Once there, we unload everything and are immediately taken away again. First we take the car to change money, because only local credit cards work in Iran and so we have to bring everything in cash in dollars. Then he takes us to a shop where we buy a SIM card. This turns out to be very practical, because stable WiFi connections are very sparse here. Thus stocked up, we first allow ourselves a break in our quiet accommodation.

This is also important, because our health is not very good. Although Sara has been better since that night in Iraq, Beni is now plagued by diarrhoea. Therefore, we decide to stay here for a few days and then continue our journey. The next day, the friend on the phone comes to Marivan to visit the family and we are invited to our first Iranian meal one floor below. Afterwards he takes us with him to show us the sights with his friends. We drive up the nearby mountain and to the promenade at the lake.

Despite these quiet days, Beni does not feel any better. When we want to drive on again, we have to stop after only a few metres because his eyes go black and he lacks strength. We stand there a bit perplexed and think about what we should do now. After some back and forth, we decide to go to the local hospital. Once there, we first have to pay to get on the waiting list. Then we have to wait our turn. When we are called, we go to the doctor, who issues a prescription after 3 questions. Unlike what we are used to, in Iran you have to buy all the medicines for treatment yourself. So Sara goes to the nearby pharmacy to get the infusion and antibiotics, which are then administered in the hospital. After about an hour, the whole business is over and we are outside again. This visit cost us three francs.

We are still standing in front of the hospital when we are approached by a friendly man. After a few words he invites us to his home. Fortunately, this is on our route and only 10km away. So we gratefully accept the invitation and follow him through the traffic. Arriving at his house, we are assigned our own room, where we are allowed to rest for a while. We appreciate this thoughtful hospitality twice as much in our condition. Thus rested, we then get to know the whole family. We play with the children, are cooked for and as the end of Ramadan is coming up the next day, we decide to stay for two nights.

Despite these initial difficulties, we are overwhelmed by this country, especially by the unbelievable hospitality of its inhabitants, and are curious to see what else awaits us.