Sheeps, Sheeps and Sheeps!

If you remember, just when we left the plains around Mount Ararat, and started to go uphill, the sky darkened, there were strong winds, and our drinking water was finished. On top of it my bicycle started to behave weirdly and i had to push it. The next humans settlement seemed very far, so we decided to give hitchhiking another try: And it worked: Just after a little while, a small van stopped for us. But when he showed us the back of his van we were discouraged. It was full of fruits and vegetables. The man just opened a little store in his village and went to the city to buy supplies. We already told the man that he shouldn’t bother, because it seemed rather hard to fit the bicycles inside without mashing some yoghurts or bananas. But he insisted and we stacked the bananas on the apples and the yoghurts on the onions and like so many times, we managed to magically make enough space for our bicycles and all the other stuff on them. Of course we had to share the front seat. But just a few minutes in, the man asked us where we sleep tonight, and invited us to stay with his family. We felt like we got along quite nicely, and the clouds, that looked like it might rain soon, further convinced us. In our van we went higher and higher up the mountains. We didn’t pass any town for a long time, just green mountains with no traces of humans, so we were happy, we didn’t try to continue with the bike. On the way a big herd of sheeps blocked the road. The shepperds were just driving them along the road, and tried to keep the flock slim enough, so that cars and trucks can pass. The cars were quite bold and i was holding my breath several times, because the sheeps were running around like crazy and more than one time i thought they would get hit by a car. The days after, we kept running into the same herd of sheeps, at times being passed by them, at times passing them ourselves.

We kept running into the same flock of sheeps.
After this pole broke, instead of replacing it, they just errected another small pole and tied them together. DIY or die! 😉
This man invited us into his home just minutes after he picked us up from the road. His family was as nice as him and they welcomed us with warm hospitality. When we left the next day, he asked us a little dissapointed “Why the hurry?” I don’t know, but somehow Iran was calling us. But i would definitely have like to spend some more time on this little beautiful piece of our big, beautiful earth.
After arriving in the little village high up in the mountains, the sun was setting with magnificent colors.
The next day we used the time to fix our bags, which were already falling apart. I also added some special decoration 🙂
The sunset view from their window, now in the daylight.
In Armenia, most familys have a room full of kompott and pickles. Enough for a year it seems.
The village was high up in the mountains, to get back to the main road to Iran, we had to go 8 km steep downhill, but first we enjoyed the nice views over the area.
This grass was moving in the wind like a field of golden waves, it was very beautiful.
More… storks… 😀
And… more… sheeps…
Thanks to Hsiang-Hsin, there are also a few pictures of me cycling. Here competing with an old Lada (i believe) and the flock of sheeps we kept running into.
This truck was easily 20 meter long, but our bikes where the only load. This guy saved us from the rain. We just started putting our bicycles on his truck when it started raining. We were already half wet when we got in the truck, but safe. (Pic by H-H)
The 20 meter long empty loading platform had the advantage that we could transform it into a 20 meter long dinner table 😀 We shared what we had with eachother and dined with the sunset in the back. (Pic by H-H)

After our dinner, he was still going 100km through the mountains, which, on roads with this conditions and with a truck like this, means several hours. Although he was driving really fast, regularly taking over cars and other trucks (remember, he was driving a minimum 20 meter long vehicle!), when we arrived in the town of his destination it was already one’o’clock in the night. For the last hour it was raining like crazy and he always asked us where we’d going to stay. We always replied “camping”, but didn’t really feeling comfortable about this idea, although having no other option really. Finally he let us out at some gas station. And we asked the people there if we could camp somewhere dry. And they helped us… They designated us their changing room, which was just big enough to accommodate our tent, but it was warm and dry inside.

The next day would be our last day in Armenia. It was continuing to rain through the day, and the morning we spent mostly under some roof, trying to hitchhike and stay dry. It didn’t really work out, so when the rain got less, we continued our way. It was quite a demanding ascent and my chain was still jumping in the lower gears, so i mostly resorted to pushing. We were going on like this for two hours, occasionally putting out our thumbs, but the road didn’t have a lot of cars and even less so, cars that could have take us. But then, when we just minded our own business and were struggling up the hill, a public bus stopped next to us and waved us in. We were not sure if we would even fit through the doors, but with the help of the only passenger inside, we made it!

When inside and talking to the only guest, it turned out it was not exactly a public bus. The bus was going to Kajaran, a mining town up in the mountains, and shutteling workers between there and the bigger town down in the valley. During the ride, the driver got some phonecalls and got more and more mad. When we reached Kajaran, he even forgot to drop us and was already going more up, to the actual mine. But we were reminding him and he let us out, not without showing us that he is an a hurry and we better do quick!

When we left the bus it was really foggy. The town looked exactly like i imagined a post-sovjet mining town would look like.
This was were we came from. But ahead of us was still one last pass. The guys in the bus told us, it would still go up for 10km before it would finally go down to the border with Iran. It was already 5PM so we had to hurry up! (Pic by H-H)
不要亂丟!只有豬頭會這樣!!! (Pic by H-H)
Pic by H-H

I was sure we almost made it over the pass, when Hsiang-Hsin waved down this car, so i was a bit annoyed, that again we rely on a car, when in fact we could do it with our own legs. Then at least we could enjoy the reward going down all these serpents we came up. But when we were in the car, i realized that the struggle uphill was far from over. With the bikes it would still have take us several hours (the slope was so steep, that we often just could push our bikes up a few meters and had to rest, perhaps also due to the altitude) and it was already 6 PM. We chatted a bit and it turned out these guys were going to Iran to… smoke weed. Despite being illegal in Iran as much as it is in Armenia, it seems to be more easily available in Iran. But for alcohol the laws in Iran are really strict (half a year prison if your lucky, probably a few strokes with the whip aswell), so they handed us each a beer, which we should finish before the border. This would probably be our last beer for a while…

On the armenian side of the border, not surprisingly, an “Alco market”

In stark contrast: This sign before the immigration of the iranian side reminded us that during this time the muslim world is going through the Ramadan, where even drinking water in public is considered very rude, if not illegal in some places. But even withought the sign, we would have know: Upon our arrival, there were a couple of people waiting outside of the building, informing us that there is currently no service, because all the staff is having their first meal of the day right now. And right, the sun just set and that means that the people who were fasting the whole day, now could eat as much as they want. But we had to wait…

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