We’ve arrived in Persia’s old capital city Isfahan (اصفهان) after cycling along the Caspian sea and heading down south. We made it on December 12th after cycling a further 1535 km. On this route we saw many beautiful mosques, oranges, snow, and the police station.
Heading south for some warmer weather
Capsian Sea 凯恩海
We looked forward to several days cycling along the sea. However when we arrived things weren’t as we expected. Big hotels, malls and restaurants all took their share of the seaviews. The road we cycled on barely gave us any view of the sea. Trying to get to the water was a mission itself if you aren’t willing to pay. Needless to say, our time along the Caspian sea was short, uneventful and wet.
Red/white/green represents the Iranian flag
The quickest way for the Tehranis to get to the Caspian Sea is by the Chalus-Tehran road. We read online it is a beautiful mountain pass, slightly tight on space at times, but still worth the climb. We really enjoyed the four day journey, getting into the clouds, camping by the snow and building a small Christmas tree.
Portugal and Naranghee
In Farsi, orange is “portugal” and mandarin is “naranjee”. To add to the confusion, “naranja” in Spanish means orange.
The area around the sea was full of orange and mandarin orchards. It was only a matter of time before our bags got filled with them from the generosity of the locals. We had two bags full by the time we arrived in Tonekabon.
Kind orchard worker filled our bags with fruit
Our Tonekabon host from CouchSurfing also had an orange orchard. We essentially drank orange juice every morning we stayed with him. We had such a great time with our host Alireza that he has joined us going.
Police Escort 警察护送
In Tehran we found out someone had been in our bags and taken our money. The stolen amount was exactly $1000 US dollars, 300,000 rials, and several notes from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (which we kept as souvenirs). It is a lot of money because we had to carry enough for 3 months in Iran.
Why carry so much cash? The sanctions on Iran meant our credit card don’t work here. It’ll be Christmas and New Year soon so we thought to bring enough to treat ourselves.
Our host called the local police station and a policemen came to write a report. Later they gave us a ride to the station. Through the language help of our host, the police said “cash ownership is hard to prove, unlike a passport which has a name on it”. So unfortunately they won’t pursue this further.
Coincidentally, a fortnight earlier, someone shared a message on the Cycling WhatsApp group. 巧合的是，两周前，有人在Cycling WhatsApp小组上分享了一条消息。
This is a WARNING to any cyclist or traveler currently in China.
South Korean cyclist Jeongung Park, or John which he calls himself to westerners, was arrested in Karimabad northern Pakistan in late October and was resently released.
His exact footprint was found in a room where a traveler was stolen 400 Usd. He admitted to the theft, the money was returned but when two other South Korean travelers reported money missing in the same guesthouse police were called in. In John’s luggage currency from 17 different countries were found valued over 15.000 dollars. He was released after 10 days due to his victims unwillingness to press charges. After finding this out I have heard from multiple people, cyclists and backpackers, Korean and non Korean alike who lost money while in the company of John.
I’m writing you this because I strongly suspect John funds his now 2.5 year long trip on stolen money from other backpackers and cyclists. I met John on multiple occasions and until this came up i considered him a friend. (He never stole anything from me though, but then again I always carry my cash on me)
John travels quite luxuriously for a bicyclist after only having worked a short time in South Korea. What’s worse is that he is planning on continuing cycling for another 7 YEARS. Going to every continent and will most likely continue to steal from people he meets along the way.
I met John in Pakistan some time before his arrest and his near plans, at least what he told me then are western China until February, then Kazakhstan, Pamir highway, Iran, Caucasus, Turkey and reaching Europe in fall.
John is very quiet and humble. He absolutely does not come of as a thief or someone you couldn’t place your trust in. He is about 1.80cm, tattoos on his arms and back and speaks conversationable but far from fluent English.
Trust is a sacred thing in any circumstance. But especially while traveling we rely on it. If people like John continues to take advantage of it, I feel like I have to do everything in my power to stop him.
Be safe everyone.
We were in Bandar-e-gaz at that time so Pheng counted the money and separated $1000 into its own pile, but left it together with the passport. Obviously we forgot about the “all in one basket” phrase. We’ve learned our lesson and will be a bit more careful from now on. We hope that reporting it will let us get over it.
Our Tehran friends took us up to this view to cheer us up
We couldn’t finish this post in such a sad tone. Alireza from Tonekabon, has joined us since Qom. We’ll ride together for the rest of Iran and then to Turkey. We stayed with Alireza for almost a week in Tonekabon before climbing up the Chalus-Tehran pass. For the first time we’ve inspired someone to join us!
Alireza left, Matt right
Alireza took us to the most beautiful Persian cafe (in Kashan)
Alireza is a very adventurous, kind and thoughtful person. He’s helped organize most of the accommodation for us. Through the Cycling Federation of Iran, he’s registered our names so we can legally go on Freeways. Being Iranian, he’s also very generous, paying for every meal we’ve eaten together, regardless of how hard we offer to pay.
What’s next? 下一步
With what is left of our Iranian budget, we are going to the south of Iran to celebrate Christmas, New Years and Pheng’s 28th birthday. It will be a low-key celebration, but we’re not going to let this petty crime ruin our trip.
After that, depending on how cold the north of Iran is, we may go to Oman for a month to wait out the winter.