Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcome Theo!

Let me start again with less emotions this time. After Nata left, Gazelle called to take us to the city. Theo also will be here in a couple of hours.
Theo is the cyclist we met in Tabriz by the good grace of Hamed, the saviour of lost tourists.
Then, I didn't want some dirty cyclist who has probably lost his social life ages ago to bother our trio. I talked to him only because Ilona seemed to find him interesting. But he turned out quite allright. He's the guy who will tell you the worst thing just to see the shocked expression on your face. Cool! Plus, he's cycling from his hometown to indonesia.

He went looking for Ilona the night she dissapeared when looking for the internet and for that he already has my respect. I am still ashamed of that moment when I gave myself up to the easy thoughts: "nothing will happen". She's my sister, I must take care of her; never again.

Theo is now crossing the last mountain patch before Tehran. He is 15 kilometers from us and now the way is only down. He'll be there in a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, we visit the city with Gazelle. She strikes me as a true artist, the one who can draw from voices from other dimentions and transform into a dragon. She's a photographer actually. Her life story is disturbing, unique, brave and kind of beautiful, are all rainbow people so unique?

We explore the bazar and then Theo comes. He's cycled trough the coast of the Caspian see, it's beautiful there. So much variation in the landscape. Nata should have a great time.

Me too, I am climbing tomorrow. I'll contact Jon and we'll make another try at Damavand. This time, it will work.

The lock is jammed, we can't open our appartment. Theo is exhausted, this is not a time for fate to do bad jokes. Worst case scenario, we sleep at the neighbours place. Lucky we have such great neigbours. But Gazelle prays for a miracle and she probably has superpowers the door just opens.

We talk a lot. I need it. Theo goes to sleep and Gazelle is my personal therapist for a while. I don't take a habit of opening my heart to people but these are special condition. Meeting her while halucinating under weed transcends my trust issues. And I'm reassured when she tells her story first.
Just to reassure you Nata if you're reading this, I didn't get into any details about you.
"Oh my, we're both losers", says Gazelle, "but this is a sign".

Actually I don't even feel like losing that much but I agree about the sign.
Gazelle sleeps at our place, and the day after we go meet Mahan. He has a joint in the palm of his hand and starts to smoke it in front of a police station.
V., a peroxide blond with a hijab accompanies him, she has some class, I like the contrast. I ask Mahan about how he feels about smoking a joint in front of the police station and he tells me in his ever-relaxed voice:
"Maan police nooo problem. Weeed is goooood."
I think this is kind of funny as long as I don't smoke too but Theo is losing patience a little.
He goes over the corner to buy some peaches: "I don't want to hang out with drug addicts". He is slightly angry. Come one, you're from Amsterdamland, I bet all of your friends are drug addicts and I hope you're reading this!

Me and Theo are getting along fine. He's also getting along great with Ilona. They go to the Ouzbek and Turkmen embassy together, Theo is supposed to get his Uzbek visa and ask for his Turkmen visa and Ilona is there just for confirmation that the visa was sent to Mashad as planned. I read somewhere that sometimes the embassy forgets to send the visa to Mashad but I don't really think that will be the case.
They return with good and bad news.

Good news, Theo got his Uzbek visa! He holds it proudly in his passport. Bad news: Not only did they forget to send our visa to Mashed, they completly forgot that we applied for one. Maybe good news: The guy was so confused that he told Ilona to come back tomorrow and he'll just hand the visas to us.

That would be great, we expected the visas on monday, maybe on sunday if we're lucky. If we get them on thursday then we can leave tomorrow and we'll have 3 more precious days to cross Turkmenistan an Kazakhstan.

I didn't mention this but actually, we are in a hurry. To be more precise, we are in a fucked up situation. Our Iranian visa and our Kazakh visa overlap. Why? Because the Kazakh assholes have put precise dates on our visas. We have to enter Kazakhstan after 01/08/2013 and exit the country before 30/08/2013. Rumours say, the penalty for overstaying the visa is prison. Since we spent way more time in Armenia than we intended, mostly because of me wanting to travel with Nata to Karabakh, we entered Iran the same day we were supposed to enter Kazakhstan. Therefore, each day we spend in Iran is one day that we cannot spend in Kazakhstan.

With our visa due one Sunday in Mashad, we have 12 days to cross both countries. 11 days if we get there on monday which is more likely. Crossing Kazakh takes 8 days if we hitchhike like crazies so that leaves 4 days for Turkmenistan. It is tight, very tight. Actually, we need a few miracles. And actually, I am counting on miracles in my plan. I count on them the same way I would count on provable facts. This is crazy.

According to that plan, I still have time to join Jon and climb that mountain. But with that new information, I have to cancel. Not only should I be at the embassy tomorrow but every extra day counts and it would be stupid to put our freedoms at risk just to climb a mountain I can climb in Kyrgystan anyway. If we get the visa, we go, that's a no-brainer.

Besides these worries life goes fine and calm at our appartment in northern Tehran. We live there in peace and harmony, we make tea, we cook, we laugh with our neighbours, it feels like home. Leaving Tehran will feel a little bit like leaving Brno in our home country.
Sometimes, Ali visits and gets stoned at our place. I think he likes Ilona a bit. He's nice too, always stoned.

The next day, I go with Theo to the embassy. I don't really believe they will deliver our visas. I'm sure they will forget about us again and we'll just have to ask again. In that case we'll never make it to Kazakhstan in time. In that case, we'll have to extend our Iranian visas and ask again for Kazakhstan and then for Turkmenistan. Visa hell all over again but more time to explore Iran.
If they refuse our visa extension then we have to go back to Armenia. These times, Ilona is very easy going, I'm sure she would survive but I'm less sure about myself.

The consulate is supposed to open at 9, it opens at 12. There is a million people in front of the small window. Two french people also travelling towards Kyrgyz. I don't like french travellers usually but I like these two. The girl had to come back to work so she seemed a little from another world but she was so sweet. The guy didn't strike me as the classic french know-it-all, he didn't judge our hitchhiking, I really wish him well.

Then there was Sol and Ana, from Iran and Croatia. They were applying. Actually Ana was applying and Sol was there for moral support. Go to the turkmen embassy, I'm sure you will need it.
"So did you fly here?", asks someone. Plenty of time to talk when waiting for 3 hours for the embassy to open.
"No I'm hitchhiking"
What??? "Hey hey! I'm hitchhiking too! Look at me!" I would have waved the hitchhiking flag if I could.
"Are you looking for a hitchhiking partner?"
Oh my god is Gazelle all-powerful or what? That just might be the wish I did when she gave me that friendship bracelet. Not that I believe in that bullshit but still, nice coincidence.

I must confess dear readers, for some time now, I haven't been completly honest with you. From the time we entered Kacheti, the georgian region more than a month ago, Ilona and I have decided to separate in China. We have discussed this decision multiple times, changed it, confirmed it, whatever. The truth is there is a high chance we will part ways at Iktresam pass, border between Kyrgyztan and China.
What then? Should I travel alone? Maybe. China is the first safe country with low criminality, I guess I would survive. After that, Korea will be just like home.
In Georgia, I almost panicked and started searching someone on the internet. Unfortunately, no one replied. Then I accepted that I'll go alone. At some point in Armenia, Georgia and even Iran I hope has risen with Nata. When Ilona leaves, I could continue with Nata. It doesn't seem like a good choice granted all the arguments we constantly had but some time before she left, for the first time I had the feeling that I can handle her. Not as good as she can handle me but the concept of handeling Nata is a miracle in itself.
So deep down, I would love to let my worries go and just hope to meet Nata somewhere in the Kyrghiz mountains and then go east, east, east.
However, in light of recent events I don't think Nata will come to Kyrgystan. She will continue to Turkey, she'll meet so many people and who knows where they will go. Plans and mindsets change so quickly in journeys like ours that it would be crazy to count on a word given a month ago.

So Ana travelling to Kyrgyz and then China, she's from heaven sent. The dates don't fit exactly but hey who cares. Some Gazelle magic and all will be well.
The embassy opens. I have my visa. Unbelievable! Theo pays for me because they only want dollars and I have forgotten my money anyway. I give it to him back in euros but I sense that from now on, euros are becoming useless, there is nothing like an U.S. dollar.

I hug Theo, I hug the french people, I even hug Ana. She must be 2 meters high or at least a head and a half bigger than me. Her hair is so long that no hijab could hide it. I am curious to travel with her just to see how she manages to take care of that on a hitchhiking trip.
And also.... Croatia! This is almost home! Ante! Petar! I feel homesick for just a few seconds.

I get a reply from Tess too. She was robbed in Tirana after the greek rainbow but would like to go in the direction of Kyrgyz and China. That would be great but money is the issue here. I just feel that options are opening, maybe I should just let destiny have her way.

Later with Jon, Emran and the other cyclists we go to Ararat, the Armenian club. Only armenians are allowed there, it's forbidden for iranians, especially for muslims. It's a fortress, a huge complex inside of Tehran. Inside, everything is in Armenian, it's like a small country in the city.
We manage to pass by flooding them with Barevdzes, Vonzeg haper, chatlaaav and the girls who actually spoke armenian.

"Where is Natacha?", people ask. Eternal question. I am starting to have a prepared speech. "Natacha went to the caspian see, she is safe, everything is allright."
"Is that the effect you have on women?", says Jon. I realise that everyone actually thought me and Nata were a couple; the party must have been so humiliating for me but I didn't care because I was stoned anyway.

Obviously, we are not leaving Tehran today. We'll do it friday morning. Theo is sad and so is Ilona. Not as sad as I was when Nata left us maybe but still, shitty feeling. I will also miss Theo, I wonder what he does now, alone on his bike.

We promised ourselves to meet each other again in Kyrgyz. So many people decided to meet there already. I wonder what will come of it. Will we really see Theo again in this mountainous country? Will the french make it? Will Ana be there? And against all odds, will Nata really hitchhike accross Russia and Kazakhstan to get there? Will S. meet us there too? Only time will tell but one thing is certain, we should prepare for one hell of a story!