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Kerman, Bam, Zahedan - crossing the desert


The road from Kerman to Bam and Zahedan was my first time in a desert. I knew it would be 3 days cycling, 2 of which I would have to stay somewhere in the open area. The map didn't show much in between.

In Kerman I stayed in a hotel, which was excellent to clean up my bicycle.

Guide and me in the dessert of Iran
Guido and me in the desert of Iran

In the hotel, to my surprise were a few other cyclists, 2 Germans and Guido, a Dutch guy.

I had no experience with crossing desserts so when they told me they might hook with me in Bam to cross the dessert to Zahedan, I was OK with that idea.

However, I had already stayed a few days in Kerman and was ready to continue. Guido and the Germans would join together and meet me in Bam, 200 or so km further south east.

I left Kerman at ease. This part of Iran was empty, very empty. It was mostly flat with the mountains further away. Every once in a while I had to cross some hills but it wasn't too hard. And with a temperature of around 22C I was OK.

On the way to Zahedan
On the way to Zahedan

The ruined city of Bam, a magnificent old oasis townI passed one village but figured out I couldn't stay there. Not a problem, I bought some food and water and left only to camp out 10 km further on the road sight but out of sight of eventual passing cars, trucks and buses.

The next day I realized how easy I could have gone directly to Bam. It was only 50 km or so from where I had camped out.

Bam was (and still is) a little oasis town and a major tourist attraction in Iran, for locals and foreigners alike. And not for nothing! The old castle is magnificent.

It's on the outside like a sand castle. Inside was mostly ruins. And that would only increase after the earthquake later.

The town itself is nice enough to hang out for a few days but it's the old ruined city you want to see. The old city is quite extensive, very much like what I had in mind of an orient bazaar town like you see in an Indiana Jones movie.

It's quite easy to get lost in the now empty streets of the old town. Only around the entrance there were a few little shops and restaurants offering the typical tourists things.

The old city is a major tourist attraction for many tourists, local and foreign alike. As flying in Iran is dirt cheap, many simply fly in from all over the country, stay a night in town and fly back after the weekend (Friday and Saturday are weekend in Iran).

The ruined city of Bam, a magnificent old oasis town

Bam ruined cityIn Bam I met Guido and the German couple again. We chatted, and agreed it might be a good thing to join forces for the ride to Zahedan.

We bought several breads and other food, made sure we would have plenty of water and left.

We were told there would be police posts along the way. We would be able to get more water there.

From earlier days I knew there would be taps at truck stops too although that water should first be boiled before consuming.

It was interesting to cycle with others, as I have always cycled on my own. We decided to keep our own speed and simply at some points wait for each other. That made perfectly sense to me, especially when I found out I was cycling faster then the others.

We camped two nights but we were too lazy to set up tents. And since this was a stone desert, it was anyway hard to get my tent proper set up. The nights were cool but not very cold. And as we stayed both nights near a truck stop, we had plenty of water.

Bam ruined city

It was an empty land, and in the summer the temperature goes up to over 50C but now, it was October, the temperature was fine with 20-25C. In fact it was even more empty then the road I had followed from Esfahan to Kerman, which was already empty. Here however nothing seems to grow. There were no trees and only sometimes there was a bit of vegetation.

But in the end, it was worth doing it, and in fact, I would do it again a few months later on the way back to Europe when I had the idea to cycle Zahedan, Bam and from there going south to the Straits of Hormoz. I would follow the coastline to Bandar E Bushehr and the going north to Shiraz.

The ruins of Bam
The ruins of Bam

Little did I know I would get seriously ill and didn't cycle Bandar E Bushehr to Shiraz. I was so ill by the time I was Shiraz that I didn't even visited the famous ruins of Darius. Instead I spend a couple of days in bed, then took a bus to Tabriz and another to the border with Turkey.

From there I had another bus to Istanbul where my friends Fatos and Derhan would help me finding a doctor. Not even 12 hours after I arrived on Sunday morning in Istanbul I was in a hospital.

The desert on the way to Zahedan
The desert on the way to Zahedan

The doctor told me I had an amoeba and a salmonella bacteria in my body and according to the doctor, these must have been there already for a long time. I knew from where: Baluchistan, Pakistan, where both Guido and I had eaten some chicken and have had some serious diarrhea. Guido would become very sick in Multan but I kept going on without problems until Bandar E Bushehr. That was about 3 months later but a complete different story.

The far south east of Iran, from Zahedan to the Iranian/Pakistan border
The far south east of Iran, from Zahedan to the Iranian/Pakistan border

What still stands is that Iran belongs to my favorite journeys where I met some of the nicest people I have ever met. And I still have the desire to go again. Visit Shiraz, visit also some areas where I haven't been.

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