The last three days have been long and fairly tough, a dash to see a fabulous piece of architecture in Soltaniyeh and then a two-day slog over the Alborz Mountains (again--that makes four Alborz crossings in total, including one in 2004) to get here, to the holiday capital of Iran, the Caspian coastal region.
The first day, from Qazvin to Soltaniyeh, was tough, a long day (156 km) with a fair bit of climbing, although so gradual, and with such nice tailwinds, that I hardly noticed the 500 metres I had gained. There is little to say about the riding or about the unremarkable landscape (I was soon longing for the Alamut), other than to say it was my quickest day of riding this year in terms of average speed, except for my no-luggage dash from Tehran a few days ago. Soltaniyeh, when I got there, was fantastic, a small town in the middle of a dusty plain utterly dominated by one of the most remarkable buildings in Iran. Sultan Oljeitu, a serial monotheist who went through Christian, Buddhist and Sunni Muslim phases, ended up choosing Shia Islam when he became the Mongol Ilkhan of Iran. He built a new capital in the middle of nowhere (ie, Soltaniyeh) and decided with the zeal of the newly converted that he was going to build a new home for the body of the first Shia Imam, Ali (the son-in-law of Mohammed and the fourth Caliph of the Islamic Caliphate). When the authorities in Najaf decided they'd rather keep Ali's remains, Oljeitu was left with an amazing 55-metre-high dome (the biggest brick dome ever built) with no purpose, so he had himself buried in it instead. It's an amazing structure, very geometric, and I photographed and sketched to my heart's content.
The last two days have been Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll Day was yesterday: fantastic riding over the Alborz, with little traffic, although the headwinds got bad on the other side. Today was Hyde: incessant headwinds and traffic made for the most miserable day of riding of 2009. On the plus side, I'm only two days away from Azerbaijan!
Getting kicked out of the internet cafe!!
Peace and Tailwinds!!
Riding Day No.