Translated by: Pál Capewell
We spent two weeks in Tehran, overall. Our friends, whom we got to know through Warmshowers last year, would have loved to have us for an extra week though. Due to our Uzbekistan visa however, we had to depart. We travelled much less in Iran than we planned to; sadly, getting our Chinese visa turned into a hassle, taking much longer than anticipated. Originally, we only planned to get our Uzbek visa in Iran, but (finally!) we met with Zoli Korba, who suggested we get our Chinese visa in Iran as well because it was so easy for him two years ago.
Getting a visa for China wasn’t a walk in the park. The biggest challenge for us to overcome was their strict demand for pre-booked air tickets and accommodation, which was quite the opposite of our biking adventure. Chinese authorities hate the words biking, adventure, and will not issue anything based on them. Thus, most people turn to trickery: free cancelation hotel rooms, fake air tickets, etc. Luckily for us, the people at the embassy in Iran didn’t give us a hard time. They did request for an invitation letter though, via the Hungarian Embassy in Tehran, containing what is beyond our understanding, but that seemed to be it. Still took a couple of days though.
So we decided to go to the Hungarian Embassy, where they received us with a warm welcome and made us sit for a bit. Going to be honest with you here: it felt really good to read the words “Hungarian Embassy” in Hungarian and see our coat of arms. Back home it’s really nothing, but once you travel for two months and are 4000km away from home, it does make your heart skip a beat. Annamária, the Hungarian consul (whom to we again say a big thank you for her help and kindness!) wasn’t sure herself what the Chinese Embassy wants her to write, but she did her best. She confirmed that we are really who we say we are, our passports are legit and valid, have all the necessary vaccinations, and that yes indeed it is our wish to explore China on our bikes, so she kindly requests the honorable Chinese Consul to grant permission. The next day we went to the Chinese Embassy to submit our papers, only to be welcomed by closed doors. The guard informed us it’s only going to open the next day for some reason. So there we were, had to spend ninety minutes on the road for nothing, and now ninety minutes back. Oh well, tomorrow is a new day, with new chance for luck, we thought. Since we couldn’t save the online visa request form, Eni hand wrote the whole thing, with her pearly letters that are pretty enough to make the highest scholar envious. You guessed right: that wasn’t enough and acceptable, so we had to search for an internet cafe to to fill in the forms and print them out. This wasn’t an easy mission, but luckily for us, we met Mehrdad, a kind and most helpful Iranian university student, who took the role as our guardian angel and savior for that day. He took us to his place but we couldn’t get that form out no matter what we tried. Then, he took us to a “shopping mall” where we finally got everything sorted after which he drove us straight to the Chinese Embassy - and didn’t let us pay a dime for all his expenses! We had a lovely picnic in front of the Embassy till 14:30, when it opened. We handed over our papers, put a check for the highest possible number of days (“90 Days?” “Of course 90 days, your country is huge!”), opted for two entries so we could check out Mongolia as well, and we were informed to pick it up next Tuesday.
What did we do from Friday till Monday night?
Plan A: Visit Esfahan and discover whether it’s really that picturesque as people claim it is
Plan B: Go hiking into Damavandra Mountain (highest mountain of both Iran and the Middle East)
Plan C: Stay in Tehran, and go to a conference where we can meet Issa Omidvar.
Who is Issa Omidvar?
In 1954, Issa and Abdullah Omidvar, two Iranian siblings, decided to depart on their British imported motorbikes to travel the world. Their objective was to travel through Asia and meet the world’s most primitive tribes. Through their ten years journey, out of which seven was on their bikes and three by a Citroen car, they explored Asia, Australia, Polynesia, Africa, South-America, the United States and Canada, and Europe. They reached into places no civilized man has reached before, and assembled a mind-blowing photo, video and written report. For half a year they lived with a hunting tribe in the Amazons and crossed the snowy parts of North America on dog sleighs to discover and observe the everyday life of the Inuits. Departing from the west coast, Issa and Abdullah explored Australia and the everyday life of the indigenous people, which totally disappeared by today. They not only were dedicated adventurers and travelers, but with their carefully planned and smartly assembled and prepared journey, they managed to write themselves into the history of anthropology.
One month would never suffice for Iran, so we decided to come back after our long journey and give a fair chance to the country, during which we would use our “A” and “B” plans. Meeting with such individuals though might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so we decided to go with plan “C” and meet Issa Omidvar.
We had a quick, early breakfast on Saturday morning, then drove through the city with Habib, and before we knew it, we were walking downwards to the conference site. Mr. Omidvar welcomed us warmly and was quite curious regarding our journey. Despite being in his mid 80s, he seemed very agile both mentally and physically. He promised us we’d have a chance to talk further on after the conference. Eni came up with the idea that we should do an interview with him. So, we typed up the questions in her phone, and after the conference we asked Mr. Omidvar if it would be possible to do an interview. The answer was a yes! He took us all up to the Omidvar Museum for a tour, then, when everyone left, we made ourselves comfortable in the restaurant behind the museum and listened to his stories. He recalled his experiences with zest, and in full color. Within every sentence of his, one could feel the endless appreciation and acceptance he has for every single culture. We spent a lovely couple of hours with Mr. Omidvar and his friend, who turned out to be a famous director and producer in Iran. We also gained some inspiration for our own journey, and we felt fully recharged. Since Mr. Omidvar’s journey, the whole world opened up, it is quite the challenge to discover an untouched region. But for us, everything still seems untouched and new! And who knows, we might actually find some hidden treasures! We edited, formatted, worked on the video for two days, and not to brag, but we believe it came out rather decent. You can view it by clicking here.
On Tuesday we successfully obtained our 90 days Chinese visa, only with single entry though, so there was no way to visit Mongolia. I hoped Kirghizistan will make up for that with Eni.
Fortunately, we had the chance of meeting and dining with our Hungarian friend, Zoli, on numerous occasions during our stay. We got to know a very fair and nice person in him. Open-minded, funny, a very good chat partner. He met people from all walks of life, but instead of bragging, it all came across in a subtle, humble way. He has an above average acceptance and welcoming of new cultures and mindsets. He gave us a whole new perspective on a number of issues as well. Every second spent with him was interesting, we didn’t have a dull moment. We really hope one winter he can show us around in Hargita, and have us over in his little house in the mountains. And while we were busy interviewing Issa Omidvar, Zoli climbed Mt. Damavand! Congrats, Zoli!
We really enjoyed our two weeks with Mina and Habib. We talked and laughed endlessly. Eni and Mina often cooked mind-blowing meals, while taking pictures of the creations all the time. Habib taught me - for the second time - how to play backgammon.
Mina and Habib would also like to set off again soon somewhere on their bikes. The likely destinations include the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand or perhaps Latin America. Eni and I keep our fingers crossed so that it may happen, as Iranian citizens don’t have an easy case when trying to travel. It’d be such a pleasure though to have the four of us travel together somewhere! Hopefully not long now!