Episode 6: The emergency lane

The emergency lane, unexpected area for cyclists. After 6000 km on minor roads through Europe, time has come for a change. From Istanbul to Tehran on the emergency lane is an amazing adventure surprisingly full of acquaintances.

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Soon the lights of Istanbul disappear behind a first mountain. A second mountain quickly appears and a third one…. Steep roads, poor asphalt and a baking sun. Turkey is a massive union link between Europe and Asia made of no less than 2000 km of mountainous land. Iran seems very far and there is no doubt we have to find a clever way to make it through.

Fortunately, Turkey is very well deserved with the so called “E-Roads”. “E” for European, those roads have spread far beyond the European borders. Nowadays the longest of this road brings you from France to the border of China! Each of this road respects the same standards: a maximum gradient of 8% and an emergency lane of 2.5m. For us, no brainer!!

We quickly realise that the emergency lane has nothing of an emergency. Bus stop to let people get in/out, farmers carry their herds, tractors and carts use it both ways, people hitch hike or even ask for some fuel with jerry cans in hands….

Where we were expecting fast cars and very little life, the emergency lane appears to be quiet crowded. All these people seems to belong to the emergency lane. Not easy to say which one of them or us are the most amused to see each others. Where do you go? Where do you come from? Why? Are the usual questions. Also the discussion never end without the traditional Turkey beautiful (“Ghusell”)? Or Iran good?

No less surprising for two cyclists, fuel stations soon become our preferred resting place. Water, food, internet and sometimes petrol for the stove. Everything we need. Fuel attendants are always very busy but never too much to crack on a joke, offer some tea (“cay”) or provide advice.

All good things come to an end, our beloved “E-road” stop with the Iranian border. Left with an imaginary emergency lane we have to deal with the crazy traffic from Bazargan to Tehran.

This wouldn’t be Iran without welcoming horns, heads over the windows shouting “ Welcommme tooo my cooountryyyy”, people offering food and refreshment. Hospitality is a duty here and Iranians are world famous for their welcome. Tent (“Chahdor”) have no right against Home (“khune”) and people always offer hospitality.

After 10 days, it is time to rely on our short experience on the Iranian roads to enter Tehran. The City counts 20 million people during the day, 10 million at night. In between, cars trucks and motorcycles comes and goes. Lost in the most traffic jammed city of Asia we still have time to make friends.

This is the magic of Iran.

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