Opening a new highline with Iran Slackline

As I already mentioned, I arrived in Arak last wednesday. I came here to meet Mohammad and Kiavash, the founders of Iran Slackline (check their facbook- page). So it is by no means surprising that we went for long- or highlining every day since my arrival.
But yesterday was special. At least for me 😉
We bolted a new line and after Mohammad did the first ascent, it was up to me to do the second one. I could do it onsight and fullman, which means on first attempt, both ways. And, as if that wasn`t enough, the setting of this line is just stunning! Clouds and sun created a fairly surreal atmosphere and the wind blew strongly! But that just intensified the feeling of exposure and emptiness during the walk. Definitely my most beautiful highline so far! Pure joy!!

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Esfahan- or thoughts about endings

Yesterday, I arrived in Esfahan. I finally reached the destination of this whole trip, now I`m done. It`s over, somehow.
So, whereas I had a long walk through the city with Aigars today, and whilst the mosques, palaces, parks and squares are indeed very beautiful, my mind is rather occupied by this ending thing. Because having completed the last leg of my trip puts me into a situation that I haven`t had for the last 4 months. Something totally new happened that I don`t know how to deal with:

I – reached – my – goal!

Yes. This trip, as it was initially planned, is over. A dream came true. Now it is no longer just talking, but I actually made it to Iran by bike. Cycled more than 4000km through four different countries and now sit on a couch in Esfahan, wondering what that means…

Should I be happy about it? Should I be sad about it? I don`t know what I should. The only ting I know is that it doesn`t make sense to think in such periods. There`s no point considering these four months “a trip of a lifetime” that ended today. Or that would end with my arrival back home in Germany.
Why? – Because these four months are just as much part of my life as my time in Munich or anything else. It`s still my life, just with more exceptional content.
So, by no means this tour needs to be the “journey of a lifetime”. Of course, so far it doubtlessly is. But what I, amongst thousands of other lessons, learned during the last months, is that life is just exactly what we make it! So, instead of considering it the highpoint of my travel- career, this could also be just a little “appetizer”. A test- ride for a world- circumnavigation, a nomadic life on a bike. Or it leads into the most ordinary life imaginable. Studies, children, house, grave. Who knows…?

But I don`t want to bother with what this trip could mean to my life, I prefer focusing on the lessons I learn from it. Focusing on the actual happenings and the experienced feelings. Because I think this is what I really take advantage from.

So, I am at the end now. Mission accomplished. And regardless I spent hours writing and thinking about my feelings now, I still don`t know how I should feel about it. Should I be sad about it? Should I be happy about it? I have no idea.
But I very well know I had a great time. And I am grateful for what I learned, for how much better I got to know myself. Now, I just hope I can keep a bit of this traveling- mindset in everyday-life. Keep the level of awareness, gratitude and appreciation. And I hope I keep on dreaming. I wonder if there is only space for one journey of a lifetime…?

Shit happens – and why I am still lucky!

Everything seemed perfect on tuesday! I spent a great day with some Iranian climbers in Pol- e- Khab which is about an hour of driving away from Tehran. The climbs were exactly my style, long vertical or less than vertical routes and the setting was great: a beautiful valley with tiny villages surrounded by fruit gardens and a stunning mountainous landscape.
In the evening- we climbed until dawn- a quick dip into the river refreshed us perfectly and then we had some nice food in a nearby café.

So, why do I name this post “shit happens”?- Well, because shit happened!
When we came out of the café, we just wanted to get home. But as we opened the car`s trunk in order to put our wet clothes in there, two of our three backpacks, which we had left in the car, were nowhere to find. Apparently, during these 30 minutes we spent eating, somebody opened the car and stole the two packs. In both of them was climbing gear, cash, important documents such as passports, driving licenses and, in my case, my DSLR- Camera including both lenses and my kindle.
Shock! No Passport, no visa, no money… I was dead. In Iran, without these documents. That definitely meant the next days, or probably even weeks, would be no fun at all.
I had the worst imaginations, having to deal with asian bureaucracy at its best and being considered somehow illegal, for instance
So after contacting the police and agreeing over making the report the next day, we went back to Tehran in order to get my passport copy which I fortunately had saved on my laptop and returned the next morning.

Now, to make a long story short, I can tell we spent about 2/3 of the day in different police offices (which was actually quite interesting) figuring out how to write “Till- Jakob Kieweg” in Arabic letters and completing the report. But just as we were on the way to one of the offices, I got a call by an unknown guy who claimed he had found my backpack with “some documents” in it.

Booom!! I first could not believe it and thought it might be a trick. But, several hours later, it turned out to be nothing but the truth- and I got back everything except for the money, camera and kindle. Which is still bad enough, but at least I would not have to deal with all the paperwork.

So now, why do I consider myself still lucky? Losing a huge amount of money and a device which meant a lot to me as it was a big part of my journey is definitely not lucky.
But there is something I really want to make clear: at first, the natural reaction on happenings like this is to think how bad things and people are. That is also what I did first. Understandably, I guess.
But then, as things started to become better again, I realized how the situation actually was.
First of all, it is “just” money and materialistic value, that is lost, no serious danger for my life or health.
Second of all, I am lucky enough to have extremely supportive people around me. Be it financially, mentally or directly through translating, driving around or anything else. On maximum 3 “bad people” (the thieves) comes a whole bunch of great, dear and supportive people. And that is exactly the reason, why I am still lucky!
So, to finish this post, I want say how tremendously grateful I am for these lovely humans. To have such parents and such friends is doubtlessly the best thing that could ever happen to a human!

Tehran

The pollution is incredible. Every hour, the air gets visibly dirtier, hotter, thicker. When a bus passes, the air stream it creates, feels like somebody had opened an oven. At around 3 o`clock it`s nearly impossible to breath, to be outside, doing any kind of physical activity… And I, stupid fool, went to explore the city by bike on saturday.
Well, it wasn`t too bad. I definitely got a good overview and had great fun zig- zagging through the tremendous traffic. But 50 °C in the streets, 40 to 41 in the shade, is still quite exhausting.

However, regardless these tiring conditions, I had a great time in Tehran so far.
On thursday, for instance, I arrived by overnight bus from Tabriz early in the morning. And just as I entered the flat of my more than nice host Alireza, he suggested me to join a family meeting at his aunt`s place. Only a few hours later, I experienced great traditional (vegetarian!!) Persian food and hospitality.
Or, on friday, I met up with two couchsurfers who eventually turned out to be climbers. We went to a nearby climbing area called Darband and had a great time enjoying the Iranian rock. One of these things that at first are rather unimpressive but then turn out to be of great matter! I definitely found two very dear friends!
Last but not least, I happened to meet a very impressive, 70 year old man in a park yesterday. He just asked me whether I had some time to talk a bit as he is studying German (and English and French). But then we somehow ended up having a conversation about almost everything one could imagine. It`s still hard to grasp how incredibly studious, curious and perceptive this elderly man is (had to photograph him, check out the gallery).

That`s it so far. Today I spent the whole day in the flat, sewing my trousers, catching up with the diary,… The sewing took me three hours but was necessary, since I am going to join another climbing session tomorrow and my new Kurdish trousers (bought them for 5000 Tuman/ 1€) don`t go well with the harness 😉

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3hours

Headwind, hitch- hiking and finally in Iran!

Whereas my last post was still full of euphoria from being on the road again, the second day was already a really tough challenge. I had to cycle up and down all day, 1700hm in total. And as if that wasn`t enough, there was strong headwind all day. So, most of the time, I couldn`t ride faster than 12 km/h in the flats!! After 8 hours in the saddle, being totally exhausted, I just couldn`t hold myself back any more and went totally mental. I was shouting and screaming at the wind for a few minutes, until I found a more or less nice campspot to set up the tent and cook my dinner…
While I was eating, I decided that I had enough of Armenia, enough of these stupidly grinning and honking Armenians. So, the next day, after I had enjoyed the long awaited downhill, I managed to get several lifts in order to make the remaining kilometers to the border before sunset. In Meghri, just about 10 km from the border, I could camp in the courtyard of a very nice guy who also offered me coffee and chocolate in the morning.
Well and then there was only one thing left to do: get to the border and enter Iran. Finally. After almost 4000 km.  I was extremely excited, yet a little nervous… But after only 1 hour, I was on my bike again, cycling the first meters in the Islamic Republic of Iran. And it felt good. With a strong tailwind, pushing me along the river, towards Jolfa…
Long story short, I am in Tabriz now, after having met legendary Akhbar in Marand (I was cyclist no. 367 he had hosted within the last few years). I also got first impressions of the Iranian landscape and experienced the famous Persian hospitality. In Jolfa, random people brought me this non- alcoholic beer, yesterday I wasn`t allowed to pay my lunch and the first ten cups of tea have been drunk already =)
So, as you might have noticed, I am doing well here, looking forward to the last 4 weeks of my trip and finally meeting my Iranian highlining- friends again. Yeehaa, great times ahead, I suppose!

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Back on the road! Magic times…

This morning, I left Yerevan after 18 days… hit the road again and cycled along Ararat until the road turns left into the mountains. Just that I started climbing up, I passed an Australian hitch hiker and then, 5 minutes later, a German couple from Munich joined “the group” with their little son and a beautiful van.
After a nice chat and exchanging details, I pressed on. I felt good, but it was hard to deal with heat (48 degrees) as cycling uphill isn`t too fast and for that reason lacks the chilly airstream of fast flats and downhills. 
Anyways, I managed to do 135 km today, and just when I started to look for campspot, I met a group of American Volunteers. They`re divided into two groups and hike from both, the northern and southern border of Armenia, towards the middle of the country. During their journey, the stop in villages in order to teach english in the schools. We`re now staying in one of the volunteer`s house a few kilometers behind Yeghegnadzor =) Feels so good to enjoy the magic of the road again!

Gratitude and Flexibility

I am grateful. Grateful for getting such an amazing support from so many people. Thank you, Lorena, Mom and Dad =) Thank you Dagna and Anel for being so helpful and supporting with the package and everything else! Thanks a lot! You make this trip possible!

it is you who help me to trust in me again, to get back on the bike and stay positive. It is you who remind me of how great it is to be here, if I`m down! And it is you who I`m looking forward to see again in a few weeks =)

However, I am still in Yerevan. Last day here. After 3 weeks of waiting, I received the package and going to be back on the bike again. Can´t wait to finally roll towards Iran! I am ready for this last challenge! Ready to face the heat, the desert and the apparently overwhelming hospitality 😉 
But, other than I stated in my last post, I won`t go back to Germany directly. I will extend the bike tour for about two more weeks. In an entirely different part of the world. Just came back from booking a flight to Warsaw, Poland. On July 20th.

You might be surprised, but IMO it is just logical. The perfect compromise to have enough time in Iran and still being able to join the Urban Highline Festival in Lublin, Poland. To meet my friends and not getting back to germany too early 😉 And to be able to cycle another 1200 km. 

So I hope to see many of you in Lublin and then, in August, back home in Germany!

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