hels on wheels

I knew the mistake I was making even as I lingered in the air conditioning. My habit is to complete yesterday’s vlog & blog before setting out for the day, and today was no different. Except that I knew the forecast was to be 40C+ and I had a long ride ahead.

Even before midday just an hour or 2 into my ride I was overheating as I climbed an otherwise innocuous hill. My overheated phone switched to emergency dark mode making photography near on impossible, and my vlog unbalanced. The headache I embarked with worsened throughout the day.

In the only town on my route a gobbled up an icecream and was gifted another with the request I tag them on Instagram. They generously filled my bottles with ice water which unbeknownst to me would be my last drop for a while.

A last minute change of route to avoid an unnecessary climb left me on a stretch of highway 50kms from the next servo. The highway here is lined with blue pickups waiting for the next crash or breakdown. Two or three men squat in the small shadow cast by each vehicle. By mid afternoon I had so little strength I was stopping every couple of kilometres, seeking permission to squat beside them in the shade, and begging water from the kindly men. The only other shade to be had was under the occasional billboard but here the hot wind meant it was scarcely any cooler than in the sun.

With still 15kms to go I didn’t know if or how I could make it. But one of the kind pickup driver gave me hope. He mimed to me it was just 3 more kilometres of climb then 10kms downhill the the next servo. Usually I’m cautious regarding drivers predictions of the road ahead; in motor vehicles the kilometres slip by in minutes, the climbs go unnoticed. But his accuracy of kilometres against what my map was telling me gave me reason to trust him. (Being on the highway neither maps.me nor Komoot would provide an insight into the gradient ahead as bicycles are not officially allowed on these roads).

With this new hope I struggled on up the negligible climb, but at the top was was so depleted of energy I still needed to stop and rest before the descent. 10 or 11 glorious kilometres of downhill cooled me a little and once at the servo I gulped down 3 bottles of cold fizzy lemon. There was no motel here, nor for a further 40kms to Qom - an unthinkable distance at this point. Enquiries about camping pointed me towards the mosque where I was given permission to set up camp. Here I was met with so much kindness; I was offered fruit, water, biscuits, and given 2 invitations of a place to stay in Qom. I could barely stand but still did my best to answer the many and repeated questions; where are you from? How old are you? Are you alone?

Despite the temperature still being around 30C I reluctantly fitted the fly, largely so I didn’t have to sleep fully dressed, but also to put a stop to the friendly questioning outside the busy mosque. I dampened my clothes in the mosque sink and attempted to get some sleep.

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