It occurs to me that in my haste to write my previous post I didn't really discuss Iran as a country outside how it impacted on my cycling trip. A terribly narcissistic failing for which I beg forgiveness.

I find myself writing this 8000 miles away, two months removed and three countries later so I'll dispense with all pretense of punctuality and instead luxuriate in recalling this beguiling, contradictory country which often inspires so many opinions based on such little understanding.

Iran 1st leg: Tabriz

I spent a couple of days ostensibly riding out the weather in Meghri but really immobilised by the prospect of leaving for the unknown of Iran. In my haste to arrive at the border before my visa window elapsed I had done so with a week to spare and I found it surprisingly difficult to leave.

Despite falling ill I felt very affectionate towards Armenia. Apricot jam, excellent inexpensive brandy and sensational doors were now my status quo. A land of harsh mountains, proud of its Christian heritage but perfectly relaxed about all shops staying open late on Sundays; where an overturned cup of coffee can predict whether you would find love. (I would not apparently, so the system checks out.) Even the overwhelmingly high proportion of white vehicles compared to other colors now seemed perfectly normal.

Assault by mountain.

Before leaving Goris I happened upon this diagram in the hostel guestbook written by a very thoughtful cyclist who had passed through some years earlier.

I very much approved of the clear concise format filled with helpful annotations. What it lacked aesthetically it made up for in clarity. All in all a very useful document especially it's allusion to a deserted monastery at the top of the pass before Kapan.

With the afternoon already wearing on I decided that a 15k freewheel down to the gorge bottom followed by a 10k climb was more than do-able before nightfall and would allow me to sleep at said monastery that night.