|the day's first cyclist|
|and Leila - the second|
Another urgent task for me is to replace sunglasses now that we are on the sunny side of the mountains and my old pair are still sitting in Baku. Didn't like them anyway - Gayle is happy to remind me that I am the one that loses things. One nice thing about shopping in Asia is the tendency to clump shops selling the same thing in the same street. So off we go to the optician's street. Unfortunately my pidgin English (why do I resort to pidgin English?) and mime fails to communicate my needs in the first two shops. I wave my prescription and point at sunglasses but instead of being invited to choose frames they off me a pair from the Special Draw Under The Counter. It seems to be Hobson's Choice. But in the third shop the shop assistant is quick on the uptake and understands the notion of customer service. That's because she is a woman. No wonder Iran looks like it could be managed better - not enough women with responsibility.
Our other pressing task is to start our request for a transit visa across Turkmenistan. This is one we've done here before and we know it can be a pain. The Tehran metro is now longer, so the journey to the northern side of the city is easier. We arrive just after the consulate opens for business, except no-one is open for business. All transactions are done through a wodden hatch - you have to climb up two steps to look in. But the hatch remains closed until 10am. By then there's a group of applicants and agents crowding around. We are handed a simple form to fill in. When we hand it back with our photocopies and photos the consul official is dismissive. "Colour photocopies". "Moron" I reply. "What difference does it make if the copies are in colour or black and white??". No, I don't. I nod meekly and ever so humble I retreat to the street with Gayle to look for a colour photocopier. It takes a while with lots of help from locals that doesn't actually help us, before we return with the right paperwork. It's almost midday. The consulate shuts at 11.30am Miraculously, when I knock on the hatch desperately the official opens it up. He hands us a blank sheet of paper to write a letter saying why we want a visa, when and where. I leave this work of creation to Gayle as I find it hard to put into words politey. Ultimately, we just want to get to the other side. (For a tourist visa you would need to pay for a guide.)
After some inspired flourishes of the pen, the papers are accepted through the wooden hatch - we sould be able to collect in Mashhad en route later. We celebrate with bread and a whole roast chicken.