We were warned of the madness of the traffic in Tehran, yet as we cycled in to town last night we found it to be no worse than many other big cities we'd encountered - they're always intense.
The most significant challenge has been reading the moves of the cars as we haven’t managed to surface any rules yet – and they sure don’t give any indication of where they’re going.
Our mission today was to check in with the Chinese Embassy – we have several visas to negotiate before we continue our move through Asia. This took us on a 30km [full-on] loop up to the northern reaches of the city before an express downhill back to our abode.
The hairiest sections of road to negotiate are always where something changes – intersections – this is where the ball is up in the air and all bets are off.
As I heard the thump of an obvious collision behind, I turned to see Kristina, slightly suspended as the right side of car nudged her left leg. It took me a while to realise what exactly had happened but Kristina was completely calm about the experience.
While I checked to see if her Moots was damaged – as she obviously wasn’t – the driver of the vehicle briefly appeared to check that Kristina was okay; once he was comfortable that she was he exchanged a couple of words with the car that had crashed into the back of his (which is actually what caused him to hit Kristina), before getting back in his car and continuing about his business.
As I rode away from the experience I began to realise that this mans’ only concern was that Kristina was okay, he did not for a second concern himself about his vehicle or our bicycle.
I found this quite moving, and it made me reflect on an incident we had in Germany.
Riding the Rhine River seems to be an extremely popular route for German [weekender] touring cyclists, after riding some 5,000km to get to the Rhine we had seen less than a handful of tourers and once we hit the Rhine there was nothing but tourers, they were out in force, it was awesome to see so many cyclists, yet sometimes as pleasurable as driving in peak hour.
Inga, a wonderful school teacher from Germany, had joined us for the day and I would often dart ahead of the two of them to set up a shot on camera. On one occasion the wait seemed unusually long – I began to worry, something must have happened – as I cycled back I could see bicycles on the ground and the ladies checking their wounds.
Arriving at the scene I found Kristina and Inga to one side, checking in on each other; and two men to another side, closely inspecting a wheel.
Closely inspecting a wheel.
The primary concern at this scene was ensuring the exchange of contact details for insurance purposes. After all, the man was very concerned about the small sound his disc rotor was emitting, even after I corrected it for him.
Reflecting on this was, for me, hammers a point about where the hearts and minds lay from people to people. Sure you could say that these incidents are isolated. But its hard to ignore the deeply felt welcome we’ve experienced en-mass from the Iranians and contrast that with the somewhat apathetic experience of western Europe.
Now I’m not saying that our European leg wasn’t inspiring – quite the contrary. The scenery was amazing and the people we spent time with were absolutely wonderful.
I haven’t distilled these differences of experience into anything conclusive. It just leads me to continue questioning the values of western society and the sliding [dis]connection of people in the fast-paced, consumerist world.
People seem hungry for new friendships and new experiences here, and welcome us with open arms. If we can’t work something out we can be sure the first person we ask will be ready and willing to assist… they may even try to take us home for a meal and a bed 😉
Here’s my question for you: when was the last time you recall doing something for someone you don’t know from a bar of soap? If you’re up for the challenge, do something for someone you don’t know today. See how it feels for both of you.
I’d love to hear about it.