Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 47

facilities, we slowly gain elevation, metre by metre. Hassan says: “Better no photos, please!” Otherwise, we could be arrested by the military, on charges of espionage. We certainly wouldn’t want that. Our group starts drifting apart. Everyone here is very interested in our opinion of the country. Unfortunately, we can’t say a whole lot quite yet, having just landed. During our first rest, we get to enjoy the view. All around us we see plenty of barren hills with several trails and paths. Desert landscapes as far as the eye can see; no green in sight. The route is a little irregular and unclear, now it’s suddenly steep. We pant towards the summit and when we get to the top can’t produce a single word, we’re so out of breath. The view is spectacular. From up here, you can see all of Tehran. Extending all the way to the horizon, the city looks like a giant carpet of a settlement that was placed across the valley, framed by the high mountains. We leave the city of 14 million behind us – luckily, no smog in sight today. “Very, very lucky”, says Hassan. Normally the sky looks rather brown than blue, our guide reveals in his broken English. Up here, our group separates for good. Most of the riders take the easier route into the valley. Hassan recommends the trail route. A great suggestion. Just the right way to enjoy the many panoramas as the narrow trail, riddled with a few rock passages, gets steeper. The ground is hard and dusty, but offers excellent traction for the studs. The curves provide a great grip, whilst a few climbs here and there work wonders on the cardiovascular system. And thus, we continue on our path for the next hour or so before making our way back into the traffic chaos of the metropolis. Shah nostalgia and purple- coloured ski gondolas Dizin is a ski resort that was built in the ’70s. Back then, the Shah was still in charge of Iran. The gondolas from the era look accordingly safe. Like little colourful Easter eggs, they hang off the wire. At least they’re painted in a contemporary purple, the chief himself even turns them on for us. Weightlessly, we glide over the 3 000m mark. Here in the Alborz mountain range, there are several summits that almost make it up to 4 000m. I immediately think of the incredible powder snow opportunities that must exist up here during winter – wide descents as far as the eye can see. But are there any trails up here? Andrew and I connect to an old passage towards the valley. Trails? Nope. However, the word “road” does not have the same meaning in Iran. Rough gravel takes turns with skid- proof clay soil and makes us scream out in excitement in the fast curves. At this height, it’s starting to get really cold and when the sun disappears behind the mountain, we’re in dire need of something warm. Either down feathers, hot soup or tea. Ideally all of them. “Ash” is the name of the national dish that is served at almost every corner, a large vegetarian pot of soup that cooks “rough gravel takes turns with skid-proof clay soil and makes us scream out in excitement in the fast curves.”