Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran

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Note: Revolutionary Ride is Lois Pryce's third book, about her travels in Iran.

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
In 2013, relations between Iran and the UK were at an all-time low, but a mysterious note left on her motorcycle from a stranger named Habib inspired her to venture into the Islamic Republic. It was a bid to find out the truth about a country that had been cut off from the world for most of her lifetime. Her journey was a mind-opening, sometimes shocking, often entertaining, and endlessly surprising experience that forced her to change her outlook about Iran, the Islamic world, and to ultimately confront her own preconceptions.

Here's an excerpt, with photos.

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The pick-up truck had been following me for several miles, sometimes hovering alongside, other times lagging behind but always there, the only other vehicle on this lonely road. I was riding through the remote Zagros Mountains in western Iran and although my entry into the country had attracted suspicion from police and border guards, I’d received a heart-warming welcome from all the regular Iranians I’d met so far. But this tailgating truck was making me nervous and I wondered if I’d attracted the attentions of those fundamentalist, anti-Western Islamists everyone warned me about.

Road to Yadz. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Road to Yadz

Zagros Mountain. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
In the Zagros Mountains

The truck continued to follow me, getting closer and closer. Through the cab window I caught a glimpse of the driver and his passenger, staring out at me. There was no denying that I was an unusual sight in Iran – a Western woman on a UK-plated bike was not an everyday occurrence here, a country where it is illegal for Iranian women to ride motorcycles in public. 

Zagros Mountains. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Riding through the Zagros Mountains

As the road climbed higher and all signs of civilisation ebbed away, I became ever more anxious about this trucker’s intentions. In an attempt to shake them off, I opened up the throttle but the truck accelerated too, engine roaring, billowing black exhaust smoke. They were just a few inches away from me now and the driver rolled down the window, shouting unintelligibly at me in Persian. First I ignored him, then tried shouting at him to leave me alone but he was forcing me off the road into the ditch and I had no choice but to pull over, my whole body trembling in fear. Sure enough, they stopped too, reversing back up to me at speed, almost knocking me over as they skidded to a halt in a cloud of dust. I was aware of two men jumping out of the cab, running towards me, shouting and waving their arms. My heart was pounding and I was all squared up for a scrap until I saw they were carrying bags of fruit, holding a digital camera and yelling and laughing with excitement, their smiles beaming.‘Hello! Hello! Welcome to Iran! We are so pleased to meet you! Please, we take photo!’ the younger one said, grinning like a maniac and thrusting peaches into my hands.

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Why thank you!

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Road sign

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
folk art waving me along

This experience was typical of my ride around Iran, where I was greeted with enthusiasm and unconditional hospitality at every turn – a far cry from the warnings and horror stories from the naysayers back home, who, of course had never been to Iran or even ridden a motorcycle outside the UK.

Shiraz hotel staff. From  Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Shiraz - hotel staff & Lois

Shiraz. From  Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Shiraz 

Motorcycle alley, Shiraz. From  Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Motorcycle alley in Shiraz

That isn’t to say that there aren’t specific considerations for women adventure riders, but for each occasional hairy moment, there are a hundred moments of true joy, excitement, and fun. The common perception is that a woman riding alone will inevitably come to a sticky end, but once you hit the road, you actually discover that being female gives you access to all kinds of wonderfully interesting and enlightening situations.

Lois Pryce.  Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Plotting a route

Alborz Mountains. Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
In the Alborz mountains 

Alborz mountain road. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Along the Alborz mountain road

Your solo status means you are viewed as an unthreatening proposition by the people you meet, and has the effect of making people want to look after you, bringing out the motherly instinct in the women, and the chivalry in the men. You’re a pretty safe bet to be housed, fed, and watered by curious, friendly locals.

And it is these experiences that are the very essence of a great motorcycle adventure.

Kashan. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Kashan

Road sign, Tehran. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Tehran traffic

Tabriz carpet menders. From Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran
Tabriz bazaar carpet menders

 

Lois Pryce, author of  Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real IranLOIS PRYCE is a journalist and speaker and has written for the Telegraph, Independent, The New York Times, CNN and the Guardian and is a contributing editor for Overland Journal. She was named by the Telegraph as one of the 10 Great Female Travelers and is the author of two other bestselling books about her adventures by motorcycle. Her new book, Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran, was released today. 

Learn more: www.loisontheloose.com

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Lois Pryce

 

 

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