Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Day 75-76: Armenia, Vanadzor to Goris 311km and Goris via Meghri to Marand, Iran. 305km 9 hours, 10°- 25.5°

We set off early from Vanadzor and headed toward Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. 

Yerevan has been the capital of Armenia since 782BC. One of the oldest recorded cities in the world.

Armenia is an ancient country with a complex history 
Around 99BC it was he most powerful country east of the Roman republic. Because of its strategic location between Asia and Europe it has been invaded many times - from the time of the Assyrians around 669BC  until the Russians in the 19th century when it became part of the Russian Empire.
After the Russian revolution it was briefly independent (1918-21) before coming under the soviet regime.  Armenia became independent again in 1991.
The current landmass is one tenth of the ancient kingdom. It is bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

Armenia is the first Country in the world to become a Christian nation.
The Armenian Apostolic  Church was founded in the first century and Christianty became the state religion in 301AD.
95% of the population belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The population is 3.2million. Around 8 million Armenians live abroad. 
The Ottomans began the planned genocide of Armenians on 24 April 1915. After the Ottoman Empire broke up the Turks continued the annihilation of Armenians in Turkey (and also Greek Christians).  1.5million Armenians were killed and many left for other countries in the diaspora.

The Armenia economy is weak. The borders between Armenia and Turkey and Armenia and  Azerbaijn are closed and this has a severe impact on trade. Imports from Russia in the north come through Georgia and  from Iran in the south. In both cases the roads are near the borders are very difficult for lorries and buses.

The Armenian people we met  were  very friendly  and interested in our journey. 

The Armenian language is a member of the Indo European  languages. It has its own alphabet.
I am glad to be able to use the google translate app to communicate. 

There was a sense of desolation in some places in the north and south of the country. Whilst the economy was stronger during the soviet era the post soviet environmental legacy of disused industrial plants has created environmental eyesores...Rusting  remains of factories and dilapidated old soviet apartment buildings, roads in poor condition...

Around the capital of Yerevan we rode through crop land.
Just south of Yerevan we sighted Mt Ararat in the haze. Mt Ararat is now in Turkey but it has huge significance to Armenia. It is a symbol of the tragedy of the genocide and of the ancestral lands which were lost to eastern Turkey. Mt Ararat and Noah's ark are depicted in the Armenian coat of arms.

Further south the landscape was quite arid until we headed back into the hill to Goris,
We just missed getting wet in a spectacular electrical storm and arrived in Goris to a wonderful welcome at the hotel.
We had a good meal with a good Armenian red wine, and a night's  rest before the longish ride to the border crossing from Armenia to Iran over the hills and far away.

The mountain passes beyond Goris were rugged and at the highest pass the temperature was 10°C.
A huge Cross in a hill far away...





 Mt Ararat and little Mt Ararat.
The photo below shows Mt Ararat from the air when we flew over a few weeks ago.
The butcher's shop with the sheep in a pen next door awaiting their fate.


Finding places to stop for a drink was a challenge but when we were met with a smile like this we felt very welcome.
Something beautiful near Meghri, the Armenia border town.

 Shepherds need to tend their sheep.
There are no fences alongside the roads.

Up and over mountain passes with winding roads.
Ominous clouds threaten but no rain falls.
A fond farewell from our Goris Hotel host.
He welcomed us the night before with a wonderful smile and great enthusiasm.
Beekeepers with their hives, tent and honey stall on the road side.

On the Armenia Silk Road.
Plenty of hairpin bends.
So glad we had our rabies shots...
We have been chased by dogs in lots of small villages in Armenia. 
This dog is airborne...
Our legs seem to be the target.
 Fortunately Orlanda outruns them.

 the Iranian flag.

We have crossed the border from Armenia to Iran.
It was a protracted departure from Armenia. 
I was taken through passport control. 
Dick was detained somewhere dealing with the bike.

My passport was examined with UV light and with a magnifying lens... 
I kept smiling serenely. 
It is a new NZ passport with all the latest security features.
I rationalised that they must have been on a recent training session. 
Ahhh, the sound of a passport being stamped...
 But then,
I was forbidden to return to the bike because I had a one-entry visa.
Where was Dick?
I kept smiling...
Then I heard the sweet sound of Orlanda.
All's well that ends well.

(Border crossings are complicated for us because Orlanda has to be exported from the country we are leaving and imported into the next country... All the while we have to go through the emigration and immigration formalities.)

The rugged Zagros mountains in north west Iran in the east Azerbaijan province.
Soldiers keep watch over the banks of the Aras River which forms the 35km  border between Iran and Armenia and then between Iran and West Azerbaijan.
Mr Barham Khalili Marandi who teaches English. He made himself indispensable in settling us in to the hotel of his friend.
We spent an entertaining hour hearing about his experiences with travellers and about life in Iran.
I'll introduce you to Yashar who took us to the hotel in my next post.

Our first night in Iran. 
We fetched out sleeping bags and silk liners.
Notice the gas heater above the bedstead.
We always feel a little unsettled the first day in a new country but our new friend Mr Barham  and Yashar made us feel very welcome in Iran.


Ken said...

I thought the heater was a picture!!!

Lovely to have you posting again for us to enjoy. XXOO

Diana Hubbard said...

Thanks Ken, I am glad to be back with blog posts. The internet speed was too slow or non existent where we were in Georgia and Armenia and blogger was blocked in Iran along with FB. I could have worked around that with a VPN but I couldn't load one inside Iran.

Note the open window for ventilation! Glad it wasn't cold enough to need turn the heater on. I hesitate to show any other images of the establishment.

Janet Russel said...

Great to have you back on line, have missed your posts

Diana Hubbard said...

Hi Janet, we are glad to be up and blogging again. We have been having an amazing ride - maybe you wil add some of these countries to your future riding plans! D