Iranian Kurdistan: in the Howraman Valley

First days of riding in Iran haven’t been particularly exciting to be fair, traffic and headwind would sum them up quite good, with the exception of the day I passed through Saqqez, it was a warm Friday (which is an holiday, like Sunday in Europe) and the road was full of Iranians on a party mood having their picnics. My idea was to follow the main road until Marivan, where I knew there was a quiet and partially unpaved road that went straight through a Kurdish valley. The Lonely Planet says there are 72 km of ‘slippery mud road’, which is ’90 % hairpins’ and other travellers say that it was one of the best bit of riding they did in Iran. It didn’t disappoint.

a friday picnic
A Friday picnic
you stop to refill your bottle and the usual crowd gather. after one month it gets a little bit annoying to constantly receive so many attentions
You stop to refill your bottle and the usual crowd gather. After one month it gets a little bit annoying to constantly receive so many attentions
One of the few nice roads on the way to Marivan. this picture has actually been taken only to show that I fixed the bike kick-stand, which has been broken for the whole trip. and now I broke it again
One of the few nice roads on the way to Marivan. This picture has actually been taken only to show that I fixed the bike kick-stand, which has been broken for the whole trip. And now I broke it again

From Marivan it is easy riding until Dezli, where I arrived at the end of a rainy and windy day, the usual crowd gathered around me and I was invited by Jabla to his home to spend the night there. After the delicious dinner prepared by his wife the doorbell started to ring many times: the news of my arrival spread into the village and people came to say hello; me and other boys, which thankfully spoke some English (my farsi is sadly still very poor) were put on a smaller room, whereas Jabla, his wife and other 10/15 guests sipped their çay on the main room (yes, there is çay also in Iran, it is just not drank as often as in Turkey and they don’t put sugar into it, but they take a small sugar cube, called ghand, and put it straight into the mouth before drinking): it was a quite pleasant evening, spent chatting while hearing the storm outside.

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Jabla’s family and the neighbor
Jabla absolutely wanted to take a picture of us together with a traditional Kurdish cloth
Jabla absolutely wanted to take a picture of us together with a traditional Kurdish cloth

The following day was spent climbing under a light rain, which started mixing with some snow as I went up and, close to the top of the 2200 m pass, people started warning me: ‘There is snow on the ground’ and I started to see cars with their chains on, I didn’t have the time to worry about it that a snowplunge came to clean the road; I answered to the waving of the driver with a particular enthusiasm. From the top, a steep and freezing descent brought me to the village of Howraman-e-Takht, where men still dressing very traditional Kurdish clothes were just the norm and I could see the valley where I would have cycled in the following day.

During the climb
During the climb

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The top of the pass. On the background you can see the road I just went through. A freezing descent will follow
The top of the pass. On the background you can see the road I just went through. A freezing descent will follow
First village after the pass
First village after the pass
Howraman-e-takht
Howraman-e-Takht

I woke up in the room of the newly built hotel to a shining sun, the perfect day to start approaching that ‘slippery mud road’ that should have started soon, it didn’t take long before the first hairpins actually appeared and then the unpaved road started, following a river and literally going inside the mountains, it was a continuous and exhausting up and down through breathtaking landscapes and tiny villages, with military basis at the top of every small valley just as a reminder that the Iraq border was just a few km away. At the end of the day, a day spent riding with very short breaks, I covered a mere 40 km, but I was completely exhausted when doing the climb that brought me to Hajij, the village literally built into the mountains that was getting ready to celebrate No Ruz where I spent the night.

The valley where I will cycle for the whole day
The valley where I will cycle for the whole day

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Going up

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Kurdish women in a village along the road
Kurdish women in a village along the road
And other Kurdish men
And other Kurdish men

From Hajij there were still few km of unpaved road where I had to push the bike more than once, and then an apparently never ending climbing on an asphalted road. Close to Paveh I met two Iranian cyclists going in the other direction, ready to enter the Howraman valley, with its unpaved road and its Kurdish villages. I wished them luck, two days of hard and beautiful riding were expecting them.

Last hairpins on the unpaved road
Last hairpins on the unpaved road
One of the two other cyclists (don't ask me any translation)
One of the two other cyclists (don’t ask me any translation)
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