Falls ihr es noch nicht wissen sollted -

For those who don't know yet: We both finished our studies. Mascha got a ingeneering degree and Matteo his PhD in chemistry. But, as we will have work enough in the next years, we decided to postpone (as long as our savings last) this beginning. The FIAT Uno project was not practicable. We will try by bicycle.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Oman is a beautiful country –  glad we did not stop in Muscat, because a lot beautiful parts are further south. We were impressed, every day. I don't know what I expected from the Orient, but it is all different in reality.
History and society
Oman today

Oman used to be an important country in the region, and it was even called "empire of Oman". There was a lot of trade with goods and slaves from Africa. Even part of Pakistan used to belong of the empire as well as the island of Zanzibar. After slavery was banned, Oman's economy was severely hit and within few years Oman became the third poorest country worldwide. The population was divide in several tribes in war with each other and the semi-nomadic population lived of sheep and goats farmin in the desert and fishery on the coast. The situation changed dramatically when 60 years ago oil was discovered the country's health rose again. His Maesty Qaboos bin Said Al Said (Up to now Oman is a Sultanate) in power since 1971, drove most of the change. He managed to stop the tribal wars and almost all the society could gain wealth from the oil ectraction. Enough to understand this boost is to know that in 1971 the country there were only 5 km of paved road and 1 hospital… The rapid development is the main reason why here everyone seems to love the sultan. The uprising in the rest of the arabic world seems from here really far away.   
Oman should protect his historical heritage! (or at least the tourists...) 
In regard to the development, the local work force was not sufficient to follow the rapid growth and a lot of workers from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were called to build the infrastructure that the boosting economy needed. Although the number of guest worker has decreased, over a population of nearly 3 million, still about one third is not Omani. You can easily recognize it crossing any of the villages in Oman on one of its cities: Almost all the coffee shops and restaurants are run by Indians, the barbers or other shops worker in general are also from there and all the workers in the construction sector are still foreigners. Omanis used to work mostly in the Military (even here the military is an easy method to employ a lot of people and give them a salary: Oman for instance has the biggest military orchestra in the world).  But, due to recent legislation wanted by the sultan, a minimum fixed percentage of Omanis hast to be employed in each sector. Anyway, the sensation to be in a two classes society is strong, with the indians to play the role of the mule and the local Omani having the stick in the hand. Despite of that, the influence and the presence of the whites from europe or USA is much less than in the united emirates and it is quite marginal.   
I was surprised to see even less women then in Iran. Those we saw where covered all in chadors. In the villages women wear very beautiful colorful ones. In the cities the chadors are all black, covering either all the face or leaving only the eyes free. City women believe that this is modern in comparison with the village people. ..well...I'm not sure! At least not only the women dress in a traditional way. Men mostly wear their traditional cloths as well. It is basically a long white kind of dress with different variations of turban covering the head and mostly a thin stick in one hand.
Cycling and nature
Always ride on good paved road is also boring...

Cycling in Oman is easy going. This is to some extend due to the roads which are even better than those in Iran. But it is mostly because Omanis are very polite as well and mostly they are laid back drivers.  There is less honking, and if a car had to overtake us they generally slowed down and let more than enough space between them and the bikes. That is way we got used to cycle mostly in pairs and chat a lot. 

Not all Oman is flat!
Sunset tea.

Regarding our lifestyle, we broke our record of camping in a row. Since we left Ben's house (see previous post) in Muscat we camped every night mostly near the sea or in other scenic places in the desert. The really nice temperatures also in the evening and the good company of Tim and Dan and Niel made possible the preparation of really delicious food. We learned that "Two stoves are better than one". 

Yes, I love donkeys!
We had the chance to see a lot of different animals like lots of camels in the villages or slowly crossing the street without being impressed by the cars that have to break because of them. In all the villages we have seen, lots and lots of sheep and goats are free to go where they want (until the moment in which they are slaughtered of course, since their meat is a primary source of calories here in the desert…). And between the villages herds of wild donkeys! Actually it was the first time we've seen donkeys in a herd running across the rocky desert. 
 As well there were huge birds, and we suppose they were eagles and vultures. One flew really upon us. The with of the wings was really impressive, we guess even bigger that a Matteo in horizontal position.  The sea is rich as well, stingrays jumped out of it, water turtles came up to breath and a huge snake scared us while we were swimming. But the two highlights were the following:
The first were two sheep running against each other: The male was not happy with the behavior of the female. After the big bang of their heads one of them (the female…) fall down immediately and stayed on the ground having a fit. The strange thing was that nobody cared except us…

Wadi Shab

The second was our visit on turtle beach during the night and seeing how they crawl out of the water, dig massive holes into the sand and lay about 100 eggs into the sand, cover the nest again and return in the water - all this in about four hours. They were really big (about 100-200 kg). And we saw also one small baby-turtle coming out of the sand and crawling into the ocean. If the temperature in the nest was above 28 celsius, it was a female, and it will have the chance to be one of the 3% to return to the same beach in 37 years and do the same as its mother.

Oh Oh, the road is finished...
Ok, we go by foot.
fishing boats on the shore near Barka (north of Muscat)

Nature is surprisingly various, for a desert country. The coast north of Muscat is almost an endless row of fishing villages, palm and banana plantations and other small agricultural activities. The rest of the country that we saw was mountainous, with rocky desert and its strange vegetation, and of course sand desert and its wonderful oasis. Really beautiful are the Wadis (rivers). Most of them are dried out but some still have water and represent a tongue of intense greeen out of the brown landscape. The most beautiful one is maybe Wadi Shab.  There, at first we missed the actual main attraction (the pools and the cave). Despite Ben's advices "You can't miss it." "If you think it's the end - it's not!"  after almost 3 hours of walking and with the river gone, we concluded that we missed it anyway. Like this we ended to do the most important part backwards. We found the last pools, climbed down a waterfall, dived into the cave that was actually full of water and swam out of it through a small crack in which only our head had enough space over the water. It was really great this way as well, maybe even better than upwards. The only disadvantage was that we could not leave our stuff at the beginning of the pools and we had to get completely wet. We try to save saved the camera in a plastic bag. It worked!  
Good jump Tim!

Ok, the first part of our random-riding seems to be finished. Tonight we fly to India!

Pictures update

Hi everybody,
we've just updated the pictures on our last couple of posts (from irn etc.), so now it is getting interesting also for the more visual type of reders...

Thursday, February 17, 2011


We left Padua on the 20th of November and at the moment we are in the sultanate of Oman. Everyone here really loves the sultan... Also, no revolution at the moment. The next stage will be India. 
After almost 3 months of travel it may be good to provide some statistics...

Technical notes
Bycicles: Cicli Zarma (www.ciclizarma.com)
Frame: Aluminium 
Gear: Shimano Alivio
Rims: Ambrosio Duetto 28’’
Breaks: Shimano V-Brake
Suspension: Front, RST Neon
Tyres: Continental tour-ride (anti-puncture)

Other random statistics
Km effectively cycled                                                                                                                  3011
Flat tyres (Matteo)                                                                                                                      2
Flat tyres (Mascha)                                                                                                                     7
Spokes broken (Matteo)                                                                                                             6
Spokes broken (Mascha)                                                                                                            5
Accidents                                                                                                                                    0
Times drivers spountaneously offered us to carry with their pick-up/truck                                      4
Times we accepted                                                                                                                      4
Drivers who were able to speak a language other than farsi or turk or arabic                                 1
Nights on the road (tent or similar)                                                                                                35
Nights on ship, bus or train                                                                                                           9
Nights at the places of friends or simply of people we met (thereof couchsurfing)                           30(2)
Nights in Hotels, Hostels or guest houses                                                                                      16
Times Mascha called Matteo you idiot or similar                                                                           7
Times Matteo called Mascha you idiot or similar                                                                           0
Times Matteo said something like Ok, you'll go north and I go  south!                                           2
Times it was everything Ok again within one hour                                                                          2
Condoms used                                                                                                                          * note below
Number of rings purchased to pretend to be married                                                                     2
Days Matteo required to lose his ring                                                                                            8
Invitation to drink tee                                                                                                                    countless
Times we were generally in danger or we felt not safe                                                                    0                     
Times Matteo washed his cycling jacket                                                                                        4
Times Mascha washed his cycling jacket                                                                                       5
Times Mascha got diahrea                                                                                                            1
Times Matteo got diahrea                                                                                                             1
Times Mascha ate as much as Matteo                                                                                           1
Times we got lost                                                                                                                          2
Times Mascha used her epilator                                                                                                     3
Times Matteo shaved                                                                                                                    1
Average time elapsed between two proper showers - first month                                                   2.5
Average time elapsed between two proper showers - second month                                              3.5
Average time elapsed between two proper showers - third month                                                  5.1
Average time elapsed between  two proper showers - fourth month (extimate)                        fuckin' hell!
Time elapsed from the last shower of a Spanish cycling tourist we met                                       1 month
Liters of beer Matteo totally drunk in this trip                                                                            less than 3
                                                                                         (almost immoral for a rugby player, I apologize)
Glass of illegal and self-made Iranian wine                                                          5 (vinegar, simply vinegar)

* In the arabic world, and in Iran in particular where is severely punished, sexual activity of any kind between two not married persons is illegal. Therefore, we cannot satisfy your curiosity. Sorry.    

If you have any other curiosity, just leave a comment on the blog. We will answer as soon we will find an other internet point. I may takes some days thought...       

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sharjah to Dubai to Muscat

First Camp with the other three
Harbor of Sharjah
A couple of days ago we took the ferry from Bandar Abbas to Sharjah north of Dubai. As the ferry was supposed to leave at 20:00 we had to be there at 18:30. But it turned out that we had to wait longer, because the ferry actually left at 22:00...The good thing was: at the port we met our first other cycle travelers. They were three guys, two from Germany and one from Spain. And we were most happy to discuss our experiences during the evening. On the ferry we got invited by one of the workers to hang out in the VIP area next to the captains room, to have tea there and sleep there as well. But the ship was rather small and sea was a bit rough, so it got pretty shaky up there. The only one who enjoyed the hammock feeling was Matteo who spend the night there, all the rest preferred to sleep somewhere on deck. Must be very weird for the crew to see those foreigners, who were offered the VIP lounge finally to sleep on a bench outside....
The next 4 days we spent all together, first visiting Sharjah camping on the beach and then visiting Dubai.

Hitchhiking (Aquarium of Sharjah)

biggest building in the world from our campside

First we were a big afraid of the prices in Dubai. Especially because of the Hotel prices. But in the end we managed to find a perfect camp side in Dubai as well. Just next to the world's biggest building is a huge wasteland where the locals use to drive their huge cars through the sand. There next to some palms we camped for the next three nights. It was amazing! In this crazy city, every thing seems possible. The first morning a police car went by and asked us what we were doing there. When he found out that we cycled from Europe to Dubai he wouldn't believe first. Then he just laughed "Mashalllaaaah!" and went away.... cool man.
One evening in the beach we basically cycled into two other cyclists from England., who just flew in from Egypt because the situation there was getting to dangerous. So our group consisted already of seven people. It was getting nicer and nicer on our little camp side.

The whole cycling gang: Klaus, Tim, Miguel, Matteo, Dan, Kai (Mascha taking the picture)
our new team mates: Tim and Dan
As the to English wanted to go to Muscat as well we decided to go together. So we left the other three and went towards the border. We were lucky to be blown up the mountains from an incredible tail wind that lasted for the next two days. It was really nice. We spend a couple of day cycling slowly down the coast. On the one hand because I (Mascha) have a sore knee on the other hand because now we are with Tim and Dan from England who love tea soooo much. I have to admit I was very glad about this. But with a break for tea every couple of kilometers and a long break for lunch we still managed to cycle 80km per day. The nights we mostly spend on the beach after a short bath there, where I once swam into a snake....don't know if there are any dangerous ones here.          
Right now we are glad to stay and Ben's and Sabine's house near Muscat. Ben is English and  Sabine comes from Alto Adige in Italy,  with a very cute baby who we met at the border. Rather brave of them to let four  dirty and smelly strangers into their house. All of us not taking a proper shower since we arrived in the Emirates....Actually Matteo and I wanted to take a plane from Muscat to India, but then Ben told us about many nice places south of Muscat....and we decided to join Dan and Tim and cycle more south to see more of the old Oman.

Muscat festival, the audience is strictly divided into male and female
Sultan's Palace - kitsch pure
Collapsed in the shades

Friday, February 11, 2011

Iran: politic and religion

Hello everybody,
 this chapter politic and religion should require much more time than the few minutes that I can write from an internet point, but I will attempt anyway. I write this topic also because now we are in Dubai, and I can write without the fear of the cyber-police...
From where or when should I begin? from the Pahvlavi dynasty and the story of Reza Shah? From the coup d'etat organized by the CIA and the British M16 against Mossadegh in 1953? Or from the Islamic revolution leaded by Khomeini in 1979?
I probably know the answer, but it would request too much time. Despite of that I will start from when I got not so friendly controlled from 9 members of the Islamic secret police, actually it was only two months ago...

In the Iranian political system everything is double, making  the Islamic Republic of Iran a strange democracy. Iranian people actually elect their president (now is the famous Ahmadinejad) and even a parliament. The president forms a government and the parliament can makes laws. Until here it seems normal. The problem is that in Iran there is the double of all of this. And the double of politic is unfortunately religion.
The supreme leader (at the beginning was Kohmeini itself, from his death in 1989 on,  Khamenei) is the highest religious authority of the country and has a lot of political power too. He is the head of a council of 12 people (directly or indirectly chosen by himself...) who can, among many others things, stop and veto every law made from the parliament and decide who is "suitable" to be candidate to the elections. If they do not like someone, maybe because he or she is too progressive or not maybe islamic enough, they have the power to stop their candidature both of the presidential election and even to that of  the parliaments member. The source of the Iranian constitution is the Koran and its following interpretations, and it is given. That is, it cannot be changed, there are no "legal" ways to change the constitution if the supreme leader does not do want so.
As I said, everything is double: if the government control the police and the army, the Supreme leader control the islamic police (sepah) and the special troops (pasdaran). Islamic fanatic volounteers (basiji) do the dirty jobs, as infiltrating demonstrations, kidnapping and killing as it happened during the demonstrations after the ridiculos elections in 2009. Briefly, that time the president Ahmadinejad got about 5 milions votes and the "progressive", or at least not so conservative opponent Mousavi, about 16 milions. Well, this outcome was not comfortable enough for the clergy men, so, you know who is president now. The problem is that they did not only enormously cheated, but also killed many people (I have heard number from 76 to about 1000, I do not really know the real count) who rebelled against this obscenity.

 Note of the authors:
Sorry, I started this post already a week ago, I was unable to finish it properly for real lack of time.
I post it anyway even if it is not finished and not complete. Sorry for that. Actually we are in Oman since one week already. I hope to find a quite place and time to post everything properly. .