Caspian Capers

Every town we enter we cause a furore. Simply because we are 6 illegal bikes, are dressed like astronauts and one of us is female, is enough to cause mayhem. As soon as we stop a crowd quickly gathers, consisting of pedestrians, 125 cc “road lice” and cars. It blocks the road and people get excited. Soon the police arrive – they are everywhere here, looking for any sign of a disturbance. And we simply are a moving disturbance.

So it was when we entered Babolsar, a small town on the shores of the Caspian. We stopped, the crowd gathered and the police arrived. The officers involved did the inevitable perusal of our passports and especially the Iranian Visa and decided that everything wasn’t in order. No matter that we have been stopped 20 times previously in Iran and had the same routine followed, this small town cop was out to make an impression. After all his constituency was watching and this was an opportunity for him to demonstrate his importance.

We pointed out his observation of the validity of our visas was incorrect and that he perhaps should seek literate assistance. He was insistent, made a phone call to superiors and then demanded that we accompany him to the station. We told him to get a life and questioned not just his education but also his parentage.

At this juncture he decided to fly into a rage. We laughed. He got angrier, foot stamping and gesticulation followed. We laughed. Finally his collegue “invited” us to the station in a more persuasive manner and we obliged – spitting tacks the whole way.

The whole copshop mob got in on it this time – and a right ragbag of un-uniformed intimidatory thugs they were. Our passports were taken, we were told we were being placed under house arrest at a local “motel”, were not to go anywhere until they decided what to do with us.

So last night the gates of the motel were locked and the cops drove by every 30 minutes to count the bikes, ensuring one hadn’t ridden off by itself.

After numerous phone calls to all manner of people we managed to enlighten the local constabulary that they couldn’t read a Visa written in farsi. They reluctantly agreed, said they’d made a mistake. So 24 hours later we were finally allowed to proceed on our way. No apology for his ignorance was forthcoming but then that’s what we’ve come to expect from authorities who show no respect for the public they would be serving, at least in a democracy.

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