Day 134 (Iran): Mashhad - Razaviyeh (the game is NOT over)
daily distance: 43km
total distance: 8132km
riding time: just over 2h
This is a bit on the long side and I apologize.
This is what my wallet looks like now …
But let me start out from the beginning. I left busy Mashhad over some highways and found my way to the road to Sarakhs. It’s a pretty straight shot to get there. The first town was a bit gloomy and I quickly put it behind me. Little did I know that I would come back later in the day. The temperatures were high, the wind was coming in from the front, but all was manageable.I reached a little town by the name of Razaviyeh and deicded to put in a stop, have a bite to eat and move on. All of this would have taken 15 minutes. Got some cream cheese and moved to the bakery, which was just putting out the fresh goods. Great. The people there were friendly and welcoming, I moved my bike over. As they refused payment and I was wearing my bike shorts I put the wallet back in my handlebar pack and shot some pictures. This is one of them …
And this is when it happened. When I got back to the bike my wallet was gone. I wasn’t sure whether I had misplaced the wallet so I did a thorough search. Nothing. I had this sinking feeling. It was no longer there. All was lost. Money, cards and no way to get a hold of money here in Iran really. It’s possible, but it would not be easy. I could call some people and probably solve the problem, but this feeling of intense frustration at the situation and importantly at myself. My own stupidity, I didn’t separate the money out as I usually do as I had changed some yesterday and hadn’t thought of things.
People were milling about, I looked around for help. The bakery people needed to keep moving, they tried their best, but the language barrier. The seconds stretched into eternity. I mentioned the police, didn’t know what else to do. Rationalize the situation. Money I could somehow get a hold of. But time was of the essence too. My Iran visa had 5 days left, my Turkmen visa begins in 3 and I need all 5 days that I have on it to get through the country.
An emergency vehicle comes and the guy speaks broken English. He calls the police. Someone else comes by - Sayid - who speaks English and says that things will be alright. How can things be alright I think? Somehow I know this will turn out right, but try to rationalize in that situation. The police comes, uses their walkie-talkie antennas to shoo all the kids away and start to handle the situation. I don’t have much hope that anything will be recovered. A second English speaker comes by. He too turns out to be from the municipality. I reluctantly go with Sayid on his bike, not wanting to leave the scene of the crime. But there is nothing for me to do. The thief is long gone. So we pedal away and I am asking loudly why the !@# I made a stop here. He says again that the police will find the wallet. How much hope do I have? Exactly zero, you’re right. At the municipality they give me tea, melon, cookies and are super kind. The strategy game begins to take shape in my mind. Whom to call for what. Credit cards must be canceled if things don’t turn up fast. Then, all of a sudden, there are 10 police officials in the room. All of them barrel-chested , stern looking. One is in uniform, the others in civilian clothing. Everyone is laughing, except me. I understand little, translation is spotty. They ask no question, but work off a list that I had drawn up before. Wallet, money, cards. A little while later a kid is brought in, I recognize him from the bakery area. That may be the guy. I feel anger welling up inside me, am baffled when someone gives him melon. Good cop, bad cop? I am shown an album, not sure what I am looking for. There were tons of people around. I don’t recognize anyone. Then, they all leave. I am on my own with the municipality people. I want to check whether I didn’t leave the wallet in the bags and am told that this is not necessary. Someone has seen something, someone taking the wallet. So it was stolen. A trace at least. Hence the good mood. Mine lightens up too. One guy says: “The Game is Over.” Speaking of my trip. Everyone laughs. I don’t. It is not over!
We chat a bit more, they ask me about the languages I speak. I mention French and soon enough find myself in another building, a mile away or so. My mood has gone sour again, the kid has been held for too long, he’s not talking. Alright, so I am to talk French in all this to someone who has been living there. Great. That’s what I need. I go anyway.
The guy is pleasant, his French superb. He wants the details. I recount the events. He makes phone calls, says that some organization will provide funds for me - at least until the border he says. They feel that this is their responsibility. I say that I will manage somehow. Not sure how yet. He hears none of it. Sayid receives a call, says that we must go. They have something. Happiness … Another call. Stay where you are. The 10 police officers march into this place now. The uniform guy carries something that resembles my wallet. It is torn up … ripped pieces. What they ….? Who does this? At least sell it. Or throw it away, leaving no trace. But this is stupid. Alright, so nothing. Then a dramatic gesture by the uniform guy. He pulls out a plastic bag with my cards and the dollars. WOW! The Euros are not there and the Iranian Rials are missing. Are you sure? Yes, positive. Nothing else was found. All of this in a mixture of Farsi, French and English barrages on me.
Then, I realize that all along there has been a guy sitting on a chair, handcuffed. So this is him. A lot of shouting about the Euros. Everything is very intense, but also professional. He starts crying, pleads with the police. I am told that the dollars, the wallet and the cards were found in different places. I say that there must be a fourth place then. They agree, but they can’t find anything. They want to try though. I am unsure about my feelings towards the guy. He looks pathetic, likely a drug user, scraggy and I almost have pity with him. Everyone leaves again. We all go to the police station in the gloomy looking town. On the way I am told about a trace on the Euros. Maybe they will turn up. Cudos to the police. They were fast, very fast indeed. Have some feelings about how they did this. But am pushing this aside for the moment. The guy’s face looked fine, though I wasn’t present at all times.
The kid had seen the guy, Hadi, take the wallet. Things make more sense now. Hadi is a known criminal - it’s not the first time he has a run-in with the police. He had seen me arrive and followed me, waiting for his chance. I had given him a wide-open one.
This is what I noted down at the police station until about 2pm. I have to wait until 5pm for some reason. There is a person to whom Hadi claims to have given the money to. I have a day to play around with before having to reach the border town. The police give me lunch. The pity I had for Hadi fades quickly when I see him smile at me sardonically at the police station. He knew what he was doing and the police knows it.
I was to find out later by the uniform guy that he beat Hadi. Someone also tells me that “this is how the police does things here”. I guess I wouldn’t have my money otherwise. But I am very disturbed. Here I am, writing against torture and now I am the beneficiary of similar tactics. It bothers me majorly. The uniform guy shows me his swollen hand and expects me to be impressed. Instead I try weakly to show my misgiving about the tactics used, but the language barrier makes this very difficult without offending him entirely. Why do I care about offending him? The whole episode troubles me now and gnaws at me.
The police is shuttling me back forth because of their lack of coordination with the municipality. I end up with them in the police cruiser when one officer gets out and certainly is not working his regular duties in the part of town that houses Afghan refugees. His colleague points out that these are not humans - I don’t like him much. He is a conceited son of a gun.
Eventually I am brought back to Razaviyeh where I am to spend the night. My bike has been there all along, in the town hall. On the street we see Sayid who invites me to his house to sleep there instead of the fire station. I accept gratefully. I am completely exhausted. I am down 250 EUR, have barely enough money to reach the border with Uzbekistan now. The municipality has given me money to reach the border and for the remainder I have some dollars. Will have to make those last.
The night is an interesting one. We go to his neighbor’s place where a good number of people celebrate the birth of Imam Hossein who is another of the 11 imams and who is also a martyr, he died in Kerbala. A great deal of emotionality ensues at his story, many of the men cry (which is a a bit strange still for me and somewhat unexpected).
I am now also told that the boy had nothing to do with all of this, that the police has found Hadi on their own. They still beat him though. He is said to have given the Euros to someone from Esfahan, the police being on the lookout for him. The whole affair has been escalated and court proceedings are under way. Apparently, there is also an undercover operation going on to find the person. It all sounds a bit incredible to me. Good story, but is it true?
I am falling asleep fast in Sayid’s place, feeling secure for the first time today after all this time in the police station and uncertain about how things will move along. Thanks Sayid!!!