The painful lesson of the day was that both the ITMB map I have and the MapSource Worldmap GPS software are equally wrong in putting the roads where they should be. From Tabriz, there was supposedly a road to Kaleybar, but in reality getting there was more of an adventure. I later found out that the road was to have been been built 20 or so years ago.
The route I ended up taking was interesting enough. Lots of smooth twisties leading into the hills and onto the plateau Kaleybar is on. Kaleybar itself is a pretty sad town, but I needed to stop here as the loop I wanted to make is just too much to cover in one day. I ended up in the biggest hotel in town (there are two). It has about 8 floors, numerous rooms and a deserted reception area. As I walked in, I was followed by the man in charge who was sitting on the sidewalk. Later in the evening, I noticed the rooms around me were occupied. Turns out that 2 separate groups of Belgians had arrived. We all ended up going for dinner, which was quite interesting.
Apparently, water is not available in town in the evenings. 11 dirty people were making a fuss in the lobby until one of the non-engineers mused whether we could shower on the lower floors with the water available in the pipes from the upper floors. And so we all got a quick 2 minute shower in. Some more determined souls bought a 6 pack of 2 litre water bottles to extend the experience.
The next day I was up at 5 AM and decided to get moving. I had to wake up security to have them unlock the hotel doors so I could pack my bike. The whole place was padlocked. Fire safety anyone? Not a sprinkler, fire extinguisher or emergency exit in sight.
The ride up north to Azerbaijan was really worth it The roads were excellent and endless, this time tracking to the GPS map. The area was cloudy, but as the sun rose, the skies cleared.
The border with Azerbaijan is a lush valley, about 200 kilometers long and about 40 or so wide. It was very green and I spotted a number of rice paddies amidst all the other diverse agriculture. The border at times runs right along the road to your left as you go East. At one point, a tanker truck was parked and supplying fuel through the double barbed-wire fence to a few pickups. A border guard stood watch. Tempted as I was, I decided not to stop for a picture.
I had planned to stop in Ardabil for the day. The town struck me as so unpleasant, I decided to continue to Astara, on the Caspian Sea. Once there, the feeling was repeated. Off I went to Rasht, adding another 180-odd kilometers to a long day. The GPS showed 681 on the trip odometer when I finally parked the bike for the day.