Holed up in Hopa – decisions, decisions, decisions

15 08 2010

Described in the Lonely Planet as; ‘best appreciated on a grey day with a bad raki hangover.  It’ll probably feel like that anyway’. Hopa, a border town 30 km from Georgia, is where we find ourselves. Three days here have proved the Lonely Planet very wrong, it’s a friendly little place with a central workaday little tea garden, festooned with backgammon playing men perched on small wooden stools sheltering from the growing heat of the day, their games punctuated by slow sips of tea and occasional bouts of raucous laughter. The splendid Black Sea forms a constant back drop that is at once calming and weary. It is a plain place, a working place, an honest place.  Here we find ourselves, camped up in the compact rooms of Otel Cihan. Stopping to pause and think about our next move, in part because of the changing situation in Northern Pakistan,  but also to ensure that Catherine is located nice and close to a toilet!

You may have heard that there are some major floods occurring in north-west Pakistan at the moment. It looks bad. With bridges swept away, roads impassable, hundreds of thousands displaced – now really isn’t the time for us to be adding our fumbling foreign straw to that overloaded back! That, along with the ongoing situation in Krgysztan, has forced us to have a bit of a rethink about the route ahead.  The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against ‘all but essential travel’ in both of these areas…

…So we have joined the little old men in the tea garden to take a long hard look at our blow up globe (splendid route planning tool!) to see what other options we might have…. and the large country between here and India happens to be Iran.  ‘But women can’t cycle in Iran’ I [Liz] chirped ‘we could travel through by bus’, ‘there’s no way we could get a visa and it wouldn’t be safe’… but we thought let’s do some research and see what we think – have any women cycled there?  What happened to them?, was it ok?  The more research we did, the more we dug, all we kept hearing were tales of fantastic hospitality, welcoming and friendly people, and what a great place to cycle through.  Admittedly most of those tales had come from mixed couples… but even so…

And maybe it is possible to get a visa for Iran after all; maybe they won’t automatically reject us just because we are British. Well then. Let’s give it a whirl! Because, quite frankly, there aren’t that many options left! So we have applied online …. I had a sleepless night worrying about the decision, was this a stupid thing to do, would we be putting ourselves in unnecessary danger, would it just be a constant worry the whole time we are there… I imagine all of these questions will continue to plague me throughout the journey… but with all the research and thought I feel more confident about how to be respectful enough of the local people, while also being able to stay on our bikes through Iran…. successful visa application pending…



4 responses

16 08 2010
nick rawling

Salaam to Catherine’s tummy. Hope she gets better. Pakistan is fuc… don’t even think of it. Hope Iran comes up for you……insallah

19 08 2010

My innards are only happy with banana’s and m&m’s… so that’s what i’m living on! everytime I have anything else (which i do cos there is some super food around) it violently rejects! nice!

YOu would be loving Georgia! it is SOOOOOooooo ex soviet chic! the place is littered with clapped out old lada’s held together with chicken wire, stonking great statues of the ‘family’ or the ‘worker’, tough old women with butch hair cuts, modern bleach blond totties.. it is so you Nick!

18 08 2010

I have been following you form the office – I’ve even watched your video!
Good for you both, looks like it has been tough but hope you are also liking it too.
I reckon you should definitely go for Iran…you’ll know pretty soon if it was a bad idea to cycle there and you can get on the bus…
Good luck!

18 08 2010

you crazy kids, why oh why did you turn off the A24 at Bognor??? taketh careth and hope you find a safe route soon, meanwhile brush up on your bored games, keep us posted xx

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