16 09 2010

‘Fate’ heralded Lucy (Cath’s sister) ‘whatever happens now, I feel happier that the Universe had something to do with it’. And indeed there is a discernable ball-rolling feel rocking about – finally.

It was with hollow hearts that we approached the Iranian embassy yesterday morning, and with cautious elation that we received the news from the ‘Wizard’ that the magical telex machine had finally spewed up the permission from Tehran (we are still unclear how a telex machine actually works… we have visions of messages swirling around the telex ether erratically making their way from one machine to the next… or maybe it has something to do with Pigeons?).  Bless the little ‘Wizard’ who seemed so genuinely excited to have received it (we suspect it may not happen often..) that he sprung into visa action and told us to come back the next day at 9am to pick them up. Which we duly did, and visas we now duly have.  Along with some heart warming well wishes from the Iranian consular crew. It was a beautiful moment.

Mee Nooi cradles her visa

Once upon a time…. waiting …

14 09 2010

Once upon a time, in a land far far away there waited two Princesses. The Princesses had only a shoe string and a thread bear to keep them company as they waited for the never never.  Daily they jumped from their lumpy vegetable filled mattress believing that today the magical wizard would deliver them from captivity. Daily the wizard would smile benignly, consult the mystical telex machine and shake his weary head. And thus the glass hearts of the two Princesses would crack and spill upon the floor. The tiny pieces would prick their fingers and draw their blood as they fumbled to gather all the pieces back together.  And once again they waited. They waited in motion and in rest.  They waited until they could wait no more.

Stats –

16 days waiting for Iranian visa

Three school workshops delivered

One church congregation addressed

150 laps of the boulevard

25 metro trips to the Iranian embassy

 Two articles in the local press

Approx 280 people spoken with about HIV/AIDS

£200 raised for the two charities

25 cheese sandwiches eaten

Two bouts of vomit

Three sessions of diarrhoea

One chest infection

Today is D-day. We have narrowed our options to 50/50. A) continue waiting for maybe another 10-15 days for Iranian visa B) Fly to India and make up the miles there. We have phoned a friend.  Today the magical wizard either comes through with the visa or the calling of the day will ring from the minarets of our weary hearts.


7 09 2010

By the skin of the working day Sarah at Iranvisa.com has sprouted forth the goodies…..check out dem cherries… it appears God was indeed willing …

‘Pleased to inform you that your visa application has been approved by the Iranian Foreign Ministry and an authorization letter has been transmitted to the Iranian Consulate in Baku’

Inshallah the next step won’t take two flipping weeks  (is that Eid i see on the horizon…..!?!?!)

*glow glow*

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…