BootsnAll Travel Network

what the heck is this blog about?

This blog is for me to share with you all about the exciting adventures I am having while spending all my money on travel. When not sleeping in train stations and lugging a pack around you'll find me wishing I was, in the garden city of Christchurch, New Zealand. I'm an 20-something, wishing-I-still-was-one student, worth around 100 camels according to that guy in Morocco. Lucky enough to have already been on lots of global adventures but still looking for more countries to go to with unpronounceable names. On the right you can see my progress around the world. Blogs posts are grouped in countries and in different trips. The first block is from my 2006/2007 RTW trip, below that is my 2008 'overland trip', then lay travels since then. There is also links to all my photos, video's and trip expenses. Have a look around and please leave me a comment if you like what you read! *update* I am now living in London with a job that I love and taking a break from the travelling life, one day I will return but till then...

Esfahan part 2

May 4th, 2010

In the Islamic world you do see a lot of mosques. Like Wats in Thailand, Cathedrals in France, and religious paintings in Italy, after awhile you can get a bit sick of them. There was one more main one in Esfahan that LP made sound important so just before Julian was due to fly out we trekked across town to find the Jameh mosque. It was the only rainy day we had, and it was Friday, which is the day off. Roads were closed as people bus into the main mosque from out of town, shops are closed, it was pouring with rain. We got a taxi to the mosque, and got there just as it opened. Really I was all mosqued out, a guy showed us round and showed us some interesting parts, but it wasn’t all that impressive. We walked back along the road where they are trying to build a metro, the road was dug up and we were covered in mud by the time we emerged onto some tar seal. 

Julian was off and the dorm had changed to include 2 other girls and an Austrian guy. Now 3 solo traveling females in one dorm is about as unlikely as you get. Sonia from Spain and Dayna from Australia, both well travelled and interesting. We spent one lunch time swapping sexual harassment stories. We headed down to the river and again it was full of families having picnics. While under the bridge I was captured by  family who sat me down, shoved a cup of tea into my hands and literally pushed food into my mouth. They couldn’t speak any english, but in this case it didn’t matter. The were hilarious, and eventually I managed to get away to find the other girls.

(my adopted food family)

Down at one of the bridges a crowd was gathered around a group of men who were singing. It was beautiful. One of those moments that make you love traveling. We stayed for abut half an hour while about 5 of these guys sung these amazing songs with no instruments, or anything, just voices. There was a little kid, about 5 years old who sat on his dads lap while he was singing and joined in the bits he could, a younger guy emerged out of the growing audience and sung along with the older men. There voices were amazing. Afterwards, some people sitting near us came and told us about the songs, that they were about love They also told us how singing in public is illegal, people sing under the bridge often but move around a lot in case of police. Its awful to think that they are breaking the law by singing. The people telling us this just seem so sad that this is the reality of the country. Its really sad, things will change one day, hopefully.

The following evening I met Dayna in the square and we went up a tea house which is upstairs over looking Imam square. The seats all face outwards over the square and you can drink tea and smoke shesha pipes.

We saw Youchim up there, the Austrian guy from our room. He was with a bunch of guys he knew from couch surfing in Esfahan last year. One of the guys lives in NZ and was home for a couple of months. They were really cool guys, we sat around smoking and drinking tea for awhile then a couple of them work in a couple shop so we went back and sat around on the persian rug drinking more tea and discussing politics.

(who needs corporate American when Iran has their own version) 

 On my last day in Esfahan I meet up with a couple of guys from couch surfing, in the Armenian quarter. Which is, incidentally where lots of Armenians live, there is a big cathedral which looked really nice but was closed the day I had gone to try get in. But this trip was for coffee. The Armenian quarter, is known for being liberal and there was nice coffee shops around a little square where we sat around and talked for a couple of hours. It was really nice and really cool guys, both who have traveled/lived in Europe a bit.

On my last night I went out for some food with the Latvian motorcycle guy. I had walked past this shop which always had a huge pot of yellow soupy looking stuff, I suspected in was this aubergine dish I had heard about, so we went there, sat down and received our 2 big bowls of yellow gloopy stuff. I can usually east most stuff, but this was beyond me. It was been cooked with meat and had this really meaty taste, but a strange consistency, I just couldn’t eat it! But not too worry, walking back through the park disappointed after the shesha and tea house was closed, a huge family of 15 having a picnic called us over. They sat us down and shoved plates of delicious (and vegetarian) food into our hands, plates of dates, bread, cheese, tea and sweets.

(Picnics, Iranian style) 

One of the younger girls could speak a little english, we sat and ate with the family while they took photos of us with the younger kids.

 There is always just so much food in Iran. I think if I lived here I would be about 20kilos heavier. The food is different than the middle east. I seem to be surviving on falafel sandwiches, which the ubiquitous hamburger shops always sell, and then every so often when I eat at a restaurant it seems to be exclusively chicken kebab, a plate of grilled chicken with a tomato and a bit of salad, a huge plate of rice and of course bread. And loads of ice cream, banana shakes and the other popular snack, a cup of corn kernels, covered with mayo and salt and pepper. Another yum dessert I stumbled across is fereni, the consistence of custard its made from milk, rose water and sugar, the covered with sugar syrup that tastes like golden syrup.

In the mornings in Esfahan we would wander across the street to the bakery which churned out bread for about 20 cents, hot and fresh,then some feta cheese from the little man next door and a bag of walnuts from the nut man. Feta and walnuts on fresh bread, so good, and maybe some dates if your lucky. Bread is everywhere, and you can usually find a bakery with a crowd of people outside. One type of bread is a massive thing piece cooked on hot stones, which stick to the bread, or just smaller nan type bread, different bread shop each make one type of bread. Its always good when hot and fresh but never lasts the day. Once while waiting in the queue system I could never work out, looking confused, an older lady gave me her bread so I wouldn’t have to wait in line. That’s how nice people are here.

I did manage to get out of Esfahan, my favourite Iranian city, eventually. My time in Iran was coming to and end and I headed on a bus 3 hours north to Kashan.

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Half the world

May 3rd, 2010

After the quiet streets and awesome hostel of Yazd, our dingy box like room in Esfahan on a busy street did not give me the best first impressions. However Esfahan turned out to be my favourite city so far and after 5 nights it was hard to drag myself away.

A french poet in the 16th century famously said “Esfahan nesf-e jahan” , Esfahan is half the world. Today it still is an amazingly beautiful city, load to see and seemingly never-ending nice places to sit and drink some chai. While the hostel wasn’t amazing, it was again, the main place for backpackers so had a constant flow of interesting people. Iran does tend to attract people on crazy big trips. Particularly  cyclists it seems as over the 5 days I meet 2 Swiss couples, both on long cycling trips, a Korean girl who taught herself to ride a bike late year then decided to bike from Dubai to Europe, a Canadian who has been biking for 14 months around Africa and Europe and continuing on to Vietnam. And also another motorcyclist from Latvia who seems to have ridden in every part of the world at some point. I might just stick to buses.

Julian, the British guy who I’d taken the bus with was around for a day so we headed down to Imam square, the second largest square in the world and what Esfahan is know for. Its amazingly stunning, a huge rectangle square with old style archway shops along the edges and the impressive Imam mosque on one side, the Lotfollah mosque on the other side and the something palace opposite that, We first went in the evening when the huge fountain in the middle is on, while families are out having picnics and the blue tiles mosques are lit up. Its beautiful, and despite guys tearing round on motorcycles, its a nice peaceful but busy area.

There are loads of horse and carriages taking groups of people for rides. We brought saffron ice cream and sat in front of the Iman mosque. We headed back the next day to see it in the day light and visit inside the mosques. All the mosques in iran are covered with blue tiles, which are really beautiful. The Lotfollah mosque is stunning, with an amazing dome, its a different style than usual with no courtyard and a corridor leading into the down room, The palace opposite that has a huge balcony a few stories up which a good places to look over the square.

The main mosque is very impressive, set around a huge courtyard with all these different tiled domes. In the main part the dome was designed to echo so whoever was speaking could be heard. If you stand directly under the dome on a specific black stone and jump up and down the echo is amazing, you can hear about 5 clear echos. Even using a bank note and snapping it open produces a huge echo around the building. Very impressive.

Inside the main mosque is a religious school, a couple of the guys started talking to me, straight to the point about what I think about Iran and women in Iran. A good thing in Iran is how open people are about politics, more so than the rest of the middle east. I guess more people are educated in Iran and everyone seems more politically aware. I did get into a slightly controversial discussion about Ba’hais, they weren’t so happy about that.

You really cannot get away from people talking to you in Iran, mostly its good, although the constant “hello, where are you from” from about every 5th person who passes you can get a bit frustrating. One day I spent a couple of hours in the square trying to write postcards, I was very over talking to people after spending about an hour with a constant stream of people introducing themselves to me and talking to me abut Iran. I was trying to hide under tree’s and in corners but somehow people found me. I had to escape back to the hotel However, more than most countries I have found you can get into really good and interesting conversations with people, and not just carpet sellers and tour guides (although there are always a few of those). Basically everywhere you go people invite for tea, stuff you with food and give you their phone number in case you get into any trouble. And the great difference in Iran is that it isn’t exclusively males that talk to you. I was crossing the street at a busy intersection that has a little police kiosk, they have loudspeakers and are constantly talking to the traffic, once as I walked past, I heard “Hello” over the loud speaker.

Along with Imam square, the other famous part of Esfahan are the bridges across the main river. The rives is lined on both sides with parks, full of families picnicking, tea houses, volleyball courts, couples secretly talking in secluded spots. Across the river are amazing bridges made from stone archways.

I went down in Thursday night, the beginning of the weekend. The place was packed with people, I watched the sun go down while eating a sandwich and having my 3rd ice cream for the day. I managed to find Julian and we wandered down through the parks and across the bridges. Once it gets dark the arches are lit up, and unlike NZ where everyone leaves parks when its dark, the place stays full.

Under the archways on the long bridge there is a teahouse, we got tea and popcorn and sat by the water watching the throngs of people. On the way back to the hotel we walked down the main shopping street, packed full of people shopping, loads of girls pushing the hijab laws to the limit, big bleach-blonde hair, makeup and skintight jeans. Pizza and hamburger places full of teenagers, digital camera shops, clothing stores, and movie theaters (Iranian films only of course). The parks by the river could be anywhere in Europe, and the shopping street reminded me of China (only with headscarves). Iran really does have this crazy mix of Western and Persian culture. Unlike other parts of the Middle East where the government don’t impose regulations, but society is very conservative, here in Iran its the opposite, with a ridiculously conservative government and society doing whatever they want. One guy told me that they live the same as us, “just the ways are different”.

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Yazd- the oldest city in the world.

May 2nd, 2010

*A quick side note. My blog site is actually banned in Iran, thanks to my lovely friend Kate who is updating it for me via email. So I will add photos and video’s when I get out of here*

The Silk Road hotel is where all tourists eventually end up. Its one of those places that is hard to leave, one guy had been there 10 days, one a month. It was a beautiful hostel set around a courtyard with plenty of places to lie around and relax, helpful staff, good (albeit expensive) food, and a free buffet breakfast. Now I have left and am sitting in a considerably less atmospheric hotel in the much larger city of Esfahan I almost wished I stayed a couple of extra nights.

However, this is not the trip to be taking extended breaks, So 3 nights in Yazd, a desert town, a different world compared to the crazy traffic and tree lines streets of Shiraz. Yazd was quiet and brown. Very brown, all the houses (well in the old part at least where I spent more of my time) are made from mud bricks, and have been since, well pretty much forever, seeing as Yazd is officially the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. Which makes it pretty damn old. Wandering around the old city is a good way to see it, getting lost in little lanes and ancient doorways.

The city is full of badgirs, wind towers that stick up above the house line. They are designed to catch the wind and funnel it down into peoples houses. I did go see the biggest one, 30 meters high, you can stand under it and even though it seems still outside the wind shoots down into the bottom like a giant fan.

There a couple of amazing mosques, the blue tiled minarets sticking out high above the rest of the buildings. The mosques in Iran are very different to those I’ve seen in other places, all tiled blue. They are all very beautiful although I do have a lot of blue tile photos. Because of the heat the town works on a type of siesta time table, with things shutting up around 1 till 6. When I arrived and took a walk around the old city at this time, it was dead quiet, the occasional person wandering past.

The city is also home to some significant Zoroastrian sites, a religion I had barely heard of until Iran, but was the first monolithic religion in the world and thought to influence a lot of following religions-including Christianity. One morning I walked the 30min walk to the other side of town to see the all important temple of fire, who’s flame has supposedly been burning for 400 years. Sadly closed, so not fire temple for me. I did climb up the Amir Chakhmaq complex, a 3 story façade which dominates the center square, overlooking a long fountain and grassy areas filled with people. Up there were nice views over the old town and out across to the mountains with wind towers and mosques sticking up above the rest.

Being in the desert, water is as much of an issue as catching the wind. So the Yazd water museum explains how the water is collected in the nearby mountains and funneled to the city in under ground canals, then stored in these huge underground reservoirs, which are throughout the city. We saw one of these, which just looks like a small circular building, but underneath was a huge 25 meter deep space that used to be used for water. Its pretty interesting. At the museum one of the staff showed me round and explained everything, I also talked for ages with him and a lady, Miriam from Esfahan who had studied in Yazd, its great in Iran being able to meet and talk with normal people all the time, especially women. Miriam was lovely and told me lots about Esfahan and things to do. Also with everyone they always ask what you think of Iran, especially the headscarf issue, and what people think of Iran in the western world. They know everyone else thinks they are crazy and dangerous but at least you can assure them that you know its not and you will tell everyone how it really is. It’s just good to be able to have interesting discussions.

The one other thing I saw was this ancient gym, down a small ally with an old lady out the front taking your $1 entrance fee, you go down some stairs into a small circular room with a sunken circular floor. It was about the most tourists I had seen in one place in Iran- around 20- watching around the edge as around 10 men, ranging in ages from about 10 years to around 60years did crazy old school exercises to the beat of drum played by a young guy who sung Hafez poetry. Its an ancient tradition and the men used these huge wooden weights and answered the drum players in chants every so often It smelled like a gym, it was weird but very cool, sitting in this little room, with sweaty old men and this guy going nuts on the drum- he had the most amazing voice, I think he was the best part. It was all so strange, but good strange. Tourism in Iran is just a totally different experience, and things are not done for tourists- because there are hardly any. I went back again the next night with a couple of English guys who I then took the bus with to Esfahan, mostly just to hear the guy sing.

The thing with Silk Road is that if you’re a tourist in Iran then that’s where you end up, so you come across some really interesting people. I guess you can safely assume that all tourists in Iran are somewhat interesting and not your usual ‘lets get drunk in different European cities/south-east asian countries’ tourists. A few people had some over from Pakistan, which is now on my list of places to go. Several had been, or heading to Iraqi Kurdistan, an area of Iraq which is totally safe to visit. One Swiss guy is motorcycling around the world and estimates he will be on the road for 6-7 years, he is now in his second year. People cycling across Central Asia, loads of people who have been through the rest of the Middle East, and lots of people on very long extended trips. I get slightly envious of people on big long trips. But anyway. It was time to move on so I headed with Ben and Julian to the bus station to go 5 hours west towards Esfahan.

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Shiraz- but hold the wine

April 24th, 2010

The beautiful city of Shiraz is where I flew into to be gin my Iran adventure. As I mentioned I had meet Alice there who was staying in Shiraz with me for 4 nights. Our hostel was beautiful set around a courtyard with pools and tree’s.

  (trying to fit in, but failing)

 We had a great time in Shiraz. The City is around 1.5 million people but definitely doesn’t feel like it. The city is mostly small enough to walk around. While it is a full of crazy traffic, there are tree-lined avenues and the place is full of beautiful gardens.

 I had heard Iranians were friendly and curious about foreigners, but that is an understatement, everywhere we went people were saying hello and asking us if we liked Iran. We were basically famous with having to stop and have photos with different people all the time.

 (the local paparazzi) 

Once we were asking about a building to a guy from our hotel when he was walking with us, he couldn’t explain in English so an older man on the street  who overheard rung his English speaking daughter so she could translate for us. Its little things like that make Iran such an cool country. And its not in a sleazy way, guys always call out to you but its different than Egypt, or India. Surprisingly women, (despite the clothing restrictions) seem to have a far better role in society than the rest of the Middle East where you don’t often get to speak to many women because the men only speak English. Women make up 65% of tertiary education, but still unfortunately only 13% of the workforce. While I knew Iran would be different from what you read in the newspapers I have been overwhelmed by how different. While wandering around one of Shiraz’s beautiful gardens, with families having picnics, and music playing softly, to think people warned me about Iran being dangerous is laughable.

 Alice is really involved with couch surfing so through that we meet up with some fantastic Iranians who really made our time much better. Meeting up with Mena, a 25 year old restoration student (soon to be teacher) was one of the highlights of our trip. She brought me and Alice some local ice cream, the most famous is spaghetti ice cream with lime sauce, and also carrot ice cream- yes carrot, vanilla cream freeze with carrot juice. Not actually that bad.

 (Mena and Alice with carrot ice cream)

(another tough day in the axis of evil)

Afterwards we wandered around the streets and down to this amazing garden with old restored buildings. It was beautiful.  Mena was great, funny, friendly and a great insight into Iran and what most people think. She, like just about everyone is sick of the government and sick of politics. Its just really interesting to see how much people do not support the government here. All they want is for freedom and a government who cares about the people., one of the other guys we meet said he doesn’t care any more about politics and he can’t be bothered getting involved because they have tried to change things but it is so difficult. The government here tries to isolate Iran, with internet filters, and tv/newspaper restrictions, but everyone gets around it. They all still use facebook, skype,  watch BBC. They have parties and wear what they want. It’s so interesting and sad at the same time. And though I knew Iran wouldn’t be this closed off conservative society its really surprising how much. We meet Mena’s mum and went and got takeaway pizza from ‘Iran Wich’ then back to her place to eat it. Sitting around with Mena talking about boys eating pizza, I felt we could have been anywhere in the world.

 Inside people’s homes, you don’t need to cover up, and I don’t think many people would wear headscarves if it wasn’t required. Nobody wears burquas in Iran, in a sense it feels less conservative than somewhere like Cairo where just about everyone wears headscarves anyway and lots of women are in burquas. Some people push the boundaries with big hair, very small headscarves, tight jeans and tight tops. However most people just wear jeans, a hip length fitted coat and a headscarf. Me and Alice went to one mosque/holy shrine where we had to hire a chador (a long black cloak, that goes around your head and body- not covering your face though, you need to hold it closed at the front, many women wear this). Ours were flowery sheets, didn’t help in the fitting in part, black would have been a bit less conspicuous. So some religious sites require different levels of the hijab and apparently sometimes during protests they crack down hard forcing all women in long black chadors.

We also meet up with 2 guys from CS, both English literature majors, English teachers and trying to immigrate, one to Canada the other to NZ. One of them took us to see the tomb of Hafez.

Shiraz was once famous for wine, which is now banned. But still known for culture, gardens and poetry, specifically Hafez- Iran’s favourite ‘folk-hero’ poet. His tomb is in these gardens and people go to the tomb, make a wish then open his book of poetry to a random page to see what Hafez is saying about their wish. Our page opened at a poem about living in the moment and ‘carpe diem’, something that probably relates well to both me and Alice who are both future thinkers.

The guys took us for lunch then to a fancy hotel for coffee. While meeting up with local people is great it is funny to see what some people think tourists want. While me and Alice would prefer to sit on the street and drink coffee these guys assumed we want to go to a very fancy (and very expensive) hotel to do so. Anyway, they were great and really interesting discussions about Iran, the west, literature (both much more well read than me and Alice combined).

(visa extended- yes!)

Shiraz is the closest city to Persepolis, the ancient city of Darius which was burned down by Alexander the great. I have some memories from 7th form classics, its generally pretty important. Unfortunately most of it is destroyed and not in good a condition as some other ancient cities I have seen. But still, we had a guide who explained everything to us and just imagining what is would have been like was pretty good.

The place is packed with Iranian tourists, and a handful on western ones. We also stopped by the necropolis, which are tombs carves into the hillside, they reminded me a bit of Petra in Jordan. Very amazing to think how they would have physically carved them in. in our group was Yesna, our lovely guide, Leslie, the most well travelled American I’ve meet and an Iranian lady who lives in the UK with her 12 year old daughter. Very nice bunch of people and interesting talking to the Iranian women about her leaving during the revolution.

 So Shiraz, was great, apart from some serious problems with money and transferring money to a travel agent and it disappearing and paying him again, and over paying etc etc…never ending problems which at the moment is looking like around $300 has gone. But apart from a stressful evening trying to get in touch with bank, everything in Shiraz was good, fun, interesting. After 4 nights I was heading on and Alice was going to fly back to Dubai to try get to London, a bit tricky with all the UK airports being closed because of this Icelandic volcano. I was on a bus heading east for the city of Yazd.

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Sweaty, smelly cankle girl

April 24th, 2010

Our bus approached Dubai and out of the hazy smog I could see the worlds tallest building sticking out above the rest. We were dropped off somewhere in the middle of who-knows-where. A bland street with lots of banks and no soul. I wasn’t confident I was going to enjoy Dubai. I had 9 hours until my flight left so first priority was to store my very large bag at the airport and do something…not that I was at all sure what there was to do in Dubai other than shop.

Turns out not much. After taking the metro to one of the smaller terminals where my Iran Air flight would depart from and storing my bag for the day I tried to get off the metro somewhere central. I never did succeed in finding what I was looking for. I kind of assumed Dubai to be all gleaming streets and expensive shops but down on street level it was like any dusty dirty big middle eastern city- but only the worst bits, no culture or history and lots more cars. By this stage my ankles were swollen and I had developed some sort of heat rash that was making  its way up my legs. I was tired, it was hot. I was over Dubai within about 15minutes. I never achieved my one job of posting a few things onward to London to avoid carrying them, never seemed to find a post shop. I ended up escaping to a mall and spending all my money on expensive juice then heading to the airport early to escape the dodgy men, traffic and the heat. You would think given the amount of westerns who pass through Dubai a lone white female wouldn’t attract too much attention, but despite me being sweaty, smelly, cankle girl it was the same usual BS from men on the street.

The Dubai airport I had transferred through in previous trips was not the one I checked into, There were several terminals on the metro and I was at something much smaller seeming from what I had been to before. However once checking in I followed the signs to the gates and ended up walking around 25mins (that is a long time through and airport) to come out in the big departure terminal. I was a bit worried about the flight to Iran, I was counting on getting a visa on arrival, a privilege granted to only a handful of countries- and not many western ones. Normally the visa application is a long expensive hit and miss process. Checking in had been fine and now waiting by the gate ready to board I was hopeful it would be OK . I had heard stories of people being denied boarding because they didn’t have a visa. I pulled out my head scarf and tried to look natural draping it around my head, adjusting it awkwardly and realising, looking at the other women, I had no hope of fitting in. My one appropriate outfit was not cool, most women wear jeans and a hip length fitted coat with a loose headscarf. I just looked like a dirty backpacker with a scarf I found. ..that’s actually exactly what I did.

I handed my boarding pass over but was asked to wait aside where eventually after phone calls and discussions amongst themselves a guy was sent over to tell me that I couldn’t fly without a visa. I was prepared. I pulled out a printed copy of an email from the NZ Iranian consulate confirming the VOA situation and a page from their website which explains the visa rules.

No visa, no plane he said.

I explained my friend was already there and she got a visa on the border, I smiled nicely and tried not to stress out too much. He made another phone call. Then handed me my boarding pass. Success.

I hadn’t heard amazing things about Iran Air, later confirmed when an Iranian  told me they have regular crashes- but only with domestic flights she assured me. The plane was straight out of the 70’s. The overhead lockers had insulation coming through the broken insides. I was seat 15F. I counted the rows 12, 13,14, 16…..hmmmm no 15. After a bit of confusion and a lot of Farsi being yelled I was shown to a new seat. I thought I should pay attention to the safety briefing for once but quickly fell into a slightly delusion sleep which I think I was talking to the guy next to me. It was all good though and touched down into ‘Axis of Evil’ country number 2. My visa was surprisingly straightforward, just required patience while a power tripping official behind a glass window processed my visa then made me wait (with my passport ready sitting next to him) until he processed a big group of people from Oman. But stamped through, Shiraz, Iran!

Alice had made it through a few hours earlier and was waiting at the gate, we got out taxi into town down some very thin winding roads to Niayesh hotel, a beautiful little hotel in the historic town center. I was exhausted, it was been 48 hours since I left NZ. My ankles were huge, my legs were red with heat rash and started to blister like sunburn, I was sweaty and desperately needed a shower. But…I was in Iran, our hotel was amazing and tomorrow we could start exploring.

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Melboune…waiting waiting…

April 14th, 2010

After all of 2.5 hours of sleeping it was time to get up and get moving, drove in the dark already exhausted. After farewelling mum (not many friends see you off at that time of the morning), I jumped on the short haul flight across the tasmen on some budget airline codesharing with about 4 other flights. I did sit next to a really interesting older couple who were heading over to the UK for a year so they could spend more time with their grandkids after their own children had all taken off on their O.E’s and never come home.


I tried to sleep, really I did, I was so tired and very aware the following 48hours did not include a bed in any form, but alas no sleep. So we arrived in Melbourne early morning where I couldn’t check my bags through and refused to pay the $15 luggage storage fee. So instead I lugged my bags with me on the $26 bus into town and managed to save $5 by putting them in the lockers at the bus station.


With around 11 hours left to kill and there being not much sun I used and abused the free internet, wandered around the Victoria markets and brought cheese. I love markets…especially ones with Deli’s. realistically there isn’t that much to do when you are trying not to spend any money and totally exhausted. I did manage to see a cool exhibition on film and digital media which included loads of interactive stuff. Very cool. The art galleries were closed and the library wouldn’t let me in because my bag was too big. So a bit more internet, bookshop browsing then I meet up with my friend Cameron, who I had travelled with for a week (a lifetime in backpacking world) around Eastern Europe with another American guy. So great to see him and reminisce about our adventures 4 years earlier, wow that long ago. Then of course talked travel plans, as you do.


Had a coffee, probably my last flat white in awhile, down some hip cool lane, then he was off to study and I headed back to grab my bags from the locker and get the bus to the airport. But oh no, of course I had lost the tiny ticket with the code to get my bags back, so after pulling every little bit of paper out of my bag and lying them out on the ground while getting more and more panicky as there was something written about paying $50 to retrieve luggage. I had already spent $70 during the day on pretty much nothing so not interesting in paying more. I went to the service people looking like I was going to cry (I actually almost was… exhaustion setting in) and they sorted it out for me, no fee it turns out.


So on the bus, through the barrier another stamp in the passport and am now sitting here waiting for the overnight flight to Abu Dhabi. I am totally exhausted and not sure how I will survive tomorrow. What is awesome though is my friend Alice who I planned to meet in Dubai for the day, is now, through my convincing, is come to Iran for a few days with me! Awesome, just arranged that this afternoon. Convincing people to come to Iran, not everyone would go for that, but hurray for Alice! Now if only I could get some sleep on the plane.

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here we go…

April 12th, 2010

As per usual a mad rush to get out the country somewhat intensified by the fact the event I work for only wound up 3 days before I left. Which meant a pretty intense 3 days spent mostly staring at my room full of stuff wondering how after 3 big trips in as many years could result in me still having so much crap.

 This trip being slightly different as I am heading off to study and don’t see myself coming back for a good few years…although all my friends (with good reason given my returning every other time) claim I’ll be back in a few months. So this time I was trying to pack for good. Gone is the ruthlessly light packing I normally stick by and welcome to stuffing my pack to the brim and lugging round a laptop and other various unnecessary things. Which in itself isn’t so bad if I was heading straight to Holland for study, but I am travelling for 3 ½ weeks then to the UK for my tent job, which requires a sleeping bag, something to sleep on and a bunch of work clothes. So I have way too much stuff for my pre travels but is somewhat unavoidable (I already have a box of things being sent to Holland in September) this is what it must be like for those backpackers who insist on taking a years worth of clothes and toiletries for a trip around western Europe, just in case, you know those foreign countries don’t actually sell things. The ironic thing is given Iran’s strict dress code I can’t even wear 99% of what’s in my bag

 Anyway I finally shoved everything in and went to bed setting my alarm to wake me in 3 hours when I was due to be picked up and taken to the airport by my very supportive mother…7am international flights *dislike*

 So here I am at the beginning of “adventure number something far too high”.

 Because of my tendency to value money over time, it’s a 48 journey to get to where I will finally have a bed, a whole day waiting around Melbourne, overnight flight to Abu Dhabi, bus to Dubai, a days wait there then a flight to Shiraz, Iran, where hopefully they will let me in (border control being slightly erratic I hear) and I’ll make it to my pre-booked hotel. Luckily I have made a few worldwide connections and hanging out with a friend in Melbourne and a friend in Dubai but I am anticipating to be reasonably shattered by the time I get to Shiraz, particularly as I had a whole 3 hours sleep last night and don’t sleep on planes.

 But anyway. Here I go, again. I think the feeling of unpreparedness and worries about not being ready never go away when you head off on trips like this, the only thing is now I know I will feel like that and from past experience find that once you get going things work out and you can start to enjoy it. Bring it on.

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the final goodbye

March 19th, 2010

After a very on and off relationship with New Zealand over the past 4 years I will finally be breaking it off for a decent amount of time this year. I have been accepted to study towards my masters in International Relationships in Leiden, Holland. So this trip looks set to be an indefinite one as my course will finish mid 2011 and then I plan to stay around to work, well maybe, I haven’t been very good at the whole work thing in recent years so will see what happens.

So after a wee trip to Iran then another season with the tents I will be settling down (for a year at least) in the lovely land of the Dutch to study. Exciting…while I am not writing NZ off compleately I think its time to leave properly and do something slightly ‘advancing’.

I am trying hard to actually get rid of all my stuff or put it into storage for another time.

3 weeks to go till departure.

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Lonely Planet

March 6th, 2010

The nice people at LP now feature my blog alongside relevant destination info on their website.

Now isn’t that cool

I'm a featured blogger on Lonely Planet


Iran planning

February 26th, 2010

After tackling Russia in 2008, I don’t think any country could match the bureaucracy, inefficiency and non-tourist friendly levels the post communist country did. Therefore planning for Iran turns out to be not all that difficult. The key for me lies in my NZ passport, the passport that everyone likes given we are too small to piss anyone off and desperately need immigrants so let people come to our country which in turn allows us cheaper visa fee’s. So while the main issue for most people is the complicated and often failed attempt at obtaining a visa, I am relying on the fact that I can get a visa on arrival at the airport.

Fingers crossed of course. Enough experience with these types of countries has taught me to be slightly wary of such promises despite being made by the Iranian consulate in NZ. I do however have an email from them stating this and a downloaded document from the website confirming it, both of which I will take with me in case of any problems at the border. So with the visa issue aside I have my ticket booked to Dubai and now one onwards to Shiraz, a town in the southern part of Iran. Thankfully with with help of who helped me book a ticket with Iran airways, given that is was all written in Farsi making it slightly difficult to book. This website and the guy who runs it are ridiculously helpful and super friendly.

So visa sort of organised, plane ticket booked. I have a Middle East guide book from my last trip so generally that about as much organising as I do. Although I will attempt to book a train ticket to Istanbul before I go.

6 weeks to go. More importantly is trying to get myself organised to leave NZ hopefully indefinitely this time

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