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...

Next chapter

June 10th, 2011

After 10 months in the Netherlands I have emerged with a masters in International Relations. Off to work at festivals in Europe for the summer then perhaps time for a real job….who knows. Next big adventure might be awhile away but hopefully many small ones in the time being and will post any interesting trips if I make them.

Till then….

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Christmas in the Winter? Weird

December 18th, 2010

When I tell people I am from the southern hemisphere, one of the first things they always ask is “you have Christmas in the summer right? Weird…”

Well no actually, not that weird, lots of people have Christmas in the summer, just not Europe, or America so not really the important places…or the ones that make Christmas movies and cards…well you get the idea. I guess it is kind of weird in that sense as to a very large part of the world Christmas is winter, and while previous to right now I’d never come close to a cold christmas I kind am getting their point.

Christmas in NZ is great. Its summer, uni is over, 2 months of summer holidays ahead. Even your friends with real jobs normally get 2 or 3 weeks off. We go to the beach, go camping for NY’s, eat salad and drink cold beers on the 25th. Seriously it is a good time So what if the fake snow and Santa in a fur lined suit doesn’t make sense, its summer! So when EVERYBODY brings up the christmas in the summer topic I can safely assure them that yes, Christmas still is Christmas in the summer.

So now after 5 summers in a row I am (literally) knee deep in one of Europe’s worst winters. And even though I live in fear of falling of my bike in the ice, its kind of nice having a wintery Christmas. I think it helps I live in Leiden, one of the Netherlands postcard style towns with cute alleyways, cobblestone streets, canals and churches. I admit there is something about Christmas that helps you feel a bit better when you slip on the ice and almost fall into a canal (OK so this hasn’t happened to me but I am very worried it will!). With all the snow and the massive Christmas tree’s everywhere, the packed pubs serving hot wine, planning an actual roast meal for christmas. Its great! I’m not even a ‘christmas’ type person, mostly I just like that we get to eat all day. But really its nice, and makes winter a bit more bearable. And the city is beautiful decorated and in the snow. I no longer own a camera (number 5 was stolen) but the internet provides all.

See? How nice is that. And wandering around the market today (only shopping for myself luckily) I do understand the confusion, Christmas in the winter just feels…right. On the other hand photos from home of everyone at the beach and BBQs, and christmas garden parties…I guess Christmas is a good time anywhere. And I am still a uni student so still get a 5 week holiday 🙂

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Iran trip costs update

December 17th, 2010

Its my busiest week at uni and what better way to procrastinate that updating my travel costs spreadsheet.

I have updated from my Iran trip earlier this year. So if your heading to Iran and wondering about costs etc check it out for a rouge estimate for a budget trip (sleeping in hostels, local transport etc)

There is still a tab where you can look at my 2008 overland trip, which was 6 months and a bit more detailed.

There is a link on the right hand side under ‘My trip links’

or click HERE

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Settling down

September 12th, 2010

After another crazy summer across Poland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Spain, Belgium and the UK it is time to settle down for the time being in the lovely city of Leiden, in the Netherlands. I will attempt to write a bit about my journey as a foreigner here trying to make sense of a new country and jump through the hoops required to live here!

I am doing a masters here which will take about 10 months and so this will be the longest I have been in one place for awhile! Its a beautiful little town, well connected to Europe and a great uni so really looking forward to the year ahead

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time for work

May 26th, 2010

Leaving Istanbul I was headed for London, narrowly missing another airport closure because of the crazy ash cloud. I had 5 days ahead to chill out before it was back for another season putting up tents.

I spent some time with family who live close to London and had a great weekend in London catching up with friends from all over the place and drinking a lot of cider (oh how I have missed you pear cider). Then it was off to work, which basically involves spending the next 4 months of so living in a tent and putting up very big tents at festivals all around Europe. So from here my life goes a bit crazy and I either working too much or having far too much fun to be writing anything.

Post the season, or maybe if I ever feel like it I will put up a few photos/words, but until the end of summer I will be slightly vacant.


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east meets west in Istanbul

May 17th, 2010

I always like going back to a city for a second time, after you have ticked off all the big things you have plenty of time to chill out and enjoy the city.I had enjoyed the last time I was in Istanbul with mum in 2008, but was disappointed in its less than exotic feeling after 6 weeks in the middle east, at the time it just felt too western. Now however, this is exactly what I liked about it, and this visit has put Istanbul as one of my favourite cities. I think Iran would be a lot like Istanbul given the freedom. Istanbul really does have this great mix of western Europe and the middle east, which makes sense given its location spread out on both the Asian and the European side of the Bosphorous.

(get your shoes shined in style)

Me and Yochim had finally made it to our hostel, a really nice clean place in the main tourist district. Free wi-fi, free breakfast, a bar and super friendly staff. Sometimes tourism is great. I had 3 nights before my flight to London and very little plans. After finally updating my blog, checking facebook and looking at news- all things that were banned in Iran- me and Yochim headed out in the sun (wearing a t-shirt and no headscarf!). We wandered over the bridge, took the funicular up to the main shopping street. The definite western part of the city, a street heaving with people, shops, street sellers. An old tram trundles up and down and Christmas lights (?) hang above us. We stopped down a little side alleyway for tea, and had some lunch further up. We walked back down the hill and along the water where hundreds of fishermen fish day and night providing fresh fish for all the seafood restaurants behind them. It was a beautiful day, people were happy, the views are stunning down by the water of the mosques, the palace and suburbs on the otherside of the water. Back at the hostel bar, the late afternoon sun was just hitting the tables, we drunk beer and smoked shesha with William and Nad, a French Canadian couple I had meet in Yazd, in Iran a couple of weeks earlier. They had been travelling for 2 years and were in their last couple of weeks before home time.

Yochim had seen a free student theater show advertised so we all headed off, with another Canadian guy from our dorm, to try find it. We failed at actually making it their so had dinner instead, on a little side street off the main road, which even at 8.30pm was packed. Afterwards we went to a couple of bars, we found one little street which was packed with little tiny chairs and tables spilling out from the bars, a live band was playing some crazy Turkish music that everyone knew and were clapping and singing along to, occasionally getting up in groups and dancing. It was great! We stayed for a couple of drinks packed in tightly with everyone else. After the band finished we wandered back to the hotel, getting a bit lost and taxing the rest of the way.

I had one last full day before home, and wanted to do a bit of shopping for some things for work. Yochim headed off for the asian part of the city and I went over to the main bazaar, getting far too overwhelmed with what to buy and ended up not buying anything. I went down to the waters edge for lunch, a row of little boats float on the water cooking fish and you can buy a fresh fish sandwich for 4 lira (about 2 euros) and sit on the side on little tables (always these little tables and tiny stools) with salt and lemon juice and order tea. I grabbed my sandwich and looking around for a place to sit I saw a big group of Iranians from the train, I went and ate with them, they were drinking red wine which they pulled out fro their bag, all of them looking very much like they enjoyed the freedom of Turkey.

(fishermen off the bridge)

Back at the hostel Yochim was heading off to Bulgaria, so said goodbye to my travel buddy for the last week. William and Nad were still around and after explaining how good the fish I joined them for some more fish. We talked about how great asian is for street life, being able to sit around on the sides of streets, how its always busy and warm enough! I was not feeling super excited about heading to London the next day, I would have much preferred to stay in Istanbul, sitting around on street sides drinking tea. William went off to take photos, and me and Nad walked back towards the hostel stopping to buy a box of sweets, baklava and other sugary goodness. We went and sat outside the blue mosque, lit up beautifully in the evening. A guy sold us cups of apple tea, the call to prayer was playing, we ate our sweets. The last night of my trip, albeit a short one. Tomorrow would be back to London and almost time to start work.

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The trans-asian express: a very long train ride

May 11th, 2010

The 80 hour train ride from Tehran to Istanbul involved a lot more that just sitting on the train. We had heroin smugglers, drug dealers, long border crossings, 2am ferry rides, and of course getting left behind in the middle of Turkey. The bus takes 40 hours, and despite the very long, slow train I think I would still rather spend twice as long on a train. I was taking the train with Yochim, an Austrian guy I meet in Esfahan who was heading back home after traveling in India and Pakistan. He met me at the train station where we had our passports checked and waited to board the train. We didn’t get going until about an hour and half after the planned time, this was just the start of our extreame delays and very little regard for the train schedule we were given when boarding.The train was great, we boarded in the dark while steam poured out from under the rails and the Iranian staff got everyone settled in their 4 berth compartments, which were decked out in carpets and came with bottled water, tissues and magazines.

It was the longest train ride I had been on since the trans-siberian trains across Russia. I was sharing with a girl around my age called Fatima with her mother, they were going to Istanbul for a holiday, then would take the train back to Tehran. Fatima spoke a little english, her mother nothing but they were really lovely and looked after me the whole trip with food and tea.

I had gotten my ticket with an extra meal voucher that would provide food for the Iranian section of the journey. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but just after we got going I was brought hot soup and bread then a huge place of chicken kebab and rice, with fizzy, dessert and yoghurt. Not bad. This continued all the next day with a lot of food being continuously brought to me. Along with everyone giving you food, I had plenty to eat. One family I was talking to their daughter and their mother insisted on giving me food every half an hour and sending her daughter down to me with tea every so often, once I stopped by their compartment and left with a giant bag of nuts and chocolate, bread, cheese, tea and sugar.

This part of the journey would take us west of Tehran over through the border crossing formalities at Tabriz then into Turkey where the train would leave at us the edge of Van lake, from there we would catch a 5 hour ferry, meeting the Turkish train at the opposite end and continue of to Istanbul. The Turkish train was coming the opposite way, there we met the passengers heading to Tehran on the side of the lake. We spent the day on the Iranian side and got to the border in late afternoon, leaving Iran was easy, just a long stop at Tabriz where they checked everyone’s luggage, a guy from Yochim’s carriage was caught with heroin and disappeared with the police. The 2 guys left in Yochim’s carriage included crazy ashk man, so named because he played this one love (ashk in farsi) song constantly from his phone, driving Yochim mental. He was from a small village and never been outside Iran, he was a bit overwhelmed with all this freedom on the train, the girls in t-shirts, and couldn’t get his head around me and Yochim just being friends.

(the border. Iran….and now Turkey!)

Crossing the Turkish border was a bit of a nightmare, terribly organised and took about 3 hours to get everyone stamped in. We all had to get off the train and there were only 2 queues for the hundreds of people to check through, so we stood in line and finally got everyone through, then they had to check luggage. There was a luggage carriage to check your luggage in so we all huddled outside in the pouring rain as it started to get dark as the let a couple of people inside at a time and went through all their luggage- like unpacking everything and I was probably let off lighter being a tourist. This took another couple of hours. Finally damp and cold we were back on the train officially in Turkey! Headscarves came off, music was turned on and t-shirts came out. Probably 70% of the women took off their headscarves and you could feel that things changed.

Another couple of hours on the train till the ferry, it was about 2am when we had to get off the train, and take this terrible leaky old ferry for 5 hours across the lake in the middle of the night, only uncomfortable seats so very little sleep. Not so bad for us but there were a lot of elderly people who had already spent hours outside in the rain at the border. Finally we arrived on the other side and dragged ourselves into the new Turkish train, much less friendly than the old train, all white and sterile, no friendly staff and no free tea, which was plentiful on the last train. But comfy beds which all that mattered at that point.

I slept most of the morning then found Yochim, who had a new roommate, a slightly crazy guy who took a lot of drugs, but spoke some english which was nice. There were a French-canadian family on the train until Van but from this point we were the only foreigners- and everyone knew who we were. We spoke a lot to anyone who could speak english, everyone on the train was Iranian and so all super friendly. Now in Turkey, alcohol was available in the dinning car so we went and drank Raki and had some over-priced food.

(Yochim drinking Raki in the dining carriage)

We still had 2 full days until Istanbul, spent a lot of time watching the scenery- which was actually pretty amazing, from rocky mountains, rivers and valleys across the border to big wide fields in Turkey I watched a couple of movies on my laptop, hung out in Yochim’s carriage a lot and in the dinning car. We were running low on food, and on money- our small supply of Turkish Lira had almost run out. We had an hour scheduled stop in Ankara, Turkeys capital so planned to go buy some food off the train. At this stage we were running about 6 hours behind schedule and looking like we would arrive in Istanbul at some stupid time in the middle of the night. We pulled into Ankara and jumped off the train, we were told a few different times from people but were sure it would be OK, lots of other people were getting off. We headed out through this market and found a little supermarket, we managed to get a whole lot of food for really cheap and then stopped and grabbed a tasty chicken kebab, the whole time nervously making jokes about the train leaving without us. We had been gone 20mins and thought we better check on the train before we went out again to try buy some beer, back into the station we went along the underground walkway which led to the platforms, we climbed the stairs and….no train. Surely it must have just moved or something? But no, there were no trains anywhere. Shit.

We had small bags with valuables in but all our luggage, and our ride to Istanbul was on the train. Slightly panicking at this point we ran to the main station to the information desk, were they could only speak enough english to say the train was gone. Sorry. We begged and pleaded for some help and were directed outside to anther guy who didn’t speak english. We were freaking out a little bit by now and trying to think of some plan B options. We split up to try find some different people, I went back to the info desk and tried to see if we could catch a train to the next place the train would stop- there was one more station the train would arrive at in 5 hours. I found out there was a fast train heading there that would arrive before our train, but it was full.  Sorry. We had to get on that train. I looked upset and pleaded with the guy, (I actually was upset) finally he walked me outside, I found Yochim who had tracked down an English speaking staff member, luckily this guy was super nice and took us with him, got us tickets on the train for only 10 Euros each, we got on just before it left.

We sat on the train, laughing at what a crazy situation. I was still slightly nervous about the whole thing, based on our (proving to be incorrect) schedule, the train would get there 45mins after our fast train…luckily our fast train turns out to be really fast, 250kms per hour, we sped along the country side passing our train after 30mins leaving far behind.

(our picnic with the food and beer that almost got us stuck in Turkey)

We arrived at this random station, and told our train was due to arrive in 2 hours. We brought some beer, sat in the sun in the station and ate our food we had brought. Eventually our train pulled up, the driver waved to us, just about the whole train was at the windows waving to us. They are all so nice, we were sure that the Iranian train would have waited for us. The women in my carriage told us how they had tried to get the train to wait and were all very worried. The station had contacted the train and told them we would be waiting, but they were very stressed out. They all were. Everyone kept coming up to us and asking about it.

In the end it worked out OK, but it was extreamely close, if that train hadn’t been leaving right then, then it would have been a long bus ride to Istanbul!

So the rest of the journey was OK, the last part was painfully slow as we ended up arriving 7 hours late, the last 2 hours just about driving me crazy. Far too long on one train ride. Finally after what felt like a lifetime, we pulled into Istanbul. 1.30am, public transport long finished. Luckily we shared a taxi with the guys from Yochim’s cabin to Sultanahmet, the area where I had a hostel booked, so not too expensive.

Trans-Asian express. Done!

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Tehran- the politics come out

May 9th, 2010

Before Tehran the politics of the country seemed more like a pain in the ass than actual reality, however in Tehran you are reminded that the government are in fact a little crazy. If you have read any information about Iran you will realise they are not so good at foreign relations. Clearly no one has told Ahmadinejad that blatant abuse of other countries doesn’t get you very far. For instance, the walls around the old American Embassy are covered with murals.

(not so clear photos because I was trying to take them secretly but this one if you can’t see is the statue of liberty with a skull face)

And outside the Germany (still active) embassy is this nice little plaque just to remind the Germans how much they dislike them.

(OK, this is hard to read but it says “to Iran people, the name of the German government is associated with the horrible massacre….the German government generously supplied chemical weapons to Saddam…to slaughter Muslims in Iran…we shall never forget the German governments complicity and undeniable role in this atrocious crime)

There are 2 english newspapers, which like all the other media in the country is state run and full of propaganda. In fact the whole media system is reminiscent of Orwells 1984, I’ve been told the media actually rewrites history to suit. The newspapers are full of objective, unbiased statements about the ‘Arrogant powers’, mostly referring to US and UK, and everyone’s favourite “Zionist regime”, Israel. My favourite quote from a copy I brought was some study proving Iran’s ‘superior intelligence over the rest of the region” So while the government and the people are 2 compleately different things in Iran, in Tehran they start to merge. While everyone of the people I have talked to hate the government (I mean like really hate them), these people tend to be the educated, English speaking middle class, who are not the majority. It seems people think around half the population support the current regime, while the other half are vehemently opposed to it. Everyone I speak to asks me what I think about Iran, and always then talks about how much the hate the government, how they want it to change. Sadly most of the people that will be able to change it are all trying to leave to the west. So while Tehran isn’t the nicest city, its still an interesting place and important for Iran.

(someone handed me this card in the street, what could it possible mean?)

Tehran has a great, well organised, clean and cheap metro which is what I jumped on to head to the cheap and nasty hotel district. Any metro system in the world hates people with giant bags, Iran no exception, although possibly more feeling sorry for me rather than outright hatred like London. Everyone I had been so far in Iran, people were always asking me if I was OK, so popping out above ground staring around aimlessly for a street sign I was hoping for someone to come offer me some help. But Tehran is a a bit of a different story, and I spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the streets in the heat with my giant bag (I am never travelling with this much stuff again, I have no idea how people go on long trips with more that 12 kilos of stuff) eventually I found my way ended up at this hotel I know was too expensive but with a really helpful manager, who let me use the bathroom, brought me tea, showed me where other cheaper places were and let me leave my bags while I found a room. Unfortunately things were pretty full, the only place with dorms was full, along with all their other rooms. I ended up for one night in a single room for $15 USD (way out of my budget), somewhere else then moved to the cheap hotel for the second night, where I still have to get a double room because everything was full. The main attractions in Tehran all seemed to be museums, which I wasn’t very interested in. After finding a place to change money I headed over to Golstein palace, which used to belong to the Shar, before it was all overthrown.

I wandered around the gardens for a bit and opted to go into one of the 8 museums that were there. It was nice, nothing special. The one museum I wanted to see was the jewels museum, kept n a vault under a bank, it sounded pretty impressive, but I turned up to find it was closed doe to some day of mourning for some important person. I know this because an English speaking guy had attached himself to me at this stage who began as helpful but ended up being a pain, as I tried very politely to get away from him. He ended up walking me to the bazaar, then walking with me right through the bazaar, then taking me on a horse ride and trying to buy me ice cream. There comes a time where subtle hints can no longer do and I told him I would prefer to be alone so I could do some shopping, not always easy with a guy hovering around you. So I got rid of him to find myself being led to a carpet show by another guy!

Turns out around a 3rd of the bazaar was closed due to this day or mourning, but ‘helpful guy #2’ told me there are over 20,000 shops in the bazaar, and at its busiest time there are over 1 million people at a time. Its pretty big. I couldn’t seem to find any touristy stuff, but did end up with a thermal mug for my train journey. My final day in Iran came around, I was due to leave on the train that night at 8.30pm so had the day to kill. I wasn’t feeling very inspired in Tehran and was more interested in getting on the train than dong anything, but I had checked out of my hotel room so thought I should go do something. It was pouring with rain outside which didn’t help. I caught the metro (sans giant bag, much nicer) over to the university where there is a whole street of bookshops, with the help of an actual nice helpful guy I found some english books (all classics) and brought myself something for the train.

My money was running low at this point and because of sanctions you are not able to get out money from ATM’s in Iran, and I didn’t want to change any more money. On the metro on the way back a guy helped me get on the right train, he worked in a bank, and of course wanted to get out of Iran, because “the fucking government make this country like a prison”, its really sad that there are so many cool people who truly do love their country but want to leave because the government is so messed up. This guy also loves the Bee Gee’s, which are the screen saver on his phone, he also loves Elton John, and asked me quietly, “is it true that he is a gay man?”. I have spoken to a couple of people who really think that military action from the US government would be a good thing, when I have pointed out the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan they stress the Iran is different, people are more educated and want change. I can’t really agree that US invasion would be a good thing, but to get to the point where you think its the only way for things to change is pretty crazy. I hope that it doesn’t come to some sort of war, as generally America don’t just get involved with other countries out of the goodness of their heart. But a lot of people have idealised notions of the west, and of America, for lots of people America is the goal, better than Europe, that’s where they want to be. I was complaining about some problems I was having with my bank to this Iranian guy who told me it was strange to hear that in other countries there are such problems as he thought only in Iran are there things going wrong all the time, where in the west he thought everything always works perfectly.

So finally making it back to the hostel, and the rain beginning to clear up, I tried to get a bit organised for the long journey ahead, went and blew the last of my money on some supplies then it was back on the metro, and into a taxi with literally the last of my rials to Tehran train station. After getting a bit lost I finally found the international terminal and settled in to wait to leave.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I realise that I talk a lot politics in all my posts, and probably make a lot of gerneralisations. These are just my observations based on who I talked to, which is generally only middle class educated, westerns friendly people. So I am aware that I have a bit of a one sided view of Iran and definitely did not spend enough time to get a compleate picture.

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Tehran traffic rules

May 6th, 2010

While in Tehran, visitors must take note of the unique traffic laws to avoid death/injury 

  1. Motorcyclists are exempt from any road rules
  2. Helmets are optional on motorcycles but not advised as they may affect carefully styled hair
  3. Always look both ways, even on a one way street, as buses have lanes which they drive down the opposite way, also refer to rule #1
  4. Footpaths may also be used as roads if need be (see rule #1), do not stop concentrating just because you are on the footpaths
  5. The little green man at intersections DOES NOT mean you can cross safely
  6. A red light does not mean all cars will stop, left turning traffic can still turn on a red light (also refer to rule #1)
  7. Pedestrian crossings are not to be used as pedestrian crossings
  8. Do not wait until the flow of traffic decreases before crossing- it won’t, and taxi’s will think you are waiting for them It is best to step into oncoming traffic and they will avoid you-hopefully
  9. If you find yourself unable to get across the road, find another,local pedestrian (women and children are best) to place between you an oncoming traffic and cross with them.
  10. Always remember rule #1
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ancient villages and nuclear power plants

May 6th, 2010

I was sad to leave Esfahan, but my time in Iran was running short. I was off to Kashan, a smaller town on the way to Tehran. The buses are great in Iran, cheap and very good quality. Nice new, air-conditioned buses, unfortunately with TV’s which play a constant stream of terrible Iranian soap operas. But, other than that mostly good, the roads are good and the buses are cheap. Ironically I usually pay more for the taxis at either end than the bus which are usually only around $4 USD. Arriving in Kashan I jumped in a taxi to head to a guest house that sounded really nice, it was however full. I ended up in a cheap and nasty box, with beds like a stone and no windows. Slightly depressing as I lay there on my rock bed staring at the fan which looked as though it may spin completely off the ceiling. The main thing to see in Kashan are the restored houses, conveniently located on the other side of town. I trekked over there during siesta time, streets were dead empty and it was very hot. But eventually I found them. I went and saw 3 of the houses. Basically used to be owned by very rich people. They were beautiful, set around multiple courtyards, with fountains, stained glass windows, terraces and high decorated ceilings. 

After grabbing some lunch (chicken kebab-again!) at a very large and very empty restaurant I began to wander back towards town, thankfully it had become cooler and things were getting busier. I stopped off in the old town where some english speaking guy found me (surprise surprise) and showed me the tomb of someone famous, there was some important books and a little shop where the guy had a guest booked signed by loads of people from different countries, which he went through to find the other New Zealanders. My self-appointed guide showed me to another mosque, beautiful, but still just another mosque.

(Mosque # 143)

He tried to continue the tour but I got myself out of it and headed to an internet cafe. The main bazaar is supposed to be pretty nice, I wandered into a little bit of it but was pretty shattered from a day in the sun, so headed back to my prison-box room and spent the night watching DVDs on my laptop. Not super fun. I wanted to check out this small village near to Kashan called Abyaneh, the only way to get there was to charter a taxi, a bit expensive with one person, but decided to do it anyway, still only $20 USD so not too ridiculous. Some guy had given me his card when I was looking around town so organised a driver to pick me up in the morning. We drove the hour’s drive out to Abyaneh, past Iran’s biggest nuclear power plant- the one which some claim to be developing weapons. The driver explained that it is mostly underground but there was definitely a lot of security above ground, including big tanks pointing to the sky and a lot of guard towers around. I decided against taking photos. We drove up into the hills where it was much greener, there were a few small villages around, all around 600 years old. Abyaneh is right up in the hills nestled in a valley. We parked at the top and I left the driver to sleep while I wandered around. For one of the first times in Iran, it was quiet. No cars, or motorcyclists, or mosques going off. Just quiet. Until of course an Iranian guy found me and started playing Turkish music from his cell phone. I quickly lost him in the maze of small streets.

Abyaneh is a very ancient village which still exists pretty much the same as it has always done, it all made from red mud bricks, people speak ‘middle persian’ a language that has died out everywhere else. The women all dress the same with large headscarves made from white cloth with printed red flowers. Its been given some UNESCO recognition, so now there are a few tourists who turn up. I saw 2 others, and there are women dotted along the pathways selling bits and pieces and a little food.

I wandered around the red streets trying to take inconspicuous photos of the flower cloth women who seem to be the villages only resident. High above me a window opened an an old lady stuck her head out, I went to take a photo but she disappeared, only to reappear where she charged me a doller to take a photo then took me inside her house and talked to me a lot in this persian dialect. I smiled a lot but had no idea what she was talking about.

A school bus of young boys turned up, 5 of which followed me round trying to talk to me about something, mostly just a lot of yelling and laughing and saying something about English football teams. After a couple of hours I was on my way back into town, straight to the bus station and on the next bus to Tehran. It was a nice little trip though to see a small village, especially one that has such a different culture from the rest of what I have seen in Iran. But now it was time for the big smoke (quite literally as Tehran as some of the highest pollution in the world), my final destination in Iran.

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