By Zac Clayton, 22-Mar-2012 22:14:00
The last few weeks have been very hectic and lots has happened, some good, some not so good. In the definite plus column, my first corporate sponsor has been finalised - Terra Nova. I recently took receipt of a Voyager Superlite tent and Laser 300 Elite sleeping bag from them, which will hopefully keep me sheltered from the elements around the world. There are several other deals in the pipeline and close to completion, so watch this space. All of the deals will raise substantial sums for WaterAid, which is really brilliant, and makes me feel a lot better about all those hours spent writing sponsorship letters!
To balance things out though, recent developments regarding the political situation in Iran fall most definitely in the stressful column. If you have been following the news recently you will know that protesters ransacked the British Embassy in Tehran, with Britain responding by ejecting Iranian diplomats from the UK and closing down the Iranian embassy. Putting the international politics aside (and the increasing possibility of a Western/Israeli military strike against Iran) this is clearly not great news for me and my plans to cycle across the country! My greatest concern at this point in time is that I will fail to get a visa completely, such is the depth of anti-British feeling emanating from the Iranian regime, while also bearing in mind the logistical difficulties of obtaining the visa now the Iranian Embassy in the UK has closed.
I will still try to get a visa though, picking it up in Istanbul (my visa agency will let me know whether I will get one before I turn up in Istanbul though!). One of the questions that I get asked the most, especially after recent events, is why I would consider even trying to get in at all, and whether I am not worried about my personal safety. The honest answer is that I’m not! At the risk of sounding naive, I’m a great believer in human kindness and - barring me wandering indadvertedly into a protest in Tehran (which I may now avoid entirely) - I honestly believe that I will be OK. Iran is a place that has fascinated me for years - I wrote my dissertation on it and everything I have ever read about it has cemented my belief that it is a place I must see. It’s people are legendary for their hospitality and it has one of the most fascinating histories of anywhere in the world. And ultimately, in the unlikely event that I am mistaken for a spy (given the obvious similarities between myself and James Bond an easy error to make, of course) - it’s just another challenge for me to overcome.
All of this will be a moot point if I fail to gain a visa though. Therefore, I have come up with a ‘Plan B’ which will be my backup. Instead of going through Iran and Turkmenistan I will cycle through Georgia and Azerbaijan to Baku on the Caspian Sea coast. I’ll then get a ferry across to Aqtau in Kazakhstan, and cycle the length of Uzbekistan to Bukhara where I will rejoin my original route. Although a few hundred miles shorter, this will more than likely be counterbalanced by the wait for a ferry - which apparently runs when it wants, sometimes just once a week! Hopefully Baku has enough sights to keep me entertained...
Hopefully, of course, I will be successful in obtaining my Iranian visa. If not, then I won’t be put off and its the long way round for me!
Have a great Christmas and New Year!
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