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Kylie Phaup-Stephens’s Iran Travel Journal Pt2

Okay so I have exceeded my word limit in first Iranian blog ….ooops.

You want more? Well here goes….

DAY 16; Friday 28 August
I saw a notice in the Hotel where I am staying looking for staff for a minimum of a week. In return for food and accommodation they are looking for someone to research for them on the internet ways in which they can extend their business. Contacting universities, language schools, travel agencies, publications etc
Sounds like something I could do! And so I am.
I will stay in Yazd for another week making the most of my rare 30 day visa and accept the task at hand. This gives me a chance to catch up on my blog (Turkey still to write) as well as work my way through the hotel menu – I quite enjoyed the camel curry I had for dinner last night….it just tasted like beef honest!

The Silk Road Hotel is quite a famous one in Yazd. I’m really liking it. It has a big courtyard, great staff who are incredibly oblidging and a very homely feel to it. A nice place to just…chillax.

With a few travellers in town (the most I have seen in Iran), 6 of us went out on Friday night. Anywhere else in the world when 6 travellers get together you’d go for a beer….well not in Iran – we went for ….wait for it……..banana milkshakes!
The guys went to have a sheesha pipe back at the hotel after but learnt that it is illegal in this area of the country.

DAY 17; Saturday 29 August
Had a rotten nights sleep. I was staying in the underground dorm (cheapest bed)….which was suprisingly a mixed dorm. I was stoked Lukas had shown up from Shiraz after (successfully) getting his visa extension. The only other bloke in the dorm was some wierd ole German dude who needed a dam good haircut and wash. He liked Iran very much. He liked that the women were covered so as not to ‘tempt’ him. A strange character indeed.

He put the light on at 3am and started to eat…..loudly! Inconsiderate sod. Then I woke up to his hairy bollocks in my face just after 8am…..eeew, not a nice sight and completely put me off my breakfast. No Timmy, German sauages are not standard on an Iranian breakfast menu!
I had noticed in the night he was sleeping naked. That seriously is just wrong. Greybackers are wrong.

So he gifts me a can of (non) alcoholic beer and carresses my arm. Please someone. Tell me what did I do to deserve that?
Lukas…..help!

DAY 18; Sunday 30 August
I didn’t do much at all yesterday, just computer solidly for hours on end. Internet here is incredibly slow. However I did discover the filter which enabled me to get on facebook and chat to Jono which made me happy; and sad at the same time. I even got to talk to Adam in neighbouring Afghanistan – he had me laughing out loud which I hadn’t done in a while….he always makes me laugh. Cheers Fooks.

Lukas then made my day. He is a computer geek (as well as being a great guy)! He loaded my iPod up with some cool new movies!

I eventually got a good night sleep (after watching movies for hours on end he hee) in my own private, air conditioned room. I have my own bathroom too now. Flash toilet! So from the hole in the ground shithole I have become accustomed too (I’m still terrified of dropping my camera down ‘the hole’) I now have a Western style toilet that is leather cushioned!

Sad I received a message from Safa in my guestbook – a girl who helped me out a great deal when I was in Tehran. I don’t have any way of contacting her. I had actually written a special chapter about her but when I went to include in my blog I discovered I had exceeded my word limit. Safa if you are reading this…please do email me! Also you will see that you and your family (plus the girls) feature in a seperate blog….’Incredible people that have made my journey that much more Special’.
But Safa, I didn’t lie to you. There were fighter jets going overhead when  I was in Tabriz every morning (they certainly weren’t the standard 747 passenger plane). There WAS a military presence coming into Iran from Turkey – far more than I am used too anyway….
It can be quite lonely in Iran. This has made me even more aware of the fact that my closest friend in the world right now is Adam….he is a Sniper with the Australian Army currently on deployment ‘next door’ in bordering Afghanistan.
I am from a country that remains quite neutral with the rest of the world. We don’t do war. New Zealand doesn’t support America. We don’t support Britain and we don’t support Australia in their views. Call me ignorant but all I know is what I see with my own eyes. I’m sorry if what I have said has upset you Safa.  

DAY 19; Monday 31 August
Loads of overlanders (well 3….lot’s a lot for Iran!) staying at the hotel….it’s great!
Amelia and Andrew who have driven from India (on their way to the UK) and today Harry who has driven from the UK and heading in the same direction as me through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, South East Asia….I’m heading out into the desert with Harry this afternoon to see what we can see.
Nice change of scenery for a while. Can’t tell you how hot it is here in Yazd….. 50 plus degrees?! The entire city is made of mud bricks and is right on the edge of the desert. Just makes it worse by having to be covered completely with these horribly  restrictive clothes.  That’s my whinge of the day!

DAY 20; ….Tuesday 01 September (!)
Went out with my new husband for the day, ‘Harry’ (it’s just easier to say we were married). He’s quit London and decided to travel overland round the world for 3 years. And get this, he learnt how to drive a week before he left the UK!
First to the desert and to the ancient Zoroastrianism site of Chak Chak. The village itself was pretty disappointing but the drive there absolutely spectacular!Crazy landscape that looks like nothing on earth….would hate to be stuck out here with no water.

Then onto another ruined ancient city – Kharanaq.  
Had fun getting lost amid a maze of crumbling buildings made of mud. Just had to be careful not to fall through roofs!

Back to Yazd, onto watch what I though was going to be some wrestling or body building. It wasn’t quite so but was fascinating to watch!
So the sport is called Zurkhaneh (in Persian this translates to  “house of strength”) and it is the Iranian national sport.
The Zurkhaneh itself is an octagonal pit about 1m deep with a floor of clay soil in which the men (and young boys) train. The game of Pahlevan changes to keep pace with the sound of a drum which was played by a morshed – he was seated up high in the hall. What a voice! Was a really wierd sport; kind of a cross between mens aerobics, juggling and morris dancing?!

So now my mission for the day….I want to know if the call to prayer ‘the Azan’….is live or if it as we travellers are led to believe, is a pre-recorded tape recording. I’m going to find out! Last night at sunset I listened from the rooftop of the hotel. It’s such a beautiful sound, it really is.     

DAY 21; Wednesday 02 September
Okay so the Azam is definitely recorded. That settles that. I have seen with my own eyes. Push PLAY>>>>

Very much liking my time here at the Silk Road Hotel in Yazd.
As well as being well looked after it is the most travelers I have seen in weeks! I’ve had a change of husband. Johnny.
A nice Australian bloke who is even more well travelled than moi! Current country count at 121 countries….wow we.
I have the Congo and Iceland on him though!

We went out for mango shake last night (as you do when there is no alcohol available) and on the way back to the hotel we came across a group of teenage boys playing in the courtyard of the beautiful Jame Mosque. I caused quite a stir by joining in…..it wasn’t ultimate frisbee but it was a lot of fun! I think they were a little shocked I could actually throw/hit a ball bless them. A girl?!  

Here’s the link if you want to have a squizz!
http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=157327210239&ref=mf
My other highlight of the day was talking to a young boy that is helping out at the hotel. Sami is an Afghan Refugee.  His English is brilliant and he is so keen to improve and learn all there is to know.  He doesn’t get paid for helping in the hotel, he does it solely to be around tourists in a bid to improve his English.

His mother and father fled the Afghanistan some 30 years back.  Sami was born here in Iran. But this still makes him a Refugee. He is allowed out of the Yazd city twice a year – with police permission. Being a Refugee he is not allowed to go to University.

He asks where I was from; of which I answer New Zealand.  
I was totally overcome with what he said next…. ‘Thank you’.
‘Thank you for what you are trying to do for my Country’.

Gulp. The Australian Army, the New Zealand Army, the British, the Americans. The soldiers stationed in Afghanistan really are saviors, Gods in this young boys eyes. He is trapped here in Iran, not ever having been to his own country, not knowing freedom.  He strives for a future that is completely unknown (and hopeless) to him. To know English is the only possible ticket out of here. That or a western wife which was seriously not on his agenda.

So now I have also become an English Teacher. The eagerness of this boy to learn, to soak up information astounds me.
If I can do a little bit to help someones future, I will.  

Hey Mum….just realised, if this is Day 21 in Iran this is Day 21 without a drop of alcohol! And I don’t even miss it (well…that much). So you’ll be pleased to know London didn’t turn me into the alcoholic you thought I was after all! xxxxx

DAY 23; Thursday 03 September
It’s Thursday? I lose all track of what day of the week it is. It’s only when I get on facebook and I see all of your status updates saying phew…thank god it’s Friday! Or it’s nearly the weekend do I realise what day we are up too!!!
If I was in London today would be my favourite day of the week. Frisbee Day! Alas London feels a million miles away right now and I’m a bit sad cos I was supposed to be flying back there for a weeks break in a few days times….big sigh

I need to get this idea out of my head. That’s 3 people I have met in the last week that have travelled through Afghanistan – and absolutely rated the country.  I’m so incredibly tempted to do the same, I’m so close after all? Hmmmm…..
Do I really need to satisfy this curiousity for myself and see with my own eyes? I was previously told it was safer to travel through Afghanistan than Pakistan….but took it with a grain of salt (and total disbelief)! Now I’m wondering if that is true.

Yesterday Johnny and I were walking down the street on the way to the Yazd Water Museum. Nothing I do or wear allows me to blend in. I still stand out. People stop and stare. People constantly shout out ‘Hello!’. ‘How are you?’
So this little girl comes up to me and stops directly in front of me and just stares at me? She was about 6 or 7, dressed in a sweet little lime green number and she had these huge dark eyes the size of saucers…..totally cute as a button!
I was a bit taken back.  ‘Hello’ I say with a big smile.
‘What’s your name’?
She wags a little finger at me and beckons me closer. I crouch down to her level to talk to her. Her mother just looks on ….
Next thing I knew this little girl just throws her arms around me and kisses me on the cheek! 

 Awwwwww…..
It made my day it did.

DAY 24; Friday 04 September
Internet so painfully slow. Would take 10 minutes to load a page from google. Completely ‘did my head in’!

Too hot outside but I did get to scramble up onto the roof of the Jameh Mosque (ladies only on Friday) for the most incredible view of Yazd. Would have loved a climbing harness to whizz down….but alas, not standard sporting equipment in Yazd.

Found this old poem I had kept. Thought it was ‘very me’.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand – strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a  Ride!!!!!”

Kylie girl, you need to practice how to skid in sideways….. Stanton Crescent, Hoon Hay, Christchurch, New Zealand….had better be ready for me when I do!

Tuesday 08 September
What a crazy last few days! Where to start?
Went to a camel abattoir to watch camels having their throats slit. Was a pretty powerful and shocking experience. I won’t be showing you any photos. Still too stunned for words to be honest. I can still hear them screaming.

Reunited with the only other New Zealander in the whole of Iran, Murdoch (who I met in Esfahan). Murdoch is actually a bit of a dark horse. He’d let me in on his secret earlier. He is a writer. He’s had 4 books published in New Zealand and his latest one has been made into a successful play. Top guy and I thoroughly enjoy his company. We headed out to sleep in the ‘Hotel of a Million Stars’. Weren’t quite prepared for what lay ahead though…..yip, the 4WD broke down. And break down it did. In the middle of absolutely friggin nowhere! Here were we with NO food, NO water, NO blankets and NO mobile reception…..oh boy, what a night.  The desert is warm during the day but oh so cold when the sun goes down.

I can’t wait to share with you all what happened next…….nothing like spicing up an adventure!
For security reasons I need to wait until I (and Murdoch) is out of Iran before I can disclose to you all …..so dear friends and readers, watch this space!
I know you will all shake your head in disbelief. Only Kyles.  

Last night I stayed in Kharanaq, the cute mud brick village in the Desert. I loved my little room in the mudbrick house, pomegranetes swinging like Christmas Tree baubles from the branches…..  
Scrambled eggs with dates for breakfast?! That’s what I thought too….but no – absolutely delicious!

Didn’t take the average pet for a walk…..took Camille the Camel for a stroll around the block. Camille the Camel…..has one hump!

Decision made for me in that I cannot get a visa for Afghanistan in time, as incredibly tempted as I am. They take two weeks to process and my 30 day visa for Iran expires this Saturday.
Going to head to Bam tomorrow night. Not looking forward to this Border Crossing….from all accounts I have heard, it’s hideous!  

Nice to be back at Silk Road…..feels like home! Am going to miss the staff there very much. I’ve been well and truly looked after. Big sigh!  

Latest NZ Government Travel Warning out for me…….heading this way tonight.

There is extreme risktoyour security in the border areas with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraqand we advise against all travel to these areas. We advise against alltravel within 100km of the entire Iran/Afghanistan border and alltravel east of the line running from Bam to Jask close to the Pakistanborder due to the insecure security situation stemming fromdrug-trafficking, banditry, terrorism and the risk of kidnapping. InMay 2009, 25 people were killed and 178 injured in an explosion in amosque in Zahedan. We advise against all travel within 10km of theentire Iran/Iraq border due to the illegal movement of people and goods across the border and security force action against this activity.

DAY 29 for me. Today’s date 9/11.
I know the world papers today would be full of memories and talk about the tragey that was 9/11. The hype. Working in print I remember this day. We reprinted New Idea magazie twice. We didn’t have enough paper in our warehouse to print for a third time even though the demand was there.
Today I’m feeling somewhat ashamed of myself….

I’ve just arrived in the Iranian city of Bam. On Christmas Eve in 2003 an earthquake struck this city at 5:30am in the morning. 45,000 people were killed, suffocated when their mud brick houses collapsed. 45,000 people. Why don’t I remember seeing more about this on the news?

Actually thinking back to this date I was in Russia living my dream of a White Christmas. Having just landed in St Petersberg I’d just been mugged at gunpoint at the local kebab shop! One thing led to another, I as then chucked in jail (don’t ask?!) I was in a cell, blood splatted on the walls, minus 35 degrees outside, gunfire blasting, shit scared. That’s how I spent my Christmas Eve of 2003.

So maybe I can be excused for not remembering much about the Bam earthquake. I can’t even comprehend the scale of death and destruction in this place though. How do you recover from something like that? I mean really.

I’m at Mr Akbar’s Guesthouse. His hotel was completely destroyed. He had 14 guests that cold night. He lost a British and an American tourist. His son lost his two best mates and he himself was buried alive for over 4 hours before they managed to reached him. Woah.

Going to check out one of the many cemetries this arvo and the very famous Arg-e Bam; the largest adobe building project on earth.

Right now I need a shower. You can probably smell me from there!

DAY 34: Tuesday September 15
I don’t know where to start. Crazy last few days.
From the 14 armed police/army escorts I’ve had to deliver me across the border into a volatile Pakistan, to my friend being arrested for espionage (when all he was doing was helping me) to meeting a man at the bus station who turned out to work for the Pakistan Government Military Intelligence…..Kyles life continues to be one adventure!

Very proud of myself.  I managed to spend a mere 200 euros in Iran. That’s 33 days of travelling in a foreign country with all the major sights ticked. That’s well under my 9 euro a day budget. So don’t tell me it can’t be done….cos it can!

Right now I really am in the middle of a war zone.
But that’s another story.
Pakistan….gulp! It might be next door but really; it’s a world away from Iran.

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