The Iran Garden – A little (and freaking bizarre) piece of Iran, overlooking Israel, from Lebanon
Posted on September 13, 2013
“It’s just so weird. It’s really not how I’d quite picture the Israel-Lebanon border”, explained Joanne. “I mean – there was a freaking play park there, and people were walking around eating ice cream and waving at the Israelis.” Indeed, calling an Iranian family picnic park with swings and climbing frames on a hill overlooking Iran’s biggest enemy weird is like calling the Himalayan mountains “pleasant looking” – the Iran Garden is the definition of weird. I had to go and see for myself.
Notes from a man in transit. Again.
Posted on August 29, 2013
There’s something quite enjoyable about being stuck in transit during a long voyage. I’ve been camping out in the terminal at Frankfurt Airport for the past few hours, killing time. I arrived here from Seattle, and between that I managed to sandwich a few hours of Chicago O’Hare in for good measure. And before Seattle, I had a coach trip down from Vancouver. All in all I have no idea what time I should think it is. My laptop says it’s 11am, my phone says it’s 8pm. For all I know I could be on Mars and time hasn’t been invented yet. I’m tired. I’ve had about two hours sleep in the past two days, and previous to that fleeting period of blissful shut-eye I had to sit down as I was starting to feel dizzy. No amount of crappy McDonalds coffee with illegal quantities of sugar and cream could help me. Nope, not even that. But the knowledge that in a few hours I’ll board my third and final flight and head on toward my fourth airport – Beirut – keeps me going.
Tripoli, Lebanon. A beautiful, troubled city.
Posted on August 23, 2013
As I sat in a taxi navigating the streets of Beirut yesterday morning, I heard the distinct sound of Ezan – the call to prayer – emanating from the mosques around Lebanon’s capital. A few moments later, 80 kilometres north, two bombs went off at two separate mosques in the city of Tripoli. At current point, more than 40 people have been killed, and over 500 people have been wounded in the attack. At the time I was just mentioning to Victoria how I hadn’t heard anything in the news recently of Tripoli, and should we visit during this trip to Lebanon. With news of the bombings filtering through a few minutes later, the question was answered. It was sobering to hear, and sad to see. In March, we visited Tripoli on a couple of occasions. It’s a beautiful city, with a historic souk, and a towering citadel. It remains the same beautiful city, despite the troubled time it is going through. Here are some photos of Tripoli from our March visit:
Gelato fueled stream of consciousness
Posted on August 6, 2013
It’s difficult trying to write something when you can’t think of anything to write about. I sit in a bustling cafe on a beautiful evening in North Vancouver with an empty “new post” window open, and – nothing. Friends watch the Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer game against Pacific Northwest rivals the Portland Timbers, and I sit here on my laptop with a steaming mug of chamomile tea, fighting against the bandage on my finger to try and type. Earlier, clearing away the dishes in the kitchen, I snagged my left forefinger on the cutting blade for the tin foil. The result: blood everywhere. It’s funny how such a small cut can make doing the simplest of tasks more difficult.
And for my next trip…
Posted on July 9, 2013
Apparently, my three months in Lebanon just weren’t enough. One afternoon I sipped a coffee at my local cafe in North Vancouver, and decided it was time to book that ticket to Beirut I’d been planning on ever since I left. So, next month I’m off again.
Thoughts from Syria. A crumbling nation.
Posted on July 2, 2013
Almost a year ago, Victoria and her family fled their home in Aleppo, Syria. They now live in Beirut, less than 100 kilometres away from the borders of their homeland. But the land they grew up in remains so out of reach today. A land of great history, where more than 90,000 people have lost their lives in a brutal civil war that goes on, after more than two years. This is her story, her thoughts, her experiences.
The chance to help a Syrian family
Posted on June 13, 2013
Since I moved to Armenia in July of last year, the ongoing war in Syria has become a major part of my life. In Yerevan, I had many Syrian-Armenian friends who had been forced to flee the fighting back in their home country. These people had been lucky enough to be of Armenian descent, and so their ancestral homeland opened its doors, allowing people a safe place to go as their country of birth waged war with itself.
Five years ago today
Posted on June 10, 2013
Five years ago today I moved to Canada. On June 10, 2008 I boarded a plane at glistening Heathrow Terminal Five with the idea of living in Canada for a year. That year would be a fun-filled 365 days of great life experience. I’d run round Vancouver’s Stanley Park every morning, enjoy the summer, and meet loads of awesome people. When the summer was over, I’d move to a ski resort, then I’d get a job there for a few months. I’d snowboard, party, whatever. After my year was up? I’d go home, to England, and get a career. Reality was different: Since I left England, I’ve been back in my home country for a total of about a month. How things changed.
Things I miss about living in Lebanon & Armenia
Posted on May 28, 2013
It’s been a little over a month since I returned to Canada, and I’ve taken that time to mull over my decision to come back, and the reasons for it. Having done so, I’ve decided that being in Vancouver, for now at least, is not too bad. That being said, there are a few things (aside from the obvious stuff) that I really miss about living in both Lebanon and Armenia.
Chasing the night across the sky
Posted on April 22, 2013
As the red sun set on the waves of the Mediterranean to end another day in Lebanon I knew that it was time to go. I packed the ragged remains of my clothing, my camping gear, and an array of gifts into my backpack, and set forth for Beirut airport. My ticket was booked, destination: home.
Visiting Syrian Refugees in the Bekaa Valley
Posted on March 21, 2013
It was shortly after leaving the calm surroundings of a Bekaa Valley winery that we stumbled upon on one of the countless Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. Suddenly, our afternoon of wine tasting seemed ridiculous. We were greeted with smiles, waves and motioned to come and say hello by the camp dwellers. All of them had come from war-torn Syria to the safety of Lebanon, to wait until the war over the border ended. Many of the people had been in the camp for more than six months. Families lived in hastily erected homes, made from wooden frames nailed together, with plastic sheeting slung over the top of them. The camp was becoming more and more permanent, some of the homes now had doors, corrugated iron roofs and, thankfully, heating. It was a saddening sight.
Getting to know the Levant
Posted on March 18, 2013
Withdrawing from the culture I grew up with this past year has been an eye-opening experience for me. I was born and raised in England, and since 2008 had been living in Canada. Both countries are very wealthy with a high standard of living. Creature comforts are what we expect. We don’t appreciate them. Now, living in Lebanon, and Armenia before that has really made me appreciate the ease of life I was born into, and how easy life will be for me when I return home.
Why I should be Lebanon’s Minister of Transport (sorry, Ghazi Aridi)
Posted on February 25, 2013
Beirut’s traffic system clearly wasn’t designed for traffic. At busy parts of the day one might as well walk to the other side of the city. It would surely be quicker. I would also say it would be healthier, If it wasn’t for fumes generated by the unrelenting stream of cars that populates the place. It is quite ridiculous.
The conflict in Syria, spilling over the borders
Posted on February 4, 2013
The way it’s raining tonight is fitting for the current situation. I’m at a bus station in Beirut, trying to find a shared taxi home, and instead find myself staring up at the bullet holes riddling the windows of a Syrian coach. We’re only 100 kilometres from the border of Lebanon’s war-torn neighbour, and the affects of the conflict could not be any clearer.
First impressions of Lebanon
Posted on January 29, 2013
I’ve been in Beirut for just over 24 hours now, and tonight I find myself camping on a rooftop with a group of startled pigeons. The government imposed ‘quiet time’ at around 11pm of automatically switching off the power generators that almost every family has in Lebanon’s capital hit a few minutes ago. Power cuts occur every day, so generators are essential here. I’m left with the faint sound of the highway, the odd car on the streets below, and sporadic voices in the distance speaking a language I don’t understand. Being up on the rooftop is calm.
Attempting to escape the former Soviet Union
Posted on January 25, 2013
The well-trodden path of the 259 bus to the edge of the city marked the start of my final departure from the Armenian capital of Yerevan. My stay in this city nestled in the mountains of the south Caucasus had stretched to six months. I had no plans to hang around for that long, but life decided to weave that path. I’d enjoyed my time, but now was my moment to leave. In a few days we’d cross the Anatolian plateau and arrive in the metropolis of Istanbul. I’d be back where I’d started half a year earlier.
Time to move on again
Posted on January 14, 2013
I feel that recently I’ve neglected this blog, so today I decided an update on my present happenings and future plans was necessary. I’ve been based in Armenia for six months now, and during that time I’ve managed to get myself all over the place in this region. It’s been nice to always have Yerevan to come back to, but now it appears the time has come to move on to pastures new. Next week I’ll be packing my backpack and for the umpteenth time catch the 259 bus to the edge of the city to set off hitchhiking again. This time I will not return. My destination: Istanbul.
Snowboarding in Tsaghkadzor – Armenia’s premiere ski resort
Posted on January 10, 2013
Since the weather in Armenia made a turn for the oh-shit-it’s-cold a couple of months ago I’ve been getting rather frustrated. Normally, my autumn season in Canada consists of talking about snowboarding, buying new snowboarding gear, and endlessly watching snowboarding movies, whilst waiting for the mountains to open. This year, not so.
Photos from a multinational hitchhiking adventure
Posted on January 7, 2013
A couple of weeks ago I returned to Yerevan from Turkey’s capital, Ankara. It had been a visit on humanitarian grounds, and hitchhiking there and back was done out of unavoidable necessity, rather than for the hell of it. Money was an issue – buses in Turkey were far more expensive than those on my previous visit to Iran – especially as everything in the country was comparatively expensive when comparing to Armenia.
What I did this year
Posted on December 30, 2012
In 2012 I quit my job, left Vancouver on a bicycle, arrived in San Francisco two months later, hitchhiked the length of the Baja peninsula and back, visited England briefly, hitched across Turkey a couple of times, checked out the diverse and beautiful country that is Iran, lived in two sketchy apartments in the former Soviet Union, co-shot a documentary film, visited Hawaii, got to know my brother better, survived one apocalypse, took countless river/ocean/lake showers, had one hallucinogenic inflatable boat ride, slept in gas stations, barns, sheds, by the roadside, on beaches, in forests, in the desert, and on endless peoples floors, had one run-in with a wild pig, and one with a bear, drank too much Armenian Coffee, chased far too many animals around, Couchsurfed a lot, travelled over 18,000 kilometres overland and took a few photos of the whole thing.
A tribute to a lost friend
Posted on December 26, 2012
Today, I had planned to write a ’2012 in review’ post, looking back over the past year of my care-free adventuring. However, this evening I realised there was only one subject I should shed some light on. An hour ago I received the tragic news that a friend I made a couple of months ago had sadly passed on. Compared to this, my own year of frolics pale into comparison. Another young life has ended too soon, and I feel it is necessary to share my experience of fellow adventurous soul Haruhisa Watanabe, also known as Hari-san, who is sadly no longer here.
Hitchhiking Yerevan to Ankara – ’til the cows come home
Posted on December 12, 2012
The first thing I remember was being frantically shaken out of my slumber. “Ben! Wake up! Something is moving outside the tent!”. I stirred and looked up. I could see a silhouette. As I lay in the damp field in my tent, a hundred or so yards from the highway, I could just make out the faintest hint of pre-dawn light through the partially transparent tent fabric. Every minute or so I could hear the faint rumble of traffic on the distant road. Right now, the sanctuary of the tarmac seemed so far away. I kept still, listening for noises outside the tent. We were somewhere in southern Georgia, an hour or so from the Turkish border, and our wild-camping spot had been discovered.
Iran to Yerevan by hitchhiking. An eventful adventure
Posted on December 10, 2012
It’s snowing outside and the windshield is misted up, but the driver still insists on driving at roughly 1,000mph through the unlit, badly maintained single lane mountain road. Welcome back to Armenia.
Whispers of Masouleh
Posted on December 7, 2012
I first heard about Masouleh from an Iranian girl I got talking to on a plane between London and Istanbul. In the months that followed, I kept hearing snippets about the beauty of this mountain village in northern Iran. Finally, almost half a year later, I made it. It didn’t disappoint.
Leaving Tehran once again
Posted on December 3, 2012
As I sat on the kerb in the hazy Tehran sun I thought back on my time in Iran’s capital. We’d been back in the city from our excursion around other parts of Iran for a couple of days. I felt sad to leave again. This time we wouldn’t return. At least during this visit.
Kashan’s amazing bazaar, and fax machine repair stores
Posted on November 29, 2012
I never thought I’d spend an evening imprisoned in a fax machine repair shop in an Iranian backstreet but now it’s happened. At least there was baklava. Oranges. And fax machines.
Diary of a morning on the road in Iran
Posted on November 26, 2012
You wake. On the floor of a dark basement. Covering every square inch of the ground are rugs. Rugs everywhere. You hear the faint sound of snoring from across the room. Someone stirs. The light is dim. You check the time. 9:21am. It’s time to get up.
The sites of historic Esfahan
Posted on November 23, 2012
Esfahan, located 340 kilometres south of Tehran, was James and my next stop following our stay in Yazd. On the bus to the city we got talking to a German traveller, Onno. He was fun, had a great sense of humour, and was down for hanging out in Esfahan. Our gang became a three.
Yazd: Gorgeous, Ancient, Magical
Posted on November 21, 2012
Yazd. I’m still not sure what to say about this city. It’s simply magical. I absolutely love it. The narrow alleyways, the architecture, the ruined buildings fused into the new. It’s an unforgettable place.
Wandering the alleys of Yazd
Posted on November 19, 2012
Coming from the modern urban hub of insanity that was Tehran, to the ancient desert city that is Yazd was quite the contrast. If only I didn’t feel sick for most of our time there. The place was amazing, inspiring, a joy to take in.
Thoughts from a sleeper train hangover in Iran
Posted on November 16, 2012
It’s strange. I often have more writing inspiration when I feel terrible. It must be a ‘fighting against adversity’ thing. Last night was a time of excess. It was James’ birthday, so Shahriar, my buddy who is hosting us in Tehran, had people over. Today, we’re travelling to Yazd by sleeper train, and I feel sick as a dog.
The Tehran Bazaar, Spontaneous Rug Purchases, Dominos
Posted on November 7, 2012
Suddenly, I realized we’d been in Iran less than twenty four hours, and already James was buying himself a Persian rug. If ever there was a stereotypical reason to come to Iran then this was it. At least it was a nice rug.
The long road to Iran
Posted on November 5, 2012
As the bus winds its way through the mountains, shafts of light from the hot sun make their way through the cabin of the coach. The switchbacks are relentless. Up and down we go. The road surface – it’s mixed. Sometimes smooth as silk. Others, we bump our way over the passes.