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.
This weeks Armenian hitchhike: A photoessay
Posted on October 28, 2012
Today, I thought I’d do something a little different – A photoessay on this weeks Armenian hitchhiking adventure. Some background for you: I’m currently living in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. I’m working a couple of jobs to make ends meet, and on my days off, I go hitchhiking with my friends. It’s fun, I meet interesting people, and – very importantly – it’s cheap.
Getting drunk in a graveyard: Another hitchhiking adventure
Posted on October 18, 2012
After the fourth consecutive vodka shot at 1pm on a Tuesday I decided I should probably try to eat as much as humanly possible. It was clear that this was a case of ‘get the foreigner drunk’. It was working. I needed to soak up the alcohol. Another successful hitchhiking adventure around Armenia was unfolding.
It’s raining rocks and copper pipe: The joys of Armenian Time, Health & Safety
Posted on October 12, 2012
As I ran for cover from the raining chunks of concrete, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Armenian Health & Safety isn’t quite as important as it is back home. Successfully evading death once again, I found refuge under the canopy of the garage opposite my Soviet apartment block and waited. One of my neighbours, an old guy of about 60, exited the building, before rapidly retreating back inside to avoid a good old fashioned braining. The guys reconnecting my apartments’ gas supply were clearly cowboys.
Guest Post: Freeloading on the buses
Posted on October 9, 2012
Earlier this year, my mother, Elizabeth, reached the ripe old age of “you’re too old to drive – here’s a free bus pass,” (60). To thank the British government for their kindness, she decided that there was only one thing for it – a freeloading bus mission all the way to the Big Smoke – London. Here, she tells her story, cappuccinos and all.