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Iran Diaries

03 March 2006 (Iran) by Kendon Glass

Iran Diaries

Photo: Telephoning ahead to search for a weld

Kendon has recovered from Cutaneous Leishmaniasis and has departed for India [March, 2006]. Fund raising for the school children of Saryan Village affected by the devastating earthquake during last October will continue. If you would like to read about the planned relief efforts please click HERE.

The following journal is taken from Kendon's diary kept during his cycle across Iran during the summer of 2005.

Families that have invited me into their homes during my travels have occasionally asked me to reveal the mysteries hidden deep within my dark and mysterious bicycle panniers. On commencement of this well rehearsed 'show and tell' I've sometimes had three or four generations gather round. Occasionally, even the neighbours have been summonsed. Almost always my hosts respond with the same absolute fascination to the unravelling of my few possessions.  There's a bed that self inflates. A radio that picks up radical evangelism from the United States, Islamic extremists in Iran and Chinese lounge music from Beijing. A hot water bottle with buttons for eyes, dressed up like Tom Hanks' 'Wilson' from Castaway. There is a camera that allows you to see yourself instantly. Its called digital. Theres laughing, caution, experimentation and amazement.

I can always count on a change of atmosphere when I dig out the satellite phone and solar panel combo. The communal "ooohhh" often leaves the room suspended in silence. Satellite, Sputnik, Satelita, I say pointing towards the sky. To end the ensuing discussion about my apparent interest in their ceiling I unfold a military designed solar panel before blank gazes and gaping jaws. It isnt long before the family grasp the technology in front of them and consider the possibility that they might have a spy within their midst. A zealous consumption of western entertainment through bootleg b-grade Hollywood action flicks assures them of this.

Six months ago I was invited by a poor rural family for lunch to escape the midday temperature. I sat on the floor of their unfurnished lounge room with my back laid bare against a cold white-washed wall. The relief from the heat and a full stomach sent me falling into a deep torpor. As I was giving into my sleep, I registered the scantily clad Columbian, Shakira, wooing the attentive children of Turkish potato farmers closer to the mix - it was MTV in black and white.

This made me consider that perhaps I am a spy. Not a conventional spy, if there is such a thing, but instead a spy of cultures, infiltrating our rapidly transforming world. A witness to the beauty inherent in the diversity of tradition and a witness to the ease at which that beauty is being lost. The individual and the world alike have secrets to reveal. The father asks half jokingly if I am a spy. The children ask me how much my bicycle costs.

Entering Iran

Weeks before arriving at the border with Iran I had contacted the Australian Embassy in Tehran to see if I could enter the Islamic Republic with a satellite telephone. I was advised that although the selling of this type of communications technology is prohibited within Iran I would still be able to enter with little concern. As it turned out, Rusty (my bike) and I were called straight through the customs check by a female official with perfect English. Welcome to Iran, she said smiling, her outstretched arm directing me to the open road. With the exception of being waved through a remote Chilean Argentinean frontier by a rotund official snorting his way through siesta, the scary threshold of the Islamic Republic of Iran has proved to be the easiest of cross border passages.

It was the year 1384 of the Persian calendar and in a memorable 3 days, I was to cover 300km without an Iranian Rial to my name. Offers of food and water, open houses, warm beds, plenty of cay [tea] and comforting feelings of acceptance became the norm during my stay in Iran.

Crossing Iran at a slow pace and forever exposed, I would find myself inadvertently bunking down in an opium den or drinking tea with Russian truck drivers as they discussed the medicinal value of Vodka for a bad tooth ache, justifying in good conscience the contraband they were carrying. My bicycle frame snapped in the remote Dasht-e Kavir Desert yet I was fortunate to cover a further 400kms thanks only to some cable ties, two bunji cords and the nod from Allah. Heading east I hitched a ride on a dusty camel with the Bedouin and camped out under the stars with pilgrims travelling to Mashad. Outside of Tehran I was an inch away from being admitted to the 'road kill hall of fame' after attempting a double degree difficulty dive straight into the centre of the tarmac.

Bogus police and their genuinely corrupt counterparts fuse with the suffocating rule of the clerics to expose the stark contrast that exists between the leadership and the overwhelming congeniality of the Iranian people. Witnessing this in the name of adventure and discovery, I saw without blinkers or prejudice a people far removed from the politics of their leaders.  

Photo: The broken bicycle frame just above the bottom bracket.

Iran Diaries

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