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The Big Year Out - Nisa Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 23:24 Archived in Turkmenistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Ashgabat Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 01:44 Archived in Turkmenistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Yazd Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 01:44 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Shiraz Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 01:43 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Esfahan to Shiraz

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We booked our VIP Bus through the Hotel Totia where we were staying. We collected the tickets from the bus terminal just before departure. We gave ourselves half an hour to be at the terminal before the 7.30a.m. departure. As a treat we went on a VIP bu and paid 250,000rial for two. An ordinary bus would be about half this price. The bus terminal has a cafe and various shops selling snacks and drinks, a bit overpriced compared with prices in town.

Bus was very roomy with armchair seats and the usual cakey snacks were served en route.

The bus stops after 3.5 hours for wee break, facilities at the stop were very basic squats.

Staff from the bus company were top drawer!


Posted by TheJohnsons 01:43 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Uzbek Visa

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At last, we have our Uzbekistan Visa. We rang the Embassy again this morning to see if they had received our authorisation and were told "yes". So taxi off to Uzbek embassy which we shared with a fellow Italian traveller and saved half the taxi fare. We arrived at around11.15a.m.Thanks to the horrible traffic all through the expressway, due to the metro extension work. We were greeted by some other Iranians also waiting for their visas. We buzzed the intercom and explained who we were and they told us to wait an hour. So we waited & waited, it seems that once you inform them of your arrival, they call through the telecom speaker your surname in order for you to gain access to the Visa consulate section for processing. We waited until around 1.45p.m and buzzed again, the consul let us in and 15mins later and $186 lighter for two visas, we were out of there.

We were aware that there are a lot of Iranian "fixers" who do the Visa runs,(carrying as many as 15-25 passport)recommend getting their as early as soon as you can, we were a bit trusting of advice to ring first and traffic made us very late, which also gave us a long wait! can relax, as we have our Turkmen, and Uzbek Visa, the journey can really begin.

Next Challenge Chinese Visa inUzbekistan, watch this space!


Posted by TheJohnsons 01:42 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Iran Visa

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large_1842667_1335204239832.jpgSo, our first Visa for collection was the Iranian visa. We applied for authorisation from Iranianvisa.com, it took three weeks from application. We went to the Iranian Embassy in Istanbul [travel-blogs/100510/Istanbul-travel-guide-608771] on Tuesday Morning just after 9.00a.m. and filled in the application form as directed by the really helpful consul. We paid 150euro each at the bank, the consul gave us the account number. The bank is directly across the street from the Embassy, so was easy to get to. We took the reciept and completed application form, one passport photo (head covered as we are women)and passport back to consul and we were asked to come back on Friday to come back and pick up Visas. This all took about forty minutes from start to finish. Friday we turned up just before 9.00a.m. and five minutes later we walked out with visas in passport, success


Posted by TheJohnsons 01:41 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Ak Baital Pass Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 01:40 Archived in Tajikistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Iran

An over view

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What can I say….

The welcome and hospitality of the people is immense. As two women travellers we never felt in danger. People were always greeting you with the ubiquitous three questions; “How are you?” “Where are you from?” and “What do you think of Iran/Iranian people?” Some with better English will ask “where are you going?” and “where is your favourite place inIran?” In particular the public transport staff were always keen to make sure we were on the right bus /train and that we got off in the right place once we reached our destination (i.e. Terminals). They always made sure we had refreshments and knew when to get off for toilet breaks (buses) and always helped us with our baggage. A special mention goes to the staff atTehranwho were overwhelmingly helpful when we purchased our bus tickets, even showing us personally to the bus and into our seats. Another highlight was on the bus from Kashan [Kashan-travel-guide-1321057] toEsfahan, where the driver and other staff shared their morning tea with us and asked us to sit in the front seats so we had more space. This helpfulness extended to the train staff as well. The train driver from Kerman [Kerman-travel-guide-1309150] to Yazd came and introduced himself to us (Jafra was his name) at the train station terminal whilst we were waiting, and spoke excellent English, he was so pleased that we had come to visit Iran, and again made sure that we were comfortable in our seats before setting off to drive the train to Yazd! Every time the train stopped, he came to find us and explained the delay and finally when we got toYazdhe explained to the local taxi driver where we wanted to go (though the driver still got it wrong, but that’s another story)! Iranians have a healthy curiosity about visitors, but it is never intrusive - what is wrong with that?

Yes some small Shops will hike the price of cold cans of drinks up when they see you, but when you go again they ask the right price, and let’s face it; it is not exactly expensive in the first place.

As western women we found that a reasonable tolerance was given to our dress. We did try at all times to respect the dress code required of women in Iran, we always wore our headscarves at all times, which is a pain, more so when you are trying to go to the toilet, or we found most cumbersome when eating a meal. I bought a further scarf inShirazwhich was super thin and lightweight and cost a mere £1.70, and felt like I wasn’t wearing a scarf at all. Even better than wearing our heavier ones we had bought inTurkey. We did get along with wearing long sleeved long shirts/blouses and our long lightweight coats, which we had purchased for this trip, remained for the whole in the bags- to be posted home when we got the chance.Esfahanwas very liberal, I think because they do get so many more foreign tourists than other towns, and shirts that remained long sleeved but just past the bottom were acceptable.

When we visited the shrine of the King of Light inShiraz, we did have to wear a chador, which was given to us on arrival. I had to put my Camera in a secure cloakroom, and after removing battery and sd card I duly handed over. We were as two women welcomed into the shrine (we were surprised) and allowed into the holy areas that house stunning mirror interior decoration throughout, along with welcome air con. The women showed us where to put our shoes and where the shrine was and welcomed us. As I commented to my Angela, if you “get with the programme, you get the benefits”. It may not be comfortable and it may challenge you moral values as a woman, but if you want to seeIranas a woman, you will have to comply a bit. The benefits outweigh the discomfort.

On the whole we were treated with the utmost respect as foreign travellers and the Iranian people were so pleased to see us. Did I mention the Iranians are the kings of picnics, well they are! Where they have parks or open plazas Iranians gather with and without their families to have picnics, they bring everything, even the burner stove to heat up their tea! You will see them all carrying large bags and blankets, and cool box with some yummy Iranian foods in, don’t be surprised or afraid if you are asked to join them as you pass for a cup of tea, they just want to be friendly.

Btw my camera was returned safely back to me, as always we have found so far here, crime did not seem a big thing, on the whole Iranian people are pretty honest too. Sometimes again a teahouse would hike an extra 40p onto the bill,(touristy places recommended by LP) but to be honest we did not bother arguing as again experience and impression were more important to us than penny pinching to that degree.

Even in Kerman, when we secured a driver through our fabulous hotel, Akhaven, he treated us like royalty. On both visits to Rayen and Mahan, (in one day) and the Kaluts near Shabad, the following day he always made sure we had ice cold water dispensed from a tap on the back windowsill, and even served us tea and very sweet Iranian biscuits. Carried our pack breakfast out to us at the Kaluts, where we sat and watched the sunrise and bought us ice cream at Mahan! He was an absolute gentleman. He in addition took us to an underground water vault in Shafi Abad, on the way back from the Kaluts, which was stunningly huge and echoey? 52 steps down and 52 steps up, and worth the visit. We did promise ourselves a “treat stay/hotel/experience” every 4-6 weeks depending on where and when we were. Kerman was our splurge off our normal tight but flexible Iranian budget. Bearing in mind we had over budgeted by half again before leaving the UK. Yes we paid a bit more for the hotel, but it was amazingly good value, and yes we paid for two car trips out, but they too when compared to UK were amazing value, approx £19, and £23 respectively. Where can you go in the UK and see such stunning natural stunning scenery and man made architecture for such a cheap price. On the whole most of the mosques and public mausoleum/parks museums and parks, or just plain parks cost us little. From as little as 20p! And worth every penny, even a couple that were under restoration.IMG_0101.JPG_MG_0036.JPGIMG_0096.JPGKang.JPG At all times Vali allowed for our lack or levels of fitness, and ability. He was so patient and informative. At no time did we feel rushed. We walked up the winding and stepped, narrow streets looking at the old style buildings that were still very much lived in. The village still has it’s own Hamam. We also visited by arrangement of Vali, a local lady who served us delicious dried fruit, amazing walnuts, and quenching herbal tea. All of course with an amazing view to boot. Living is Kang is a harsh, they are only just getting gas, and most houses do not have their own sanitation. The was not the usual ringing of mobile phones and inside the houses they were basic, lacking modern amenities. The only exception was the presence of satellite dishes so presumably people do have TV. Having said that, it is a very beautiful village, and a strong reliance on locally produce obtained through the hard work of the locals.

We also had some interesting and lively conversations with Vali, he loves to extend his knowledge of the English Language and many referrals to his voluminous dictionary from English to Iranian were made and we had a great deal of fun with him and his family and other fellow travellers who stayed with

Posted by TheJohnsons 01:22 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Turkmenistan

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large_1842667_13392605924002.jpgAhhhh I hear you say, you too can have your own pet viper visit you in camp in Dehkistan, this is his release safely the next morning, when i had better light to picture him with!Such beautiful colours, but very poisonousHere is our 14 day itinerary, we will be posting our thoughts and impressions of Turkmenistan shortly.

Program ref: Tour for Johnson update Period: June, 2012

14 days option:

Day 1 Arrive Howdan – Ashgabat [Ashgabat-travel-guide-1197979]

Arrive at the border. Formalities. Meet at the border last check point and transfer to htl. Free program. O/N. (*Between the Turkmen customs and last border check point 35 km, the state shuttle minibus service is available in this zone, charging around 11 USD per person).

Day 2 Ashgabat

Free program. O/N at htl.

Day 3 Ashgabat

Free program. O/N at htl.

Day 4 Ashgabat - Nissa

Visit the archeological site ‘Old Nisa’. Return in Ashgabat. Free program. O/N at htl.

Day 5 Ashgabat - Turkmenbashy Mosque - Geok Tepe - Kov Ata – Nokhur

Drive to Kopetdag mountains and Nohur valley. Leaving the asphalt road at Archman we ascend in mountains, drive to village Nohur (One of the Turkmen tribes). Enjoy with beauty of the mountains and meet the people. Visits on the way: Turkmenbashy mosque, Geok Tepe mosque, Kov Ata cave lake. Family stay in Nohur village.

Day 6 Nokhur - Parau Bibi

Return on the road and continue to Parau Bibi pilgrimage. Visit Parau Bibi mausoleum. O/N at the place.

Day 7 Parau Bibi – Dekhistan

Drive to Dehistan historical site. Discover the Messerian plain & the remains of cathedral mosque, minarets, madrassah of Dehistan, mausoleum- mosque of Shir Kebir. Camping at site or at local home.

  • to choice: visit mud volcano ‘Boyadag’.

Day 8 Dekhistan - Balkanabat - fly to Ashgabat (FLT available on TUE, WED, FRI)

Return in Balkanabat. Arrive at airport & have flight to Ashgabat. Arrive in Ashgabat. Check in htl. O/N

Day 9 Drive Ashgabat - Mary [Mary-travel-guide-1198122] (as per your itinerary)

Drive to Mary. Visit on the way: Anau fortress and mosque ruins, Abiverd historical site. Arrive at Hanhovuz. Taste fish at chaykhana (from local lake). Continue to Mary, arrive and check in htl. O/N

Day 10 Mary - Merv [Merv-travel-guide-1310692] (as per your itinerary)

Drive to Merv historical site. Visit the remains of cities Alexandria and Antiochia Margiana, Sultan Kala (also named Marv al- Shahijan “city of kings”), Sultan Ahmad Sanjar mausoleum, Yusuf Hamadany shrine, Mohammed ibn Zeid mausoleum, Gyz Kala castles ‘Keshk’). After lunch drive to Talkhatan Baba pilgrimage place, visit XI century Namazga mosque and Ahun Baba madrasah remains. Return in Mary. O/N at htl.

Day 11 Mary- Gonur- Mary

Drive to Gonur (Gonur or Gonur depe site discovered to be the most impressive and called by the head of Russian archeological expedition, Mr. Sarianidi, as the capital or “imperial city” of Bronze Age state (which probably has thousands of sites around in desert, still covered by sands). The people of Gonur had lead sedentary life in oasis richly watered by Murgab river (after many centuries Murgab river changed its course and now can be seen in present day Mary), practicing irrigation farming of wheat and barley. Artifacts of Gonur are sophisticated and ingenious consists of bronze tools, horse training tools, ceramics rich in forms and usage, lapis lazuli, carnelian, gold and silver jewelry, semiprecious stone objects, stone seals – now it can been seen in history museum in Mary and in the National museum of history in Ashgabat). Visit the archeological site. Return in Mary. O/N at htl.

Day 12 Fly Mary to Ashgabat and Drive to Darvaza [Darvaza-travel-guide-1341945] via Erbent

Flight to Ashgabat. Meet at airport and continue drive to Darvaza. Visit ‘Erbent’ village. Arrive at Darvaza, explore the old gas craters. Venture in the desert to see the big, spectacular gas crater ‘on fire’. Camping in the area.

(on THU, SAT, SUN Tolkuchka bazaar visit is available on the way)

Day 13 Drive Darvaza to Konye Urgench via Shasenem, arrive at Dashoguz

Return on the road and drive to Dashoguz. Visit Shasenem fortress in Karakum desert. Arrive at Kunya Urgench UNESCO site (Formerly situated on the Amu-Darya River, Old Urgench was one of the greatest cities on the Silk Road. Its foundation date is uncertain, but the extant ruins of the ‘Kyrk mullah’ fortress have been dated the Achaemenid period. The XII and early XIII centuries were the golden age of the city, as it surpassed in population and fame all other Central Asian cities, barring Bukhara. In 1221, Genghis Khan razed it to the ground in one of the bloodiest massacres in human history. The city was revived after Genghis's assault, but the sudden change of Amu-Darya's course to the north and the town's destruction again in the 1370s, this time by Tamerlane, forced the inhabitants to leave the site forever). Sightseeing& en route to Dashoguz. Check in htl. O/N

Day 14 Dashoguz- Izmukshir and Usma Makhmut and transfer to border Dashoguz

Visit Izmukshir historical site, Usma Makhmut Ata pilgrimage. After lunch, transfer to border. Formalities. End of program


Posted by TheJohnsons 01:16 Archived in Turkmenistan Comments (0)

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