Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Opium and Out

It’s a mix of mime, broken English and Farsi. At first I understand that his son will die in 3 months because he’s lost something that was in his pockets. I’m wrestling with my wing, kiting in strong wind, so the sad story fails to win my full concentration, but a few hours later I’ve pieced together A’s story. His father died 3 years ago leaving him wealthy (deep pockets) but mournful.

If you’ve got money to spend in Iran, you buy a Nissan Maxima. A drives his like it’s stolen swiping past Pekans and Zamyads with only millimetres to spare. We listen to pirated techno MP3s so loud the distorted bass punctures my eardrums.

Between him and his brothers they seem to own most of northern Yazd. In his father’s enormous empty house the housekeeper seems happy to have visitors. He prepares a sand tray with some burning coals, some chai nabat (sugary tea), a large dish or pastries and the opium pipe. He melts a blob of the brown resin onto the side of the ceramic bowl of the pipe and warms it with the coals. Then A shows me how to smoke it. First blow through the tiny pin hole, firing up the charcoal held above the melting opium with ornate tongs, until it resin melts and bubbles, then suck in strong gulping puffs until the opium has vanished.

My first draws are too sheepish and the tiny effect is outweighed by my nervous racing heart. But after a few tries I get it and with just 2 or 3 good hits inside me I can tell I’ve had enough. I’m a little bit dizzy but completely at peace, becalmed except for the sugar craving which the tea and cakes at arm’s length satiate perfectly.

The rest of the day is a stoned haze for me, but A is buzzing and accelerates his naturally vibrant pace. We have to drive all over town. He has to meet clients, employees, and some engineers, and busily shouts instructions down his ever ringing mobile. I spend the day staring at these people in a blur, only able to focus my gaze slightly beyond them because answering their questions takes all my concentration; “My name is Andy”. “I live in England, yeah England.” “I came to Iran alone”.

Now the traffic seems charmingly entertaining from A’s passenger seat rather than the usual heart-stopping death dance. Rather than picturing my legs mangled in the seemingly inevitable collisions at every junction, I dispassionately wonder if their muscles will choose to work when it’s time to get out of the car. After several hours I begin to accept that this stoned sensation never wear off. Ah well. Nothing seems that worrying. Eventually we stop at a friend’s house and A confides in them we’ve done a stick of opium. They let me sleep for a couple of hours, and I wake 8 hours after first having drawn on the pipe with a sense that I am almost back to normal. We eat a kilo of oranges and bananas before heading home to face his wife.

A also has a healthy appetite for Afghan hash, and anything else illicit, which in Iran makes him a connoisseur of many things. Over the next couple of days I learn the Farsi for “Fucking son of a bitch Mullah” purely by osmosis from hearing him mutter it so many times. Thank god I ask someone what it means before I’m about to repeat it in public. It’s impossible to gauge how severe a swear word is in a foreign language until you use it unwisely. Their literal translations make them seem banal.

When we part, with vague plans to meet again in India, Iran or London, A tells me he hopes next time I come to Iran there won’t be any more Ahunt Cos Kesh running the place. I hope so too, and I’m confident there will be a change of some sort. Too many young people passionately hate this religious regime for it to last another generation.

At the end of the day, a car drives over my foot in Kerman while I’m stood by the road and I’m half way through screaming my head off in English at the driver (“It’s not like I’m hard to see standing here two metres tall, wearing a white shirt. D’you know how a fucking steering wheel works...”) when I notice she’s lone a woman. As I calm down I realise the crowd of turned heads are unsure if they should be sympathising for the upset caused to the foreign visitor or telling the rude man that shouting at the shrinking angel behind the wheel is not acceptable in Iran. No harm done. No apologies offered. She drifts away as soon as the traffic allows, and I do the same as soon as I’ve found a way to round off my tirade. I’d always been curious to know how heavy a car feels on your foot. Not as bad as you’d think.

It’s been a month to the day since I arrived in Iran, and suddenly I’m impatient to leave. The idea of adding 400km and a few days to visit and fly in Shiraz doesn’t appeal. On the telly a series of Mullah’s are delivering emotive speeches. I don’t know what they are saying but the echoing PA system doesn’t do their presentation any favours. The camera pans back to reveal a tiny crowd framed to make it fill the screen. I ask what it’s about and the hotelier who spoke perfect English 20 minutes ago pretends not to understand my question.

It’s time for a new country and hopefully better and more varied food. Kebab and rice, with banana milkshakes for desert, may seem like paradise, but after a month its Ground Hog food. I look forward to coming back to Iran, unless this blog ever gets read by the visa department, but for now I need a break from this good friend.

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