I couldn't believe what I was watching! Unarmed civilians had brought down the hard line government of Egypt after just a few weeks of peaceful protests. Amid the wild revelry and the women, trilling their ululations in celebration of their victory, the television camera then focused on an unforgettable image of a women protester, sweeping up the rubble and debris left behind in a Cairo street. When an incredulous reporter asked her why, she answered proudly,'we clear up ourselves, this is our country; these are our streets now!' And with that dignified statement, the ordinary citizens of Cairo had brushed away thirty years of autocratic rule in Egypt.
But the speed, relative ease and success of both the Tunisian and Egyptian protests has set an example of what can be achieved and has encouraged others in the Arab world, toward a precarious opportunity for a more free and democratic lifestyle, with popular uprisings taking place in Yemen,Iran and now Libya, but sadly this time with hundreds of innocent lives lost. These despotic leaders may not be so easy to overthrow. Either way, changes are taking place on a daily basis in this already unstable part of the world, so I will have to keep my eye on changing events as they occur, as I intend to cross parts of the Middle East during my forthcoming trip.
My plan is to make (non-cycling) 'holiday' detours to Egypt, Syria and Jordan and then travel back up to Iran. But due to the sheer expanse of Iran and with the Foreign Office advising against travel in the east of the country (due to historical events rather than recent uprisings) I will probably take a bus along the popular and well used tourist route from Tehran to Isfahan and then on to Shiraz, returning to Tehran or Turkey and then flying to Karachi in Pakistan to resume my cycling. That way I get to explore Iran, one of the most artistic and historically interesting countries, in a more comfortable time scale. But what develops in the Middle East is beyond my control. All we can hope for is an end to the violence by their brutal leaders and for the region to become a more stable part of the world. What I have to worry about, is getting myself around the globe and to look after my health as best I can.
This month my arm was punctured with the second of my three rabies injections and I still have two Japanese Encephalitis and one more Hepatitis B jab to suffer. Stray dogs are a problem for a cyclist abroad, so these rabies jabs are important because as we all know, only mad English cyclists and dogs go out in the midday sun!
Biting mosquitoes can also be a real menace, especially to a cyclist who is exposed to the elements for most of the day. What's hard to swallow is that I'm not actually cycling through any malarial infected countries; I'm only travelling close to the frontiers of countries where malaria may occur, but because mosquitoes don't recognise boundaries, I've had to add to my mobile pharmacy by stocking up with the recommended dosage of tablets. But I need three different brands of tablet for the three countries that I will need protection from and the programme is complicated beyond belief. Instructions tell me that I have to start taking the first brand four weeks before entering my first malarial country and starting off with two tablets for the first two days then going onto taking one a day of the first brand then taking two a day, two days before my second country and again going onto one a day of the second brand but remembering that I have to keep taking one a day of the first tablets, four weeks after leaving that first country but still carrying on with one tablet a day of the second brand which overlaps with the first dosage in the first country. I don't even want to think about the third brand I will have to factor in, yet! I am just grateful that it's all been written down!
But this past month has seen me crossing the border into the definitely non malarial county of Oxfordshire, where I was running a week's photography course at the Women's Institutes's educational centre, Denman College, just outside Oxford. After the calamities that dampened my mood last month, spending a week there raised my spirits once again. I always enjoy teaching at Denman and on my return, I will be adding an extra course - travel photography - a theme I shall have more than enough experience of by then!
But before that I have a journey to complete. And with only eight weeks to go before departure, I am just about ready for the off. One important task I had to get done though was to get my bike serviced. I changed my mind about taking it up to Preston where the bike was made. I decided that it was too far and too expensive a journey, so I took the bike into the engagingly named, Mud Docks Cycleworks in Bristol, where the staff were very helpful and were easily able to replace the original components. My thanks go to Steve the workshop manager, who on hearing of my travels, kindly waived the cost of the labour and only charged me for the parts.
No doubt this will be one of many acts of kindness on my journey and I hope the recent uprisings in the Middle East will settle to a positive outcome, so that all peoples of that region can live in a more peaceful and equal society. But amidst the turmoil, I am sure that the only revolutions that will affect me during this trip, will be the turning of my bicycle wheels.
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