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Why Indians love ‘ taking the piss! ‘

April 22nd, 2014

This is the first of two updates on India. Will finish my blog on India when time permits.

Only in India—-India’s Hindu nationalist movement is working on creating a new soft drink to rival Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The main ingredient? Cow urine.
Om Prakash, the head of the department, said the drink – called “gau jal”, or “cow water” – in Sanskrit was undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched “very soon, maybe by the end of this year”.  “Don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too, it won’t be like carbonated drinks and would be devoid of any toxins.” Stating that several colas are harmful to the extent that they can be substituted for pesticides, he asserted that their soft drink with cow urine will not only be natural but cost-effective too. “In addition to this, it will prove and justify the high stature accorded to a cow in Indian culture.”—

That was 2009——-and yes—it is now available all over India.   In fact, “urine therapy” or the drinking of ones own urine, and/or cow’s urine has been in practice for some time—A growing cult of Hindu worshippers in India claim that drinking fresh cow urine will help cure them of all diseases – including cancer. “Only two things are pure in this universe, in this world. One is the water from the Holy Ganges river and the other is urine from mother holy cow,” Ramesh Gupta, a Hindu priest, said. The Hindu believers regard the cow as a holy animal and say her urine has divine healing properties, and that cow’s urine is a “divine gift from God”.

Now, there are even more items available in India containing cow’s urine, —eye drops, medicines for stomach ailments, toothpaste, bathing soaps, herbal powdered medicine, among other things, —There seems to be a lot of demand for these products and they have good sales.’  In fact, the current Prime Minister of India advocates the soda.  He is not the only Prime Minister to drink urine—In 1978, Prime Minister Morarji Desai, a longtime practitioner of “urine therapy”,  (although he drank his own urine and lived a very long life) espoused  the benefits of drinking urine. Desai stated that drinking urine was the perfect medical solution for the millions of Indians who cannot afford medical treatment. Interesting as it may seem, as Home Minister, Desai outlawed any portrayals of indecency (which included “kissing” scenes) in films and theatrical productions.  So what would I rather see—people drinking urine, or kissing????

Pleas read my next entry on India.

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India from Bihar State to Uttar Pradesh

April 22nd, 2014

I continue to enjoy my run through Iran enjoying the countries wonderful modern facilities, mentality, food and proper tea :)

It’s a month since I ran out of India and just like Indonesia it has left me traumatized. Here is a blog I wrote about 6 weeks ago and for one reason or another never got around to posting it. I have more on India, am sure I could write a book on it!
I continued my run through Bihar state being harassed by day on the roads and also at my rest breaks. I found a plastic handle which looks like a batton  so I run with this in my hand now waving the bicycles and small motor bikes they ride here, mostly 100 or 125cc out of my way. Sometimes I laugh at some of the guys as they  ride these bikes with their shades  thinking they are so cool or even a Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Indonesians ride the same way.
In India a pedestrian is the lowest of low for a hierarchy definitely exists here. The bigger the vehicle he more self importance these stupid drivers place upon themselves.
Sometimes a bicycle comes speeding down the shoulder as in a sprint finish in the tour de France and the motor bikes too expect me to jump out of the way, Sorry folks my Van Helen days are over… No more JUMP! Many of these guys got a whack of my batton  when they got too close… Well guys what do you expect :)
They are not only surprised that I don’t jump they are also surprised when they get a whack from my batton
It’s like a different country when I get off the road at then end of the day and talk to the people.
This particular day I though I was running by a temple when in fact it was a regular house which the people were decorating up for an important Hindu festival. I had stopped to ask if I could sleep there and when I realised my mistake the family told me I was welcome. They prepared an evening meal and fixed me a bed under a mosquito net. I slept very well.
Next night I was also stuck and came to what seemed like a club for there were a lot of young people singing and dancing to what sounded like hip hop music to me but I was told it was in fact Hindu religious music! 50km that day.
Another day I was so weary I stopped for a 15 minute meditation break in the corner of a dhaba.. Facing the wall right u to the sink. The owner was a gentleman who upon seeing me stressed just left me and talked in very gentle tones calling me sir.  It had been a particularly tough day mentally as people kept swarming around me like Australian
bush flies. At least in the Outback I had a fly net! I now am very particular about entering conversations after all I am not on a social as I remind many people, I am on a mission. I find it best in India in my situation to remain aloof. The best advice I can give anyone ever considering running across this country is to run fast or better still run very fast!
One gawker on a bike hit a dead cow on the road for it was dark. Luckily he got up OK just a bit shaken, I slowed down the oncoming traffic as best as I could, such a request is akin to swearing at these guys. The motorcyclist rode off a big dazed.
Another night spent in a dhaba. Left my mobile to be charged up in backroom they had a power connection in. Was wondering why the family were up at 3am laughing. In the morning I found my mobile messed up, airplane mode on, a full page of APS missing and Facebook which I rarely use was right up there on the front screen.
Another 47km took me to the Uttar Pradesh state line. U.P perhaps one of Indias  most peaceful states as a newspaper reports the state had ‘ Only 150 riots last year! ‘

Today I tried the don’t speak Hindi, don’t  speak English.. I am from Spain, followed by a blast of Spanish and an ” I’m from Barcelona, Now please leave me alona! And it worked.
A month later as I type this out on my phone a man who was looking over my shoulder asked me if I am from Barcelona! They say that in India there is always someone around and if you think you are alone that you just don’t see them!
I am running on route 28 now. Today I saw a camel.
I have a bad cold with running nose and an infection also a heavy cough so stopped at a pharmacy and picked up a bottle of Cortex cough syrup and a six day supply of antibiotics called Almox 500. An email to my pharmacist friend Greg and he tells me they should have given me a ten day course, so i got some more. Such things can be got over the counter without a prescription in the developing world. This all worked a treat and right enough ten days later I am as right as rain.

 

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Spot tracker not updating

April 21st, 2014

It seems my Spot tracker is not updating.
This started on Sunday . Not a battery problem as they were brand new.
Sunday was also my birthday. Thanks for all your messages, sorry just too many to respond to! I ran my birthday in kilometres all 57 of them! I know many American runners that do this in miles but as they age they miraculously discover the wisdom of kilometers :)

Are there any 80 year old sprinters out there? Zero to 80 METRES in how many seconds!
I should reach or be close to Zanjan today.
Sorry for this. I hope its a glitch.

I spent the night in a lovely sandy culvert under the road for it looked like it was going to rain. A lovely day :)

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30 Day Iran Visa Extension Secured – The Islamic Revolution.

April 14th, 2014

I got my Iran visa extended by 30 days yesterday, Sunday a business day here. Thanks to a letter of introduction from Irish honorary consul to Tehran Mr. Alireza Feizollahi for dispatching his driver to help me through the loop and hoop nightmare it would have been on my own. Yes Yousef was wonderful. We must have went to about ten offices and hatches in the building. However I  almost had a problem as Iranian immigration were at first only going to give me one week then said 15 days saying they ignore all the stuff about 30 day extensions on the internet. Even though the twin identical forms I filled out were in Farsi with an English option, after filling  them out in English we were told to fill them out in Farsi! Thankfully there was a very new nice woman that kindly obliged and translate both :) As they say it all depends on the mood of the clerk you get as later I talked to a French man who zoomed through in half an hour for his extension. The nice lady came back over to assist when I was arguing that the letter of introduction from the consulate was not a commercial letter as different rules apply for a business visa. This immigration officer  had first told me to come back next day and talk to his boss. But when I was querying if the 15 days started from day of issue and if all remaining 7 days on my current visa would be lost, as I had read this. If issued a 15 days extension would I have 2 or 3 weeks. I could finish Iran in 3 weeks but would have a very tough time with 2 weeks. Suddenly this man playing God told me to come back in the afternoon. So we went to the consulate for tea and returned a couple of hours later. Back at the immigration office that afternoon I was greeted by a very nice man who I assumed was the boss. He was interested in the run saying he would like to help and duly gave me the 30 days I requested. Delighted we returned to the Irish Consulate and Alireza treated me to a delicious lunch in a very posh restaurant called Nayeb. We had a very interesting conversation about Iran and world affairs. Alireza, an Iranian has been working for the Irish companies for about 20 years and presumably was well known to the Irish government as they asked him to take up the position of honorary Consulate a couple of years ago. He speaks fluent English having been educated in Oxford and later Kansas. We talked about the Iranian revolution which was really a relatively bloodless revolution many people may be surprised to know. Yes I remembered when I crossed from Turkey in December 1978 on my world cycle trip while the shah was still in power. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s spiritual leader then called for civil disobedience from his exile in Paris. This meant the borders were closed and I was effectively trapped there for 6 weeks. I only had a little money and survived by selling my blood plasma twice.  That was till Shah Pahlavi fled to Egypt. Many countries did not want him. Later I believe he went to Hawaii. Jubilant crowds gathered in the city centre square and hacked down a horsebacked statue of  the Shah. Soldiers who days earlier were loyal to the Shah smiled as people put flowers into the barrels of their rifles. They were on guard at the  British embassy and would never again point their rifles at their people. Today behind that same British embassy is a street names after Bobby Sands, the first of the IRA hunger strikers to die in a seperate struggle in Northern Irelands H-Block prision   a couple of  weeks later. At the beginning of February 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran greeted by much jubilation. The borders opened and I left very fast for Afghanistan! I asked Alireza why I do not see many satellite dishes as in have been looking out for them and have seen only about a dozen. They have been banned by the Islamic government but later that day I read some 70% Iranians have them which they have disguised. It is also illegal for women not to wear the hijab, or head scarf. Even foreign women travellers have to have a head covering on their visa photo. Always asking strange questions I wondered how women manage here when they go to their hairdresser! It is also illegal for men to wear short pants. I am told Iranian men go crazy at the very sight of a woman’s hair, yet many women wear their scarfs but with their hair dangling down. Covering the outline of their boobs doesn’t seem to be as important an issue. Obviously Iranian women are not happy, On the ski slopes high up on the snow covered  Alborz mountain towering up into the clouds. Looking down like a giant head on Tehran, home  to an estimated 12/15 million people – about 20% of the countries population – women continue to ski alongside men and are dressed in sleek ski wear. The Islamic guard have failed to curb or control this.   I am told there is a lot of resentment against the current government. Iranian women account for most university places and possess 62% of engineering and scientific degrees. In my hostel dorm a man from Singapore rushed in to put his socks on as some old men had given him a boloking  for not wearing them with his sandals.  They are modest people. I never see them going to the toilet bat the side of the road and often wondered if they do go at all! Last week I ripped my running tights  and was very conscious of the modesty law for my hairy left leg was showing. Nobody said anything , I guess they thought I was a tramp! I stopped on Tehran’s Amir Kabir Avenue for a burger and fries. I also ordered tea but tea wasn’t available. Upon hearing my request a man who had a tea shop next door brought me in two cups and refused payment telling me in an almost comical manner that… ” I have more money than I need! ” Apparently he made it under the former Shahs reign. For some reason he left a book titled Technical Readings For Helicopter Mechanics by Thomas  Tinkham on my table.   Facebook is also banned in Iran but I am informed most government ministers have their own Facebook accounts. The people have ways to circumvent restricted sites. I was advised to install a vpm on my smart phone before entering Iran, I didn’t so I can’t log onto Facebook or refresh my BBC world service app, strangely I can get the New York Times! Indeed it is not only the women who resent the government men talk of their dislike openly to me and the older ones talk of how things were so much better during the Shah’s reign.As  mentioned before Iran is under pressure from the international community who have applied sanctions against the country. I have not seen any evidence of Iranians living in hardship, the contrary being my experience. They are great outdoors people come the weekend, Thursday and Friday here they are off camping for the weekends pitching their tents in small town parks, at the side of petrol stations and even mosques. I don’t see much local govt cut back either, I see teams of city workers patrolling the highways, planting flowers, painting and all general maintenance work. Even electricity in the desert area rest stops. People come up to me all the time wanting to offer their friendship, so unobtrusive and always leave me when I would rather be on my own or busy running on the road. Not a moments delay for they are gentle people – All have one question, almost a paranoia. They always ask what I or the world thinks of Iran.I can’t help reflecting on India where obtaining a ministerial or local government position is viewed more as a personal wealth achievement rather than as a duty to their citizens. I can barely remember seeing a city park or.any other facilities there, just broken roads and pavements and rats.living in Agra train station where people seemed unconcerned as they slept. Also rats.on the train tracks and on the luggage racks nibbling at passenger bags I am told! Yes Iran is the very country I need after India. The sanctions against Iran – that included blockades of oil and overseas bank accounts – helped push the Iranians towards the negotiating table to agree to inspections of their nuclear programme. The Iranian economy had suffered from the sanctions imposed in 2012. GDP fell by nearly 6% last year and ilnflation hit double digits, averaging some 39% Current President is Dr. Hassan Rohani.  Rohani has promised a whole load of social reforms but the system has made it difficult for him to deliver. The government is made of three branches: Legislative, Judiciary and executive branches. However according to Iranian constitution the spiritual leader can play an important role in the overall decision making process. Many thanks to Roshni Rai for sponsoring my two night stay in Tehran’s wonderful backpackers hostel called Mashhad Hostel. Anyone that wants to sponsor a night, meal etc. Please  feel free to donate on the PayPal link on the side bar. Thank you.

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The 1,000th Marathon has been run in under 1,000 days and the plan going forward

April 11th, 2014

Sorry it has taken me almost a week to get this posting up! For this run I have had to dig very deep into my endurance base and mind games which as I have said on many many occasions has made a very ordinary runner a two time world 48 hour record-holder in addition to many Irish records. Mind strength, tenacity and a lot of dumb stupidity :) being my only really talents in life I have somehow found an outlet to channel this and  succeed with what in other walks of life may seem so meaningless. Anyway thank you to all those countless people who have helped on this world run. I would like to single out Michael Gillan who was my brilliant crew man on the Australian mainland leg of the run from near Melbourne to Darwin, I think about 3,800km of patience and kindness by a true gentleman of the sport. Michael gave up 9 and a half weeks to help me. He has since told me of a very serious illness he had at the time but still dedicated himself to my Australian success. After helping me he crewed for two New Zealand ‘ raw vegan ‘ runners on their year long run around Oz as mentioned in my blog last May. Unfortunately Michaels health suffered at that time and he had to leave the run for medical attention. Just last week he sent me a congrats message and though battling his own personal battle and by no means out of the woods he was off to the Coburg 24 hour race to he’ll out, such is the measure of the man. The 1,000th marathon was reached in 962.8 road days on April 5th when fittingly I ran a marathon. I hear by dedicate my 1,000Marathon in under 1,000 road days to Michael Gillan.. Thank you Michael for your inspiration, encouragement and much needed patience through Australia, we had a blast! I will be forever grateful. Goof luck and a healthy recovery Michael By the way I tried to run the 1,000 Marathon on April 1st but ran out of time! Some fool! Okay here is the plan literally going forward! I am announcing for the very first time that I want to hit the 50,000 kilometre on the finish line of the Dublin marathon on October 27th with my very last step across the finish line :) Today April 11th 54km were run for s grand total of 42,464km. It is 2,450 to Istanbul about 3,100 across Europe to Calais and my recently revised  UK route from Dover to Stranraer, Scotland dropped Wales from the run. However I am now hoping to include Wales, a special country for me as I ran many half marathons races there as a much younger runner. My UK route should be about 1,000km starting there about the beginning of September. From Stranraer I plan to take the ferry to Larne. N.Ireland perhaps first week in October. Estimated north/south Ireland route about 900 km, so it may be tight for the 50,000kilometers. Places definitely penciled in are Belfast, Galway, Kilkenny and Sally Gap. There are one or two places I may include. So all this means that on the penultimate road day I will finish on the marathon start line in Dublin’s Dawson St, I think it is.. Can’t remember for sure, have run a lot of marathons since I was last there! When I finish that day I will have to have my run total at 49,957.8km so as to finish the run with the dream 50,000 kilometers on the nose!

I am also thinking of making one final big push for Istanbul to arrive by end of May. This is about 50km per day for 50 days. This would leave me the must sought after 1,000km a month for five months which at that stage of the run will seem like an enjoyable  canter, I hope.

Many thanks to Kevin Scanlon for helping me try to arrange the finish. Also thanks to my Irish running club MSB for agreeing to facilitate and help out. Also for Dublin marathon  race director Jim Augney for agreeing to allow what I promise will be a spectacular finale to the run. Will keep this quiet for now but am sure it will leak out!

 

I stole this idea from Stephen Neuman, a friend of mine who walked around he world. Upon reading

the ending of his book titled World Walk I said..

” Wow! What A bloody brilliant idea!

Anyway, thanks for reading. Its nearly 2am.. Gotta sleep and run :)

 

 

 

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1,000th marathon on Saturday!

April 4th, 2014

Many people thought it couldn’t be done! Tomorrow Saturday after running 32km I will have run a total of 1,000 marathons in 963 road days :)
I will set the ” OK ” button on my Spot tracker and hope it will register as sometimes it doesn’t like tonight, when I reach this ‘ kilometre stone ‘ No it doesn’t sound as good as milestone!
That is kilometre 42,195 or about 26,200 miles.
Yesterday I stopped early after 36km as there was a place to stay at a truck stop and nothing else  for the next 40 km. I didn’t want to stop but decided it would be sensible especially as burger and chips was on the dinner and breakfast menu! So today to make up I ran 63km to finish on the outskirts of Ardestan where I am staying in a mosque.
I am managing running the Iranian desert with my backpack very comfortably. It is not so hot now as I run further north.
Today four lots if people stopped to give me tea, bread fruit sweets and water. The Iranian people are such lovely people. Thank you all so much.
Total after today is: 42,163 km.
Thanks to everyone for their support. Talk tomorrow, gotta sleep and run :)

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Sanity in Iran!

March 28th, 2014

As mentioned before Pakistan was not run due to increasing violence especially in the south of the country. So I finished running India on St Patrick’s Day at the Pakistani border. To cut a very long story short I decided to run Iran and Turkey with my backpack. I flew to Iran for the restart. I was advised very strongly not to restart the run too close to the Iran Pakistan border, so I decided on a city  called Kerman as it was on a similar latitude to where I finished running India. Many thanks to Ali an economics lecturer in Coventry, UK. He was returning to Iran for the Iranian new year, 1393 it will be. Ali got my Iran internet sim sorted also helped me get the correct rate for my euro cash in the airport money exchange as opposed to the bank. Due to the international sanctions on Iran atm machines do not do foreign transactions. Recently sanctions have been eased as Iran has started to cut back on its nuclear program by diluting its uranium. There is no way to make foreign transactions in Iran other than cash or or very rare occasions a carpet vendor may have a foreign account. It is not even possible to book a backpackers hostel on hostels.com So for my 300 euro I was given two huge wads of 50,000 Iranian rial notes. The two wads were a thick as a brick, no kidding. This was a very strange transaction as I didn’t even get a receipt. I was more interested in getting a picture taken of my 12 million plus brick of rials. 40,000 to the euro, Iranians call 10 rials a Toman. I then tried to get a flight to Kerman and Ali even went back through the security check for the airline office was on the other side. No luck as they were booked out. Ali’s bus went from a different station to mine but we shared a taxi to mine, then he sorted my bus ticket before taking another taxi to his station. He could have easily missed a bus and have a long wait for the next, such is the calibre of the man, thanks Ali, a genuine man and I think of all the Indian ” how may I help you ” shallow offers. As one man on the bus said to me.. Iranians from the cities are high class. Writing this a week later I would say yes and in all the towns and villages too, beautiful people. I had only a one hour wait for that bus which took about 13 hours including meal breaks for the 920km run to Bagheyn. At this town I was told to get off the bus and I understood it was Kerman, It was a small town and not a big city and what the people were trying to tell me was I needed to change bus and there was no bus that night. So I had a cup of tea for it was also lashing rain and slept that night under a leaky gazebo in the local park. I figured I may as well start Iran from here, Kerman is about 15km away and a hassle to get to,  besides s gap is a gap and I could have started from Mashad, 100km shorter In the morning I had only run 200 metres when I stopped to take a photo of a signpost ‘ Tehran 920km ‘ when some garage workers asked me in for tea, it was a chilly morning so I accepted. The roads are wonderful, 4 lane divided highway with about 100m between the east and west bound roads. Very good signposting in Farsi and English with a u-turn every kilometre, just like in Thailand. No need to watch your back non a divided highway as in India as the police are out in high numbers enforcing road rules. They even tried to get me off the road as they clearly didn’t know what to make of me. I resisted a passport check pleading it was too difficult to get out of my inside pocket and they let me run on for the price of a photo. Just as I was going he asked me if I had a gun, dont know what that was about! I was told to run on the right side of the road with the traffic to my back, but felt safe as the drivers are civilised here and there is also a wonderful two metre shoulder to run on. I struggled for my 37km that first day in Iran and slept in a concrete culvert with a gravel base under the road. Next day a decent 46 to the west side of Rafsanjan. A closed shop opened that morning so I could buy food and milk for my breakfast and only ten minutes further down the road a lovely family of nine invited me to join them for breakfast picnic. So I was enjoying my lovely road, no dorks or honking and then I heard a voice from within asking… ” What’s that Tony? ” What I don’t hear anything! ” Yes that’s what I mean! ” :) Ah so peaceful running through the Iranian desert even if the road is very busy, it could be like Patagonia in Argentina. I am struck by the similarly to Argentina, so much is similar, not only the landscape but people also carry around thermos flasks to fill up water from steaming hot burcos at every shop or restaurant for free, just like the Argentines filled up for their mate. Ah yes no shot glasses or tea rations here as in India, I am loving Iran already. That night I got to the are side of Rafsanjan, stopped for a burger and when I went to pay was told it was on the house. A man also told me there was an economy hotel about 2 km away but the directions seemed a bit complicated. By luck I stumbled upon it, called Alamos. I needn’t tell you I was shocked by the US $27 basic room posted on the wall. Iran seems to be very expensive for hotels but most other things are pretty cheap. The reception was huge with about 6 sofas I asked if he would accept $10 for a sofa sleep! He said he couldn’t and as I was on the far side of the city I planned to go another couple kilometers and rough it in the desert. I went into a shop to buy water and the hotel manager followed me inside telling me I guess he took pity on me and gave me a nice room for my ten dollars offer breakfast included! A Marathon day followed by a 40km day, I am struggling to get into my stride. One day three lots of people stopped to give me huge bags of oranges, nuts,bread and of course water. I was refusing one man as I had so much and he just continued stuffing oranges and courgets down my hi-viz vest. I was glad of this extra food next day because after I ran through the pretty town of Anar there was nothing for almost 50km, I got caught by surprise as there was usually two places to feed per day. As always the magnificent Iranians helped me out :) That night I slept in a very warm mosque and next day aided by the free alarm call! I got off to an early start and managed to thump out 62km finishing 10km before Bahadoran. I was delighted by this run as the previous day I felt like a slapper trying to run in high heels. For my reward I slept behind sand dunes in the desert. The heat is dry, and not too uncomfortable. I needn’t tell you when I ran into Bahadoran next morning I had a huge breakfast and loaded extra supplies for the road. I can carry three half litre bottles of water under my hi-viz vest held in by my pack straps and if I need to can stick another in my pack and a litre and a half in one or both hands. As mentioned a long time ago my wrists are very sore from 41 months of carrying water bottles or pushing Nirvana.. Then today a 51 with another 60 plus at my mercy. A cop car pulled up for as the Americans would say a welfare check. I was low on water and 14km to the next town so asked him for some but he hadn’t any. A dew.minutes later a man stopped to buy nuts from a rare roadside vendor gave me 2 and a half litres and a bag of nuts. The Iranians like their nuts,oranges and thankfully their tea! A few minutes later I run by the same cop car again as he is doing speed checks. He hands me a large bottle of water and a fruit drink. I am embarrassed as now I have too much ,too much to run with. Literally across the road  I am surprised  to see an unexpected truck stop restaurant for there was no signage on the highway. I stop for dinner, I really had eyes for a sleeping place at an adjoining mosque. Price for this some persistent gawkers, I didn’t think this happened in Iran! March 28th 41,837km have been run in 955 days.. I feel like a running machine again , all be it with a weary pair of legs. Next week the thousand marathon of this global run beckons. I am now thinking of ripping through Iran and Turkey.

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Photos from India

March 21st, 2014

Moulding the cow turd

    This particular day I used my gps and ran on some backroads. A pleasant change from a busy highway but you can never be sure about road conditions! I reckon I saved about a half week in India using my gps to find more direct routes than some of the meandering highways. Despite what I have said on the blog about smart phones and gps devices, I am now a believer! I just don’t know how I would have gotten through India and plan for the future with it’s lack of internet cafes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A close shave in the Punjab!

 

 

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The Iran and Turkish plan

March 20th, 2014

 

At The Indian/Pakistani Suremanqi border post. I celebrated St, Patrick's Day by running India, 2,888km.

Hi Again,

I have been busy these last few days trying to get set up for the next leg of the run. 

That will be from Kerman, if all goes well for my last bit of route checking around the Eastern Iranian city and I can get there over the booked out Iranian New Year holiday season. You may well remember I mentioned that Iran will start from Mashad. Well I got thinking that Kerman is a better ‘ match up ‘ almost perfect on the map from where I finished running India at the Sulemanqi Border post right on the Pakistan border.

Press > HERE To see this segment.

The Taj Mahal

Also by restarting in Kerman I am eliminating Afghanistan from being skipped as you can see it will now be more or less just Pakistan which will not be run for security reasons.

The big news now is that I have decided I want to run Iran and Turkey with just my backpack. This will probably be the most difficult backpack section of the run, at least the Iranian part will be due to wide open, almost desert areas. So I decided at huge expense to move Nirvana, my cart on ahead to Istanbul. I probably should have just posted her home at this stage but at the same time I hope to get some relaxing months in in Europe and it will be a nice change to do a bit of camping.

I have sometimes pushed supplies and camping gear through remote or cold areas.  I had her stored in the Irish embassy in new Delhi.

In Istanbul another new running friend called Caner will mind her till I run into the Bosporus city in June. I got this idea on my last day in India and put out a call for contacts and these lads answered, thanks lads!

I decided to fly to Istanbul and deliver her personally and got hammered by a late change to the flight and crazy excess baggage charges. Tonight, Thursday I am Istanbul. I arrived via Doha, Quator this evening and hope to get a flight to Teheran tomorrow night.

Doha was an interesting place, even if I was only there for a few hours. On the descent the city seemed to be all lakes, marinas in the middle of a desert with man made roads criss-crossing the lakes, very picturesque, Haven’t seen anything pretty in a few months now!

No transit visa required we were just corralled by bus into a transit terminal. A lot of rich looking sheikhs with snow white robes, but they were travelling in economy with their burka clad women.

And an expensive place too for a coffee or tea was US$5 and a club sandwich $7

As I said I will make my way to Kerman and start running from there towards Istanbul.

Remove Sulemanqi from the above Google map link and that will be my actual run route, 3,800km.

The Taj Mahal

Tonight I was picked up at the airport by another runner called Ercan, We had a delicious dinner in the plush Timeless gourmet bar. Ah! Yes beef at last, real food for the already small Indian portions got even smaller as I ran closer to the west of the country, gone was rice off the menu, thank God for chapatis! And yes real tea, Turkish chai, no shot glasses of tea here!

With Ercan on my left and the staff of the Timeless gourmet bar in Istanbul during my logistical flying visit.

Thanks to the Irish embassy staff for their help in New Delhi and especially to Damien from Dublin who brought me back to his place to chill out and have a TEAriffic time drinking all his Lyons teabags. He is married to Louise also from Dublin and they have a lovely two year old daughter Eliana. Then he got up at 4am to see me off at the taxi – that is after making a return journey to the embassy to pick up my gear.

The flight here was very stressful as I didn’t make the flight I was booked onto as Air India screwed up. And the one I eventually got at 9am with all that money paid out I only made with minutes to spare.

Having a late start after sleeping in a Dhaba on a ' charpoy ' rope bed as mentioned many times in the blog. No charge, you just are expected to eat, No problem :)

 

Also thanks to Manish who helped me out in his village a few days ago when I had an audience outside a Sikh temple with about 40 locals before sleeping there that night. He speaks very good English as he worked in Australia for five years. Next morning they gave me a turban which I ran withfor two days right to the Pakistani border.

I had a very pleasant time in this small village. Manish is 2 places to my left wearing the striped tracksuit pants.

 

So that’s the plan, I am very excited by this segment, then it will be Europe as we all keep on saying. It was nice arriving in the airport today, All those shapely beautiful blondes! haven’t seen any these past couple of months.

And yes, civil people not running you over on the road or street. I love the Turks, and the Iranians too. Am away from all that filth and dirt back in civilization and as a friend said to me in a private email. ‘ Yes Tony India is the ultimate head-trip!` There were times there when I wondered if I was going mad!!

Now for some Turkish Delight before I Ran!

Cow and buffalo dung patties as mentioned in earlier blog. This house is built from it as you can see.

 

 

 

Pigs eating from a rubbish pile in the middle of yet another Indian village

 

A truck tyre repair. Just a rubber patch studded in with studs.

Friday night I stayed in the home of Baris Aksahin a triathlete. A very interesting man as he was born in Turkey but moved to England when he was six years old where he lived for for 35 years. He has a very strong English accent working for a change in the Turkish political system. He returned to Turkey 8 years ago to discover his Turkish roots.

He set up a political party that is the first in the world…a “Leaderless” party called the Gezi Party (www.gezipartisi.org.tr) Where the party assembly makes all the decisions and the media only sees the party representative that is chosen by the party assembly to speak on their behalf.  They do not focus on the political differences, but instead uniting people along core values of Individual Freedom, True Democracy, Universal Human Rights, Justice for All and Independence.  To bring all people of all ideologies to the table under one roof and working to find common sense solutions to today’s problems.  Their motto is: Gezi Party is a new beginning…a grassroots movement for change, by the people for the people. :)

With Baris and Ercan having a long, long delicious Turkish brunch.

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The caste system in India

March 15th, 2014

Many thanks to my great friend Greg Havely for some vital help at this crucial stage as I  prepare for my transit to Iran. I am hampered in my preparations by the Iranian New Year celebrations starting on 19th and lasting a week!

Also thanks to Greg for his research on this article as no travel blog on India would be complete without a reference to the so called caste system. The Caste system in India today

There is much to be said about the caste system in India (now declared illegal), but for this entry suffice it to say that it is (was) a system of social stratification.  Historically it separated various endogamous hereditary groups called “Jatis”—Today, the usage of Jatis and caste are somewhat synonymous.

The “Jatis”  are separated into 4 categories called “varnas” which are ranked in hierarchical order (originally, the system wasn’t to have a hierarchy based on occupation or birth but purely on personality; this has been skewed somehow over time), which determines the behavior of one member of society over another.
The levels are as follows:
Brahmana (now more commonly spelled Brahmin): Consist of those engaged in scriptural education and teaching, essential for the continuation of knowledge.
Kshatriya: Take on all forms of public service, including administration, maintenance of law and order, and defense.
Vaishya: Engage in commercial activity as businessmen.
Shudra: Work as semi-skilled and unskilled laborers.
The most common problem with this system was there was no ability to move between castes, i.e for lower castes to rise to a higher level caste–thus restricting economic progress amongst the populace.

Mahatma Ghandi added a fifth class to the system—that being called Harijan or “Children of God”.  These are the so called “untouchables”—the very lowest rung on the class ladder.

Rooted in religion and based on a division of labor, the caste system, among other things, dictates the type of occupations a person can pursue and the social interactions that she may have. Castes are an aspect of Hindu religion. Other religions in India do not follow this system.
Castes still rarely intermarry and are definitely not changeable. In urban India, though, people of all castes meet socially or for business. Discriminating against anyone because of their caste for things like club memberships and so on is against the law.

Today if you asked a person who lives in the city what caste means to them, you would get a very different response than that of a person who lives in a village. It can be argued that in India’s emerging middle class, consisting of about 50-75 million people, many would say that there is no longer such a thing as caste. However, it soon becomes evident that though in many respects caste is diminishing, in many others it is still an important part of Indian society. In the villages especially, caste dictates marriage, rituals concerning birth and death as well as occupation which all in turn have a large role in economic status. In this way the impact is tremendous although subtle and varied.

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about tony

Anything is possible! I didn't start running till I was almost 30. Then I dreamed of running around the World. I got delayed for over 20 years for many reasons. One reason was to establish my pedigree. I am the former WORLD RECORD-HOLDER for 48 HOURS INDOOR TRACK 426km/265 mile. I previously held the WORLD RECORD FOR 48 hours on a Treadmill 405km/ 251miles. Now I am retired from competition I can finally live my dream. I hope you will travel around the World with me. This World Run will take 4 years and over 50,000km. I started with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th and am on schedule to finish with the Dublin Marathon on October 28th 2014 at 2pm! Read more...

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