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Week 26

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Our Chaparda Challenge Route

This week the snow leopards and the wee monkeys crossed the border from Turkey into Iran within 10 miles of each other. When you think they’ve journeyed more than 3000 miles in these 26 weeks, it’s amazing that they cross the border so close together. A massive well done to both teams for crossing another border, their ninth! It’s worth reflecting on that, I think. So far on the Chaparda Challenge all of our our teams have crossed from England to France, then to Belgium, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Three teams have made it into four other countries as well, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and now Iran. After Iran they’ll cross into Pakistan, then India, then journey’s end in Chaparda. But that’s a long way off yet!!

Since three of our teams are now in Iran we’ll begin this weeks diary there. The snow leopards and wee monkeys begin their journey through Iran in the country’s West Azerbaijan Province and indeed, they’re only around 15 miles from the Azerbaijan border and the Aras Dam Reservoir which the two countries share.

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Cathedral of Saint Thaddeus.

When the peacocks passed though a few weeks ago we saw something of the Orthodox Christian heritage of the region by visiting the the Chapel of Dzordzo (or Dzordzor) and this week, the wee monkeys and snow leopards can see more of that heritage if they make a short detour to visit the fabulous Cathedral of Saint Thaddeus. It dates to the early Christian period and is one of the most important religious sites for the country’s minority Armenian Orthodox Christian community.

Our two teams are 5 miles either side of the small town of Yola Galdi but there’s little information on the web about the town, or of it’s larger neighbour Showt. Maybe too much off the beaten track even for a Lonely Planet guide!

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Copper pots in the Grand Bazaar

Further to the south the peacocks have reached Tehran – most definitely not off the beaten track! Tehran is the capital of Iran and has a population of nearly 9 million in the city and a further 6 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. That makes is much larger than London or New York City, and has offerings to match, of course. Nestled at the foot of the snowy Alborz mountains it has a unique vista, as we can see from the featured image at the tope of this weeks diary page.

We know the peacocks are not the kind to hang around anywhere for too long but hopefully they’ll have at least visited the stunning and opulent  Golestan Palace, or the Grand Bazaar, a market of 10 km’s of alleyways and stalls – they say you can buy anything there! For lovers of culture and religions there is an immense museum and gallery complex which could keep you busy for a lifetime! So I hope the peacocks take a break and time to look around.

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Tigers at Kecskeméti Vadaskert

Our tigers end the week in Hungary’s camping country, where children’s camps and touring campsites are in plentiful supply. The tigers are just south of the town of Kecskeméti, a beautiful and forested part of the country, so no surprise that it’s popular for camping. I’ve noticed over the weeks that the tigers have been in in the habit of stopping off near to zoos and wildlife parks and this week, surprise surprise, there’s an other one – Kecskeméti Vadaskert. The particular boast of this wildlife garden is that it’s the smallest zoo in the country. That may be so, but they still have TIGERS! And very handsome ones at that… So spurred on by life in the great outdoors and real life tigers, or team tigers head south towards the border with Serbia.

It’s been a gentle pace this week – 234 miles covered in total by our teams but it’s no bad thing to drop the pace occasionally. Not for too long, though, I hope! Also, sorry to say, a quiet time for fundraising, with no donations received for the Chaparda Challenge this week. Plenty chance to improve on that in the coming weeks though – full steam ahead!