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Week 32

We begin the diary this week congratulating another elite walker – Saifidin has become only our second Chaparda Challenger to cross the 1000 mile marker twice! At the end of today, Sunday his individual mileage stands at 2,028 miles, completed through a combination of walking and running. Well done Saifidin, and congratulations to the wee monkeys for having such a fabulous resource in your team! We’re very proud of you, and glad you signed up! 

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Belgrade Old Town

Not only have we got this new milestone to marvel at, we’ve also had an amazing week on the part of our tigers, who’ve made excellent progress through Serbia, passing both Novi Sad and Belgrade, but obviously not stopping for a moment to take a look. They’re a team on a mission, I think… But it’s a pity they didn’t take a bit of time to explore Belgrade in particular, as I think the tigers would enjoy what’s on offer there. The ‘Rough Guides‘ website lists “8 reasons why Belgrade is Europe’s hidden highlight” and I thought we might all enjoy finding out what they are: “The riverfront party scene is unrivalled, you can feast like a king here, the city is a joy to explore on foot, there are some seriously hip areas, you can go back in time, even the touristy area has a bohemian vibe, you can find history beneath your feet, and there’s a surprising city beach”. Yes, in land-locked Serbia you’ll find a blue flag beach! Remarkable! But maybe not the time of year to go for a dip; it was colder in Belgrade yesterday than it was in York. Anyway, does that sound like a ‘to-do’ list for the tigers, or what?

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River Danube at Smederevo

Having chosen not to stop, the tigers end the week just south of Smederevo, and if you click the link you’ll see there’s no shortage of things to see and do there as well, from leafy walks along the Danube to exploring the fortress and historical centre of the town. It makes me realise that it’s a poignant moment for the tigers – they’re saying goodbye to the River Danube for the last time, as they now head south and the river heads east towards the Black Sea. The Danube is a remarkable river: Europe’s second longest, at 1770 miles, and the only river in Europe to flow from west to east. It rises in the Black Forest, and ends at the Black Sea. And sorry to say, much of the water along the way is pretty black too! I remember a visit to Budapest some years ago and I wrote a postcard home (remember those?!!) saying I was on a boat on the Beautiful Brown Danube! What would Johann Strauss have thought (with thanks to Andre Rieu, who presumable knows how brown it is)!

Switching from Serbia to Iran now, we’ve been so many weeks in this vast country that we’ve had lots to say already, and some of it might even have been interesting! Now, though, as the snow leopards and wee monkeys head into the edges of the desert, and the peacocks emerge from it, the diary has to dig deep to keep it interesting, since there are few settlements to pass through, and those we do pass, when explored in Google, offer only the delights of a supermarket or a petrol station! So it’s time to go highbrow, and talk about the Encyclopaedia Iranica.

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Encyclopædia Iranica

The encyclopaedia is a remarkable effort of scholarship and collaboration, now on it’s 15th printed volume, though 45 volumes are planned. It’s an English language project, with Persian, or Farsi words, being romanised, making it accesible to anyone who knows only English. Luckily for us, it’s also a website project, so we can access it. So far, more than 1300 contributors have been involved, but many more will contribute by the time it’s completed. The first entry in the online version of the encyclopaedia is the word ĀB, which means water. It’s of course not a dictionary, defining water, but a series of scholarly articles that consider the significance of the word in question. By way of example, for ĀB, we can learn about i. The concept of water in ancient Iranian culture, ii. Water in Muslim Iranian culture and iii. The hydrology and water resources of the Iranian plateau. Not for everyone, I guess, but a remarkable project that can only be applauded.

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Desert of Lut

Given our teams are now all in the desert, I thought it might be interesting to consult the encyclopaedia about where they find themselves. Searching for ‘desert’ returned 468 results, so I’ll link only the first result – it’s not a quick read, as you’ll see, but fascinating stuff. So there you are, an invitation to dig deep into Persian culture while you plod through the desert.

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Richard and Gabriella Ratcliffe

If there is one sure thing we know about Iran, it’s that it is a complex country, and sadly, not a safe one for many people. I’m sure we’ve all been touched and saddened by the story of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and the efforts of her husband Richard to keep her in the public eye. He ended a 21 day hunger protest outside the Foreign Office yesterday, on the insistence of Nazanin, who of course needs him to be strong for their daughter Garbriella , and to keep up the campaign to have her freed from house arrest and the likely return to prison in Iran. If you would like to make some small contribution to seeing this happen you can sign the Change.org campaign to free Nazanin. It’s nearing 4 million signatures, so please help to push it to that number.

So there we are, another week, another milestone, with congratulations once more to Saifidin. Each week brings us closer to Chaparda, and we keep all of our World Medicine friends, colleagues and patients there firmly in our minds and sights. It may be another year before we meet again, but this challenge keeps them close.

This week our teams collectively walked 376 miles so well done to all involved. Shorter days and deteriorating weather mean it’s not always easy to get motivated, so we’re all the more grateful that you are!

Enjoy the week ahead.