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Week 33

First of all, Happy Birthday to Alison! 60 today I understand!! Very many happy returns from all of us on the Chaparda Challenge, and we wish you continued progress with your own personal challenge of getting back your health and strength. We’re sending lots of love to York…

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Mike Freeman

Our teams have enjoyed some steady progress again this week. Special mention must be made to Mike Freeman in Australia, though, who has clocked up 150 miles on his bicycle in the past three weeks, giving the snow leopards a great push forward. they’re now only 50 miles or so behind the wee monkeys and we hope they catch up soon so as to give each other companionship through those long desert miles. More on the desert reality of Iran later in the diary, but for now, let’s have a quick check in on the tigers.

They’re continuing to make their way through Serbia and are travelling along the route of the Morava river, on the western edge of the river’s enormous flood plain. It’s a very fertile valley but susceptible to flooding from any of the three rivers that make up the Morava proper. There are few very large settlements of any note because of this constant threat of flood, and the road south hugs the Juhor mountain range to the west to give it some protection. 

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Vineyards of Smederevo Grapes

A vast array of crops are grown here – it’s known as “the granary of Central Serbia” and for good reason – it produces everything from corn, wheat, sugar beet, sunflowers, fruits, grapes (the Smederevo variety), fodder plants and livestock feed. In what is an all too familiar story today, the valley was once a vast forest but now there’s none of that left, and it’s all been turned into arable land.

Meanwhile, in Iran the water situation is of a very different order. As far from the threat of flooding as you can get, both our snow leopard and wee monkey teams find themselves in an area of the country suffering its worst drought ever. Both teams are just to the east of the very beautiful city of Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, with its amazing Khaju Bridge, our featured image for this week. With such a magnificent bridge one would expect a magnificent river to flow under it.

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Protesters at the Khaju Bridge, (photo from France24)

But this week thousands of protesters stood together in the dry river bed to protest about the severe  drought that has gripped the whole region. It’s an impressive but depressing sight. Compare this to the image at the top of the diary. Their chants were “plundered for 20 years” and “the water must return”. Essentially, mismanagement of the water resources, and the lack of rainfall for many years, has led to the river having no water under the iconic bridge since 2000. Iran is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, and water levels in the country’s lakes and reservoirs have halved over the past year. It looks like the desert that we described in last week’s diary is set to expand, but the cost in human suffering will be immense.

If our two teams did visit Isfahan in better times they’d be in for a great treat. Click this link to be taken to a page listing 20 of the best things to do there – it’s an architectural extravaganza as the page heading says, and a place to give great insight into the beauty of Persian buildings.

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Green Sea Turtle Conservation in the Gulf of Oman

Off to the south our peacocks are nearing the border with Pakistan, after a marathon trek through Iran. They’re not there yet, but there’s not much of Iran left to cover – to give a sense of this, they’re now walking through the  Bahukelato Nature Reserve, a large expanse of wildlife habitat that is home to, among other creatures, wetland crocodiles , desert warblers and green sea turtles. Crocodiles and sea turtles! That can only mean they’re close to the sea!! To the Gulf of Oman to be precise, where they may want to stop and take a well deserved dip in the sea at Pasabandar beach.

Next week, all being well, we’ll cross with them into Pakistan. We’re close to inducting new members of the 1000 mile club as well, so that may also happen next week. Let’s wait and see.

I mentioned Mike’s 150 miles on the bicycle that was recorded this week, so it’s pushed what we add to the diary mileage to over 600 miles – 608 to be precise, so a big well done to everyone. Also, I’m happy to say that fundraising has kicked off again, with £60 being donated this week, pushing our total raised to £4837. Maybe a wee push from everyone to get us over the £5000 marker?!

Whatever you do, have a great week, and if it’s starting to feel a bit cold, just walk faster!