Norwegian Food 2!

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I think eating this will send you to sit on one!

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The fabled land of Persia!

Parade Ground Tehran

I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks touring Iran, a country I knew little about and one that I visited with more than a little trepidation.

What a surprise! Contrary to popular western media portrayals of a country filled with angry militants brandishing AK47’s in the air while dancing on a burning US flag, in fact the people are the most welcoming, friendly and hospitable people I have come across for a long time.

I lost count of the number of times we were welcomed and thanked for visiting the country. We were constantly invited to join people for meals and repeatedly told to tell our friends to visit as well and experience the real Iran.

The country is one of contrasts. Where women have to cover their head with the hijab, but have turned it into a glamorous fashion accessory coupled with makeup worthy of a Hollywood red carpet. Where much of the countryside is desert but the cities are veritable Gardens of Eden filled with flowers and fruit trees. Where politicians have historically spouted anti-western rhetoric yet the populace drink Coke and Pepsi and wear Abercrombie & Fitch. Where FB is banned but everyone wants to “friend you”.

The fact that both the Boss, a stunning beauty of South Indian descent, and me, a ruggedly handsome Caucasian 😉 from the Antipodes, were often mistaken for Iranians speaks volumes about the ethnic diversity of the country.

It’s truly a fascinating country and has a long and varied history stretching back thousands of years.
Everywhere you look you see beauty, whether it is the strikingly attractive Iranian people, the stunning and incredibly varied countryside, or the cities themselves. Tehran with it’s backdrop of snowclad mountains, Esfahan with it’s beautifully lit bridges and avenues of Mulberry trees, Shiraz with it’s streets lined with orange trees, Mashhad with miles and miles of rose gardens lining it’s roads.

Art seems to run in the Iranian people’s veins, evident by the public sculptures and artwork you see everywhere, whether it be on the roadside or within public parks. Colorful lights decorate most parks and gardens at nights and people spend time in the cooler hours picnicking in the parks, singing Iranian folk songs, while sipping tea and smoking from the qalyan or hookah.

Despite family members concerns for my safety I felt safer here than in many a European city at night.

A country I would love to revisit and if you haven’t been already, one to put on your bucket list.

Watch this space as I will be posting more about my travels in this fabulous country over the coming weeks

The Day A Leopard Ate The Boss For Breakfast – Almost!

Leopard

The time came for us to leave Kaziranga in Assam and take the 6-7 hour drive into the hills of Nagaland for our next stop in Kohima.

However our dashing and fearless tour leader, Rohan (rumored to be the inspiration behind the Jason Statham – Transporter films), had a little detour planned for us. While out “networking” the night before, he had bumped into some staff from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and using his considerable silver tongued charms had managed to wrangle an invite for all of us to visit.

Kaziranga Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation

The Centre does a lot of great work, rescuing, sick, injured and orphaned animals, nursing them back to health, before releasing them back into the wild.

A young volunteer gave us a tour explaining what they were doing and the processes involved, before finally leading us to the leopard enclosure where 3 leopards were being cared for, one baby and two adults.

The Boss, unable to contain her excitement upon spying the ‘big fluffy pussycat’ had to be restrained from putting her hands inside the enclosure to pat the animal. After all what use would The Boss without hands be to me? Who would massage the knots out of my tired shoulders after a day spent thumbing through the books on my Kindle?

One of the adult leopards was quite docile, but the other was angry and distinctly annoyed at our presence, constantly pacing back and forth in it’s enclosure, snarling away.

After a few minutes spent taking photos and marveling at the majesty of these big cats, we prepared to leave and it is then that I witnessed a sight, the memory of which has woken me on many a night, bathed in sweat and shaking with fear.

The Boss strayed a couple of feet too close to the angry leopard and in a split second the cat had covered the 10 meters from the other side of the enclosure in a single silent bound. Thankfully the first the Boss knew of it was not a pair of sharp incisors sinking into her neck but the sound of a huge adult leopard bouncing off the wire link fence that made up the leopard’s enclosure.

The speed and sheer power of the cat’s movement was an incredible sight to behold as I stood frozen in awe, The Boss making her exit as fast as her gazelle like legs would allow.

I will never forget that sight (the leopard, not the Boss’s legs) and it has given me new-found respect for this majestic animal.

A change of underwear all around, we thanked the staff and headed off on our journey to Kohima.

English Literature – Not what it used to be!

 

Shakespeare

Pic Courtesy Wikipedia

The Boss and I were spending a couple of days in a home-stay in the beautiful Chikmagalur Hills, a major coffee growing region of Southern India.

Every evening the owners would light a bonfire and the guests would sit around for a chat before dinner.

One evening in conversation with a young lady, she mentioned that she had a degree in English Literature. This was the second time in two months I was meeting someone in a remote rural area who professed to a love of English literature!

Intrigued and wanting to learn more I asked her who her favorite English writers were.

“Shakespeare” came the standard answer.

Well everyone says that, I thought to myself, so probing deeper I asked her if there was anyone else.

“Let me think” she said, pausing for a minute.

“Oh yes! Taylor Swift”