AMA #2: Unforgettable Memories

Today, my friend Izzat asks me to

“Tell us about unforgettable memories from each country”.

Before I ramble happily onwards, it is important you know this is a quite impossible request.

Unless I write out dozens – scores, even – of memories I consider unforgettable, many of which I will be attending to in other answers.

So I will be giving you some unforgettable memories that I think I probably won’t have the opportunity to write about in other pieces.

I will keep it quite short and I will keep it very sweet.



Absolutely unforgettable was the experience of waking up at 3am in the Tian Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.

I picked the most beautiful spot, but also the coldest spot to sleep in

I was shivering when I woke up, the leg most exposed to the cold completely numb.

My two friends, Yuu and Nitin, were all but hugging the fire we had made and cooked food with before I went to sleep a few hours ago.

Nitin, in his desperation, came so close to the fire that it burned his jacket.

Yuu was hilariously, ornately unprepared for our trip, arriving in loafers, with spuds, vodka and cigarettes.

I need to join them by the fire, and have to fumble for some time with the zip on my sleeping bag, which is encrusted with ice.

The scene was glorious.

Beauty below, blazing stars above.

Silence gently enhanced by the crackling of the fire and trickle of the river.

The freezing water running right past my sleeping spot, mountains stretching up all around us, a tree leaning over our spot, my two friends shivering pathetically by the fire.

It was achingly beautiful, and pretty funny, and will forever echo through eternity for me.

Or at least be etched into my memory.

Or both.

Morning glory

That morning we walked the two hours bridging night and day back towards civilisation, watching the stars disappear, the sun rise, and the whole character of the mountains and the river and the trees and rocks change.

Unforgettable morning.


Waking up at Stihia Festival, in the Aral Sea, formerly one of the biggest inland seas in the world before it was drained by a botched Soviet attempt at using it for irrigation.

Soviet fishing boat skeletons in the now-parched Aral Sea basin

My feet are hanging out of a cheap camo tent that Henry and I purchased for our hitchhiking trip through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, where we now find ourselves.

Henry and I are already sweating in the heat.

And we already hear the sound of techno music…

Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom bo-bo-boom boom boom boom boom boom boom…

We begin dancing, still lying on our backs.

The music sounds really quite close by.

As we emerge from our tent, we see the lovely and the glorious Svetlana, AKA Techno Babushka, a woman bursting with energy and love, a wondrous soul, cigarette in one hand and vodka bottle in the other, already partying away with Papa Yura and the Vigorous Party Horse that was Oleg.

We join them for a breakfast of beer and vodka in Svetlana’s tent, and we dance and party like it’s 10am in the morning in the deserts of Uzbekistan.

The Author, Techno Babushka and Vigorous Oleg doing morning right


Halfway up a mountain, we are going to the pool of my Kurdish friend’s relatives.

The views are not ever going to be done justice by my phone’s camera, but they go some way in showing the sheer scope of the place. Epic, truly epic.

Magnificent mountains of Rwanduz, Kurdistan

There were three young Kurdish boys there, brothers or cousins.

One is a teenager. Bespectacled, quiet and mature, pacing around with his arms behind his back like Kurds do, with one hand holding and thumbing prayer beads.

The other two boys are between 8 and 10. They wrestle and play excitedly together. Then they pray together. Then all three eat and drink sat on the floor together.

The pool there was filled with water running off the mountain, on the peak of which there can still be seen a dusting of snow this time of year, despite the searing heat halfway down.

The most beautiful and refreshing plunge I’ve had in a long time

I am a cold-blooded animal. My blood comes from the island of Guernsey and the coast of Ireland. I swam throughout the last three winters. I need to feel the sea, the cold, the wind, the rain.

So you can imagine my exhilaration, after suffering the 45 degree heat of Erbil and 35 degree heat of Rwanduz, and how intensely refreshing it was to plunge into that fresh mountain water, and feel that cold in my bones.

The scene, with the mountains, the peaceful children playing and praying, the water refreshing me as I’ve never been before, was truly unforgettable.


I have seen precious few things with my own eyes that begin to approach in scale and symmetry, in sheer magnificence and godlike grandeur, the Temples of Baccus and Jupiter in Lebanon.

For scale, try to spot the people next to the pillars

Lebanon has a shrugged shoulders approach to their unfeasibly rich heritage, so we basically had the run of the place for two hours.

It was not nearly enough to take it all in.

My old man says, “Roman architecture exudes power.”

He couldn’t be more correct.

I was rendered speechless most of the time. Can you see why?

Exuding power with size and symmetry

I stood next to a toppled pillar, the width of which was at least half my height. My eyes could barely capture the scope of the spectacle, never mind my Dad’s old phone camera.

Whilst there, whilst speechless, I could understand exactly why, after the fall of the Roman civilisation, the Medievals thought they were the product of a historical decline.

We in this epoch often think of ourselves as a pinnacle of progress. Rightly so – from a purely technological standpoint.

How they managed this at that time will forever be beyond my full comprehension

The Romans built this 2,000 years ago when plague and war and malaria were rampant, ever-present realities.

Has any such beauty and grandeur been build by our civilisation recently?


Waking up on a cliff path in the woods in Kabak with my friend.

My bag would have fallen off that cliff, if it were not for some robust and rather kind shrubbery.

We collected our things and made instantly for the beach, on which I had slept the night before, leaving our bags on the white sand and going straight into the sea.

Worse places to wake up than Kabak cove

Swimming out to the cliffs on the left side of the cove, we approach a cave.

I climb onto the rocks which prevent direct entry, and I see the deepness of the cave pool, iridescent in the morning sun.

It was completely still, but seemed to shimmer with the sun’s rays; beams plunging into an impossible azure colour. A colour I have never seen with my eyes before, save for on TV advertisements.

I dive into the pool, opening my eyes in the salty water, and let myself be still, soaking in the moment. That colour and that moment I will never, ever forget.


Tbilisi was a gorgeous, civilised, artsy, living city, bordered by hills and mountains.

The waterfall is hidden within the dense botanical gardens

A couple of times I hopped on the cable-car that run you up to the ridge of one mountain. Arriving at the ridge, on one side of you is a 4th century fortress, which one can freely explore, and the other side the Mother of Georgia, a gigantic statue of the nation’s mythical matriarch, Kartlis Deda.

But over the lip of the ridge is a botanical garden, in which one can find fresh, cool air, all sorts of flora, and hear the sound of a waterfall somewhere…

That waterfall was unforgettable, cascading loudly off the rockface into a small pool between, dense green trees.

Both times I visit, I strip smartly to my underwear and approach it.

The water is quite warm, but pleasantly cooling compared to Tbilisi’s summer heat.

I stand underneath it, the water lashing onto my bald head and back and shoulders, and my mind is completely cleared, my soul stilled. Glorious, unforgettable feeling.

Having read that back, I’ve just realised three of those memories included water.

I think I am missing the Guernsea.

Tune in for another AMA tomorrow.

Merry Monday, shags.

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