Mohammad Tajeran, from Iran, has bicycled to many countries in his lifetime – Cambodia, Palestine, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh...In each, the environmental activist has planted trees.
Mohammad has now made the trip to Armenia – also on a "green" mission with the motto, "Trees are Indispensable."
He arrived by bike back on March 24 and will soon be off, pedalling to Georgia.
While in Armenia, Mohammad has visited schools, met with the pupils, and planted trees together. He's also hooked up with green activists here in Armenia and participated in tree plantings and other events designed to raise environbmental awareness.
"If humans learn to commune with nature, then they become more in tune and at peace internally. This is so important especially in this technological age in which we live. The natural world can provide answers to our most comp[licated questions," Mohammad says.
The year was 2006. Mohammad decided to chuck in his job as an engineer and take to the road by bicycle. For five years after graduating from university in the Iranian city of Mashad, the young man worked at his profession, but he longed for the outdoors. He went in for mountain climbing and then took up bicycling as an escape from the drudgery of professional work.
"Whatever you do, be your best at it," he says."Make it your life and your lifestyle. If one doesn't like to travel and doesn't appreciate the wonders of nature, then forget about it. You won't get anywhere."
After crossing the Iran-Armenia border, Mohammad made his way through the towns of Agarak, Goris, Kapan, Sisian and eventually Yerevan.
He recalls the night he spent in the village of Spandaryan and the difficulty he had communicating with the locals. Turns out the villagers didn't speak English.
Armenian Hospitality Impresses Mohammad
It was so cold that the traveler couldn't pitch a tent. A local family, seeing Mohammad's sorry state, invited him inside their ramshackle home. Mohammed was given their son's bed to sleep in.
"It really hits home when people share the little they have with strangers. They open their door to you and you enter their world and get a glimpse of how they live," Mohammad says.
This is how he gets to know various people and cultures during his various travels.
The Armenian family used picture to teach Mohammad some simple but very useful words – sun, rain, mountain, road, day, night, etc. He also learned to count to ten in Armenian Many Mountains to Climb
Before arriving in Yerevan, Mohammad traveled a mountainous road. He calculates climbing over 5,000 miles. The first impression he got after entering Armenia was how sparsely populated it is.
"I didn't know what the population of Armenia is. When I travel to a country, I really don't do any homework on the background. I leave all that to the impressions I collect along the way. One has certain expectations if you go with certain information. Knowing next to little, everything is new and unexpected, Mohammad explains.
He was also impressed with the degree of hospitality shown by Armenians and their openness to others.
As he was bicycling through Meghri, an old man on the road called to him. Mohammad rode back and accepted the old man's invitation to tea.
"Meeting such hospitality leaves a good impression that affects the rest of the journey," Mohammad says.
Reaching Yerevan, the Iranian traveler was impressed with the abundance of flowers everywhere – the people selling flowers on the street and in people's homes. Flowers, he says, signify happiness, and people present flowers on happy occasions.
He was disappointed that there aren't more people riding bikes in Yerevan. People must learn that their city can be much cleaner if they trade in their cars for bikes. Mohammad points out that Yerevan is ideal for bike riding – it is a small city and not hilly. You can easily get from one end of the city to the other by bike and not pollute. Mohammad also points out that traffic is much lighter in Yerevan than Tehran and getting around by bike would be a piece of cake.
Garni's "Symphony of Stones" Fate Concerns Mohammad
Garni took Mohammad's breath away. But he was also taken aback. Mohammad never shies away from mentioning the negative.
He regards the "Symphony of Stones" at Garni as a unique natural wonder that compares to the cliffs he saw in Scotland. Tourists, he told me, pay to visit those cliffs in Scotland. Here in Armenia, it's free but people turn the place into a garbage dump.
"As a tourist, I would prefer not to pay such an entrance fee. But the money collected could be used to keep such sites trash free."
"I nearly broke down and cried when I saw the chipped stones and the garbage below. That tragic sight will remain with me," Mohammad writes about Armenia.
Mohammad says that some countries, New Zealand for example, take these issues to heart and can proudly display their natural wonders to the world. As a result, these countries are able to profit from eco-tourism.
"I will be leaving in a few days but Armenia is one of those countries on my list to return to. But will the Symphony of Stones be here to see when I do?" Mohammad asks warily.