Eric Smart, the ME Association's fundraising ambassador-on-a-bike, is today ending days of waiting for a visa to enter Iran – by letting a plane take the strain as he travels from Baku, the Aberbaijan oil town on the shores of the Caspian Sea, to Karachi in Pakistan, via a short stop-off in Dubai.
He had hoped to cycle all the way from Aberdeen to Australia but delays in obtaining permission to cycle through Iran have finally forced his hand.
In an email sent first thing this morning to family, friends and supporters, he writes: "I was assured my recent visa application for Iran was guaranteed but they could not guarantee the day and with my Azerbaijan visa running out – which I was not prepared to renew – I decided to call a halt to the waiting.
"I was a little disappointed after all the effort and time spent trying to get it– the first application was back in November! Also, my instincts are usually quite good so that is a little surprising too that I did not get it. Maybe it is just that I had to let go of cycling all the way…many things are meshing about in my mind but it is time to move on and get back to some cycling. I feel I have had more stops than a set of traffic lights."
He is planning to fly out to Dubai at 10pm tonight, and is hoping arrangements can be made so his cycle can be carried with him. He will have an eight-hour stop-over in Dubai before catching a flight to Karachi.
"I arrive late morning and intend to start cycling immediately. I shall travel right up the middle of the country to Lahore, then cross over into India. I have a thirty day visa for Pakistan and a six month one for India, which started ticking immediately I got it!"
In Baku, he met several people from Aberdeen who work in Aberbaijan's booming oil industry. On one memorable evening, he took part in a Baku Ex-Pats Pub Quiz Night – with the proceeds being donated to the ME Association. So far he has raised well over £7,000 towards the MEA through personal donations to his fundraising page at http://www.justgiving.com/ericsmart and special events put on by supporters.
Eric set off from Aberdeen in May last year and hopes to reach his destination – Adelaide in south Australia – sometime next year. We continue to wish him well and thank him for his epic fundraising work.