I am standing tip-toe on a newly established highline outside of Shiraz. This place is a playground for highliners, clean cliffs and canyons as far as the eye can see, a glimpse of water and greenery below. I curl my toes inside of my four year old All Stars, the soles and grommets ripped from them long ago. I never wear shoes on a slackline anymore but it is necessary now so as not to walk sock-footed in my rainbow striped leggings.
I should be thinking about how improbable it is for me to be standing here in this moment; more than 1000 ft above the valley floor with the sun beginning to fade over the ridge behind us, filming a documentary about highlining in Iran with friends we met through Facebook. I should be enjoying the view, soaking in the last rays of sun. For a moment I do remember my concern waiting for my visa application to be processed in the Iranian interests office in DC, anxious that after all of this planning someone could just say “no” and that would be that. The recollection only lasts a second though. The line shivers and I twitch a muscle in response to hold the pose for the photo and once again my thoughts refocus. My past fears and current satisfaction both vanish and all I can think of is how out of practice I am at walking in shoes and how incredibly distracting they are now.
We arrived in Iran on October 17th at 2:50 am. Almost all of the flights come in at that time, regardless of point of origin. As the flight landed the women around us put on their scarves if they weren’t already wearing them, and Jade and I followed suit. After more than an hour in line at passport control and a curious twenty minutes of questions and photocopies, the entire Crossing Lines team, plus gear, was comfortably stuffed into Kiavash’s car for the three hour drive to his home in Arak, James Blunt incongruously playing on the stereo.
After a day in Arak with Kia’s family, we headed to Bisotun for the first international highline festival in Iran and attend the Bisotun International Rock Climbing Festival. With slackliners from France (Theo Sanson, Nathan Paulin, Lola Wurcht, ToMa Flip, Francois Allard), Austria (Reini Klendi), and Poland (Jan Galek), we established two new lines overlooking the Bisotun Caravanserai.
From there we regrouped in Arak, drove to Shiraz where we found a fantastic new playground and established the first line there. After two weeks of eating almost nothing but kebabs, “what should we have for dinner” had become a running joke. This new line was destined to be named “No more kebab”. The guys claim that we’ll be naming a line in the states “No more McDonald’s” but we’ll see about that.
Overall, it was a wonderful, inspiring trip. There were a few hiccups along the way, mostly involving our transportation, but as someone famously said at the beginning of the trip, “It’s not an adventure until everything goes wrong.” Thanks Jade.
Iran was incredible. In the literal sense, difficult to believe. Despite having spent more than a year planning this trip, reading about the country, practicing the language and getting to know our teammates, we were still blown away by the hospitality and genuine friendship that surrounded us everywhere we went. We cannot express our gratitude enough. For the extensive efforts put forth by Ebrahim, the organizer of the Bisotun climbing festival who helped us secure our visas, we will be forever grateful. To Kiavash’s family who took us in, fed us, entertained us, and helped us to celebrate four birthdays in one fantastic balloon filled party, kheyli mamnun. I can’t say that one loud enough. I once teased Mohammad for using three different forms of “thank you” in a single sentence, yet now I think perhaps I need to take lessons from him in order to be able to properly express myself. To Mehdi who helped us renew our visas and generally acted as our liason, thank you so very much. But you still can’t have my kidneys. To our sponsors and supporters (especially slackPro who was gracious enough to provide us with a highlineGrip and Slack.fr who were instrumental in helping Iran Slackline to form in the first place, as well as Balance Community, Landcruising, and GoPro) and to our Indigogo campaign contributors who helped us to replace the equipment Iran Slackline lost in a theft last winter, you made this possible. Thank you so much. And most of all, to everyone we met along the way, kheyli mamnun, be omide dadar.