Here’s a quick look at some moments in the last few years and perhaps a transition from being a hard nosed and ‘grizzled’ media operative to a mellower, more hedonistic me.
Is it age or just weariness from all the things you see after ten years of full on media work in the most troubled region in the world?
I like the latter just because I’m not so chuffed about the former.
Stewart Meets Ghost Bikes
So here I am in Cyprus, never been much of a cyclist, but on occasion rented bikes to get around cities. Then I bumped into this Ghost bike and things took a turn. More details about buying the Ghost bike here. And a bit more here.
By the time I’d taken this picture (above) I’d had the bike about a week or ten days.
I bout the bike in Limassol (Cyprus, where I was on holiday) and seeing as I’d bought it on impulse and spent way more than I’d ever bargained for on a bike, and was therefore in the throes of buyer’s remorse, I decided to take a nice ride and try it out.
Three days later I was in Paphos, some 60 km away.
Yes yes, everyone finds it funny that it took me three days to go 60 km but I was meandering, stopping for coffee, beer, and taking pictures and just crashed on beaches as I went along.
Like I said, I had no intention of cycling from Limassol (across the Troodos foothills) to Paphos.
I just went for a bike ride.
And Come back for More
I returned to Cyprus in the winter and had left the bike at the store where I bought it.
As an excuse not to buy it I told the guy that I don’t live in Cyprus and didn’t have a place to keep it when I left.
He offered to store it for me in in warehouse – and that was it.
Still new to cycling, I was confronted by near gale force winds in the Cypriot winter and loved every moment.
I was officially hooked on travel / cycling, and plans started to grow in my head about what to do next.
A Few Years Earlier in Afghanistan
This here picture was in Kabul on one of the regular visits I made to Afghanistan between 2006 and 2010.
Media people, I found, always seemed to be very scruffy, as though the less attention they paid to their appearance the better their journalism.
Certainly practical clothes are important on the road and in the conditions I (and most other foreign media correspondents) travelled and lived in. But I thought I must develop a nonchalant kind of stylish dress, and this picture, taken by an Afghani tourist photographer (you know, one of these guys with a polaroid offering pictures), was my first manifestation of that style.
Nice white ironed shirt for that casual businessy feel, practical (tactical) pants, and full on boots that are essential when you have no idea what kind of terrain or weather you’re going to be in the next day or week.
Remember, this was a period when I was practically living from hotel in one country to hotel in another. SO packing, and what you carry, had to be extremely efficient and functional.
Especially since I also lugged around a back pack full of electronics needed for my work, from cameras, laptop, satellite transmitters, radios, and a small world of paraphernalia.
I call the outfit guerilla chick and it became a bit of a trade mark.
Graveyard for Heavy Weapons in Baghdad
This looks like one of my later visits to Iraq, probably around 2006 or 2007 because these expensive Oakley shades were nicked from me by a baboon, according to informed sources (that would be park rangers) in souther Burkina Faso, Africa, in 2009.
There was (is, actually) this huge jusnk yard of heavy weapons south of Baghdad where I visited with several journalists and television crews for the amazing visuals.
Also, by my relaxed demeanor, this was after the insurgency had peaked between 2004 and 2008.
That was a period when security concerns would have way outweighed the desire for a cool picture in such an exposed location.
Previously I was in Lebanon
This was during the Israeli bombardment of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
The picture was taken by the talented photographer, writer, activist, and general more of a busy body than any one human being has the right to be, Sheryl Mendez of New York.
During that period we’d slept on beaches, in fishermans’ homes and practically anywhere we could while dodging projectiles from both sides.
Immediately After the Iraqi War of 2003
The above picture was late in 2003, just after Saddam’s regime had fallen (or given up) to American led allied invasion forces.
We’d decided to join a convoy departing Baghdad to the safety of Kuwait. There was very little fuel in Iraq (and who wanted to stop and fill petrol where and make oneself an easy target) so we carried our own in tankd on the roofs of our cars.
I’m generally disinclined to high profile security escorted convoys like this because, as my assessments were later proved correct, they are high profile and basically magnets fro any insurgents, bandits, and any other goodies.
At the height of the insurgency between 2004 and 2008, convoys like this were attacked daily.
Me, I prefer to blend.
These Two are Back in Lebanon During the Israeli Bombardment
This was taken by Sheryl exiting one of the fisherman houses we rented and stayed in.
Note the trademark smart top with scruffy rest.
Below was probably on the same day waiting for an attack outside a hospital.
By the quality of the photography this wasn’t taken by Sheryl but probably Martin Chulov, the Middle East correspondent for The Guardian and someone who became a good friend and with whom many adventures were subsequently had.
It is one of the rare times I wore the heavy, cumbersome, hot, and controversial flak gear that I’d hauled with me all over the Middle East to the great glee of every customs agent I ran into.
It had lasted with me from the Iraq days.