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Dear Educational Traveller,
28 January 2017
Iman Mosque, Isfahan

We are delighted that our Persia & Iran - Past & Present is proving to be so popular and space is limited, so do register quickly to avoid disappointment. This is an exciting destination with a number of World Heritage sites and a people keen to make contact with the outside world. The country boasts a rich and varied culture and is today at the heart of power in the Middle East. This is an great time to visit Iran. Our tour, departing 14 April, is already guaranteed and will be led by popular and experienced Program Leader, Peter Burns

Peter will also be leading our regular but equally as enthralling Journey to the 'Stans' in Central Asia, which I am pleased to announce is now also guaranteed. This program departs in August and features the awe-inspiring cities of the ancient Silk Route, such as Bishkek, Khiva, Mary, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent, whilst exploring the idiosyncratic but fascinating countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As an added bonus, Kazakhstan is this year hosting the World Fair in its splendid new capital of Astana and we are offering our participants a short extension package to visit this once-in-a lifetime experience.     


Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
(As a short aside, we would like to point out that for us at Golden Compass Tours, once a tour is a guaranteed departure, it will definitely operate. Some other operators may have pre-guaranteed tours or even guaranteed tours which may later cancel. However, we really appreciate the disappointment and inconvenience which this may cause and instead, will let you know when a tour is close to being guaranteed in order to encourage you to book.)

Many of you will have already met Peter at our Travel Forums or travelled with him, as he has led a number of our tours to the Scottish Islands, Eastern Europe and to the 'Stans', as well as tours to India and the Caucasus. However, we thought it may be interesting for Peter to tell you a little about his life in "retirement" in Apollo Bay as a Community Ambulance Officer and his experiences looking after groups of US educational travellers to Australia, as well as leading our  educational small group tours designed for like-minded Australians and New Zealanders to many exotic destinations around the world. I hope you will enjoy the short article he has written below.   
 On the Road to Persia and the ‘Stans' - by Peter Burns
Peter Burns
To all of our Golden Compass family across New Zealand and Australia, I send you my best greetings for a great start to the New Year.

The summer season is in full swing down here on the Victorian Coast.  Our small town of Apollo Bay swells from a base population of around 1,500 to over 12,000 during the summer school holidays.  

Summers were always hectic when I worked for Parks Victoria, but since I left the Public Service three years ago, I seem to be almost as busy. While not working full time, I have been able to do more tours with both Golden Compass and a large USA based travel organisation. For the latter, I am the site coordinator for the numerous groups that travel through Melbourne from November through to April.  

UNESCO World Heritage Site of ancient Nisa
Coupled with this work, I continue to work for Ambulance Victoria as a Community Ambulance Officer, which I have now been doing for 26 years.  Up until 6 years ago, the ambulance service in Apollo Bay was run by trained volunteers, with the assistance of a paramedic over the summer holidays.  However, our case load has increased so much that we now have a permanent 24/7 paramedic, who is always on call with one of our Community Ambulance Officers.  

I am looking forward very much to leading the Golden Compass tour to Iran in April - Persia & Iran: Past & Present (15 nights). In August, I will also be leading my third trip to the ‘Stans' on Journey to the ‘Stans in Central Asia (26 nights).

This will be my first trip to Iran although I have been nearby several times, having travelled overland from Turkey, through the Caucasian countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and finished on the Caspian Sea just to the north of Iran. The ‘Stans' journey travels from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, through Uzbekistan and into Turkmenistan.  Near Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of ancient Nisa.  This is the seat of the Parthian (‘old Persian”) kings, who reigned in this area around 250BC.  The hills behind the site are the modern border with Iran.
Samarkand, Uzbekistan
I have found that the people of Central Asia are the friendliest and most welcoming of all people that I have ever met. Family is a core value to Islam. I have never felt so welcomed in family homes, bazaars, and at the numerous cultural and historic sites that we visit.  The locals do not see many Australians or the very exotic New Zealanders in outer Kazakhstan or in the remote hills of Kyrgyzstan. Most  people know that all important thing about Australia, the kangaroo. New Zealand is harder to understand. Rugby is not a well known sport here. 

A school group in the Uzbekistan capital Tashkent is more intent on meeting our Golden Compass group of Australians and New Zealanders than learning about Amir Timur, the 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror and the founder of the Timurid Empire in Central Asia and Persia. Their teacher was more than happy for the group to try out their English with us. At home we seem to be invisible to the youth: in Central Asia, we are minor celebrities.

A local school group in Tashkent Pegman Local Butcher










 A simple act of buying some pegs in the Bishkek market in Kyrgyzstan forges a new friendship with the most obliging and helpful hardware man, or the “Pegman’, as we referred to him for many days later. And in the meat market, I learn all about the various cuts of Yak meat from another most friendly local butcher.

At the World Heritage Site at Old Merv, I met these gentlemen, who were quite amazed that we had come all the way from Australia to visit Turkmenistan. While some of the ladies in our group met up with these immaculately dressed local Turkic women who had come on a spiritual pilgrimage to Old Merv.















The ‘Stans’ tour is visually spectacular, as I know that Iran will be too. I also know that you will come away with a great connectedness to the many and various people you will meet along the way, as you will be treated as an honoured guest. So come and find out what it is like in modern day Iran, as well as seeing some of the world’s finest architecture and cultural monuments and travelling through some of the world’s oldest settlements.

Peter Burns
And if you would like another unforgettable adventure, come and join me in the ‘Stans’ in August where we will travel through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on another fascinating journey.

I can promise you that not only will the tours be educational and inspiring, but you will have some serious fun.

Best wishes to you all for a most fulfilling 2017.

Peter Burns
Golden Compass Program Leader
Apollo Bay Victoria 

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