Friday, February 13, 2009
Its been a while coming and I have spent the last week sleeplessly debating it non stop. Even talking the points out loud in the tent at night to make sure I was arguing both sides properly haaa. So I am happy that its the right thing to do. I am also glad it was a solo trip because with all my changes in plans I am sure I would of lost a friend haaa.
I am stopping, for now, because I have had enough of cycling. I have loved the hard work on the bike but what I most enjoyed has been the sense of being out in the elements in the wild. But its a sense I dont get too often, well maybe I should of cycled off somewhere more remote I hear ye say. Its the fact of being on a road, a permanent highway of people and machines. Thats what takes away from the wild aspect of the trip. The fact that no matter where I cycle there are always cars or people. Its a revalation of the trip, maybe I should of known that there would be cars and people on roads eh!
But I did not know how much I would enjoy the lonely times in the middle of nowhere, no machines, no lights or people. Camping out in silence under the stars. I have experienced it in most countries and more so in Morocco. I wanted to know what it felt like and how much I would like it. I absolutely loved it! My head is actually close to bursting with memories. The blog has captured only a few seconds of a few days so you can imagine how full my head is.
What made me smile so often was seeing my shadow being cast on snow, sand and water. The romantic notion of lonely adventurous travel. Well I got a little taster of adventure at times and now I realise I want a bigger drink.
What I enjoyed most has been my reaction to certain events and landscapes. One of the most positive was my change of direction in Morocco. It was litterally the answer I was looking for out of this trip. Having planned out an amazing route through the mountains and back up towards Marakech, Casablanca and back to Tangier, I came upon the most inspiring view of my life. Just the biggest mind shattering landscape unlike anything I have ever seen. One that gives you goose bumps that dont just tingle but actually rattle your body. To have a voice inside actually speak to you and tell you "we want to go there". Then another voice says "wow that would be a real adventure eh". Lots of voices eh, it was almost a fecking discussion going on haaa. To take that turn was to find out what I want in life. I want go home because I now know I can go anywhere in the world and for now thats back to the madhouse!
So what next I hear you all shout. I will probably keep the blog going if I feel I am getting up to enough silly things. I always intended this trip to be a bit of a training boot camp for future trips. So I intend to keep training when I get home as I feel a more physical trip into nature is next up. I have also read over my blog posts and I think I really should work on my spelling! Then I will probably publish a book about the epic and perilous journey to Africa, sign a movie deal, do the talk show circuit and collect a National Geographic award. Then I will probably try find another bullshit job in a recession stricken country and head for wilder pastures. I will definetly not list what I have planned as that will no doubt change a hundred times before I even get home on Friday.
Thanks for everything guys!
Monday, February 9, 2009
The wind was an absolute dream come through, easily the most fierce thing I have experienced so far in my life. With nothing in its way it just roars over the plains undisturbed. Its what I expected though, plus a whole lot stronger than I thought haaa. It was the last part of Morocco I knew was out there, its why I headed into this part of the country. For two and a half days I saw nothing but sand, tufts of grass and an occasional bush and the straighest road of all time stretching to the horizon. Of course cars and buses too haaa sending me flying off the road in their turbulence haa. Up at 6.30am to get the coffee on and watch the sunrise eat some brekkie and on the road by 8am. I pushed and pushed and pushed and was flying along at the insane speed of 6km/hr. I knew I was not trying hard enough so I damn near had an fit trying to keep up a lofty 10km/hr. Getting blown off the road non stop, the sorest thing was my weak bloody wrists trying to keep the bike on a straight line haaa.
First sand storm, more of a sandy wind really ha
I dont really like to eat too much sand
I cant get enough of these guys
Shelter to cook one day was provided by a kind security guard of a solar powered radio mast. Poor guy must do his nut in out there on his own. Great banter out of him all the same. I did not expect this level of humour out of the Moroccans, really reminds me of Ireland. While cycling I could of course have cruised along at the stupid pace that the wind dictated but I wanted to beat the elements, or at least try. So for every single hour of the two and half days I gave it my all trying to get to Ain Benimathar, just to prove I could make it. The road is dead straight but they put in bends I suppose to wake sleepy drivers. That just teases me because you see a sign stating a bend to the east, which would hopefully put the wind kinda behind me but alas it was never to be. But that does not stop you thinking the same thing again and again everytime you see the sign haaa, its a mental feeling.
I can almost see the curvature of the planet
General electric abandoned railway line
My own mobile toilet
Finally rolled in after sunset, really fecking weak, picked up supplies and tried to find somewhere to camp haaa. Which is a nightmare in the dark so eventually I asked two men standing at the side of the road could I camp in his garden haaa, knowing more than likely I will score a bed haaa. Mohamed invited me in for dinner and a bed. From the outside the houses really are very boring and drab looking but inside they are stunning. The tiled floors are like something you would expect in a royal palace. Sitting on a sheep hide watching the father make the tea I was gobsmacked to see how much sugar they put in it. The sugar is in a 2kg compressed bullet/missile shape and they chip down into smaller chunks and keep it in a bowl. He put in two chunks, each the size of half a large orange! It is a wonderful tea and I love the whole setup and drama of the pouring.
cupping her hands like that, very cute
We had cous cous and chicken for dinner, three sons, the father and me diggin into a massive plate in the middle of the low table. They kept heaping more and more onto my side and I was only to delighted to impress them by out eating the lot of them combined. The gave me a good slagging for that. As I sat there after dinner, comfortably bloated, my legs ached and my knees were throbbing. Thats when I seen one of Mohameds daughters was in a wheel chair, she had no aching legs or even throbbing stumps. Kind of moment to remember how fortunate I am to have the money and body to do something like this. Made me appreciate my life even more.
Brushing my teeth in the funniest of places
Great character to the tress out here!
Getting back to some hills the wind has dissapeared and the sun is beating down. Time to chilax as the canucks say. Time once again for many unnecesary coffee breaks and to soak up the sun. Sitting on another rock eating some delish oranges, they are worth the effort by the way, I never even noticed a shepard with his flock of sheep nearby. I wave and get an eager wave back so I wander over and give him an orange. The people are so incredibly friendly I will miss it so much when I go to spain again to get my visa for Algeria. Anyway a little while later he has moved off from the road and into the hills and he starts to belt out a song. Sent a shiver up my spine it was that emotional and passionate, obviously no idea what he was singing about but as I sipped my coffee I knew that life right now is perfect.
Finally some hills on the horizon
The last couple of days in Morocco where spent in some of the most beautiful hills I have been in so far. Standing on top looking south over the plain I had just crossed I was already longing for them. I was half tempted to cycle back south and wander for longer around to see more and meet more people. I had many visions in my head of what Moroc would be like but none of them were based on experience, only what others told me or what I read about. In the 25 days I spent there I met more Moroccan people than I met in all of Europe combined. They waved more, smiled more and yet worked harder for less money, some in terrible conditions. Its a side to human nature I was not accustomed too. They spend much more time outdoors, they walk more, carry more and moan less from what I could see. I have made soo many friends I would love to meet again on the road but I know we will only ever meet again if I pass by their home. I think it would be nice in a few years to swing by again and try repay the enormous debt of hospitality I owe them.
Friday, February 6, 2009
A five star hotel in terms of shelter
The biggest cheer of the trip
Inside Lessans home
What an entrance eh
Home is sometimes a dried up watering hole
My abandoned mud village
A view of history
The road ahead
A communal oven for the famous bread, pronounced Chobs
Are you kidding me or what
A close knit bunch
Erosion is the running theme
The little beauty sang out to me here
Right on the road but if five cars passed all night I would be surprised
A world record broken, longest time waiting on a bus
People are everywhere eh
Where do I start?
This and tufts of grass is all that grows out here
The famous spoon in action
A refill is out of the question
Another day I passed a shepard and he asked me for some water. If it had been one of you guys I would of dragged you off to the hospital straight away. He was as dehydrated as I have ever seen. Face and lipps all dry and chipped and blistered. He took ther smallest sip and refused my offer to let him keep the bottle of water. We are talking about soime extremely hazrdy people out here.
There are camels out there
This was the shrivelled up shepard
Now for the absolute funniest moment caught on camera so far, probably in the history of digital photography even, you decide haaa. There I am in no mans land when I see some more camels, out with the camera snapping away. I am extremely careful when it comes to taking pics as I dont wanna offend anyone and stuff like that. Just about to leave and this guy comes out from behind a wall and walks towards me, I do the usual dipping of the head and a friendly Salam Hilikam, spelling, the dude shakes my hand and wont let go, demanding money for the pictures I took of his camels. Now if this had been a carnival where he had a stall with a sign stating 10 dirhams per photo, maybe, but come on dude. I say no and he grabs hold of my arm so I cock my left fist and tell him I will actually knock out his last tooth if he does not let go. Then he grabs my map and tries to tear it off my handlebar bag so I kinda roll away knowing he wont give up. I am so calm about it its funny. I get about three meters away and he throws his stick at me hitting Celona, I think about stealing his whittled stick but I remember how long it took me to
whittle my spoon and I decide to just get the fuck out of there instead haaa. The fucker then launches a stone at me but we have pegged it just outside of his range and I say fuck it if he is gonna throw a rock at me I am gonna steal a picture haaa, so i do. So help me god we snapped a dinger! If you look closely you can see his two feet are in the air and the second rock is up in the air above the mountain in the background. Haaaa
Angry old chipper
This incident happened days before I decided to head north towards Spain, I just had to tell you cause I caught it on camera and honestly I was sitting in my tent later that night staring at the pic in bits laughing.
Trying to figure out which way to go
The silence was golden
IN DA MID DLE OF NO WHERE
Sunday, February 1, 2009
So the next day we trundled on aiming for a town up in the hills, only to get there and find its not a town but an area? With nothing in it, nearly all the second day we met no one. Then we got to the snowline and things got really messy. The road vanished under ice and frozen snow and it became difficult haa. Eventually I had to push and drag the bike over icy ridges, nervously walking over frozen pools and occasionally plunging ankle deep into the water haaa. At one stage we where making only twenty meters at a time before having to catch my breath. If the weather had been anything but perfect I would of gone back as the road was beyond anything ye could cycle and it would be an absolute mission for twenty Kms over the pass. It was the most effort I had put into the trip per km so far. Finally the road was blocked by a snow plow so we had a look around and the men were no where to be seen. Spirits where lifted though because obviously the snow plow was clearing the road. A jeep pulled in behind me and three men got out and they were in bits laughing at the fact I was up here. I tried to figure out where they where going once the snow plow moved but we were struggling with the old Arabic to English thing. They basically said I should turn around or I would die up here haaa. I was trying to tell them once that plow gets moving I am going over haaa. We all walked down the road to look for the Plow King and found them in a bull dozer opening the road that was under about two meters of snow. Haaa I clearly would be turning around now but even then I was wondering could I pay some mountain people to get over the pass with donkeys haaa, mentally I was in a focused state of mind on getting over it haa. That was not gonna happen, anyway I scabbed a lift back down the mountain off the lads, I had cycled up and had no qualms about taking a lift over roads I had cycled already, the lads turned out to be some sort of civil servants inspecting how the road was doing. On the way back down we stopped and chatted with men who appeared out of the rocks and they where swapping forms and just chilling out chatting. It was really nice to meet some of these people who live right down in the valleys. Mega friendly people sharing out bread and oranges and we had a snowball fight with the kids. And thats where our newest term came into existence, as I had been heading for a town called Tamjilt, pronounced Tamjeelt, the lads where rippin the piss out of me for even thinking about it, saying Tamjilt and pointing at me laughing, I deserved it haa. When we got to the bottom of the mountain another jeep approached us and where asking about the pass, when we pulled off I just said Tamjilt and laughed at the other jeep, the lads where loving the call! One mans adventure is still just another kids playground.
I was not actually too dissapointed with the road being open as I had some precious moments of warm weather in some pretty high hills. It also led me to a wonderful cycle along the plains below the hills which again gave me more romantic feelings. The sun was scorching my nose and hands, flat empty land with the mountains hazily in the distance, the tarmac was long gone and we were on a gravel road with the amazing feeling of being in the real Africa haaa. There where no Thompsons Gazelles or cheetahs but the goats and sheep out on the plains under the heat haze provided a surreal atmosphere to the views. Needless to say I enjoyed the hell out of the sunny weather as I knew it would not last once I got to back to the main road south of Fez.
Another day or so later haa, was a very windy day so I pulled in at what appeared to be an abandonded building with two lads hanging out, one in the traditional Jellaba. I cooked up some pasta and we chatted as best we could. Later on a guy came along and opened up the door to the house to accfept a delivery of gas bottles. It was a shop and a one room school. Eunice, the owner, invited me to his house across the road for some tea, which turned into a feast when his mate Hassan came along too. He had good English and had studied Chemistry in uni. I got the full Moroccan hospitality including the famous sweet tea which they pour holding a beautifully ornate teapot high above the glass! It got late so I camped in his garden, later that night I went over to his shop which a few of the local young lads hang out at. I got Arabic, Berber, Spanish and French lessons off Hassans younger brother Mohassein, a teenager. I also got to tick another box, meeting Berbers, the mountain people. It was seriously freezing cold but we all hung outside the shop eating delish chocolate topped cakes and generally messing around, probably the latest I had been up in a long time, toes almost frost bitten but I was hanging out with real hardy mountain folk so I was not going to bed till they were haaaa
I really do forget where I have camped sometimes so when I wake up and open the tent door it can be kinda weird if I am still half asleep wondering where the hell I am. So when I was woken up the next morning by the sound of an avalanche I was freaking out till I remembered I was in Eunices garden haaa on a flat plateu, but it was the most insane wind of all time. It led to the absolute harshest conditions of the trip so far haaa, really dramatic eh, no joking it was a bloody nightmare. Hail stones all day and bitter unrelenting wind. So far I have only fallen a couple of times on ice, that day I was blown off my bike about fifteen times, once right across the road and into the ditch. Ye know when people say, sure its an experience, yeah but that only afterwards when your laughing about it on the couch, when your in it ye can pretend ye love it but ye fecking dont! I spent all day climbing again, I was pushing my bike at one stage the wind was that bad, just horrific. Stopping so often to catch my breath, I am a wimp eh, flat roads ment nothing, in the wind its all climbing, sometimes ye cant even breath its that bad ye have to turn your head haaa. I stopped to eat, once in some trees for cover and once in a V shaped cut in the rock beside the road, horrible day but I really was loving haaa cause it just cant last for ever. I finally make it to the town Boulemane, the most dramatic entrance to a village ever, basically situated right in the middle of the mountains, the main road leading into an almost Holywood filmset entrance of huge rocky hills on either side. Nestled away on the main road but ye feel like your a million miles for anywhere, yet here I am sitting in an internet cafe!
I camped just outside the town last night, waking to find my tent almost collapsing under the fresh overnight snow. Had a monster feed as it absolutely baltic out and the beautiful wind is howling away again. Cycled about 2kms along the road in a smashing headwind, went through a tunnel and was litterly blown back out the way I came so I walk Celona through it. Just so we are clear on this ok, the wind is fucking crazy harsh haaa! Not long after the snowplow man aggresively turned me back despite my protests. I get back down to Bouleman town and I have to wait in line with the cars while they argue away. A policeman said the road would be open in an hour so I nipped down here for a quick post. Really excited to even get past thi
My route will hopefully take me to the far east side of the high Atlas moontains as most of the roads will be closed. Then fingers crossed I will get onto the Anti Atlas then back north to the Tizi Itchy pass I think its called, which hopefully will be open which drops down onto Marakech. The distance is huge so I have put off having a peek at the Sahara as its so far south and I will see it in Egypt I think haaa.