Saturday, January 24, 2009

Seeing is believing...

First off forgive grammar mistakes and the order of pics is a bit off as this keyboard is half arabic.
So my last couple of days in Spain were as amazing as everyother day of my ickle bike ride. Aiming at a town called Verger one day telling myself I will rest once I get there. But when I get near I see its at the top of a VERY steep road. Ah sure we will just sit here then and look up at it. No we must go up otherwise this trip will become weak. So I climb up a steep short road to a quaint town and its up there that I remember what its all about. Its about the hard work and the super payoff of a view. Anyway thats not the greatest start to a post but after the easy flat coast of Portugal I needed to recheck my motivation for the pain of cycling hills haaa...

Not something ye see in the Irish countryside

I had planned to get close to Tarifa near the end of the day so I could get an early ferry to Moroc so I can get all settled in and ready for a new country. But as I got close and Africa loomed hazily across the water I got the goose bumps and I knew I would be too excited to sleep so I picked up the pace and flew into town hoping there would be a ferry. There was and before I knew what I was doing we were skimming across the straight of Gibraltar. Haaaa I was easily the happiest camper on the boat; just buzzing around like a kid on a school tour. What a feeling. Such innocent childish fun on a ferry with no adults haaa! I roll off the ferry and get waved to go through the gates and into Tanger when a policia stops me. Have you anything special for me he says. I say special like what and inch towards the gate. Special like GUNS. Yes sir I have two do you prefer a hand gun or a rifle and he just laughed and asked where I was going and I say into the hills towards destiny haaaaaa and cycle off.

A great start to my time in the Rif mountain area

Biggest valley of the trip

So I was in a pretty busy big city and its 5.30 and the sun is setting so I fly along the coast to where I had seen some green area from the ferry. I spy a bit of a hiding place and snoop around and its seems like a good spot so I make my way back into town because its all lit up with street lights so I can easily make my way back to the camp site in the dark later. I just chilled out down at the water front and ate some museli and watched some kids doing sumersaults. What a fricken laugh man. I spent a while cruising around Tanger and its outskirts really hit me like a sledge hammer. The level of poverty was crazy. Real muddy slums where they collect everything possible to reuse it. I recon they have every single car part imaginable. That was the Holy Shit Man I am in Africa moment number one. Number two was seeing a fecking CAMEL!

Australia has the iconic Kangaroo but can you actually trump a Camel

Thank God or Allah that they have the signs in English too

The next day I take it easy and just do a short day to get out of Tanger and into the hills. Just relaxing and getting a feel for all the different sounds smells traffic and people. I approached a guy in his garden and he greeted me as his long lost brother and he said I could set my tent up on his land then soon after upgrades me to inside his garage. I went to sleep at noon till about 6pm ate some food then went back to sleep. I presume it was all the excitment that had me wrecked haa.

Indoor camping is all the rage these days

Hamid standing proudly with my sexy lady

I head towards the hilliest area on the map in the north as I wanna do a circle of Moroc down over all its four sets of mountains. The Rif, Middle, High and Anti Atlas mountains and back out to the coast for the other major cities. Absolutely amazing wall of mountains on my left as I cycle east so I decide to keep following them for the next day after sleeping next to a forrest rangers hut as a local had driven up to me and warned me about local thieving gangs. A hiking trip along the Riff by the coast would be one for a future trip. The Moroccans made the first two days the funniest and most welcoming as I could ever dreamt of. Since the start I promised myself to be as nice as possible to everyone I met no matter what happens. So far I have waved and smiled and answered the same questions a million times with a smile and enthusiasm. Because I believe if you are going to go through different countries then you have to have do so with a smile energy and patience. So I have not got angry or annoyed about being run off the road or jeered or any other negative things that have happened in Europe many times. I have not even talked about them in the blog as they have not been representative of each country I have been in. There are always a few bad apples eh so why sweat the small stuff.

I am coming for ye!

Builders must be on strike as there are

unfinished houses are everywhere

But I am afraid Africa tested my patience beyond what I thought was possible. I was headed up a long gentle climb towards a town called Bab Taza. The views are another once in a life time moment. Clear blue skys and just perfect temperature. Yes Africa is going to be great. Little did I know or research the area I was going into. Research is for nerds man. Fuck travel guides man I on a mini adventure haaaaaa. As is the custom on my trip when a town or a place is amazing I end up repeating the name over and over as in its my new word for something special. So Bab Taza. BAB Taza. BAB TAZA haa. If I thought Tanger was an eye opener it was merely the first kiss on the night you lose your virginity as Bab Taza just blew my head off. The roads are really good, till ye get into town. Then the road ends and you cycle along the rim of potholes under two feet of mud. Holy god we are now in Africa haaa. Just an absolute SHITHOLE. They have signs up that the road is under construction haaa. But I use the term shithole affectionately. If this was an Irish town it would of course be labelled a shithole but its a small town up in the hills of Africa. But that was all I could think of as I negotiated through the mud and craters as people shouted at me to come to their cafe or shop. Men walking by in Jedi style cloaks called Jellabas, towing a donkey with a massive load of straw and bags of grain. Pure and simple it was too much to take in. So I rolled on through. I couldnt take pictures and I couldnt stop haaaa. I was in my element now. In Africa.

A small 3 bedroom house with a sweet view

Land slide took out a few houses

It all went tits up from here on. As the weather was fine the road was just covered in drug dealers. They are everywhere. EVERY SINGLE person says hello sir how are you. Do you want Hashish. They make the clucking sound then hashish. They go Whist Whist hashish. They just shout hashish at you. The drive by beeping and flashing their lights making smokey smokey signs with their fingers. They pull in ahead of you and offer it. They block you in and offer it. When you cycle on around them the drive after you and do the same thing three or four times. The guy who offered you it in town will get a lift off his mate and catch back up with you down the road and offer it again. Now thats not the bad part. The bad part is half them take offence when you say no thank you. No sir thank you very much but no thank you. Yet they still call you all sorts of insults most of which are fuck you fucking fuck haaa. They try guess you nationality. Hey English man. Hey Spaniard. One guy shouted hey Czechoslovakian shave your beard! That one actually had me in tears laughing and gets a nomination for call of the trip, fair play to him! I dont even mind them taking offence. I take the bullshit on the chin and continue to smile wave and answer there fucking questions of how am I today. I am great thank you. Do you want hashish. No thank you. Blah blah fuck you then and I cycle on. Obviously its the quiet tourist time so they need to sell even more but come on.

Peace and quiet away from the dealers

In the hills the cars are pretty old school, lots of Mercs and Renaults

Now as an experiment I want you to get the person next to you to ask you how you are today. then offer you hashish. Then you smile say no thank you and they call you a fucker. Do that 20 times and see how smiley you are. I cycled about 60 kms through this road and I swear on my life I was asked every 50 meters and sometimes every 20 if it was near a junction. But I answer away and do my best. Because they are only saying hello at first and I dont want to not answer the nice people who do just wanna wave and smile at you and there are plenty of them too so I do my best haaa. At one stage I was exhausted after a hill and was just fed up answering the questions and I stopped to enjoy the view on a quiet stretch of road and a car pulls in. I say no thank you. Please no thank you. The guy is sitting in the passenger seat yapping at me non stop. Hashish hashish you want hashish why you not want hashish hashish hashish. I just kept saying no thank you and turned away to look at the view finally just ignoring him. What you looking at you wanna buy a house I sell you a house very cheap. No thank you. Why you not buy house what you looking at why why why why why why. Eventually he just does this ignorant fucking laugh like he knows all he wanted to do was piss me off and they drive away. I almost turned back to go to Tanger. But I knew I was being a pussy and that it was probably just a bad spot in the mountains. I was mentally fucking wrecked and dissapointed because it was only one day of harrasment. Big deal heffo your being soft. I focused on the fact that I did well and never rose to the unreal bullshit they say. The views of the valleys were worth the hassle they really were beautiful but that night I camped out and when I went to bed I was twitching! Can you actually believe only one day reduced me to a pussy twitching alone in my tent. Haaa so I did alot of talking to myself telling me to just harden up and be nice about the situation.

I whipped up some veggie soup

I couldnt even look the camera in the eye,

soaking wet; hungry; tired andI felt even worse than I look

The next day it continued. Thick fucking hillybilly yokels with the most mundane sales pitch of all time followed by the inevitable abuse. I grinned and cycled on now unable to look anyone in the eye. I almost cried when a fucking 10 yr old ran out in front of me to offer me a bag of hash. Later in the day the fog closes in as I climb up into the snow and wind. No bloody dealers up here eh ye soft fuckers. So I had a wonderful time freezing my fingers off and wincing into the wind as it whipped over the mountain. I end up cycling at 45 degree angels into the wind with some strange Paula Radcliffe shuffle of a cycling movement haaa. Its such a masochistic pleasure in being out in the elements making coffee and soup in the snow. I missed the harsher cycling after the few weeks on the coast. Cycling on the flat is easy and fun but it leaves you wanting more. Like a one night stand, yeah it pays the rent but its never as good as the sweaty good stuff. Its not that I want to be cold but the satisfaction of reaching the top of a hill and getting anopther breath taking valley is the greatest feeling in the world. Even getting back down below the snow line is such a sweet victory making me scream my head off in pure primal pleasure until an icicle falls from a tree and smacks me in the nose and I remember that nature is in charge of the show haaa!

The roads torn up near the towns

The local kids were soaking up the view as much as me

I eventually make it down into a town called Ketama. Mental busy trading town on a junction of two main roads. Has to be seen to believed. So I roll to the outskirts to buy some food and a guy approaches me with the usual spiel. I say no thank you and then he gueses I am from Ireland. I get talking to him and he has perfect English and claims to have travelled around Europe. We talk for a couple of minutes and I refuse his offer to stay at his HOTEL. He offers me more hash and when I refuse again and go to roll away he grabs the handlebars of Celona. Two other goons that had been hanging around move in a bit closer. Motherfuckers. He says I really should stay with him if I want to stay safe. I obviously say no thanks and go to roll away but he tries to sort of pull the bike down to the ground so I gave him one of those silly karate chop type punches to his arm holding my bike with as much anger and energy as I have ever mustered. Haaaa I caught him fucking lovely on his skinny stoner boney arm and he winces then I basically lost it. We verbally abuse each other, I fleeced him in a way that would of had you lot rolling around on the floor laughing haaa ripping him about his hicky clothes and stupid shoes haaaa. Its one thing the Irish are good for is giving a slagging. I took heart in the fact he did not hit me back and his goons stepped back a bit. Here is this well spoken articulate guy with more sense and brains than all the other hillbillys put together yet still wants to act the ignorant prick. He says he is going to come after me down the road which causes so I shit myself and get off the bike and ask him to get me now instead. Absolute wanker. I look an absoltue mess. I am filthy sweaty muddy and I knew I looked a real oddball with my beard. So I kinda knew he wouldnt do anything. Kinda knew haa. We just keep shouting and I just end up walking down the road pushing Celona away and he heads in the opposite direction shouting at me and I smile. I cycle off at horrific speed haaa laughing at how stupid I had been but I honestly think I was probably in a bit of trouble anyway once he grabbed the bike and tried to pull it to the ground.

That was only a small part of my first few days but I cant not talk about it. Remember its only trying in trying times... So then it was time to spin downhill into the lowlands when my back brake cable snaps and I obviously dont have a spare. Its raining and having only a front brake in the rain is useless so anytime the road is mega steep I have to walk haaa. So now its a fecking walking tour god it was hilarious fun walking in the pissing rain with a heavy bike. Honestly again it was actually a laugh thinkin how stupid it is not to have a spare cable but as I am knew to this cycling lark I thought ye would be able to limp into town on one brake. Ye in Ireland where its flat and bike shops are everywhere, ah come on heffo! I should of known better haaa. I end up sitting on a fence sipping coffee when I see a couple of girls working in their garden so I get chatting to them and asked could I camp in their field hoping I will score a bed rather than camp in their field haa. They ring their Dad on a mobile and he will be back in an hour and they ask me to sit in under an overhang in front of their house and then the bring out a little coffee table with tea, coffee biscuits and cake. Obviously they could not invite me in without a man around so we sit chatting as best we can and I had them in bits laughing doing sign language. Their brother Aziz then comes home and we headed into town for coffee and met a friend of his Jemel who speaks perfect English and I arrange to meet him in the morning for a chat over coffee. I knew I was sweet then for a place to sleep, a bed for the first time since Lisbon! Later on the mother and father come home and it was honestly the best night so far. The women cook and ate somewhere else in the house and the men eat together in the main reception room. We destroyed a delish chicken with our fingers, breaking bread and sharing it all around, slurping coffee and biscuits and oranges. We watch satelite tv, Aljezeera international channel for a couple of hours and I end up sleeping with Aziz and his brother on a couch type bed thing in their beautiful reception room. The details of the night could be better but I have to say I am being selfish as I am keeping them for me, I deserve these private memories after the shite in the hills.

The nicest family in the world

Plan changed again as I was gonna stay in the hills outside Fez but when I seen it I got all excited to get stuck in so I went in late in the evening. Still with only one brake I could seen a very long curving steep run down to the lowlands, the road had dried up and the team decided to just go hell for leather and whore down at full tilt. HAAAA it was absolute carnage, ye know the buz ye get snowboarding when you are going so fast that you know the only way you are gonna be able to stop is when the hill flattens out, so fast that you dare not even turn onto the other edge of your board so you end up going even faster. Well thats what we did down a real smoothe road, lunatic stuff, it was such a buz. I had my side of the road to myself. Just flying, when a bloody taxi driver decides to overtake on a corner at a bridge. It would take me a fricken kilometer to stop even if I tried, he was right over on my side. I squeezed over as close to the edge of the road as I could and he squeezed as close to the truck he was overtaking, I am not joking when I say his front passenger put her hands over her face as if she didnt want to see him hit me. I put on my best wincing oh shit I am dead look and missed him by the closest gee hair of all time roaring with laughter as I was already a couple of hundred meters past him before I could even figure out if I made it haaa, just deadly craic. Just another silly moment in life...

The entrance to the Old Medina part of Fèz

I wish I had to money or room to buy bits and pieces for ye all but I cant haaa

Yeah Fez is amazing, again I have to say the people are just out of this world nice and helpful. I still feel bad ranting on about the scum in the mountains as already the nice people have eclipsed what went on. Fez is a massive city where I knew ye pretty much need a guide to get the most out of it and so when a young guy Tarif offered I said why not. We got sooo stuck into all the small side streets and places I just could not of got to see as its the biggest maze in the world. I recomend ye just front up the cash if ye wanna see all the good stuff. We were out on a roof top looking down into the area where they dye the wool, we were in tiny little metal works, leather workshops, you name it we seen it and right now looking back on it, it was the greatest day of my life. The narrow streets in the Old Medina part where the donkeys are king because cars cant fit, its all soo old and pretty much nothing has changed since the city began thousands of years ago.

Dying the wool

Cleaning wool in Fèz

The incredibly hard work some of the people do has shocked me too. I cycled past this woman who was bent over almost scraping her nose off the ground with an absolute monstrous load of sticks piled about two meters high on her back. It would of made a sweet picture summing up the struggles of people earning a living off the land in Africa but I also felt it would demean her to take it. She actually managed to look up and give me a feckin smile as I cycled past. There is a thin line between snapping pictures and been a pervert to suffering. Even when I know the shop keeper is charging me a little more than he should. Who am I to argue, we come here on holidays taking advantage of the exchange rate, with more money than they could ever dream of yet would feel pissed off by being OVER charged for an orange. What bugs the shit out of me is that so many people come here, see whats going on yet go ignorantly go back to their lavish lifestyle flittering away obscene amounts of money on luxuries and leave fellow humans in the mud. Is it the third world I am in, or is just the WORLD?

Traffic Jam in the Old Medina,

I cant get over how much I see everyday

Next stop is probably Marakech but I am not sure how long it will take as I am determined to take the longest route and spend hopefully a couple of weeks in the middle and high Atlas mountains before dropping back down to the big smoke. At this point I feel I have chipped away every excess part of my mind and body. All fat is definetly long gone. The parts of my mind that would crave a couch, running hot water or electricity have vanished and all thats left is a million times stronger than before I started. Its not just that it feels right to be out trying to live in the elements, it just feels like thats all there is to life. Another big section of the trip is close now and I am ready for another mini adventure!

Amazing hand made silk stuff

The most beautiful cafe so far

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."
Henry David Thoreau


Jack said...

Haha, what a great post! This is just a great adventure seamus, for you to have and us to read. Good luck on the next leg!

dayna said...

i am happy u made it. but u are seriously going to give me a heart attack. BE SAFE!!! and love you :) xoxox

daraoh said...

ambatonalright lad,
best post yet - it was a long time coming but it was worth the wait in the end!
i love difference. I've been to france and spain etc., but never to morocco, and certainly won't get to see as many towns there as you've seen already. great to hear the little stories of unknown towns and people along the way.Watch out though - bandits are more of a problem for you now. Not to freak you out, people always exaggerate those dangers, but watch your back. and i'd imagine the drivers are a little crazier too.
i love the fact that you don't miss the couch ,running hot water etc. anymore. hard as a coffin nail did someone say! i guess after a few weeks or months that's just what people who don't have tv's - they don't miss/want them at all.
i think even though you got a rough time off these drugdealers, you'll look back and remember it as an experience worth remembering - maybe the harsh truth about some of these places, not to sound too damning of them, since I know you had a great time in Fez and Bab Taza.
I spent two summers abroad as you know - munich and New york. Munich was tough - nowhere to live and a boss that didn't like paying us. New York was easy - well paid job, nice apartment, everything sorted. I have way more memories of Munich that I look back on and laugh now, and that make great stories, even though at the time it was often a struggle. Struggle on!

daraoh said...

ha ha, in case you're wondering, the "ambatonalright" there on the last post was just supposed to be "alright" - the "ambaton" was from the anti-spam word verification test word that i wrote in the wrong box

Orla said...

Enjoyed that Seamus. I just can't believe you're there! Seemed like just the other day you were talking about how far you had to go before Morocco. Will send ya an email soon. Give Celona a big kiss for me. We all miss you in Dublin!

H said...

ah seamo, i can't fucking believe you're in africa. GAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'm so excited and scared for you at the same time. you better keep a fucking regular blog post while you're there so i know you're alive and well. brilliant blog as well, i told you thoreau knows his stuff. :)
miss you love you think of you every day.