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Streets and squares, Serbia Breakfast is an unhurried and often alcoholic affair in a Serbian summer. For instance, Laze Teleckog in Novi Sad is home to plenty of places to appreciate the beauty of coffee, rakija, Serbians and something that one tourist brochure called “the hobby of uninterested hanging around.” You can spend all day sipping your drink and skimming your book. Conversation if you care for it, privacy if you don’t…. Your table is waiting. l_1263394760Breakfast_At_Lautrec.jpg
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Tue Jun 01, 2010

Streets and squares, Serbia Breakfast is an unhurried and often alcoholic affair in a Serbian summer. For instance, Laze Teleckog in Novi Sad is home to plenty of places to appreciate the beauty of coffee, rakija, Serbians and something that one tourist brochure called “the hobby of uninterested hanging around.” You can spend all day sipping your drink and skimming your book. Conversation if you care for it, privacy if you don’t…. Your table is waiting. l_1263394760Breakfast_At_Lautrec.jpg

Tue Jun 01, 2010

Streets and squares, Serbia Breakfast is an unhurried and often alcoholic affair in a Serbian summer.For instance, Laze Teleckog in Novi Sad is home to plenty of placesto appreciate the beauty of coffee, rakija, Serbians and something thatone tourist brochure called “the hobby of uninterested hanging around.”You can spend all day sipping your drink and skimming your book.Conversation if you care for it, privacy if you don’t…. Your table iswaiting.l_1263394760Breakfast_At_Lautrec.jpg

Tue Jun 01, 2010

Streets and squares, SerbiaBreakfast is an unhurried and often alcoholic affair in a Serbian summer.For instance, Laze Teleckog in Novi Sad is home to plenty of places to appreciate the beauty of coffee, rakija, Serbians and something that one tourist brochure called “the hobby of uninterested hanging around.”You can spend all day sipping your drink and skimming your book. Conversation if you care for it, privacy if you don’t…. Your table is waiting.l_1263394760Breakfast_At_Lautrec.jpg

Tue Jun 01, 2010

Streets and squares, SerbiaBreakfast is an unhurried and often alcoholic affair in a Serbian summer.For instance, Laze Teleckog in Novi Sad is home to plenty of places to appreciate the beauty of coffee, rakija, Serbians and something that one tourist brochure called “the hobby of uninterested hanging around.”You can spend all day sipping your drink and skimming your book. Conversation if you care for it, privacy if you don’t…. Your table is waiting.l_1263394760Breakfast_At_Lautrec.jpg

Tue Jun 01, 2010

Streets and squares, Serbia Breakfast is an unhurried and often alcoholic affair in a Serbian summer.For instance, Laze Teleckog in Novi Sad is home to plenty of placesto appreciate the beauty of coffee, rakija, Serbians and something thatone tourist brochure called “the hobby of uninterested hanging around.”You can spend all day sipping your drink and skimming your book.Conversation if you care for it, privacy if you don’t…. Your table iswaiting.l_1263394760Breakfast_At_Lautrec.jpg
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Mon Apr 26, 2010

lyndacorcoran I have had a busy few weeks since I was last in touch. I did a couple more days of volunteer work in Cusco. I absolutely fell in love with the kids and it was heartbreaking to hear about how tough their lives were. The little fella who greets me every morning with a hug is apparently physically abused at home. At the weekends they get very little food. There aren?t many kind words at home so no wonder they are so well behaved at school. As they get older they seem to lose some of their spirit; life taking it out of them I suppose. I was so impressed with the teacher. He was so patient and loving towards the children. He also gave a lot of background information about the kids. View from Loki hostel bar, Cusco.
I had a really funny experience in Cusco on a night out. I had my little wallet in my jeans pocket but it was peaking out slightly. However I had nothing in it except my cash for that night. We walked through an area that lots of people were milling around at 2.30am. Next thing I felt that I wallet was missing!(I felt it immediately). I went up to the guy who had taken it as he had made no attempt to flee the area and said ‘Give me back my wallet’!. So he takes it out of his pocket, along with a pack of Skittles sweets and offers both of them to me! I really don’t understand what that was all about but he did kindly give me the wallet back!!! Who ever heard of someone getting their pickpocketed wallet back!!! After that he stayed in the general area, standing only about 10m away from me for ages! Steph and I in Colca Canyon, Peru
After this Steph and I took a trip to Colca Canyon, which is the World’s Deepest Canyon, except that it isn’t!(The deepest one is a couple of valley’s over, but lets not get pedantic!)The whole trip was fantastic – both nights we stayed in places with no electricity, which was pretty enjoyable. 18th Century church in Colca Canyon.
The canyon was breathtaking but my favourite part of the trip was the night hike. We got up at 2.30am to trek up the side of the canyon in order to be in time to go condor watching.(They only appear early in the morning). It was pretty magical to walk at night. I was a bit worried about it as there are significant drops from the narrow path but in the end it was amazing – the moon was so bright we didn`t need to use our torches! We had the most stunning view of the canyon and surrounding mountains. We did have a a glass of wine on my birthday to celebrate and Steph bought me a beautiful scarf. So I didn`t feel alone on a day that I always spend with my family. I returned to Cusco to meet Linds and Keith, which was just fantastic. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 6 months, when she left to go on her travels. We had a lovely few days just hanging out in the town, which is defintely the best place in Sth America for it! Great food, nightlife, places to stay. Because I didn’t book the Inca Trail before I left home, there was 3 week lapse between booking and starting the walk. It was a great place for it; I had a lot of fun there, made some great friends and did lots of different things.The Inca Trail Group
The Inca trail turned out to be justfantastic, definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far. It would have been just such a bummer to have waited around so long and not to have had a great time. The group was brilliant, so much fun. Jenn and I
I shared a tent with a really lovely American girl called Jen. She is so much fun and a little bit nuts. She is a teacher in a private school and is working in Peru for 5 weeks. She was there in advance preparing a 3 week trip for her students who were to arrive shortly afterwards. Imagine that type of experience, as a 15 year old! The weather was mixed but fabulous when we were at Machu Picchu, which was just as amazing as I had hoped. Really magical. The Classic Machu Picchu photo
I was also the fastest walker everyday! It was very strange, I don`t know why. The most difficult part of the walk was over Dead Woman`s Pass at 4300m. Everyone else did it in 3 hours and I did it in 1 hr 35 mins. I was the first person there in the morning other than the porters.(Hundreds do it every day). How bizarre! I was first everyday, other than when we were walking in areas that had drops. I think it was a strange convergence of different factors that might never be repeated in my lifetime!!! The other thing I did that I was really pleased with was walking up Wanyapicchu, which is the high mountain behind Machu Picchu. There are a lot of drops and the steps aren`t great. Anyway I had no intention of going up, just going to the bottom and taking a look. I ended going up 90% of the way. At that point it got very difficult and we also ran out of time(we had to run to catch our bus). I would have loved to have finished it though. After Cusco I moved onto Huaraz, in the Cordillera Blanca. It is the 2nd highest mountain range in the world(and it really is this time!)after a section of the Himalayas. Have you seen / read ‘Touching the Void”” This is where it is set. I can’t remember what the name of this mountain was but it was spectacular!
I did another 4 day trek which was sort of hard-going doing it the week after the Inca Trail. I was quite happy when it was finished! Whilst the scenery was really beautiful, I just didn`t seem to gel with the group that well. It just seemed that they would contradict EVERYTHING I said. One of the many beautiful wildflowers on the trek.
However the best thing about the trek was seeing some of the peaks by moonlight and also doing my highest trekking yet -going through a mountain pass at 4750m.Me at Punta Union Pass
Right now I am in Equador. It is so funny that I am running out of time! I am going to the Galapagos islands which will be extremely expensive. It is unlikely that I will get to go again so I should just bite the bullet. It will be the last thing I do before I start my journey home. I have arranged the most interesting volunteer work for myself! I am going to be developing chocolate bar recipes for a fair trade chocolate co-operative called Kallari! I met a girl, Lily, in the bar of my hostel in Cusco and got chatting. She was so excited that I was a food technologist! I have never worked with chocolate; I only have an idea how to handle it from cooking!!! However that has not been a problem at all with the work we have done so far. Lily is really nice and lots of fun. I am staying the apartment she lives in, along with about 8 other volunteers connected with the co-operative. Its quite an interesting environment. There is so much ideas floating around and lots of chat. However Lily has said that they are great at sitting around chatting but often very little gets done! I am good at getting things done. I am focused on the task as I only have time to be there for a about 10 days. I am helping develop a recipe for a Chilli Cinnamon Chocolate bar. We spent most of yesterday working on a recipe for a Chilli Cinnamon Hot Chocolate. I think we cracked it, it was just gorgeous! Lily and I hit the town in Quito last night. It seems that Salsa is absolutely enormous in this country! We went to a Salsa bar and saw some fantastic dancing there. The unfortunate thing about these places is that you get asked to dance. Now normally this would not be a problem but I can’t Salsa to save my life! God the first time I danced it was a truly awful experience!! I really felt sorry for the guy I danced with. I also could not understand why I kept getting asked to dance, especially when it was so obvious how bad I was. I eventually realised that every club needs someone like me, cos without me, who else would the other really bad dancers dance with!!! I was barely off the dancefloor for the night so obviously most local girls are too good for their own good!Yesterday we took a trip to the Equator, which is only 30 mins from Quito. We had lots of fun, even though it is really just a touristy thing to do!Me at the Real Equator
Next on the cards is a trip to Limoncocha, with the other volunteers from Kallari. This isn’t work, it is purely to see wildlife. The main woman in the organisation, Judy, is a biologist so will be acting as our guide. It sounds really exciting as it will be cheap, we get to go to places that are off the tourist trail and will be spending time in proper jungle communities. Sleeping on the floor! Also the group going are great and we should have lots of fun. After that we are going to the place where the cacao is harvested and the chocolate is manufactured. The nerd in me is really looking forward to this!!Anyway folks. It is unlikely that I will be sending a blog before I get home on Friday 1st June! I am sooo looking forward to meeting up with everyone and just being at home! Maybe I have lost my restlessness; I will have to wait and see. I am also home for the summer; I have decided it is not a good time to go to Africa. It will still be there if I want to go another time. [8] [7] [6] [5] [4] [3] [2] [1] [0]

Wed Apr 21, 2010

LibaurinaHey there guys!! We are writing this time from a different country! Weare in Laos now in a town called luang prabang! Its really nice and wethink it is all of our favourtie places so far! Its quite relaxed andfeels quite french!! So after the water fights in chiang mai we wantedto go and ride an elephant and so joined a tour, which there only endedup being us and a japanese man on! We got to the elephant camp andjumped on after being guilt tripped into buying some bananas to feedthe elephants! Libby and Laura went on one, while Corrina joined thecute japanese man on Roland. She seemed to forget he was there thoughand proceeded to sit in the middle of the small seat whilst he wassquished up to the side! This made me and libs LOL a LOT and also thefact that she was so oblivious!! The ride was really goood and theelephants seemed much happier than the ones that we saw in ayutthaya!!The day continued with bamboo rafting, where we got soaked by many thaipeople! We are not sure whether they were still celebrating songkran ornot! Corrinas top did not survive the splashing well and wentcompletely seethrough, but it did help get the elephant snot out fromearlier! We also went to see some hillside tribes, but felt these werea little too comercialised and we went to see a waterfall but it wasntas good as the other one that we had seen!We then took the bus up toChiang Khong which took around 6 hours! We had a minor panic when wegot to the station and laura realised after unpacking her bag in thebus station that she had left her most valuable possessions in thehotel room, her passport money and cards!! A quick dash back and wemanaged to get them and still make the bus! We got to chiang khong andcrossed the border and though it was very hot it went quite smoothly. We stayed here for one night and then begun our 2 day journey down theMekong to Luang Prabang! The slow boat was very slooww and even thoughthere were some right characters on our boat the first day was long!The characters included a hawaiian guy called tony who produced aguitar and sung about mawi(the only word in the whole song was mawi.he also had a tatoo of his middle name which we later found out ment’free one’. There was also another guy called matt who was an experton everything and even offered corrina a pillow at one point which waspromptly taken back ‘to rescue another’. This provided us with muchentertainment an ment that we couldnt look them in the eye withoutloling. The stopover town was called Pakbeng, it was MENTAL! Firstly,after sending Libby scrambling up the hill to secure us a room, Corrinaand Laura had to stop all our bags being stolen by random locals! Theyaudaciously claimed they were their own bags, this did not make ushappy. Libby found a good room for $15, or so she thought… when wewent to pay he wanted $50, this was met by Corrinas enraged reply of’do you know how much $50 is?!?’ needless to say, we only payed $15. Wewent out for dinner and had just finished our random indian meal wenthe electricity went out. Not just in the restaurant, in the wholetown. In the middle of the jungle. At night time. Luckily we hadtorches to get back to our room but it was not the best experience!Next morning we got on a slightly more comfortable boat to continue ourjourney. It was good, amazing scenery which Laura took millions ofphotos of, perhaps the start of an illustrious photography career?! Shecertainly thinks so. We are now in Luang Phrabang where the journeyended. Getting off the boat was perhaps the most entertaining part ofthe trip. On seeing the duckboard we had to walk off Laura said ‘I cantdo it’. This, unfortunately, turned out to be accurate. After Corrinahad made a relatively uneventful exit, Laura stepped on to the plank,she made it about halfway before losing balance and in a last ditchattempt to save herself from the river, flung herself straight on tothe rocks where she crouhed like spiderman with her rucksack on. Afellow passenger(Matt from earlier)mistook this action as being acourageous attempt to disembark with style, forgoing the boring plank.He said ‘ur a brave woman’ Laura replied ‘I didnt mean to!’. Meanwhile,Libby is doubled over laughing on the plank, which remained stablethroughout and Corrina was halfway up the rocks confused as to what hadhappened. The most entertaining part of this story is that it is notthe first time Laura has struggled with transport here. When getting onthe sleeper train in Chiang Mai, she had managed to get up the(admitttedly steep)step into a crouching position, this however iswhere she stopped, unable to carry on a stand up she began to flailbackward dragged by her rucksack and would have fallen back off thetrain were it not for Corrina pushing her back on in a slightlyundignified(for Laura)manner. We can only ponder what would havehappened had she been last to embark, and the small thai casualtiesthat could have arisen.Anyways, safely on land we found a nice hoteland are very much enjoying Luang Phrabang. It is very beautiful andscenic in the day and has such diverse entertainment at night as’ethnic fashion show’ ‘ip op dance crew'(in french accent)and’american gay singer’ actually ‘american guy singer’ but Lauramisheard. Today we have been cultured and seen a temple and alsoclimbed a hill to a shrine and saw many buddhas. This did howevernearly kill us in the midday sun so u are lucky to be reading this atall! After this town we are off to Viang Vieng, will update thereprobs!Toodles for now,Corrina, Libby and Laura x x x frontpage

Sat Apr 10, 2010

Location: El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina On the 25th we took the 3 hour flight from Buenos Aires down to Calafate in Patagonia so take the trip to the worlds largest active glacier outside the Arctics, The Perito Moreno Glacier. As soon as we landed we knew we were somewhere unique somewhere so different to anywhere we’d been. Our driver Julio was waiting at the tiny airport to pick us up and drop us at our hotel. We got settled there, played with the friendly hotel dogs for a while and made our way out to explore the town. We went out for more steak at a restaurant Julio had recommended and obviously enjoyed it very much! The next morning we were collected by minibus at 8am and taken to the National Park to visit the glacier. We were blown away by what we saw as well as the wind! The glacier cut its way through two mountains while large chunks of ice occasionally broke off and crashed the 60m(18 storeys)to the freezing blue lake below. We took a boat trip up to the south face of the glacier for some photo ops before getting back on the bus and driving around to the north side to walk the various manmade walkways. It was a spectacular day. The next day we decided that after two straight weeks of activity we were due a down day, which conveniently coincided nicely with the Ireland England six nations match which was being shown on ESPN Argentina! We got some snacks and beers in and flaked out in the hotel room for the afternoon shouting like mad men and women at the screen! Jaysus that Tommy Bowe is some man! Still buzzing we headed out to soak up the post match atmosphere which nobody else in the town seemed aware of but I got the closest thing I could find to a Guinness and saluted the boys in green! That night after some dinner we just had to stop for ice cream at “Tito’s”…not because it was particularly well known but because Tito spelled his name with a smiley face instead of an “o” and it was a once in a lifetime photo opportunity that I could not pass up! image327
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Wed Apr 07, 2010


Next morning, we got our stuff together and and started our journey following the instructions of a local chai-wala. I was still driving. This was going to be a 12 hour drive. After passing by the gorgeous lake tal of Nainital, we passed by a few other smaller tals. Every few towns, we checked for directions and came down in to the plains. We passed Corbett Conservation Park, a reserve for 26 tigers, and continued towards Haridwar. The ‘Kumbh ka mela’ had recently happened here and while crossing a 500 meter long bridge, an endless array of tents for the accomudation of the pilgrims could be seen. This festival happens once every 12 years, which left haridwar looking like a battle ground. I took the liberty to take a bath in the Ganges. It was pleasant. Mom told me that all my sins are washed that I took a bath in that river in this holy month. Noice – giggty. There after we drove through Dharamshala and started climbing towards Mussoorie. We reached Mussoorie at 7 PM, 12 hours after we left Nainital and against Mom’s wishes, I kept driving towards Dhanaulti. This destination was chosen for its quite and isolated nature, which was an absolute requirement after staying in the hussle-pur station, Nainital. It was dark when we reached Dhanaulti and upon insisting and convincing M.A.D, we stayed in a reasonably decent hotel _ Crystal. This hotel had a very decent first imperession due to its newer furniture and larger room sizes. But once we started settling, issues became apparent. Lights were missing – we got a new room. Water heater was not working – we got a new room. The washroom exhaust was missing – we got a new room. Actually a different floor all together. The last room, I believe the only one left in the hotel, had no issues and provided decent comfort for the night. Dad and I played some chess, and I started working on my project, which was due in 3 more days. Not sure if I mentioned earlier, I had one final research paper that was due on 23rd April, which I had planned to do in the first week while I was in India. This allowed me to travel for a longer period of time, and have something to do while I was accustoming with the weather, water and time differences. Next day, MAD took walks around the town while I studied and would occasionally join them for lunch or snacks.With my project half done, we left to the plains and my hometown, Amritsar on 21st April. When I went to pay for the hotel with the agreed credit card method, the manager told us that he didn’t have the machine and he would send someone with us to Mussoorie to get the required payment. On the way, the hotel dude mentioned that they are expecting a cash payment and will be taking us to a ATM machine. Since I had spent an hour insisting that I would pay for this hotel, I was not gonna let this happen. I had not converted my currency and the only method of payment was my CCard. I bitched at the hotel dude and made him understand that the payment shall only be made through a CC and if they want my money, I shall only give it in the agreed manner. After 2 hours of bitchery and 5 calls, his manager suggested for me to deposit money in his account once we reach Amrtisar. Sweet Deal. We left to Kempty falls after having breakfast in Mussoorie.The puri and chaane were absolutely delicious. By this time, I had no clue, that my body had stopped absorbing water due to ecoli in my body. So I ate like a pig and started my journey to Kempty Falls. After driving 3 hours, we reached Kempty falls. I had a nice swim in the fall pool and even dove into the falls. I used to be scared of water bodies, especially when i don’t know the depth of it. But, after swimming with Aarthy for a few months, I gained a little confidence and now can take small chances. A fat man with a thin mustache even told me not to jump in the falls since it is too deep, I could not resist to. Fun it was!! I swam out, took some pics and we walked back to the car. We reached home at 11 PM and dad drove rest of the way since I was starting to feel week. By next morning, it was clear that the Indian water and food had already done its dark magic. After taking the required medicine, I started to work on the project and finished it the same day. Next few days were spent in shopping, meeting relatives, etc. Today, my stomach feels much better. I had planned to leave 12 PM, 26 April 2010 for a solo trip on my bike, but that might not happen at all. The bike is missing some papers and a ‘mochi’ cobbler has taken off with my bags. fook me life.

Mon Apr 05, 2010

Simpsonpenita Day 53 Feb 17 Off to a train steam cemetery that has only been abandoned25-30 years! It was used to transport people and minerals during theNitrate mining days. We stopped and got to walk across the Tropic ofCapricorn (a highlight for a Geographer!). Desert, desert and moredesert! Actually the Atacama Desert is the driest in the world, thereare some spots that havenapos9t registered rain in 50 years. Then to theAtacama salt flat, we drove on a salt road to get there and got somegood photos. Then on to an oasis on the slopes of the Andes calledPeine. Historically, this location was important for the Atacameños,Incas and a first stop for Spanish conquistadors on their way southfrom Peru. We swam in the pool in Peine, well I dipped my feet then hada nap in the van. Afterwards we headed to the Natural Reserve LosFlamencos (Laguna Chaxa), saw the pink flamingoes (one of the oldestbirds alive, their fossils date back 30 million years) some smalllizards and some other birds. We watched the sun set (it only took 4 or5 minutes!) and got a few nice photos. Then we got to San Pedro deAtacama and I shared a dorm room with an Irish couple (Jon Paul andJenni) and Carole. Most of the group went to dinner together, itincluded a glass of wine, pisco sour, an appetizer (half a tomato withtuna and an olive on top) a main course and a desert! Stayed up latechatting with group again, this time I didnapos9t drink much but the drivergot drunk and was harrassing me! Asking if I took ridilin. haha.

Sun Apr 04, 2010

4 April 2010 Erm, we can’t seem to log in to our blog : so we thort we wud write here so you know we’re ok! We are sitting drinking from fresh coconuts, looking rather rough but no sunburn yet! We are leaving the crazyness of Bangkok tomorrow to go to Kanchanaburi so have a 4 hour non air conditioned train journey to look forward to tomorrow! We have had some crazy fun times here including taking a very expensive photo accidentally! Our hotel has a roof top swimming pool which is nice and we’ve had air con so far which you totally need in this heat, it is BOILING! Hope everyone is ok at home, Happy Easter! Miss you all! Love Corrina, Libby and Laura x x x p.s we are trying to fix the travelblog situation, do not fear! x

Sun Mar 28, 2010

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010 Destination
I set out early today as I was going to attempt to cover 200km and a climb of 2700m in two days. The journey was on the N2 through the centre of Ketama and was more or less 100km climb followed by 100km descent. After the Moroccan breakfast of eggs, olive oil, bread and olives I left the hotel and descended out of Al Hociema and upthe steep hill towards the mountains. The climb was relentless and already the sunwas fiercely beating down on me. Even bottom gear was hard work on the thighs as the steep dusty road passed by at walking pace, the lorries roaring past. The support of the locals and their ‘ah! super sportif!’ chants kept me going. The gradient reduced and the road snaked its way up a vast valley, little clusters of houses were scattered about like pastel coloured hundreds and thousands, some were way up the hillsides up remote tracks. In the foreground I saw donkeys and bellshaped hay stacks and yet more men, sitting about and smiling at me. I rested at another tea stop with its french speaking curiosity and continued on.
It was pretty obvious that 100 km of uphill was going to be more than today, I planned to do about 60-70km and then 140 tomorrow. But my 10kmh speed in the baking heat was proving to be hard work, and I had developed a pain in my chest. While working out what to do, a coach overtook me and stopped a few metres in front of me to let passangers off. I had no time to ponder upon a decision, my mind was made to go and ask the driver if he was going to Ketama and he would take my bike. A few moments later and 50 dhirams poorer I was in the comfort of a seat, with plenty of time to ponder on whether I was cheating. The coach hurtled along the winding hairpins and I watched the landscape change to rocky ridges and fir trees. We stopped at a few more towns.
This is the land of the Rifians, berber people who have fought occupation from Portugal and Spain until last century when their land became part of the Moroccan kingdom. As we budge through a busy market, they trade their animals, friut,vegetables and spices with each other in a way that I’m sure has little changed in a millenium. It is a lush green land which gets a lot of annual rainfall.
A passanger gives me an orange and points to two collapsed houses. This winter’s excess of rain has been catastrophic for some. The road jams as the traffic negotiates a hastily repaired section of the road. Many parts of the road have been badly damaged by landslides. After a delicious tagine for lunch we pass Ketama, the summit, and
I consider when to get off the coach. It is nearly 3pm, so the remaining downhill is too much to do today. I wait until 4 when there is still 50 or 60km to go, I should get to my destination by dark. I get on the saddle and get going. The way is one of the most amazing but hairy rides I have done. The gradient is very gentle as the road follows the contours of the enormous Rif, up a small section and then down, down down. I am constantly trying to keep myself from being pushed off the tarmac as the Mercedes race past, often waving in support despite nearly killing me. I have little chance to admire the stunning mountains in my peripheral vision as I snake down the valley. I pass Bab Bezoot and level out, pedalling harder and slowing down as the road works its way up to my furthest point away from home, Chefchaoen.
As the sun begins to setand my legs begin to ache, I see the lights of this charming peaceful city approach. I go straight up to the old Medina where I find Pension Souika, a beautiful old hotel in the centre catering for backpackers. I unpack and relax, straight away I meet my first friend here Diego. This is the first time I stay at a place full of other travellers in the whole trip. It is a refreshing experience.
The next two days were complete relaxation, strolling the blue washed walls, up the hill to the mosque, eating lots of food, hanging out at Oussama’s sandwhich shop,meeting French German US and spanish backpackers and feeling a little bit smug.On my last night before departing, I am woken at about 1am by the light switched on and some loud Moroccan voices. I eventually open my eyes and am surrounded by four police officers and the Spanish guy in the bed next to me in hand cuffs. Dumbfounded, I watch as they gather his posessions and take him away, leaving us in peace. Naturally the following morning I want to know what had happened, I am relieved to hear that it was a mistake and he was later released. Apparently he shared the same name as a Cuban wanted by interpol for murder, and that his check in to the hotel’s computer had rang alarm bells. Posted by henryrolls at 06:13 0 comments

Sunday, 21 March 2010 near the end the adventure begins In case some of you are confused about the goal of this voyage, Ceuta in Morocco is still the final destination I intend to cycle to. Rather than cross the Costa del Sol to get there, I decided to see a bit more of Morocco, so I will ride the north Moroccan coast from Melilla to Ceuta which is 20km more and five times the climb of the original leg. Just in case you thought I was cheating.
So far I can say that I am so glad to have done this. It has taken me no time for my spirits to be lifted no end by the people of Morocco. The french stage was so cold I was pretty much alone every day, and although plenty more people were out and about in Spain, I passed by pretty much unnoticed. Morocco is the complete opposite.After last writing in Almeria, I went down to the port and bought a ferry ticket. The boat departed at 11.30pm and I tried very hard to assume a comfortable sleeping position across two reclining seats. The crossing was calm and quiet, but the night’s sleep wasn’t particularly good. Like so many of the other Moroccan passengers I caught my best nap on the floor. As the sun rose behind a pretty drab sky we arrived into the Spanish province of Melilla. It was early and I had little inclination to explore the town, so I went and found the frontier. The transition from Europe to Africa occured in 50 meters, orderly queues descend into fighting chaos as cultures filter through the barricades and past serious looking border police.
After filling in an immigration form I am issued with my stamp, past the guard and into the land of Morocco. I knew to expect a sensory overload, but it’s always underestimated. The sights, the sounds and above all the smells are overwhelming. I also forgot how much attention I attracted, and being early in the morning after not much sleep I wasn’t yet ready to face this, so I withdrew some Dihrams and got going towards Nidhar. The dusty dual carriageway took me south around the hilly peninsula as I passed countless smiles and greetings of Salaam alikum by the men of the roadside watching the world go by. I went straight through Nidhar still unacclimatised to the overwhelming attention, but I was getting very hungry so I rested up at a little tea stop out of town. I ate six eggs, a baguette and my first of many delicious mint teas while watching a guy dunking a lorry inner tube in an old bath tub to find the puncture.
Suitably recharged, I got back on the N16 and rejoined the Mediterranean. The road had been recently rebuilt with EU funding, and the carving through the gentle foothills of the Rif mountains was immense. I wondered what kind of machine could slice through rocky hills so straight and cleanly on such an enormous scale. The earth walls revealed the geological periods of sediment of these ancient hills as I cycled past them relatively effortlessly, for the gradients were fairly easy. On I went, I realised that there were very few built up areas on this coast, just small settlements of farmers and fishermen. The traffic was incredibly light for a national road, possibly one vehicle passed me per minute. Every other vehicle here is an old Mercedes, handed down from from a

European owner and cherished and repaired indefinately here. Th is is a land where things get fixed rather than discarded. I stop for another mint tea and am invited to share lunch with another customer: Yet again I am the centre of curiosity; here people want to know what it’s like to be a young Engish guy, what philosphy we have if we don’t worship our god. I carry on, and it dawns upn me I should think about where to stay. There is nowhere particular on the map indicating a guest house is likely, so 90km along I stop at a tea stop, meet the customers and use my judgement whether they seem sound enough to trust if I ask them if there is a place to stay nearby. I do this about three hours later after doubling my arabic vocabulary; learning about each other’s lives, talking about the mad world we live in and the volatile situation with muslims and the west and how they just want to coexist just like most of us. We share the tranquility of this rural beach with the strangest looking cliffs behind us.
The customers leave and bid me the warmest of farewells; saying how honoured they are to have met me, and Mohamed the owner of the tea hut lets me stay in the security of his hut behind the shutters, he will wake me at 8 and cook me breakfast. So after another load of eggs and baguette and some cake for lunch, he insist I pay only what everyone else would, about £3 for dinner, breakfast, countless cakes and teas.I get going and the sky is even more grey than yesterday. An hour in and I take refuge in a marble lined classy cafe as the heavens open. I put my waterproofs on and continue along, playing duel with a tractor full of farm workers. They are highly amused that I’m quicker on the downhills and they overtake me on the uphills. I pass Ajdir and the gradients get fierce. My road goes inland but I decide to cycle 10km further to the big town of Al Hoceima. I realise the amount I withdrew at the start; 100 Dirhams sounded like a lot but was about £8 and I only had 30 Dh left. As the hills of the detour got steeper and steeper I hoped there would be a bank. Sure enough there was, and after a huge steak and chips for lunch I decided to find a hotel and recuperate. It had been 3 days since I stayed anywhere with washing facilities. Posted by henryrolls at 09:31 2 comments

Sun Mar 28, 2010

gilles100
heeeeeeeeeeyyyy! I am back ondertussen yeah baby yeah! maar voor mezelf en de geinteresseerden toch nog een verslag van de laatste 3 weken… eerst het verslag en dan de fotos… ok… savonds in Porto Alegre flink op stap geweest met nen Italiaan en nen Braziliaan van het hotel… op straat dankzij mezelf in contact gekomen met 2 toffe grieten die Engels konden(hip hip hoera, eerder een uitzondering hier)… en daarmee na lang aanschuiven binnengeraakt in een leuke tent met vanalle muziek… één van die 2 vrouwkes is helemaal zot van den Italiaan dus da duurt nie lang of die staan daar te bekken… die andere meid wordt een beetje mijn vriendin, haar naam is Paula en ze neemt mij op schok door de club… “En Bart, wie vinde gij wel leuk?” “haar?” die wijst daar een serieuze babe aan en ik zeg natuurlijk ja… voor ik het weet is zij daar mee aan het praten en komt ze die voorstellen aan mij… ze kan nie echt goed Engels… ik probeer een beetje te communiceren maar da werkt blijkbaar zo nie in Brazil en mijn “vriendin” zegt tegen mij na 1 minuut da die knappe griet mij zie zitten en dat het tijd is voor actie haha… dus ik sta daar met mijn pint in mijn handen wa de coolerd uit te hangen want ik vind het maar wa raar…. ineens pakt da vrouwke die pint uit mijn handen en pakt MIJ gewoon vol op mijn bek… ja wadde… zo werkt het dus soms he in Brasil ;-)als je om 2u snachts een disco binnekomt zie je gewoon kei veel mensen staan kussen… en meestal gebeurt da binne de 5 minuten en héééééél direct… en meestal gaat het van Nee…. nee…. nee…. JA! grappig om te zien, toch wel een serieus verschil tov bij ons… ge moet er op tijd bij zijn want anders is het te laat… hier wordt graag en veel gekust, ook door de vrouwen! Ik spreek af met Paula dat ik misschien nog wel langskom bij haar thuis later in mijn reis in Maceio want da ligt op mijn route… later op de nacht als ik in mijn bed lig wordt ik brutaal gewekt en wakker gehouden door den Italiaan die enkele kamers verder volop da ander vrouwke aan het “bewerken” is… en zij maakte nogal veel lawaai moet ik zeggen… daarenboven waren alle ramen van hout en halfopen dus dan weet je het wel, ge kont da horen door heeeeel het hotel…. Bon, de volgende dag na 3u slapen naar Campo Grande gevlogen om naart pantanal te gaan…. savonds eerst nog op schok geweest met een paar Israeliers van t hotel… een soort club met meer terrassen buiten en staan en zittafels binnen, met véél mooie vrouwen amai da viel nie tegen… omdat de Israeliers buiten bleven zitten waar ge alleen maar kunt kijken naar iedereen die binne de omheining is, besliste ik maar om alleen naar binne te gaan, zo van “Fuck it, ik ga me hier es goe amuseren!” en da heb ik gedaan… de nacht van mijn leven daar haha… Wa Brazilianen aangesproken en ook verschillende groepkes vrouwen en me goed geamuseerd die avond… op een gegeven moment zat ik buiten met 7 vrouwen van +-28 jaar allemaal vrijgezel, en een paar serieus de moeite… da maak je niet mee in België spijtig genoeg, daar waren minstens 4 van de 7 bezet geweest, nog een ander lesbisch, nog een ander lelijk en de laatste een moeilijke :-)… nee, laat die Israeliers maar buiten van hun sapke drinke met 4 mannen onder elkaar :-)in een andere club een groepke van 5 meisjes, waarvan 2 echt de moeite man man man… het spijtige is dan wel vaker, zeker buiten Rio en Sao Paulo, da de meesten maar weinig Engels kunnen… van die 5 kon bv. maar één iemand redelijk goed Engels… degenen die het kunnen hebben meestal allemaal of gereisd, of int buitenland gewoond of gestudeerd, of op een privéschool Engels gevolgd. Is niet erg, blijkbaar slaag ik er toch steeds beter in om ze te entertainen, met het weinige Portugees da ik kan plus natuurlijk den “body language” he 😉 om 3.30u in de morgen wil ik naar huis gaan wanneer ik nog Suzi tegen het bevallige lijf loop… binnen de 5 minuten is het prijs… ik ga naar het hotel met de contactgegevens van 7,8 leuke vrouwen(half die groep van 28 hoor), maar ik besef da k er geen tijd voor ga hebben, shit…. ach ja we zien wel… smorgens op tijd opgestaan(weer mar 2u geslapen…)om naar het Pantanal te vertrekken om 10u zogezegd… we moeten echter wachten op nen Israelier en maar wachten… uiteindelijk komt er ineens nog 7 man bij en zitten we met 15 opeengepakt in een buske, op weg naar het Pantanal, zo n 5u rijden is da… tja commercieel gedoe he… jammer in het bureau in Campo grande werkt Johan, een 48 jarige nederlander oorspronkelijk van Amsterdam maar nu al 7 j in Brasil en daarvoor 17j in Portugal… hiermee klikt het goed, hij geeft heel wa tips en tis leuk om nog es nederlands te praten eigenlijk… onderweg naart pantanal overstappen op nen safari truck en zien we al 2 krokodillen en supermooie rode vogels, een soort van papegaai… daar aangekomen blijkt het verblijf een soort van mini dorp/resort met +-25 kamers, nen hoop gidsen en best goei eten… ik ben meestal samen mej een Duits koppel omda we in dezelfde “groep” zitte… wa doen we nog int pantanal: paardrijden, boottocht, wandeltocht, jeepsafari, nachtsafari… eigelijk rijden we meestal met grote truck de hoofdbaan af… en zien we meestal nie al te veel, valt een beetje tegen… maar ja da ligt aan het natte seizoen blijkbaar… ik zeg op een gegeven moment tegen de gids da k wel eens van de weg wil en krijg mijn zin… we trekken een stuk de wildernis in en zien dan ook 7 apen in nen boom zitten en nog 2 “armadillos” maar die zien we wel meer… op de weg terug zitten we vast en zegt de gids… “ok bart, gij wilde avontuur… hier hebt ge het… stroopt allemaal uw broek op want we gaan door het water terug….” ik durfde nie goed want daar zit vanalles int water natuurlijk maar goe de gids klonk vrij gerust dus maar meegegaan… we zaten nog geen 5 meter int water en ne meter vlak voor ons zat ne krokodil net onder het oppervlak(zijn maaar max 2-2,5 meter lang int pantanal maar toch…)… de gids wijst ons erop en slaat het beest met ne stok, waarop die ons half aanvalt en wild om zich heen draait en bijt en dan wegstormt… wij waren ondertussen allemaal aant gillen als kleine schoolmeisjes haha, de gids vond het wel grappig… bon… ne kilometer door het water tot maximaal net onder de kont diep gegaan… en eindelijk terug in den jeep… savonds vol beetjes mijn benen ja wa wilde door da water gaan sjonge jonge… ook voel ik pijn in mijn kuitholte… blijkt er nen teek zich te hebben genesteld shit… ne gids weet hoe hem aanpakken en gebruikt enkele lucifers om de teek te verbranden en dan van mijn lichaam te rukken… no problem zeggen ze daar… maar als ik na een tijd rode kringen zie op de plaats van de teek dan moet ik wel naar den dokter gaan, volgens ne medetoerist… bon hope da da nie nodig is…. int pantanal nog gezien: blauwe papegaaien, een paar toecans, nog apen, veeeeeel krokodillen, veeeeel vogels met mooie kleuren, een slang waar we ineens bijna op stonden, de kont van nen capibara… al bij al was het me allemaal te vrijblijvend en commercieel, maar wel gezellig, ook nog heel leuke mensen van Australie ontmoet die k zeker nog moet bezoeken mocht ik er zijn… Carl, nen ouden krijger, Kristen en Shae… dan kom ik terug aan in Campo Grande en besef ik dak mijn favoriete jeans en een hemd ben vergeten… Johan, den hollander, heeft nog gebeld om ze de volgende dag mee terug te brengen maar helaas, een dag later is ze er niet bij… volgens Johan hebben ze wss niet eens gekeken of hebben ze ze zelf aan… als het nie echt belangrijk is zijn de Brazilianen nogal laks zegt ie… die avond heb ik afgesproken met Johan, zijn vriendin, nog 2 dames vant pantanal, nog 2 gasten en Suzi, van de uitgaansavond voor het pantanal…het wordt ne gezelligen avond en op laatst blijven we nog met 2 over…. gezellig…. de volgende dag lekker in CG gebleven wachten op mijn jeans(die nooit kwam)en met Suzi de stad onveilig gemaakt…(ok ok ik vond het gezelschap wel goed dus ben maar een dag langer gebleven…;-)de volgende dag sta ik vroeg op en ben ik van plan om naar Salvador te vliegen… ik heb geprobeerd online te boeken tegen een promoprijs maar dit lukt niet, hoewel de site van TAM heel internationaal gericht is… je hebt een Braziliaanse postcode nodig bij het ene bedrijf, een CPF nummer bij het andere enz… veel tijd verloren… dan op de luchthaven in Campo grande… 4uurs! bezig geweest met boeken van vluchten… van het kastje naar de muur gestuurd nie normaal… problemen om online te boeken, dan weer nie kunnen betalen met visa internationaal, dan van het internet gegooid in het enige internetcafé, ineens hadden ze problemen… mijn vlucht kwam steeds dichterbij en mijn online betaling zou niet in orde zijn voor de vlucht naar Salvador… online betaalde ik 133 dollar en nu zou ik een nieuw ticket moeten kopen voor 433 dollar en dat terwijl er maar 28 mensen op de vlucht zitten, praktisch een leeg vliegtuig dus, ik kan het niet geloven maar niemand kan me helpen…. uiteindelijk ook nog wat andere vluchten proberen te regelen en een vlucht later naar Salvador zoda heel de dag om zeep is, tja shit happens when travelling in Brasil :-)4 uurs bezig geweest en later in Maceio én in Sao paulo bleken de tickets toch niet in orde te zijn, ongelooflijk zitten kloten nog in maceio en maar nipt mijn vlucht gehaald(40 min voor vertrek was er ook nog een man bij TAM die me doodleuk liet wachten in de rij waardoor ik ei zo na mijn vlucht miste… toen ben ik bijna ontploft… uiteindelijk hebben ze mijn bagage nog 20 min voor vertrek in de vlieger gekregen… onmogelijk in Belgie maar in Brasil gelukkig wel… dus idd, ondanks mijn ervaring met het werk ben ik toch 2 keer bijna ontploft in de luchthaven… jezus wa daar allemaal gebeurde hou je nauwelijks voor mogelijk…. in CG ook nog met hulp van een reisbureau online 2 tickets geboekt, en de vlucht van Natal naar Sao paulo laten dubbelchecken en afdrukken ticket voor de check in, bleek in Sao paulo toch nóg dat de betaling niet in orde was zeker…. ook weer nieuw ticket moeten kopen… bon soit…)In salvador int midden van de nacht aangekomen dus slapen… volgende dag met een zwarte Amerikaanse van t hostel naar een strand gegaan en wa relaxed en genoten… savonds naar ne folkloristische show geweest, serieus de moeite, en de laatste act heeft me totaal verbaasd, nie te doen!! spijtig genoeg mocht je geen fotos maken… de laatste act waren superafgetrainde mannen die Capoeira deden… maar dan een hééél spectaculaire vorm, het leek wel of die gasten konden vliegen, ze vlogen door de lucht en vechtten met zwaarden , het leek verdomme wel een kruising tussen de Matrix en de grondoef van de olympische spelen… echt waar, ik wist nie da het fysiek mogelijk was wak daar zag… den Terminator zou er schrik van krijgen…om over Rambo of Rocky maar te zwijgen… nadien nog een tijdje op stap geweest naar typische Salvador tenten met een paar van den hostel, en afgesproken ergens anders met een amerikaans koppel, maar die daagden niet op(man was plots heel ziek geworden)en dan maar redelijk vroeg eens gan slapen…. allej dan op naar Maceio de volgende dag, waar ik 2 nachten bij Paula zou verblijven in hun huis bij haar ouders… toffe gastvrije mensen, die nog diep in de rouw bleken want 6 maanden eerder is hun enige zoon brutaal vermoord vlakbij het strand… gedurende de tijd dat ik er ben ontmoet ik zowat half de familie… deze hangt duidelijk heel erg aan elkaar en ze bezoeken elkaar constant…. anders dan bij ons toch, ze zorgen meer voor elkaar… savonds op stap met Paula, haar naart schijnt vrij bekende nicht, en nog wa volk da ze kennen… leuke avond met coole dansmoves van mezelf die iedereen kan apprecieren… :-)de volgende dag Maceio wa verkend op mezelf en het rustig aan gedaan, wa tijd voor mezelf want Paula moest werken… ik besluit de nachtbus te pakken naar Natal, dan verlies ik geen tijd overdag…. Natal: veel te doen in de omgeving, hier ga ik weer tijd te kort hebben tja… coolste hostel ooit geweest, een soort van kasteel… in de namiddag doe ik een soort stadstoer met een busje… de gids praat geen jota Engels en den toer valt tegen, een No stress hoedje gekocht nog wel maar da benk een week later weeral kwijt… savonds naar een “single party” in de bar naast den hostel… ik ben keimoe maar toch wa socializen met wat vrouwen daar aan de bar… dan krijg ik ineens een demonstratie van Brazilaanse stijl vol efficientie, lef en durf… ne gast, samen met wat maats, wringt zich tussen ons door tot bij één van de vrouwkes in mijn buurt, en palmt die in no time helemaal in voor mijn ogen… ik ben zo moe dat me geen reet kan schelen maar toch vind ik het wel boeiend… dus ik tegen die gast, dude, wa doe je allemaal…? diee gast blijkt supervriendelijk en zegt letterlijk: “man, you must know something: Brasil is a sex-country… don’t talk too much, you need to be direct, we always go for it, no matter what, look at this guy, he s now trying to steal this girl(gast komt ongegeneerd tussen hem en zijn nieuwe verovering hangen, echt bruut)… that s the way it works here… and if it is no succes, next one!” ok dan les geleerd! :-)de volgende dag ga k naar Fernando de Noronha: een paradijs op aarde, een eiland zo’n 260 kilometer ten oosten van Natal… ik doe de eerste avond een Turtle by night activiteit, we zien snachts hoe enkele reuze schildpadden van +- 140 cm uit het water komen, het strand opgaan en een plek zoeken om eieren te leggen…. de 2 eerste gaan terug zonder te leggen maar de derde legt een nest in het strandzand in ne put van 60cm diep… coole beesten wel… de volgende dag een eiland toer… we zien de mooiste stranden van Brasil en zelfs top10 van de wereld en snorkelen… ik zwem vlakbij wa reuzenschildpadden, wel gaaf en we snorkelen ook nog boven een gezonken scheepswrak ook wel cool, veel mooie vissen en opeens ook honderdduizenden vissen net onder ons, een megaschool vissen, we lijken wel omsingeld, wel cool om te zien…. savonds komen al de jeeps samen om zonsondergang te zien op het eiland…. VEEL koppels! het is dan ook echt een supermooi eiland, niet te doen…. volgende dag boottoer en in namiddag mijn allereerste scuba-dive, toch een hele ervaring…. spijtig genoeg geen haai gezien in tegenstelling tot sommigen, maar wel dolfijnen rond de boot na het duiken, cool… laatste dag, mijn allereerste surfles gehad, vermoeiender dan ik dacht maar toch een paar keer kunnen blijven rechtstaan, best leuk… net voor de “les” begon zaten we met 2 rustig op het strand en zei de instructeur, zie die 2 mensen daar, da is gevaarlijk de stroming is te sterk, ze zijn te ver de zee in en kunne nie terugzwemmen als ze nie oppassen… plots springt ie recht en sprint het water in met zijn surfplank… ik dacht ah de les begint maar nee…. één van die twee mensen was aant verdrinken en had om hulp geroepen waarna mijnen instructeur-held hem dus gered heeft…. cool om te zien, spijtig dak mijn baywatch zwembroek nie aan had, had ik mee kunne doen… smorgens om 5 u opgestaan om honderden dolfijnen te zien aankomen in een baai van het eiland… ja lap, voor niks want ge kont ze alleen van héééééél ver zien en mar af en toe een paar, de rest bleef onder water…. da was dus een slecht idee want nie goed voor mijn fitheid haha… maar…. ineens zien we een eind van de kust een heel hoge speciale wolk… wa is da? als ge goe kijkt, zien we een draaikolk de oceaan in gaan onder de wolk, voila seh, nen echten tornado in den verre… nog nooit gezien zoiets wel gaaf… proberen wa fotos te pakken maar ge ziet het niet zo goed op de fotos, tis nogal ver weg in de zee ook, maar tis duidelijk… all right…. savonds terug naar Natal en voor de volgende dag nen Buggy toer geboekt om met een soort buggies te gaan crossen in de heel grote en talrijke duinen ten noorden van Natal… de rest is voor morgen…

Mon Mar 22, 2010


a_l_i_x Afterover half an hour of hairbrushing and de-knotting and a good scrub toget rid of the dust that had found its way even as far as our ears, wewere once again clean and ready to face the world. We met with ourFrench friends to go to a pub for dinner where the wall were covered inloads of very good and some very naked pictures taken on the saltflats. A few rounds of beers and a double cheeseburger each, wereturned to the hotel to enjoy a warmer nights sleep. The next day wewere woken by a military parade in the square outside with drumstrumpets and lots of marching. We had breakfast and then went to thebus station to go to Sucre. We boarded the bus along with a group ofother travellers who we later found out to be our company on the tourwe are now on and a fair few Bolivian women with large cargo andchildren held on their backs with colourful shawls. The bus clatteredits way out of Uyuni and we very quickly realsied this was going to apretty crap journey. The bus was winding up narrow roads that twistedsteeply along the mountainside with no barriers and no tarmac. After afew mouthfuls of dust that were making it inside through the sunroofand being desperate for a pee, we finally stopped outside a shack inthe middle of nowhere. The bus continued on as far as Potosi, a cityfamous for its mines where the miners work in terrible conditionsscratching away with nothing but basic handtools and dynamite. They arepaid no wage, but work for coorperatives and they even have a mininggod introduced by the Spanish to scare them into working that resemblesthe Devil which they have come to worship for luck. We then had to waitat the bus station for another bus where we met a French and aBrazilian guy travelling together. As we got on the bus a woman triedto charge us a bus terminal departure tax. We were on our guard for thenumerous scams in Bolivia and pretended not to understand and not tospeak Spanish. “We weren�t born yesterday lady, we�re onto you.”Eventually we manage to shove past her to board. We sit down, read ourbook and then I read that charging a departure tax is standard inBolivia and we keep our heads down until the bus leaves the station! Wewatched two Jean Claude Van Damme films and were clock watching as wewere already late. Then, on our way into Sucre, the bus was stopped bythe police and the driver got out. The passengers were hammering on thewindows shouting “Vamos!” Let�s go! . The drivers daughter got on totell us that there was a protest going on and that no buses wereallowed through. Road blocks in Bolivia are common so everyone justsighed and then became even more irrate. Then another bus passed us andthe police. Everyone stirred and started asking questions, which iswhen it transpired that the driver was getting a speeding ticket butdidn�t want to say. When he got back on, he drove like an angry maniacall the way into the city. Finally we got out and got a taxi to themain square with the French and the Brazilian. We searched around for ahotel in the dark and evetually found a place to stay. We went fordinner at a pizzeria and wandered back sleepilly to the hotel nearmidnight. The next day we wandered around the market butfound mainly cheap jewellery and a large food market selling all sortsof unappetising stuff. We had lunch in a French restaurant, whichwasn�t so French but was good and then wandered some more. The next daywe went to the Cathedral with French Pierre where there was a museumfilled with all sorts of fancy things covered in rubies, emeralds,sapphires and pearls, as well as a chapel filled with many paintingsand sculptures of people with slit throats and a painting of death,which was all a bit Pagan. The chapel was home to the famous Virgin ofGuadelaupe, a painting of the Virgin Mary that was so heavily adornedwith jewels and sparkly materials by worshippers that now only theface of the painting remains, covered by a huge shiny quilted dress.Then a quick look around the actual Cathedral itself which was quitemodern with a good throne at the back where Wass made himself comfy. Afterthis, we went to a little church that was rather delapidated inside butthe real draw was the roof. We climbed up some narrow winding stairsand crossed a broken plank of wood to step out onto the rooftop withviews over the whole city. Wass rang the bells and then sheepishlylooked around when they actually made a noise. On the other side of thebell tower was a domed roof which made for lots of pictures.
We came down and headed to a cafe for appertifs. We then went to dinner and came home to crash out in our lovely hotel room.Thenext day was spent getting haircuts, a source of much fear for me. Thehairdresser�s had loads of pictures of terrible 90s bobs and fringesand the sink to wash my hair was a sink with a bucket beside it.Luckily it all turned out OK, as well as very cheap. Wass got his headshaved at a barber�s where all the staff had terribleshort-back-and-sides looks going on. We came back to the hotel to saygoodbye to our French friend and met two new Australian ladies whobecame our dinner company that evening. We spent the afternoon climbingthe steep streets up to a monastry on the hill, arrived and then foundit closed for siesta. We wandered around the neighbourhood and saw aload of school kids trying to clamber into the back of an open truckwhich seemed to be the school bus. Then my sunglasses broke. We wentback to the monastry and sat in a cafe below the terrace oppositeplaying chess and drinking iced coffee. Finally 2 o�clock came roundand we were allowed in. We had to be taken around by a tour guide whoshowed us some pretty cloisters, a period furnished monk�s bedroom andsome really interesting artwork and old coins, some dating back toaround the eighteenth century. We passed a library but that wasoff-limits so I was mildly disappointed. A quick look round the churchwhere there was some very old carvings of impailed saints on the choirstalls and we were done. Then we headed to the textiles museum, whichin my opinion was excellent for the abundance of information that wasvery intellectually written. Wass got a little bored of looking atweavings of horses and geometric patterns but I was taking my time andwe got to see a woman making a weaving.
Therewas also some music illustrating the various seasonal and traditionaldances of Bolivian indigenous groups which Wass had a boogey to whilstI caught him up. Then we went into the final room where Wass smackedhis head on the very low door frame with an impossible to miss warningsign on it and I fell down the stairs in the same room and when Ilooked up, I saw two skulls in the cabinet opposite the stairwell.Definitely a haunted room! That night we went for dinner with Sue andCherie, who were nearly old enough to be our grandparents. After somehilarious anecdotes and some beer, Cherie almost fell down the stairsleaving the restaurant. The next day we were due to fly toLa Paz, having decided against another perilous bus journey anddiscovering it was only $50 with the Bolivian military airline. We saidgoodbye to Sue and Cherie and searched the markets for last minutesouvenirs. Then we got a taxi to the airport and passed a major bit ofbuilding work, with a temporary overground pipe extending for a coupleof miles along the road on top of a heap of rubble and a stadium beingbuilt on the hillside. When we arrived at the airport and went to checkin, we were told our 14.15 flight didn�t exist and that we would beflying at 16.00. Then they weighed our bags using balance scales. Wespent the next three hours trying to kill time in Sucre�s tiny airport.Luckily for us, there was Wifi so I could blog a little using my phone.Then something very exciting happened. There had been a small planewaiting out on the runway surrounded by Jeeps and guards. Then a sqaudof police on motorcross bikes rolled up and armed soldiers marched outonto the tarmac. A man in a suit walked out and briskly boarded theplane. I asked an old chap in the lounge what was going on and he saidit was the Bolivian president who had been visiting Sucre for theinternational sports stadium they were building getting in the plane.
Ourplane was then delayed by a further hour and then we only knew it wasthere when there was a final boarding call. No security checks and afunny look when I asked if I could take my water through, we boardedthe plane. As we took off, we wandered when they would pressurize thecabin as this normally happens at 2,440m, but we were already at2,700m. 15 minutes in and we were both close to being sick and feltreally short of breath. Then we learned that they basically don�tpressurize the cabin, they just cruise at 4,000m which is the _ heightof La Paz. The sickness eased and we watched as we flew over canyonsand barren craters in the rocky landsape.We arrived at theairport feeling a little rough and jumped in our transfer taxi. Thefirst impressions of La Paz were that it was really big. Sprawlingbasic brick houses line the hills and in the dark it is just an endlesssea of tungsten lights. We got dropped out our hostel and then gotmoved down the road to a building that looked like the perfect placefor a James Bond fight scene and/or a crack den. An empty courtyardwith a dribbling fountain, stacks of old planks in dark corners, withtwo wodden staircases leading up to the entirely wooden first floorthat overlooked the courtyard. We dumped our things and headed for theStar of India, probably Bolivia�s only British curry house. A very lateand average curry down, we went back to the hotel to sleep, bothfeeling a little rough from the altitude. The next day wewent to the Witches Market where women sell all sorts of alpaca andllama goods, including llama foetuses. The foetuses are supposed tobring good luck to your house – you burn it and then burry it underyour threshold. A horrible smell of incense clung to these stalls whichonly made the dry, drawn foetuses even more disgusting. We wandered thenormal souvenir shops and and then went to a colonial restaurant fordinner where I sampled my first llama steak, which tasted very similarto beef just with a slightly hayish flavour. On the Sunday,we made our way to San Pedro prison, the stuff of legend amongsttravellers in La Paz. We passed a festival where we got some chocolatedipped marshmallows and fruit and saw some Spanish dancing, as well asa puppy that was bent on chewing its owners ankle to shreds. We got toSan Pedro and saw the women queueing outside, waiting to come back totheir husbands and their home in the prison. In this prison, prisonersmust pay for their cell, their food and anything else they might need,including bribes to the officials to allow visitors in or allow themout supervised for a night. Most of the people are in for drugoffences, major theft or murder. Others, such as rapist, don�t lastfive minutes and are usually killed by the other prisoners or are movedto maximum security prisons for their own protection! We saw one whiteguy waving at us through the gates there are still plenty of touristsgetting arrested for drugs trafficking in South American prisons whopaid a messenger to send out to us a piece of paper with his mobilenumber on. Then we were approached by a homeless looking guy whooffered us tours as he walked passed to avoid the attention of theguards. As another British girl in the square tried to take photos, aguard came over and asked her to delete them. She acted dumb and saidher camera wasn�t working, so he told us to move on and he walked offlooking at us suspiciously. After British ex-inmate Thomas McFadden released a book about the prison, which showed the corruption of thepenal system in Bolivia, the officials have been worried aboutjournalists and San Pedro has been plagued by frequent damningarticles. The hobo came over again and started talking to us aboutgoing into the prison Thomas used to run tours of the prison to make aliving but we knew this was no longer possible and was just a scam.Then he told us “his” story, saying he was an inmate in for doublemurder but was allowed out during the day because he was on probationbefore being released in 32 days. He spoke good English and performedus a little rap for some lunch money. When we left we were skeptical asto his real identity as a prisoner. When we got back to our hostel weread about the hobo who hangs around outside pretending to be an inmatewho asks for money. The next day we did the death road. Wegot up early to be picked up from our hostel and taken to the officefor breakfast. There we met our biking companions, a Glaswegian couple.We ate breakfast, debated ou free T-shirt colours and then got in thevan. We drove for a couple of hours up into the hills of La Paz to thestarting point by a lake. There we got kitted up with helmets, glovesand windproof clothing and tested out our bikes. We were quite high, soa little short of breath, but thankfully the cycle is all downhill. Theroad was until recently used for all vehicules, including lorries, withtwo way traffic naivgating the narrow road only wide enough for one carbarely hollowed out of the side of the mountain. The initial part isasphalt and has two lanes so that was an easy cycle with good views.Soon after a drugs checkpoint, the road turns into bumpy gravel. As westarted along the deadliest part of the death road, we were alreadypassing small wooden crosses on the side, clearly marking fatalities.We rode down with a van behind us carrying snacks and spare bikes and Isoon got tired and had a sore bum so I got in the van.
Wedescended from the windy tops of the asphalt road all the way down to ajungle climate with tropical plants at only 900m. Wass raced ahead onhis bike down the last and windiest part of the road to emerge at theend of the death road still alive. Then we all went in the van to arestaurant for a swim and some lunch. A long drive back ascending 3000mand we both felt tired. That night we had dinner at La Paz�s very ownHard Rock Cafe and on the way home Wass got hit by a beggarwoman whenhe refused to give her money. The next morning we had tomove hotels to join our tour group. Then we went looking for sunglassesand had a Chinese for lunch. We went to the Cathedral where there werenarrow stairwells leading up through the walls onto the roof. We werestanding inside the bell tower confused as to where to head next therehad been arrows marking the route around the museum when Wass decidedto try the creaking wooden staircase that had been erected on narrowplanks on the inside of the tower. He climbed up carefully, treading inthick layers of bird poo and reached the top, only to find the topfloor full of pigeons.
Thestairs looked like they might collapse so he hurried down looking pale.We found our way around the roof and made it back inside, where a ladytook us for a tour of the Cathedral itself. She showed us the variousarchitectural elements and then took us down into the crypt where therewere some very big gold urns and most interestingly, a glass boxcontaining the ashes and the buttons from the clothing of San FranciscoSouth America�s favourite saint . That night we ate dinner in a barfull of middle aged hippy types wearing too much indigenous clothing.The next morning we got up early to take a bus to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca.
Wedrove for the morning as far as the narrowest point of the lake andthen got on a boat to the other side whilst our coach floated across ona large barge. We got back on and drove to Copacabana for lunch. Afterthis we went to cross the border to Peru, our destination for theevening being Puno. We crossed the little gold marker that exactlydivided the two countires, got an icecream and waited to get back onour bus. A couple more hours driving, we made it to Puno in the lateafternoon. We wandered the town briefly, which is really touristy andthen waited for our meeting before dinner. That night I had a Peruvianspeciality, cuy, or guinea pig. I tried to eat the littlebits of meat off of the bones with my knife and fork and was told offby the waiter who said it is traditional to use your hands. One guineapig and a steak down, Wass and I went back to the hotel. Anotherearly start the next morning to go to the dock. We were told we wouldbe picked up by limousines, which we discovered were tuk-tuks. Everyoneon the tour got very excited, but we weren�t so fussed after two monthsin Asia. However, it was made fun by one of the tuk-tuks having a soundsystem playing the YMCA and some tuk-tuk racing. We boarded the boatafter clambering over several others and settled ouselves on the comfyseats with pillows. We sailed on the still waters of the lake for threehours before reaching Taquile island. This island is home to about4,000 people and they have a patriarchal system. The guide explained tous all about their weddings, where the fiances have to livewith eachother for two to three years in isolation to see if they canlast marriage. Then when they get married everyone else has a partywhilst the husband sits on a bench and the woman sits on the floor forsix days staring at the ground. He also told us what they do if someonegets sicks. A shaman will put a guinea pig in a bag round the personsbody and the person will sleep the night with the guinea pig on them.The next morning, the shaman will kill it and open it up to see what iswrong. If the guinea pig has a heart problem, so does the patient.Apparently this really does work because guinea pigs are very sensitiveanimals – if you stand next to one and scream it will die of a heartattack – and then the shaman will send the person out to pick variousherbs and plants to take as a cure. We walked up to the main square ofthe island and saw the men standing around in their traditional dressknitting hats. Then we had trout for lunch at a restaurant with viewsover the lake. We got back on the boat and continued on to Amantani. Whenwe arrived at the port, we were picked up by our “mums” who werehosting us in their homes for the night. We practised our newly learntQuecha on her Quecha is the first language of many highland people inPeru and greeted her with “allillanchu”. Our mummy was called Elsa andshe walked us up to her home as she spun yarn and knitted along theway. We deposited our things in our quaint room with bed heads madefrom old dressers and a tiny elf-sized doorway and Elsa let us choose awoolly hat each so that she could distinguish us from the other whitepeople because we all look the same to them . Then she walked us up tothe local football field where there was a tourists vs local game whichWass played in. He stopped half way through, heaving for breath fromthe altitude whilst the locals happily ran around and annihilated thetourists. Then we had some hot chocolate and Elsa came to collect usfor dinner. Dinner was tasty, cooked over their woodburning stove in alittle mud brick kitchen. Dad, or Octavio, and the two children, Ronnieand we couldn�t catch the daughter�s name, came back to eat with us. Wetalked to the children about school, which was an hour and a half�swalk away and tried to practise some more Quecha. After dinner, Elsadressed us up in the traditional dress of her Amantanian community.Wass had a large red poncho, whilst I had a bright floral blouse withtwo large puffy skirts, a tight embroided waistbelt and a long blackshawl for my head. We waited in the dark garden to walk to the villagehall when Elsa returned from the shed with a bundle on her back and anaxe which I asked about but couldn�t figure out her response . Wewalked to the village hall where there was a band playing drums,guitars and panpipes and other members of our group were collecting forsome traditional dancing. The locals were pretty energetic with theirdancing and were pulling us all around the dancefloor until we were allpanting for breath. Then for some partner dancing with mum and dad anda drink. Then we went home a crashed out in our little dolls-house likeroom under a heap of blankets. The next morning we werewoken up by the daughter knocking on our door with a bucket of hotwater for washing. We washed our faces and dressed for breakfast. Somepancakes and coca tea and then we walked down to the port to satgoodbye to mum. The children and Octavio were already gone to work andschool. We all waved goodbye and boarded the boat for the Urosislands. We arrived amongst the reed islands and passed some reedboats. The Usor people live on islands made entirely out of reeds thatfloat upon the water. As they pile fresh reeds onto the surface of theisland, the island slowly grows to touch the bottom of the water whereit then makes a really bad smell and the islanders have to build a newisland to live on. They make new islands every 40 years and have toreroof their homes after every wet season. They used to eat only fish,small birds and reeds, although now they have petrol boats to go to themainland. If a family has a disagreement with the community, their partof the island is literally cut off, deanchored and left to float away.The Uros people also make reed boats, now just a tourist attraction butthey were originally used for expeditions to follow the path of thesetting sun which led the Uros people to Africa. They know this becausecoca leaves and corn indigenous to South America have been found inTutancamun�s body. We looked around an islander�s home and then lookedaround their stalls. Then we had a ride in the reed boat which waspaddled by two men over to another island where we got back on our boatto have lunch and head back to Puno.That afternoon wewandered around the town, ate some popcorn, and came back for somecable TV before dinner. That night we went to a restaurant withtraditional dancing and music and really good food. We both sampledsome alpaca and I had a traditional corn pudding too. The dancing wasparticularly energitic, with an enthusiastic and animated panpipist anda guy with a ukalele. The dancers did various dances where they actedout drunkeness, marital fights, rape and just general rough and tumble,pulling eachother to the floor and staggering about. Then some moreformalised dancing with lots of spinning. The girls wore tiny sequinedskirts under their large billowing ones and towards the end came out insome crazy metallic minidresses and platform boots which looked madethem look more like an Abba tribute band. There was also a condor dancewhere the blokes wore some huge feather covered masks and a man in ablack cape with a scary gold mask that made me jump out of my seat whenI turned round to see him looming behind me.

Sat Mar 20, 2010

Paradise! I realise that I have been spoilt for hospitality. My Cartagena host, a young Mexican student called Pako was quite busy, so I was happy to pass the time before he finished at school, then cook us and his two housemates some food while he continued integrating radio frequency calculations. The housemates were Polish and German, and seemed more interested and offering of their Sangria. I really can’t complain though, I just know I have been extremely spoilt. I got breakfast in a cafe, and got ready for a big day, 110 km and over 1200m climbing, west down the coast to Aguillas. I think it’s too hard to describe the ride today but it was definately the most beautiful, traffic free yet gruelling rides so far. About 20km were on a rocky coastal track, and the finale was a 600m climb in the beautiful Cabo Cope y Puntas de Calnegre. I’ll let the following photos do the talking…






I arrived at Aguillas, had a pizza and met up with Camille and Frederick, my hosts for tonight. French and US respectively, they were delightful company, but I was probably not the best of company as I was so exhausted. Fred told me about his complicated immigration situation, how he had remained in France after his marriage with a French woman had ended, and he had been deported from France after refusing an offer from the authorities. He was a perfect candidate for working for the government as a spy, apart from his political stance which meant now he was in Spain, teaching English on a tourist visa.
I left relatively early and realised my ride to Mojacar was tiny in comparison to yesterdayapos9s, and with a strong tail wind I was there in no time. The sun was fierce today, and I was happy to go slowly in order to recuperate. The last leg however was a very steep hill into this ancient hill fort. The warren of whitewashed buildings have seen an occupation of many different tribes over it’s long history. Greeks, Moors, Spanish and most recently English it seems. My host, David was born in Merseyside, but had never considered Britain his home, having raised a family in Denmark for the most part of his life. We went to a bar and did a very British pub quiz with some other English. Our team came second and we left. David was tired of this community and wanted to go on to Thailand for his next chapter.
We walked down the steep hill and after filling my bottles with warm spring water I said goodbye and got going again. I would break up my journey to Almeria and take David’s advice to go and wild camp in Las Negras, where I may find some other young travellers. I warmed to this idea, since France I have felt a lot more alien to the locals and other more ‘mature’ holidaymakers, and I am sure this is not just due to my language barrier. The going was tough as the road worked its way through a desert landscape. David had told me it had been used for many spaghetti westerns as a fake Nevada or other US wilderness. Although not a long distance, the climbing was fierce today, and eventually I descended into Las Negras.
I cased the joint for evidence of wild campers and younger, more alternative travellers but there was nothing, just a 6 euro site with designated pitches, entrance barrier and noise curfews- not my idea of camping, but an option if I found nothing else. Eventually I found a hippy and asked him of this spot I had imagined. Victor, a Czech guy told me it was not Las Negras but San Pedro, a mere 3km along the coast, but the only way was by boat or a very rocky track which he doubted I could ride the last part. It didn’t put me off, and after buying some dinner I pushed up an extremely rocky track and cycled around the headland on a terrain most mountain bikes would have never graced.
Victor was right about the last bit, carrying a 35kg bike over it was hard enough, but off in the distance I knew what I could see would make the whole chore worthwhile. It was like a paradise, a shanghri la. A small abandoned beach hamlet with a beautiful sandy beach. Cut off by the modern world with no tarmac connection, the sandstone structures were rebuilt using found materials.
The odd tent was pitched in amongst a terrace of beautiful wild gardens, vibrant with herbs and flowers. I knew I was in a dilemma, I was going to be sucked into this place. Getting the bike back up the path was going to be a mammoth ordeal, yet I had come with no food and needed to remember my mission. I met a few Germans, one of whom had been here every winter for 7 years. He showed me the abuse the elements gave his tent, a couple of months of sunshine and the nylon disintegrated. We had a couple of beers in a makeshift bar an entrepreneurial Austrain ran, a tarpaulin over the terragce and some small warm cans for a euro each, then I went to sleep in my beautiful little pitch.
I packed up and carried the bike and the bags in two stages,
I was exhausted having not even ridden anywhere yet. The 3km took close to an hour and I picked up a coffee, breakfast and lunch and got going. Yet more spaghetti western backdrop, and the route took me off tarmac and up a red earth track steeply up into the mountains. It was a route the GPS had chosen for me so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was ideal. A hard climb up and then 40km of ever so slight descent through the plains of Nijar, populated by hectares upon hectares of tomato poly tunnels. This was my landscape for the day until the civilisation built up to Almeria. I am ready to change my lansdscape and culture now, and continue the last leg along the North coast of Morocco. Posted by henryrolls at 10:27 0 comments

Mon Mar 15, 2010

Sunday, 14 March 2010 the beautiful hills image1006
Marlene and I took the poorly wheel to a motocycle cum bicycle mechanics a few streets away. They took it from me and told me to return at 6pm. After buying some provisions Marlene left me at her flat and went to play Bridge for a few hours. As well as catching up on couch surf requests, I tried learning some spanish, motivated by my need to collect the wheel. The young guy who served us was not there when I returned, Marlene had warned me that the older guy was pretty grumpy and unhelpful. Sure enough my terrible attempt at asking if the wheel had been fixed went over his head, the only think I understood was no comprende. Luckily I saw the repaired wheel, so the international sign language of pointing to it and saying quanto did the trick. 12 euros later and the bike was back on form ready to depart tomorrow. We went to a bar and had some wine, then returned to sleep. After a hearty breakfast, I said goodbye and got going. It was overcast, and I went inland to traverse the hilly headland, climbing slowly up the N332 to 200m.
The road snaked its way through enormous gorges with a railway line precariously following a contour around the cliffs. Up we went until we reached a plateau with the occasional evidence of civilisation dotted about on the barren landscape. I pressed on through Teulada and Benissa before descending a great long hill down to the high rise landscape of tourist ville. Back on the coast the weather was fine again, but beyond the sprawl of tourist shops, Mc Donalds and small businesses there was little to see. The road undulated past Calpe, Altea and eventually skirted around the famous Benidorm, a metropolis of high rise apartments resembling a hazy salmon and cream coloured Manhatten. There was no desire to explore it, and I went inland to get away from the package holiday madness.
The road climbed steeply up the mountain side, the 250m climb was relentless in the heat but it was comforting to enter the tranquil beauty of the vast arid hills. I passed through Finestrat and turned down a closed road for 6 km, weaving its way up and over the hills until I found Rosalind’s little bungalow up a dusty little track. What a place! Rosalind defined a content life of solitude. She had lived here for five years, the last two alone, and she was quite happy to exist alone on the hillside. She had solar electricity, rain water to wash and cook with and spring water to drink. I marvelled at the landscape in the afternoon sun, then she lit a fire and cooked me some pasta and chorizo.
I listened intently as she talked about her rich life, her travels around the world, her year in South America discovering her amazonian roots, her four sons of two marriages and the stresses and strains of love and separation and the complicated arrangements of her grandchildren. We talked about Bristol where she lived for many years, about the role of today’s men and women in family, and last but not least, football which she surprisingly loved. Rosalind was a truely inspirational woman. I said goodbye and thankyou after porridge, and descended to Villajoyosa to return to my coastal journey. The sun was intense but it wasn’t too hot, the going was cooled by a gentle breeze. I cycled through the hilly arid landscape and on to Alicante. As I passed the cacti and aloe shimmering in the sun, I cast my memory back to the piles of snow I had passed on the hills of Somerset, the icy blizzards of Niort and the strong winds of the Canal du Midi and how these thighs of mine had got me here. They are still going strong, stronger now and
I have to admit I am quite amused by their shape. Not quite Belleville Rendezvous legs but not far off. The traffic in Alicante was frantic, but I followed the route through the centre despite it being barricaded off from traffic. The empty dual carriageway took me to the seafront where enormous yachts were moored up and everybody was out parading the street.
There was a cycling event and a load of cyclists out, BMXs, families and children, mountain bikers, glamorous girls on folding bikes, young guys on retro fixed gear bikes and then me, a lonesome lanky grubby guy on a heavily laden vintage steed having ridden 2200km. I chuckled to myself as I cruised past, nobody noticing. The traffic re joined me as I left Alicante and descended onto a great shimmering plain with another high rise resort. I stopped for a pizza and continued on past huge salt flats before climbing gently to La Marina, my destination. I met my hostess,
Viviana at the very busy, luxurious and successful campsite she owned, and we walked to her beautiful house where her Spanish husband, Tony, family and friends were.
Originally from Belgium, she had lived in Spain since the sixties and spoke five languages. The sheer luxury of the house, swimming pool, many cars, caravans and pool was an indication of the campsite’s success. She showed me her ceramic studio where she created a huge variety of beautiful pieces, and after a conversing with her friends with her as the interpreter we had dinner, I planned a long leg of couch surfing, wrote this and went to bed. The following morning after beakfast, she took me to the campsite shop where she insisted on filling a bag of goodies for lunch. I said goodbye, and as I cycled along I thought about the contrast of my two last hostesses. Both were so kind, yet there was something about the generous hospitality of a person who had made such a successful business out of hosting that gave me goosepimples. I felt very honoured to receive such an exclusive treatment from the Deckx family.
The journey today was another very sunny one, on past more tourist landscape and over a gently undulating terrain. The road was being widened, so I had a lane all to myself as it was closed off but more or less complete. 10km on and the two carriageways became busy with traffic and I was ushered onto a cycle lane. It didn’t take long for the gratitude to turn into frustration as it was about the most stupid cycle lane I had ridden on. Navigating in and out of junctions with sharp corners and street signs in the way, down and up hills to roundabouts instead of straight on the road, and negotiating big kerbs made this path more dangerous than the road. So I got back on the N334 and pressed on to San Javier.

I then left the busy road and took an F road straight past more farmland. It was populated by lettuces and irrigated with black pipes, the occasional hut and run down house. I stopped for a coffee in a very one-horse bar and got the cheapest cafe con leche so far. The big hooped earrings and dubious mullets and dark skin of the clientelle made me suspect that this was a land of immigrant farm workers. I pressed on, and the last 30km was hard going with a steady headwind. Eventually I got into Cartagena where I am now, killing another few hours before my host Pako finishes studying at 8.30.
Posted by henryrolls at 14:11 0 comments

Friday, 12 March 2010 slow progress

Valencia is great. Kyle and Ana are great. What was meant to be a dayapos9s rest turned out to be four. The first night I arrived we went to a couch surf party where Kyle did some projections. The theme was supposed to be Indian, though one would never guess. It was the most international gathering I have been to, I met French, German, Spanish, Estonian, Canadian, Romanian, US and Hungarian people, and then gave up meeting any more when the flat filled. It was very confusing knowing which language to try and speak, though I was happy to chat away in French with Julie, a young french girl studying furniture restoration. We drank lots of rum and coke and ate a buffet of food broght along by everybody, then at midnight the crowd was ushered out and we helped clear up. Kyle poured some more drink when we got back, but my 400km in four days made me quite dizzy and incoherent.
So the next few days were spent hanging out, seeing the city and meeting up with Julie and her German friend Anna, watching really budget zombie films and talking VJ. We go and see(or should I say hear)the mascleta, a daily explosion of fireworks for five minutes in the main square. It is all part of the Falles, a Valencian celebration of St Joseph in which enormous paper and wood puppets are burnt in the streets. They represent satirical topics of the moment, people unfortunate enough to be chosen are characatured in colossal inflammable structures up to five stories high. It is a pity not to see the main party next week where everybody from children to grandparents are out throwing bangers, processions work their way around the streets and the city is alive with noise. I pity the poor startled animals who must think there is a war going on. I confess that my time here was a major distraction to my mission and made me feel a bit transient, it made me warm to the idea of learning Spanish and spending some time here, but not just yet. First things first, some more pedalling to do.So on Thursday I get back on the road, legs feeling recuperated. The weather is cool and sunny but there is a headwind. Out of Valencia I realise I must not take the souhwesterly direct route I had made, but detour out to the headland in a southeasterly direction. The GPS chose a route shaped like a question mark, 150km in all, so I predicted if I keep going straight along the coast itapos9ll be 100km.
It’s a steady flat ride past a the Albufera lake where rice is grown, and then on along the coast past the beautiful blue haze of some impressive hills to the right. The foreground of orange crops, mile after mile has now become repetitive like the vineyards of France, it becomes apparent what a massive industry oranges are here. I stop to pick up a stray one on the road and it is perfect. I press on past Gandia, only stopping at a supermarket where I stop for lunch. I’m right about the straight line, my concern was whether or not I would have to negotiate a headland with winding hilly roads or face a massive detour. But 100km and a headwind was still a hard day and the sun was setting as I reached Denia.
Built around a castle up on a big rock, Denia appeared to be a classy tourist town, inhabited by many retired English and Germans. My host, Marlene was one, having moved here after devorcing back in North Germany. The children were grown up and she had chosen a new life in a sunny climate, with plenty of likeminded friends to make. She entertains herself walking in the mountains, playing Bridge and learning Spanish. After squeezing the old bike and luggage in the lift and showering, I sit down with some wine and some spaghetti bolognaise and we chat away. It is apparent that the previous evening, Marlene hosted her first couch surfer and did not have a good experience. The guy had made her uncomfortable and when she asked him to leave he had refused to. Only when the police had been mentioned did he leave but he stole her spare sim card, lent to him out of goodwill. It is a shame how much of a dent on one’s confidence of trust one individual can make to hosts, Svetlana had mentioned she thought that Couchsurfing had grown too big for its own good. Still, Marlene was very pragmatic about it, the fact that his profile had existed for 2 years but nobody had witten a good reference is enough to be suspicious for the next time.
Hopefully Gerhard will find it very hard to find a host again with his new negative reference.I woke up today ready to press on with a fairly hilly 73km to Villajoyosa. However, after fixing the puncture I got at the end of yesterday I noticed that the back axle had broken. I knew I should have bought a new wheel in Bordeaux! We went to a scooterbike mechanic who said to return at 6pm, so alas I am stuck here for another day. Slow progress recently.

Sat Mar 13, 2010


Friday, 12 March 2010 slow progress CLICK!
Valencia is great. Kyle and Ana are great. What was meant to be a dayapos9s rest turned out to be four. The first night I arrived we went to a couch surf party where Kyle did some projections. The theme was supposed to be Indian, though one would never guess. It was the most international gathering I have been to, I met French, German, Spanish, Estonian, Canadian, Romanian, US and Hungarian people, and then gave up meeting any more when the flat filled. It was very confusing knowing which language to try and speak, though I was happy to chat away in French with Julie, a young french girl studying furniture restoration. We drank lots of rum and coke and ate a buffet of food broght along by everybody, then at midnight the crowd was ushered out and we helped clear up. Kyle poured some more drink when we got back, but my 400km in four days made me quite dizzy and incoherent.CLICK!
So the next few days were spent hanging out, seeing the city and meeting up with Julie and her German friend Anna, watching really budget zombie films and talking VJ. We go and see(or should I say hear)the mascleta, a daily explosion of fireworks for five minutes in the main square. It is all part of the Falles, a Valencian celebration of St Joseph in which enormous paper and wood puppets are burnt in the streets. They represent satirical topics of the moment, people unfortunate enough to be chosen are characatured in colossal inflammable structures up to five stories high. It is a pity not to see the main party next week where everybody from children to grandparents are out throwing bangers, processions work their way around the streets and the city is alive with noise. I pity the poor startled animals who must think there is a war going on. I confess that my time here was a major distraction to my mission and made me feel a bit transient, it made me warm to the idea of learning Spanish and spending some time here, but not just yet. First things first, some more pedalling to do.So on Thursday I get back on the road, legs feeling recuperated. The weather is cool and sunny but there is a headwind. Out of Valencia I realise I must not take the souhwesterly direct route I had made, but detour out to the headland in a southeasterly direction. The GPS chose a route shaped like a question mark, 150km in all, so I predicted if I keep going straight along the coast itapos9ll be 100km.CLICK!
It’s a steady flat ride past a the Albufera lake where rice is grown, and then on along the coast past the beautiful blue haze of some impressive hills to the right. The foreground of orange crops, mile after mile has now become repetitive like the vineyards of France, it becomes apparent what a massive industry oranges are here. I stop to pick up a stray one on the road and it is perfect. I press on past Gandia, only stopping at a supermarket where I stop for lunch. I’m right about the straight line, my concern was whether or not I would have to negotiate a headland with winding hilly roads or face a massive detour. But 100km and a headwind was still a hard day and the sun was setting as I reached Denia. CLICK!
Built around a castle up on a big rock, Denia appeared to be a classy tourist town, inhabited by many retired English and Germans. My host, Marlene was one, having moved here after devorcing back in North Germany. The children were grown up and she had chosen a new life in a sunny climate, with plenty of likeminded friends to make. She entertains herself walking in the mountains, playing Bridge and learning Spanish. After squeezing the old bike and luggage in the lift and showering, I sit down with some wine and some spaghetti bolognaise and we chat away. It is apparent that the previous evening, Marlene hosted her first couch surfer and did not have a good experience. The guy had made her uncomfortable and when she asked him to leave he had refused to. Only when the police had been mentioned did he leave but he stole her spare sim card, lent to him out of goodwill. It is a shame how much of a dent on one’s confidence of trust one individual can make to hosts, Svetlana had mentioned she thought that Couchsurfing had grown too big for its own good. Still, Marlene was very pragmatic about it, the fact that his profile had existed for 2 years but nobody had witten a good reference is enough to be suspicious for the next time. CLICK!
Hopefully Gerhard will find it very hard to find a host again with his new negative reference.I woke up today ready to press on with a fairly hilly 73km to Villajoyosa. However, after fixing the puncture I got at the end of yesterday I noticed that the back axle had broken. I knew I should have bought a new wheel in Bordeaux! We went to a scooterbike mechanic who said to return at 6pm, so alas I am stuck here for another day. Slow progress recently. Posted by henryrolls at 04:24 0 comments

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