الجزائر, al-Jazā’ir, week one
June 7. The visa begins, but I am still in Spain, pedaling more kms than ever before, under a hotter-than-ever sun.
I reach Almeria with plenty of time to spare, and give my rig a tune-up on the rambla
, amidst an angry protest against Israeli terrorism and Spanish arms manufacturing.
The ferry terminal has a little makeshift mosque. Huge groups of Arabs and a few Europeans; ninety percent take the ten o’clock for Morocco, leaving me feeling quite hard-core alone with the Algerians.
The midnight boat boards at one and leaves at one thirty.
It’s hard to say when it began, exactly; but at some point after leaving the States for Europe, I started imagining in what manner I would include Africa in this world bike tour. As a tentative “plan” – or let’s call it the most likely to happen of all the various possibilities – I decided on Northern Africa. I didn’t feel the need to ride Cairo to Capetown, or cycle the entire continent or anything(which would take forever), but I knew I wanted to do Africa better justice than a simple tourist dip into Morocco, and I’ve known, ever since that breakfast with my cousin Katie in Crystal Lake back on week one, that I wanted to see Egypt. Most importantly, though, I also felt somehow more intrigued by Arab Africa than by Black Africa.
The hospitality of rural Morocco continued to impress as I slowly cycled south. So much so, I began to wonder if I would need my tent(or my cooking pots, or my spice kit, or my campstove, or my sleeping mat, or any of the self-sufficient gear I schlepp everywhere) at all in this country – or would it be like this in all Islamic countries? Is this a Moroccan thing, or a Muslim thing? I was welcomed to the country numerous times with “American? Ah, then this is your country!”
Regatear. To haggle. One of the big words I learned in Sevilla. “Desde el ferry, Charlie, start haggling even at the ferry to Ceuta,” advised my friend Alberto.
I’ve never been good at haggling – in Mexico I figured even if I was getting ripped off, it was still cheap, so I never worked up the guts to talk anyone down. But now, with a long stretch of Africa ahead of me, and a much more highly developed thriftiness than ever before, I figured it was time to learn. (more…)
Sure I had seen the signs, all afternoon: “Carretera cortada por obras.” But a little road consruction site has to be pretty drastic to stop a bicycle from getting past… I had decided, way back in Montejícar , to go for it.
The trip started around the corner from my friend Lena’s squat, at the public library. It was one of the few times in Catalunya I sensed animosity for speaking in Castellano (regular Spanish)
The day starts like any other; we pick the slugs off the tent, I run a brush through my pony tail. Breakfast, some stretching and some pushups; a liesurely breaking of camp.
But when we get back on the bike path, it isn’t long before we realize – it’s the first of May, which is a special day for villages all across Bavaria. (more…)
It was Spring in Germany, we had a flat riverside bike path stretching ahead of us, and we were on bikes. Need I say more?
I recuperated quickly from my nightmare getting to the Steigenberger Airport Hotel, and subsequently passed a night of Cloud Nine luxury. Lily fed me, and I had a badly needed shower. You should’ve seen the water run black from washing my hair! Not to mention my dirty clothes. And there was a bed with snowy white sheets, big enough for my 190 centimeters – and Lily too! In the morning I used her pump to fix my flat tire, and somehow we found a much easier way back to the campsite. Maybe it was because it was during the day, but it probably had more to do with Lily’s superior navigating skills.
Back at camp, I began preparing for a birthday feast the next day. (more…)