Downtown Tunis, Tunisia.
A little cafe on Avenue Habib Bourguiba. The waiter offers me a “personal discount” on my coffee because of something I’ve come to describe as “the bike effect”: my rig looks bad ass resting next to my table, and here the travel-worn, custom-grub adventure bike is out-of-place enough to mark me as an adventurer, a traveler, not just another tourist who comes on the ferry from France for an afternoon-in-the-medina to say “I visited Tunisia!” It’s not just literally that a bike is “open to the world” – it opens the very soul of the rider, and affects the first impressions of others in a mysterious but undeniable way.
الجزائر, al-Jazā’ir, week four
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الجزائر, al-Jazā’ir, week three
الجزائر, al-Jazā’ir, week one
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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.
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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…)
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The plan was to zip back up to Maastricht to see a couple of people, then turn right around and rush across France and the Pyrenees a thousand miles in three weeks for La Criticona, the world-wide critical mass in Madrid. Once back in Limburg, I would only check in with Paul, a Belgian sailor mate I met while sailing across the Atlantic, and meet up with Patrick Buckley, son of the Irishman who welded my bike frame, who I’d promised to visit if I were ever in the Netherlands, then quick head back South. (more…)
FIRST DAY IN FRANCE
The first thing we did in France, just across the border, was Kiss. Bien sur! (more…)
When you travel slowly, as you do on a bike, you can notice the little changes.
Sailing for two months from the Caribbean to England, the temperature of the air and water decline ever so gradually, day by day, a natural change that is unnoticable except in hindsight.
Approaching the border of a different country, one can detect shifts of dialect in the simple words of neighbors, like a bleeding language buffer on either side of the invisible line – especially in Belgium, where both Dutch and French are official languages of the state.
Geography follows this gentle course as well. (more…)