***FIRST PHOTOS AND STORIES OF AFRICA***
This chapter of our WorldRiders2 journal completes our European ride. We finally get through the heat and hills of Spain. Come along as we attend Cat’s first and last BULL FIGHT. Re-visit friends in Marbella with us. Come along as we buy $1,000 worth of prescription drugs to take to Africa. See us getting shots in the arm and the other end, too. Ride with us to the “The Rock of Gibraltar”. We are proud of the achievement, cycling from the ice and snow of Finland, near the Arctic Circle, back on March 20 to the heat wave of the south. The big excitement for us is jumping across to a new continent, Africa. It was a great ride, hope it’s a great read, too!
MADRID, SPAIN TO TANGIER, MOROCCO
August 9, 2003
Our bodies must have known they were having a day off, we slept in until almost 8:00 AM. The blackout curtains make it easy! Breakfast, a nice buffet had a variety of goodies and it was included! Wanting info, we took our list and a bus to the nearest Tourist Office. The woman was very helpful and had an answer for every question on the list. Simple things like Laundromat and Internet Cafes and interesting sites to visit.
We bought a bus/metro pass, 10 trips for ½ the price we had paid to get to Tourist. We found El Corte Ingles, you remember, our favorite store when we drove through in Lil’ Scottie. It was like seeing an old friend. We looked for bike parts but that section was small. They suggested a bicycle store. We walked through the heat, tiny cobblestone streets and plazas as we wound our way there. At one corner we noticed a small crowd watching firemen at work. There was even a TV camera crew there. We thought fire but asked around and found that the 2nd story floor of the building had collapsed, slightly injuring one person.
While I gawked and took pictures Cat found a booth selling tickets to the Bullfights. The girl was a good sales person, she assured us that seats in the sun were the best we were going to get and she had two good ones so we bought. We’re committed to the “Blood and Bulls”, Sunday night at 7:00 p.m.!!
The bike shop was already closed for the weekend. The heat had taken its toll, we decided to go back to the room and sit next to the AC. We did stop and have a so-so empanada and some cool refreshing lemonade. Wondering, almost in a daze in the heat, we asked a woman for directions in our pigeon Spanish. Her answer was in the Queen’s English, Joanne works with a foreign exchange company. Interested in our story, she sat her groceries down on the sidewalk and traced the route to the nearest Metro stop.
While I worked on the photos for our next chapter of the journal, Cat went to the market in search of picnic items for dinner and she made a stop at the nearby Internet shop. She came back empty handed, Sanchez Market doesn’t have a Deli Counter. We walked back into the heat and circled the block. There was nothing except a small Convenience Market that has a coffee shop in the rear. VIPS is like a Denny’s or Bakers Square coffee shop back home. Greasy sandwiches and French fries but they did fill the hollow. It was a straight shot down the street from VIPS AC to Cuzco’s AC.
Sunday August 10, 2003
Hot Sights and Bull Fights
Up early this morning, we wanted to get to the Sunday morning Flea Market. It supposedly has bargains, maybe even some bikes parts? We wanted to find clip in sandals. The bus dropped us at the low end of a 6-block crowd. It was as hot as it was jam-packed with bodies of bargain hunters. We found no sandals or bargains. Cat does like looking though. We always try to check out these Markets, she hopes for a difference, but there wasn’t one here. The stalls all seemed to have the same things we’ve seen in every other country. Cat did find what she felt was a good bargain on socks. It was definitely time for some, she’s been wearing 2 pairs with holes in them for months.
Walking and sweating, we worked our way down to an exhibition of many artists at The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Picasso, Dali and Rembrandt were among the regular exhibits but it was many Spanish Artists, unknown to us, that made up the special exhibition. Most of it was modern, we did enjoy it but taking pictures wasn’t allowed. One of the things that caught our interest was worktable tops with some of the art on them. We could see how the image took shape, almost like seeing inside the artist’s head. Another room had photographs, most in black and white, that held my attention. Looking at them was like a course in photography. The building itself is interesting. Two glass elevators carry you up and down the 4 story modern exterior. Cat didn’t like the ride, she gets queasy hanging out there surrounded only by glass.
The Laundromat looked close by so we walked and looked so that we’ll find it easily on Monday. It was after 2:00 PM and we decided to have our big meal in the middle of the day since we’re leaving for the Bull Fights at 6:00 PM. We found a great place and both had roasted chicken, salad and potatoes for only 5.50 Euros each. The AC was as good as the food. On the way to the metro, we spotted a huge bike shop and decided to come back there on Monday, too.
After relaxing for an hour in our room, we began the trip to the Plaza De Toros and Cats first Bull Fight. The Metro made the trip easy and the trains were cool inside. That was good because when we came up into the sun the digital thermometer glared out the time, 6:38 and the temp, 42 C. (108 F)
We were escorted to our seats, in the sun and on the way we rented cushions. I have been to Bull Fights in Mexico and understood the importance of them on the cement seating. It was really hot, and of course, even though we asked for the shady side of the ring, we got the sunny side. In fact the girl fibbed, she said it was sold out and that was less than 50 % correct. We fanned ourselves with the program as we waited for the festivities.
Within 10 minutes the Parade of Matadors began. If you’ve never been to a Bull Fight this is an impressive moment. Total pomp and circumstance in tight fitting, colorful outfits. Well that’s the Matadors and the Toreadors, the Picadors and the Death Squad, the guys with the horses that pull the poor dead bulls carcass across the ring and out to the butcher’s block and the grounds keepers, the guys that rake the blood into the sand and smooth the surface like repairing a sand trap. And the music, that Taa daa, taa daa daa daa daa daa daaaa. It’s designed to excite both the bull and the crowd.
Cat was pretty excited when the first bull charged into the ring. The Toreadors worked it with style and grace. It ran round the ring charging at anything that moved. Then came the Picador. He enters on his horse covered in thick mattresses and lets the Toreadors tempt the bull toward him until he can gouge his spear into its strong shoulder. The animal lifts and pushes the horse as the man digs the spear deeper and deeper into its flesh.
Next the Toreadors finally get the bulls attention and get him off the spear point and wheel him around into their own trap, the Bandarillos. They run toward him and at the last minute jump aside and plant two long darts into the wounds in his shoulders. All the while the music, Taa daa taa daa daa daa daa daaaaaa! The small crowd cheers with all the gusto of a full house.
Then the moment of truth, the Matador takes to the sand and lures the bull into passes, more and more passes as the beast is slowly bleeding to death. Believe it or not, Matadors numbers two and three both ate sand, the bulls had them down but each escaped with the help of a team of Toreadors. They rose up against the pain and finished the bold beast, anyway. As exciting as it was in the beginning, we decided to leave at half time because the Bulls were losing so badly!
We did meet the girls sitting in front of us. They are here from Canada for a long week. They came to the Bull Ring last night for practice sessions where they don’t kill the Bulls. They were surprised that we were leaving early as though we were wasting our money? Cute girls on an exciting adventure squeezed in between long periods of work.
On the way back to the hotel we made a quick stop at VIPS for get picnic things. They have a little market where we bought light snacks for the room. Just enough to top off although the Bull fights hadn’t done much for our appetites.
August 11, 2003
This is our last day in Madrid so we made a list of “Things To Do”, essentials that need to get done before departure. The wheels on both bikes are out of true and should be tuned. My rear wheel has been wobbling for more than two weeks.
As we off loaded the bags the Bell Captain began to complain and indicated that we would have to move the bikes into the garage. After trying to talk with him logically I finally tired of the game and said, “No, when you wanted us to check in you offered this space. Now you don’t care about us so you’re banishing us to an unsecured garage and we won’t do it, we won’t move!” He raised his voice and said I can only guess what in Spanish. We just kept working on our bikes as he rambled on, then when we pushed the bikes out, he made us take them out a back door instead of through the lobby. Okay, that was the last straw. I went to our pal Angel, the Concierge and told him we would NOT put the bikes in the garage. He was his usual cool self and told us not to worry, just bring them back here when we come in. her has a great way of settling disputes.
Cycling down the big main street without bags was a wobbly job. It involved weaving in and out of traffic and dodging busses. All drivers here operate on the aggressive theory. The most macho push until you either chicken out or they have to, at least you hope that they do.
The load of laundry we had swinging from our handlebars accented our wobble. The lady at the Laundry was great and so was her price. At first, her extensive price list normally for things that she would have to iron, made this and expensive process. Using hand signs and pigeon Spanish we got our point across that she only had to wash and dry. She asked us to pick it up by 1:00 PM.
The Bike Shop was another challenge. We went through the entire explanation of what we wanted done, mostly through hand signals, then the guy told us he couldn’t do it today. We whined and told him our story and need to get going. As we talked the girl at the check stand listened then stepped in and told the guy something in Spanish that had an affect.. He went to the shop then returned and told us that the mechanic was off but the understudy would try to get the wheels changed and trued. I also asked him to change out the frayed cable to the front derailleur. He asked us to come back for them at 8:00 PM.
The big goal for the day is to find the Mauritanian Embassy and get our Visas. Metro got us to the neighborhood, the mark on the map took us to the front of a run down building. It is a walk-up so we walked three flights then stepped into a bustling room. All eyes turned and stared then a guy spoke in French. Cat tried to get it but struggled then another stepped forward and volunteered to help, in English. He got us to a lady in the back office, she handed us forms to fill out. He followed and translated the lines of the form for us. We took them back to the ladies office but she was on the phone and waved us to a hallway. We stood listening to her and watching what we assume is a Mauritanian man in a purple robe and white slip on, pointed toe slipper shoes. He flipped the shoes off and twittled his toes as he sat in the room waiting for we know not what. Our lady finally got a break and invited us in. We stood at her desk while she reviewed the forms. Satisfied, she asked for 107€ from each of us, the cost of the Visa. We counted out the Euro as she explained that it would take 4 days to complete and we would have to leave our Passports with her. That was the straw that broke the proverbial “Camels Back”.
She did tell us that we could get our Visas in Casa Blanca, Morocco and it shouldn’t be a problem. We took her advice and our friendly helper exited with us and another couple. He was such a nice, gentle, helpful young guy. When we shook hands his was dripping with sweat. He was trying hard to help and get to know us. We hoped that all Mauritanians would be the same kind of kind people.
Our next item on the list was to find and register with the US Embassy. Not really a necessity in Spain but Cat wants to get into the habit and this would be a good learning experience. The experience was that Embassies and Consulates only keep short hours. The learning, always call first to find out those short hours.
Hunger drove us to a Deli counter for picnic things that we took back to the room and ate while we huddled under the AC. I worked on the journal. Cat called and the woman at the Laundromat told her she had to get there quickly if she wanted our things tonight. She took a round trip via bus while I struggled with concentration and motivation to continue typing.
Cat returned and rescued me from the computer. We almost had to hurry to get the bus back down to the bike shop by 8:00 PM. It was the typical, “Hurry Up and Wait” situation. The bikes weren’t ready and the shop was full of late shoppers. It was after 8:30 by the time the girl ushered us out the back door of the darkened shop. They did get the cable replaced and the wheels changed but it was obvious that they hadn’t trued the wobbling wheels.
The ride back in the gathering gloom was fairly uneventful. Traffic was careful and so were we. There was a motorcycle down and a guy on a stretcher at one intersection. That heightened our senses even more as darkness continued to deepen. We were happy to see the lights of our Hotel Cuzco We threw the bikes back in to the luggage room and went downstairs to the Cafe for a light dinner. It was almost 10:00 PM before we got back up stairs.
August 12, 2003
Another day in the big city
A tossing and turning kind of night, the kind you expect when you eat late, led to a moment of decision. I wanted to finish the journal and we were both tired. Cat resisted but finally gave in and gave us another day in Madrid. A day that was just computer, Internet, picnic in the room. We did venture out for dinner at a Pasta place Cat saw during her exploration. We walked there hoping that it would open a little earlier. I pushed the door and it opened, a good sing, we thought. A guy jumped up from one of the tables and though we understood not a word we got the point, they open at 8:30 PM. We walked the neighborhood then made our way back and stood like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating in the doorway. The same guy opened the door promptly at 8:30 and led us to a seat then ignored us for the next 20 minutes. He and the others finished setting up for the evening without a trace of understanding for the hungry Gringos. The place is part of a 10-store chain. Service and food were just so-so. As we were leaving we handed the waiter our card and he got pretty excited. He is a cyclist and though struggling with language, he wanted to know everything. We wished that we had handed him the card on the way in. Our experience might have been quite different?
Back to the room, a bag-packing flurry, then bed. We are ready to roll!!!!!!
August 13, 2003
Madrid to Toledo
They have the coolest wake-up call we have ever heard. I got up and started moving around at 6:15 AM and expected the phone to ring at 6:30. Suddenly the TV lit up and the song “What a difference a Day Makes” filled the room. A great way to start the day. Breakfast, the usual but I snagged 4 packages of Muesli for our food stores.
The Bellman who had been so pushy was nice as could be. He sat, watched even said something about Grande Vacation. We finished loading and pushed off, into Madrid traffic and a pleasant 27-degree morning. After ducking and dodging the cars, especially the aggressive Taxi Cabs, we found ourselves thrust out onto N401, an Autovia with no shoulder. At the next street we pulled right and found a service road. Slow going but better than being out in the 120 KmPH flow of cars and trucks. Slow got even slower, when the street ended we cycled through a large park. Dirt streets, rocks and holes. Next we took a turn for the worse and ended up on a narrow, bumpy road in an area used as a dump. Also, for a short time we were in the construction zone of a tunnel and had to swerve and even stop to get out of the way of progress.
Across fields, the wrong way on a round about and voila, we were in Villaverde. Our friend, Angel, had told us to get to Villaverde and somehow, we did. Working our way back toward highway N401 we wound our way through more industrial buildings and junkyards. At 10:45 we pulled into a Service Station. As I sipped a cool drink the attendant told us that we had to take the Expressway from this point. It isn’t our first time on a freeway and probably won’t be our last but that didn’t make it any more palatable. The shoulder started thin then spread. Most of the rest of the ride was on a wide shoulder, new surface and flat. In the next hour we rode as far as we had in the first 2 hours and 45 minutes.
One short stop for a bite of food. We chose a Lomo sandwich to split thinking it was lamb. Sure didn’t taste like lamb but it was good. Gatorade to wash it down then back to work. As usual the heat turned up just before 2:00. We stopped once and I poured water on my head and down the front of my shirt.
The good news, we rolled down, into Toledo at just a few minutes after 2:00. The bad news, down today means up tomorrow. As we neared the center of town we saw a Hotel. Rather than spend the afternoon shopping we just pulled up and took a room.
Not a bad place, not great but then, 65€ con desayuno inclusivo esta bien!
The young guy at the desk is a cyclist and was excited about our journey. He is leaving in ten days to do the Pilgrimage to Santiago del Compostela. He’ll start in Burgos and take two weeks to complete his voyage.
As we exited he warned us about the heat, as if we didn’t know. However, out in the sun we felt the hottest part of the day and it was 5:30. Our initial task is to mail the pictures on CDs to Web Master Wally of our Paris to Madrid journal. Also, we finally heard from Hank and Lucienne, they left Paris on August 4 and are back in Berkeley so we mailed the pictures to them, too.
It was a brain scorcher, walking when there is no shade. I almost turned back but we found a frozen lemon drink and it fortified me. Oh, what I would have missed. This is a wonderful town and the center is right out of medieval history. In fact most of the shops sell swords, cross bows and daggers. There is a suit of armor in every other window. Huge cathedrals, churches, even synagogues. Toledo isn’t an easy town to walk, it’s hilly to say the least. We spent two hours winding our way up and then back down. It is still hot as Hades at 8:00 PM.
So, we watched a little Spanish TV, lots of news about the Mayor of Marbella. The guys at the desk say that the Mayor is having an affair with a singer who is married to a Matador. It’s the talk of the town and, the Mayor is suspected of Mafia or Gangster ties because he has a lot of money and nobody knows why?
Dinner was a treat, I had melon and Jambon, Cat tried the white beans. For the main course she ordered Partridge and I choose Sole. Both meals were quite tasty, Cat did have to have an extra plate of potatoes because the Partridge was so small. They included a bottle of wonderful local wine and desert, all for 13.50€ each. Wow, we’re in budget! Oh, by the way, desert for cat was a cake of chocolate and cream, I had lemon sherbet and it was as good or better than the frozen lemon drinks I have learned to love.
On the way back to our room I asked Oscar if we could check our e-mail. There is an Internet shop in town but it is beyond the Post Office and we had taken all the heat and sun we could. He said, “Okay, 2 minutes.” He took me in the office and started the computer. When I tried to log in to AOL it talked back in Spanish. I hit the NO and it went back to the AOL page. I started again and hit YES this time, the machine locked up. Oscar came and tried to rescue me, to no avail. There will be no checking e-mails tonight.
A little more unintelligible TV, then sleep.
August 14, 2003
Toledo to Pueblonuevo
82 Kilometers, 45 Degrees C = 108 F
Because breakfast service starts at 7:30 we had Oscar set us for a wake up call at 6:30. We both woke up before the call. Laying and waiting, we dozed off, the call came, picked up and hung up the phone and stayed horizontal for another 20 minutes.
Breakfast was a very good spread, we fueled up for the long pull ahead. Oscar told us that we will have 6 kilometers of up then little ups and downs then down. It is going to be hot. He made a copy of the route, CM-4013 and highlighted it for us. Both he and Mitko, short for Dimitrio, have been kind and helpful. They are both avid cyclists. We’ll miss Mitko, he doesn’t start work until 9:00 AM.
Yesterday, as we were checking in a guy came back in out of the heat after jogging. He had tattoos on his arms and legs. We exchanged hellos. This morning as we pushed out he and his wife started toward breakfast then stopped and he asked about our trip. Never judge an Italian or anyone by their tattoos. He was extremely interested, spoke flawless English and looked like an Attorney or Accountant. In fact his tattoos were covered by nice looking clothing.
We finally pushed off at 8:30 but didn’t get very far very fast. The backside of Toledo was so beautiful, a bridge, the Cathedral and a Church called out to be photographed. Then, it was up and steep. Yes, we pushed about half of the hill. No not 6 kilometers. After 4 kilometers it leveled to rolling hills. We pulled into the Service Station in Arges. The first 8 kilometers had taken almost 2 hours. We were already bathed in sweat and tired. Several bikes passed going down hill. They all waved, said hola or opa. In fact lots of cyclists have called out “opa” to us. We assume it means, “Way to go”. The Greeks say it and it means hooray or something like that. The first woman cyclist we’ve seen in Spain screamed past and yelled out, “Opa!”
We stopped in Arges for a cool drink and reassurance from the Service Station owner that it wasn’t all uphill ahead. He laughed and told us it was some up and some down but not as steep as coming out of Toledo.
We cranked 24 Km through a village called Pulgar and to another, Cuevas. There was a Mercado underway in the plaza. We stopped and decided to get some things for lunch. A meat and cheese stand with a line of locals drew us in. The ladies in line made it clear, in a friendly sort of way, that we should fall in line, behind them. As I waited our turn Cat looked for bread. The ladies were interested in us foreigners and suggested that she try a store around the corner. The woman in the store seemed to disregard Cat until a gal helped her get attention.
Several old guys hanging around behind the meat stand were laughing and talking. I went back and watched. One guy had some leaves, like parsley, on his shoulders. I thought that it might have some religious meaning? Another had some of the same leafy plants in his hand. I had to ask, “Que es este?” The one with the leaves on his shoulders didn’t seem to understand. I pointed but he couldn’t turn his head far enough to see them. The guy with the hand full started to laugh then pointed them out to the other. It was a joke, the leaf in hand guy had slipped up and left them on the others shoulders just for fun. We all got a laugh, old guys still playing games with each other.
I did small talk with a couple of boys who knew a little English. A fellow listened then chimed in but spoke little English. We did learn that he is a schoolteacher, middle school, in Madrid. He lives in Madrid but we couldn’t figure out why he was here?
Though we enjoyed the hubbub we decided to ride on and picnic in a quieter place. We found absolute serenity at the Cemetario. The city cemetery was quiet, shady and had a bench for us to sit on. Our standard, ham, cheese and bread.
As we exited the next village on our route, Las Ventas con Pena Aguilera, we hit a roadblock. The sign appeared to say local traffic only. Well, since we are residents of the world we were locals. We went around the blockade and up the bumpy road through roadwork. It was a climb and a slow one because of the road condition. The pavement gave out several times. The heat was becoming unbearable. We rolled past the hour of phoenix and the sun showered heat down in waves. At one point the road ahead looked paved or under water. The closer we got the further away it looked. This was our first mirage.
Several huge earth haulers passed going down hill in a hurry. They left little room and we decided to stop rather than challenge them. Their big hurry was probably lunch. The equipment all along the road was idle, siesta, we assumed. Cat was beginning to worry and with good cause. Not a cloud in the sky, scorching heat, no cars on the road and no houses along it either.
We were stopping every few kilometers and pouring water on ourselves. Finally, the summit and a nice drop but still the road surface was too rough ride very fast. The next town, El Molnillo, was our target. It was now after 3:30 and sweltering.
Snow at 104
The first outpost we encountered was another Service Station. Trucks and pickups were lined up and there were 20 or so guys sitting in the shade. Then, as we bought cold water and drinks the siesta whistle must have blown. Guys poured out of the little café, joined those in the shade and they all climbed into their trucks and roared away. The Station manager got us a bottle of frozen water then gave us the bad news. The buildings off to the left were El Molnillo but there is no Hotel, Casa Rural or any rooms for rent. He pointed and said, “Casa Rural en Pueblonuevo, 24 kilometers.”
We stood in the shade, considered our options, wet down good under his faucet then rolled out toward the south. It was now the hottest part of the day. Cat hadn’t noticed but the thermometer was sitting on +45 degrees in the shade, there. 45C = 113F! No telling how hot it was in the direct sun? We must be crazy but then what could we do.
As we cycled out of the driveway a dust devil whirled in the brush then suddenly intensified. Dirt, leaves and brush were all air born. It swirled there for a moment then drifted right over us. We were caught up the roar, dirt and twigs. As it passed we just stood in awe then I shouted over the roar, “Get the camera.” By the time we got it out the best of the worst of it was gone. What an experience! The Station manager ran to us to make sure that we were okay. I said, “No mas, por favor, no mas.” He laughed and told us that it was gone.
The two pieces of good news, we continued down, slightly down and the roadwork was behind us, too. Then when we really needed it, more good news, a cloud cover was casting its cooling shadow on the road ahead of us. We circled and climbed around the southwest shore of a pretty large lake that remains nameless. It is on our maps without a name and we stopped at a viewpoint where the map and name on a sign had been graffitied out.
Leaving the lake and cloud cover behind we were in the blast furnace of the afternoon. A slight head wind added to the misery. We were now stopping every kilometer or two to wet down. There was little or no shade. Then in the distance we saw a church steeple. We finally rolled down the hot, dusty main street of sleepy Pueblonuevo at 5:00 PM.
There was a service station and 4 boys blowing up a couple of rafts. They called out and we answered in English. They laughed then shouted, “Hello, how are you, what time is it?” Then laughed some more. The attendant was a real slow mover. W asked about the Casa Rural and he answered in Spanish but we didn’t understand. Finally he took us out the door and pointed to a sign, Casa Rural, and an address. The best we could get about the address was he pointed back up the road from whence we came.
Confused, we started in the direction then decided to get a second opinion. At the Church we found a door to a house open and lots of kids hanging around there. Cat asked but the girls just laughed and went back inside. A young guy came out, said something to them and they started yelling. A woman finally came out, maybe a day care teacher, and told us in Spanish that the place was around the corner but she didn’t seem to know exactly where. Around that corner there was a sign with the name of the street but it seemed to be in the National Park that was out of town. We chose to try coming back down the back street and Cat saw the little sign on the place. She rang the doorbell and a guy came out. He confirmed that this was the Casa Rural but was trying to tell us something? Finally he got the point across that he and others had rented all the rooms there.
Cat was convinced that we were doomed to the tent on this hottest afternoon of the year. I had seen a sign for a Pension, she followed and we found it, right next to the Service Station. I asked in the little restaurant/bar and the guy indicated 2 doors down. I knocked on the door then went to the third door and rang the doorbell. A woman answered and said, “Pension, si, room para esta noche, si.” We had found a home, we wouldn’t be sweltering in the tent. Piedad, our hostess, showed us the room and bath. She assured us that we were the only guests and wouldn’t have to share the toilet. None of that was a problem, even the fact that there was no AC wasn’t such a big deal. We had a room for the night and it was only 30€.
We unloaded the bags and parked the bikes in her garage. I went to the bar and got lemonade. The bartender, Mariano, assured me that we could have a bottle of wine and dinner, at 830 PM. We really were at home. The shower was cool and wet. The room began to feel hot. At 7:00 we drifted to the bar and enjoyed the AC and a glass of wine, there. It was interesting watching the locals acting and reacting to each other. We were the only outsiders except for a guy who came in, bought two packs of cigarettes and left. All conversation stopped when he entered as it had when we came in. As he stepped out the door the chatter started again.
There is a guy, Ramon, sitting at the end of the bar, legs crossed, sipping a beer and smoking. Abraham, Mariano’s 13-year-old son, took us into the un-air conditioned dining room. He presented the menu of the day. We struggled then Mariano helped and we made decisions. Ramon came in and we were the only 3 persons who had dinner. It was a hurried affair because we wanted to get back out into the cooler room.
Paquita, the Mom is the chef. She made arroz con leche for our dessert. It was just okay but again, we enjoyed watching people.
Of course the TV is strictly Spanish. We put the lights out at 10:00 and lay dropped off to sleep.
August 15, 2003
Pueblonuevo to Ciudad Real
We asked Mariano if we could have breakfast at 7:30 and he said, “No problema”. However, the heat of the night had us awake and sweating at 2:30 AM. Neither of us thought we would be able to get back to sleep, but of course we did. When I next awoke it was 7:30. A hustled up dress and pack then over to the bar, feeling bad about having asked for special early breakfast. “No problema”, the elder son, Alberto was behind the bar, there were already 4 guys at the bar including Ramon, the guy who had drinks and dinner at the same time we did last night. He was already sippin’ a white lightening. (Clear liquid, we think Anise?) What a tight little town, what a hard working family. When I was up at 2:30 this morning I looked out and Mariano was sitting with a group of guys, talking and watching them drink. The only family member who doesn’t work, yet, is 4-year old Ana.
Peach nectar, great coffee and packaged Magdalena cakes. Not a great balanced diet but enough to get us to Ciudad Real. We pushed off at a little after 9:00 AM.
The road was flat or climbing gently and we made good time for the first 20 Km. Then, as we neared Porzuna, it took a turn for the up. As we entered town a cyclist with light packs came toward us. We pulled up and he crossed the street. Though Francisco spoke only Spanish we learned that he is 57 years old, from Barcelona and cycling a circle route of 2,000 Km. Nice guy, roughing it and loving it.
A lot of the climb that lay ahead was through the streets of Porzuna. The mains street was pretty steep. Leaving town we leveled out but Cat prophesized that we would have more up and over ahead and she was correct. After a short down we climbed hard, steep enough that we might have walked but we toughed it out. At the summit the road splits, we took CM 422 down, mostly, toward Ciudad Real. Once leveled out we were in fields of corn and some vineyards, shades of last year in Minnesota.
A short stop for drinks then onward. The clouds gathered and gave us shade. We were in the streets of Ciudad Real before 1:00 PM. The first Hotel we saw was fully booked but they called then sent us toward another that had rooms. Lost, we circled then found the Officina de Tourismo. It is in the Plaza Mayor and so was a big celebration. A band was cranking out the salsa sound and hundreds moved to the beat.
The nice girl in O. de T. sent us to Hotel Alfonso X just around the corner. We love being in the center where the action is and there’s plenty of action here today. In fact the manager of the Hotel who helped us get the bikes into the car elevator and down into the garage told us that today is a National Holiday in Espana but the Feria y Fiesta Ciudad Real will go on for a week. The Plaza Mayor was awash with partiers. A band played Rock and Roll/Salsa throbbed and the crowd swayed and laughed and talked and drank.
Our room has wonderful AC but no English language TV. We can’t be too choosey, it was the last room they had available. We just dropped the bags in the room then went to check out the festivities and get a bite to eat. A couple of sandwiches and frozen lemonades and we felt back in the game. Cool showers and we felt back in the human race.
The Solemne Procesion de la Virgen del Prado was scheduled to start at 20:00. (That’s 8:00 PM for you 12-hour clock-watchers.) We hustled down to see it and asked the new guy at the desk where the best vantage point would be. He was very blasé about the whole thing. His suggestion was to wait until 10:00 PM then see the end just around the corner at the Plaza Mayor. We had time so we hustled to the Cathedral to see what it was all about.
Lots of people milling around and a band, all the members dressed in black was forming up. At 20:00 as promised the big doors of the Cathedral swung open and a banner carrier led the procession of Priests and the Dulcinea y Damas de Honor (The queen of the Fiesta and her court.) and the Dulinea y Damas Infantiles (The young Queen and her court.) out into the fray. The bells of the Cathedral began to ring and the hundreds of participants formed two lines, lit candles and began to follow. The band began a slow, funeral dearth and swayed as they slowly marched along. The sun was still high in the sky thus the candles weren’t very dramatic. We decided to have dinner and see how far they had marched.
Because of the holiday all shops and many of the restaurants were closed. We followed the clerk’s suggestion and found a place that looked decent. It turned out to be a Bodega serving tapas or sandwiches. We were tired of walking so we just split a Boccalao salad filled with pimentos, shrimp and fish. It was great. The rest of the meal was just those little sandwiches that they love so much here. Throw in a very good bottle of La Mancha Chardonnay and you’ve got yourself a nice evening.
Back in the Plaza Mayor the crowd of onlookers were partying as the solemn walked past with candles lighting up the night. We watched for a while and ate ice cream then decided to call it a night. As we turned the corner the band came toward us still playing the same mournful song. Then, there she was, the reason for the Fiesta, The Santa Maria del Prado. She is adorned with white gown and lots of gold. In her arms is The Baby Jesus. The guys pulling her along are dressed in black and the big cart she rides on looks, in a way, like a coffin. The guys hold onto the rail and pull/push the cart along.
As though we hadn’t had enough excitement all hell broke loose as soon as we got into our room. We’re on the 5th floor, almost eye level with the barrage of fireworks that burst into the dark sky. An appropriate crescendo for a wonderful day.
August 16, 2003
Ciudad Real to Brazatortas
I was disappointed when I woke up at 5:30. I feared that I wouldn’t get back to sleep. We had talked about getting up early to start before the sun spreads its heat wave over the land. The next thing I knew, it was 7:30, our bodies had known that we needed rest.
The Hotel, Adolfo V is under reconstruction and the restaurant is closed. I called to see about breakfast and the girl told us that it is served on the second floor, and it’s 7€ per person. Better than searching around so we bit. The guy in charge apologized for the short menu, they had no hot items. He indicated that it was due to the construction. All right, we had cold cereal, juice and coffee with croissants. Not great, not bad but fuel for the road.
I loaded the bags while Cat checked out. She came down and told me that they had charged us 9€ for the garage. I was P Oed and went back to let them know. The girl was sweet but insistent that they always charge. I asked her to talk with the Manager, as we have never had to pay when the bikes are kept in a garage. She came back out of his office and said that he felt that they had kept them in security and we should pay. I saw a blur slide by in my peripheral vision. I asked to talk with him but she told me he had gone. The RAT slipped away rather than talk with me.
I was hot, Cat said, “Get over it!” The morning air was cool, delightfully cool. I got over it. We rolled along the street then stopped to see if the Community Mercado sold bottled water. They didn’t but a nice guy helped me with directions. He indicated that we should go straight then because we were bicyclettas we could ride through the park. We did, it was a gorgeous way to start the new day.
On the road, N420, we just pedaled hard into a slight, cool head wind. A Service Station stop and we bought a bottle of water to fill our bottles. The Hotel water had a funny taste. Onward, upward, into a slowly gathering wind.
At 40 Km out we stopped in Puertollano. The news for a week was about the Mayor of Marbella then two days ago it shifted dramatically to Puertollano. The Oil Refinery here suffered a fire and explosion that killed 3 workers. We thought the town might be in mourning but it was really in a shopping mode. The parking lot of the Carrefour Supermarket was packed. Cat shopped while I watched the bikes. A couple of touring cyclists pulled up and rushed into the market. I checked out their bikes, they looked road weary and German. I was right, Claus and Juergen are out for 3 weeks, and they’re headed west but were here questing for gas to cook with. They’re the rugged cycling types, camping every night. They commented on the length of our trip so I told them that I was retired. I said that if they wanted to take this much time off they would have to be rich or old, like me. They laughed and Juergen said they were neither. Then he apologized for rushing but they had to get into the Center before the witching hour, 2:00 PM when everything closes. As they rode away I wished we had taken their picture, we meet so few other cyclists. Then I thought that rugged is good when you know that in 10 or 15 days you know that you will be back home, in your own bed.
We sat on the curb and ate as the shoppers hurried to and fro. As we pedaled up the main street a car passed and the passenger said something to us, something like Cordoba is better in Coche. We think he may have meant that it’s easier to get to Cordoba in a car? He is probably right but he didn’t know that he was yelling at WorldRiders2! Then in just a few meters the WorldRiders decided that they had better ask directions. A guy on bicycle pulled up, looked at our map and indicated to go straight ahead.
We did, straight into a head wind that was thickening by the minute. We even had to pedal down hill at times. The hill ahead was looking ominous and the wind was adding that extra degree of difficulty so it wasn’t difficult to decide to call it a day, early. We stopped and had a soft drink, some guys in the Service Station agreed that we should stay in the Hostel 4 Km from there in Brazatortes. The road will rise through two Puertas (Passes) tomorrow and maybe the wind, though it’s been cool, will calm a little. The road circled north of the village then up the west side of town. We really had to dig to get up the off ramp but we made it without pushing!
The Hostel is a real Spanish Hostel. At 12€ per person it was a bargain. They even stowed the bikes in a banquet room, for free. Okay, the room isn’t air-conditioned but the air up here is cooler and the manager friendlier.
The tub has a shower hose but the place where it hangs from is broken. So, it was boat showers, you know, kneel down, wet down, soap down then hose down. But, it was cool and wet.
Dinner was great, we sat in the bar and watched the locals being locals. The girl who checked us in has pigtail ponytails and a great sense of humor. She jokes and laughs with everyone. There is an old guy at the end of the bar. He sits, sips, puffs and stares at the TV. In fact we did the same. Sat, sipped an okay bottle of local white wine and watched the Saturday Night Bull Fights. It is easier to be subjective when watching on TV. You don’t have that smell of the crowd and roar of the bull to contend with. Cat thought she would hate it but we watched the nuances and moves of the fighters and had a better understanding of the event. Oh, we both still think it is a pagan throw back to days when men still had to test their strength and courage against animals but, there is a certain style and grace to each killing.
One Matador chose to be the entire show. He worked the bull to start, usually left up to the Toreadors then placed the Bandarillos himself, called off the Picador and finished the poor beast to the cheers of the half filled stadium. However, one smart Toro pulled off early retirement. I have never seen anything like what happened during the next contest. The bull started falling down, he would make a pass toward the cape then stumble and fall. He would nose dive into the sand of the arena. After several wobbly-legged starts and falls they called off the match. Then, they ran a group of cattle into the ring and Senor Wobbly legs was sent off to graze with the herd.
Back in our room, it was warmer because we had dropped the window cover to keep flies out. I placed pictures in the journal for a while then, by 10:30 it was lights out.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
Brazatortas to Kilometer Marker 58
Over the Three Sisters and Two Cousins
Funny, I sweat, tossed and turned, Cat got cold and crawled under the covers. The bed was too short, too. However, we were both awake when the church bell rang six times and thought that we were probably up for the day. Neither of us heard the bell chime seven times. I woke with a start at 7:20. Again we had asked to have breakfast at 7:30 and again we would miss our appointed time.
Packed, we carried bags down and were surprised to see Julio, that’s the guy who was at the bar last night. He was on the same bar stool, legs folded, sippin’, puffin’ and watching a cartoon. He turned his attention toward us as we entered so I went to the bikes and got the camera. He seemed pleased that we would take his picture. I got a shot that caught him in his posture and shows the deer heads that adorn the room.
Juice, toast and coffee then we paid the bill. The total including dinner and wine was only 52€. Juan Jose even through in a bottle of cold water, what a deal.
As we pulled the bikes out and filled the water Julio became talkative. He was so like Ramon, not in his looks but his actions and life style. We told him that we were going to Cordoba and he began to preach. Something about Caliente so I agreed that it would be hot. He kept on even as we pushed out the door. He did stop to say “Adios”.
The trip starts with a sharp, short climb. Huffing and puffing we slowly made our way to the highway. Then it was a long, slow pull, up and up. When I saw the sign, Fuencaliente 38 Km I began to get his message. I told Cat that he was probably trying to tell us that there are no services between here and Fuencaliente. If that was his message, he was absolutely correct. It was just a few cars, the old N 420 and us. Oh yes, there were those Sisters.
Our map shows three Puertes, passes, two just under and the middle one slightly over 900 meters (Almost 3000 feet.). We could see the first and attached with vigor. It was steep, I think 7% grade. The countryside was a patchwork of dry grain fields and olive groves. Looking back we could see Brazatortas and on the horizon a nuclear generator that we had passed yesterday.
When we reached the top we felt the joy of accomplishment. Looking ahead we sized up the next Sister and rolled down toward her. (We started calling the passes Sisters last night as we remembered riding out of Evanston, Wyoming last June. We thought that the terrain would flatten out but a gal at the rest stop told us that going east we would meet the “Three Sisters” and she was right. These, though imposing, were only half the altitude but at least as steep.)
The fast ride down, a long straight stretch then we were climbing Sister #2 and she was a steep one.
# II Probably a 5-kilometer pull that took us a full hour. Our celebration was jaded by the view of Sis #3. Her body was fully graced with pine trees. Better dressed than the other two, she was friendlier, too. We rolled up in 2nd gear, most of the way. The scent of pine from her dress hung heavily in the cool morning air. We had conquered the Sisters and it was only 12:30 PM.
The ride into Fuencaliente was down then a climb off of our friend, N420. Though the air was still fairly cool we really worked up a sweat getting into the village. It clings to the side of the hill and looks down with disdain on the traffic passing by, missing the beauty of the white houses, stores and cafes that cling there.
We struggled, looking for a market on Sunday, in Spain? We are crazy. Okay, there is a Bar and lots of people drifting in and out so we had to check it out. Packed, with locals partying away their holiday. I got two Limon drinks and ordered something to eat. The Bartender told me, in sign language that they’d deliver it. We took two plastic chairs from a stack and joined several old guys sitting, talking Horses. Well that was our best guess, they had some strange horse races on TV, inside. The horses start in a gate like any track we’ve been to then race down a beach with ambulances following, lights flashing, as though they expect disaster.
One of the guys kept pulling two blue tickets out of his pocket and talking about them with the group. We sat, ate and enjoyed. Mass at the local Church ended, sending a flow of humanity our way. Dressed from coat and tie/gown to shorts and t-shirts. As interesting for us as it was for those who stopped and stared at us in our strange, sweaty, bright cloths. The guy with the tickets asked and we told him we were cycling “Todo el Mundo”. He spread the word then confirmed that we could continue on down Main Street and it would connect again with N 420.
The drop made us happy that we had climbed in from the other side of town. Steep, long sweeping curve, down, down to good old N 420. The dream that it would be all down from there was soon dispelled by another long pull. Those Sisters had Cousins! It is just 9 Km to Azuel but a lot of up between there and Fuencaliente. Cat wanted to pull up, a tough up, into Azuel to see if they had a Hotel. She was tiring and we were both getting a little cranky in the heat. I led, she followed but we agreed to stop and Cardenas to see what the road and facilities ahead were like.
Cardenas was off the road but sort of down so we followed the signs. In a piece of shade we talked about our friends Roberto and Martha Cardenas, wondering if they know that his place is named after them? I got sports drinks from a very busy Café then Cat went looking for road info. I stopped a young guy and he confirmed that we could get back on N 420 by continuing ahead and he said that the road was all down hill to Montoro, our target for today.
Cat found that it is 22 Km to the next Hotel but she had met a great guy, Miguel, who had a room available. He was worried about the bikes then told her, “You can bring them to my house!”
It was only 3:00 PM and we were still too far from Cordoba to get in early tomorrow. I convinced her to ride on. She ran back in to tell Miguel that we would pass on the offer.
The young guy who told me that it was all down hill had never ridden a bike here or he lied to me? Since I just met him I had to go with the first. We were thrust onto one of the toughest climbs of the day almost instantly. It was at least 4 Km of up and it was easily a 7% grade. Neither of us was very happy, both of us were hot, as the temp rose dramatically. The pines had long disappeared, replaced by sage and scrub brush.
There it was, The Molina Plaza, Hostel, Restaurante. Unfortunately, we had to pass by and take exit #58n then pedal hard up a steep hill. We pulled up short, we both had to walk for a little way then remounted and rode home for the evening.
The gate was locked but Cat found a door and knocked. The guy met us, ushered us in and brought us cold water and ice. The room is just so, so but it is air-conditioned and that is Muy Importante, again. We unloaded, drank lots of water, showered and rested, waiting for the dinner hour. When Cat asked the guy said that dinner is as 10:00 PM. She shuddered and suggested la hora de ocho. He said, “Nueve” then they met in the middle at, ocho y media.. (8:30PM)
The big surprise was the number of people who found this place for dinner. We sat inside because of the wind and dust of the highway was still heavy in Cat’s eyes. Several tables outside were filled with families. We think that only one or two of them are staying in the hotel. Jose, the guy who greeted us, also served dinner. He is a hard worker, running from the rooftop tables to the courtyard then in to serve us and the other family inside. The food was great, Cat had a salad I opted for anchovies and olives. The anchovies are white in color and though not salty the have a heavy vinegar taste, I loved them. Our main plates, fish for Cat and I chose lamb.
The TV droned out Spanish and I worked on the journal. Cat conked then I shut down at 11:00 PM.
August 18, 2003
Kilometer # 58 to Cordoba
Another late sleep in, after arranging for breakfast at 7:30 AM. We woke up at 7:30 and hustled to get to the table by 8:00. We sat in the courtyard, enjoyed toast and coffee and watched Jose do gardening work. He really is a man of all trades. I asked if his family name was Molina. He told us that La Molina Plaza has been here for 150 years but he has only owned it for 2 year. He and his family live here, it reminded me of my early years in Boron, California. I bought a grocery store and worked night and day trying to make a go of it. Like Jose, I had to be the man of all trades, too.
It was 9:20 when we finally said our goodbyes and hit the N 420. After a little up getting onto the road we sailed down. Montoro, our original goal for yesterday was a photo stop this morning. Picturesque white buildings clinging to a hilltop surround a church tower that Cat said, “Stuck out like a sore thumb.” We could see the arches of an old bridge crossing Rio Guadalquivir.
The N 420 ended and dumped us onto the The Autovia once again. It would be 46 Kilometers of freeway riding once again. Maybe the traffic or the terrain, perhaps both helped us roll at record-breaking speed. The cool morning air had been replaced by warm then hot as we pushed up and rolled down the undulating N IV-E5. There is a road that moves off to the left toward a town, Alcolea, but we decided to stick with the Autovia. It looks like an extra 6-8 kilometers and we know the N IV will be better surface and topography. As we across the off ramp we ignored the sign with tractors, horse carts and bicycles with red circles around them. Now we know for sure that we are breaking rules being out here but we're making great time.
The toast was completely burned away and our stomachs were growling. Just 7 Km short of Cordoba we pulled into a Restaurant/Service Station for a sandwich. I asked for “Dos sandwich, Jamon y Queso.” The boys had been listening to us and one walked to the kitchen door then sang out, “Un Jamon y Cheese.” Good for a laugh from us and the kitchen staff. They also had wonderful frozen Limon that looked and tasted like it may have had orange juice in it.
Back on the N IV we crossed the Guadalquivir on a small shoulder next to a low guardrail. Scary but we have begun to feel blessed with the luck of WorldRiders2. Within a kilometer we came upon an extremely unfortunate dog. His luck had definitely run out. He had been hit and his hindquarters crushed. He was sitting up, panting and looking at us for help as we cycled past. Cat asked if there was anything we could do for him? I told her the only thing we could do was kill him but neither of us felt up to that so we rolled past him, hoping that he would soon bleed out and go to sleep. We accepted his plight as a warning to us. We must never get complacent, we must be vigilant at all times.
Then as we entered the streets of Cordoba we witnessed another anomaly. A guy riding in a hand driven wheelchair had fallen off the curb. He was walking on his stub legs, cut off just above his knees. He already had the chair back upright and mounted up as we passed.
The streets of Cordoba are narrow and busy. Following signs to the Centro Ciudad we bumped along on cobblestones then gave up and rode on the sidewalk. Asking and asking, we finally found the Plaza Tendillas and a Tourist Office kiosk. The girl gave us lots of brochures and a little info to ponder. We sat in the shade, studied the map and chose a Hotel that was close to the best of the major monuments. In fact, Hotel Maimonides is just across from what they call the Mosque. It’s a Church that was a Muslim Mosque before the Spanish Inquisition.
The girl at the desk was insistent that we would have to park the bikes in the garage, which is also a public parking lot. I made it clear that we wouldn’t leave them, with baggage on, where they were vulnerable to theft. I hinted that we would find another hotel then she called a young guy over and he led us to a conference room. They are parked in the computer room. Another plus, they only charge 3€ per hour and we know that we will have at least 150 messages up. We haven’t been able to get connected since we left Madrid 6 days ago. When we went down to use the Internet, it wasn’t working, so we found another place at the Youth Hostel very close by. They only charge 1.50€ per hour too! Back to the room I plugged in and got the journal caught up while Cat sought a Lavanderia. We have some really stinky cycling clothes. Another hazard of our “Six Days on The Road!” She found one, but it was only open until 1:30 p.m. so that’s tomorrow. We found a pizza/pasta place called Ooh La La just down the street that was open before the usual 8:30 p.m., so we slipped in and had a great pizza.
August 19, 2003
Day off in Cordoba
Laundry was our most immediate need and Elsa was the lady. We asked, walked and found her hard at work. At first she indicated that she was too busy and we would have to come back tomorrow. We whined, tried to get our story across and begged. It worked. She told us to be back at 1:00 PM. Her price for the rush service, only $6.00, a bargain.
Our next need was to see, get to know and enjoy the sights of Cordoba. We walked along the wall of the Alcazaba, through the 2000+-year-old Roman bridge and into the more modern side of the city. Looking back you see the picturesque ancient skyline and we took pictures. A guy on a white horse loped past, a Nun stopped to pray and light a candle at a statue mid bridge.
There is a Castle on the new city side of the bridge. We looked in the door but decided not to buy the ticket. I did get interested in a small book, “The Meaning of Life in Al-Andalus”, with short passages written by 4 different guys. Each of them, Averroes, Maimonides, Alfonso the Wise and Ibn Arabi explore the similarities of the three religions, Judaism, Christianity and the Muslim faith. This is the spot where all three of them collide. This is the spot where men have spent centuries arguing, fighting and killing over their teachings of PEACE?
The one I read that grabbed me was Alfonso. He was a king but lost position teaching crazy thoughts like; In my laws, as in my prayers, I have never forgotten that those who profess a different faith are of the same flesh and blood as us Christians. He sang, “Oh my Christ, Who welcomes Christian, Jew and Moor, Provided their faith is directed towards God….
He said, “Perhaps my dreams were too great for the century? And yet we were on the brink of a great awakening.” It’s no wonder that the Pope and his vassals removed Alfonso from power for thinking such ridiculous and rabble rousing thoughts. “HE must have been Crazy!” By the way, aren’t we still struggling with the same issues?
And awaiting the GREAT AWAKENING?
It seems to me that the Religious Ones spend their time trying to convert others to their thinking? Why? If they’re correct they’ll only crowd heaven beyond capacity. However, if they’re wrong they will have done a great disservice to the others! SHOULDN’T WE ALLOW THE DECISION TO THE HIGHER POWER?
Tolerance is the key!
When we reached the Alcazaba, the man on the white horse was there, playing a flute and hoping for tips. His music was pretty weak but the look was drawing coins from the crowd, including some from us. Though nothing compares to the Alcazaba in Seville, this place is huge and the arches that hold the roof in place are a most extraordinary sight to behold.
It is cool inside and felt like the temperature had soared as we stepped out, into the gardens. All sights seen, we picked up our clean cloths and a little food then hovered under the AC and picnicked in the room.
Cat packaged some of the materials we’ve collected with mini CDs and other keepsakes and braved the heat on a trip to the Poste. As for me, the same ole thing, an afternoon at the computer keyboard. Dinner was pasta at Restaurant Ooh La La, again. We liked the food and we liked eating earlier in the evening.
August 20, 2003
Cordoba to Lucena
Anticipation? Maybe wanting or fearing getting back on the road? I awoke at 4:30 and couldn’t fall back, in fact we both did. Yet somehow we missed the six bells?
At breakfast we noticed a couple talking our brand of English. The gal told us that she was originally from Madrid, her Father was American and Mother Spanish. The husband disappeared then came back with another couple. They are from Michigan, soon the husband’s daughter joined them. The gal, Alicia, was interested in our trip. The others may have been intimidated or just in a hurry to get going to Malaga.
We took a picture with Antonio, the young guy who worked out the place where we parked our bikes. In fact, a group of Italian tourists were asking questions and we got one of the guys to take it.
It’s getting warmer by the minute. We rolled past the Catedral/Mezquita down to the main street along the river, across the new bridge and onto Avenida de Cadiz. The girl at the desk told us that we couldn’t cycle N IV E5. We think she meant that we aren’t supposed to. We know that we can. She didn’t know any alternate routes and the street Cadiz, runs out of town then dumps onto N IV. We were off, we were climbing out of Cordoba on the narrow shoulder in heavy traffic. It was a long, steep climb a level kilometer or two then another even steeper, longer climb.
The only joy in the second climb was that they had the two inside lanes closed for repaving. We had them to ourselves, well us and a couple of paving machines and rollers. The workmen all gave us thumbs up and yelled out things we didn’t understand but knew they were meant to encourage.
At the top of the hill there is one of those giant bulls that the Spaniards scatter around the countryside and the turn off to Malaga. We couldn’t have been happier, we were covered with sweat from the climb and tired of competing with the big trucks and cars for space once the construction ended. Our joy was soon lost in more hills, traffic and heat.
We were doomed to rolling hills, mostly up, for the rest of the day. We pulled into Fernan Nunez for lunch things and thought of our pal Raul Nunez back in Oxnard. I shopped while Cat stood the guard.
Another reminder of how fragile and impermanent life is, a cluster of cars and an ambulance surrounded a small car in the middle of the street. Lights flashing, and a crowd gathering, we passed by and could see that someone was still in the car. At least what was left of someone who had plowed into the back of a cement truck. The driver’s side of the car was covered with a tarp to preserve dignity. We are always defensive as we ride, we work hard to avoid mistakes. This was a huge mistake on the part of the driver of the car, his last mistake.
We rode on then pulled into a Disco Club parking lot, found shade and picnicked. There was a large cage with 6 colorful birds and two quail. While we were loading back up we peeked over the cover and scared the big birds. They flew around, crashed into the wire and lost a few feathers.
Out of the shade, and into the heat, it was really turning up! Heads down, sweat rolling, we only stopped to pour on the water. Well, we did stop and watch “The Crush”, from a distance. A wine co-op was in full swing. Dozens of little tractors pulling carts full of grapes were waiting their turns. This is more beautiful country. Vines, olive groves, harvested sunflower fields with small fires burning the stubble.
This is hot country, too hot to really enjoy at this time of the year on bicycles. It was up hill, of course, into Lucena. We stopped and had two sport drinks in a Service Station. The nice guy left his costumers, walked out the door and pointed the way to a Pension. We thanked him, checked it out and decided that we needed a cool place tonight.
The narrow streets gave us some shade, we rode past a Bicycle Shop. A couple of guys yelled out then got Cat to stop. I was a half block ahead so I just waited in the shade. She motioned for me to come back. One of the guys, Juan Manuel, owns the cycle shop. He and Pedro, his Mailman, were really into the story of our trip by the time I got back to them. There was a Hotel right there but both Juan Manuel and Pedro insisted that it was too expensive. They recommended a place a few blocks away. We decided to find the Centro Ciudad and Officina de Tourisma. After circling several blocks we found it and found that it was closed until 6:30 PM. That was bad news for us but when they do open the stay open until 10:30. Juan Manuel told us that he opens in the afternoon at 5:30 but stays until 10:30 because of the heat. We could understand that, it was now burning up even in the shade. The numbers on a sign in the shade glared out a red 39 degrees at us. (Yes, that’s over 100 F.)
We sought out the Hotel that Juan Manuel and Pedro had recommended but it was a one star place and the entry, was on floor two up a steep flight of stairs. We backtracked to the place across from where we had met those guys, the expensive place.
Yes, it was a little above budget and they had a problem with the bikes but we ironed that out and they through in breakfast. We were home for the evening.
I showered and was still drier that a popcorn fart, as my Father would say. While Cat bathed I searched out some Iced Lemon, a little bucket full. We slurped from the pail, cooled down and quenched our thirst.
Maria’s Lovers, a strange film, caught our attention on TV. Though they could provide breakfast they couldn’t program in BBC or CNN? Maria’s was in English with sub-titles. We were hooked, it was about a POW coming back from WWII. Sad but maybe all too true, how he was affected and the effect it had on his girl friend/wife Maria. The end made us wonder if the entire story had been in the Vets mind or had actually happened? Well, it was good to see Robert Mitchum on the little screen and of course to hear English spoken.
Cat called down and was disappointed to find that they don’t serve dinner until 9:00 PM here. The nice girl at the desk understood, she had lived and gone to school in Scotland. Her problem there was that everyone ate too early, then went to bed at dinnertime. We decided to look for something that is available earlier. Italian sounds good and our friendly girl at the desk suggested a place. Of course we got there and they too, start serving at 9:00.
We sipped a glass of terrible wine and waited. Salads were great but I had a burning feeling from something in mine that didn’t go down well. That set off what I think was spasms of my esophagus. A strong burning when I would swallow followed by a constricted feeling that I could get through by drinking water. So, we brought more than half of my pizza back with us.
August 21, 2003
Lucena to Antequera
It could have been last nights short night or the dinner problem but there was no problem in sleeping. It was almost 7:00 AM when we finally stirred. Breakfast was Continental, bread and coffee. After a water stop at the Super Market we got on the road, up and out of town by 9:30.
It was already warm enough that we were sweating hard by the time we got to the top of the hill. From that point on it was ups and downs, some long slow ups and some long fast downs. At 11:00 we pulled into a churchyard area, found a park bench and ate the pizza that was left over last night. It was cool in the shade, we had the music of Katydids and a couple of locals walked past and acknowledged our picnic.
With only 10 Km to go we pulled up at a Service Station and gulped down a sports drink each. We could see the crossroads ahead and knew that it is only 6 Km beyond to Antequera. We decided to try to get information about Hotel or Camping at a small town, Valle de Abdalajis, about 20 Km further up the road toward Marbella. If we could find the strength and handle the heat that little extra could put us within striking range of Marbella, tomorrow.
Pushing hard, up, into town, we decided that we needed food and were concerned that the Tourist Office would close at 2:00 PM and we would have wasted our effort because it was already now 2:00. Hotel and Restaurant Las Villas de Antikaria pulled us in for information and food. Our stomachs were growling so loud that it was almost embarrassing. The restaurant is air-conditioned and the girl willingly called the T. O. but it was closing at that very moment. She didn’t know about facilities in Abdalajis but thought the road would be down rather than up?
We ate, talked, I almost fell asleep, we decided to stay here tonight. It is just too hot to continue especially when we don’t know what we are getting into. After the usual quandary regarding a place for the bikes the girl said they would have a room. We had passed this way in December as we motored south in Lil’ Scotty. I saw a little sign with the price of 63€, a pretty good deal, we took it.
There was a guy leaning on the desk. After she got us checked in and we pulled the few necessary bags off he led us to his maintenance shop. He was the Mr. Fixit of the Hotel. The shop was tidy and he told us exactly where to park the bikes. I asked what time he starts work tomorrow and he got the point across, “No trabajo manana.” So, how will we get the bikes out? Again, with sign language and broken Spanish we learned more than we needed to know about which key to use and how the lock worked.
We huddled under the AC most of the afternoon. Cat ventured out and did some marketing and almost melted. It gets hotter in the late afternoon, 2:00 PM is the beginning of HOTTER than HELL around these parts.
Dinner, who wants to walk? We went back downstairs and enjoyed a fairly unmemorable meal. We hit the sack, early based upon Spanish standards.
August 22, 2003
Antequera to Coin
We waited for breakfast for fear that we would get out in the country and starve out. Then as we checked out she priced the room at 79€. I complained but she pointed out that on the bottom of the sign was a note that the price was 79€ in August. Just as I was about to concede she added 6.50€ for parking. I blew up, what a rip, she withered and then backed the parking off the bill. Our hoped for budget deal and an early start fizzled at the same time, 9:00 AM.
It was a push and pull sort of climb out of Antequera up but as usual, a grand view. The town and mountains are scenic but there is a haze that took the edge off of the pictures. If you want to see some of the interesting sights, check the journal from last December.
Contrary to what the girl told us, the road to Valle de Abdalajis was more up than down. The mountains are spectacular looking but an imposing sight to two cyclists trying to stretch to 100 KM today. We would like to get to Marbella but it won’t happen if we have many of these extreme ups and downs.
It took us an hour to ride and push the first 5 KM. The next 15 were up and down. We flew down and crawled up, into Valle de Abdalajis in the next hour. Rolling down into the village a couple of boys, pre to early teen, decided to race us then cut in and out in front of us. We laughed, joked with them then, I yelled out when we had played enough and they laughed then screamed down hill and away.
As we sipped a lemon drink a guy walked up and started speaking in Spanish. When we told him, “No comprende,” he began speaking German. Paco drives Taxi Cab. He saw us in Antiquera then again on the road. He is the kind of guy that makes you wish that you spoke Spanish. Jovial, he did find a way to tell us that he had lived and worked in Germany for 9 years. He did ask if we liked jamon. WE told him that we love the Spanish ham. As usual, he chuckled before he spoke the said something like, “Pan, jamon, vino y camions,” and made signs like running or cycling. We guessed it meant that if you eat ham and cheese and drink wine you will be healthy?
A fairly long and sometimes steep down took us into Alora, another of those small, similar looking villages. We began to look for food. A tiny market caught our eye, we pushed back and leaned the bikes together then bought the usual, jamom, queso and pan. (ham, cheese and bread.) We wished that we knew what Paco’s saying was and meant? The lady in the store was nice but busy. I had looked for a place to sit outside but there was none. I asked if we could use her chair from the check stand, Cat was a little embarrassed but I knew that she needed to sit and relax. As we started to eat the lady came out and invited us to sit in her shaded porch. What a nice gesture. She didn’t, however, bring a chair out for me.
Onward to a cross roads and a choice we had to make. Either way takes us where we’re headed so we chose the one that looked shortest on the map. That may have been a mistake, our map doesn’t show topography. Now we were on a steep climb and we could see the longer, flat road across the river and railroad tracks. Well, speaking of seeing, we do always get the view when we climb.
This time we also got a tunnel. It wasn’t very long but once inside, in the dark, I couldn’t see. As a truck and car roared up from behind I yelled out, “Stopping.”
Cat didn’t hear and hit the back of my bike. She could have fallen in front of the car. She was pretty excited, in fact we had one of those rare moments when our words were spoken in loud tones. “What are you doing,” she yelled. “I called stopping,” I screamed back. We settled down, rode out into the sunshine and apologized to each other. It was over!
More up as we watched the other road lay flat. Then we had to pass Cartama off to the right, across the river and the tracks and go downstream then turn and ride back. Cat saw a pension and suggested that we stop for the day, there. I wanted to try to press on, at least to Cartama, another 4 KM.
Of course, the road took a turn for the up as we entered town. Then rolling down the main street we looked in vain for a Hotel. It was now very hot and the road ahead looked like more hills. We pulled in to a restaurant. I ate 3 Popsicles, Cat had cold water then the owner gave us the bad news. There is no Hotel in Cartama, just the Pension back 4 KM or 15 further down the road to Coin.
Another tense moment or two then Cat said, “I hate to backtrack.” We set off in the blazing afternoon sun and up another hill toward Coin. It is beautiful but the mountains look ominous off to our left and we know that somewhere we will have to cross them. Rolling ups and downs then a hot down hill on a narrow busy road into town. Another disappointment, the guy at the Service Station confirmed what another guy had tried to tell us. There is no Hotel here either, the Pension had closed. The only Hotel is El Palomar, back about half a kilometer then off to the right and up. Up would the key word, it was an up and steep 3 KM hill. We rode the first few hundred meters then pushed, most of the rest of the way. It was oppressively hot and there was no shade. The sun blazed down and we pushed up.
After more than half an hour we passed through a commercial area. I asked a girl for the Hotel and she just pointed, around the corner and UP. Pushing around and up, we were surprised to suddenly find that we had a face full of TV Video Cameras and a guy walking along with us, shooting pictures. No, they weren’t stationed here to get a story about WorldRiders2. They were waiting in front of the Police Station for news of an arrest of those who murdered a young girl, here in Coin. We were a break in their boredom. One of the girls spoke enough English to get the short version of our story and she took notes. She also told the rest of the group what we were doing. (We had read about the murder, they found the girls body and suspect that it was two or three people, probably guys, who molested and killed her.)
As tired and overheated as we were we perked up when they turned the cameras on us and did a language limited interview. We were able to ride away and the video guys followed in a car and shot some rolling footage. We felt like celebrities but wondered if any of it would ever make print or television?
Every corner felt like it should be the last. We asked several times and it was always the same answer, on up. El Palomar is really a well-kept secret. It is buried in a residential neighborhood behind a school. Though it’s on the hilltop it isn’t located well enough to get a good view. It is a wonderful Oasis at the edge of the mountains with a pool, great restaurant, and best of all, a small but nice room for us.
The nice young girl, Isabelle, who greeted us opened a door and helped us get the bikes into a storage room. There were three bikes including a tiny one, already in the room. I asked if it was hers and she squatted down on it and rode around in a circle. Laughing, she said that she lives in Monda and rides it to work everyday. She did say that it belongs to the Hotel owner’s children.
Showered and refreshed, we went down to a terrific barbeque dinner. As we waited for food the girl flitted from table to table talking with the few diners in the patio and out on the grass next to the pool. Isabel stopped and chatted with us then introduced us to her Father, a banker. She confessed that they own the Hotel, she and her Mother operate it. Her Father calls it a woman’s hobby. I suggested that they should advertise in Malaga and Marbella for people who work there to come spend a few days on top the mountain. I don’t think she got it? She did tell us that the murdered girls body was found on property owned by her Father. He is not only a banker but also a successful sub divider of land, too.
The Que, awe that barbeque, we had lamb, pork and some other kind of meat on a skewer with potatoes and vegetables. That and the cooling evening air helped us recover from our tough and physical day. We sat in the patio with a large window open to the pool area. The other diners were all around the pool or at tables on the grass. One of the tables was a group of local men, working men, having laughs and Cervecas. A woman from Germany, that I met as we unloaded the bikes was sitting with a big guy near the pool. When I talked with her she said that she was here to have nice holiday. Curious, we watched as they talked. We began to play the guessing game, who is she and what are they doing? When she pulled out what looked like several pages of what looked like X-Rays. Our friend, Isabel, passed nearby and we asked. The big guy is a Doctor from Germany who treats Cancer patients here with some sort of medication that is not legal in Germany. She doesn’t believe in him but is happy that he always meets his new patients here, at her restaurant.
The workers laughed, finished and left. The doctor held the hand of the woman and spoke words of encouragement then she left. He waited a few minutes, paid the bill and made his exit, too. We were now pretty much the only customers left in the place when a duet, a keyboard and saxophone, began setting up in the corner. The music was great, swing style. We even took a turn around the floor as we headed back up to our room.
We were tired, we could hear the music drifting up from below and drifted off to sleep thinking we were probably the only ones listening.
August 23, 2003
Coin to Marbella
We were anxious to get to Marbella. It sort of represents the end of our European ride. Gibraltar will actually be the final leg but we were thinking of Marbella sort of as a return to our winter home. We’ve been in touch with Jesus and Sonia, our friends there who own the Internet Café. They allowed us to have some bike parts and the extra water bags sent to their home. I talked with Jesus on the phone, they seem happy to know that we will see them however, none of the packages had arrived, yet. We’re looking forward to the smell of the ocean, too. We did spend the night near the Atlantic in Biarritz but this is the Mediterranean and this is Marbella.
Breakfast was poolside on a cool and beautiful mountain morning. Isabel had told us that she would be sleeping when we leave. She had also said that there was a small climb then it would be level and down into Marbella. We were off by 9:00 AM.
It was soon clear to us that Isabelle had never ridden a bike, the little one or any one, on this road. It was pretty steep some of the time. There was a new section for about 5 kilometers then we were in familiar territory, above the small road that we had ridden up to and through Monda, last December.
Though the smell of sea air and pines surrounded us it was soon HOT. We had to stop and pour water on our heads several times as we climbed. The sign for the turn off to Ojen and a cool sea breeze assured us that we had reached the summit. We stopped at the turn out above the white village of Ojen for a rest and picture break then it was down, down, down. It was like deja vu, we remembered this ride but we remembered our fear of the close traffic. Now, after all the thousands of kilometers from Vaasa we felt comfortable with it. There were cars and trucks but they gave way to us and steered clear.
We held a little celebration over some greasy food and soft drinks at the Service Station off to the left at the round about. Geez it’s great to be back in familiar territory and out of the hill and heat.
The center of Marbella is an orange grove. The City and tourist office are there along with Restaurants and shops. They informed us that this is August, as though we didn’t know that. What we didn’t know was that August is vacation month in Marbella. We wanted to be near the center, walking distance to the beach. It wasn’t easy and it wouldn’t be inside budget. Cat checked out Hotel St. Cristobal, they did have a room but no place to store the bikes. We tugged the bikes up the stairway and into the lobby then Cat took a look at the room. It was too small to fit the bikes into, comfortably. The clerk, Chris, got involved and sent her to see a room with a large balcony. It was perfect, well, they didn’t have any English language TV but Chris thought they might be able to tune it in tomorrow.
The balcony is large enough to accommodate the bikes and still leave room for us to sit in the afternoon and have a glass of wine. It over looks the old city and has a view of the mountains. This place really looks and feels like Palm Springs by the Sea. In fact, the service station sandwich was spent and we were hungry. I showered while Cat explored and bought picnic things. We ate on the patio. Looking back up at the mountains gave us a sense of achievement and satisfaction as we ate.
We opened all the bags, this is our time to prepare for Africa. The little used camping equipment was in good shape but needed a good airing. We deleted a few things and began re-packing and tightening our loads.
Marbella is still Spain and that means no dinner until after 8:00 PM. The cool sea air was a treat and reminded us of home. The promenade was awash with packs of hungry tourists walking and waiting for the restaurant doors to open. When we stayed here for those two seeks during the winter we cooked and ate in the condo. It was a drive into town thus we never spend time here in the evening. Balmy and beautiful, the lights and sights are festive
With so many choices, we went for the Italian, of course. The place is owned by an Italian family. The salad and Pasta were perfect. A three-generation British family at the next table was fun for us to listen to and finally meet. The boys, Jeremy and Thomas were great characters. I asked who was oldest and Jeremy said, “Thomas is by 6 minutes.” They’re on vacation, visiting the Grandparents who live here half time.
The sun set over the palms and the balmy air was a welcome relief from all those hot, hilly days it took to get here from Madrid.
Reflecting, as we talked with the family, we found it hard to believe that we’ve come from freezing Finland all the way south to Marbella in the past 5 months and 3 days.
Back at St. Cristobal we called Jesus and Sonia, our Marbella family. We’ve had some bike parts and water bags sent to their place but they haven’t arrived yet. We did make a date for breakfast with Jesus.
Neither of us had any trouble falling asleep!
Sunday August 24, 2003
Jesus, you may recall, is with the Marbella Police Department. He is doing bicycle patrol during the summer. He starts work at 9:00 AM so made a date with us for breakfast at 10:00. He and his partner rolled up and led us to the local spot. Several other Police Officers were there, sipping coffee and telling tall tales. We figure this is the equivalent of Spudnuts, the donut shop next to our old office, back home.
The conversation darted back and forth between our travel stories of the past 8 months and Jesus’ stories of his family and Police work. He volunteered for the Bike Patrol again this year and is the Senior officer. The kids have grown and Sonia has stopped working and is being a full time Mom. We met them at the Internet Café that they own with a partner, another Policeman. They’re all tired of working there night and day, too, and are in the process of selling the place.
Jesus and several others in the Department competed in the Water Polo event at the International Police Olympics in Barcelona. A couple of the guys had some experience in Water Polo, Jesus didn’t. They signed up because all the other events were filled by the time they decided to attend. They did take a few lessons and though they ended up in last place they had a great time. The quarters are only 7 minutes but he said it felt like 7 hours
We had our coffee and made plans for dinner tonight with the family. They cycled away, looking for bad guys and we headed back to our re-packing. It’s Sunday, so most of Marbella is closed. We did find a small grocery store for lunch things and a bookstore that had a copy of The Lonely Planet Guide to Morocco
Between the packing and reading about Morocco the time just flew by. We sorted through every bag, emptied them then organized and re-packed. The room was covered with camping and cooking equipment.
Dinner with the family was a nice time. Oh, the kids were sleepy but they were both good. Alejandro slept most of the night. Helena just played, ate and at times clung to Sonia. The place they chose is owned by another Policeman. The food was okay but fried so a little tough on my stomach. The evening was great, just being together with them. We obviously enjoying ourselves, we didn’t get back to the room until 12:45 PM! That’s lifestyle in Spain!
August 25, 2003
Getting things accomplished
Monday morning and Marbella is open for business. Our first stop was Rossy’s, the Laundry lady. She isn’t open until 9:00 AM so we had our coffee and croissant next door while we waited. Cat slipped the big bag in while I watched our things and finished my coffee.
Our list of “things to do” was in Cat’s hands, I went back to the room and the journal. When Cat returned she told me about the excitement at the Pharmacia when she ordered 7 months of our prescriptions and her contact lens. We are to pick them and the laundry up at 6:00 PM. Rossy will have our cloths ready and the Pharmacia will have collected enough drugs to fill our super huge prescription. Well, we fear that our prescription needs may be tough to find in Africa?
Our call to Jesus was positive, DHL was delivering one of our packages as we spoke. The other from the Cycle Shop in Austria was still in limbo. He is calling to try to track it.
In keeping with his wonderful adoption of Pat & Cat and our problems Jesus has made an appointment for us with at TASA, Vacunacion de Viajeros Internationales on Thursday morning. Thanks to him things are really coming together. I needed to get away from the keyboard and stretch, so we walked up the main drag looking for picnic items for lunch on our patio. The thought of food served fresh lured us back to the Policeman’s hangout. Most Cafes here are touristy, fancy cafes. This place is down home and our kind of place. Sandwiches and soft drinks, they were great. Some of Jesus’ friends even wave hello as they came and went. Well, he did make us honorary Marbella Police last January.
Cat headed for the Pharmacy and I went back to the computer. The good news was that they had our entire order ready. The bad news, our Visa Card wouldn’t pass the test? They tried several times before giving up. Okay, she went directly to the ATM but it too was in a rejection mode. She could only get 400€ then it cut her off. Seems that they have a daily maximum. Although we couldn’t get the drugs, se were able to pay for the laundry, we may die from lack of drugs but we’ll have clean cloths for the funeral.
The Internet shop we’ve been using also has telephones. We asked about a call to the US and the girl said, “20 cents each minute”. A local call is also 20 cents each minute. We talked about calling our pal Jose in Portugal and she smiled and said, “20 cents each minute”. That seems to be the cost to call, anywhere.
The call to the (800) number had me shuffled from hither to yon for a while then Security got on the phone and asked for my code and Mother’s maiden name. We don’t have a “limit” problem, Security caught all the European charges and decided to check. They called the numbers on our account and found them disconnected so, they shut us down. Not as a deterrent to our use of the card but as a security concern. Once I explained they immediately took the hold off the account and we were back in business.
The Promenade, the cool air and the sunset drew us back for dinner. Another seaside café, not quite as good as last night but enjoyable. No nice English Family seated next to us but we did have the Sea, Sunset and great people watching.
Jesus came rolling past on his bike, we ran out and flagged him down. We talked for just a few minutes then he got an emergency call, an attempted suicide jumper. He did say that people who call the Police to tell them they are going to kill themselves rarely do then he jumped on his bike and headed off to rescue the Damsel in Distress!
Tonight we succumbed to the desire for ice cream. Like so many other tourists, we walked, licked and enjoyed the cool evening air. It is hard to believe that people in Madrid are still burning up. It's only a pleasant 25 degrees here yet TV told us that it would be 40 there. We feel like we survived summer and now we’re almost ready for Africa.
Back in the room, early and the end of a very productive day.
August 26, 2003
Chris, the guy at the desk, asked us to meet he and his brother, Alvaro, in the bar this morning. When we asked he told us that Alvaro works here at the Hotel, too. When we pressed him he said, “Okay, you know our secret now, our family owns Hotel St. Cristobal. Jokingly I asked if he was the St. Christopher the Hotel was named for. He got serious and said, “My Grandfather died the day before I was born, his name was Christopher and I was named for him, as was the Hotel”.
We were to meet in the bar at 9:00 AM. WE waited a few minutes then went on in to the Breakfast Room and started eating. At 9:15 Chris walked up and asked why we hadn’t waited? They wanted to buy our breakfast. Then he said, “Come on into the bar, the coffee’s better and I’ll take the breakfast charge off your bill”. Alvaro joined us and we got acquainted. Besides his work here at the Hotel he teaches Water Polo. When we mentioned our friend Jesus and the Police Olympics he told us that he knew him. He had trained the members of the team as best he could in the short time they had before the Games. Small World!
As we moved to the bar and said we were so American. They say that the Spanish tradition is to be a little late. Chris has just returned from a visit to Ecuador a month ago. Alvaro is the traveling one. He went to school, University of California, Berkeley and loves California. He has also traveled around Europe and Morocco. Both really nice guys, and it turns out that their family owns the hotel. We talked and shared pictures from our trip for hours. It was nice to talk with them, and hopefully they enjoyed the photo show. We reached Luis, our cyclist friend here and made a date to meet at 10:00 AM tomorrow.
Cat got cash and a huge bag of drugs. The gals at the Pharmacy were so excited with the huge order that they gave her a beach bag and some small samples of sunscreens for the face and lips. They even threw in a pill case.
I worked on the website and articles for AARP Magazine, and Adventure Cycling. Neither accepts articles via e-mail. After a little ask, ask, ask we found The Poste and a helpful girl who spoke English.
Our afternoon was spent repacking the bags. When we opened the pots and pans we found that the “Bag Balm” we bought to treat our sore butts back in South Dakota had popped opened. It was everywhere so Cat filled the bathtub and got a degreaser from our friend, Chris. I typed journal pages while she soaked and scrubbed.
For dinner we chose the Promenade and a place called Mamma Rosa’s. Neither the food nor the ambience matched the place we loved the other night. We did meet some nice people. A Father and Son from England said hello to us and asked if we were cycling. We asked how they knew and they said the shoes and the sound hey make were a giveaway. They are here taking day trips on their bikes.
A family seated next to us was also speaking English. We listened and thought they could be from the States of Canada. We played the guessing game then broke into their conversation and asked. Surprise, they, Henry, Ann and their daughters Ciara and Aoife are from Ireland. He told us that lots of Irish come here for holiday. We spent an hour chatting, this is the thing that we love about our Odyssey.
August 27, 2003
Luis and More Errands
As we cycled on the promenade 8 months ago, on Christmas Eve, a young guy, Luis, said “Hello”. He was interested because he too is a cyclist. He was working as a waiter here but is from Argentina. He’s saving money to cycle from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. He is sure that he will get to the US border but getting a Visa to the US may not be within his reach. You may remember that we spent Christmas Eve with him and some of his friends. Since that time we’ve maintained contact on e-mail and made a date to meet him, today. He brought a laptop computer and we saw pictures of his recent cycle trip on the Camino de Santiago. I ran to our room and got our computer so he could see some of our adventure since we saw him last. We again spent hours talking about bicycling, traveling, life, dreams, etc. We took him to lunch, at a local place. By the time we departed, it was almost 3:00 p.m. He walked with us to the Internet shop, we hugged and he said, “Until we meet again”.
A group of kids try to act tough and face off in Break Dance competitions. Though they pretend to be two different gangs they seem to be friends. Their show always stops the stream of tourists, including us. They have a hat on the ground and lost of us foolish tourists throw in a little money. The enemies seem content to split the tips.
He was off to work and we hit the Internet Shop. Not only checking e-mails, we got calls in to daughter Lori, adopted Mom, Celeste and good friend, Don Hunt. It was good to hear voices and we aren’t sure when we will be able to call at these prices, 20 cents a minute, again. Stephanie and the Grandkids are still at Disneyland so they’re having fun 8instead of talking with us.
I have worked on completion of the Adventure Cycling article. It’s a lot of work for at best a maybe but if you don’t do it you know for sure it won’t happen. Our objective is to make a few more friends, and increase readership of our site. When I finished them we took the typed copies and CDs of pictures to the Poste. Our friend wasn’t here but we knew the drill and bought envelopes and stamps then sent it off, now the waiting?
Hooray, we got a call from Jesus that our packages had arrived. He volunteered to drive us to the Malaga Clinic in the morning and he’ll bring the packages to us at the same time. What a friend! He called you know and made the appointment but is concerned that we won’t be able to get there on the bus and find the place by 11:00 AM. He is the epitome of AMIGO!!!
August 28, 2003
Vaccinations, Meds and Long Bus Lines
Jesus was there with the packages at 10:00 AM. We ran the boxes up to the room then he drove like the Policeman that he is, the 50 kilometers to Malaga. He was right, we would have been at a loss getting here and finding the place. Door to door service, Jesus dropped us then hurried away, back to an appointment with the buyer of their Internet Shop then on to his bicycle and back to patrolling the Marbella beach.
When we entered the building we felt that it must be an office where they will have us fill out forms then send us elsewhere for the shots. At first we couldn’t communicate very well. My “Pobre poqito Espanol” didn’t go very far. Then the gal, Reina, called Helene in, she speaks English. They explained the shots and possible side effects, which always makes you feel good about taking them. Most countries south of Morocco require the Yellow Fever shot. All the others, Typhoid Fever, Diphtheria and Tetanus are options suggested by the travel book.
We also learned that we need two different types of Malaria pills. One that we start right away then a stronger one when we get into the danger zone in Mauritania. Reina wrote prescriptions for them. I had to go down the street to a bank and pay for the shots. Helene told me to go two streets then turn left. It was a long walk and there was no bank on the corner like she said there would be. I backtracked and found it on the corner of the first street. When I returned to the office Helene apologized, she meant the first street. It was a guy that does the needle work. He hit us in both arms. He was good, it was virtually painless. They filled us in on where we could buy the Malaria pills and Hepatitis A vaccine. We’ll have to get that then have it injected at the clinic in Marbella.
It took three buses to get us back to Marbella the on to San Pedro Alcantara where we would buy the Malaria pills. Of course after waiting for the bus then riding and walking in the heat, the place closed at 3:00 PM. A half hour before we got there. We did find a Pharmacy that had the Hepatitis A vaccine so the journey wasn’t a complete loss.
The next challenge was getting back to Marbella. Another hot walk then long wait for the bus. A crowd gathered at the bus stop and they were all impatient. It was an hour wait then the guys, some of them burly construction guys, bullied their way to the door leaving us and the women to wait for the next bus. Fortunately another showed up in just a few minutes and it, in fact, passed the other that was packed with pushy people. We hoped that it would have to stop at every stop and take an extra hour to get to Marbella. Vengeance, of a sort.
It was almost 8:00 PM by the time we got back to Hotel St. Cristobal. Though we are completely packed and ready to roll in the morning we’ll now have to stay another day.
Late dinner on the Promenade after which I discovered that my Visa Card was missing. Back in the room, I called and the same girl who had waited on us told me that they would hold it. We will stop on our way out of town and pick it up.
Our heads and sore arms hit the bed and we went to sleep dreaming of the “Great African Adventure”.
August 29, 2003
More Needles and Final Packing
We had purchased the Hepatitis A vaccine yesterday and left it in the Hotel refrigerator over night. After breakfast we walked to Ochoa Clinic and both had the last shot administered. Mine was a pain in the butt!
So, it was final packing, loading the bikes and readying a package of maps and booklets to mail home. Another trip to the Poste but a real lightening of the load.
The day had flown by. We were back on the Promenade and into another Italian Restaurant. The kitchen was open over a counter. I loved the way the staff worked and the way the Pizza Chef threw the dough in the air. Check the picture and the little movie, he was pretty good.
An early evening, based on Spanish standards. We jumped into bed and dreamed of Africa.
August 30, 2003
Marbella to Gibraltar
We invited Chris, Alvaro, Jesus and Luis to cycle a ways with us this morning. Alvaro had a Water Polo tournament to play. Jesus was off and wanted to sleep then spend the time with the kids. So, at 9:00 AM we rolled out with Chris and Luis. In fact, Luis’ bike is in the shop so Chris borrowed one for him. We took a couple of pics then headed west down the main street. Traffic was moderate and fairly friendly. The guys rode all the way to San Pedro and to the Pharmacia where they were holding my Visa Card.
With the Visa Card safely back in my wallet we turned to the difficult task of goodbyes. Who would believe that the guy who checked us into his Hotel a week ago would be a new, close friend? And, a waiter we met 8 months ago would still be in touch and would even be planning on seeing us in Argentina next year. Now here we are again, living the best and worst of our journey. Saying goodbye is always tough. Both Chris and Alvaro have promised to see us in California someday, too.
The best is riding onward toward new adventure and friends. The road is close and the traffic fast but we felt safe on the shoulder. It was getting hungry out so we pulled off the highway and down toward the beach in Estapona. Cat got picnic supplies while I stood guard then we rode to a shady spot with a park bench. While we ate a guy drove up and sat looking at us from across the street. He got out and walked across then started asking where we were going, in Spanish. He was almost shocked when we answered in English. Duncan is a photographer from London, England. What a nice guy, he is burned out in his work. He’s been in business more than 20 years. I told him that at times we had felt like the business was running us instead of is running it. He knew the feeling.
His family, Wife son and daughter were shopping. They began calling but he was enjoying our stories so much that he began ignoring the calls. He shot some pictures of us and even took one for us with our camera. Finally he pulled away but the look in his eyes was envy. Of course he doesn’t know how tough it is in the heat and hills. After an hour of talking and taking pictures we shook hands and promised to stay in touch on the Internet. He even suggested that he has a friend who cycles. He might ask him to take off and the two of them join us somewhere in Africa? A very nice guy frustrated with the boredom in his life.
He honked and stared then drove away. We started pedaling, in the wrong direction. It seemed that we would eventually get back to the highway so we just rode. I pulled up to take a picture of a beach that reminded us of Santa Monica. A car began honking and a guy yelled out, “Hey Pat & Cat!” It was Duncan and his family. He invited us to come to the beach and have a cool drink. We accepted, he introduced us to the family who then hit the beach. He sat and we talked “Running Away” talk. He is pretty much stuck for the next few years, getting his kids through school. His wife didn’t seem to be very interested in an adventure.
It was nice to see him again, but we really needed to move on. The waiter was after us to move the bikes, too. Duncan helped Cat push through the sand and back up the hill. We said our last goodbyes, again, and then off we were. What a strange, brief encounter. A new friend and admirer of our Odyssey lifestyle. We both know exactly how he feels and hope he gets through it.
Up a steep hill and into heavy traffic was the story of the rest of our ride Gibraltar. Funny but there are no directional signs for Gibraltar, only the adjacent Spanish town, La Linea. We took the turnoff for La Linea and hit the hills. Once over the top, it was a beautiful downhill with “The Rock of Gibraltar” as a backdrop. It’s an awesome sight.
We had to do the ask, ask, ask again as we rolled through La Linea. Finally a sign for Gibraltar, almost at the edge of town. Once we hit the street along the Border it all came back to us. Remember, we were here in January and bought our new computer.
It’s an easy Border to cross. Just a flash of our Passports and the guard waved us on. There is a statue just before you cross the runway into town. We stopped and took a picture. It’s a tribute to the Spanish workers who dug the siege tunnels. The guy is on a bicycle. WAIT, did we say just before you cross the runway into town? Yes, one of the most unique features of Gibraltar is that all visitors must cross the runway to get into the City.
Somehow we circled right which was the wrong way but it led to the Watergate and a photo taken by a local guy. We cycled into the center and looked for tourist info to no avail. Cat walked down the main street looking for a Hotel. I was shaky and needed food. Burger King had a chicken sandwich for me.
Several of the Hotels were full. One looked too cheesy and didn’t have a place for the bikes. Our cycling buddy in Philly, Michael, had suggested The Queen’s Hotel. Not cheap or very nice but they did offer a luggage room to store the bikes. I hiked them up the 8 stairs while Cat got us checked in.
Food was on our minds so we jammed the things into the room and walked to a fish place recommended by Ellen, the friendly British Desk Clerk. She and her family are adventurous. They have lived and worked in several interesting places just for the experience. She was right, the fish was great and the wine was fine!
Back in early and we enjoyed a dose of BBC before an early lights out.
Sunday August 31, 2003
A Day Off in Gibraltar
We both got a great night's sleep. It had been a hot, tiring ride yesterday. The English Breakfast was very good. Ham, an egg and toast but it hit the spot. The two old guys working there were interesting to watch. Maybe like Duncan they have been doing the job for too long. They seemed to argue about which would do certain tasks. A guy, probably a lot like their boss, I thought, walked in and sat at a table for six. The tall thin waiter told him in broken British English that he had to move to a table for two. The guy stood firm, the waiter told him they were busy and needed the big table. The guy looked around and laughed then sternly rebuffed the waiter. It was like the tall, dark skinned guy was trapped between this jerk and his boss who may be the same kind of pushy jerk? Of course the waiter won, he ignored the guy until he moved to the two top table.
It was Sunday and the shops are closed. We did find that Safeway, yes, that giant grocer back home, has a store here and it is open today. We walked there and got bananas and a bottle of Fat Bastard Chardonnay. We chose it specifically for the name. It must be good with a name like that. The Internet Café opens at noon on Sundays.
We dropped the food and walked to the nearby Cable Car and took the ride to the “Top of The Rock”! The day was crystal clear, we enjoyed good views of Gibraltar and we could even see the north coast of Africa. Of course the main event on “The Rock”, the Rock Apes. This large family of Macaques know the tourists and despite the numerous signs advising not to feed and threatening a 500£ fine they know which are willing to run the risk. One Italian guy got close to a fairly large female but when he took the package of cookies out she attacked before he could get it open. When she grabbed his shorts and pulled on his shirt he said, “Mamma Mia,” and threw the entire package onto the ground. She quickly scooped it up and ran across the wall where she opened it like and expert and ate them, one at a time. She seemed to be staring and almost laughing at the guy.
No trip to the top is complete without a photo and we traded shots with two couples from Poznan, Poland. The other must is a walk through the Siege Tunnels. These were dug as a deterrent to attack. Spain has wanted Gibraltar but the locals have voted for autonomy rather than being handed over to Spain like Hong Kong was handed to China.
Lunch at an English Pub, I had a second English Breakfast and loved it. We spent a couple of hours at the Internet Café then sipped and enjoyed our “Fat Bastard”. We went back to the Restaurant where we ate lunch last January. Pasta and good conversation with the waiter, a cyclist from England, working saving money and dreaming of a cycling adventure.
Our African Dream will become reality tomorrow. Feelings of uncertainty and trepidation mixed with excitement and a desire to get started.
September 1, 2003
Gibraltar to Algeciras to Tangier
22 Kilometers on bike, 70 Kilometers on Ferry Boat
Crossing the Straights of Gibraltar
We were awake and up early. Anxiety to get back on the road and get to Africa was a strong stimulant. Packed, I walked to the cycle repair shop to see if they were open. A young guy told me to check back about 10:00. That would be too late. We had breakfast then walked back at 9:00 AM. The guy in the cycle and motorcycle shop told us that his mechanic didn’t start until 10:30. We decided to roll on.
It isn’t easy to get lost in a place as small as Gibraltar but we did it. Had to turn and circle back. As we approached the runway crossing the lights began to flash and the gate came down. We grabbed the camera hoping to get a pic of a take off or landing. False alarm, the flashing stopped and the gate pointed back skyward.
We crossed then turned to get a picture. The Policeman in a booth motioned for us to come on off the edge of the tarmac. I yelled out that we just wanted a picture and he bellowed back, “You can’t stop out there, take it from here!” Okay, we don’t need any problems with a Bobby on our way out of town. We started setting the camera up on the little tri pod and he came out of his booth. He watched for a couple of minutes as I struggled then said, “If you want a picture I could take it for you, if you ask.” “Okay,” says I, I’m asking.” Then he was suddenly our best new buddy. He got a good shot then asked about our trip. Another guy who may have been doing the same job for way too long. He had that “Duncan” look in his eyes as we rode away.
Cat lost sleep thinking about having to climb out the same steep hill that we had swooshed down into La Linea. We stopped and mailed the photos to Chris, Alvaro and Luis then pushed off and up. Inn fact, we pedaled up all the way then when the going would have gotten really tough we took a turn to the left and to the flat or down that took us to Algeciras. It was hot, we did sweat but not like we would have on the steep.
Riding the Autovia was the usual thrill. It was a little before 1:00PM by the time we got to a ticket office. Though we wanted to try to make the 1:30 Ferry our sense of timing told us to relax, get some lunch and get on the 3:00 PM boat. Lunch in the shade with a slight breeze. As we sat down the waiter told us, drinks only, no food until 2:00 PM. Rather than run around seeking another place we just relaxed. We did tell the waiter that we would be in a hurry because we were booked on the Ferry. He brought menus then disappeared. When he returned he took our order at 1:40. We had food in front of us in just a few minutes. He bent his own rules.
As it turned out we might as well have just sat and relaxed. We fell in at the front of the line, found some shade and waited. At about 3:15 they opened the gate and had us move out to the dock. It was hot but we were able to find a little shade. We had to stand because the blacktop was too hot to sit on. I leaned on a fence and picked up a checkerboard pattern of grease and dirt on my back and butt.
More waiting, those poor people in cars must have been baking? They couldn’t dock the Ferry until the one there was empty. Finally at 4:00 PM they were able to swing the boat, a catamaran, around and back her in. The flag flying on the stern surprised us, it was red and white stripes with a blue square just like the US flag but there was only one large star. We knew the flag from recent TV coverage. The name on the boat, Tanger Jet and her city, Monrovia. She is of Liberian registry.
They really jam the cars on board, fast and close. It’s cars only on this Fast Ferry. By the time got the bikes strapped down we were trapped with only inches of wiggle room. It was a tough task just climbing over and around the cars to get out of our tiny space.
The Ferry isn’t great for scenery. The windows up front and along the side are clouded and dirty. There is a deck on the stern, mostly a smoking deck as, thank goodness, it isn’t allowed in the cabin. I stepped out and a guy who we had talked with as we waited, spoke to me. I shot a picture of what I thought was the African coast then he said, “That is Spain, on the other side is Morocco”. Okay, my last pic of a picturesque Spanish Village.
Disembarking was a tough ride through the ships car storage area, lots of fumes and of course the trepidation of a strange foreign shore. The cluster of people parted for us as we cycled through. There were the usual hawkers hawking the usual junk and plenty of guys that want to be your guide but none were on bicycle and none wanted to run along with us.
I rode ahead and turned while Cat took a photo of me at the gate to Tangier. A guy we had seen onboard was pushing his funny little bike, one like our friend Hank rides in Paris. He wished me a good voyage, we got the picture then talked for a few minutes. He’s a ship mechanic from Oslo, Norway, working here, a long way from home. We told him about our trip and how we had stopped in Oslo. As we said our goodbyes Cat reminded me that we had started our Greenland Adventure exactly one year ago, today. It seemed appropriate since that journey started with the same feelings of the unknown and the fears that always accompany it.
The one-hour boat ride had actually taken almost two hours. By the time we passed through the gate it was after 6:00 PM. Too late for a visit with the Tourist Office so we chose Hotel Rembrandt from the Lonely Planet Guide book. Riding along the waterfront we pulled up to decide which direction to take at a traffic light. A guy seated in a sidewalk café asked where we wanted to go. We chose to say, Center of City and he pointed to the right. We rounded the corner and at the next there was a sign directing us to turn right, again. Cycling up the hill we were greeted by a symphony of car horns, lots of honks waves and words of encouragement. Several cars slowed and the people inside actually clapped for us. Just a few blocks up the street and there it was, Rembrandt.
This was the easiest entry into a large city that we have ever made. The people at Rembrandt were extra friendly and the rate they quoted was really reasonable, 450 Dirham or about 45 Euro. They helped with the bags and Abdul, the desk clerk even pushed Cat’s bike while I followed around the building and down behind into a locked garage for storage.
A quick bath and we set out for dinner without a clue where we were going. There is a young guy, Abdul, hanging around the door with an official looking badge. Abdul #1, the desk clerk told us that he works for the Hotel and doesn’t charge for services. Trusting him, we followed for a long walk down through the marketplace, across the Grand Socco and through the gate of the Kasbah. We were getting worried when he finally turned us down a little alleyway and up to the door of Restaurant Marhaba Palace. As we entered we felt concern because the lights were off. Suddenly they came on and two guys appeared. “Yes, we are open, come in please.” When I asked why we were the only ones there they said it is early. It was 9:00 PM but they told us that in Morocco time was only 7:00PM. We had picked up 2 hours on our short boat ride.
Dinner was straight from the pages of an old Moroccan book. The décor of the place, the feeling of antiquity was captivating. Marrencie, our waiter, told us that it is an old Palace. He promised to give us a tour of the bedrooms later. The food was really fantastic, just as you would expect in an authentic Moroccan Restaurant. A four piece Moroccan Combo came in, took seats in the center of the room and began to play Middle Eastern sounding music. The mood, the food and the service set the pace for a great evening.
is the Kasbah!
We walked back through dark streets filled with interesting looking people and smells of exotic spices and food being cooked and served behind doors of neighborhood homes. We were cautious but never felt intimidated or threatened. There were vegetable sellers with wheelbarrows full of onions, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. This place feels like the Middle East yet the people here don’t think of themselves as Middle Eastern.
It was almost midnight, Spanish time, by the time we fell into our comfortable beds.
September 2, 2003
A Day Off in Tangier
Surprise, our breakfast is included in the already bargain rate. Of course, because we must, we settle for another bread and coffee meal. The OJ is great and the coffee is very good. There was a talkative old guy eating alone. He spoke to us in French as we entered. The second language here after Arabic, is French. The guy lives here in the Hotel, he says he has a great room with a gran terrace. The server, a nice young guy named Adil speaks and says that he prefers to speak English. He wants to practice English as he knows uses French in his daily life. Of course, this place was once called French Morocco.
Our first task is to get my bike running right. The shifter has seized up, I think the guy in Blois, France may have installed it incorrectly? Also, the rear wheel I traded with Cat is wobbling slightly and that will only get worse. Although we have lightened our loads some, we will be carrying water, up to 8 liters of it. The saying “a pint’s a pound the world around doesn’t quite work with liters but I reckon a liter must weigh just slightly more than a US quart. With the extra 18 pounds or so it’s wise to get your wheels straight.
We walked to the street where Abdul # 2 had pointed last night and found several small stalls where guys were working on bicycles. We talked or should I say, tried to talk with one of them. He told us to bring the bike and he would fix it. Walking back to the Hotel we fell in line at an ATM. The guy behind us began a conversation. Abdeslam is an Air Traffic Controller at the Tangier Airport and speaks great English because it is the International language of flight. We enjoyed our talk and told him about the website. He was so graphic that we decided to ask him to do our Arabic version of, “You’ve got to be crazy.” He thought about it then as I raised the camera he said, “Maybe it would be better is we knew each other better, perhaps meet tomorrow?” We told him we were leaving so he suggested that we just use his voice? Finally he said that Morocco is a fairly closed culture and he feared that it might have negative repercussions at his job. We were disappointed but understood. His hand was wet with sweat when I shook goodbye with him. Nerves?
When we got back to the Cycle repair place the shopkeeper took one look and said, “This man speak English.” Mohammed was a bicycle racer in his young days. He did speak fair English, which made the transaction easier. He took a look then said he knew what to do. I hovered over him and made suggestions, however, he did know what he was doing. Our LandRiders are the same as any bike except for the shifter. He quickly loosened the derailleur and removed the shifter. He straightened the wheel and reassembled everything in about an hour. Several guys came and stood around or talked with him. He was proud that we were using his shop. We could hear pride in his voice when he explained that we were Americans and when he showed how the auto shifter worked.
We pushed back to the Rembrandt, put the bags on the bikes in the sweatbox, garage, then went to lunch. The front desk guy, Abdul #1, suggested a place just down the street. We are now two for two. It was a great lunch and a nice place. We were seated in a low ceiling mezzanine with a cool breeze and good view from the window.
A couple seated across asked if we were tourists. They guessed that we were from the US by our accents. They, Ali and Margaret, are from Chester, England. He was raised here and they are visiting family. He came to our table and shared some of their mint tea. He says that it has an herb, Louisa, in it and if you drink it on hot days it replaces fluids without making you thirstier. Really nice people, they made a few suggestions about local life and safety that are good ideas no matter where you’re traveling. Cat asked about the way I carry the camera in the open and Ali felt that it wasn’t a problem. He said that if someone did grab it the neighbors would grab him and beat him. Then, they almost blew us off our chairs when they told us that they have 10 kids between them. One is theirs, the others, his and hers. As they left we gave them our card and they promised to e-mail if they could get their 15 year old off the computer. They left then Ali returned and told us that he would be here another 10 days so if we need anything we could call him. He gave us his cell and brothers home number. Told you they were nice people.
We took a little rest and typed some, then at 4:00 PM we met Abdul #2 and walked through the market place, the Medina and the Kasbah. Just being on the streets here is so foreign to us. Even simple things like being alert to the traffic, the cars seem to have the right of way and they push for the space. Yet, as aggressive as they are, they do honk and even stop if we forget where we are and get in the way.
The market place is in tiny passageways and seems to be small shops independently owned. Much of it is uninteresting because they carry essentials like canned goods and cleaning supplies, etc. Then comes the produce, stacked in neat pyramids in an otherwise close and cluttered maze. As we entered an open street we saw a nice looking produce stand with a small woman in Berber dress so I pulled the camera out. As I lifted the lens toward her she began to scream and rant then lifted the stick in her hand and threatened me. I let the camera dangle round my neck, put my palms together and bowed to her. She continued to rave so we moved on. Abdul #2 said, “She is unhappy, she hasn’t sold anything today?” His laugh allowed us to join in.
There is a large textile area, most of it is making yarn and weaving. The yarn guys use bicycle wheels to spin. The looms slam and bang as the weavers push and pull. They are stacked into little spaces one on top the other. As we watched all the handwork we had to wonder how they could all make a living. Another treat was a baking oven. We spotted the fire and asked, the baker liked the idea of a picture. He uses long poles to put the bread in and withdraw it from the wood fire. He is standing in a pit in front of the opening and it is HOT, even on a temperate day.
As we walked through the Medina a guy leaned out the window of a café and shouted at us. Abdul asked if we knew him. It was Abdul #1 from the Hotel. He was enjoying a day off with some family, drinking mint tea and talking about worldly matters. What a nice guy he is.
Nearing the Hotel, we made a stop for bottles of water and wine. Abdul #2 waited patiently then walked us to the door of the Hotel. I asked how we could pay him for his help and he said we could give him a tip. When I asked how much he replied, “As you wish.” Yes, this is the Middle East. I pulled out a 100 Dirham note and handed it to him. He beamed then bid us adieu. (That is about $10.00 US for his help these past two hours and yesterday.) It seemed a bargain to us and he is a very kind and humble boy.
The wine from the little store was terrible. We dumped it and I got a bottle from the bar. Not an easy process. I tried to call but couldn’t get through so went down. The bartender understood that I wanted a cold bottle of white wine. He took a bottle off the shelf and put it in the freezer. I told him that we wanted it right away. That set off another series of actions. He had to leave the bar area to get some ice. Then he had to crawl through a hole in the wall behind the bar to get an ice bucket. Finally he had the wine in ice and water but asked me to wait until he had time to deliver it to the room. I told him I would take it. He was hesitant then with just a little more insistence he pushed the tray with ice bucket and two glasses across the bar. Everything is a learning experience.
We walked down to a place the desk recommended but it wasn’t what we had in mind. Cat wants Couscous and chicken. We ended up just across the street from Rembrandt and had a good meal for a great price. The owner spoke French so we started trying to order. A guy seated across from us picked up on Cat’s problems with the French and interceded. Mustafa is from Paris, here on vacation. Nice guy, Cat and he talked, I listened and caught more than I thought I would.
The end of our first day on a new Continent and our first day in an interesting new Country, Morocco. Definitely a great way to start our new adventure. We sat and talked about what tomorrow would bring. Cat worried about traffic so I modified an old story that my father used to tell, to our circumstance:
|We really have only two things to worry about,
whether we will ride safely or get hit by a car
or truck. If we ride safely we don’t have anything
to worry about.
If we get hit, we only have two things to worry
about, whether we are hurt or not. If we’re not hurt
we have nothing to worry about. If we are hurt we
only have two things to worry about, whether we
will survive or die.
If we survive we have nothing to worry about, if we
die we only have two things to worry about, whether
we will go to Heaven or Hell. If we go to Heaven we
have nothing to worry about and if we go to Hell we’ll
be so busy shaking hands with old friends that we won’t
have time to worry!
Okay, a silly story but we feel good about Morocco and we will use good sense in our decisions as we pedal along.
In the beginning, I dreamed of riding my bicycle the length of AFRICA. Cat wanted the world! Now we will both have our dreams. Isn’t it amazing that we set off into an unknown, Greenland, just one year ago? We have enjoyed Europe and learned a lot about it and ourselves. Yes, this is a voyage of discovery, of places and people and most of all, of self. Cycling in 40+ Celsius (100+ Fahrenheit) reduces the fun but like those days in ice and snow, it increases the sense of our achievement. If you’re counting we have now cycled 14,738 kilometers (9,138 miles). That too is accomplishment! We are nearing the halfway point in our Odyssey. Some of you question our sanity but we have promised each other and our families not to take unnecessary risks to our health or safety!
OUR OBJECTIVE NOW IS TO EXPLORE AND EITHER DISPELL OR CONFIRM THE MYTHS WE HAVE ALL HEARD ABOUT AFRICA!