Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hitch-hiking, far away and in a hurry. Or a account on how I got from Spain to Senegal - Third Part

    This is a chronological account on how I traveled hitch-hiking (or auto-stop) in September 2013 from Toledo in Spain up to Saint Louis in Senegal; and my adventures with the rivers, the borders and the visas. Since it is pretty long, I will do it in several separate articles. If you are looking for a story, I hope you enjoy it; if you are looking for advices, you can look for them through the text or wait until the last part where I will summarize everything I learnt.

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     Mauritania, country of deserts and police controls:

     The first thing I remember when entering Mauritania, beside my hunger for not eating anything since early morning, was that I wanted to change vehicles. With Kaba I was feeling comfortable any more, and the fact that his truck moved so slow added up on my lack of comfort since it was taking too long to travel the road. It was my luck that after eating, parked outside, was the car of the French woman who we had encountered in the road. She was with her son now, and they were going straight to St Louis, the first city inside Senegal, and they had room in the car. Given they had just said no to a Senegalese girl, they were a bit reluctant on taking me, but they agreed in the end; and me, happy of being able to share more than just simple talk and a faster speed, I climbed radiant of joy inside their Citroën truck and we left.

     The trip was fast really. There are a few hundred kilometer until the capital of Mauritania, which we did with some good talk and at a nice speed. I would talk to them about why I wantde to get to Dakar fast, and the told me how they had made the decision of leaving France to go live in Saint Louis. It seemed just like a moment, and we arrived at Nouakchott, where because of talking to a guy who was offering his restaurant in a police control, we ended up eating and sleeping in his home. Facing the street they had their restaurant, and what we thought was a good price for a hotel room for 3 people, anded up being 3 persons sleeping in the same mattress on the floor, in waht seemed to be the main room of the house. Welcome to Mauritania!

     The nest morning we left early after a light breakfast. Going through the road of this country imply finding a police control every 50km approximately, and we all wanted to arrive early to the border. Luckily Kaba had given me a head's up, and I was prepared with photocopies of my passport. And since for the car they had done the same with the registration and insurance, in the Controls we would simply hand over "les fiches" and we would be on our way. Like this we were soon in Rosso, the border with Senegal, from where you take a ferry to go to the other side of the river Senegal. To do all the paperwork at the border they had given Sebastien the number of a boy that could help us, and hastily for a fair comission (according to him) he quickly got us on the ferry boat.

     Entering Senegal, pay for everything:

     At the border we encountered two problems. The first one was that only since few months before it wasn't possible to get the visa when entering the country, not even for Europeans, and it was compulsory to do everything online. This was apparently my problem. But as a second problem we encountered that with the document they had saying they were living in Senegal, documents issued by France, they weren't allowed to get neither. So the problem of having to get a tourist visa became a shared group problem. Of course that it being a city in a difficult border, you can get "inside the country" to go to a cyber and get the paperwork done online, you just have to leave your passport with the Police. So we went in, went to the cyber and filled the form, and we waited. Because the can take up to several days to authorize it!

     And after several hours, when the situation had made us look for a hotel room for the Mother who was really tired, Sebastien called another of his Senegalese friends, and this one recommended him to go to Saint Louis, sleep there, and go back few days later to finish the paperwork of the visa and to get back the passports. I was dubious of leaving my passport, but on the other hand it was already clear that what the Officer was looking for was a "fix" to make the thing go faster. So we went to sleep at the house of the French family, spent two nights, and came back to regain our passports... having paid the special fee for "fast track paperwork"... of bribe.

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     After this adventure, summarizing my experience, I've learned that preparing oneself sometimes is neccesary and that full improvisation, althoug fun and adventurous, it is not very recommendable when one is travelling with a dead line, whatever the reason. And although I got along fine, it could have saved me some drops of sweat if I had done my research in advance. It is because of that that I want to put here the thing I've learned, because even if they may not be a lot, they will be able to helpo those that reached this place looking for information. And I want to make clear that this information is valid up to my best knowledge up top September 2013, and I give it with no warranties of any kind.

  • You can hitch hike your way across, but only with truckers in my experience. Going to the barrier of entrance for the trucks, just besides the SPIF parking lot, and asking the drivers directly. 

  • The Visa must be gotten and the Mauritanian Embassy in Rabat, where you are allowed to hand in your papers from 9am to 2pm, so I recommend going around 8. It is neccessary to take: 340dh + 2 photos 4x4 + 2 photocopies of your passport.
  • The Embassy is at 6, Rue Thami Lamdouar, Souissi RABAT (next to Av Mohamed VI - Av Mehdi Ben Barka). And the telephone number is (+212) (537) 65 66 78. From the center you can take bus 26a in Avenue Patrice Lumumba.
  • Take several photocopies of your passport in the country, to accelerate your passing through the Police Controls.

  • Es necesario tramitar la Visa antes de llegar a la frontera, pero cuando yo pasé si no estaba ya en el pasaporte desde Europa, el único lugar para tramitarla era en la frontera de Rosso. Es necesario entrar a y pagar los EURO 50 por internet; y luego esperar el mail de aprobación (el primero confirma el trámite, el segundo mail confirma la aceptación de el visado).

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Y así termino mi relato. Fue un viaje movido, lleno de incidentes y aventuras, del cual no me arrepiento ni un poquito. Espero que a quien lo lea le sirva de inspiración y algún día nos crucemos por el camino.

Dejen sus comentarios si quieren, y no duden en preguntar si piensan hacer algo parecido!

Saludos desde un rincón del mundo,
Nos vemos por el mundo!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hitch-hiking, far away and in a hurry. Or a account on how I got from Spain to Senegal - Second Part

    This is a chronological account on how I traveled hitch-hiking (or auto-stop) in September 2013 from Toledo in Spain up to Saint Louis in Senegal; and my adventures with the rivers, the borders and the visas. Since it is pretty long, I will do it in several separate articles. If you are looking for a story, I hope you enjoy it; if you are looking for advices, you can look for them through the text or wait until the last part where I will summarize everything I learnt.

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     From one side of the puddle to the other:

In the ferry, waiting for dinner
     In Algeciras what was harder for me, in time and walks, was finding the place where to talk to truckers. Because to cross to Morocco in ferry the car pays per passenger but the truck does not, and therefore it is easy to find a trucker happy to help to get on the ferry. First I walked from the truck's entrance to port up to the main entrance, some 30 minutes; after that i went by the passenger terminal, another 10 minutes walking; I talked to another hitcher traveler, a controller for one of the ferry companies, and even with the policeman in charge of controlling passport from the cars, just to find where was the best spot to go into a truck. And I was given two options: the payed parking "La Isla Verde" ("The green Island"), where lots of trucks wait for their time to embark, and the closer parking of the PIF (the sanitary control); since I had already walked enough, I inclined to the second one. And what a great choice it was! Although in the parking itself there is nothing, because the vast majority there is waiting after getting off the ferrys, what I did was meet and talk with two Spanish truckers that gave all the good info. They told me that the best option was to stay just before the barrier of entrance to the boats, which is where the trucks tend to wait before embarking, just next to the PIF.

     I thought the best was to introduce myself to the policeman controlling the entrance, so as to have his good view on the subject and with a little help his help; and he told me the next scheduled ferrys, and therefore the best times to be there waiting. As soon as the hour came closer, some trucks started to hang around, and me calmly go to all of them to ask them to get me on board of the boat. And after playing hard to get, two Moroccan  drivers invited me and another French backpacker to get on board. It's excellent to go on board with truckers, because they know everything and get a free meal. I took full advantage and after eating dinners I got a shower (being this one of m best decisions because it was going to be 8 days until I could take the next one)

     The trip to Rabat and the visa for Mauritania:

     We forgot about the trucks as son as we arrived to port, so with Baptiste we decided to spend the night in the Port of Tanger Med and to continue traveling int he morning. The night was uncomfortable and cold; until I though and took my sleeping bag out. When we woke up we had a quick breakfast together, and we separated because he was going around Morocco nice and easy, starting with Chefchaouen, and I was going to go as quick as possible to Rabat for the visa for Mauritania, and then straight and non stop to Senegal. In half an hour I got a ride to Tangier, and I waved good bye to Baptiste who was still waiting. Regrettably I was let in the Garre Routierre, the bus terminal, just in the center of the city, which implied and walk of several kilometers to get out of the center; but if we take in account that between walking and hitching it took me 1 hour to get out of the city, it wasn't that bad.

Al menos me regalaron un melón
cuando no sabia que hacer
     I got picked up by a Moroccan who when told him I had no money to help him pt a long face, but did not ask me to get out of the car. The fact that he was going to Kenitra, almost Rabat, was ideal; unfortunately he had been out partying the night before and not many kilometers away he dropped me off outside of the highway in a ton where he was going to take a nap with some family. This implied to me a good hour between understanding what was best for me, whether to stay on the national road where I was or to go back to the highway; and I got someone to take me back to the toll station, as I had decided to do. Once there I took a break, and had lunch with the precooked Spanish tortilla I had bought in Algeciras just in case before getting on the truck. After that I got stuck with good luck and after fifteen minutes I was in a car with a Galician who was going to Casablanca, and therefore gave me ticket non-stop to Rabat. From the Periphery where Guillermo left me I took a bus to the center, since I was very tired and still had to find out where, when and how to get to the Embassy of Mauritania to get the visa.

     I had learnt before, in my previous trip to Morocco, that the visa for Mauritania can't be don in the border and that the best place to do it is Rabat; there is a sign saying that now it exist a Frontier Post to do the paper work, but it wasn't working when I got across and I wouldn't take the risk. With all the requisites in my power*put in link with details* I showed up at 8am so as to be early and do the paperwork, and if one goes prepared everything is handed in at 9am when the door is open, and at 14hrs I got my hungarian passport back with the wanted visa in it.

     From Rabat to the Border:

"Mate" on the road
     I was expecting there to be much more people in the evening at the handing of the passports so as to ask and get a ride to Mauritania, and I couldn't have been more wrong. There was relatively few people, and the one I had been talking to and who I thought wold take me told me he had no place, which left me with very few options. It might have been better to ask in the morning, but it didn't occur to me. There weren't any European people, and since in the African ways it unthinkable a trip that long for free, I decided to pay what was being asked from me to go all the way down in one stretch up to the middle of Mauritania, the capital Nouakchott, and be sure to get the in few days with zero waits. That is how I decided to travel with Kaba in his truck, a Malian guy who was travelling packed with merchandise to resell in his town. The first part of the trip, on the highway, we weren't going so bad, 80km/h as I would have expected, and on our second day we even reached 100! But before agadir there is a ramp that in order to climb it we had to go at a speed of 20 km/h. And at that amazing average speed of 60 km/h it took us 4 days to reach the border.

The Station on the Highway
The truck´s cockpit
     The first night
La primer noche dormimos en el suelo al lado del camión en una estación de servicio en la autopista. El camión parecía tener una pequeña pérdida de líquido de freno y el dueño decidió no arriesgar. Para la segunda recorrimos varios kilómetros pasando Agadir, y después de conseguir consejos profesional respecto a la pérdida de líquido de freno y de un almuerzo en Tiznit, paramos Guelmin y yo me negocié un precio barato para dormir en un hotel mientras Kaba se instaló como pudo en la cabina del camión. La tercer noche todavía nos tocó pasarla en otro pueblo, ya en los territorios de Sahara, Boudjour, y ambos dormimos cómodamente en la vereda al lado del camión; en este pueblo nos encontramos con otras personas que estaban en el mismo tipo de viaje que Kaba: bajando de Europa, con sus respectivos vehículos cargados de cosas,  yendo a sus pueblos para revender y conseguir una diferencia. Y la cuarta y última noche tuvo lugar al borde del país, justo afuera de la frontera que ya estaba cerrada; y como a Kaba le invitaron la noche de hotel, y para mí era muy caro, fui yo quién se acomodó en la cabina del camión para pasar la noche.

     Durante todo este trayecto de viaje, más de 1800 kilómetros desde Rabat hasta la frontera del lado Marroquí, transcurrió sin grandes acontecimientos durante los momentos en que estábamos moviéndonos en el camión. Kaba manejaba, normalmente silencioso y con cara de cansado, y yo me las ingeniaba para no aburrirme. Cada tanto intentaba hablar con él; la mayoría del tiempo me la pasaba mirando hacia afuera por la ventana y dejando a mi mente divagar, y también empecé a escribir notas sobre éste artículo del Blog, y algunos otros que se me iban ocurriendo. Lo único digno de contar nos ocurrió a unos 200 km de la frontera, justo pasando la ciudad de Dakhla, donde Kaba reconoció un auto que había visto en Rabat afuera de la embajada de Mauritania. Era una camioneta Citroën que dentro había una señora mayor, y nos contó que su hijo se había ido a dedo a la ciudad a conseguir una rueda de repuesto para cambiar una que se había pinchado y roto. Le dimos alguna fruta y agua, y con mucha pena la tuvimos que dejar ahí para seguir nuestro viaje.

Data: 80km from the border it is the last service station. And I was told that a room for two people, with hot shower, internet and wifi, was 100dh.  good option considering that at the border they ask 150dh per person for the room, and 40dh to sleep in a mattress in the floor in a common room.

     Getting in Mauritania, border number 1:

La despedida (o bienvenida)
 del Rey de Marruecos
     Not so early in the morning, with the general noise of people waking up, I got out of the truck and prepared myself to across. Kaba didn't give me many options, and told me to grab my pack and meet up on the other side of the border. Despite mi growing trust in that he would not steal from me, I had lent him 40 euros the other day and he had promised to give them back as soon as he got his bail back which he had left with Customs, so I didn't feel like separating much from him. I got to the border by foot, I filled the piece of paper with my information, I left my passport line up for me, like everyone else, and after a short time waiting I had finished the National Police's part. Kaba had barely placed his passport in the line. While I was waiting, he told me to go to the next stage and complete the registry of the Royal Gendarmerie, and so as to not argue I did tat stage and left the border post.

     No Man's Land is called the strait o desert between th exit of Moroco and the entrance to Mauritania. It is evident that neither of the two governments wants to take care of its maintenance nor of its infrastructure; nor its security. Despite that with day lights I feel safe, you can see the cars dismantled in the distance, and remains of home appliances and electronic devices in general that have been disassembled for other uses. The road is one of the worst in the world, at least that I have witnessed, with not a drop of asphalt, and very little consolidated ground, filled with holes between the big rocks coming out if the ground in the sand, some smooth an some sharp as knives.

En el camión con Kaba
     When Kaba got out of the border, apparently ignoring me, he moved his truck forward a couple hundred meters and got off. He didn't let me open the door to put my backpack inside. First he wanted to change money, and he gave back the 40 euros in 400 dirhams. Although with that exchange I was automatically loosing a 10%, I had already understood that for Africans in general that difference doesn't exist. The good thing is that for the guys changing money it does't either, and the change the offered me by the Mauritanian currency was the same as if I had exchanged euros.

Data: if you have the possibility, change euros at the official rate before getting near the border, and so you can win that 10% that they ignore.

     Having done the affair with the currency, I got my backpack in the van of a friend of Kaba and I got into Kaba's truck, separating for the first time from my pack. The road we drove at less than 10 km/h. Literally going slower that man's walking speed in some parts, as I was able to see with the uy that was walking besides us and would over pass us every other time. When we got to the entrance to Mauritania's border, I got off again to do he paper work on my own. I was going to meet up with Kaba outside the border post and continue the trip until the Capital.

     The first reaction of the gendarme that welcomed me to the country was to mistrust the fact that I had gotten off the vehicle in which I had arrived with and that I was crossing the border on my own. When I explained that I was just hitching a ride in the truck and that I was not doing all the trip with him, unwillingly signaled the office to which I had to go. In the inverse order as getting out of Morocco, the first thing was establishing mi identity with the National Gendarmerie, to whom I lend my Sistran's pen to fill in my information; and after that walking to the side of the National Police so they could put my inf in their computers. And much quicker and easier that I had foreseen,  was inside Mauritania.

     Kaba seemed to be coming and going, fighting with the paperwork, so I sat down to drink a tea with some cookies, since I had had nothing for breakfast except an apple hours ago. But a few moments after a guy that was helping Kaba with the paperwork, asking me to go with him. Kaba asked me, not without beating around the bush, to lend him 50 euros to b able to get his truck in, promising that afterwards he would pay me back more than he asked for. I was very concentrated on the amount of money that this trip was costing me, and loosing the difference of the exchange rate wasn't something that interested me; but option I had none, since with no truck I had no transport. I lent him the euros and sat down to wait for him. When he was finished, like ignoring the favor I had just given him, he didn't tell me in any way to put my backpack in the truck, and almost only by chance asked me if I had eaten anything, because he was going to sit down to eat something. We sat down to eat, and we shared our last meal together.

     Some pictures from the road:

Mountain road
Those who cross the roads

Entering Boudjour 

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     That is how I got inside Mauritania. I still had some day and a few adventures more befor being able to yell "Victory" in my trip to Senegal; but lets leace something to read another day.

Leave your comments if you feel like it, and don't hesitate to ask if you are thinking of doing anything like it!

Regards from Mama Africa,
See you around the world!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hitch-hiking, far away and in a hurry. Or a account on how I got from Spain to Senegal - First Part

    This is a chronological account on how I travelled hitch-hiking (or auto-stop) in September 2013 from Toledo in Spain up to Saint Louis in Senegal; and my adventures with the rivers, the borders and the visas. Since it is pretty long, I will do it in several separate articles. If you are looking for a story, I hope you enjoy it; if you are looking for advices, you can look for them through the text or wait until the last part where I will summarize everything I learnt.

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     Saint Louis is the first stop I thought of doing in Senegal; and from Toledo there are more than 3600 kilometres (more than 2200 miles), and I wanted to hitch hike them in less than a week. By car and according to the Internet it takes about 43 hours non stop. It is also worth taking into consideration that I was going to do it through countries were hitching doesn't work at its best. In Spain it works but it's slow, and it is considered by those in the know as one of the worst countries in Europe to travel this way. In Morocco people tends to expect, and assume even, that you will pay them; and when you tell then you don't want to or can't pay, several will keep on travelling leaving you where you were. Of Mauritania I didn't know much, just hear say or through the internet, and it didn't look better than its neighbour in the north. And from Senegal I knew nothing at all, but my idea was that is was going to be similar to the previous ones.

     1st day in Spain, slower than expected:
     Getting out of Toledo was the easiest, and I was at ease ever since my friend Cris told me that the same Tuesday that I was planning on leaving, she was going to her home town and could drive me over there, which gave me an excellent start. We travelled forsomething like an hour, talking about life and slowly saying goodbye. I was starting with luck on my side, and this gave me the illusion that it would stay that way. And just after Cris left me my luck changed, and although from the supermarket where we said goodbye I was picked pretty quickly, this man left me a few kilometers away in the exit of another town where I was 1 hour in the freeway trying to get a lift to Manzanares, where the road going south crosse, or anywhere else! But this strip of the road in the hour I was there is not very used, which only helped lenthen the time of my wait.

     At the end a guy stopped in a van and left me in a good spot, already having take me all the way of the stretch of road up to the route A4 to Andalucía; and then my luck improved a little again when the first truck driver I asked told me he could drive me with no problems, but he ought to wait his mandatory half hour break. And since he was going to Córdoba and I wanted to go to Granada, he suggested to drop me off in a big Service area where many trucks stop and was my best option in his opinion.

     In this Area, the Guarroman, I was more than an hour asking without any luck to every driver that crossed my path; and I was standing in the only entrance to the cashier, so everyone went through me. I can't really blame it all on the unwillingness of people, because although everyone I asked refused to take me, there weren't that many that stopped at that station, and it's also worth noting that most of them were heading north. At the end I decided to cross over to the other side of the freeway, because this Service Area is in the side of the lane heading north, and on the other side there is another service station, and I was going to be able to get the ones stopping to refuel there and also those heading south in my same direction. And ANOTHER HOUR later I was picked by a sales man on his way back home, who took the trouble of going some kilometres out of his way to drop me off in a station with a restaurant which he considered as an excellent place to ask for a ride south.

     This service station; casually named The Oasis, was where I ended up spending the night. Because although I didn't actually get there late, about 19:15, it did get dark quite fast; and having asked a few cars and trucks, I made friends with two truckers that invited me to dinner and some stories, and one of them invited me to sleep under his truck, so I would be covered and a little guarded. He wasn't leaving until 10 in the morning so I was under no danger of him running me over when driving off. :-)

     2nd day in Spain, the arrivel to the Mediterranean:

     The next morning, thanks to the noise of the trucks that had spent the night, I woke up early, but apparently not early enough and most of the trucks had already left. So I mounted guard in the entrance to the Café and asked everyone who went passed me. Almost an hour and a half later I found the charitable soul that both was going in my direction and was happy to take me along. He was going to Granada and recommended me not getting in the city centre because afterwards it was going to be very hard to get out of the urban area, so unfortunately the trip wasn't so long. I asked him to leave me in where he thought it was best for me even though I normally find this thing of asking drivers for advices hasn't given me good results, but sometimes I don't have an alternative.

     In the station where he dropped me off I wasn't long, and about twenty minutes later I was invited on board the car of a man from Ceuta that had seen me ask in vain a couple of times and felt sympathy for me. With him I drove up to Fuengirola, a town passing Málaga, in a super comfortable ride where he even invited me breakfast. For a place to drop me off he gave me to choose between under a bridge and a service station, and I inclined myself towards the second option. I quickly realized that my decision hadn't been very good, because that was a very neighbourly service station that was not going to give me any result, so I got out of it and placed myself in the roundabout's exit towards the freeway. Being a toll-free freeway and in the middle of a residential area with many small towns, what I got the most was that sign with the hand with which they say: "I am staying right here". Agh! Luckily I didn't wait for a thousand years and I got a lift from a guy who got me to somewhat better located roundabout. From there a Russian guy in a Lithuanian car took me to the supermarket where he did his shopping, that turned up to be such a bad spot that I walked 20 minutes up to a service station a little bit firther ahead, that was also a crappy place.

     I begged many drivers to take me out of the middle of the town, and I made one of them feel sorry enough so as to change his plans from shopping and to go straight to his home, giving that way a 5km ride. I was almost instantly picked up by a young couple that understood about hitching, and left me in a nice roundabout with a good flow of cars. Up to the detour towards Gibraltar I got a ride with an English couple that lived in the British city. And I found myself in San Roque, a place I had been before in the previous time I went ot Algeciras. This time I was armed with a good sign with my destination written loud and clear, and thanks to it I got picked up by a dude that took me to the end of the road, who told me that he always saw people there with a "Málaga" sign... which is on the other direction!

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     I made it to Algeciras, the great frontier between Europe and Africa. The story of how the trip continued up to Senegal I leave for the next piece.

Leave your comments if you feel like it, and don't hesitate to ask if you are thinking of doing anything like it!

Regards from Mama Africa,
See you around the world!

Friday, September 20, 2013

From Belfast to Toledo

     Since I made the decision of going back to Argentina for my grandma's birthday, I was taking a close look at the calendar so as to see everything I wanted to see without leaving out seeing my family in France, nor Toledo with its Lindy Hop Exhange, before getting out of Europe.

     The first thing I will tell is that getting inside the Emerald Island meant paying for the first transport means in many months: THE FERRY. Apparently there is no way around it. And relaxed as I had been travelling, I wasn't going to change my routine so quickly, and I spent 4 nights in Belfast, paying for the first and working in the Global Village hostel as an exchange for accommodation. Three very relaxed days that didn't have lots of turism, and the day to leave the United Kingdom and enter Ireland arrived. I had been told to go to Donegal, and instead of going to the capital of that county I went to Dungloe, a little town nearby. Still quite relaxed, I stayed 3 nights and enjoyed of the great conversations and company of Brian. After that I wanted to go to Dingle, a little town very recommended, but I did not get there. The night was closing in when I was going through Galway, another one that have been very recommended but that  had discarded for being a "city", and there's where I stayed. For my first night I did not find a CS, so I settled myself with negotiating the price of a hostel, and that night, through the window of the kitchen of the hostel; I saw some guys dancing Lindy in the street! So I crossed over as soon as I could to the bar from where they had gotten out; but I only got to listen to the last chords of the last song; and the night was over. Nothing more dance related, but luckily for the second night I got a host and I stayed with Tanya. But I wasnt so relaxed anymore, and the next day I left for Dublin.

     En Dublin no había conseguida NADA de CS donde dormir, pero si supe que había una reunión semanal donde iban muchos, y me pareció un buen lugar como cualquier otro para preguntarle a alguien: puedo dormir en tu casa? Que al final, minutos antes de la reunión, me aceptara Joaquin fue muy bueno, como para respirar tranquilo. Mas tarde esa noche, Mariam me dijo en la reunión que me podía tener la noche siguiente si necesitaba. Y Leonardo me mostró la máxima hospitalidad brasilera en mi tercera y ultima noche en Dublin. Porque en Dublin me dejé de relajar por completo e incluso me empezaba a estresar con los tiempos, así que tome la decisión de salir mas pronto de lo previsto.

     Y que buena decisión! Por ese día extra, y después de pagar el Ferry para salir de la Isla, visite a Hernan en Londres y pase una noche con Mariana, antes que ella viajara a Israel. Temprano me fui para llegar a Dover y hacer dedo en el ferry a Calais, porque en este si se puede viajar de arriba, pero a Calais ya llegue tarde y dormí bajo la estrellas en la playa. Nada mal. Y rapidito para Paris, para visitar a los tíos; la prima/tía, y el nuevecito recién nacido primo!!! También lo llegue a ver a mi viejo, que justo viajo a Paris cuando yo todavía estaba ahí, lo cual dio un broche de oro a las visitas familiares.

     Para salir de Paris tuve mi primera falsa partida. Estuve 4 horas, entre una estación de servicio y debajo de una autopista, compartiendo espacio con la ocasional lluvia, para conseguir un viaje hasta la primer area de descanso fuera de París, todavía lejos de Lyon. Así que me volví, pase la noche en el departamento que alquilaba Phillipe, y al día siguiente volví en RER a la misma área. Ahí ya con mejor suerte llegue a Lyon en solo 5 horas, para ver a la familia de mi prima Sonia, compartir una cena y una caminata por la ciudad; y al día siguiente seguía el viaje. Llegar a Toulouse me fue facil, solo 6 horas y 3 autos, despues de haber salido de Lyon que no fue nada fácil, y el ultimo auto me dejo en la misma estación de Tram que debería tomar para ir a lo de Fabrice, donde pase esa noche con él y las chicas.

     El ultimo día de viaje lo empece bien temprano, porque era unos 800 kilómetros para hacer en el mismo día, algo que nunca había intentado, y que me tomo 13 horas, donde lo mas difícil fue desde que entre a España hasta llegar a Burgos, con en una larga combinación de largas esperar y cortos trayectos. Aunque de Burgos la suerte cambio y se me dio encontrar dos argentinos que no solo me llevaron a Madrid de un tiron, sino que tenia mate para la ruta! Que rico es un mate en la ruta!

     El ultimo tiron lo hice en bus, porque entre la noche y el cansancio, ni conseguía moverme. Llegue de suerte al ultimo bus, y despues de una hora y media volví a pisar suelo toledano. Vi a mi compi Sandra, a los compañeros de swing, a muchos de los otro amigos por las calles, y pase un fin de semana a mucho Hop que me dejo con la rodilla rota que aun me duele.

     Y ahora ya estoy en Marruecos, esperando la visa para irme a Mauritania, como paso hacia Senegal y la aventura. Pero de esto les cuento como me fue la proxima vez.

Cuidensen! Y no se olviden de ser felices!
Desde Rabat, con muchos abrazos,

Nos vemos por el mundo!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Please, take your garbage back with you!

     The last few days I had the good luck of being able to go out to the mountains! Spectacular! I was climbing and walking y the sides of Sgurr nan Gillean in the Isle of Skye, and the Ben Nevis near Fort William, this last one being the highest in the United Kingdom.

     And in both walk I came across something that happen all the time to me: I filled my pockets with trash! This is something I normally do since I started walking of the outdoors, and I do it with great pleasure, given that it leaves even prettier that place I am enjoying greatly. And nevertheless I can avoid judging those who threw those little pieces of garbage.

     There are some times when I find very little things, like that strip you break to open a bottle of "energy drink", or the corner or the wrapping of a "energetic bar", and it annoys me that people don't even think in the option of putting it in their pocket. It is bad enough to throw it in the street, but in the cities the is at least (commonly) cleaning services: but the mountain does not have that privilege.

     Some other times there is the "organic trash", that people throw away because they think that it is going to decompose anyways... And they don't think of how ugly it is in the path! Besides the detail that things take days, or month, to decompose! Because a banana peeling dicomposes in some 2 to 10 days1, but citric peelings can take up to 6 months1! And to this you have to add that in the mountain, cold and with low vegetation, things can take much longer.

     And for the last place I left the worse: vices. I understand, maybe, that someone might want to take some cans of beer, or bottles of wine or cider, to celebrate the arrival to the summit. What my brain cannot comprehend is that, after having carried them on the way up filled, it is such an effort to take then on the way down empty!

     And in my opinion the worst of all is my archenemy, the cigarette butt. Between the fact that the vice of smoking is bad for your health and those who surround you, and the irony of smoking when you are surrounded by pure air, I don't get smokers. And what really get me angry is that after all that, they think that that simple butt is nice left on the ground, and don't think of the 12 years1 it can take for it to decompose nor in the 8 liters of water2 that it can pollute.

     Well, I am more at ease now. It has been a while since I wanted to leave my opinon about this subgect, and what better place than my Blog? =)

Kind regards to everyone. Don't forget to be happy!

See you around the world!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Everything comes to the one that stay a beginer, or how I spent a nigh as a "Homeless"

     I kept on traveling from London to the North of the United Kingdom. As Always, with just a vague idea of a place to visit I choose a road and I hope to find a good place. Many times I search in advance were to sleep, so as to have the peace of mind that no matter at what time I arrive, I know there is a comfortable and warm place to rest. And many times things work out keeping that vague idea or a road plan, and other times the planned road changes to go to where there is someone that wants to have me as a visitor.
     To the extreme East of the United Kingdom I did not go, because in the city of Lowestoft I did not find who could host me, which I did fin in Norwich in the house of Sarah and was the reason I was in this city, that in contrast with Lowestoft it’s a very recommended city to visit and that it happens to have been Capital of England for a brief period in history. To visit the Lake District I didn’t find people to host me either, but there was Jess who offered me all her camping equipment so I could go anyways, and thanks to that I was able to spend two nights below the star light surrounded by the English Pacha Mama. It also happens sometimes that in order to visit a specific place that I am interested in, I had to sleep a little away and go to visit on a one day excursion, like what happened with the Nor-Westerly extreme of the United Kingdom, when I had to sleep in the hippie field of Stephanie’s family in the town of Lybster, and go for a day to John o’ Groats, so as to get oaked while walking by the cliffs in the north coast of Scotland.
     Most of the times everything is settled and organized before departing, like the case of Nottingham where John, my host, had even thought in everything I could do in the city o the following day. And also the case of Leeds, where given my doubt of visiting the city and going to a Swing workshop, the local dancers outdid themselves in finding me a place to spend the weekend in less than 3 minutes in the beautiful house of Jackie; and with that I was “forced” to spend a quiet weekend, surrounded by beautiful people, dancing until dehydration.
     The situations where everything gets arranged in the same day you’ve heard already, and it happened twice in the last few days. First for Edinburgh, because since it’s the Festival season in the Scottish capital it is very hard to find a place to sleep: many of those who usually host travellers like me out of good will, take advantage of these dates to make a little extra easy money by renting out their extra space. But in my case I was offered, in the same day in which I was travelling and when I had my hopes by the floor because of the lack of acceptance in the preceding weeks, TWO places to sleep: one could just help me out in the emergency of the first night, and the second guy offered me a place for the whole weekend and became a friend I will be looking forward for our next encounter. And after Edinburgh the plan was to go to Inverness and go by Loch Ness, but when Peter called to invite me to sleep in Elgin, he gave me the possibility of going to see places I was not planning to visit, like the hippie community of Findhorn, and of crossing path with people as special as the places the live in.
     And everything comes to those who, like the title reads, don’t stop taking risks. Because when I decided to go around the north and west coast of Scotland I was certain before departure that there was no one that reading a message in the internet was going to call me to offer me his house to sleep in, no one was going to send me a last minute rescuing sms, there were no known people or contacts, everything was at the mercy of the Universe. And after what was an excellent touristic day of hitch hiking, sharing the car with several tourist that were also strolling around, I got to Ullapool and have to solve my life as best as I could. My first try was in the local Hostel, but it was very full and the receptionist didn’t seem to love backpackers enough to find some help for me; after that I did an emergency request in CouchSurfing, but as I was expecting, that didn’t bring me any results since there are not many CSers in the area. And so, knowing that everything was going to be full, I started wandering the hotels and bars searching to see if someone could host me in his house, hoping to find that hippie dude that exist everywhere, as common as the local drunk or crazy person, that always invites people to his home… but I did not find it. And so, following the idea of th owner of the hotel I was in, I got a beer, waiting that some of the people to whom he would tell my story could find someone that could help me.And when that bar closed, I did a last tour: the guy that worked in a bar and had told me that he would help me so I wouldn’t sleep on the streets, I couldn’t find because he had already gone to bed; in the camping site there was no light turned on where I could go ask for mercy, and even the good intention of a woman to find me a place to curl in was in vain since we couldn’t find none of the workers of the port. As a last resort I went back to the hotel/bar where I had spent more time, and asked for help to the waiter that was closing up, and because of how sorry I made him feel he thought of that option that is offered to he who has no other option. He showed me the laundry room where between the washer and the dryer, and the dirty laundry, I could lay in the floor and not spend the night in the outside. I don’t have a sleeping bag, so I had to find my way the best I could: I found a pillow, a table spread to use as a mattress, I added some clothes to keep me warm, and I laid down: and so I spent the night, cold and uncomfortable, nervous of being awaken by the owner, and waking up by the cold that would not let me rest.
     In the next morning, early and very cold, I went out to search for some hot water and something to replenish my energy; and when I felt better I decided to continue the stroll. I found the first two backpackers hitch hiking in all my time in Great Britain, I exchanged some words and some ideas, and I saw them part in different ways and different directions. And I found a German man that having no plans, was happy to have me as a companion in his car to go around the coast up to the Isle of Skye, which I had chosen as my next destination. And just as the previous day, I had an excellent day of tourism, strolling in a car (comfortable and dry) and stopping to take as many pictures as I felt like, and finishing with a great lunch that my new friend invited me to. When I got off the car in Portree started the second night where I had no place to sleep, and in which CouchSurfing was not going to save me. I asked in the hostels, that where more occupied than expected, and with receptionist that apparently are only happy to help paying customers; one of them when asked for help because I had not place to sleep, showed me the next bus that was leaving the village (!). I had a moment of doubt, of demotivation, and then I realized that my last days had been perfect and that nothing could be completely bad, so without losing hope I found a place in a hostel in some other town and I set off to travel there. When a guy picked me up in his truck, we started talking and I told him my story, my trip, the way I usually find places to sleep in, the cold night I had just been through, and how I had expected to find a person that would invite me to his house. And so he said: “well, if you want to you can stay in my house for a couple nights”… Yes, as unexpected as that given I didn’t even try to influence him, the way the Universe tends to work. We ended up sharing a dinner, a very good talk, and I spent and very comfortable and warm night in a room all for myself, just to wake up this morning y sit down to share this experience to whoever enjoys reading it.
     It is not a minor anecdote to have had two new experiences regarding accommodation, in two consecutive days. It is nice to know that as long as I stay a beginner, the Universe will continue to conspire in my favour.

Don’t forget to be happy! The Universe only wants the best for all of us!


See you around the world

Monday, July 29, 2013

Family comes first!

     After my adventure at sea, it was time to go back to land. And it was not only the change from sea to land what had me a little bit nervous, but the time I hadn't been "moving from home", that between the time in Brittany and the time in Embruns, it sumed up to almost 3 months. Obviuosly, I was also feeling the pull of the road, and I started moving again, hitch hiking through the roads, a new house each day, new frineds in every stop.

     Life smiled at me. From the first place I went to after saying good bye to the three bateaux, and counting every place I slept up to today, I was only given the chance of feeling like part of the family, like at home.I am not saying this only for the places I sleep in, where is already a habit having total freedom, but for all the people I cross paths with. From the hidden corners of Cornwall and Devon, counting all the homes I went through to the Welsh capital, with all the drivers that opened ther heart and vehicules, I only crossed path with generous and kind people.
     Just to give some examples: while she was going camping for the weekend, she offered me to stay at her place alone for one extra night, so I could go around the area with no pressure; two old time travellers, in two different cars, in the same day, went several miles off their path to get me as close as they could to where I wanted to get to; one guy made a hurried 15 minutes trip in a byke just to hand me over my hat which I had forgotten at his house; one woman accepted me withour hesitation at her house so I could go to a swing workshop.
     With tha feeling I arrived and left Londo, where the family awaiting me shares my own blood: cousins, an aun, and a niece that not even juggling could I get a kiss from. I was 10 days enjoying that special connection that one usually shares with fmily. And is because of that special conection that I enjoy enlarging my extended family day after day.

Have a great time! Tell your family how much you love them!

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Martin travels in a sailboat: first chapter" - 22nd deliver‏‏

Hello! I made it! We didn't sink or had to swim!

Le premier part de ce mail je veux l'écrier en français pour remercier mes copains de voyage, mes coéquipiers dans Embruns et dans les outres deux bateaux: Rose of Argyl et Brise-Lames. Et un merci tout spécial pour Vincent, mon capitaine, de m'avoir invité à bord!C'était super et j'ai profité beaucoup du voyage! Ils sont trois semaines que je me souviendrais toute ma vie! (et j'espère que tout les copains comprend le titre de l'e-mail)

MERCI Vincent
MERCI Les Copains

     I still find it hard to believe the chain of events that succeeded each other so I would start that adventure. A backpacker with whom to hitch hike, some musicians that welcomed me at their home, a party I ended up going to, a new friends that encourage me to go to the port, and a sailer that didn't get a job; amongst other things. The most important being that on June 4th I was in the port of Paluden, in the area of the Aber Wrach, embarking in a wooden boat where I would live the following 20 days.

Rose of Argyll
Brise Lames

Le Faux depart
Le remat du Rose
     Three wooden sailboats were to go on a 3 weeks trip along the english coasts, 2 of which don't have an engine and one of them without a deck: Embruns, Rose and Brise. But that day we couldn't depart, for a problem Rose had with a mast; and while they went back to the hangar to do the necessary work, the other two boats went for a stroll around the coasts of Brittany.  Three days to get to know among the crew, and to get a better knowledge of the boat. Specifically, in Embruns we were all rookies or almost, so it was good to have some time to get into the sea. Personally for me was really hard, and I was very ill the first day, a little ill the second, and I was able to hold myself strait the third for the return.

     And it was the following Sunday, at 9pm, when we undertook the crossin on the English Channel (La Manche) the three sailboats alltogether. A journey that lasted 20 hours, and ended the following afternoon arriving at Helford river, in the English province of Cornwall. It was a spectacular experience being able to sail in company, being always aware of the sailing of our own boat and also of what the others did. Talking and giving opinions, and many time obeying orders. But always, at the end of the day, we would sit around the table to share a drink, a meal, or both. Inviting the friends from the other boats to come aboard, or going all together to the bar in the port, and sometimes having a picnic in the public way. Because in 3 sailboats we were 18 sailors, and 18 people not always fit in the same boat.

Le Grand Anex

     The sailing took place through the south coast of Cornwall and Devon, starting in the Helford river and finishing in the city of Brixham. A very much planned stop in Looe, where there was going to be a regatta of old boats, which was regretfully called off because of weather related problems. But being in a port surrounded by beautiful old fishing boats, luggers in English, most of them restored to show their glorious years, is a priceless sight. The rest of the days, before and after the regatta, we spent between sailing to a new port or doing some hike inland so as to stretch the legs. 

     It was really excellent the adventure of having gone out with 18 stranger, and ending up with 18 friends. And having found, thanks to ALL of them, a desire for sailing that I had never experienced. Let no one be surprised if on my return to Argentina you see me behind the bar of a sailboat!!!

     The boats set sail towards France last Monday early in the morning, and I stayed in the British lands to continue my travels around the world.

And so, from a hidden farm in England, with a brand new understanding of the sea, I say Good Bye and to a next encounter.

Kisses and hugs for everyone.

See you around the world!