A Travellerspoint blog

Out Of Africa But Not Out Of Trouble

Fun times and tight spots in Spain

sunny 27 °C
View Kiwi' don't fly on djrkidd's travel map.

Here is a Tui ad right here,

"We'll catch the 6am Ferry tomorrow morning."............ Yeah Right!

So at 9am I was sitting on the boat enjoying my double espresso, dropping subtle hints to the Ben and Karima, two English backpackers I had befriend on the train the day before, who where heading to stay at their holiday house in the South of Spain, that I had no accommodation in Spain.

No such luck and the long haired Kiwi was unceremoniously dumped at the bus station to find his own way to Granada where I was yet to have a place to stay. I knew I was in for a hard time as I walked out of the doors of the bus station and the rain was starting to fall.

I had two hours of walking around the narrow medieval streets of Granada in the pouring rain having door after door shut in my face and being haunted by the grinning face of the guy at the information desk who had informed me that the bus station was open all night. I walked into a Pensiòn and what do you know "Una habitaciòn individual para una noche" followed by many hand signals was replied to with a "Si" and then me being dragged up the stairs to my room to dry my sorry Kiwi arse off before any check in procedure was entered into.

After a day checking out the Alhambra, I found this huge fortress over looking the city with great views of the Sierra Nevada range, and then it was back to the bus station and on the night bus to Valencia.

***

I dragged myself off the night bus, had the customary double espresso, and managed to locate my map. Soon I stumbled into the hostel pleased to be given a bed at 7am.

By 7pm that night a rather large group of us had gathered and a night out was planned. Two Kiwi lads, Ricky and Lloyd, three Swedish girls Ulrika, Rayèn and Elisabeth and a few other odds and sods from around the globe, It turns out Lloyd and I used to play rugby against each other at high school.

A few beers in, I’m talking with the lads in the first pub, when the Swedes jump behind us with looks of disgust as three 40 year old Dutch men chase after them. I look up only to see the lads giving them the hard word to which I add my 1 euro cent,
"yeah go away man, they don't want to talk to you!"

After a bit of Kiwi bashing they returned to their table and I didn’t think anything more of it.

"Right next pub" came the call.
I whipped off to the toilet before we headed off; being Europe the toilet consisted of a room 3 by 2m with a toilet and a urinal.

As I stood in front of the urinal I had that sinking feeling, you know the one when you step out and realize a car is coming or when you look out of the plane window and the engine is on fire.

Next minute I am getting shoved from behind, I calmly do up my fly and find all three of my Dutch mates standing behind me. I try to leave but the instigator locks the door and bars my exit. Hmmmmmmmmmm this is going to hurt is the only thought to cross my mind.
"So Kiwi, you want to fight do you?" the guy standing across the door asks in perfect English.
"Yeah! right, three on one that’s fair!" I retort, trying to get him to stand down on morals alone.
"So why won't you let us talk to those girls?" he persists.
"Because you’re an ugly bugger!" I whip back with that custom kiwi smile.

Now I was always told at school that my mouth would get me into trouble one day and I know I should have said anything else but stuff it, today was as good as any ....... beside, I was also full of Dutch courage!

Just as the talking was coming to an end there came the knock on the door, this guy had the nerve to open the door stick his head out to tell the person that we wanted to be in there and we are just having a chat.

"Stuff that Bro kick the flipping door down" I yell only to see the Kiwi lads appear and drag me out of another tight spot. So without skipping a beat it was out of that pub and off to another with my trembling hands hidden in my pockets to have what turned out to be one of the best nights out to date.

Next night was a rather unimpressive night on the water front watching the Americas cup opening ceremony. However when the Spanish come to fireworks, oh my gosh, you have never seen anything like it. It was amazing. To put it in proportion, I would say, every New Years Eve display since I was born, all at once.

***

The guy refused to serve me, so I wrote down in Spanish what ticket I wanted, but I missed the first bus. However I did eventually manage to get myself to Barcelona. Being Sunday nothing was open and I had to find my way to the hostel using the bus maps at every bus stop I came to. Finally I found number 155, the address was a building site. Having walked around for two hours, all I could do was sit down on my back pack, put my Ipod on and laugh (and be stared at by every passer by). Eventually I was pointed to number 135 by a lovely young girl who possible thinks all people from New Zealand are idiots and there you go, another dorm room filled to the brim with 10 unwashed travellers from all over the globe.

Now unluckily for me the Swedes also arrived in Barcelona the night before and it was quickly arranged that we should meet for Spanish drinks which turned out to be jugs of Sangria followed by a night club on the La Rambla and then Dave being attacked at 10am by a screaming Spanish banshee with a mop telling me I had to check out. The plan was to go to Nice, however sporting a decent head cold and an even better hang over, it was off to find a new hostel with some vitamin C tablets.

***

As I sat on my back pack in the bus station eating my loaf of bread and cheese I was approached by an Aussie trio who were also taking the night bus to Nice. When the bus finally turns up it is packed and the driver was running around screaming instructions to us in Spanish. The Aussies hadn't checked in (Yay! not me for once) and the bus driver nearly frog marches them off to the ticket office. For a minute I thought they weren’t coming. I sat down in the back seat with one guy from Tunisia (who smokes pot every time the bus stops) on my right and one of the Australian girls on my left. I'm the kiwi breast in the sandwich. After12 agonizing sleepless hours, we are finally dropped off on the side of the road in Nice at four in the morning. The only option for us is to sit on the water front and watch the sun rise, good times.

Posted by djrkidd 10:01 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Out Of Africa

Marakech then back to Spain.

sunny 27 °C
View Kiwi' don't fly on djrkidd's travel map.

So after an hour of dribbling self pity to Karolina in our safe Casa hotel room I had only got the gentle understanding of a loving girlfriend and not the kick in the pants I was really after. Finally we packed and headed for the train, with the adrenalin of yesterday long gone, but my worst enemy, self doubt had snuck in for the first time on the trip. Maybe I have bitten off more than I can chew, it would be nice to go home or even just hang out in Stockholm for the rest of the year. After sitting in the sun on the platform too scared to leave our perch on our backpacks in case the train left without us (not an invalid fear) it finally squeaked and ground its way into the station.

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Now its 30 degrees and this thing is looking like the Piccadilly line at rush hour, Karolina and I fight our way on but there is no where else fit apart from where the two carriages join. "No problem it will clear after a few stops" it is translated to me through a Swiss couple from a German speaking Moroccan gentleman. So four hours later as we pull into Marrakech we are still sitting on our back packs trying to stop them from touching the shit and piss that has trailed from the overflowing toilet that makes us gag every time the door is opened. So even though I have spent the last 4 hours being thrown around in a tin can, that is hot, cramped and stinking, some little sadistic bone in my body loves the adventure. We watched the green coast of Casablanca turn into the red rocky foot hills of the Sahara, with random mud brick villages appearing from nowhere and the barren landscape only broken by the occasional sheep herder and his flock in the middle of no where looking for the odd stalk of grass. We arrive in Marrakech ready to see what is now in store.

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The next day we hit the town with two English students, Ali and Elliot, these two doughnuts have hitch hiked from London to Morocco as part of a charity event called Link. and an American guy called Dwayne and a Spanish guy called Elfant I think. The problem was he didn’t speak English and everything had to be communicated through Ali or Elliot who spoke French with him. Dwayne was in his sixties and lived in France as a base to learn Arabic. So along with Karolina and me we formed a rag tag group to go and explore Marrakech. Marrakech's heart is the Medina. This is based around a huge square with its maze of Sauk’s running off it, drawing in many a lost tourist who then try their luck with the local salesmen. This Medina comes into its own at night when it becomes a melting pot of colour, noise, spice and action as the restaurateurs try and convince you to take a seat to dine on anything from Cous Cous tanjine, boiled sheep’s head, spicy snails, freshly squeezed orange juice or ginger tea which is claimed to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

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The snake charmers play their flutes "calming" Cobras and chase you with whatever snake they can lay their hands on. Men with monkeys throw them upon you to take a photo only to refuse you that price offer of 20 dirham (2 euro) and then demand 200 dirham. There are acrobats and musicians playing traditional music and little kids, that could use a good bath, still out at midnight begging for money. Of course there are the peddlers in the markets selling everything from traditional Kaftans to the latest cross trainers.
However after 3 days of dodging taxis, dodgy sales men and horse drawn carts it was time to head north to Casa for Karolina fly home to Stockholm and for me to carry onto Spain.

Posted by djrkidd 01:57 Archived in Morocco Comments (2)

This is Africa..... A reoccurring Theme

Dave gets one up on the pick pockets.

sunny 20 °C
View Kiwi' don't fly on djrkidd's travel map.

Because of the strikes I had to catch the train from another station which involved a switch to get out to the airport so that I could pick up Karolina who was visiting me for six days over Easter. Due to the "cell phone in the guiness" night, I had devised a simple but full proof plan. I would meet her at the airport and then we would go to our pre booked hotel in Casa.

At the change station I walked through the under pass and caught the eye of a young Moroccan guy who I asked for directions. After he got me on the right platform we got chatting. His name was Siam and he was a student who lived locally. We talked about surfing and my trip. He asked what hotel I was staying at in town which I thought was a little strange so I made one up. He then did the usual sale of hash to which he brushed off as a way of life in Morocco when I refused. Soon enough the train arrived and conveniently he was going in the same direction as me.

He left me with his bag and whipped outside and came back with a Moroccan girl dressed in trendy European styled clothing, another clash of ideals I have noticed here. He sat there and babbled away in Arabic to this girl which didn't worry me as it meant I didn't have to make an effort coming up with conversation in easy English. All of a sudden at the next stop “old matey” jumps up and says “Dave, we have to get off here!” I protest a bit but he says that there was an announcement and that there was a problem with the train because of the strike, coming from the UK transport system. This was more than feasible, so I blindly follow until he starts leading me outside the station saying that he wants to get a coffee. I tell him that I have to get to the airport now! To which his reply is to throw his bag at me and start kicking it going on about fighting Marrakech and funnily enough forgetting all of his English. Then he starts yelling "go get the train then see if I care!"
"Bro you need to lay of the hash" was my only reply and I was quite relieved to lose this nut case and get out to the airport, where Karolina would now be waiting for me.

It took a few moments to cross the road as I had to dodge the stream of blue and red taxis racing around at break neck speed. As I step up on the curve on the other side I felt to where my wallet should be..... After a quick pat down it was nowhere to be found.

"Bastard!!!" I screamed across a busy car park full of locals going about their day in an unknown part of Casablanca. As I spun around on the spot I saw Siam’s blue shirt about 100m away across the square. Without even thinking I run out in front of the traffic which came to a screeching halt, horns blazing and Arabic being screamed out the windows. Now, without a word of a lie I covered that 100m in 10 seconds flat still wearing my Jandals (For the international community, flip flops, thongs or sandals). Siam still hadn't seen me coming as I tackle him into the middle of the road in front of another screeching taxi. This was the final straw and man I went to town on him until I was dragged off by the taxi driver that fortunately spoke excellent English and asked what was going on.
"He stole my wallet" I yelled going through his pockets..... Nothing, I panicked …oh no I have beaten a guy up for no reason. Quite a big crowd had gathered by this stage and I was starting to fear for my life, then to my amazement they turned on him and hello there was my wallet down his pants. (Yeah I did think about letting keep the wallet)

"Thank You, Merci, Shurkan" I managed to get out as I started to return to the Train Station. As I crossed the car park there was a bloke leaning on a taxi, I asked him to take me to the airport, as Karolina didn’t know where the hotel was and I didn't have a phone. He said no, I tried offering him double to which he still said no and finally I told him that guy over there just tried to pick pocket me pointing to the still rather large group of guys laying into Siam.

While sitting on the platform waiting for the airport train that ran hourly, two big Moroccan guys strolled over the tracks neglecting to use the underpasses and came right up to me. Then, the one I recognized as the taxi driver, told me that I have to come with them to the police station to sign some paper work, it turns out he was an under cover cop.
"Hang on there big fella lets see some ID please" I’m not going down twice in one day. He pulls out a pair of hand cuffs "I can buy those in the market then go round and rob tourists too champ!" I say rather cynically. Finally he digs out an ID out of his wallet and I get dragged out of the train station for the second time in a day.......... Yes it did occur to me later that I had and still have no idea what a proper Moroccan ID should look like.

As I walk through the door to the station I am confronted by Siam screaming his innocence. He even has the nerve to tell me, in his selective English, that if I get him off we can go for coffee and everything will be right.

First of all, I was a little put off by being in the same room as this guy, but after five minutes the guards gave me the thumbs up for my handy work.

We had to wait for the Captain dude to turn up so I used my spare time entertainingly.
"So Siam, you know what is going to happen to you in jail mate? two years just for trying to steal a wallet, man it sucks to be you"
"Siam you better give me double the money you stole or I will tell them you're gay mate, man the death penalty sucks dude."

“Sergeant have you searched him, …. he offered me hash"
Five minutes later, a big bloke wrapped in paper appears.
"Dude, you are having a bad day"

After an eternity the Captain turns up, Siam continued his usual routine of wailing and trying to plead his innocence. All of a sudden “smack, smack, slap,” I look up and the Captain in beating the living day lights out of him using his diary and what to you know it doesn’t leave a mark. So, the five minutes that I was told this would take on the platform, has now taken about 40 minutes and now they want to take me to the main station in town.

Despite my protest, Siam, the translator and myself where put in the back of a van and driven down to the main police station. No problem I thought, I will be able to email Karolina from there and sort this mess out. It was during this trip that I learned that the translator was not a police officer but just a local guy who used to drive taxis and had learned English while doing so; he was there off his own back helping me out. During our conversation he brought up a reoccurring theme "Why did you follow him? You can't trust anyone, this is Africa man."

When we arrived at the main station I am confronted by a 5m by 8m concrete room with white peeling walls and two desks with typewriters sitting on them and a few chairs.

I explain what had happened for the 6th time and it was recorded down on the type writer using carbon paper to make it triplicate.
The Translator went to the shop and bought me a bottle of water out of his own pocket and then another guy turned up and acted as a witness. This guy I recognized from the crowd of guys that had swarmed around and he had had to make his own way down to the station just to give a statement on my behalf.

Every time someone new walked through the station Siam would scream his innocence, to which the answer was a lot of yelling in Arabic and then a couple of clips around the head. However I did notice that afterwards they would show him compassion by giving him cigarettes if he asked for them.

Finally I signed a police report totally in Arabic, (it did cross my mind that this was an elaborate scam for me pleading guilty to every unsolved crime in Morocco this century). I jumped in the front seat of the police car beside the Captain and automatically put on my seat belt. He looked at me quizzically and then said through the translator "you are in a police car no one is going to pull you over".
"That’s not the point.........." I trailed out smiling and mumbled something about going to jail in New Zealand.

Three hours later I pull into the airport train station. Even though I just want to run around and try to find Karolina I force myself to help a lady with her bags off the train just to prove that there is a sense of civility in this country. As the doors open I hear the sweetest sound ever, my name called out in a Swedish accent. As luck would have it Karolina had spotted my day bag through the window as the train pulled into the station. She was just about to go into the city and find a hotel, as it was, it took us nearly two hours to get back into the city.... cursed strikes.

Posted by djrkidd 00:41 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

This is Africa

Highs and lows in Morocco from humbling hospitailty to death threats.

sunny 20 °C
View Kiwi' don't fly on djrkidd's travel map.

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Having caught the bus from Seville to Algeciras and then the Ferry to Tangier I walked down the gang plank two hours late but in high spirits only to be met by a customs officer who sent my newly acquired English mate Christian and I back onto the boat to get our entry visa. Not surprisingly, there were the four other English speakers that I had met on the crossing also waiting, not having understood the French, Spanish and Arabic instructions to get our stamps on board.

This was all a good laugh until the passengers heading back to Spain had all boarded and the doors were shut. After much confusion, being led around the boat about three times, we finally got our visa and were kicked out via the car entrance in the middle of the port and made to walk to the terminal.

From here a nice taxi driver sorted the six of us out with a ride to where we were going, this involved four in the back seat and the American student and I sharing the front seat. As we approached the police check point I turned to the driver and asked if this was okay, picturing my first night on the dark continent being in a prison cell. He simply smiled at me and said "Of course my friend this is Africa" then simply drove around the car in front which was being searched by the police, and drove straight through the check point without even a look of bother.

So, being locked out of my hostel, but sitting in a cafe drinking mint tea and chatting with the cafe owner, I learn that there is going to be transport strikes throughout the country, with no taxis or buses and only limited trains starting the next day. Having to meet Karolina in Casablanca I thought it best to get there right away.

***
I took a seat, escaping from the chaos of the crowded bus station, full of yelling people, revving engines and the smell of diesel fumes. I felt a cold damp feeling creep through my jeans. The seat was soaking wet with what I could only hope to be water. As luck would have it in this land of contrast, they actually had allocated seating, so I was promptly moved to my seat at the back of the bus. I sat next to an old man in his Caftan and two big old ladies in their traditional gab with green lines tattooed from their lower lip to their chin.

A few hours into the trip I woke up to be offered half of an orange that the lady beside me was eating, I accepted gratefully. Later on I came out of my doze and again she gave me half of her egg sandwich, which I tried to turn down but it turned out I didn’t have a choice in the matter. My new best friend then went on to offer me half of her loaf of bread which I managed to decline only for her to reply in sign language that I was much too thin in her eyes.

***
Casablanca, or Casa as it is commonly referred to, is the commercial city of Morocco. You can, in the space of minutes, be walking around the ancient Medina hassled by locals, to walking down pedestrian streets that could easily be in any major city around the world. I befriended a Canadian guy called Corey who was studying in France and spoke fluent French, a handy skill to have as French is Morocco’s second language. It had occurred to me that Corey was never keen to walk into the Medina at night and I couldn't work out why. The next morning we decided to go do a little shopping, within seconds of walking into the Medina a local guy came up to us and shook our hands (very standard stuff ) until he held me in an arm lock while he turned to shake Corey’s hand. Instinctively I broke free and kept on walking but this guy continued to follow as and kept on touching me. Corey calmly spoke French to him while I got more and more stern. Then all of a sudden he stood in front of me looking me in the eyes all the time reaching into his back pocket hissing through his teeth
"I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you"
To which I replied in full Kiwi drawl
" Mate! you can piss off!"
After a few more unprintable expletives he went away yelling in French "I really need a cigarette"
Five minutes later while sitting at a cafe having a coffee another guy walks passed saying
"Hello how are you?"
"Good, how are you?" I replied
"F##K You, You go to hell" he yells in reply.
Corey and I giggle “nice people around here aren't they"

I just can't believe this place one minute people are so welcoming and then the next they make you want to get on the next plane home.

Posted by djrkidd 03:18 Archived in Morocco Comments (6)

Portugal

Lisboa to Lagos

sunny 15 °C
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So after escaping from Madrid still in pocket it was a night train to Lisbon. Upon spilling out onto the platform I was informed that the information office was closed and when I told the hotel touts that my accommodation was pre-booked they soon forgot their "ingles" which presented a slight problem seeing they were the only people about who spoke English. After looking at the bus map depicting colourful lines heading in every direction all I could do was shoulder my back pack and walk towards what resembled the city centre.

After a fair hike I obtained a map and could start looking for my Pensiona which didn't look too far way. I entered medieval stone streets, winding in every direction, with a very indicative tourist map. 1 hour later a sweaty but smiling kiwi turned up only to be told that I didn't have a reservation. A quick flash of the new 500 quid pearly whites and she managed to move somethings around for me and there was another prison cell sized room for Dave to crash in.

Lisbon is cool, spread out over 7 hills and a river with old trams trundling about the cobbled streets. Once I managed to find my way to Sao Jorge a castle on top of a hill ....(don't ask it wasn't as simple as just walking to the top) all you can see in every direction was terracotta tiled roofs and brightly painted but flaking walls.

After two days it was time to head Lagos in the South of Portugal in an area know as the Algrave. This is a small sea side town which would be taken over by British holiday makers in Summer.
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Again while wandering around the streets of Lagos this woman of about 50 grabbed me and dragged me off to see a room she had for rent, this was done using a lot of hand signals as there was the same language barrier again. Eventually she showed me the dark 2 by 3 room in what turned out to be her house. 25 Euros per night was the asking price which was a relief, for a while there I thought it as going to be an hourly rate. So the bargaining begins, here I am with no morals... showing her the price of an 8 person dorm for 16 Euros in a guide book she has no chance of understanding. Result: I get a room to myself for 18 euros, all this being done on the back of a bus ticket and hands being waved everywhere. Still I have to keep an eye on that budget.

Two days of chilling out on the beach drinking cheap beer and it was a 6am start at the Bus station to get to Seville.

Posted by djrkidd 02:59 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

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