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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #4 - 5.8.2004
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i had been in morocco for two weeks and was ready to
leave. therefore i was quite happy as my overnight
train from marrakesh pulled into the station at
tangier, from which i would take the ferry back to
algeciras, spain. i pulled the baggage receipt for my
bike from my money belt and held it in front of a
train-looking guy.

"my bike is where?" i asked dumbfounded in my pepe
lepew french. to my horror he started pointing
indicating some massive distance, you know, not the
kind of hey-dude-you-got-some-mayonnaise-on-your-face
pointing but rather the
i-live-a-thousand-miles-that-way pointing. naturally,
as this was morocco all the checked baggage gets
dropped off at the 2nd to last train station, or in
other words the one 7 kilometers behind me. sorta
like when you fly to los angeles and they throw your
bags out at vegas. yeah right.

i knew this meant a cab ride and that meant a battle.
you can´t buy anything, a cab ride, a donut, a
toothpick without haggling since everyone in the
entire country wants 10 times what anything is worth.
i haggled with the cabbie and got a ride to the train
station (we picked up 5 other people along the way)
where the guy acted like he had never seen a bike in
his life. i watched him flip through papers for 15
minutes before my bike was rolled out to me from some
room by an attendant. before handing it over to me he
tried to get me to pay for it again.

i jumped on my ride and rocketed through town to the
port - i wanted badly to get on the 9:00am ferry. i
was ready for all the hustlers as i rapidly approached
the pier and for 5 solid minutes rolled through them,
arms wide open (look ma! no hands!) and shouted "I
ALREADY HAVE A TICKET!" they tried to pull me into
their ticket offices anyway to buy another one. i
shot past them into the port terminal.

coming from spain i needed a boarding pass in addition
to my ticket, just like flying on a plane. i assumed
i needed the same thing to ride the ferry back. i
walked into the terminal and immediately a man with a
(fake) id pinned to his shirt offered to help me get a
boarding pass.

"do you work here?" i asked.

"of course i do. what do you think i am doing here?"
he relpied like i was crazy. "your passport please."

he shouldn´t have needed my passport but i handed it
to him anyway. we started walking for an obscure
corner and he began filling out an immigration card,
which has nothing to do with a boarding pass.

"wait, i´m not sure you work here," i said as i
grabbed my passport back from him. "you are just
filling out an immigration card. i could do that by
myself."

"f**k you then you cheap f**king american," he said as
he tore up the card and walked away.

"oh? not so f**king friendly now, hey a**hole? i´m not
naive enough for you, eh? i´ve been here two f**king
weeks - i know how you a**holes operate! come back
here and say that to my face you f**king d**k!" i was
a little upset, i had seen too much of this junk for 2
weeks.

"f**k you. f**k off," he kept saying as i followed
him. i regained my focus because i wanted to get on
the ferry. his friend came up to me and unbelievably
tried to pull the exact same scam. i went up to a
ticket window but they wouldn´t speak english to
me...i had 15 minutes to get on the next ferry; every
second i wanted to be on it more than the last.
officials stood around mixing perfectly with the
un-officials, it was impossible to know who to trust
and who to not. i finally saw the passport-checking
facility and got stamped. i noticed the hustler
scamming two other folks as i left.

i got down to the ferry pushing my bike along with my
guitar on my back.

"you can´t bring that on the ferry," said the guy in
french.

"oh. i have to leave it here then? no room on the
ferry for it, eh?" i asked as cars and semis rolled
past me onto the enormous ferry. he wanted a bribe to
let me take it on. he wrote 220 dirhams (about 22
american dollars) on a piece of paper. i walked away
from him and in 5 minutes took my bike apart, stuffed
it into my bike-bag, walked past him onto the ferry
and said "what bike?" over my shoulder.

i threw my bags down, pulled out my guitar and walked
to the top deck of the nearly-empty ferry. we pulled
out of the port du tanger into the detroit du
gibraltar (the strait of gibraltar) and sailed for
spain. i was glad to be leaving. i played some jimmy
buffet on the guitar (come monday, it´ll be all right,
come monday, i´ll be holding you tight) to the jumping
dolphins and whales chasing the boat. i thought of
bob dylan´s song "if you see her, say hello" and
thought of the line "if you see her say hello/she
might be in tangier/she left here last early spring/is
living there i hear" and i was certain that she was
long gone, probably took the ferry years ago back to
spain. the sun hung low over the beautiful
mediterranean sea and i found it so strange that the
same sun can shine so differently on two countries
separated by such a narrow body of water.....

greetings from tavira, portugal, a tiny fishing
village in the southeast of portugal, the algarve, as
it´s called. i may spend a couple nights here since i
have biked a tremendous distance the last 4 days.

despite the horror stories i had an amazing time in
morocco. visting a third world country has changed me
forever, i believe in a positive way. it was quite an
experience. morocco is a beautiful, mountainous
country filled with genuine, caring people (when they
aren´t trying to scam you). in tangier i met a surfer
from australia named jamie who i traveled with my
entire time there. we also met a photographer on
assignment for the lonely planet guide books named alf
from norway who we hung out with as well. we climbed
mountains in chefchaouen, visited the tanneries where
they treat leather in fes (which smell like a rocket
made out of crap colliding with a planet made of
puke), rode camels into the sahara desert of merzouga
(they filmed "the mummy" there), and watched
snake-charmers, acrobats, and snail-salesmen in djemma
el-fna of marrakesh. i loved it. what a crazy
country.

upon my return to spain i bought a bus ticket to
cadiz, spain, which is the oldest city in europe -
it´s about 3000 years old. i met dave from sweden on
the ride and we bonded. we later met matthias from
quebec and spent the evening playing soccer on the
beach and drinking beers while the sun sunk into the
ocean. cadiz is a killer town.

i got back in the saddle (i didn´t bike at all in
morocco since i noticed that the bus drivers regularly
use the shoulder as a second lane) in cadiz and headed
for sanlucar de barrameda. it was a nice ride along
the ocean. i then headed into the parque nacional de
donana, a national park of wetlands and millions of
migratory birds and got completely lost. i ended up
biking over 70 miles through a tangle of farmlands
before i found my way out. i cruised through two
towns that had no hotels and ended up staying in my
tent in the backyard of a guy who runs a bird habitat.
i slept that night with about 1000 birds all
squawking through the night. anna and gerald from
munich, germany saw how tired and hungry i was and
invited me into their bungalow for pasta and german
beers - they are now expecting me to stay with them
during oktoberfest this year. the next day was great
because i biked to and spent the night in palos de la
frontera, spain....quick, what happened there? one of
the biggest adventures in the history of the world
started there - i will let YOU look it up. i woke up
this morning and made my way 65 miles to tavira,
portugal and here i am. i have now biked about 1200
kilometers so far...i´m feeling good and seeing europe
in a very special way.

today i got 25 kilometers into portugal before i
remembered i had never spoken a word of portuguese in
my life. i had been told that only 8 people in
portugal speak english and that 5 are on vacation in
spain, 2 are sick in bed with the flu and 1 died while
i was on my way here. but alas, i am here now and
find the people wonderful and perfectly willing to
withstand my butchering of their peculiar language.

i have a lot more to say, a lot of funny stuff i have
encountered but i will leave you with this for now -
i´m sure it´s enough. look for another email filled
with random thoughts shortly...

keep on keepin´ on,
mike

p.s. one last thing: the spanish don´t know how to
make duct tape. let me be more precise; they know how
to make it, i have a roll with me, but the kind they
make just doesn´t work. i am relying on it but i am
telling you, even mcguyver couldn´t accomplish much
with this junk. how do i know? well everyday it seems
i break something - can´t replace it, gotta fix it.
as we all know you can repair anything with duct tape:
shoes, bikes, guitars, houses, trains, anything. not
with spanish duct tape. put a slice of it on anything
and not only does it not fix it, it breaks it more.
first thing i do when i get back to the united states
is order a good old bloody american cheeseburger.
second thing i do is buy a roll of american duct tape
and a bunch of broken stuff. third thing i do is sit
around the house all day repairing s**t and eating
beef.

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