Monday, 22 February 2016

For The Record, I Do Like Sticking It To My Travelers Anxiety!

This is something 'travelish' I shall say, but to keep things interesting I'll add that I'm sitting above the roof tops of Tangier, Morocco where I'm looking out at the Strait of Gibraltar. Not bad eh?
Tangier, Morocco (taken 2016)

Recently I had my share of 'bad moments' in Spain, in which my emotions got the best of me. This I Facebooked so that my people back home wouldn't be the cause of my repeating the story over and over (I for one hate repeating myself) and so far they've been pretty cool about it. I thought that by doing this the worst might not come to pass again. However, now onto my second day in Morocco I've found the beast rearing its big shamster head once more. The anxiety was back.

I'm at a good hostel in the Medina, right near the port so I'd always hoped for an easyish walk but I was blindsided by a 'friendly good person' who I honestly thought had been sent over by the hostel. They had mentioned the place's name so I was convinced of their validity on the spot. I was taken into the Medina, made some turns and I very quickly found myself standing outside of my hostel. I was in a good place. The friendly good person went on to say, 'I'll be waiting out here for you so I can take you around the Medina to the shops and the restaurants. I'll get you some really good Moroccan food.'

I was sleep deprived, I'd bitten the heads off of two well-meaning Spanish ladies only doing their jobs (I did apologise) and I was convinced that this was something really good the hostel hadn't mentioned on their website. Long story short, about an hour later I was out almost 800 dirham and pissed as hell! At least I was able to sleep that night.

Starting my second day feeling a little more cautious, I went to the train station to book a bed on the overnight train to Marrakech when another friendly good person came by saying that he was nice and resentful of the shamsters ruining the image of his country. I humoured the guy (he did say he wasn't going to ask for any money) and he showed me to the station. Half a block away he wanted 250 dirham for his 'kind act'.

Now, I firmly believe that if we start underestimating strangers we can be voluntarily screwed. I didn't want to be part of an incident (Aussies can be most volatile when across the sea. Just look at all the shit we've stirred up in Bali), so I gave the man 200 and walked away, holding my head high but knowing full well that I've got to change if I'm to survive. We leave our homelands and we make ourselves vulnerable, regardless of wherever it is we venture to.
Tangier, Morocco (taken 2016)

Presently it's a warm Monday afternoon here in Tangier. Seagulls and the smell of burning wood are filling the air, the latter of which I like. Hours ago, after returning from the station with my ticket that I'll be changing to an earlier service, I shared my experiences with some here at the hostel. A Moroccan (the receptionist), a Swedish couple I played Othello with on night one and an American who proved herself a most interesting of case studies. They all told me the same thing, I've got to start saying 'No.' Hell, I should even be mean if I have to.

This couldn't be more true. I'm the kind of weakling who doesn't like confrontation. I avoid it every time it might show itself, but after getting screwed around twice within twenty-four hours I know I've got to tell these 'friendly good people' where to go. I mean I did it more than enough times in Thailand and for months I've even convinced myself that 'Morocco is the Thailand of Africa'.

By this point I was afraid I'd have myself another 'anxious Seville moment' and be needing to call the parentals back in Melbourne for some sympathetic words. Tangier wasn't working for me, I couldn't do a bus tour to Chefchaouen which I'd been looking forward to and I was feeling the nerves take hold. This is a feeling I wouldn't wish on my own enemy! Add to that, I was still missing some good old fashioned generic pasta.

What am I to do then? Last anxious moment led me to altering my Spanish plans which worked out all right, so I reasoned that I should do the same here. Upon learning that I CAN change the date of my train ticket (I just have to walk the kilometre plus back to the station to make it happen) I've since decided to head to Marrakech earlier.

Did I then learn that Marrakech outshines Tangier in its horde of friendly nice people, yes, but I'm not caring. I need to be positive and make these two weeks in Morocco work for me! I know I can sneak out of Marrakech for some nature day trips which is something I long for. Fortunately, something very positive presented itself this afternoon.

Heading out to the Grand Socco for food I was once again pursued by more of the friendly nice people, four or five in total. I copped a whole year of chlorine and staying in the one spot to cross the world and I refused to let some lessers take advantage of me... and my hard earned money! They came up one by one (I even tried speaking a made up language to dissuade them) but I simply looked the other way. I told them NO as firmly as I could. Those actions have left me in a place that I needed to be standing in.

This by no means was meant to be an analytical discussion on anxiety, but I believe this to be valid. Experiences are what we learn from, the ups and the downs, and in most of those cases we're left all the better for it. We stand taller, we see ourselves going further. I've found myself in a lot of these positions and I've now decided not to be shy about about them.

So, I'm going to keep going through Morocco. I'm going to remain optimistic and stick it to my travelers anxiety. I have the Netherlands and seeing and old friend to look forward to and a few more days in London so I can end everything on a high (wish I was spending more time in England!) This is me at my best and I hope it can help you be to.
Tangier, Morocco (taken 2016)

PS The Grand Socco did provide what I'd been missing oh so dearly. The pasta represents victory.  

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Let Me Just Say...

Let me just say Spain's been an interesting and at some points a really inconvenient ride. I've had the idea to come here for a few years now, back when a friend told me how easy it is to reach Morocco by ferry (which can easily be cancelled due to weather but we'll see what happens!) With said idea brewing away I kept telling myself that it was going to work and I wouldn't regret anything. Let me just add on that optimism can sometimes be a bitch.
Mountains Around Ronda, Spain (taken 2016)

I reassured myself, and despite not knowing the language and having relied on group tours in the past, that this was going to be one of the best journeys of my life. Now on my sixteenth day in this country I can honestly say it hasn't been what I wanted it to be. Ups and downs have been a plenty and I now have vendettas against gypsies and their rosemary scam, but over the past two weeks I've found a few positivos to be happy with... and learnt a few lessons that I'll live my nomadic life by from this day forward.

These little cyber postcards are meant to be about the good things so that's what I'm sticking with. The better side of my Spanish adventure includes some southern views, a humbled little setting coloured white and orange, watching the flag fly in Madrid (seriously, watching that thing was therapeutic) and an impressive bridge standing up in the mountains. Experiences were included, as well as some friendly people, and these are what I'll endeavour to remember for the rest of my life.

For the sake of adding more emphasis and words to the count, these are the better bits I want to share. Cordoba was a lucky and most merciful stop for me. Small and easy to get around (once I had a map), I enjoyed walking under the orange trees lining the streets, through the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos and 'clouding' (cloud watching) on the Roman Bridge they had in Game of Thrones. These are little things, but they did SO MUCH for me what with my love for simplicity in life. Too much paperwork is a devilish concept.
The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba, Spain (taken 2016)

The next highlight revolves around the mountainous Ronda, which I waited the better part of a year to visit just so I could see the bridge keeping the two sides of the village together. It was amazing, but my only regret is not getting a picture of it from the bottom of El Tajo Gorge. That would've been epic. Another positivo are the views I took in; truly amazing, as were the colour contrasts! Spanish mountains are something I'll love forever. Originally this was intended to be a two night stay but it turned into a day trip for 'Seville is an effing bitch' reasons.

And then there's the bit down south which is what got this stint of backpacking off the ground! Disembarking the bus (taken much earlier) in Malaga, I was immediately reminded of Surfer's Paradise in Queensland. This is where I was most at ease in Spain. Nothing got in my face, everything was easy to reach by foot and the sun was glorious to walk under... especially out on the marina. I stayed at a really good hostel that a 'nightclub of badarses' were running but I had to leave it for another because likes to bottle neck people for some reason. Very bummed for they were some nice and patient badarses! The new place isn't a loss but I wish they had a kitchen. At this point of The Dorito Tour all I want is a bowl of cornflakes and some pasta for dinner! I AM NOT A FOODIE!!!
Malaga, Spain (taken 2016)

These are the ups best mentioned, for I quite enjoyed mentioning them. There are others, like the zoo in Madrid (first I've been to outside of Australia) and my finally seeing Gibraltar (it was raining a lot but I saw some photogenic monkeys) but these little blog messages are best left a little condensed. I gotta save something for when I get back into regular blogging once I'm home. Add to that, after a few hits and misses I finally ate a paella in Spain that I liked (prior to that the only good one I'd eaten was back in Belfast). Fifth plate is the charm but make sure said caste iron plate isn't heated up.

The downs will still be with me, which I believe is an important factor for all of us. They can help shape the next journey and the ones after that; more nature is NEEDED, and dodgy hostels and pensions can screw themselves! I'm off to Morocco tomorrow for some sand and blue things, hopefully (the ferry better be moving), so I might just get my wish. The fourth continent I intend to stand upon has left me feeling a little off but I'm hoping that will all change. I'll be doing a group tour of the Sahara, which is something I now miss taking part in.

Hereth be the end of my words, and I'm sure you're very warped after reading them but I'm not going to care because I'm a freaky bastard. I know my rant about Ireland was a bit more hilarious and colourful (so says a Belgian girl I met) but Ireland isn't Spain, and Spain isn't Ireland. It's a good thing afterall. Don't think anyone could swallow going to the same place over and over.
Madrid, Spain (taken 2016)

And here we go...         

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Never Underestimate A Few Moments Across The Sea

This is the end... of my stint of backpacking in Ireland and Northern Ireland (WARNING, because I'm lazy I'll be saying 'Ireland' as a whole). I think I might be starting off my posts with song lyrics for titles but that's not set in stone, and with that said I'll say something else; what's the story? On day two here I learnt this to be an Irish greeting, which neither Irish or Northern Irish have used on me, but I personally believe it holds some relevance to weirdos who write things.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland (taken 2016)

February 4th, 2016 it is and I'm sitting in Jacob's Inn Hostel in Dublin, finding ways to keep myself busy before my flight to Madrid tomorrow afternoon. Options on the table included watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 from a far (asocial introvert here), lie on my bottom bunk bed and stare at the bed above me or get something down for the peeps back home and around the world (the number of countries viewing is growing and I like it). Obviously the whingin and bitchin has won out!

First of all, I AM WRECKED! The Emerald Isles, a much desired spot to see for a long time have come with their ups and downs. Some downs worth hating on include a dodgy bus ride from Galway to Dublin which had me convinced I was going in the wrong direction, the bank back home acting as an all to unwanted headache and a guy in the Belfast hostel who displayed THE most unhealthy snoring I've ever heard (the night receptionist was merciful enough to move me and two others to another room). That's the worst of it... for now.

Now for the ups. Ireland has been one of THE BEST experiences of my life! I AM NOT BUNGING THIS ON KIDDIES! It's been hilarious, sexy and inspiring. My quill is going to be busy for some time to come, and I deem this appropriate because Ireland is a land of storytellers.
The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland (taken 2016)

I've seen so many beautiful and natural sights which I'm sure I'll never see anywhere else in the world. The most impressive of which are the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara and the Giant's Causeway. The three cities I've walked through (Dublin, Belfast and Galway) have each displayed their own unique character also. Those extra doses of chlorine were worth it!

The people over here have been a mixed bag at best. Irish tour guides are interesting and funny and aren't afraid to damn their country's architects; I'm going out there to say they're outshining the others I've had around the world. Apologies but it's true! Next to them, not only did I meet up with a friend made years ago on another adventure but the ones I've met on this one have been nothing but kind and amusing and down right welcoming on the spot. This introvert is nothing but thankful.

These are the positivos I love to share with others, and this blog thing I write is making it more and more easy to get them across. On the last epic stint of adventuring (around Australia) I was sending postcards off every week but with several continents and some oceans between me and home, this avenue is looking kinda practical.
Connemara, Ireland (taken 2016)

Big posts to come when I'm finishing up in a country I've since decided, and to end these words on what I consider to be THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHT, the ten days I've spent in this corner of the world are feeling like twenty!

Never underestimate a few moments spent across the sea people. DON'T! They could be an eternity.