Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Morocco - Seeing the Sights

Little Shopkeeper

The Kingdom of Morocco

         In Morocco hotel rooms can be filled with sour odors, beds that should have been retired many summers ago, and towels that invite you to use the one you brought from home.
         A shot glass of expresso starts my day as I look over the map. This morning I'm in a cyber cafe, while the owner plays his favorite artist - Leonard Cohen, and he writes a list of similar Moroccan artists for me to try.
        The past several days have been spent following two new German friends on an Agusta, and a BMW at maximum speeds.They all seem to drive this way. They ride their motorcycles at the maximun speeds put on the odemeters by bike manufacturers. They think that's what's expected of riders. If an auto is in front of them, as far as they are concerned, they are unacceptably behind. These Germans are off on a six week camping adventure, with familiar lawn chairs strapped to their bikes, and bungie cords holding down gear to transport all the comforts of home. Many stops were made to find non-conforming Arab resturants long enough  to clean out their beer supplies and move on. All fun, but I have now departed from the duo and will visit the world's largest medina in Fez today.

Two Germans, One American

       I enjoy medinas. A  medina is a large city area where cars cannot travel. They are often walled in, full of open-air shops where people can have tea, or sit with 80 or more Arab men, crowded around old televisions to enjoy soccer matches. You can play cards, or get caught up with a shop owner who sees you eyeing an item too long. Unwittingly, you can find yourself bargining over something you really did not want in the first place. Food can be a learning experience. Do you know how to properly cut and eat cactus fruit or pick the best olives or soap?  Or try a new way of eating beef. (At least I think it was beef!)
       And then the loudspeakers echo from the temples calling Arabs to prayer. Shops briefly close and again life resumes. It is an amazingly peaceful and safe place that is welcoming to visitors.
A message on the hill -

Typical Medina

Monday, 21 March 2011


Had a great birthday in Benidorm Spain. ( a tourist spot for sun seekers and golf)  Following along the mediterranion coast line,  I passed the ferries to Algeria and Tunisie. Headed towards Algeciras where Wednesday I may make the crossing into Morocco.
 Traveling with the bike is so nice. Its allowing me to see historical sites or easily find the next hotel. I am taking lots of pictures, and get a laugh out of the locals stopping me, or hanging out car windows to take pictures of my bike license plate.
If you have sent me an email, an auto : out of the office reply is returned to you. I still get the emails, and contacts listed in the auto reply are for work only.

Coast of Spain....

Monday, 14 March 2011

Connecting with Strangers

        Talk radio was asking listeners - "Would you invite a stranger who is traveling, to stay in your home?" "Would you introduce a person while traveling, to an acquaintance?"
        Simple questions to answer I would think. That’s what you will mostly read about in a lot of blogs. I cannot begin to tell you the number of email addresses, phone numbers, invites for a meal or accommodations I have received from strangers I've met during my travels, every day.
         Sometimes I accept, but generally I like to be polite and do my own thing. I just spent four days going just 300 miles from Frankfurt to the border of France, slowly enjoying the country along the way. Three different times I was frantically waved over off the road by motorists all with the same reason. "Did I know my license plate was about to come off ?" ( It's actually bolted on just fine, but in my own way, it's crooked off to the side.)
           This opened up a conversation. I found out that these folks just wanted to tell me about a friend they have in Portland, or their dream of going to Alaska, or chat with me, the American tourist !
           Yesterday I followed a guy on a scooter through the streets of Lyon, France until he found me the BMW dealership. Not to be left alone with my bad French, in great detail he explained to the mechanic that I need a quee ? ( radiator hose clamp) . After quite a bit of discussion between them in French, the mechanic looked at me and said, “ I'm English also, where are you parked? “ LOL
           Not completely satisfied with an English guy in France putting a temporary hose clamp on the German-made motorcycle, I walked down the street to see about purchasing some real hose clamps from my new Italian friend, Martin. After fixing me up with proper clamps he looked at my riding gear: Harley Davidson jacket, BMW boots & pants, and an Arai helmet. (Oh yea I’m confused) Martin wanted me to join him for lunch, and then take his motorcycles for a ride. Italian made Brutale 1090 motorcycles. Top speed 164 MPH..! 200 hp.! Now I know I've said, "live your life not your age," but I thought this would be a good time to decline and live my age. (I will be sure to hang onto his phone number just in case.)
           I was reminded of a time when I was docked at fisherman's terminal in Seattle when I had my boat and a family was visiting from Newfoundland. They asked where the Deadliest Catch boat was moored ? "Not sure," I said, "get in the boat and let's go find out." I wasn’t the boat captain they wanted to meet that day , but we had fun looking.
          In my wallet you can find numbers or addresses of those I've met, or friends of theirs in the direction I am headed.
          Germany was great, friendly people, beer taps always pouring, but still serving what I remember growing up on- condensed Campbell’s Mushroom Soup over pork chops. Now I am stuck in wine country, south of Lyon France with heavy rain.

It Begins

             After a call for directions at the airport, Richard my taxi driver with five years experience, said that he had never been there. He got out and shut off the meter and came inside the secure zone of Zoll. (German Customs). Confident that I would be okay before he left me, I was directed across the way to Air Canada Cargo. (My bike was on a passenger flight; I could have been on the same flight with better planning!)
             I must have been the first visitor of the day. When coffee cups were put down, everyone looked up to my introduction. "Hi. I’m Garth Anton.” That was all I was able to say, when a woman proudly said, “We have your motorcycle, Garth. Welcome to Germany!" The paper work started in German fashion, not much differently than I saw Klinger do on the TV show, MASH so many years ago. After each form was completed and filed in the proper cabinet, I was directed back to Zoll to repeat the process before returning again to cargo where I meet Eddie.

            I was then wearing the required hard hat, ID badge, and safety vest. Where Eddie reunited me with my bike. He was little surprised to see that I was a rider who sprung for tools. Many bikers pay mechanics to do the work, they own no tools and if they do rarely know how to use them. I immediately started wrenching, quite unlike the Fly & Ride set of Nordstrom riders with stitched-on flames on their new leather jackets, who would use guides to check them and their chromed-out bikes into hotels.
           As Eddie and I talked motorcycles, we recognize each other as true riders. We  enjoy just getting on our bikes and riding. As soon as we get off, we just want to do it over and over again. Sunday social rides are fun, but these rides usually just get the blood flowing with dreams of bigger rides. Eddie and I exchange stories of his old  Harley Davidson Shovel head, Morocco, and the Canadian Rockies.
           With the tire back on, battery connected, windshield, brakes, and more, Eddie gave me his cell number to call 24 hrs a day no matter where I might be, if I need help. I had ignited a spark as he smiled and looked on at the used motorcycle crate, he would take home for his own bike.
            Escorted past the rows of jet planes, I zeroed my trip meter. Eddie swiped his security card and the gates in front of me opened.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

New Horizons

"Find life experiences and swallow them whole,
travel, meet many people, go down dark alleys, and explore dead ends, exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."  ( K.Fish)

For many years I've traveled. I've journeyed through the business and construction world, building houses, and sometimes even enjoying the process. Last year, I found out something wonderful. I love to travel. After my first journey to New Zealand, I set out for Africa. Nothing could have prepared me for the affection I would feel for the people and unique places on that continent. I was out of my element and loving it!

So now, having tied up all business obligations in Seattle, I'm ready to return. This time I will explore the continent purposefully in great detail. Right now, I'm having a visit with good friends in Ontario, Canada and tomorrow morning I head out for Frankfurt, Germany. My BMW GS800 will be sitting at the airport waiting for me. After de-crating and meticulously packing, I'll be on my way. Down through western Europe, across at Gibraltar, I'll start the Africa part in the colourful country of  Morocco.

I plan to end up in Cape Town in about ten months. I hope you'll tune in and follow along as I experience the real Africa between borders.