Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Rock

Well, I've been wondering what it would be like to take a ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar, and now I am doing it. Ryan and I are alone on the top deck of an enormous ship.

The breeze is warm and the Moroccan flag flies in front of the Rock of Gibraltar. I am reminded of all those things that are "solid" in life and how I want to be solid for others. Let's just call that one guy doing another guy a "tsolid." Ryan and I take some photos and relax as the sun dips into the ocean on the horizon.... Soon we will be in Morocco.

Fes and the Thanksgiving Feast

November 22nd.
Well, my Blackberry magically started working, so I exchanged a few emails with Jarad Spackman. He just finished up a weeklong camel trek through the Sahara Desert and is clearly flying high... He raves about Marrakesh. I start to get psyched.

The bus ride is long.....

The bus creeps along the bumpy dirt road en route to our next destination: Fes, Morocco. The nearly full moon rides the saddle of scattered clouds... The Arabic buzz fills the cabin and a baby begins to cry... And keeps crying for what seems like hours (well, it is hours).

We arrive at 8:00 pm and secure a cab (a cheap one this time) and head to the hotel. "Total splendid" is the place, supposedly the best of the budget options. A nice choice after all.
We "turn and burn" as in change quickly and head out for some dinner. Today is thanksgiving!

We find a recommended restaurant and it is nearly empty. We head in anyway. Soon Ryan and I are the only people and we start with giving thanks before our Thanksgiving meal. We raise a glass to family and friends at home and philosophize about life, love, being single and the adventure of travel. We continue on and talk about religion, our dreams and goals and eventually decide it’s time to head out.

Across the street is a bar....

Huge Arabic bouncers... Crazy mosaic tile... A one-man Arabic band complete with synthesizers... Belly dancing woman... Hookahs all around.... We join a group of guys and soon are talking Arabic. We quickly find out that Mohamed HATES Arabics and that he is a Berber. He makes that very clear. Okay then... Allrighty.... We smoke a hookah together (I really didn’t think it would be smart to refuse that offer). The guys are friendly. And as the bar closes one man makes it very clear that he wants to show the Americans a good time...

We arrive at the nightclub and Rantaj tells the bouncer he is with Americans and wants a special entrance. It works and soon we are in the club, in the best seats in the house. The music is pumping and we are having a great time talking and dancing with the boys. Apparently, it is very normal for guys to dance together... So I figure, hey, when in morocco...

Ryan is feeling a bit uncomfortable with these cultural norms and is holding out for a dance with one of the many girls that seem to be interested in us. As the night progresses things get a bit more rowdy and Rantaj is shouting things like "I am the king" over and over.

And he seemed to be... Soon enough we are surrounded by beautiful Arabic women and Ryan and I are practicing our Arabic, which is extremely limited and ends up with just asking the girls to dance or having someone translate... So what do you do for work? I asked one of them... Well, nothing really, I just go from party to party... I tell her not to feel bad about being out of work in USA, we call that being self-employed... I don't think she really got that joke...

We eventually fled the scene, thoughts turning toward the Rock of Gibraltar.

First Moroccan Breakfast

We awake feeling great. Head out for a walk, and have our first Moroccan breakfast. We take a shot in the dark and get a delicious Tahini and Panini combo$ sweet. We change some $ and practice speaking Arabic with whoever will talk with us. Wa assylum alykum! (Hello). In Arabic.

People are generally very friendly. English is close to zero. We have yet to see another white person or tourist.

It’s Friday.
We check out and hop the bus to Fes. We’re in for an 8-hour bus ride...
We should arrive about 6:30. Pm


We arrive and make it to our hotel in Tangier. 1e paid the taxi about eight times what we should have (still thinking Euros). (I wonder the taxi driver was so happy the whole time) This was about 8 Euros and should have been 20 dhirum or $1 about....
The reception person has a wandering eye. As if it isn’t hard enough blurting these new Arabic phrases.... He recommends Ali Baba for dinner and Ryan and I get the sense that that is what he tells everyone and we want to do something a bit "different" on the loc side of things.

For the first time I attempt to use my ATM card and it doesn't work. That happens four times.... Nada. Thanks JSB! We start wandering... Have difficulty locating the restaurant we want... And eventually duck into a hole in the wall for a mixed seafood pate (huge plate. I'm worried we’re going to be doing dishes because we don't have any dirham yet. Thankfully, they took our Euros and we headed back out to find some action. The only action was a bunch of bars with dudes drinking tea and smoking up a storm so we want home for a nap before we are to head out to the clubs.... The nap lasted 9 hours....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the Move to Algeceris

We woke to rain on Monday, Nov. 19th. Ryan and I jumped the train to Malaga, and then the bus to Algeceris. We're awaiting the ferry now and the scene is quite odd... There are a total of 5 Arabic characters waiting with us to board a boat the size of the Titanic...one of them with a small child that just ran and jumped into the security X-ray machine... No one seems particularly friendly... I'm realizing that I don't know Arabic, or French, for that matter. I suppose it is time to break out the phrase books! This should be interesting...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Greetings from El Chorro, Spain!

Wow, it is great to be here. We are having a fantastic time.

This trip began Nov 14, 2007 and as you can tell, I am just beginning to find my way, virtually speaking. I have had no troubles getting right into my adventure, however. This place rocks!

Let's start with a little background.

My climbing objectives:
El Chorro Spain - this is a climbing area in southern Spain, just north of Malaga.

Morocco - We will be climbing in the Todra Gorge, a climbing area south of the Atlas Mountains.

Next we will enjoy some fine adventure travel through Morocco.

Climbing in Northern Spain, near Barcelona.

I was just in El Chorro and the climbing was INSANE. After two warm up days, climbing hard 5.11's, on November 19th, Ryan and I fired a 1,000+ footwall - 5.11d, a very hard route called Zeppelin. It all went well. While I was on lead, I fell twice on the route in the most difficult, long, overhanging section. I was some 500 feet off the deck, hanging over a ravine with river flowing below...it was really difficult, yet we made it through! The crux was a mix of totally traversing, overhanging sequences, and really pumpy.

El Chorro is an amazing place. The entire area is quite adventuresome and it has a big international flair, obviously... We are staying in an inexpensive hostel called The Finca. My shoulder is holding out for the time being. We are here for a few more days then on to Morocco. I will be adding and working on the blog in the coming days when I have a bit more time. Until then...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Trip Overview

Well, I'm in an interesting position. In an effort to get the blog going while in Spain, I mistakenly changed all the settings to Spanish! I'm also typing on my new world blackberry, so let's call this a "test post". Lots of good stuff to come! Stay posted. Buenos Noches, Amigos!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Training and Tweaking

The next adventure is upon me. I had been training hard until a few days ago. During a new strength training technique, I tweaked my shoulder. I'm nervous. Note to self: do not implement new training strategies a week before a two-month climbing expedition!