16th December, 2010 to 3rd January, 2011
In this blog so far I’ve mostly talked about my observations of the world around me. Increasingly, I realise that there’s a whole inward trip going on also, simultaneously. If anything these travels are equally about my own personal journey as about the places I see and people I meet. These experiences have really helped me to connect myself together again, in so many ways. Seeing and talking with people in such a variety of cultural, social and economic contexts, not to mention environments, really has really defined the complexity of this world and of each step in our individual and collective journeys.
Well….eventually, I made my way from Barcelona to Valencia. It was a little hard to get momentum to get back on the bike, to be truthful.
This trip has been about so many things for me. Festivals and cultural development research has been one of the main objectives and has given me some basic structure overall. But personally, this journey has been about redefining a part of myself that in the past has been able to easily connect my work with my vision for the future and with my own spirituality and ethics. It’s been about taking a break from the busy work headspace i’ve been in for the past years to refocus and get a better understanding of me, what I do, how I see and understand the world. It’s been about taking myself completely out of my comfort zone to better understand how I see and create myself in each moment. And it’s been about healing, after the last five years of personal difficulties that have been constantly buried and not dealt with….
In Barcelona, I’d taken some space for this personal work. The inward nature of this headspace, immersed in warm comforts, combined with the cold weather outside, threatening, made leaving tricky. But once the decision had been made, and a night’s accommodation booked [a successful ploy to force some movement] I was back on the moto, enjoying the coastal scenery, the occasional vista over the ocean, giving way to plains of green and eventually to the city of Valencia. I only spent a night here, the whole town tinseled in readiness for Christmas.
The plan was to ride from Valencia on to Granada, where I had Hannah’s apartment organised, as she was in Australia. Then, from there, down to Tarifa for a night followed by a ferry over to Tangier and Morocco. My schedule was a bit behind after the extended Barcelona layover, meaning that the squeeze was on to have time in each place and still make it to the Desert Festival in Mali. After the Festival, following a week or so spent in Bamako to meet with it’s director, I had planned to ride back up through Morocco and Spain, back to Barcelona to sell the bike.
Now, to be truthful with myself, the Mali trip is getting complicated. Not that a 10,000km round trip moto trek through the Western Sahara to attend a festival isn’t already complicated, inherently.
The first part of the mission, the moto ride from Marrakech to Bamako, is definitely now ruled out. While I do like to get out of my depth on the occasional mission, and believe this to be a great way to learn about oneself, this now feels a little too far out there. I feel numb just writing about it. The ride through Euirope so far is my longest bike tour yet, so, not exactly a lot of experience to draw on. I’ve been calling out to anyone who might be driving down from Morocco to the festival to see if there was the possibility of traveling in convoy. I’ve also been putting so much time into researching the trip, yet still feel as though most of it is such a great unknown.
The main problems, from talking with people who have been to the festival, and from research online, are security along the road between El Aaiun and Nouadhibou, the disputed Western Sahara territory, and even on to Noukachott, as well as the reliability of fuel supplies and the dependency of a bike I was just getting to know. Realistically, the bike, at 500cc, is realistically a little undersized for such a grueling mission.
In some ways, I know the indecision for this considerable mission stems from where I am personally at right now. In many ways, stillness is vitally important to my own headspace, so the idea of such a major trek isn’t that enticing anymore. At times it feels difficult to regain that inner quiet, that contemplation mode feels so fleeting sometimes, let alone with the concerns I have about the ride.
There’s so much to express even when in the midst of that busyness, but finding the way of expressing it is what I have been finding difficult to access, as though my mind is full of ideas until a pen or pencil is in my hand, at which point the walls go up. I’ve taken to just drawing anything, figuring that this is also about practice and consistency. Like anything, expression is refined through regular practice. I can’t seriously expect to pick up a pencil and continue from where I left off skill-wise.
So with the trip schedule needing a major adjustment, but with clarity about being dedicated to reconnecting with my arts, onward, from Valencia to Granada, through the Andalucians, snow capped peaks, sun shining.
Really incredible scenery. I don’t believe I’ve used the word ‘wow’ so many times in such a short space of time, out loud, reverberating around the velour interior of the helmet. The ride was so amazing, that I didn’t notice my toes completely freezing up. A few regular stops made it easier to regularly thaw my fingers out, but I just didn’t realise the state of my toes.
Frozen toes aside, Granada is really beautiful. Such a lovely ride into there, green country, mountains all around, winding narrow roads. Arriving at Hannah’s pad, I unpacked the bike and rang Billie, Hannah’s friend from the flat downstairs, to meet up and get the keys. Settling in upstairs, a knock on the door, and Billie dropped by for a wine, a spliff and a few stories about Granada. Reuben, Hannah’s boyfriend also dropped by, demonstrating his flamenco guitar skills and performance styles. Totally entertaining.
The next day I realised that my toes were screwed. I just could not warm up my body and the damn things ached constantly, Hannah’s tile clad cold flat not helping. So, the first few days were spent almost exclusively under blanket with a heater toasting up the room. As time passed, I began getting out and about around town, checking out some cool little bars, even a metal playing cafe/bar, sampling delicious Andalucian and Moroccan styles of food and eventually being able to check out more of the town via a few long walks. Unfortunately, about three hours seemed to be my tolerance in that first week til my whole body became chilled to the bone and I had to retreat to the heated room again.
Billie took me on a great walk through the Sacromonte cave houses area, meeting up with a few friends of hers, before heading on to a tea house on the other side of the hill, facing away from the town, overlooking an old monastery. The tea house was totally cute, a small very informal business of a man who lives in one of the cave houses, serving traditional teas with bisuits and dried fruit. The walk back, as the sun set over the town, was especially magic, capturing the town’s brilliance in those last rays of the day.
As beautiful as the fringe desert areas of south eastern spain are, it’s disturbing to read that the Murcia region is running out of water. Changes to climate that could be attributed to global warming, combined with poor development planning, are the perfect concoction to invite a growing desert.
Christmas was a very quiet affair. Mostly to myself, the day was quiet and spent reading and watching movies. For New Years I joined Billie and a few of her mates in an apartment, drinking wine and scotch, enjoying the great feast that had been prepared. It was an interesting night, with each of us taking turns playing tracks, strangely without much flow from song to song, but still fun.
After extending out my stay here, to let the feet recover, it was finally time to leave. In these last few days of my stay, my motivation was returning, aided by the realisation of an additional ten degrees warmth to be had in Morocco, generally. The next destination was Tarifa, right on the southern most point of spain, to catch the ferry over to Tangier.
And the decision is now final…I attempted to give the mission CPR by booking flights instead, however two separate attempts, over a week, with both resulting in charges to my account but no confirmed seat on a flight. I’m taking it as a message. Realistically, I’m just not juiced for the mission and feel it would be way too risky on my own anyway. The Desert Festival trip will happen one day, with a crew of us on bikes and with much planning. Anyone interested?
For now, Morocco awaits.