I leave what has become home. Bluesy, bluesy indeed.
"You are our brother, not just in law". I am reassured. Never had I felt easier, more welcome. Tolerance, frankness, my family, I can learn a lot. I stay on since Hasna has left 4 days ago with the boys and Nico and Julie, what great friends. They've headed for Toulouse.
Now the home in Morocco is empty, Zohra keeps some of the babies' stuff unwashed. And somehow, we all seem constantly check. Have this feel something moved in the bedroom. But there is no baby twins around anymore. Life seems, has become senseless/useless/who for? Bitter sadness/emptiness.
It is Friday 31st of August. Pick my passport at the Mauri embassy in Casablanca. A farewell pre Ramadan family cous-cous as on all Fridays. I leave MY family. Music is randomised, Foo Fighters, Stone Roses, Peppers, Salif Keita, Tiken Jah. But it is not that simple anymore, I miss my boys. We have taken this same road before to Marrakech, Hasna and I, stopped in Sidi Benour for a coffee and proud we were we had two (boys).
Sidi Benour, must have been a road and a gas station like so many other spots in no-where before, dirt all week, a souk on one day. Now banks and Italian style cafes sprout, roads are sealed, greenery arranged, waiters were white shirts, super large flat panel TV.
But we cared about Morocco's speedy development then, now the boys are so far, I don't really.
I arrive in Marrakech, Gueliz. Bars, bars and bars and I wash my brain free just for the evening. And Marrakech seems to have again doubled in size since 2 years ago, to be hard landing at any point ahead. Who's going to buy/rent all that residential, hotels, luxury, garden, property, apartments, golf pulp? How keep an illusion up if it is made for millions. Thanks.
A beer half way up Tizzn Tichka, the next morning, to wash away the beers from the night before, it is quiet/it is beautiful, some shepherds children chitchat carried up the High Atlas mountain by wind. This is Amazigh (Berber - wiki) country. I love Morocco.
Descent to Ouarzazate, here I got to know Hasna, my wife some 2 years and 3 month ago. Time flies. Weird all these memories attached to it. And so much has happened since then. Our sweet babies!
Morocco is campaigning. Elections just ahead. Lots of paper on the streets, that's it. Good luck quant même.
Quotes, Lou Reed. Lennon, U2
"When I think of all the things I have done, I know that it's only just begun." - I love you, Lou Reed.
This one is pretty adapt... Yes that's it, I need to get more and different quotes on my homepage. What a clever idea.
I drive a different path, down south. Worth taking a few detours, worth looking at the places I passed not so long ago. Foum Zguid, Tata, Foum El-Hassane, Guilmine, Tan-Tan.
"If you want to be a hero well just follow me." - Working Class Hero, John Lennon.
Undeniable a Lennon fan.
What do I do in Es-Smara? كنشرب أتاي ka nchreb atay, or in classic Arab أشرب الشاي achrabo chchay, I drink a tea. The further south the stronger the tea gets. Kicks me nearly out of my boots, or is it my first cigarette, or the striking heat. This is Saharawi (wiki) country.
"Let's get together and feel all right." - One Love, Bob Marley.
plays in the background. Football on out door TV in front. What do I do in Smara?
Laayoune, no cyber no works. The one I used to go to has closed. My Saharawi friend in there no more avail. Campaigning also in Laayoune. I drive on. No left or right view, it's night, just upcoming headlights. Makes my head go round in circles. Think about the future, I am a father now.
"Can't stop the dance, maybe this is my last chance." - Two Hearts Beat As One, War, U2.
Concentrate on what I have started. Focus on photography, write no-rubbish stuff, voyage. That must be it. Once we run out of money we can still open a bloody restaurant.
Police checks, the usual stuff. In Dakhla again no proper connection, still no real perspective re my future life. The hotel just before the RIM (République Islamique de Mauritanie) border added a 2nd floor, luxury suits?.
Maybe this will be the last time for a long time that I come down this way. As next time should be via Egypt, well I am planning ahead in my head.
Past Nouakchott. Mauritania breaks the ice.
Border crossing, a real nightmare this time, somehow my Moroccan customs document has expired a long time ago (150Euros), and the Mauri customs did not like the amounts of wine and beer I was carrying (still let me through with all). And I did not find my way through no-mans, done it 3 times before, needed pay 10Euros to one of the hustlers to show me the way. My mind's just not working well.
I think I started hating the Atlantic route. As I miss my boys. - It's this senseless feeling ... A long way down for nothing at all.
This will be the last time West Africa. I'll have to change my (our) centre of gravity. Move on.
Or maybe I won't even go to Senegal. Somehow I don't feel ready for the police and the hassles at the border that'd be awaiting me there. "They're freaking nuts. Waylayers". "The worse country in West Africa you can chose". My friend who went to live there. "Senegal, most people only go once". True. A pity. I think I have seen it, had it ...
Nouakchott, Auberge Sahara, as friendly as ever. New and old friends. from Lybia, Tunisia, Algeria, Germany, France and Scotland. We play a lot of chess and eat a lot of fresh fish which the Mauritanian coastal waters are so famous for, Cobine, Captain, filet de Lot. And I smoke way too many cigarettes. Gotta put that to a rest very soon.
And it rains now and then. Real heavy showers. Not too unpleasant.
And somehow the friends make my mood change. 7 days in Nouakchott and I have a bit of a plan. Go to Mali, repair the Land Rover, voyage! Just travel and it will be fine.
I quit Nouakchott and smoking cigarettes on 12th of September. The ice has broken.
"How far you gonna go. Before you lose your way back home" - Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Achtung Baby, U2.
Route d'Espoir to Mali.
The 30 checkpoints between Nouakchott and the Malian border are a nuisance but don't harm. 10 wave me through, 10 check the papers, 10 ask for a present, and don't let you off so easily. I have found my feel for traveling and handling cadeaux asking police again.
30 checkpoints is way too much. "It's the EU, asking us to put them up". Here we go.
Passing some of the river crossings just before Ayoun El-Atrous prove more a challenge for the MB307. At midnight wheel deep water, some asphalt has been washed away, leaving big holes in the flooded road. Wading in knee deep water with my flashlight I realise I sit on my chassis just behind my front axle. Back and then just through. This is how I loose my waste water reservoir. Who needs it down here anyway.
The Sahel has received more than its share of rain this year. Never have I seen the desert glow greener.
I am glad to have chosen pick up my Land Rover first before going to Guinea. This is still pretty much middle rainy season.
And never have I seen so many goats, camels, cattle and donkeys here, 100s and 1000s, and so many dead, run over by trucks. Swollen bellies, hooves that rise up in the air, the smell of decaying bodies, a constant companion this year on the Route d'Espoir.
When I travel I sometimes take hitch hikers. In some areas busses or taxis are rare, so I would not take their business. I like the "May God bless you" in the end. On the one side there's the poor, honest, who may even ask the fare before he enters. On the other extreme you have the corrupt police chap who waves you down and ask for a ride of 600!km "This is not a taxi, this is not a bus, Compris?" "Ok" he knows that I know that he was trying to take the piss.
Nioro du Sahel, Djema, Didieni, Bamako.
In Nioro I don't pay the police a dime! I know how now! Slowly I have become African again. Still really, Malian border hassles are nothing compared with Senegalese. Malians never leave the path of gentillesse.
When I leave Nioro, equipped with a new phone number, it starts pouring like someone ripped open the sky above, not for long though. Thunder storms in Africa can be so violent.
Years ago road conditions here were as such that you would wait a day for it to dry up. Now most of the road to Didieni is finished, a very good road, just 40km of dirt remains before Didieni. It is going to be a toll road with real tollbooths. This is development we want.
I reach Didieni with sharp and frequent lightning ahead.
The road to Bamako, there's sparks all around. I am in the centre of it all. The Creative plays Ballake Sissoko (worldmusiccentral). I know I am in Africa now.
The MB 307 has held 17,334km, astounding. I reach Bamako, Mali on 13th of September 2007 late. And I am happy to be here.
4 weeks in Bamako.
At first I have a bad flu for a week. When you give up smoking then you become ill first it seems as a way of cleansing. The Land Rover has to wait a bit. I need to find someone who welds my chassis well.
My boys have started crawling on all 4 in Vienna and their hair has been turning blond reddish. I can see them live on messenger or skype everyday.
In Bamako then I find a great guy, Patrick, in my very entourage and he is well capable re the welding job.
I go a lot to the Savanne in evenings, it's so close to where I live. They have live music on most days.
Saturdays I watch Baba Salah there, guitar all can, still, but very different from when I saw him in Segou and Essakane Jan/Feb 2006, - and really I thought he would be touring in Ireland!?
And not just Baba Salah is more chanson/less Hendrix in the middle of this holy month of Ramadan (Kareem, they say here), all activity slows down to a trickle, also my welding job.
Kareem is Arabic, means generous or bountiful. But Malians use it to indicate they practice daytime fasting.
29th of Sep my boys in Vienna are 8 month old and well.
Finally the welding and painting to the chassis is finished, and my mechanic Issa Diarra has his turn.
I still go to the Savanne regularly. This, my 4th Saturday there, 6th of October, Baba Salah has left for Europe. Another cool band is filling in (3 whites, 3 blacks, 4 guitars, mostly Fusion of Reggae and Jazz, mostly covers). Tired by the days mechanic's work, stunned by the quality performance, again I hang out till they close.
Luckily I have given up on smoking 4 weeks ago.
Tuesday 9th I am loading the Land Rover. Hard work as temperatures have risen recently. This indicates the rainy season, at least in Mali, is drawing to an end, maybe not so in Guinea.
I'll be on my way then, - this is two hearts beating. But I have a plan now.