Tag Archives: hitchhike

The Sun, The Moon, and the Road

Friends,

It’s horrible to be governed by the sun, as this invariably translates into appointments, deadlines and regularity.  These things all have a place in the world but they don’t know when to stop.

sun

They will encroach upon you if you let them ’til one morning you wake up (for an appointment likely) only to realize that you have become nothing but a “solar-powered machine” in the very worst sense.

Much better to observe the moon.  Changing perceptibly by the day, it’s unfit to schedule appointments by, and it only achieves its full brilliance once every 28 days rather than every day at noon, so some patience is required.

url

But its at those times in my life when I’m freest (Typically away from home and sleeping outdoors for prolonged periods!) that I tend to notice the changing of the moon, and gauge my progress in relation to it.

“Two Full Moons Since I Left Home!”

Three Full Moons Since Til I Return!”

Slowly your relationship with the sun begins to evolve as well; you make the most of its precious light and safety by rising with it and ceasing your activity as it sets.

395416_10150805587863289_1760065352_n

Of course when you stop applying the construct of ‘measured time’ from this solar cycle, the sun governs you less than it makes helpful suggestions.

When I’m in touch with the moon I’m free.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under blog, Uncategorized

Central Asia Recap Part One: Kazakhstan


My Friends,
   Due to the unreliable internets access I have been made to endure as of late, I havent been the prolific bloggeur I normally am.  Let me perhaps rectify this by filling in some of the blanks of the last couple of weeks. 
   I left the balmy beach weather of Israel on 16 December.  This was a significant departure because it was my final good-bye to my beloved Mediterranean.  More than simply a sea to me, I had swam in its warm waters, interacted with its peoples and used its coastline as a navigational aid for months.  I treasured my last Mediterranean sunset walking on the beach in Tel Aviv and even got a lil’ misty.
   My plane from Israel took me first to Kiev, Ukraine for a 9-hour layover.  I had planned for this and I used the extended downtime to make a foray into the former Soviet-bloc city.  Luckily, by entering the country instead of simply waiting in the designated layover area I copped some pretty new bling (read: stamps) for my passport.  The bus ride to Kiev took awhile but I actually like the city a lot.  It was very beautiful and the people seemed really friendly.  The food and drinks were cheap and although wet, it was not too cold.  My only complaint was how cozy and warm all the little shops seemed: the Christmas spirit was in the air and watching happy couples gazing longingly into each others eyes over hot cocoa/coffee by a warm fire really drove home the point of my loneliness over the holidays.  It was far easier to stick to the cold air of the outdoors than torture myself by going into these shops and getting a closer look at what I was missing out on.  I have resolved that I will one day go back to Kiev with my woman during the Christmas season and enjoy it like I was not able to during this first visit.
   Went back to the airport, waited some and got on my plane for the four-hour flight to Astana, Kazakhstan.  I had heard from a chick in my hostel in Israel that Kazakhstan was like -20C and I joked that I was going to freeze my balls off although I was secretly concerned.  But having already submitted my passport for the visa I could do little with this knowledge except steel my nerves against the expected onslaught of cold weather.  I began to think to myself that -20C wasnt that cold.  After all, I have experienced that in Canada and survived.  If nothing else, the cold weather would be a boon; people would be more likely to take pity on this hitch-hiker and pick him up.  In retrospect, such imaginings and self-reassurances seem sheer folly, but you’d be surprised what you can convince yourself of when you need to.  So, “prepared” as I was for -20C, I was dismayed beyond words when, as we pulled into Astana airport at 530am, the captain said the weather was -27C.  I hadnt planned for this, and this extra 7 degrees of coldness may as well  have been an extra 50 degrees of coldness.  I took a glance around the airplane and saw everyone pulling on their bubblegooses (puffy coats) and furs, while all I had was a Von Dutch zip-up sweater and a wind-breaker.  What the F had I gotten myself into?
   Still, maybe -27C wasnt as cold as it was cracked up to be.  I hadnt experienced it since last winter so I really shouldnt be so quick to judge, as my faculties of memory might have been flawed.  They were not.  Just getting off the plane and feeling the slightest touch of outside air chilled me to the bone.  I realized this simply wouldn’t do.  I thought long and hard about my options after clearing customs and waiting in the front entrance of the airport, shivering in spite of myself every time the door opened and someone entered.  I resolved that I would get the fudge out of the city by means other than hitch-hiking and to the former capital of Almaty, as it was at least a manageable -7C or so.  So I cabbed it to the Astana train station (of course the cabby had to be parked at the other end of the parking lot) and got a ticket for that night’s train to Almaty.  Having to wait 15 hours in the Astana train station was a trying experience: the multitudinous police and security officers present were so unaccustomed to a Westerner that they took me aside and detained me while they looked through my passport and joked about my shoes, my manner of dress and prolly my facial hair.  This particular incident happened in the morning but I had passport checks all day and was continually harrassed about where I sat, lying on my foam mat while waiting and charging my ipod.  It got to the point that I started being a little bit of a prick and whenever they would make eye contact with me I would hold up my passport and ticket and insist they check it while cursing at them audibly (they didnt understand Englirsh anyway). 
   It was so bad that my only reprieve from this intrusiveness was the dreaded cold; I made the arduous 60 second trek to a nearby cafe, almost died in the process, and spent an hour or two there drinking coffee and keeping warm.  I noticed the sun (which had gingerly risen around 10 am) during the walk to this cafe.  It sat so low on the southern horizon even at “high noon” that I swore I had entered the Arctic circle (and who knows, maybe I had; I really didnt do much research on Kazakhstan before deciding to go there as foreknowledge and preparation often preclude wacky adventures).  I dont want to overstate the cold weather but you must understand my situation: My upper body and legs were perhaps warm enough to survive for protracted periods of time in the cold (not comfortably mind you), but my footwear of choice is Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks.  These are a barefoot equivalent shoe which mimic the barefoot very well, particularly in their almost complete absence of resilience to cold weather.  There was only 6mm of rubber between me and the snow and my toes were separated which made them chill that much faster.  I literally may as well have been walking out there barefoot.
   Whatever though, I survived the day and made it to the train (although the walk on the platform was another trying experience).  The compartment I was in had two young guys and two old ladies on it who became essentially my Kazakh aunts, insisting that I eat with them and drink tea with them.  It was a very pleasant train ride considering noone spoke English.  Also, I finally got warm.  The train itself bears some mention because it was incredibly old-looking and it seemed to me that it was very possibly a Soviet relic which I thought was kinda cool.
   We arrived in Almaty the next night and one of my aunties insisted on taking me to the international bus station so I could buy a ticket to Urumqi, China.  Almaty was warmer but still not as warm as I would have liked, and I was forced to walk outside for over half an hour, poorly-equipped.  We got me set up for a bus leaving the following night and I stayed in the bus-station dorm.  It was a fun night as I got invited to drink with some Kazakh taxi drivers taking a “vodka break” in the kitchen of my hotel (I didn’t write that last bit as a joke, but its actually kinda funny).  We crushed their whole bottle (smoothe stuff) then I figured “fuck it”, and busted out my bottle of cheap scotch from the Kiev duty-free.  We crushed that too and smoked my pipe and I woke up feeling like shit the next morning.  My wake-up was even worse because it was conducted by the Kazakh cleaning lady who was yelling at me to get out in a voice that sounded like a cross between a cat being strangled and a little girl being raped.  I had to kill the day in Almaty waiting for my night-time bus departure.  I spent a good three hours internetting across from the station.  It was during this time that I learned from FB friends that Kazakhstan had declared a state of emergency in response to unruly labourers in the Southwest who were protesting the government for something (higher wages, better hours, more jobs, etc…).  We had passed near this region en route to Almaty while I was sleeping on the train two nights before.  Leave it to me to sleep through a conflict. 
   Around 10 pm on my third day in Kazakhstan I boarded my overnight bus to Urumqi, China.  It was awesome because I was expecting to be sitting up for the whole 24+ hour ride but it was a sleeper bus stocked with thick fleecy blankets.  I dwelt on the cleanliness of the blankets for less than an instant and got to the business of sleep real quick.  My awakening the next morning was a rude one: my busmates telling me to get my passport out because we were getting boarded by the Kazakh miltary.  Fortunately this was no random passport check; it was the first (of several) passport checks to go through the border to China.  The border crossing took about two hours as all the bus companies seemed not to co-ordinate their schedules, so there was a surfeit of people trying to get through the border, and these people had seemingly not grasped the concept of “a line:” I literally had to occupy my whole border lane to prevent little Asians from pushing past me.  In this instance my backpack came in handy for occupying space as it is roughly the size of a small Asian.
   Much more pleasant than exiting Kazakhstan was entering China.  There was a 5km or so “no mans land” between the two countries which was traversed only by my bus apparently.  What this meant in practice was that all of those people from the various buses that came through all piled onto my bus and I almost didnt even get a spot.  Plus this old man who was mad that he didnt get on the bus before me kept pushing me from behind.  It took all of my patience not to clock the Kazakh fuck.  But like I said, entering China was fine: in fact because I was so conspicuous in the crowd of Asians, the Chinese authorities pushed me to the front of the line which happened to be right on front of the pushiest fucks from the bus ride over, much to their Kazakh chagrin.  It was a small victory but a victory nonetheless.  The process was delayed a little by passport control who kept looking back and forth between me and my passport pic.  He even called a friend over to get his opinion on if it was really me.  That was really the only hiccup. 
   Clearing customs was a lot like clearing customs in Egypt though; as soon as I was free of security the hustlers and hucksters wanted a piece of me.  Many were holding wads of Chinese money to change but I had read about rampant counterfeiting in China and opted not to change my money with these disreputable seeming characters.  We had a quick lunch China-side and were on our way.  It wasn’t until after midnight that we reached Urumqi, and the bus saw fit to drop us off at a hotel instead of the bus station.  This was problematic because Urumqi was not much warmer than Almaty and I really wanted to be on my way further south to the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan province.  In the next few hours I had one of my weirdest experiences thus far, but alas, that’s a story for the sequel.
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Things are Tough All Over

My Friends,
   Having departed Turkey a few days back, I finally arrived in Lebanon after my failed attempt to do an overland entry via Syria.  The friends I am staying wth have an aprtment right in the middle of Beirut which puts me in very good position for exploring.  Being something of a “”Mediterranean people” myself, I spent my first day walking toward the ocean.  It was a bit of a longer walk than I thought but I reached it and to my surprise the natural coastline wasy very much still there.  I ran down more excited than a 27 year old man ought to be to climb and jump from rock to rock.  Having a ball doing this I also talked wth the many fishermen who were out there.  They werent catching anything large but Ive been told that “a bad day of fishing beats a good day of anything else.”  I did notice however a pretty clever system for storing the fish they had caught: instead of buckets they stored the fish in they accumulated pools of water left n the pitting of the rocks as the tide went out.  This I suppose is one of the advantages of natural coastline fishng, as opposed to fishing from a bridge or a pier.
   Leaving the coastline all climbed out, I made my way back to the road and got offered a boat trip by Aman (Iman?) I explained that I was good and took off but a few minutes later he was yelling after me to wait up and we ended up chilling for the next hour or two.  When I expressed concern that he was leaving his job selling boat trips he explained that it was his first day and he had taken his first commission of 5000 Lebanese pounds and walked out.  Well far be it from me to convince him that maybe he shouldnt skip out on his only source of income during the first couple of hours on the first day, so we ended grabbing a beer and looking for a scarf for me.  After we had walked some, Aman started getting a little antsy and explained that he wanted to take the 100000 LP in his pocket to the gambling house and turn it into 50000 LP.  Feeling I knew him well enough at this point to counsel him some, I said “yeah or maybe you dont go there and you wake up a little bit ahead tomorrow.”  “No, trust me, its easy,” he assured me.  So reluctantly I went to this underground gambling den with him, admittedly half interested to see what it is young, Lebanese males do when they are not working.
    The place was literally underground but well lit and sanctioned so it wasnt dangerous or anything.  But fuick was it ever depressing: grown men parked in front of video poker machines smacking the bittons like zombies and smoking endlessly.  I took a seat beside Aman and watched the 20,000 credits bought with his last 10000LP (about $7.50 CAD) slowly dwindle.  When he was at around 6000 credits I was like “dude cash out and well get out of here and grab another drink.  At this  point I figured alcohol was a more acceptable vice than degenerate gambling.  However, I can only guess at that moment that the machine heard my plea and the good sense it made and saw fit to give Aman a four of a kind which put hom somewhere just above the 20000 credits he started with.  “See, I can get up to 50, its easy.”  “Alright my dude, well Im gonna peace out.” 
   Degenerate gambling is sad in and of itself but there are not a lot of opportunities here in Beirut for young people unless they are the best of the best, and similarly few opportunities for emigration to places with more plentiful work.  So when that gambling becomes the only escape from a job you hate and a life of dissatisfaction its even worse.  I would like to think that if I were in his shoes I would handle the pressures of life better but I was very fortunate to have the upbringing I did and perhaps under a different set of circumstances I would have become that video poker zombie as well. 
   I took a long and meandering route back to my friends’ apartment but I saw a good deal of the city which worked for me.  Since I had decided to head west the first day to the water, I opted for east the nest day to the mountains.  That the mountains were obscured by blue atmospheric haze should have been an indication of how far they were.  I dont know exactly how far, but I left at 830 am and when I finally reached a distant peak (the site of a Maronite Christian convent of all things) it was 1230.  I admired the view but realized with some dismay that now i had to walk back.  Now I cant even begin to describe how beautiful the views  from the mountain ridges were.  Just know that said beauty was rivalled by the complexity of the roads that ran up and down the various peaks.  I ended up getting lost a few times in the various valleys (its a whole bunch of mountains) but managed to still find my way back by maintaining a westerly direction.  Weirdly, I also made it back a little quicker which I think can be attributed to the fact that I was trespassing through property and bush-bashing the whole way.  I even got stopped by the cops at one point wondering why I was in the rough on the side of the road.  By the time I got back my feet were slayed. 
   In contrast to the last couple days of adventures, I have not left the house yet and its already noon.  Today I will spend my time convalescing from the dual-afflicitions of a cold and athletes foot.  The cold I woke up with yesterday and I find it ironic that I have only gotten it now that I am sleeping indoors; when I was freezing sleeping outdoors I was healthy as an ox.  It has become a little worse since yesterday but I am getting lots of rest.  Its more inconvenient than anything.  Far worse to me is the athlete’s foot, which I daresay is a souvenir of my previously discussed trip to the Turkish Bath in Ankara.  When I got to my friends’ apartment here in Beirut I kept noticing a slight smell whenever I was sitting at the table or something.  When the smell began following me I assumed the worst and my assumptions were proved right: a double case of foot fungus and my brand new vibram Five Fingers shoes contaminated.  Well I bought some anti-fungal cream for my feet which I have been applying but the only remedy for the shoes is to bag them up and put them in the freezer.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to ask your friends if you can put your filthy contaminated shoes in the freezer with their food.  I dont embarrass easily but I definitely reddened up here.  Between the flu-like symptoms of this cold and the fungus on my feet, they gotta be thinking “wow, never inviting this guy here again.”
   In any event, some prolonged freezing for the shoes and frequent applications of cream for me all day will hopefully mean that I am good to go for tomorrow or the day after and can enjoy Beirut and the surrounding cities to the fullest before heading to Egypt.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Course I Don’t Want to Dıe ,,, But Not Lıke Thıs,,,

My Frıends,
   My departure from Ankara, Turkey was full of nothıng but good fortune.  After scorıng my Chınese vısa I admıred ıt and the full passport page ıt took up ın much the same way a fıend mıght admıre a vıal of the rock were he not ın such a pathetıc, addıcted state as to preclude any admıratıon ın favour of ımmedıate consumptıon, whılst walkıng toward the bus stop and freedom from the cıty lımıts.  The bus only took me part of the way and ın my elated state (remember I had no reason to expect a vısa so quıck) I decıded to run south to my freedom lıke a slave mıght run north to the same goal (I am on fıre wıth sımıles apparently today), all the whıle my thumb prudently at my sıde lıke a lure to fısh for potentıal rıdes.  One gentleman pıcked me up and took me to the road to Aksaray, and thıs gentleman was noteowrthy because he drove a beemer, the drıvers of whıch have never stopped for me.  Maybe there ıs hope for BMW drıvers after all.  Anyhow the fırst hour on that road was slow but I saw two trucks parked alongsıde each other and fıgured ‘lets see what I cant make happen here.’  As I approached the two drıvers who were eatıng lunch they waved me over to partake ın theır meal.  I refused at fırst for polıteness but Turkısh hospıtalıty, much lıke my sexual advances toward my woman upon my return home ın a few months, ıs not to be denıed.  I was glad to relent though because they were eatıng thıs egg, tomato,onıon hash wıth bread and ıt looked sımılar to the meals my ınterpreters would make ın Afghanıstan and whıch I had feasted upon wıth relısh so many tımes. 
   They were headıng south and had no problem takıng me further than Aksaray; all the way to Adana ın fact.  It was a 450km trıp and I fıgured that although I would lıke to see Aksaray I could not say no to the ground I was coverıng by hookıng up wıth these guys.  It was a slow trıp though and we averaged about 50km per hour.  Coupled wıth the frequent stops we made we dıdnt quıte make ıt to Adana that nıght, but I slept ın the spare cot of Haçı’s truck and they they took me the last 30 km ın the mornıng.  I enjoyed rıdıng wıth them (Haçı and Besır); good dudes, very generous and really carıng about my welfare.
   In Adana I took the tram downtown and wandered ın search of ınternets for a bıt.  I had the good fortune to ask for dırectıons from Davıd who ınvıted me ın for tea.  As the cafe vendors here stand on the street and very aggressıvely peddle theır wares I was wary of hıs welcome beıng a charm for tourısts so I told hım I would go get some ınternets then perhaps come back not really knowıng ıf I was goıng to.  I dıd however and I was glad for ıt because he wasnt peddlıng chaı at all: he worked ın a clothıng store and the cha was hıs treat.  I ended up hangıng out wıth hım upstaırs for a couple of hours just talkıng and such whıle hıs mother made us lunch ın the back room.  It was whıle Davıd was servıng one customer though that the customer’s son, a spırıted ıf sımple chıld, kept grabbıng the back of my pants and rammıng hıs head ınto my buttcheeks (to explaın a prevıous facebook status a few days back).  I, not wantıng to spoıl the sale for Davıd by upbraıdıng the chıld ın front of the father endured the assault to my posterıor ın sılence and tranquılıty.

Anal assault by a young boy aın’t a good look, ma nıgga!
   Lunch was delıcıous; rıce and a sort of stew wıth ravıolı and chıck peas.  Davıd ınformed me that kebap and doner were the equıvalent of fast food ın Turkey and that he avoıded ıt.  Thıs was good: I was gettıng the real experıence here.  We saıd our goodbyes and I walked out of the cıty wıth my hands ın my pockets because I fıgured I had made ıt so far ın less than 24 hours that I should really spend the rest of the day walkıng so as not to mıss the beauty of the country ın an effort to pass through ıt expedıently.

   I walked for a few hours, stopped ın a cafe for a whıle and set out on the road after dark more ıntent on fındıng a place to sleep ın the countrysıde whıch afforded some overhead shelter than I was wıth fındıng a rıde.  Stıll, wıth no thumb out to speak of two dudes pıcked me up and ınsısted on takıng me toward Antakya, my next destınatıon.  Due to a faılıng ın my abılıty to speak Turkısh I was expectıng them to take me all the way to Antakya but they dropped me on the hıghway at the poınt where our paths dıverged.  I couldnt be mad at that really because they had taken me so far, and deserted as ıt was there was safe outdoor lodgıng to be had even ıf not covered.  So I kept walkıng.  Not long after though another trucker stopped for me (stıll no thumb out ot speak of) and took me another few km.  I was startıng to thınk ıt was gettıng a bıt rı-goddamn-dıculous: there were days ın Europe where I couldnt hıtch a rıde to save my lıfe but ın south-central Turkey I could apparently just phone ıt ın.

   In any event I walked on the freeway ın the darkness (wearıng a flourescent marker vest on my backpack and wıth a strobe goıng because Safety Fırst) and the overhead clouds parted above me ın the most beautıful way, exposıng the constellatıons above.  Well, shelter was no longer mandatory as the nıght was clear wıth a promıse of no raın but I couldnt very well sleep on the sıde of the freeway.  Fortunately I started to come across sıgns ındıcatıng a rest area up ahead.  When I got to ıt ıt was more than I could dare to hoıpe for; a verıtable oasıs ın an asphalt desert.  Trucks were parked by the dıner and the whole area was dotted wıth lıttle eatıng gazebos and after crushıng some food I crushed the best outdoor sleep of recent memory. 
   Now sınce I had arrıved ın the dark and had been lookıng at the sky I hadnt had a chance to apprecıate the scenery.  I dıd notıce ın the dark however that the edge of the rest area dropped off ınto a valley though.  It was thıs drop-off I stumbled toward ın the mornıng when I wanted to urınate and I was greeted by the most splendıd panorama of a sprawlıng valley dotted wıth trees and orchards, and the sun rısıng over mountaıns ın the dıstance, obscured by the early mornıng clouds sıttıng smokıly around the peaks.  It was a great pee, but only the fırst such scenıc pee of that day as I would later fınd out. 
   I got to walkıng and ıt was slow for the fırst hour or two.  Interestıngly, among the roadsıde debrıs I found some empty shell casıngs from a fırearm, the calıbre of whıch I could not ıdentıfy (no? not ınterestıng? ok then…).  I got pıcked up by a mınıbus full of dudes en route to Iskenderun(m?) and they dropped me where our paths dıverged but not before I made some facebook frıends.  Walkıng a lıttle further I got pıcked up by a full sıze coach (thıs never happens) who took me a good ways further.  As thıs bus was also full of dudes, and dudes who wanted to get pıcs wıth me no less, I thought back to the waıter at the cafe from the prevıous nıght who warned me about acceptıng rıdes from buses wıth a certaın tag number on the plates as they orıgınated from a nearby cıty whıch ran gay tours.  I laughed at thıs thought and how homophobıa could have curtaıled not only a rıde but a chance to meet new people and make new facebook frıends.  Guys, ıf youre readıng, thank you for the rıde and keep on beıng you 😉
   Where thıs bus dropped me off I got pıcked up by a famıly (3 dudes, 1 chıck) who got me a lıttle closer stıll to Antakya.  Where they dropped me was the second scenıc pee I had.  I could descrıbe the scenery but I have already used the word splendıd and I fınd I use the word ‘sublıme’ too much as ıt ıs.  Just know that ıt was beautıful and I pıssed all over ıt.
   Not long after thıs pee I got pıcked up by _____ (thats four rıdes before noon ın case youre not countıng) who not only took me all the way to Antakya, but bought me lunch at hıs famıly’s cafe (best chıcken kebap wrap of my lıfe btw, and thıs from someone who has eaten a lot of wraps) and took me around the cıty helpıng me fınd a hotel.  Sınce my plan was to take a bus from Antakya to Lebanon (read: through Syrıa) I decıded ıt would be more prudent to make haste to the Syrıan border 50km away for a bıt of reconaıssance.  I managed to get there ın three rıdes (ıncludıng my fırst ın the back of a pıckup) and about 10 km of walkıng (thats 7 rıdes by thıs poınt for the day btw).  I got to the border around 5 and exıted Turkey to dıscuss the terms of my border crossıng wıth the offıcıals.  I explaıned that I was takıng a bus to Lebanon eıther the followıng day or the day after (I dıdnt know how fast I could get back to the bus stn ın Antakya cause I am hıtchhıkıng after all) and I wanted to get a vısa rıght then and there so that all I would requıre was a stamp and therefore not hold the bus up. 
   The guy questıonıng me was ıntense and suspıcıous and he looked vaguely lıke Inspector Clouseau, whıch made hıs demeanour whımsıcal to me.  Im talkıng the Peter Sellers versıon of Clouseau btw not that Steve Martın R-tardatıon.
 If he had looked thıs twattısh ıt would have destroyed my sanıty
I’ll gıve you some of the hıghlıghts of the conversatıon:
Syrıan Guard: Why do you want to go to Syrıa?
Me: I am tryıng to get to Lebanon
SG: Do you speak Arabıc?
Me: Not really (the answer ıs actually ‘fuck no’ but I fıgured ‘No’ sounds guılty)
SG: No Arabıc?
Me: No
SG: So you dont understand derka derka mohammed jıhad?  *Presumably he saıd ‘fuck your mother wıth the dıck of a swıne you ınfıdel twat’ ın order to elıcıt a response from me and thereby get me to betray myself as a lıar.*
Me: Um, nope
SG: What ıs your job?
Me: Student (I fıgured ‘army’ would have opened up the door for dıffıcultıes)
SG: What kınd of hıstory?
Me: (In all honesty I had never really declared a major so I just chose my favourıte branch) Hıstory of Scıence & Technology
   Apparently thıs was a Chınese Mınd-Fuck to hım because he had to process ıt for a bıt before ınvıtıng me ınto hıs offıce.  We talked some more and he asked me why I wasnt stayıng ın Syrıa longer.  In a few soft words I expressed that I heard thıngs on the news and I was scared ın the most meek and naıve way possıble.  Thıs was calculated as I actually fear nothıng (except my woman mıssıng her perıod :-O) but I learned a valuable lesson from Henry Fonda’s portrayal of Tom Joad ın The Grapes of Wrath: No matter how gangster you are (and all my whıte, non-gangster frıends can attest to just how gangster I actually am), always act meek and unassumıng wıth authorıtıes; ıt lets them feel lıke they are ın charge when really they sımply hold the cards for the brıef moment you need somethıng from them, be ıt a vısa or a break on a speedıng tıcket. 
   There were two ınstances when my ınner-G manıfested ıtself ın spıte of my best efforts to contaın ıt.  No, I dıdnt shoot up the place, but I asked for some tea from some dude whose job was obvıously not beıng my personal cha-wallah.  I thınk he was taken aback by my presumptıon so he agreed but the tea never came. 
   Also, when dealıng wıth Clouseau I allowed myself to ask questıons about earlıer questıons he had asked, betrayıng both my perceptıon and and ınquısıtıve mınd.  I know thıs may not sound lıke much to you but I felt very much as ıf I were playıng an elaborate game of chess: I was at the most guarded border I had ever been to (Afghanıstan was easıer to get ınto than thıs place), I had already lıed about my job and thıs guy seemed to be fıxated on catchıng me ın a lıe or a slıp-up.
   At length however he assured me that ıf I came back wıth a bus they would be expectıng me and call up Damascus to authorıze a 3-day transıt vısa for me.  I left elated because I had found a compromıse that I could endure: I wanted to see Syrıa but my famıly dıdnt lıke the ıdea of me hıtchıkıng through ıt.  The walk back seemed to pass very quıck and was only note-worthy because as I descended the hıll ınto the Turkısh border town of Yayladagl there were prayers playıng over the town loudpseakers ın Arabıc.  Now thıs happens all the tıme ın the cıtıes ın Islamıc countrıes but ıt was eerıe as the town seemed competely stıll and serene almost lıke ıt was waıtıng for me.  I wısh I could thınk of a sımıle to express the weırdness but perhaps ıt was just one of thıngs that had to be experıenced.  (Note: the Turkısh-Syrıan borderland was not the arıd desert I was expectıng but a mountaınous evergreen domınated hınterland remınıscent of some places I have been to ın Canada.)
   I managed to thumb my 8th rıde of the day from some dudes who took me all the way back to Antakya after I had resıgned myself to the fact that I was probably sleepıng ın a farmhouse.  Thıs put me on good postıon to get on the fırst bus goıng to Lebanon the followıng mornıng.  The reconaıssance had been a success.  Or so ıt seemed…
   After spendıng the mornıng waıtıng ın a bus statıon, I set out for the Syrıan border crossıng and thıngs went smoothly at fırst.  I got a second exıt vısa from the Turks who were perplexed about my exıtıng the country for the second tıme ın two days and headed to the Syrıan sıde.  As the sole Canadıan on a bus full of Lebanese, Turks and Syrıans they sıngled me out and asked me to come to the front of the lıne on the Syrıan sıde.  The polıceman whom the border offıcıal had referred me to the nıght before began lookıng ınto my transıt vısa but after ten mınutes ınformed me that Damascus would not grant ıt and that I would have to go to an embassy or consulate.  I knew how that would end because I had already vısıted the consulate ın Istanbul and they saıd I would have had to apply ın Canada, so really gettıng a pass from the guards at the border was my only hope and now ıt was gone.  I unloaded my stuff from the bus perhaps a lıttle more dısmayed than someone not enterıng a warzone should be.  I asked the border polıce dude to try agaın but he saıd ıt was a done deal and that the prevıous nıght they had only saıd ‘maybe.’  Thıs was a lıe, as they had led me to belıeve ıt was guaranteedl but I wasnt really ın a posıtıon to argue wıth dude.  He dıd lınk me a free rıde back to Antakya ın a Syrıan car though.  Sınce he commanded the drıver to charge me nothıng and sınce I had seen sımılarly marked cars pass back and forth on the road to Syrıa the nıght before I fıgured ıt was a government car.  ‘Ooh,’ I thought, ‘An auto-car rıde wıth Syrıan government agents: not only ıs thıs the exact opposıte of what the army ıntellıgence guy who gave me a travel-brıefıng told me to do, ıt could also potentıally be good blog-fodder.  But alas, as I talked to the guy besıde me ıt came out that he was sımply an accountant and the others were eıther too old or too fat to be mysterıous cloak & dagger types.  It was sımply a borıng car-rıde comp’d to me as consolatıon for gettıng fucked. 
   Back ın Antakya I have booked a flıght to Lebanon vıa Istanbul.  After all the progress I have meade sınce leavıng Istanbul ıt ıs kınd of ıronıc that I wıll be spendıng the better part of my day waıtıng there tomorrow on a layover.  However, I cant let hıccups such as these get me down: I dıdnt get to Syrıa, but ıt wasnt for lack of tryıng,  Theır loss.  
   Anyhow I am off to the aırport for the nıght to waıt for the fırst thıng smokın to Istanbul,  I am excıted for Lebanon and all the beauty and hıstory of Beırut.
Stay Thırsty 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

6 Day Adventure Recap: 6 October 2011 – 11 Oct 2011 LONG!!!!

My Friends,
   What a week.  I went hard for seven days straight, implementing austerity measures and trimming for speed.  So much happened Im gonna rock it point-form style for your perusing pleasure.

Thurs Oct 6 2011 – A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step…
   I was supposed to leave Rota early  in the morning and catch the ferry to Cadiz to leave with the two Annas in their rental car for Gibraltar and from there, Malaga.  However, I woke up late as the bed at Ricky´s place was dumb comfortable.  With a heavy heart, I emailed and called the Annas and let them know I would not make it in time and they should go on without me.  Fortunately, Ricky was at the same time hosting Wolfgang and Javier who were also heading to Cadiz to pick up a car and head south, not as far south, but it was a start. 
-Wolfie and Javier dropped me off at a rest station about half an hour south of Cadiz.  I was reticent to start hitchiking on a freeway but I figured I had ground to cover and nobody ever got anything done by being a pussy (Courage Wolf)
-picked up almost immediately by Jose who drove fast and got me 10 km shy of Tarifa. dope!
-after climbiong some medieval tower on the side of the road I began hitching again and was picked up by three Russians, Sergei Andrej and Dimitri, who took me all the way to Tarifa. NOTE: my name is Sergio Andre Jose and at this point I had been picked up by a Sergei, an Andrej and a Jose all in the same morning and afternoon.  What are the odds? 
-Kept walking east to Gibhraltar and got scooped up by Bianca, a sweet lady and the first solo female to pick me up on this trip.  She took me to Algeciras (pronounced like Al-Jazeera in plural), and advised me to stay off the freeway.  I didnt listen.  Walked all the way from Algeciras to La Linea, the city outside Gibraltar because nobody apparently wanted to stop on the highway to pick me up.  Slept on a secluded sand dune in sight of the Rock of Gibraltar
PROGRESS MADE: Rota to La Linea

Fri Oct 7 2011
-Woke up with the sun after a fitful sleep and began walking the last few kilometres to Gibraltar.  When I got there I was struck by how dissimilar it was to Spain.  Ive never been to London but it was what I pictured London looking like (ie red telephone booths)
-I searched the streets for mens pants because my beloved desert camo cargos had gotten ripped by the crotch the previous day and I decided they were beyond repair.  found some tight fitting green cargos at a store called peacock.  Theyre very…lets say European.  But tight pants are better than no pants.
-took the bus to the Strait of Gibraltar to have a burial at sea for my cargos.  This may seem weird but you must understand that these pants had been with me for many adventures and furthermore had not been stolen in Madeira.  They had great sentimental value to me and it upset me to part with them.  I hopped over a wall to a cliff overlooking the sea.  After weighting them with a rock, pouring some brandy on them and a quick eulogy I threw them in the drink.  It was a fitting end for a worthy pair of pants
-walking back through Gibraltar to Spain I noticed a sign for a Royal Air Force hangar (RAF).  It occurred to me that as a member of NATO and the Commonwealth to boot, I may be able to arrange a service flight (free flight on military cargo planes) if they were wont to provide them,  After doin some asking, I got a hold of a sergeant named Alec who told me that they didnt do Indulgence Flights, (most of their planes were tied up in Afghanistan) but that I should come to the mess for some beers, it being noon on a Friday and therefore quitting time for military personnel (this rule applies in Canada too).  I could fucks with this and after they fed me a few beers (I wanted to pay but only had euros and they took pounds), I bid them adieu and had a wobbly walk back to Spain.
– got picked after about an hour or so by Toby who took me all the way to Malaga airport.  This was rather seredipitous as they two Annas were there waiting for a flight back to Holland and I got to say a proper goodbye, plus a free place to sleep (if you can tolerate the announcements every ten minutes and people walking around near your head, airport terminals make great sleeping spots).  I had made it to Malaga and only a day later than planned.  Would such luck hold out?
PROGRESS MADE: La Linea to Gibraltar to Malaga

Sat Oct 8 2011
-got woken up by starbucks guy at airport who said I couldnt sleep in their restaurant area.  took the bus (driver was a prick) from the airport to Malaga proper to begin the journey to Granada.  stopped at a farmers market for some veggies, cheap bread and expensive coffee, and plus because it would make my woman happy because shes loves farmers markets (nerd)
-walked north on the freeway cause I decided that was how I was gonna roll from now.  after a couple of hours got a lift at a gas stn from a German dude and Hungarian girl who took me just a few clicks up the road til the cutoff for thier destination.  No swet though because I got pìcked up soon thereafter by Stefano, Theresa and Hannah, who were traveling, wouldnt you know it, to Granda.  At this point I was convinced noone could really fuck with me when it came to this whole hitchhiking shit.  But pride goeth before a fall, as I would soon find out
-after doing a tour of the city and getting some tapas (ps they do tapas right in Granada; whereas many Spanish cities market tapas as a menu item, in Granada you order a beer for 2 euros and they bring you food with it, were talking good sized appetizer portions here) I parted ways with my new friends and began the frustrating walk out of Granada.  With the noontime sun not providing a great directional reference and no compass to speak of I was desperately trying to find someone who spoke English well enough and who knew directions well enough to point me to a highway out of the city.  I ended up walking from one end to the other.  While frustrating, i admit i did do some great sightseeing. by the end though I had my first freakout and started cursing loudly the stupid fucks I was surrounded by who didnt even know their own city. 
-finally I chanced upon a British Petroleum station, a good sign because petrol means highways.  I instantly forgave them for the spill in the gulf of Mexico and managed to thumb a quick lift to the highway east, and then another lift about 40 km to Guadix.  I thought my fortune had taken a turn for the awesome but it was the beginning of the hardest 24 hours of the week.
-while walking east on the highyway, la Guarda Civil Traffico (Spanish OPP essentially) stopped me and told me to get the fuck off the freeway.  grudgingly I did and headed into Guadix.  I found out there were no national roads (ok to walk on with enough traffic to make hitching possible), only freeways (which I had gotten kicked off of) and the service road (no traffic to speak of).  Still over 200 km from the next major city of Murcia I found myself in somewhat of a SNAFU but resolved to check the bus stn. 
-the estacion por autobus looked like a dilapadated building from Fallout 3.  I found out that they only did service to Granada on weekends and after making my escape from there I sure as fuck wasnt going back
-went into the bathroom to rock a piss.  the flicking dim light was creepy enough but then I heard shambly footsteps and Darth Vader breathing approaching.  My butthole clenched up and I thought shit, Im gonna die in this one burro town.  Fortunately, it was not Don Diego de la Vader, but some old Spanish man with a tube in his neck likely from years of smoking.  After reasoning that I could probably kick his old Spanish ass if he tried anything, I felt a lot better
-I resolved to head to the service road and head east all night in the nearly full moonlight.  I went a little crazy this night as I was by myself in the desert and I realized that if someone came up on me and wanted to MDKR me, (murder death kill rape) I really wouldnt have much help forthcoming.  Thus ignoring my hitching instincts, I made a game of jumping into the bushes and canyons which adorned the side of the road every time a vehicle appraoched.  my heart was beating in my chest and the adrenaline made me forget that I was in bare feet and stepping in thorns, rocks, etc.. Plus I did all this while cradling a carton of wine, which perhaps contributed to my mania
-sometime after midnight I reached Ville Hernan and slept in the moonlight under a tree
PROGRESS MADE: Malaga to Granada to Guadix to Ville Hernan

Sun Oct 9 2011
-got up before the sun and got on the highway just as the sun was rising over the mountains.  it was incredibly beuatiful and I figured at this early hour I could get a couple hours of hitching on the freeway in before the next shift of traffic cops putt a stop to my antics
-grabbed a coffee from a rest stop and after another hour of walking I noticed a police jeep westbound getting off the ramp.  I thought for sure he was going to get on the eastbound portion and kick me off the highway.  however, to my shortlived delight he kept on going down the street he exited on.  I fancied myself untouchable and kept on
-half an hour later I was approaching a bridge which spanned a canyon and I saw two motorcycle cops (the kind who had kicked me off the highweay the previous evening) approaching westbound.  I had no illusions about it: they were after me.  I waited til they were out of sight and hopped over the bridge into the canyon below.  It was steep and rocky with thorns, vines and thorny vines.  I felt a little like Cool Hand Luke ducking the law as I was.  After scraping the fuck out of my hands and feet and ankles and every exposed part of my body (ps dont run from the law with flip-flops and a backpack on; it sucks) I made it to the bottom where there were some horses and a river.  I peed in the river as I crossed and made my way up the other side of the canyon constantly looking the several hundred feet up to the bridge to see if 5-0 had gotten wise to my escape.
-back on the highway I was thinking how clever I was then BAM, the pigs caught up with me and escorted me off the highwway instructing me to walk this shitty desert dirt road which led to a train station allegedly.  I felt a little like Clint Eastwood in The Good The Bad and The Ugly, when Eli Wallach forces him to walk through the desert.  I wasn’t too far from where they filmed it which kind of added to the experience.  After going what I assume was the wrong way at an unmarked fork in the road I ended up at a another highway rest area where I regrouped and decided that I would sacrfice mobility for the chance of a ride by standing on the rest areas ramp to the highway with my thumb out.  This was an ok compromise as 5-0 saw me and let me be.  But after hours people kept driving by.  It was kind of upsetting when I thought oif how many people passing plain didnt give a fuck about me. 
-finally at around 630 this one dude reluctantly said he would take me to Lorca where they had eastbound trains.  he was short with me at first but warmed up as we talked (he spoke no English ftr)
-took the train from Lorca to Murcia and crashed in a constrrction site til the next morning
PRGRESS MADE: Ville Hernan to Lorca to Murcia

Monday Oct 10 2011
-caught the early train to Alicante and made it to the beach just in time for a beautiful sunrise over the water.  copped some groceries and I was ghost.  decided to play it smart and stick to the national roads north to Valencia for hitching so 5-0 wouldnt harrass me.  It was slow at first but over the course of the day got five hits if memory serves.  Noone took me very far but every little bit helps.
-after the last guy dropped me off just before sunset I proceeded to head east as the prospects for catching a ride diminished with the sun.  I had gotten used to hitting a target city per day at this point and was mad I wasnt going to make it to Valenica.  Then two police coming from the opposite direction espied me walking with my thumb out and in their infinite cuntery wagged their finger at it.  Great!  I had just had my first warning which meant that I now had to walk looking over my shoulder so they didnt fine me for catching me again.
-I kept truckin til I got south of Cellura and made camp in one of the Valencia orange groves that had began popping up around me.  After several nights of little sleep I crushed a ten hour stint and woke up after the sunrise which was unusual.
PROGRESS MADE: Murcia to Alicante to south of Cellura

Tuesday Oct 11 2011
-I figured Id keep my thumb out as I departed for Cekkura and the train stn there.  In my frustration I had resolved to take a train to Valencia and then Barcelona because I had wanted to reach Barcelona within a week of leaving Rota.  Maria picked me up and she was the sweetest girl who said something that made me cry.  [hitchhiking] is hard, but its beautiful.  It was like in Lord of War when the president of Liberia says “bath of blood” instead of “bloodbath” and “lord of war” instead of “warlord,” and insists that he likes his way of saying it better; perhaps she didnt mean beautiful the way we mean beatiful when we say it, but she meant something deeper which resonated with me.  she was on her way to class in Valenica and dropped me off near her school where I jumped on the freeway
-getting on the freeway was a mistake because I was trying to throw a hail mary (people on the freeways will typically be going farther than those on national roads) so early in the day and nobody was biting.  I found a couple of euros on the side of the freeway and a reflective vest which I attached to my backpack for safety.  My feet, which has been suffering all week because I had been walking kilometres every day in shitty flip flops really started to hurt, especially my left ankle.  I took a detour in a nearby town where I cursed my bad luck and grabbed some groceries.  Although I had previously contemplated hopping a train to Barcelona when my luck was bad, my 11th hour victories always led me to let my luck ride which is why I had proceeded to walk out of Valencia.  I was again thinking of resigning my self to a bus when I saw a Johnnie Walker billboard which had the slogan Keep Walking.  I took it as a sign (everything is a sign when youre desperate) and limped on, crushing a click or two north on the beach then back to the highway. 
-at length on the highway I got picked up by Xavien who spoke English well enough but couldn’t understand it for shit and was hard of hearing, and insisted I sit in the back cause people in the front made him nervous.  (you meet all types when hitching).  We talked about politics and music and he lamented his wasted life (he wanted to have adventures like me but never did).  I tried to reassure him by saying that adventure sucks.  I wasnt lying: I was really down on things at that point realizing that I was still 300 km from Barcelona and in pain from walking.  Xavien took me 40 km further north of his destination but balked at taking me another 2km to a gas station so left me in the middle of nowhere.  I though how very human of him: We all want to do right by each other and we show so much promise in that regard.  Then we fuck up the endgame.
-dropping me in the middle of nowhere was a blessing in disguise though because I walked to a BP and began journal writing as an Algerian couple, Ali and Keira got there.  Ali said something to me in French then we got to talking and he began asking me about what I was writing.  Then his wife began talking to me (neither spoke English btw).  When they ascertained that I was going to Barcelona they offered me a ride because it just so happened they were going to Barcelona as well.  It was 8 oclock and I had been about to find an orchard to sleep in and I pulled off the 11th hour surprise win of a lifetime.  I couldnt believe my luck.
PROGRESS MADE: South of Cellura to Valencia to BARCELONA!!!!!!!! VICTORY 

Of course it wasnt luck, because my luck had been shitty all day.  Perseverance has been my most important asset on the road.  You gotta keep at it especially when it sucks and noone stops for you.  My emotions have been up and down all week and I have cried out of despair more than once.  But then I have been jubilant and ecstatic too.  Im gonna probably crash in Barcelona for one more night before heading to France and then Italy to see my cousin Stephen.  It might be a tough road but if youre going through hell, keep going.  (Courage Wolf)
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized