Part 2 – Encounters
The cycling was fantastic. My legs had shed the few ounces of fat and were now lean and mean. Unless I was doing a lot of climbing, I could keep my breathing under control and the riding was pure joy. Morocco was a true mixture of sensations, and I spent several weeks exploring this diverse country. It was January 2013, cool to warm and pleasant during the day, but extremely cold at night. The idea of my writings now are not to repeat what has gone before, but to do a quick summary, so dig back into my blog if you want the full version with all the photographs.
In France I’d had the opportunity to share my story with a selected few who had taken me in, given me a warm bed and a hot meal. It was also the first time I’d ever spoken about my depression and I found it helped not just me, but my kind hosts. Here was a couple who had lived with depression for over 30 years and yet stayed together, sharing the hurt and pain. I decided that day to openly talk about this illness, so often hidden from friends and family. It became easier to talk with strangers because there was no judgement, no calls for you to “get a grip” or “snap out of it.”
When I met Sam in Morocco, my sensors were in full ‘connect’ mode. Like I said earlier, broken people have a way of attracting other broken people and Sam was broken. We spent time together, discussing our lives and what the future might hold for us both. It was a reality check, because I don’t pull punches. I never say just what people want to hear, it’s one of the things I used to be well known for – being bluntly honest. I’m not even sure if I really helped, but I’d like to think I did and in that meeting I made a true friend. Maybe I can even say we both came away with a true desire to live our lives to the full.
That’s the way I saw it then, but of course depression is not something that lets go of you so easily. There would be many more battles to come…
There is one other story I’d like to share from Morocco, which fits in well with this blog article. Sometimes life has a way of pushing you down a certain path and whether it is what you desired is another matter entirely. While wandering around the Fez Medina, I spotted local craftsmen working on various vessels. I stopped to ask (using a kind of mime language) if I could take photographs, when I was astonished to be answered in perfect English by this gentleman pictured below. It turned out he had studied at Oxford University, but had decided he would spend his final days working in his homeland, teaching others the centuries old art he had learned from his forefathers.
The wide open spaces (and deserts) of Morocco prepared me perfectly for my crossing of the Western Sahara. While some days I had definitely bitten off more than I could chew, in truth I had started to get cocky, asking myself what the ‘big deal’ was in riding and wild camping in the sandy landscape. It was tough going, but I was able to ride the bike here, even though I’m not sure the word “road” really applies to the surface underneath my tires.
Feeling pretty good, my next challenge would be to cross the Western Sahara. The ‘easy’ route involved following the ‘new’ tarmac road for 1,000 km’s, so I chose to ride a good portion of the old road. I say ride with tongue firmly in cheek, because I pushed my bike and luggage through sand for more than a few days.
The biggest problem was the heat and subsequently carrying enough water as 24 liters would last less than 2 days, with no indication as to whether you would find another source before running out. Although I’d done some internet research, many of the stations mentioned were now just lifeless shells, abandoned to the ever shifting sands. But somehow in this inhospitable place, I had never felt more alive. The solitude, the quiet, the amazing stars overhead (you could clearly see the milky way) more than made up for the hard effort expended during the day.
Too soon I was in Africa proper, crossing the no mans land into Mauritania. Africa was not kind to me, although it did give me one of my most enduring memories of the whole trip, restoring my faith in mankind. I’ll tell you more about that in my next update…