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Posts tagged ‘Bus rides’

about travel days…

I read a blog post by Almost Fearless the other day that got me thinking (actually it was posted by a guest-blogger on her blog). The post was about what travel days show us. Most people I know, including myself, despise travel days… the lines, the waiting, the junk food, the bathroom stops and the smelly passenger. However, this post made me think of them in a different way.

It carries on saying that travel days should be considered a luxury. They are days to think and days to reflect on the past, present or future. I began to think more about this and sure enough… it was true! All the days spent on and in buses, trains, planes, taxis, sheruts, cars, boats were some of the best days of my trips (if I put aside some of the previously mentioned things).

While living in Argentina we took many bus rides through the night and I remember many bus rides I would spend just sitting and looking aimlessly through the window… but thinking…pondering… or listening to music. A song would come on and I would think of something or someone else…a memory…an event.

Again, on the Middle East trips, the travel days (oh and there were so many) were a blessing. They forced me to sit and relax, rest, and prepare for the next step. They allowed me to meditate on the days before… what had happened, who I met, what I saw. It was a moment that I otherwise wouldn’t have given myself and a moment necessary for all travelers.

Often I spend so much time planning a trip, some time on the trip, and even less time reflecting the trip. Actually, I often forget what happened… small details… people I encountered, conversations I had. For this reason, the days in between travels are for recording these events… either on paper or in our mind. The moments spent with only ourselves (and the smelly passenger) are the moments we should cherish the most.

I remember waiting at a bus station in Syria somewhere between Palmyra and the Iraq Border and waiting for hours… but more than this I remember the time I had to observe the people and the culture around me. The striking difference in communication between men and men, women and women and men and woman. I remember observing the looks people gave me (being the only foreigner). I remember observing the positions and places where men and women would sit. It was a time of reflection and I see that now.

In the hustle and bustle of traveling I often forget to do the most important thing. Sit. Think. Observe.

Travel days confirm our beliefs or ideas. They contradict and negate others. They anticipate future plans and keep an eye on the present.

Think about it the next time you curse the unforeseen travel day.
L

p.s.- Especially with an exploding Volcano, travel days seem to be more common over here.

about Marrakech, Morocco and Volcanic Ash…

G and I took a quick trip to Marrakech this past weekend after finding a good deal with Ryanair. It was one of those places that I would have been really disappointed if I didn’t go while living in Sevilla. It was refreshing being back in North Africa and back in with the Arabic culture. It brought back all the good memories from this past summer and Morocco, like the Middle East, didn’t let us down. It was a photographer’s paradise and I only wish I had had a great camera to take all the photos I wanted. Every corner showed us something new, from snake charmers to spice stands to the best street food to souqs, mosques, and the devout saying their prayers.  It was sensational. We CSed with a Moroccan and he was more than delightful, warning us about the prices we should pay and recommending the restaurants we should try. In the end, the best way to explore Marrakesh is just to walk… and walk. After our first two days in Marrakesh we decided on our last day to go to the Atlas Mountains for some fresh air. We headed to a town called Setti Fatma. Setti Fatma is situated at about 1500 meters and has some pretty sah-weet waterfalls to hike to. We hiked up and spent the day inhaling some clean non-dusty air, which doesn’t exist in Marrakech.

Monday morning we headed to the airport to catch our plane back to Sevilla, only to find out that our flight had been cancelled. Muy mal. The adventure began (or nightmare, you tell me). Who knew volcanoes still erupted anyways?! So, the main problem was that there were only flights Monday and Friday back to Sevilla, so we had no option but to travel through pretty much the whole of Morocco (Marrakech is in the south) and try to get to Sevilla.  We found a group of Americans who had agreed to rent a big van with a driver and travel up to Tangier (the ferry crossing to Spain). The taxi driver said 6-7 hours to Tangier. He forgot to say 6-7-8-9-10 hours. Yes, my friends, it took 10 hours. Including a pit stop to his “cousin’s” restaurant in Rabat, which I refused to eat at and told him instead that we had no money and we had to go to McDonald’s because they accepted credit cards. Maybe he was unhappy, but there was definitely no heads-up about paying 10 EUROS for a tajine. No way. So, McDonald’s saved our lives yet again.  Anyways, quick tour of Rabat we were on our way again and hoping we would make it to Tangier for the 10pm ferry. We arrived at 9:45pm (we left at 11.40am). Got our tickets and the ticket man informed us that we would have enough time to make the ferry. We ran. And ran. And ran. Seven Americans and one Brazilian running in the port of Tangier. Screaming, “Algeciras? Algeciras?” We ran through customs down to the port and saw our ferry tug away into the dark sea. Muy mal. We asked the man at the port for the next ferry he said that there was another one in 15 minutes. We waited. 45 minutes we saw a ferry pull up. Load up. Close up and start to heat up the engine. There we were again, seven Americans and one Brazilian, screaming at the port men, “Stop that BOATTTTT!!!!” They realized they forgot about us. We didn’t let them. They stopped the boat, opened it again and we got on. We arrived in Algeciras at 1:30 am with no place to run, hide, or go. We stayed on the streets until 6:30 am, when our bus to Sevilla left. 26 hours since we left our CSer’s house in Marrakech we were home sweet home. And how sweet it was.

Dear Mother Nature,
The next time you decide to erupt, please keep the ash at a level more convenient for everyone.
Sincerely,
L

p.s.- Top Ten Marrakech
1. Jemaa elFna Square by day
2. Jemaa elFna Square by night
3. Fresh orange juice from the stands
4. Jemaa elFna Square for dinner (eat at the food stands! If I didn’t get sick, neither will you!)
5. Palais Bahia
6. Talk with the locals in the Souq (you’ll get the price you want!)
7. Day trip to the mountains
8. Get lost
9. Eat rghaif (Moroccan pancake with butter and honey)
10. Visit the parks…
11. (not really a thing to do, but just wanted to say that maybe going to the desert should be in the top 10, but I had been there done that, so didn’t want to spend money on it again!).

about the Algarve Coast, Portugal…

It’s beautiful! Majestic! And a little cloudy. However, we made the most of it and our trip to the southern coast of Portugal, or Algarve Coast, was a success. We took a bus from Sevilla to Lagos Monday morning and spent the day in Lagos. The bus took about 5 hours and since we left in the morning we arrived just after noon in Lagos. Lagos is quaint, small, and do-able in about a day (especially if it’s cloudy). I’m not gonna lie, we were bummed that the sun decided not to come to Lagos today, I was really looking forward to some much needed beach time… It will have to wait. Tuesday we spent the day in Sagres and São Vincente. These two places are fan-tastic. Surrounded by imposing and dramatic cliffs the two towns were considered (wayyy back in the day) to be the edge of the world. Today they are the southwesternmost point in Europe. Henry the Navigator also lived, taught and died here. The day was beautiful and sunny, but windy, which is a little nerve-wrecking considering there is no protection or barriers to stop you if you happen to blow over the cliffs.

Wednesday, back in Lagos, was another cloudy day and we decided to leave early and head to Faro. I can’t say much about Faro as we arrived around 5 looked for 3 hours for a hostel and then, exhausted at 8, we tried to find a restaurant, supermarket, or any institution with edible items. No luck. I guess the ‘sevillano’ in us expected everything to still be open, not true. Thank goodness for globalization because, as much as I hate to say it, McDonald’s saved our lives. Yes, we ate McDonald’s in Faro… don’t judge. We stayed the night at Faro Lounge and were quite pleased with our stay (one thing to note is that they don’t speak a lot of English, which could be a problem for some people, G spoke to them most of the time in Portuguese). The next day was sunny, warm, and everything we hoped it would be. So we laid around Faro basking in the sun that we had been deprived from the previous three days. It was glorious. We arrived in Sevilla in the early evening and it felt good to be home…

Semana Santa is here…and I’m loving it… more to follow.
L

ps- more Portugal pics can be seen on my picasa page.

about Antakya, Turkey – Syrian border crossing…

Aleppo CitadelWelcome to Syria

trip: Göreme to Antakya
how: by bus,  9 hours, Suha Bus Co. and ghe-tto bus co.
miles total: 4,055
days: 1

I don’t remember much after changing buses in Kayseri (1hr. after we boarded the bus in Goreme), it was probably better that way. However, I did wake-up with butterflies in my stomach. Today was the day we were crossing into Syria and I was a bit nervous about obtaining my visa at the border, as many people including my embassy highly recommended getting the visa before the border because Syrian officials can turn you away without a reason.

Americans without a visa can expect to wait an average of 8 hours for their visa. I am traveling on my European passport so I hoped it would be a bit easier.

G and I arrived in Antakya and were bombarded with people asking us to take us across the border.  An hour later we boarded a ghe-ttto bus with 5 Turkish people and us to the border.

The border crossing went something like this: wait 10 minutes at Turkish border. get out of bus. Turkish official, look, observe, stamp passport. get back on bus. drive 2 km to the Syrian border. 5 Turkish people on the bus look at us in disgust as they know we don’t have a visa and they will have to wait. get off bus. go in to Syrian border building. after much confusion, pay 52 dollars for a visa. get hustled back into a weird office in the back of the building. give our passports to someone and he puts them on his desk. he continues to drink tea. we continue to sit there. he continues to drink his tea. we don’t see our bus anymore. he drinks tea. he disappears with his tea and our passports. we laugh/cry. he returns. drinks tea. gives our passports back. calls G to his desk. says Ronaldinho!!!. welcome to Syria. we go find our bus. get stopped by Syrian official. he asks where we are from. G says Brazil. official continues to name the whole brazilian football squad. he smiles. we smile. he says welcome. we are successful.

Let’s go to Aleppo.
Ahlan wa sahlan.  أهلين
L

about Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey…

CappadochiaIMG_6846

trip: Antalya to Göreme
how: night bus, 9 hours, Metro Bus Co.
miles total: 3,600
days: 1

5:30 am was approaching and I reluctantly opened my eyes (after a 9 hour bus ride), but was surprised to find myself surrounded by the ‘fairy chimneys’  of Cappadochia! It’s exactly like the pictures lead you to believe and a really mystical place… like a fairytale land. Only staying a day we wanted to find a hostel where we could store our stuff, Kookaburra Pension charged us about 5 lira to keep our bags and take a shower, a perfect deal.

Cappadochia, or the mountains and cliffs, were formed when Ericyes Daği erupted.  Then, when the Byzantines came they carved churches and cities out of  these erupting mountains, called fairy chimneys.  There are also hundreds of kilometers of underground cities that were used and built by Christians as a place of hiding to escape from the persecution of the Roman soldiers.

G and I hiked (above ground) for the rest of the day and then boarded our bus to Antakya (Hatay) at 20:30… exhausted.

Syria tomorrow…
L

*promise to post pictures whenever I get the chance*