P-Cunt! A curious name for a shop, I thought to myself whilst fumbling for the camera with a smirk, I wonder what it sells? Unfortunately (or thankfully) the owners of P-Cunt are probably unaware of how amusing the sign above their door is and can be forgiven for their faux pas.
English, I’ve been told, is a very difficult language to learn; we borrow from other languages, the rules don't show a lot of consistency and to top it all off English has a huge amount of slang and idioms that are not found in other languages.
All this I can believe, I barely have command of my native tongue let alone any foreign languages and so I’m fully aware of the irony in mocking the weak efforts, flagrant abuse and pure comedy gold made by foreigners in an attempt to master the Queen’s English. As a graphic designer I understand the importance of words and that you have to place them in the right order to communicate the intended message. My appreciation of this mastery makes it even more amusing when I come across great examples of ‘Lost in Translation’.
After much thought we concluded that classic acts of ‘Lost in Translation’ fall into three categories; signs, menus and products.
Strangely P-Cunt was not the first time we’d encountered an amusing shop sign. Who could forget Restaurant Le Tit, Café Colon, A Dong Restaurant, The Red Cock Poultry Centre or Souvenir Wang? My urge to resist the shop advertising ‘over 300 slags’ in the window was unbearable!
Whilst on the road how could we not go on a road trip to Bimbo, Pastorsexp or Hornos.
Ordering food can be a real problem in foreign countries. Imagine our relief (and excitement) when we came across menus with an English translation! I love ‘Stomach Salad’ and ‘Language & Chips’, but who could choose between ‘Old Czech Mushroom Soup’ and ‘Ear from salmon with pie with fish’.
Visiting supermarkets is equally as exciting. I’m surprised Bee-bee isn’t loaded up with Funny Cocks, Piles Tea, Gayelord Hauser Minceur, Chocolate Negro Filipinos, Breast Enlarging Soap (I tried to convince Emma to get some) and Colin, a rather fancy looking glass cleaner!
…and lastly, possibly the most inappropriate item I’ve ever seen for sale anywhere let alone in an Arabic country; a New York city skyline lamp and lampshade featuring the twin towers, a jetliner and a hot air balloon that looks strangely like an explosion. The lamp rotates when the bulb heats up creating a moving panorama of the whole scene! All completely innocent as the product was dated pre-9/11, was made in China and was in a shop selling some of the most amazing tat you’ve ever seen, but for about 30 minutes the part of my brain that deals with conspiracy theories was going mental!
Oh…and P-Cunt sold shoes!
Our trip to the Adventure Travel Film Festival
was seemingly rather inspiring. Over the last year we've shot hours and hours of (shakey) footage and despite making the odd VLOG
we've never really got to grips with the 'ins and outs' of the editing software. All that is about to change. We're going to take more footage and make more films! This is a little edit of 3 months in Morocco squeezed into 2½ minutes. Andy
As far as overland expo’s and festivals go, it’s not very often we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. So imagine our delight when we discovered that the Adventure Travel Film Festival (ATFF)
was only one day away and then to discover it was located just 30minutes down the road! I nearly wet myself with excitement. Unfortunately due to the late notice (and lack of funds) we could only attend on Friday evening. Our ‘for one night only’ attendance didn’t dispel our enthusiasm for the event and excitedly we hit the road.
On arrival we were welcomed by the naturally charismatic, overalled and recently named ‘Overlander of the Year’
by Expedition Portal, Austin Vince
. Austin’s warm welcome set the tone for the evening.
Austin however is only one half of the organising duo. Lois Pryce
in her own right is a truly inspirational woman. Between them they have accomplished some great achievements. Austin was one of the first Europeans to traverse the Zilov Gap by motorcycle and reach Magadan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This amazing feat predates Ewan and Charlie’s ‘Long Way Round’
trip by nearly 10 years. Lois is an accomplished writer, banjo picker and in 2003 rode a little Yamaha XT225 from the northernmost tip of Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America, solo!
Clearly both Lois and Austin have a penchant for the vintage; this is reflected in Austin’s love of 70’s overalls
and Lois’ love of historic expeditions and vintage British motorcycles. Something Emma can relate to as her late Grandfather (also a well travelled inspirational man) had three exceptionally clean Vincent’s; a Black Prince, a Comet and a little 45cc Firefly.
This was the 3rd annual ATFF
and it’s clear that Austin and Lois, along with an army of volunteers, know how to throw a party. The camping ground, full of adventure bikers, cyclists and a few overlanding 4x4’s was home to the 700+ crowd for the weekend; obviously, the audience sharing the same authentic passion for adventure as the organisers.
Lois and Austin’s love of retro is also reflected in the appearance of the vintage cinema bus
. The bus is a slice of cinema and automotive history, a truly unique vehicle.
The festival is complimented with a schedule of workshops, seminars, displays, trade-stands and cooking competitions and demos. We attended Louise Wilson’s
‘Blogging from the Road’ presentation. The seminar was aimed at blogging virgins, albeit we managed to get a few new ideas to improve our own blog and website. We had the chance to have a little chat with both Louise and her partner David, you can download the interview here
Of the 15+ films that were screened over the weekend we only managed to catch Gaurav Jani’s very Indian ‘One Crazy Ride’
. A tale of overloaded motorcycling camaraderie through the uncharted ‘roads’ of the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh, in north-eastern India. The film is a touching story of brotherhood (and sisterhood) in the face of unforgiving terrain.
On our return home we decided to purchase and download a few of the featured films. Tom Allen’s
incredibly life affirming and at times raw and introspective ‘Janapar’
is an emotive story that gives the viewer a real insight into the struggles faced by solo long distance bicyclists. Beautifully shot, edited and with a well-crafted soundtrack this tale is more than just a travel film, it is a good old-fashioned love story that never fails to move!
An unexpected late addition to the program was a talk given by an unpaid Ben Fogle
entitled ‘The Accidental Adventurer’
. Like many people attending I was unaware of the extent of his achievements. This quote from the synopsis of the book with the same name highlights some of his greatest. “He has rowed across the Atlantic, walked to the South Pole, run the Sahara and skated across Sweden. He has encountered remote tribes-people in deepest Papua New Guinea, caused a Boeing 747 to dump £100k of fuel before making an emergency landing in Sao Paolo, and been mistaken for Prince William on numerous occasions.”
Despite his Royal doppelgänger I think he missed the irony in denying he was posh as during his talk he “poo-pooed an idea” and “had blisters on his bottom”. Despite my internal sniggers, Ben Fogle has an endearing character and is a great public speaker. After hearing him talk I had a newfound respect for him. We also missed a great photo opportunity with him as I was in the queue for the burger stand!
On its own admission and to its credit the ATFF
is by no means a big Hollywood affair, I’ve certainly never heard of long-drop compost toilets in Cannes! And that is what makes this event so great. The 5-point manifesto states one of the aims of the ATFF
is to bring together the adventure travel community. This criteria is certainly met.
The festival has undoubtedly inspired us to think more about increasing and improving the quality of our own films
. Our time back in the UK will give me a chance to catalogue and edit the hundreds of hours of footage we’ve shot so far. Maybe we’ll see our names in LED camp lights at next year’s event!
Incidentally if you missed this festival you don’t have to wait a year before the next one just hop on a plane, jump on your bike, paddle your canoe or fire up your 4x4 and head to the Australian or U.S. leg, the latter being part of Overland Expo
. If not, see you next year in Dorset!
When travelling it’s often the spontaneous events, the unplanned, the chance meetings and getting lost which result in the most memorable experiences.
When venturing disorientated through the heights of the High Atlas we found ourselves having to make a hasty stop to let Bee-bee’s overworked brakes cool down. We unavoidably blocked the street in a tiny Berber village; “Mafi Mushkele” (“no problem!”) came the jovial response from a group of men carrying out maintenance work on a clay and stone house.
The reek of burning brakes emanating from the car must have signalled that we weren’t moving anywhere for a while. As the workmen downed tools, accompanied by a chatter of Arabic and some gestures, we understood them to be inviting us into their home and to join them for breakfast.
Berber mountain houses are unassuming, clay and stone dwellings with several small rooms surrounding a central courtyard. We stooped through a low doorway into a sparse room with only a low table, a TV and a hazardous gas burner balancing a kettle. The seven of us made ourselves comfortable on plastic woven matting while a shy woman ushered into the room timidly carrying a tray of food. Warm, soft, homemade bread was torn, shared and dipped into clear, rich, nutty Argan oil harvested from the surrounding hills. A small plate of salty goats butter with a distinct pungent blue-cheese taste was also generously applied to chunks of bread amidst chatter, gesticulations and excited pointing and animated discussion over our photo album from home. Breakfast was washed down with copious glasses of mint tea from a seemingly bottomless pot; the hot gunpowder tea and green-flecked infusion so sweet it made your gums twinge.
As we left, youngsters scampered down the road with makeshift toys consisting of plastic bottles on wheels attached to a long stick. They weave and steer down the bumpy track with the skill and pride comparative to a child with the latest super-powered luxury radio controlled toy car hundreds of miles away.
The people expected nothing in return, a sharp contrast to the streets of Marrakech and Fes where just asking for directions comes with a price. Children here were not the cocky, street-savvy, dirham-hankering kids of the cities but shy and wary, peeping over walls in their ‘fun-size’ traditional dress. We departed leaving small gifts of notebooks and pencils for the children which the family reluctantly but appreciatively accepted; a small token incomparable to the memorable hospitality and welcome we had received. It put smiles back on our previously stressed faces as we fired-up Bee-bee and lurched ahead on our uncharted way.
Patricio Martinez is the larger-than-life character who owns El Valle Hermosa ‘the beautiful valley’; an eating and drinking establishment at the centre of a criss-cross sprawl of apartment blocks in the Eastern Madrid suburb of Barrio de la Concepcion. We met him by chance and were instantly taken by his personality and kindness, so much so that we recently wrote an article about him for Gallery magazine (click here to read it
). Below is an extract of an interview we did with him…
What is the most important aspect about running your business and what do you enjoy the most?
I like people to enjoy being here and to take notice to my attention to detail. I like to be generous and spend time with the customers and hopefully they appreciate that.
Do you think that this is important to the success of your business, especially in this economic climate where other bars seem to be closing?
I believe in three things: Good quality food at the right price, sacrifice and quantity. This has been the key to success for the restaurant, now and when my uncle opened it in 1968. I’m not really good looking so people must come here for other reasons!!
What changes have you seen in the area, the community and the bar since you’ve been here?
When my uncle started the bar it was a typical Spanish bar, workers from the community with low incomes would come to eat greasy meat dishes: testicles, heart, tongue. 7 years ago the restaurant was decorated and I changed the menu, since then the restaurant attracts more families.
Are the majority of the customers from the area and do you know all your customers?
I have regular customers from the area who come everyday for a drink and I have local families who come for food at the weekends. I am always looking for new customers, when I see new customers I try and make them feel welcome and hopefully they’ll come back. I use my charm and sex appeal.
Do you feel the bar is important to the community and how do you see your role in the community?
I feel the bar is important to the community, it’s a useful meeting place; it’s social. I feel I always try and give the best and hopefully the people appreciate this. I know everyone but I try and remain out of everyone’s business, I’ll try not to interfere in other people’s lives and will be careful and respectful of the community.You can follow Patricio at El Valle Hermoso on Facebook here.
Regular followers of our blog will know that late last year whilst in Mongolia our original ‘round the world’ trip had a huge change of plan when we received news that both my parents had been diagnosed with cancer
. In February we ventured out again with a no commitments route through France, Spain, Portugal and down to Morocco; 5 months later and given the situation it’s hard for us to continue much further and rather than spend our hard earned cash pottering around an expensive Europe we have decided to head back to the UK and spend some quality time with my parents. The opportunity will also give us a chance to earn some more adventure funds and really plan the next phase of our trip. Despite adventuring being temporarily on hold again we will continue to update our website and blog.
Separated by only 62 kilometres in distance but several thousand years in time, we visited two contrasting sites of ‘rock art’ in the Anti Atlas region of Morocco.
Inhospitable landscapes globally have revealed carvings and paintings left by primal societies; Morocco has over 300 prehistoric rock art sites, some dating back over 5000 years. Unlike the cave art of France and Spain, Moroccan sites are mainly in the open air and clearly visible. Nestled amongst the boulders and fractured strata of the Anti-Atlas are carvings of species such as Gazelle, Ostrich and Giraffe.
The rock art near the partly deserted village of Eghir are so rarely visited that locating them can be challenging; even some of the locals are unaware they exist. We were lucky enough to bump into a (slightly intoxicated) local worker who knew roughly where they were and pointed out the outlines of the closest prehistoric picture. Requiring a climb and then a shuffle along a narrow ledge we were lead to a smooth rock face revealing some magnificent examples of ancient illustration. The carvings here fall into the ‘pecked cattle group’; a logical description for the chipped oxen figures. Running your fingers across the ancient chiseled drawings there’s a flash of connection to an individual who stood on the exact same spot yet infinitely worlds apart.
The images are open to interpretation, but rock art is widely considered to be a form of communication; possibly to share the whereabouts of food, water and predators or even mark territorial rights. Some markings may even commemorate events; depictions of life-sized human carrying weapons can be found in the High Atlas, possibly honoring battles.
In the rugged Mountains just 4km southwest of Tafraoute, in Aoumerkt, is a slightly more contemporary type of rock art; the infamous (and now slightly faded) blue rocks. In 1984, Belgian artist Jean Verame, assisted by a team of Moroccan firemen armed with 18 tonnes of paint, hosed an array of blue, violet and red paint over boulders and small hills of the Anti-Atlas. Fortunately, King Hassan II liked the resulting surreal addition to the landscape and so they sit oddly in the valley while the elements slowly weather them back to nature. Although they have lost their sharpness of colour, they have kept their mesmerising visual magnetism and remain a curious addition to the already stunning panorama. Two fusions of art and nature separated by the vastness of time yet each as relevant, aesthetically alluring and thought provoking as the other.
Morocco’s notorious Rif region, a mainly mountainous area in the north, stretching over 300km from Tangier in the west to the Melwiyya River in the east is a natural boarder between Europe and Africa. It is also an area synonymous with Marijuana production.
According to some sources, the country is home to approximately 220,000 acres of Marijuana fields and it is believed that Morocco produces nearly half the world’s hashish supplies.
Called “kif” by the locals, hashish takes on a new culture and power in the Rif Mountains; unfortunately this isn’t a positive thing. Despite the production, sale and use of Marijuana being illegal it is still a massive income for the country and one of its biggest exports. The areas reputation also attracts tourists only interested in getting stoned.
Unfortunately if you are travelling in this area the locals assume you are only interested in buying drugs. For us these vast limestone mountains with forests of towering oak and cedar should have offered up what the guidebook described as “One of Morocco’s most memorable journeys”.
With previous knowledge of the areas notoriety is was with no surprise that on arrival our vision was impaired by a thick dense cloud and seemingly the Rif was living up to its reputation. Upon opening Bee-bee’s windows and not being hit by a recognisable stench it become blatantly apparent that the dense cloud obscuring the road wasn’t a thick weed haze but a naturally occurring fog.
As with most criminal activity the drug business here is far from friendly, Ketama in particular is by all accounts a rough and dangerous place with plenty of scams involving tourists, drug dealers and the police. Driving through this busy town we didn’t see one woman.
The fog only exaggerated the seediness of the area as ghostly men desperate to make sales appeared through the haze at the side of the road and attempted to stop our car.
For most of our journey between Al Hoceima and the beautiful town of Chefchaouen visibility was at times down to about 15m. Driving on these narrow roads in such conditions, often with sheer cliff edges (we think) and impeding doom around every corner was not a pleasant experience.
Occasionally we’d make a futile attempt to wait for the fog to lift in small laybys. These were always hampered when our car was surrounded by groups of men who’d appear from the forest edge aggressively trying to make a sale. At times our car was tail-gated by gangs of menacing men in Mercedes and vans who overtook and attempted to stop our vehicle.
Sadly what should have been a spectacular drive through some of the countries most impressive scenery became quite a stressful 6-hour chore until we descended the 1500m high ridge and the fog cleared. Fortunately our final destination at the end of our perilous journey was the beautifully friendly town of Chefchaouen; restoring our faith in what is a wonderful country.
On the fringes of the Sahara in Southern Morocco a seasonal phenomenon occurs in wetter years. Rain collects in a shallow, temporary salt lake, offering a feeding and resting site for thousands of migratory birds on their arduous journeys from Africa to Northern lands. This ephemeral lagoon was our camp for the night.
By first light the Ornithological Orchestra is tuning up for its performance. As a lone audience member I took my seat at the waters edge, a crunchy white layer of salt giving way underfoot to a spongy, sticky brown mud underneath. First to sound are the numerous pairs of Ruddy Shelducks, a brash repertoire of high-pitched barking and donkey-like honking as they glide across the surface. Rusty, auburn plumage reveals a shiny green flash of feathers; a flapping fanfare as they fly past, trumpeting out of tune. A Black-Winged Stilt squeaks shrilly as it wades elegantly past. Its bright red legs, glistening wet in the sun, seem to bend backwards as it strides like the most precise, poised ballerina through the shallows. Its perfect reflection in the still, mirror-like water reaches up to merge with its probing, narrow, jet-black beak as it delves for food in the muddy margins. Floppy red feet are revealed during its exaggerated steps and a white-feathered rear flashes as it dives its head.
The rising sun turns the distant arid mountains a rusty red in the dawn light, while behind the towering, undulating dunes of Erg Chebbi loom surreally out of the horizon. Shrieking, squealing calls of approaching flocks of Terns, swooping acrobatically across the waters surface. Graceful, speckled Sandpipers bob across sandbanks, whistling rhythmically while Coots cruise past, heads nodding to the beat. Tiny Kentish Plovers tiptoe unassumingly through the grassy fringes, whistling hurried, nervous ‘pip-pips’ in a hushed percussion.
The highlight of the symphony comes from the harmonious assemblage of Flamingos, their startling white and rose-coloured plumage a vivid contrast to the black, basalt hamada hills beyond. Their pink, u-bend necks plunge beaks methodically into the brackish water, a melodic murmuring as they extend their wide crimson wingspans in full.
As the sun rises high, glaring dazzlingly on the lake surface, the intensifying heat transforms the distant bank to a distorted, watery heat haze. The avian concerto settles into a calmer harmony. This has been a truly unique spectacle; migratory musicians en-mass. Bird song in stereo surround sound.
In 1956 the French left Morocco after 44-years of occupation but recent times have seen a new invasion; from the Southern Spanish Ports they come in their thousands, a campervan cavalcade marching to a victory of sunshine and low-cost campsites.
Throughout natural history, species with the means (ie-wings) have wisely selected to spend their winter months in the sunshine of North Africa, returning to the lush landscapes of Europe during the warmer summer months. This mass-migration of sleek, shiny-white motorhomes starts around December; armies of retired French couples cross the straits of Gibraltar and spread strategically across Moroccan camping grounds.
Rigorous behavioural routines can be observed; departure to the next site is at 8.30am sharp, with arrival around midday for lunch. Males typically drive, with females directing the fibreglass monsters into position through a series of bizarre hand signals. Yellow plastic wheel wedges level the automobile to perfection, the satellite dish rotates into position, astroturf is rolled outside the doorway, a miniature dog appears on its lead (or even cats) and a pot plant completes the picnic table and two chairs.
Territorial behaviour is intense, parking is unidirectional with an unwritten rule of personal space encroachment; an awning overstretching into a neighbours pitch will be met with fierce aggression. On one occasion we witnessed a ferocious altercation culminating in a couple spraying a hose over a man and his wife that refused to move their car from slightly blocking the communal tap. Morning sees a parade of males carrying ‘Vide cassettes’ from their on-board toilettes, followed by a mass-grooming of vehicles; vertical mopping maintains the pristine gleam while females polish the windows and hoover the 3.1m2 of interior carpet.
But surely this kind of mass tourism is great for the struggling Moroccan economy? Not so much when these vehicles represent Carrefour-on-wheels; stocked to the roof with Cotes-du-Rhone and Camembert they remove the need to shop or eat at restaurants locally and hotels, buses and taxis are unnecessary when you travel in your accommodation. Behind high campsite fences on the fringes of towns, there is little integration with local communities or absorption of culture; essentially these mobile home ‘cocoons’ are miniature replicas of their French apartment equivalent (only with winter sunshine). French is Morocco’s widely-spoken second language so communication is effortless and at around 5 Euros per night, pitch fees are a fraction of European sites. Some campervans will move around the country but many take root in a single location for the entire duration of their 3 month visa. On the outskirts of Taghazout a miniature city has grown on a stretch of coastal wasteland; hundreds of campervans congregate in groups, encircling areas where Petanque is played and Christmas trees and lights dot the rough ground in December.
On the flip side of the dirham is the possibility that maybe a season in North Africa is an avoidance of ridiculously high French winter fuel bills. Retired couples removed from the social circles that employment brings are possibly seeking new communal interactions. For overlanders, this influx of motorhome tourism has provided an infrastructure of convenient campsites throughout the country, yet the immaculate, meandering, camping car convoy can be escaped in minutes via any road with a slightly rough surface.
In a country that once saw transportation and movement over its deserts and mountains via a Camel Train, there now comes the Campervan Train.