Hey all, thanx for your kindness and wishes. They gave all my spirits a lift. I`m keeping well, I feel pretty good, in fact never been better!
I still have itchy feet and an eager heart, and so this summer I hit up Africa. That’s where my mind went when I wandered lately so my heart followed too.
Spent the past few month there following the north African coast down to western Sahara. I did not make it to Algeria since the overland boarders were closed. In fact it would hv been cool to cross the country and reach Egypt. Probably not the best timing though. Also I had to break the journey and pop back to England for an operation, stopped in France and Italy on the way to catch up with friends, but soon I was back again. Neither my doc nor my mum knew about this trip at first, but eventually I let the secret out while on the phone drunk. Not to spill the beans is now My Number1 excuse to avoid drinking, or to not have a phone. The locals excuse was Ramadan. I had a hard time during the holy month, it lasted for 4 weeks, they stop eating n drinking from sunrise to sunset then when the call of prayer hits, they break the fast with a big feast. Tried to do Ramadan myself, it would hv been rude not to besides I don’t really wanna end up chained in hell. Ok occasionally I hided stuff and took on weird positions so that I could secretly drink, thanx to that once I was accused of peeing in public which was rather awkward . So right after I arrived in Morocco, happened to meet an old friend of mine (Leo) from England which was totally random, so off we went and had the hotttest session ever in Marrakech. I had to admit not used to this heat, and the 43 C , Africa hot is real. Gotta stop every 10 min n have an ice cream while looking for the skatepark that turned out to be a flat circle with some stairs. Was good fun, n many kids. Everyone was after my skates. Could hv swapped it for a bag of hashish. Sadly enough there’s no place here to buy skates. So I let people try them on whenever I could, and so the little street kids enjoyed it as much as the old muslim ladies did. The most satisfied seemed to be a snake at Djemaa el-Fna square, found it pretty comfy and looked charming indeed in my boots. Talking about animals a chap offered 2000 camels if I married him while chilling at the beach garden, when I turned him down the price gone up to 3000. I don`t know what would hv I done with ‘em all, in case of keeping them after divorce, it would be rather expensive taking care of 3000 fn camels. The guy was quite cute have to say. I got a ring as well and few weeks to decide. Things turned bad in a split of second tho’. He was giving me a lift to my guesthouse when the cops attacked us and he was forced against the wall, searched and shortly after got arrested. No papers, no driving license, drugs in his bag, and hell knows what else. What else could have happened if they don`t stop us. Jesus fakin Chris I have to stop being this naive. I felt heartbroken tho. It was like a starring role in a romantic drama. Was sooo bad to see him hurt and treated like that, my legs rebelled at the sight of that and had to hold myself back from kicking the cops in the balls. I got away with this affair, was just matter of hours. By the time we finished, it was late night and I got stalked back to my riad by his friend in the dark, narrow streets of medina. I don`t know if he was after me or my suitcase, guess the ‘follow my case’ sign on the front encouraged him a lot, just about when he wanted to grab my arm a terrible accident happened on the road, a woman got hit by a horse and so I was able to mingle with the crowd change my clothes and escape. I know it’s silly but curiosity ate me alive and I was eager to find out what’s happened to the bloke. I did everything to see him again but things got complicated and it never happened. Perhaps better that way. So I moved on, went trekking in the western Sahara, which was ever so magical. I watched sunsets and sunrises while chatted with my camel, Jack, the sky had the most fantastic colours, I danced in the sand till dawn barefooted, hoho found huge sand dunes and I tried sand surfing first time in my life, hanged out with Berber nomads, slept under the stars in the Sahara. That was the moment when I realized I’m living millions of ppl’s dreams. After the desert tour just went with the flow and next thing I know, found myself in Fes sitting in a cafe, wondering where I will spend the night. Little did I know that I will be organising a hen party that night… 2 chaps (brothers) joined me for tea and I was blessed with an invite to their home. They looked reliable, family photos were pulled from their wallets, n showed on phone. Offers of cigarettes, and an openness that seemed real convinced me. Am I out of my mind? Probably. I had a plan B in case I had to escape this time. I hv purchased a stunt gun which was with me. …. Guess what happened? It was the best stay ever, great hospitality, the ultimate experience. Stayed in the family home for a week! Their 15 year old sister was going to get married within a week. Nothing beats the freedom of being single and I wanted her to enjoy it while it lasts. So we tried to make the best of it, visited awesome spots and I just didn`t want to leave. Felt like a little kid at Disney World. I was then renting an apartment in Essaouira with some dutch guys I hv met on the road. That`s where I ended up with some ridiculous tattoos most significantly with a freakin scorpion on my shoulder, woke up to that on the beach where I fell asleep after having 2 cakes I didn`t know got weed in. Thanx god the 3rd one stayed in my pocket. I liked all the cities I hit up but Marrakesh was the craziest of them all and so I spent most of my time there. I always got recognised when walking down the streets. Funnily enough no one could get my name right so some shouted Belinda, Bel, others just called me crazy. 1 day I was Mirlanda the next Marla. Best was when they named me Fatima berber after started wearing traditional clothes. It was literally impossible to go somewhere without stopping, men selling weird necklaces and little boys asking for kisses, when I heard Manchester along with a version of my name: I was like, yay…thats gonna be another mint tea. I loved hanging out with the musicians and magicians and hip young local cute chefs at the square, went crazy negotiating my prices with the merchants, played football with kids in the alleys of the souks. Despite all the warnings I felt quite safe here. My biggest scare wasn’t to be forcibly hooked on heroin and sold into slavery, or kidnapped again, not even the bloodsucking creatures, I was only concerned about the food I ate really. Had to look after my health, but it happened.. I suffered a nasty aftermath from African street food, I think I ate some goat stomach one night. I wanted to see and experience Africa in a less touristy environment, the area I mainly stayed situated in old town, the poorer part of town, and so I could hang out with locals, feeding donkeys, selling potatoes on the street even brought some music to lighten up the days. The Riad I chose had been my home base for several weeks if not for months. Made friends with an old holy Muslim man who worked there, and a beautiful friendship was born. No one seemed to get on well with him and there are tons of complains on their website which is funny really, people should accept others how they are and respect them, then they shall become friends. I woke up itchy with 50 odd bites, the kitchen was burnt down on the terrace on my first night, needless to say I was sleeping up there on the roof. And then there was this grumpy old man. I could hv stayed somewhere else. But I kinda liked how things were. Also I did my best to delve into the people. They really were the highlight of my trip. The old fellah introduced me to one of the King`s relations, and we had lunch together which was a pleasure. He owns a few businesses around there, pretty much the whole street including a bike repair shop next to the riad I stayed, with kids working there aged 14. I saw them everyday, and we made a deal. After shift they could have my skates if I could lend a bike instead. Remember one day returning it back I put a big box of cakes on the seat for them as a thankU. Ohhh god amazingly all disappeared in a sec. They were mabsuuta awi awi very very happy ! And so was I. Riding a motorbike in Marrakech was one of the craziest things I hv ever done. The souks are full of people, I mean mad crush of ppl. Donkeys, carts, taxis going past and people on motorbikes, even goats. Ohh and no one has a clue about driving. Not to mention the license. The hospitality was same in Casablanca and Safi. In fact more than I could ever dare to ask or even dream of. The skating community has welcomed me with open arms. Awesome people I met there! There was a contest when I arrived, n was quite a challenge to get in but my newly made friends made great efforts n sorted that for me so I could sk8 the park with them. I was again invited to stay with their families, and I quickly adopted them all. They taught me to cook Moroccan food, how to make perfect chicken Tagine and cous cous. I even gotta make bread one night. Also taught me the art of henna. Apparently we were staying in the most dangerous part of town and I wasn’t even allowed to step out on the streets alone. Managed to knick out to get some Kiks one day (which is the best chocolate in Maroc). Every night stayed up late eating vast amounts of sweets, had quite the sugar buzz going. Loads of Kiks (which is again the best choc in Africa). Final-freakin-ly found a company I want to be sponsored by. Haha. Yumm yummm, cheap and tasty. Kiks Rocks! We had trips to the markets, to the sea at night, skated at Nevada and I was taken to good spots where we had sessions. Look out for these guys at WinterClash, trying hard to arrange their visas, I`m sure they will tear apart the skatepark. As a matter of course the comp organiser is very positive towards the idea. These guys have been refused many times at the embassy so if all else fails I gotta marry one of them legally to be able to bring him over. No joke, just feel like giving back a little, they deserve it so much. It would be a dream come true for them to meet pros n shred in a proper skatepark. (pretty funny this would be my third marriage plan this year, first a monk in Asia wanted to give up his lifestyle n come with me, then in Morocco I was offered thousands of camels, but I would seriously consider going for the third one). However after few days I would keep going Solo. The next big thing I wanna mention is the Hammam (public bathhouse) experience. I had no idea what the hammam was beforehand but I’d hv been crazy not to go and check it. It’s weird to be bathed by a half naked stranger surrounded with 10 other naked berber women. Awkward, sweaty experience at first but it was sort of like being a little kid again which is good. And I acted like one too, started screaming when this lady threw a bucket of water on me. Thought there was a fire first, so panic hit me too. I went back regularly to relax in these steam baths n to socialize with others. Quickly learnt some Arabic that way which I will deffo need because this country is somewhere I will always return to. These ppl opened up their hearts and homes and this experience made Morocco one of my most treasured memories. Morocco u have captured my heart! See you soon, inshallah.