Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Days 69 to 102 Tunisia and Libya

069 Tunis again...
070 Tunis
071 Khladia 2053 kms
072 Zaghouan 2091 kms
073 Enfidha 2132 kms
074 Sousse 2181 kms
075 Monastir 2207 kms
076 Bekalta 2241 kms
077 Rejiche 2271 kms
078 Rejiche 2271 kms
079 Chebba 2306 kms
080 El Louza 2344 kms
081 Sfax 2391 kms
083 Nakta 2417 kms
084 Mahdas 2453 kms
085 Skirra 2493 kms
086 Akrit 2530 kms
087 Gebes 2567 kms
088 Zircene 2597 kms
089 Arram 2623 kms
090 Saadame 2659 kms
091 Chahbania 2695
092 Ben Gardene 2742 kms
093 Ras Adjir 2778 kms
094 Bukamas LIBYA 2804 kms
095 Zuara 2844 kms
096 Sabrata 2880 kms
097 Jadda'aim 2926 kms
098 Tripoli 2968 kms
099 Tripoli 2968 kms
100 Sidi Burrum 3008 kms
101 Tripoli 3044 kms
102 [flight to Egypt]

Day 118: Fits and False Starts

Thomas Jefferson said in reference to Grey's Rebellion that 'a little revolution from time to time is a good thing.' But the one here in Egypt is interrupting my pilgrimage =(

I'm still enjoying Cairo - the quarter called 'Garbage Town' - because today's the first aniversary of the revolution and the demonstrations against the interim military control has created a bit of instability among the citizenry. I've got a route figured out but need to be taken about 40 kilometers south of the city to a point where I can begin. Knowing the starting point with certainty is a key element of the successful arrival at the destination. Today's not a good day to travel, everyone among the warm Coptic community tells me. Tomorrow's better. Enjoy the Egyptian hospitality and cuisine. I can easily and enjoyably do that!

This pilgrimage differs from all the others I've made. Each time previously, I got up and walked each day, except the very few days I had good reason not to - head cold, boot repair, holiday... This pilgrimage my steady program of walking has been punctuated with extended time-outs... I've hunkered down for planning and thinking quite a few times now... would it have been the same if I had been able to start on the day of St Michael the Archangel instead of St Jerome the thinker? The point is moot. Tomorrow, inshallah, I'll finally be able to begin the desert trek - eastward up one long dry wadi to the top of a plateau then southward down another... Doh! it rained last night in Garbage Town... I hope my wadis are still dry!

Oh, and boot update... The durable, inflexible, heavy soles have been holding up remarkably well. The interior lining at the back of the heal have been troublesome having gotten warn and frayed cutting into the skin on my Achilles giving me blisters. Each repair has only lasted a short while. Calluses are thick by now, so it just doesn't matter any more. Sitting idle in Cairo, I thought I'd go ahead and have the extra heals I've been carrying put on for the last rather rocky 1,000 kilometers I face but the cobblers I've talked with don't have the tools to deal with molded soles. It's all been a folly. Lackaday!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 115: The Edge of Tranquility

Visiting the ancient monasteries of Wadi Natrum has been the sought calm after the storm - the fact that it's the placename for the sodium's symbol of Na is just a passing bonus. Both the approach to and continuance from Alexandria have been noisy and chaotic un-pilgrimy settings. I seek tranquility and nature during my daily walks; not much of it is to be found within the over-populated delta. Within the 9th century stone walls of the 4th century hermitages and monastaries where the Coptic monks carved little cells into the rock... finally, peacefulness. Ahhhh.

The Coptics, lacking the concept of pilgrimage in their culture, have been wonderful to me. More than cordially listening to my pilgrim tales, there has been a lot of knowledgeable referencing to biblical citations and historical records making for lively discussions. Though many have urged me repeatedly to stay for days or weeks - even in the ancient monasteries of men that otherwise forbid women within the walls overnight... exception made for a pilgrim =) - I'm residing for a few days in the strangely serene noisy carved-in-a-quarry monkless modern monastery of Saint Samaan the Shoemaker while the little team of workers here help me prepare for the next stage of the adventure.

In order to arrive next at the first ever Christian monastery, that of St Anthony of the Desert, I must cross the desert. (Truthfully, I could take a significantly longer route alongside a major highway along the right bank of the Nile, but I prefer the shorter and quieter approach through the Egypt's Eastern Desert.) I've calculated 5 days, perhaps 6 on a route with no water and thereby no towns. A few Bedoin families, I'm told, but the roving type who live in tents and therefore not marked on the map. I'm looking forward to this stage and have been from the time I left Santiago. I agree with the advice of the cautious Coptics that walking out of Cairo will not only be urbanly unpleasant but rather dangerous through the suburbs on the fringe. I'll accept a ride therefore to the edge of tranquility - not fully into it out into the desert, just to the edge so that I can enjoy all of the serenity on foot.

Carrying water is a necessity; food advisable, though who eats much when they have to carry it? Earlier, I thought about using a donkey for this stage but have leaned against it lately. I know nothin' 'bout donkey husbandry, and for just a short duration, I think it may be more effort than it's worth. I'll either bond with the wee animal and not want to part with it or resent it and not want to endure it. The die would be cast. A camel's out - they prefer being part of a train rather than a lone beast of burden. So I'm having the boys fabricate a little sled of my design that I can leash to my hipbelt and tug across the sand. Very simple to anyone who was a four-year-old in the snow but oddly exotic here. They're all a-tither about the idea of a woman venturing off into the desert but they're all in awe that I've walked here from Spain, so this 150ish kilometers of effort pales in comparison. Lots of support, lots of companionship in this chaos that is very smoggy Cairo.

Please note that there will be no opportunity for me to update the website, so my faithful e-visitors, don't get your undies in a knot if a few weeks pass without a new post. I'll try at the earliest opportunity, really. The monks at the monastery are aware of my plan (no one, it seems, would consider walking there from here). Everything's fine fine fine! =)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 112: Bedoiun Bedfellows

Wandering around in a strangely lawless post-revolutionary society has its challenges of course, but I'll find the silver lining in any situation - I've had many glimpses at ancient monuments, pre-Roman even, and all to myself. The police are gone and the military guard the shoreline... there's general immorality in the towns and when I get frustrated at the young boys throwing rocks at me, the mothers only say boys will be boys and if there are no police to stop them, then that's what they'll do. Every other society I've visited has had the parents stepping up a bit more actively in cultivating their son's behavior. Odd. But the Bedoin families have been taking me in with open hospitality and smiling friendliness under their black face-covering veils. The desert is nice when I can find it and the shoreline duney and tranquil, though absent gulls, seashells, or fishermen. Unexpected. I've passed through Alexandria and am heading toward Cairo visiting the oldest Christian sites I've seen. Otherwise, lots of date palm farms and fig orchards and noisy tuk-tuks careening along sand roads. Computers are hard to find... I'll look again in Cairo in a short week or so. Safe and sound and occasionally up to my ankles in da Nile =)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 105: Flight to Egypt

Rats rats and rats again, an issue of security as I approached Misrata... lacking a official visa, I was invited to leave the country 'immediately' by the Minister of Internal Affairs. Detained, deported on Day 101, onward to Egypt by minivan. The overland flight lasted 16 hours and though I saw a good deal of the Sahara in the area of Ben Waid, the mountainous, more interesting parts passed me by during the frigid moonlit night. Heavy sigh. The Libyan people I met were all very nice. The country has a lot of patriotism, a lot of natural resources, a lot of potential. One day, the political climate will be better suited to a pilgrim by foot.

Because the minivan to Egypt passed across the border at 4 in the morning, the driver wouldn't let me out until either I was with a man (no volunteers among the other 4 passengers) or until it was daylight. I finally descended about 250 kilometers over the border in a town called Fuka and resumed my walk without a hitch. New culture, new food, new atmosphere entirely, and only Arabic is spoken... I'm learning quickly; immersion is really the only effective way to pick up another language.

More later... I'm safe and well along the Egyptian coast heading toward Alexandria - 3 more days, I reckon, and not many internet opportunities.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Summary of Days 37 to 69 Morocco to Tunis

037 Tanger 1377 kms MOROCCO
038 Tanger 1377 kms
039 Tetouan 1434 kms (arf!)
040 Amsah 1464 kms
041 Taryah 1500 kms
042 Znasniche 1542 kms
043 El Jabha 1567 kms
044 Tazayrt 1617 kms
045 Raoud 1657 kms
046 Al Hoceima 1687 kms
047 Ouled Amrad 1730 kms
048 Dawar Chabe 1768 kms
049 Nador 1818 kms
050 Zaio 1925 kms
051 Tefaghalt 1963 kms
052 Oujda 2017 kms
053 Algerian Border/Nador 2032 kms
054 Aboardship 'Wisteria' back to SPAIN
055 Almeria
056 Murcia
057 Benidorm
058 Hospitalet de l'Infant
059 Barcelona
060 Aboardship 'Barcelona' on to ITALY
061 Civitavecchio
062 Aboardship 'Sorrento'
063 Tunis, TUNISIA
064 Tunis
065 Tunis
066 Still in Tunis
067 Tunis
068 Tunis
069 Tunis again...

Day 97: Taste of Freedom

Now literally on the shores of Tripoli... rainy shores with flooding in the streets... and a few minutes on the computer of the underused library of the sole remaining Catholic church in Libya.

The weather for weeks has been pleasantly in the upper teens (60F) but for the last few days downpours. I plod on, of course. People continue to be kind - finally recognized as an athlete, they drive by slowly to hand me a bottle of water, a banana, a juicebox, a Snickers bar out the window, coffee with too much sugar, when it's been particularly wet, and a hot sandwich or two... really terrific. The beach has become too interupted with industry to walk along for the final approach to the capital city, but the typical urban unpleasantness is spiced up here with colorful graffiti capturing the new found freedom of expression.

The graffiti alone is an expression, but that some of it is written in English - Libya Tastes Freedom! - and some in the heretofore oppressed Berber language with an amalgam of Greek and Cyrillic letters with what look more like Phoenician characters, is a secondary reality of the moment. It's no longer forbidden. There's a sense of law and order; I've not seen anyone with sidearms or other weaponry except for the clearly marked citizen patrols, their outfits looking more like the pages of a Cabela's catalog than Soldiers of Fortune. The citizen patrols are patriotic, dutiful, and accepted as an interim solution - so many of them told me (always offering me a chair for a rest, some cigarettes (don't smoke, thanks), and some food) - a dentist in real life, an office worker, an accountant, a mechanic... One fellow told me that the remaining outbursts are only the result of alcohol being now more widely available to people unaccustomed to it. Frat-boy behavior.

I still see fragments of the Roman road lacing together time and distance... onward and eastward...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 96 To the Shores of Tripoli!

And I'm in =)
Lots of negotiations at the border, hours and hours of champion-building, finally, an unrestricted stamp in my passport free to travel through Libya for up to 3 months. I'm one happy pilgrim. The people have been terrific - scores stopping to take their photo with me, happier to find out I'm an American. All the men telling me 'I'm your brother' in a warmly protective manner. It's been terrific. The only trouble has been getting internet service as the country transitions from free service for all to privatized capitalism. So, I apologize for the delayed update. I've been walking for three days, mostly along the quiet beach, popping out to the road from time to time, but to do so is to be politely and tactfully approached for a photo op. People calling out to me 'welcome to Libya!' 'thank you for coming!' 'tell the world we're free!'. Really, though I've only got a minute here on an i-phone, it's been a grand three days... yes yes yes, I'll be prudent in the unpopulated stretches, but be assured civil order exists, no violence, calm commerce, everyone's getting on with life. I'll try to update at least once a week, but the reliability of the internet service isn't a sign of bad tidings, just positive transition. Happy New Year!