España: a few quick highlights!

It’s a conundrum: if I take the time to write about all that happens while traveling, I don’t have time to actually HAVE anything happen! As we are now morphing into our “Moroccan” travel selves, it’s time to let go of Spain. But ... but ... there is so much more ... so many wonderful people ... interesting encounters ... so I decided to share a few photos and quick notes. To be elaborated on at a later date ...

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Four generations of blacksmiths: Elois is the 4th one, and Bonaventura his dad the 3rd. Here with mom, Sylvie and daughter for the Day of the Dead. 

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Nuría — surprise surprise: not just a place for enlightenment after all! Unless one considers skiing as a way to Enlightenment I guess. 

 Sant Joan de Abadesses: Rosa and Dolores, our guardian angels

Sant Joan de Abadesses: Rosa and Dolores, our guardian angels

 The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Most extraordinary history. Up to the present ... it’s not more than two years ago that Moin’s dad was forbidden from praying here by police. Layers and layers of cultures mixing (or not!) in some surprising ways sometimes. 

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Most extraordinary history. Up to the present ... it’s not more than two years ago that Moin’s dad was forbidden from praying here by police. Layers and layers of cultures mixing (or not!) in some surprising ways sometimes. 

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Olé —- what intensity mama mia! 

 Moto GP Valencia en famille ... Mike, Nairi, Elena and Aymeric

Moto GP Valencia en famille ... Mike, Nairi, Elena and Aymeric

oops! And this is thanks to Aymeric, he’s the one who got the best video of it

 El Metropol Parasol de Sevilla

El Metropol Parasol de Sevilla

 Sevilla: break dancing and roller skating under the Metropol Parasol. A place for everybody ...

Sevilla: break dancing and roller skating under the Metropol Parasol. A place for everybody ...

 Spaniards love pedestrian zone with tiny streets. That brought about an interesting encounter with the police

Spaniards love pedestrian zone with tiny streets. That brought about an interesting encounter with the police

 Our last night in España ... 

Our last night in España ... 

España: If old walls could talk ...

Although my focus is meeting people and making friends, there are places that are important to visit in order to understand the culture we are in, especially when it has been strongly influenced by several waves of different civilizations. The Real Alcazar is exactly such a place. It spans centuries and goes back and fourth between Christian and Muslim cultures and architectures several times, with a continuous Jewish presence and I would expect, influence.

It is crazy! I did a bunch of research and in the end decided to count the number of times it passed from one culture to another, or one generation to the next with each transition marked by destruction — partial or whole, reconstruction, addition, and decorative enhancements. Between the 8th century BC and the 18th century, I counted twelve and I don’t even know if I got them all. What was most amazing to me was the way Muslim architects and designers used the existing Christian romanesque structure as a support for their intricate stone-carved or plaster-molded designs.

The Alcazar is also know for its magnificent show of handmade tiles adorning walls, floors, courtyards, ceiling, stairs and fountains. We went into the wing dedicated to the history of tiles and started reading every explanation we could see. It didn’t take too long until we became completely overwhelmed. That’s why they created gardens, I’m sure: they are overwhelming in their own way because they are so many of them but they are peaceful, engaging and bring nice surprises at every turn...

After two and a half hours, entranced but exhausted, tired of maps, directions and explanations, we set out to find an exit. On our right a beautiful low arched doorway is calling to us. Ignore or indulge? With hindsight, I am glad we found it irresistible: the Queen’s baths turned out to be the highlight of our visit. A rectangular stone basin at least 50m long and no more than 3m wide, surrounded by low columns and arches which together create intimate passages — simple and unadorned. The lighting is exquisite, glowing from dark yellows to deep burnt oranges. It feels as though we have fallen into a painting. It is magical.

 The cathedral next door to the Real Alcazar

The cathedral next door to the Real Alcazar

 How many feet have stepped on those tiles I wonder .... The King and Queen of España stay here when they are in Séville, so who knows whose foot steps I’m stepping on today ...

How many feet have stepped on those tiles I wonder .... The King and Queen of España stay here when they are in Séville, so who knows whose foot steps I’m stepping on today ...

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I wouldn’t mind a bath too. And maybe a little church music since we’re at it.

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España: A trip to the emergency!

Version française après les photos

I will stop at nothing it seems to create an opportunity for Mike to visit an emergency room in Spain. Out of nowhere I develop pain in my middle finger as though I have an invisible paper cut in the joint. Within two days it is red, swollen and painful: a great combination for riding a bike! General antibiotics, as Mike had guessed, are not specific enough and on Sunday, I wake up to a painful arm. I am baffled « when did I hit myself on the arm? » In my half sleep state, a thought « what if, under my sleeve, there is something bad because of my finger?? » I walk to the bathroom, turn on the light, take one look in the mirror. There MUST be something important for me to do right now. Makeup? Comb my hair? I haven’t owned a comb in 40 years. I think I’ll brush my teeth. For a really long time. When I was little, I saw a science show on TV. I learned something I have never forgotten: when an infection spreads in the form of a red line GO TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY! Okay, I can’t put this off anymore: it’s time to roll up my sleeve. Shit! There it is: on my forearm, a big wide red line and two thin red lines on the back of my hand. Huuuuuh ... Mike?! I think we have a problem!

It’s 5AM on a rainy Sunday in a very Catholic country in the middle of Cordoba’s pedestrian-only Old City where we don’t know how to find a taxi without internet. Out of the 168 hours in a week, I chose the worst twenty-four for an emergency in Spain. We decide to wait until first mass is over and by 9AM, I hop on Mike’s bike, and with one arm around him and the other up in the air, we get ourselves to the Hospital Universitario Reina Sofía. I have always favored getting to an emergency room on a motorcycle! I haven’t asked Mike much. He looks concerned. I know he knows things that I really don’t want to know right now. It’s enough that he mentioned the « sp » words. Surgical Procedure. Knives. Open. Drain. 

We check in. We wait. We wait some more. Eventually my name is called and we enter a tiny half lit office with a man in green scrubs behind a computer and a woman besides him. He has no time to waste. He seems aggravated by my slow Spanish and he simply cuts Mike out as he is trying to explain the situation. I immediately regret having told him Mike was a doctor, it’s obvious he doesn’t like it.

He takes a quick peek at my finger and turns back to his computer to type non stop for at least five minutes. If he feels knowledgeable about my condition, he sure doesn’t deem it important to share the information. He turns back to me and without any effort to speak slowly, he hands me a prescription, “good bye». Done?? Reluctantly he answers our questions: yes strong antibiotics for seven days, yes finger may swell much more, and yes again, if that happens, we MUST get to the hospital immediately for “SP”. Pharmacy? Go find one. On Sunday? There are some that are open. Good bye.

Here is a real-life advice: don’t ever need a pharmacy on Sunday! After following our GPS for an hour down the list of (closed) pharmacies, we decide to choose any of the inviting cafés around and relax. As we sit and look across the square, imagine our surprise “Farmacía, 365 días, 12 horas”. Done!

I’m done with the antibiotics. My finger is much better. No more red lines. No pain. No longer swollen. Still numb. And it looks weird! We will see. I hope I don’t have to meet the Man in Green Scrubs in Morocco. Or elsewhere for that matter!

Nothing else for a rapid recovery than spending the rest of the day visiting splendid Cordoba.

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On pourrait dire que je ne m'arrêterai à rien pour que Mike puisse visiter une salle d'urgence en Espagne. L’autre jour je ressens soudain une monstre douleur au majeur comme si j'avais une coupure invisible dans l'articulation. Deux jours plus tard, mon doigt est rouge, gonflé et douloureux: une excellente combinaison pour faire de la moto! Comme Mike l'avait deviné, les antibiotiques généraux ne sont pas assez précis et dimanche, je me réveille avec un bras douloureux. Je suis perplexe «quand est-ce que je me suis frappé au bras? »Dans mon demi-sommeil, une pensée « et si, sous ma manche, il y a quelque chose de grave à cause de mon doigt ?? »Je me dirige vers la salle de bain, allume la lumière, jette un coup d'œil dans le miroir. Il DOIT bien y avoir quelque chose d'important à faire maintenant. Maquillage? Peigner mes cheveux? Je n’ai pas possédé de peigne depuis 40 ans. Je pense que je vais me brosser les dents. Pendant très longtemps. Quand j'étais petite, j'ai vu une émission scientifique à la télévision. J'ai appris quelque chose que je n'ai jamais oublié: lorsqu'une infection se propage sous la forme d'une ligne rouge, ALLEZ IMMÉDIATEMENT À L'HÔPITAL! OK, je ne peux plus remettre à plus tard: il est temps de me retrousser les manches. Merde! La voici: sur mon avant-bras, une grande ligne rouge et deux lignes rouges sur le dos de ma main. Huuuuuh ... Mike?! Je pense que nous avons un problème!

Il est 5 heures du mat’ un dimanche pluvieux dans un pays très catholique, au cœur de la vieille ville piétonne de Cordoba, où nous ne savons pas comment trouver un taxi sans internet. Sur les 168 heures de la semaine, j'ai choisi les pires vingt-quatre pour une urgence en Espagne. Nous décidons d’attendre la fin de la première messe et à 9 heures, je saute derrière Mike. Avec un bras autour de lui et l’autre en l'air, nous nous rendons à l’hôpital universitaire Reina Sofía. J'ai toujours beaucoup aimé arriver aux urgences en moto! Je n'ai pas posé beaucoup de questions à Mike. Il a l'air inquiet. Je sais qu’il sait des choses que je ne veux vraiment pas savoir pour le moment. C’est assez qu’il ait mentionné les mots «O.P.». Opération chirurgicale. Des couteaux. Ouvrir. Drainer.

On passe par la première station d’infirmières. Puis on attend. On attend encore. Finalement, mon nom est appelé et nous entrons dans un petit bureau sombre avec un homme en blouse verte derrière un ordinateur et une femme à côté de lui. Il n'a pas de temps à perdre. Il semble agacé par la lenteur de mon espagnol et il coupe simplement la parole à Mike alors que celui-ci tente d'expliquer la situation. Je regrette immédiatement avoir dit que Mike est médecin, c’est évident que ça ne lui plait pas.

Il jette un coup d'œil rapide à mon doigt et se tourne vers son ordinateur pour taper non-stop pendant au moins cinq minutes. S'il a des informations quant à mon état, ça n’a pas l’air de lui venir à l’esprit de les partager. Il se retourne vers moi et sans aucun effort pour parler lentement, il grommelle quelquechose et me tend une ordonnance «au revoir». On a fini?? À contrecœur, il répond à nos questions: oui des antibiotiques puissants pendant sept jours, oui le doigt risque de gonfler beaucoup plus, et si cela se produit, nous devons absolument nous rendre immédiatement à l'hôpital pour qu’ils fassent une “O.P.”  Et la pharmacie, on la trouve où? N’importe où. Le dimanche? Il y en a qui sont ouvertes. Au revoir.

Voici un conseil pratique: assurez vous de ne jamais avoir besoin d’une pharmacie le dimanche! Après avoir suivi la liste des pharmacies (fermées) sur notre GPS pendant une heure, on décide d’aller boire un café sur une terrasse accueillante. Alors que nous nous asseyons, tranquilles ... imaginez notre surprise: «Farmacía, 365 días 12 horas». Comme quoi —- c’est toujours dans la relaxation que tout s’arrange!

J'en ai fini avec les antibiotiques. Mon doigt va beaucoup mieux. Plus de lignes rouges. Pas de douleur. Il n’est plus enflé ni engourdi. Par contre, il a l'air tout bizarre! Nous verrons. J'espère que je devrai pas rencontrer l'homme en vert du Maroc. 

Rien de mieux pour se remettre sur pied qu’une petite visite de Cordoba pour le reste de la journée. Oh ... et n’oublions pas le nougat. Très important, le nougat.

España: Thoughts on Spain

Version française aprés les photos

Spain has been a bit mysterious for us. The first few days we were charmed by the old architecture, the open landscape peppered with farms, hamlets, villages. We’ve now practically crossed it from North to South and once we left Juan and his friends in the Northern part of Catalan, things have been feeling very different. It’s hard to put a finger on it but I keep feeling like “we are not IN our trip yet”. We prefer using small roads and staying in remote villages. In the past that strategy has always brought interesting rich encounters.

After days of passing through village after village, we realize we both have been carrying an eerie feeling. Like something is awry. First I thought it was because everything shuts down between 2 and 5-6pm. But then it’s been hard just finding a grocery store. Or a restaurant. Most houses have their shutters closed as though nobody lives there. Every farm we pass is empty. Every industrial building lifeless. We haven’t heard the sound of children for days. That’s when we realize most people we have seen are elderlies. The fact is ... we haven’t encountered that many people at all! As we walk through the towns, streets are basically empty. The other odd thing is, what people we do see, hardly respond to our “hola!”, and if they do, it is often without a smile.

Time to change our approach —- our next place is the largest city in the region of Castillo-La Mancha, Albacete with its metropolitan population of 219,121. Immediately we meet a very friendly gregarious couple who speak a little English. After some fun and light chit chat, I can’t resist the urge to ask: what is going on? Is it us? Maybe both Mike and I are in some funk that would keep us from reading the situation accurately. But no, in fact, they confirm our suspicions: the remote parts of Spain are being abandoned by the younger generations in a mass exodus and are moving to the big cities. Small towns will even give apartments away just to draw people back but without success. When I mention feeling like people might not like foreigners, they say in Catalonia, people are focused on their internal struggle to secede and not so open to the world. Hm, I can see that being part of the answer.

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The village of Siurana perched on a rock and environs. I couldn’t say it better than Wikipedia which shows the rich and complicated history of the region:

“Originally, it was known by the Latin name of La Seviriana, but was changed to Xibrana after being conquered by the Islamics. A memorial cross was erected in 1953 to commemorate the reconquest of Siurana 800 years before in 1153, the last Muslim enclave to fall to the Christians in Catalonia.”

 Siurana. It may be a little more lively in the summer but we did find a little bar/restaurant open where we were able to thaw before resuming our walk. For me it’s always the time I spend sketching that gets me frozen!

Siurana. It may be a little more lively in the summer but we did find a little bar/restaurant open where we were able to thaw before resuming our walk. For me it’s always the time I spend sketching that gets me frozen!

 Beautiful but definitely lifeless

Beautiful but definitely lifeless

 Puta España means “Spain is a whore”. Some strong feelings in Catalonia. Not just on the walls either.

Puta España means “Spain is a whore”. Some strong feelings in Catalonia. Not just on the walls either.

L'Espagne est un peu mystérieuse pour nous. Les premiers jours, nous avons été charmés par l’architecture ancienne, le paysage ouvert parsemé de fermes, de hameaux et de villages. Nous l’avons maintenant pratiquement traversée du nord au sud et une fois que nous avons quitté Juan et ses amis dans le nord de la Catalogne, la situation est devenue très différente. C’est difficile de mettre le doigt dessus, mais j’ai toujours l’impression que “nous nE sommes pas encore DANS notre voyage.” Nous préférons utiliser de petites routes et rester dans des villages isolés. Dans le passé, cette stratégie a toujours été riche en rencontres intéressantes.

Après des jours où nous passons de village en village, nous réalisons que nous avons tous les deux un sentiment étrange. Comme si quelque chose ne va pas. Au début, je pensais que c'était parce que tout était fermé entre 14h et 18h. Puis il a été presque impossible de trouver une épicerie. Ou un restaurant. La plupart des maisons ont les volets fermés comme si personne n'y habite. Chaque ferme que nous passons est vide. Chaque bâtiment industriel sans vie. Nous n’avons pas entendu le son d’enfants depuis des jours. C’est à ce moment que nous réalisons que la plupart des personnes que nous avons vues sont des personnes âgées. Le fait est que nous n’avons rencontré que très peu de monde. En nous promenant dans les villes, les rues sont pratiquement vides. L’autre chose étrange est que les rares personnes que nous voyons ne répondent guère à notre «hola!», et s’ils le font, c’est souvent sans sourire.

Il est temps de changer d’approche - notre prochaine localité est la plus grande ville de la région de Castillo-La Mancha, Albacete, avec sa population métropolitaine de 219,121 habitants. Nous rencontrons immédiatement un couple très sympathique qui parle un peu anglais. Après un moment de discussions légères et rigolotes, je ne peux pas résister à l’envie de demander: que se passe-t-il? Est-ce nous? Peut-être que Mike et moi sommes dans un état de funk qui nous empêcherait de lire la situation avec précision. Mais non, en fait, ils confirment nos soupçons: les régions les plus reculées d’Espagne sont en train d’être abandonnées par les jeunes générations dans un exode massif et se déplacent vers les grandes villes. Les petites villes vont même donner des appartements gratuitement pour attirer les gens mais sans succès. Quand je mentionne le sentiment que les gens ne semblent pas aimer les étrangers, ils disent en Catalogne, les gens sont concentrés sur leur lutte interne de séparationisme et ne sont pas si ouverts au monde. Ça oui, je peux le voir. 

España: Juan, the Man of Catalonia

Version française après les photos

Juan, a friend of my high school buddy Véronique, is our first stop in Spain. Juan bought an olive orchard outside a tiny village sixteen years ago. He didn’t know a soul in the area. For the fist eight years he lived in the hundred+ year old, 100sf structure on the property. He eventually added 200sf but there is still no plumbing or electricity. Yet it’s perfectly comfortable. Local construction is hard to fathom: the roof alone is made of several layers of tiles-cement-tiles-tar paper-tiles, etc. The walls are almost two feet thick. I lose track of technicalities but when the rain starts pounding in the middle of the night, I know for sure we are not at risk of getting wet or cold. The wood stove keeps us nice and cozy.

We wake up to horrendous rain. Not a bone in my body wants to leave. I keep finding reasons to postpone. When Juan says that’s no day for a motorcycle, stay another day, I hear myself answer just a little too quickly yes great idea.

Hanging out with Juan, we learn a lot about Catalonia, its history, politics and people. When I read last year that Catalonia wants to split from Spain, I didn’t give it much thought, I remember thinking that’s odd, it’ll never happen. Catalonia was just a faraway country I knew very little about. But, just like with Bosnia in 2016, it is earthshaking to be standing WHERE history is taking place. Everything in me shifted when I hear from his mouth why things are the way they are; how people gather weekly in front of prisons where separatist leaders are held and demand their freedom. We don’t know it yet but every bridge we will cross is adorned with symbolic yellow ribbons and the Free Catalonia flags hang from many windows and buildings. All over Catalonia. Spain, being made of 17 autonomous regions, is scared: if one region goes, others may follow suit. But nothing justifies the violence or the central government’s demands on Catalans to let go of their culture and language.

With Juan we also learn a lot about olive oil. Over the years he taught himself how to turn his olives into oil. It’s about as easy as turning water into wine or lead into gold. He went through several local presses that would cheat him one way or another (extraction temperature, mixing or crushing olives, etc) but eventually he found “the one” and until a couple of years ago, he produced about 800 liters of oil yearly. Every aspect weighs in the final quality: how one picks the olives - by hand in his case; when one picks them - the perfect instant between green and black to avoid a bitter taste; the temperature at which the oil is extracted - low temps for quality but far smaller quantity. Doing everything “the right way” greatly reduces profitability ... but you should see the light in Juan’s eyes when he says “I do it for love, for pleasure. Why cut corners then?” I will never again complain about the price of good oil.

Juan has had an interesting life: twenty two years as a shepherd in the high pastures of Switzerland (that could be a post by itself!!) followed by sixteen years on his farm where wild boars still find refuge from enthusiastic hunters. It drives the locals crazy to know that just behind the metal fence, the animals are having a leisurely stroll.

After celebrating the Day of the Saints with his friends, we finally left so Juan could get his bed back!

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Juan

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Driving down the main road to the next village. The side walls are many hundreds years old

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The tiny building to the right is the original structure, then back of it is the addition #1. Now he’s working on addition #2 which was roofless when we visited, but he just sent a picture of him and his friend working on the roof two weeks ago. Not a day too early with winter pointing its nose.

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Juan’s little palace ... and ours for a couple of days. After we left, we ended up missing it a lot more than we knew at the time

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Playing games late into the night. Thank you solar lights and candles!

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The Day of the Saints (or Day of the Deads) ... an entire village celebrates together

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Maaaaan — I could have another slice every time I see this picture

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Juan interested in our motorcycle packing —- with his olive orchard behind him

Encore une idée de génie de ma copine Véronique: faire de notre premier arrêt en Espagne une rencontre avec Juan. Juan a acheté une oliveraie à l'extérieur d'un petit village près de la frontière française il y a seize ans. Il ne connaissait personne dans la région. Il a vécu les premiers huit ans dans la structure centenaire de 9m2 sur la propriété. Puis il y a ajouté 18m2 mais il n’y a toujours ni plomberie ni électricité. Pourtant c'est parfaitement confortable. La technique de construction locale est incroyable: le toit est composé de plusieurs couches de tuiles-ciment-tuiles-goudron-ciment, etc. Les murs mesurent près de 50cm. Lorsque la pluie commence à battre au milieu de la nuit, je sais qu’on ne risque pas de se faire mouiller ou d’avoir froid. Le feu ronronne dans le poêle.

Nous nous réveillons avec une pluie épouvantable. Je m’evertue à trouver des raisons pour reporter le départ. Quand Juan dit ce n'est pas un jour pour la moto, restez encore, je m'entends répondre un peu trop vite, oui très bonne idée.

En passant du temps avec Juan, nous en apprenons beaucoup sur la Catalogne, son histoire, sa politique et ses habitants. Quand j'ai lu l'année dernière que la Catalogne voulait se séparer de l'Espagne, je n'y ai pas beaucoup réfléchi mais je me souviens penser que c'était étrange. La Catalogne n'était qu'un pays lointain dont je ne connaissais pratiquement rien. Mais, comme avec la Bosnie en 2016, tout chamboule quand on se trouve là où l’histoire se déroule. Ma perception a complètement changé en entendant Juan nous raconter comment les gens se rassemblent chaque mardi devant les prisons où les dirigeants séparatistes sont détenus et réclament leur liberté. Nous ne le savons pas encore, mais chaque pont que nous traverserons sera décoré de rubans jaunes symboliques. Des drapeaux de la Catalogne Libre pendront à beaucoup de fenêtres. A travers toute la Catalogne. L’Espagne est composée de 17 régions autonomes: le gouvernement central a probablement peur que si la Catalogne réussit à devenir indépendante, d’autres pourraient en faire de même. Mais rien ne justifie la violence ou ses demandes aux Catalans d’abandonner leur culture et leur langue.

Avec Juan, nous en apprenons aussi beaucoup sur l'huile d'olive. Au fil des ans, il a appris à transformer ses olives en huile. C’est aussi simple que de transformer l’eau en vin ou le plomb en or. Il a travaillé avec  plusieurs presses locales qui l’ont trompé d'une manière ou d'une autre (température d'extraction, mélange ou broyage des olives, etc.) mais il finit par trouver «la bonne» et dès lors, il produit 800 litres d'huile par an. Chaque aspect est important pour la qualité: comment cueillir les olives - à la main dans son cas; quand les cueillir - l'instant parfait entre le vert et le noir pour éviter un goût amer; la température à laquelle l'huile est extraite - basse température pour la qualité mais une beaucoup plus petite quantité. Faire tout «juste» réduit considérablement la rentabilité… mais vous devriez voir la lumière dans les yeux de Juan quand il dit «Je le fais par amour. Pour le plaisir de faire la meilleure huile qui soit. Ça, c’est mon bonheur » Je ne me plaindrai plus jamais du prix d’une bonne huile.

Juan a eu une vie intéressante: vingt-deux ans en tant que berger dans les hauts alpages Suisse (ce qui pourrait être un poste à part entière !!) suivi de seize ans dans sa ferme où les sangliers trouvent encore refuge contre des chasseurs passionnés. Cela rend les locaux fous parce qu'ils savent que juste derrière cette clôture en métal, les animaux se promènent tranquillement.

Après avoir célébré le Jour des Saints avec ses amis, nous sommes partis pour que Juan puisse récupérer son lit!

Pakistan: Yet another flat tire

Version française quand j’aurai plus d’internet

After we leave Phunder, the road is « somewhat paved » and we are riding at a good clip when very abruptly the road ends. I think back of the familiar forest sign « County road ends » and laugh. No such sign here. Just holes, rocks and sand. From the corner of my eye, I can tell that the landscape is out of this world but the road is so back that I can’t look. The valley opens up onto high plateau with glacier covered mountains on all sides. It is stupendous. I stop to fully appreciate the view and that’s when I realize there is nobody in my rear view mirror.

I ride back to find Moin and Mike looking at Mike’s rear tire. It’s flat. Very flat.

The mechanic shop ten minutes away is closed: we prepare to repair it ourselves. It’s exciting to get to use all the tools we’ve brought along in our bags. Apparently we don’t know Pakistan yet: « ourselves » encompasses the masses!  First a bike drives by, two guys smile, wave, stop, get off and light cigarettes. Many donkeys go by. Both directions. Laden with huge loads. Followed by herders. Another bike arrives, comes to a screeching halt, both guys jump off, rally the other two and all four men tackle the tire repair at once. With Moin, Mike and me, that’s seven! Oh and there is another dude too. No idea where he came from. It’s going well —- a bit too many cooks in the kitchen maybe but it’s fun. There is a problem with a corroded valve stem nut and it takes all of us to come up with a variety of solutions. Finally the tire and tube are off. The second set of two guys ask if we can manage from here on? We can certainly stay if you need but we have a long way to go ourselves until we reach Gilgit. We wave them on and the four of us finish the job. Great team work. And as is often the case, the silver lining was well worth the inconvenience.

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