Thursday, December 22, 2016

Into the Heart of Andalusia - Antequera, Spain

After returning to the city of Malaga from my quick train trip over to the beautiful city of Ronda, I was back at my adventures by bicycle!  But with a few surprises upon my return naturally.  I had left my bicycle in the care of my incredible host family while I was away for a few days and little did I know that there was a tiny pin-hole leak in one of the tires for my bike cart.  Following that quick fix, I set out to explore the last few spots in the city I wanted to check off before leaving.  That night, I camped out on the beach because I knew this would be the last time for awhile for some coastal exposure!  Waking up with the cool air of the sea breeze, I was charged to take on the road to Antequera... or so I thought.  I had chosen the route along A-7075 for I was hoping to spend a few hours in the mysterious El Torcal de Antequera which is a fascinating sight to behold even from the road!  El Torcal is a natural landform made up of crazy rock formations with an equally unique set of fauna living in the area.  Knowing that the natural reserve was located at the divide of the Sierra del Torcal mountain range, I knew there was going to be an uphill factor.  Come to find out, there was quite a bit of uphill factor along with not a cloud in the sky making for a toasty ride.  Slowly and steadily, I crossed an incredible landscape of fanciful imagination.  As midday passed by me, I decided to take a break in the lovely little village of Villanueva de la Concepción.  I am quite positive that they are not frequented by travelers, especially American ones, as I was watched with admiration and curiosity as I ventured about the cobbled streets looking for a market.  Once I found a small vendería, I bought a few fruits and makings for a Spanish styled sandwich that the owner gladly helped me with as I believe he felt greatly honored to have me step into his little store.  I let him pick out the apples and oranges for me.  Needless to say, I went back and stocked up because they were delicious!  

After refueling my body, I set back onto the climb to the ridge which seemed to grow significantly taller while I was taking my break.  Winding my way up the serpentine road, I had to pause my progress a few times while local farmers were moving their herds of sheep across the road.  A few gave me a quick wave of their hand gesturing I could go through the flock, but I didn't want to pass up the photo opportunities!  After what felt like the 700th switchback, the road finally leveled out for there was the rock wall that is El Torcal.  The shade from the Spanish sun was much welcomed and the view over the golden hills of grain below made the struggle worth the ride!  Even more welcomed was rounding a wide corner to see the sun reaching into the west over the valley of Antequera.  But, the best part of that was everything was downhill!  Making a mad dash to the bottom with extreme ease, I was in awe of the city.  Truly a well kept secret from outsiders, this city is overflowing with beauty, history, wonderful people and my favorite - great food!  Set between other major cities of Andalusia, Antequera is truly the heart of life in southern Spain and has been since Roman times due to the areas production of olive oil.  Despite only having about one day to spend in the city, it will forever be in my heart as one of my most memorable stops in all of Andalusia and warrants a return trip - sooner the better!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Riding the Rail - Ronda, Spain

Before beginning my #WorldTour2015 trip, I had been training on my bicycle to prepare for cycling across Europe with the assistance of the rail system on occasion.  Following nine days committed to pedaling my way across the Province of Cadiz and along the Costa del Sol, I thought a train ride was well-deserved break.   Leaving behind my AWOL and bicycle gear I had my pack with some essentials for the next four days of adventures.  Starting my day with a high-paced walk to Maria Zambrano Station to catch the early morning train into the heart of the Province of Malaga, I was more than excited to be on my way to Ronda.  Navigating my way through the station being guided by the billetes signs, I passed through the glass doors to purchase my ticket.  I had exaggerated the wait expectation for the queue at the booking office - significantly.  I had imagined I would have to be waiting in a long line and be cutting it close to catch my desired train.  I entered into a nearly vacant room with numerous clerks eyeing me to see which one of them I would choose to assist me with my boarding pass.  Going with the most direct option from the door, I approached the middle-aged brunette lady with a cheerful smile about her face.  After saying a shaky buenas dias and my request to take the next train bound for Ronda, I was less than a minute away from waiting for 40 minutes for departure.  

With time to spare, why not catch a cup of coffee and some fresh mango?!  Satisfying my stomach, I headed back to the platform to see if I could claim my seat just yet, however boarding was not going to start for a few minutes.  In the mean time, a few of the youngsters kept me entertained as they chased each other about the station and having the occasional parent try to run them down.  As the children started to tire themselves out, one of the attendants came out of the train and called for boarding to begin.  I am not to sure why I was nervous being I had traveled by trains in Europe before but nonetheless my brain over-thought the situation and got my heart rate spiked.  Soon enough those nerves were calmed by the passing Andalucian countryside.  My view darkened without a warning as the rolling hills were shadowed by the Gorge of the Gaitanes closed in around the rails.  Those shadows soon became pitch black tunnels passing under the mountains and whenever we broke out into daylight, I could set my eyes on the Caminto del Rey.  Once considered the most dangerous trail in the world until recent renovations, that is set at the top of my return trip to Spain!  Then again, the train was passing through rolling golden hills with perfect ranks of olive trees scattered across the them unlike the white clouds crossing the sky in their chaotic order above, but all taking my breath away.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Feria de Agosto - Málaga, Spain

There were three occasions during the 145 days of #WorldTour2015 where I had to be somewhere at a certain time.  I made sure I was well rested in Munich a day before so I could see the opening ceremonies of Oktoberfest as well as being in Kathmandu, Nepal, before the second day of November to kick of my Himalaya trek!  The first date though was the 14th day of August and the destination was Málaga!  The reason behind my dream of visiting Malaga began many years before in my adolescent years of learning the Spanish language.  Going back to the eighth year of my schooling en la clase de Señora Porter, I presented my report about my city of choice: Málaga!  At that point and time, I think I chose that city due to the shear fact of saying the city name over and over again during my presentation and making the stressed á stronger each time.  Through my research years ago, I said to myself, "Someday you will see that yourself".  Aging that dream for more than a decade I found myself among thousands of brightly dressed patrons, guitar strings singing in a rapid unison, and the snapping, tapping, and clapping of spinning verdiales dancers of all ages!

Packing up my tent and gear in the cool morning air in Calahonda, I was eager to get on the road to Malaga!  The ride along the Costa del Sol that day took me aside centuries old Moorish castles, stately mosques and even a Buddhist stupa!  Distractions and all, I made some of the most impressive cycling time to my home away from home for a few days in a flat with a real bed and less than a three minutes' walk to the beach also known as incentive!  As I settled into my flat and made a quick trip to the neighborhood supermercado for groceries for the next four days, I took some rest on the beach during the cooler part of the day.  During the long three minute trek to the beach, I passed by a pharmacy sign that flashed 33° at me!  For my readers that are accustomed to the Celsius scale understand that is a wonderful temperature for going to the beach and playing in the water!  For my American patrons, that is right around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and add a cloud free sky to the mix makes for a great time to head to the beaches of the Mediterranean!  As the sun began to set over the mountains behind me, I stood up and brushed the sand off my then bronzed skin, I made my epic voyage back to the flat for a shower and get ready to partake in the first night of 524th celebration of Feria de Málaga.  
Wandering my way along the seaside walkway, I came to a quick realization that Malaga's cuisine reputation was not exaggerated.  Dozens of seaside "kitchens" made choosing a challenge between one from another, so I tried a few!  One common characteristic among these eateries was the large open wood-fire grills but each varied in their grilled specialty.  My first stop was to this one grill that served up a mean filet of fish that I presumably believe arrived to the port on one of the fishing boats I gazed at from the beach a few hours earlier.  Nonetheless, the perfected balance of spices and wood smoke made for a tasty first course!  My next stop a few meters down was a larger establishment with a larger selection of meats which is good and bad all at the same time.  Looking about this endless grill with most likely a lost, indecisive look on my face, one of the grill masters offered his assistance.  In the best attempt of Spanish, I told him I had just arrived to Malaga that day and would like to try a local favorite.  Despite dining on fish not 15 minutes earlier, he insisted I try a spit of sardines.  When the sardines are roasted, the WHOLE sardine is roasted!  Not being the biggest fan of having dinner look back at me, I gave them a try and let us just say these were consumed for the next four days.  This grill sprinkled a precise amount of spices, some onion, and a magical marinade over the as the wood embers worked their magic and with a glass (or two) of Cruzcampo beer - delightfully delicious!  That whole chiringuito experience was wonderful, but the platter of tapas that I had at a street cafe near the Plaza de la Merced.  I will spare you the nitty gritty details of the tapas selection being my mouth is salivating uncontrollably just thinking about them as tell this travel tale!   
The heart of Málaga is filled with colorful paper lanterns strung over the cobbled streets lined with booths offering trinkets, tricks or treats for fair patrons of any age.  Bigger than the fireworks bursting in the night sky over the harbor or the festive decorations adorning balconies of homes and windows of the shops was the spirit of the people.  Every direction I looked there were young girls wearing stunning flamenco style dresses of all colors with brilliant flowers set in their hair.  Watching virtuoso of the guitars and fiddles compete with friendly smiles and lively hands making music that filled the streets and encouraged dozens of dancers.  But it was not only those celebrating the traditional aspects of the fair that welcomed me into this city's culture and rich history.  One of the happiest moments I was able to capture on a sunny afternoon was that of an attendant of his small booth with small toys for children to celebrate in style.  As I walked near, I noticed he had a handheld bubble machine fully loaded and shooting a stream of bubbles outward and upward into the crowded street.  As he caught me in the act of snapping a shot, I got the most genuine smile in return followed by a few chuckles of laughter and that truly made my day!  Over the days that I explored Málaga, the fulfillment of 'living Feria' surpassed any expectation I ever could have set for the city.  Reflecting back on my stay I see that I left with the happiest of memories and I would say that is an excellent way to end a 'dream come true'.

Parroquia de San Juan Bautista - Málaga, Spain

Taking on my first day of Feria de Agosto after arriving to Malaga, I strolled my way along the wide streets of the southern district of Carretera de Cadíz to the heart of the city.  Heading north, I encountered the wide and shallow river Guadalmedina.  The name was given to the river by the Moors as they settled on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages and the name derives from wadi al-medina (وادي المدينة) meaning 'valley of the city'.  As an Arabic speaker, there were numerous "Huh.  That's interesting!" moments as I ventured through Andalusia, which itself is etymologically Arabic as well, but Málaga was filled with them!  Crossing the river meant the wide and unbending streets of Carretera de Cadíz rapidly changed to narrow, winding lanes of the Centro District.  I was not in any rush to get to the festivities just yet so I ran the risk of "getting lost" on a few of the side streets.  Those "streets" began to twist and turn every few meters and in parts I could casually stretch out my arms and run my hands along the sides of a few of them!  I soon discovered this beautifully cobbled lane lined with small shops and brightly colored buildings that led me to one of my favorite discoveries during my near-week stay - la Parroquia de San Juan Bautista.  The Parish of Saint John dates back to the Catholic Conquest of Malaga in 1487 as one of four parishes that quartered the city.  What I saw as the bell tower came into full view was a vibrant mixture of Spanish Colonial and Mudéjar architecture standing before me.  Following heavy damage from an earthquake 335 years ago, the parish was rebuilt largely with Moorish influence during the height of the Spanish Empire giving what remains today a tasteful blend of the two styles - on the exterior!  Passing through the northern portal's large and heavy wooden door, I quickly became overwhelmed by beauty.  I arrived just in time to hear the angelic voices of a choir made up of young school children as I sat in one of the back pews admiring the mesmerizing details of the nave.  The complex pattern of golds, greys, and blacks captivated my attention against the pure white vaults of what I had expected to be a simple and austere parish as I approached the door.

As the children of the choir finished and were presumably released from all academic restraints for the day judging by the quick change from their everyday clothes into their festival attire and the elderly ladies ended their midday prayers, I soon had the parish nearly to myself.  Still in awe of this historical cornerstone to Catholic Malaga, I only fell deeper into the beauty as each step was taken to the altar.  In comparison to the famed cathedral of the city for its size and grandeur, I feel that this parish is a more spellbinding experience.  Firstly, half the adventure is getting there!  Following the white marble trellis pattern pathways leading up to the parish and the small plaza flanking to the southeast is soothing for the traveler's soul just as much as the elegant interior of the parish is to admire.  Even if seeing religious sites is not a common activity during your travels, I would recommend making this small side trek if you ever find yourself in Malaga.  One, the parish is a must-see and secondly, there is an incredible cafe tucked away in the petite plaza that goes above and beyond when it comes to making a savory café cortado.  Although, I tried to ask what the secret behind their mystical powers in making this perfected blend between espresso and "milk", all I would get was a full smile from the olive-skinned barista.  My best guess was that milk was one shade away from being butter being it was so creamy and delicious because if there was one thing I saw while living in the American South was that butter makes everything better!  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stopping by the Sea - Marbella, Spain

On one of the easier bikes rides of #WorldTour2015, I slept in and casually dismantled my tent while enjoying the cool morning weather before hitting the road.  Scouting out my plan for the day while I had WiFi and eating a healthy serving of local fruits and meats, Marbella looked to be a good midpoint for lunch.  One reason I made this choice was due to the literal translation of the city's name "beautiful sea".  I mean, if I am going to stop and eat something, I had might as well have a view to enjoy, right!?  As I entered into the city, I quickly made the executive decision to extend my time in Marbella.  While I dodged my way through the inner city traffic, I did my best to follow the "i" signs to get my hands on more sites to see aside from the beach.  Once I acquired my stack of information pamphlets, I set out to find a beach hut for some lunch and reading time.  As I read more about the heart of la Costa del Sol, I had to limit my exploration options down to three points of interest.  The first being to relax on the beach and admire the incredible sand sculptures of all sorts and sizes.  Following my tie in the sun, I freed my bike from it's chains and ventured up to the narrow passages of the Casco Antiguo. In the Old Quarter, despite the small size, I found one interesting site after another.  From climbing on the ruins of the Moorish citadel to walking about the crowded markets from flower-covered alleyways of brightly colored houses, this area deserved far more time than I had available to commit!  Weaving my way out of the heart of Marbella's historical quarter, I made my way to Parque Arroyo de la Represa to rest my legs before continuing onward.  More importantly, there was a bridge I wanted to check out!  Rising above the numerous beautifully manicured trees of the Bonsai Museum was the central tower of the Puente del Santisimo Cristo del Amor.  Taking advantage of  the shelter of the shade of the bridge and the cool grass of thee park, I enjoyed the culturally acceptable siesta before departing beautiful and ancient city of Marbella.

Polo de Rio Guadiaro - San Roque, Andalusia, Spain

While on my way northward from Gibraltar, I found myself taking a break from bicycling at the bridge over the Guadiaro River.  After getting un-lost from taking the wrong traffic circle, I was on the right path of least resistance as I ventured through the borough of Nuevo Pueblo.  As I came off the service road paralleling the Autovía 7, I was faced with staying on the main road which had an ever so inclining grade to it or take the downhill route of Avenida los Canos.  I took the risk of the latter option and made an adventure out of it!  As I passed through Guadiaro proper and I faced the uphill or path of least resistance choice again which was also paved versus unpaved by the way. Down the dirt road I went only to realize the road became a track and presumably a dried creek bed later.  Sticking to my commitment of the 'short cut', I pedaled along down the path until a near collision between myself and a young vaquera occured as we both came around the bend and that is when I realized I was in horse country.  After getting my heart rate up, I enjoyed the shaded track while it lasted until I came upon the junction where I was looked upon by questioning eyes of the group of fisherman watching me come out of the trees in bright cycling gear towing my little trailer.  After that left turn I was back on the pavement and amidst the aroma of blossoming orchard ranked in perfect rows nestled between A-2103 and the river.  Rounding the bend toward the green steel truss bridge, I heard the familiar sound of horse hooves and there was certainly more than one horse!  As I curiously pushed forth, I found a break in the trees and what was the cause of the speeding horses.  I parked my bicycle by the bridge and walked down to enjoy the practice games and admire the stock of this local estate's stables, and well, the estate itself!  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Climbing the Rock - Gibraltar

Starting my first full day in Gibraltar with climbing the famed Rock in mind, I had a slow start due to a few adult beverages I had the night before!  Taking the wise words of my Gibraltarian host, Nicky, for making the most out of the day I headed south through the maze of streets filled with churches, synagogues, mandirs, until I found myself at the Mosque of Two Holy Custodians.  I did not intend on going at the way to the Europa Point, but hey! Why not!?  Turning my bearings back north, I ventured on until I got distracted by cool architecture and the smell of food for it was snack time!  After getting a kebab or three and a refill of my water supply, I travailed up the hill in the summer heat seemingly rising as each step was made higher and higher.  As I climbed upward, I rounded a corner with a beautiful retreat spa built entirely atop a giant rock formation and for a moment, contemplated skipping the climb and just relaxing for the afternoon but that would not have been as much of an adventure!  So, I marched, well I steadily continued with sweat dripping from my brow on upward. Coming up to the entry point I was expecting to find the ticket booth, but finding the Jews' Gate cemetery and the monument of Pillars of Hercules were true bonus finds.  From there, I broke off from the beaten path to take the "scenic route" of the Mediterranean Stairs.  Now, there may be a reason as to why the Stair Option is not the beaten path but the views are undeniably breathtaking!  With that beauty comes a difficulty rating of "hard" and after taking the megalithic stairway up the eastern side, I can fully agree with that rating!  Throughout the 1,400 meter stretch I only encountered two others and they were taking the easy route - downward!  After playing around in a few abandoned fortifications and natural caves one, because they were there and secondly, they were a nice relief from the summer heat!  Charging to the top of the Stairs, the views only got better which led me to scrabble out to a precipice and relax my tired feet while taking in the panoramic wonder of the Mediterranean Sea along with the beach patrons enjoying the sapphire blue waters and sands with the sailboats and cargo ships slicing through the ranks of waves.  Cresting to the top of the Stairs put me right at the highest point within Gibraltar and on the path to Saint Michael's Cave.  

Stepping into the air conditioned comfort of the cafe/souvenir shop/ticket office was a welcomed relief from my climb up the east side faces and to enjoy a liter of chilled water and ice cream.  After getting my fill of refreshments, I transitioned from the shop building that was a few decades in age down the stairs into the first of many cave halls that have been intriguing to visitors dating back to the early times of the Roman Empire.  Descending one set of stairs after the other into the depths of the cavern, I find the legend to be believable that the cave system would reach to the African continent!  Of the many information tablets about myths shrouding the caves, one is quite fetching and involves Gibraltar's most famous residents: Barbary Macaques.  Up until my exit from the caverns, I had not encountered these fiery primates and the first happened to be what I would consider to be a toddler.  As I headed upward (again) I came upon more and more of the macaques and in the strangest of places.  Making one of the final turns of the road, I met the mob of tourists with their cameras and phones all striving for that full frame of action going on in the center of the circle. What was their attention drawn to you may ask?  Two adult monkeys perched on the back of one of the Rock visitors!  I, however, made sure to keep my distance from the summit citizens from friends that had made the trek prior to me and know I fully understood why as those two riders started to brawl on her back.  Continuing on, I caught glimpse of a young photogenic macaque and after capturing what I consider to be the best photo I caught while on the Rock, I figured I could call it a successful day. I made my way down by the siege tunnels last used in the Second World War and the ancient Moorish Castle into the city to have dinner and a well-deserved beer!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Riding to the Rock - La Linea de la Concepción, Spain

 The first glimpse I caught of the Rock was three days before I crossed 'the line' as I was on my downhill slide into Algeciras.  Once I crossed over what seemed like an endless hill, the bike ride was a piece of cake along the small coastal hills of the Bay of Gibraltar.  Until I heard a high pitched whistle from behind me and watched my rear tire deflate before my eyes with less than one kilometer to my destination!  Luckily, I had enough air in my tire to limp down off the autovía and commence my first tube change of #WorldTour2015.  After a few days of relaxation in San Roque, I was ready to head to the United Kingdom!  Well, one of its' many Overseas Territories that predominately speaks Spanish or Llanito (super Spanglish) and inhabited by peoples of every corner of the world!  The ride from San Roque to my final destination was simple as could be: Head to the big rock.  Taking my sweet time along Avenida Principe de Asturias next to the bright blue waters of the bay, I came upon a right hand turn and chaos.  That chaos being the mess of traffic coming and going from the "immigration control" between the Kingdom of Spain and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.  I put immigration control in quotations being there are officers standing their post but as I was attempting to present my passport, I has hastily waved through with not a glance at my travel documents or undeclared goods.  This was round one of three for me not getting a desired passport stamp!  After maneuvering the official border crossing, I made my way down Winston Churchill Avenue on my AWOL to the unofficial and most unique crossing I have ever made into a different territory - across an airstrip!  Pretty sure this is the only intersection where the  traffic signal is dictated by the cross traffic of commercial airliners and military aircraft!   

One Day in Africa - Tangier, Morocco

As a 'spur of the moment' decision to make the crossing the night prior to arrival, the group tour I thought I paid for ended up being with a private guide about the city being "my name was not on the list".  At first, the company was hesitant on letting me in on the tour that soon left.  Still holding my ground with my e-receipt as evidence of payment, the tour coordinator made a quick phone call and soon enough a salt and pepper, olive-skinned man came walking up the path.  The coordinator introduced him to me as Nadir in which I responded to in Arabic 'تشرفنا، نادر' (tasharrafna nadir) and both of their eyes light up with excitement! Nadir's walk changed from his slow saunter coming to the office to spry step onward into the time-worn streets and walls of the medina.  As we made our way up the winding passageways between small markets and shops, I felt the history of this multicultural city come to life with her sounds and smells!  After a few minutes, the narrow street opened up into a vast maze of market stalls and that is where the real-life tour began.  Nadir gave me a few words to the wise about going into the market, dealing with the shop owners, and staying safe.  In the web of shops and stalls, I could find anything from fresh fruits to young kittens enjoying a small, morning cat-nap!  He later commented on my cultural awareness and said that he would be willing to take me a little more off the beaten path for the next few stops!  Between the market and our next destination, I will admit, I felt nervous but those feelings passed as soon as I stepped out into a spacious courtyard.  Although the buildings had seen better days, most likely a century ago, this enclosure cut off from the noises of the city was home to a series of small workshops.  As Nadir guided me along the graffiti covered walls to the next corner, we came to an open door and to my surprise were two men running the looms to make the traditional style of rugs to the Kingdom of Morocco.  Continuing on, we came to a neighboring worker preparing a loom for what would be about a three meter by four meter rug.  Asking politely in my best Arabic, my request to enter in and witness the operation was answered with a weathered yet warm smile of this artisan.  I find it hard to describe those short moments.  The smells of the spools of wool and the crispness of the wooden tools filled the small room as he quickly but precisely set the loom of hundreds of long, delicate strings of the canvas that would become a work of art and a story of their families, culture and home in which they so openly welcomed me into even if it were just a day.  

As the morning turned to midday, Nadir, led me down this 'street' that when I extended my arms out, my fingers were tracing along the walls of the stucco homes rising above us.  After a few more bends and turns, we came to a small blue door framed by unbelievably ornate tiles and a firm "MARHABAN!" from a man standing just inside.  Him and Nadir chatted in their thick Moroccan mix of French and North African Arabic with an occasional Spanish and English dropped into the dialogue.  Soon enough, I was being led up the tiled staircase of more strikingly beautiful tiles to a gorgeous dining area next to the arched windows with a bird's eye on all the happenings down below.  Settling in with a cup of mint tea on it's way, Nadir took his leave to run a few errands while I had traditional Tangier cuisine!  Without saying a word, dish after dish came to my table and I enjoyed every second of it!  From my tribulations of forgetting my passport in the morning and only having a small breakfast on the ferry ride, along with a collective handful of dates as lenders offered them up for me to try, I was ready for a real meal and they complied!  I left that table with a true taste of Morocco!  As I stuffed the last bites of the dessert line-up, Nadir came up the stairs with a happy smile and a young lad in tow - his youngest son.  Squaring up with my gracious host, I paid for my meal which came to a total of around 11 Euro (about the same as the US dollar) and my best guess from the Moroccan restaurants back in the States I would have paid about forty to fifty for this meal.  

Completely satisfied, we all ventured back out into the summer Moroccan sun and walked about the medina as Nadir's son practiced his English skills with me and my Arabic in return.  Coming up on a different market area, we made a hard right turn into a small side alley.  As we were walking, Nadir switched over into the local dialect and from what I could gather from the son's reaction and collecting his books from his father's bag, he had to go back to school.  As the son set off, Nadir fired up his scooter to take me to a few other spots of the city - off the charts!  From the new and modern uptown to the new construction of the megaport and a few side places in between, my one day stop in Tangier was extensive and exciting.  My last request was to spend some time on my own around the Grand Mosque and Nadir was honored to oblige with such a request.  Zipping through the narrow streets after following the port boulevard, Nadir and I parted ways just outside of the chaos of the traffic buzzing about this ancient and sacred ground.  As I meandered on my own toward the rising minaret, I stumbled upon a placard giving a history of the 'masjid' of the Grand Socco area of Tangier.  The foundations date back to the Roman times when a temple dedicated to the demigod Hercules was a place of worship to the far ends of the empire.  Later, a cathedral built by the Catholics of Portugal stood on this hilltop overlooking the trading port below.  Today, the grand mosque stands as a quiet sanctuary to worshipers despite the chaos that occurs just outside it's walls.  From this high point of topography and of my trip, I slowly made my way back down what were once strange streets to the port to catch the ferry back.  As I conclude this post, it almost seems like it was impossible to do all of this in one day without any planning.  Although, with the help and kindness of a local man by the name of Nadir, I did and I will hold each and every bit of Tangier dear to me.

Crossing the Strait - Tarifa, Spain

Despite Africa not being in my itinerary when I began my WorldTour2015, I learned how the power of 'why not!?' and decided to make a day trip across the Straits.  I left my tent early on a foggy Friday morning from my camping spot at Torre de la Peña and headed east into the brightening sky to Tarifa to board the ferry.  After casually bicycling to the port and about ready to reclaim my boarding pass, the realization that I had left my passport behind came to frightening reality.  Heart racing, I pedaled those 8 kilometers in record time and tore through my tent door to find my essential travel document of the day waiting for another stamp on her pages!  Hightailing back to the port, I made the boarding in just the nick of time - Off to Africa!  As I settled into the space-age catamaran ferry to watch the sun break through the clouds to start the day as I started my surprise adventure.  As the ferry was piloted out of the ancient harbor and past the lighthouse on Punta de Tarifa which is the southernmost point of mainland Europe, I can now check that off the list!  Despite the weather not being all that cooperative with my desire to snap some shots, the ferry ride was fascinating in itself, but the mixture of cultures of the Mediterranean European and the North African, the elderly bearing the old ways but using playing on their iPhones down to the toddlers running about the ferry in their brightly colored clothes of Spain's casual summer wear or the touches of traditional Islamic apparel.  With all of that going on in the hour's time to cross, this was my bridge from one world to another.