Tandoori Nights in Palolem, Goa, India

Palolem, Goa

I had been trying to get to India for ages, if fact I already had an unused and expired visa in my passport, this time I would actually make it.

With India being so huge I had decided to be conservative in my travel plans and to keep to the west coast. I arrived in Mumbai on an overnight British Airways flight and was booked onto a Kingfisher plane to Goa later in the morning.

The chaos of the terminals in Mumbai is amazing with hundreds of people shouting and running around, bags disappearing off into the distance and perplexed travellers stuck in the middle. I managed to find the correct bus to transfer to the domestic terminal and we meandered for miles around the perimeter road before finally arriving at our destination.

palolem beach

Here is a big, no HUGE, tip. If you make a reservation by debit or credit card for a flight or hotel in India you must show the card that you made the reservation with. Now if that card was replaced for some reason you will still need to show it, regardless. This is always on the small print on nearly every flight I have booked all over the world but I have never, ever been asked for the original card, until India.

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Camel-packing on the Sahara Desert, Morocco

One lump or two sir?

Now let’s get this straight a camel is just that, a camel. There are many types and the ones more often found in Morocco are Dromedaries that is to say they have one hump. There are others like the two humped Bactrian camel often found in Asia, but a camel is still a camel.

Phew…end of rant.

You might ask what this is all about; I thought this was a travel article. Read on my friends, read on.

The south east of Morocco borders onto Algeria and this is the true beginning of the Sahara Desert. It is where travellers come to fulfil their dreams and let their imaginations run riot in the romance of the sandy ocean that is spread out before them.

my view of the camel Ttain

Our party had travelled from Ouazazarte, just this side of the high Atlas and had passed through the town of Merzouga and the dusty plains beyond before arriving at the imposing sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi.

I was getting excited about the camel ride to come and to be truthful just a little nervous. I had been on a camel once or twice before but that was just to have a picture taken, this time I was taking my ship of the desert for a true Lawrence of Arabia journey. Hut Hut!

We arrived at the small fort set at the foot of the Erg, it was dry and dusty with 4×4’s littering the car park like the start of the Dakar rally. Inevitably the French were here in numbers many donning the blue head dress of the fabled Bedouin tribes looking like complete idiots in their local garb and strutting around with pretentious airs.

Pick a camel

While watching this display our guide had been busy securing a selection of camels for our group and we were led over to be assigned and become acquainted with our rides. The head guide looked at us with a practiced eye and paired off the camels to suit each rider. His gaze fell upon me and will a babble of Arabic mixed with French a young assistant ran off to bring over my camel.

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Making money on the go, a guide to busking in Europe

There comes a time when you are trying to save for a trip and you realise it’s just not going to be enough to keep on the road for as long as you would like.

What is the solution? Well you could try finding part time work but that involves permits and bureaucratic hassle or you could try to eke out the budget and cut down on necessities like food or avoid the more expensive museums. These are all compromises and whilst reasonable choices for some they limit the chances for humble backpackers of seeing famous monuments and sampling local cuisine.

How about using a talent you have for music or art or even dance? Busking has been around in one shape or form for thousands of years. In fact many small communities used to get their news and satire from travelling minstrels roaming from town to town telling stories about their travels and passing on news from afar. Those days, unfortunately, are long gone but the tradition of street entertainment lives on and it offers the traveller a neat way of supplementing their travel budget.

Ok, it helps if you are reasonably proficient at either singing or playing an instrument but that is just the start. I have seen many a good busker fail to make money through a lack of local knowledge or simple shyness. When the chips are down and you need cash it is time to get to centre stage and let the world know what you can do.

I have busked in underground stations being chased by policemen, made money on a motorway slip road whilst waiting for a lift and have serenaded topless diners in the French Riviera (that is another story that needs telling on its own). I have busked on cross channel ferries and sang in the snow halfway up a mountain. The common theme here is I needed to add money to my travel bank and this was the best way for me to do it.

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Journey Across the Atlas Mountains

Easter in Morocco is a very French affair; it does seem that half the population of France make their way south to the deserts, cities and mountains in this period. Marrakech was becoming overcrowded and an unusually hot spell was making it all a bit too much.

I sat in a café facing the Djemaa el Fna, the place of the dead, in the medina of old Marrakech nursing a mint tea, tucking into delicious pancakes and sipping freshly squeezed orange juice pondering my escape. I knew there was a bus to Ouazazarte across the Atlas Mountains with the opportunity to see some spectacular scenery and sample a different Morocco.

marrakech street sceneJPG

Returning to my hotel room I quickly packed my bags and headed to the bus station. With buses every hour or so I was out of the city in short order. The road climbed and twisted through the approach to the range of mountains ahead of me, small dusty forts and rag tag villages appeared around almost every bend. After a couple of hours we arrived at a rest stop just before the pass, snow was still on the ground and the air felt clean and dry.

I chose to take a snack from the local barbeque guy and with the lamb hanging right in front of me I could pretty much choose what cut I wanted. It was delicious and perfect washed down with a cup of tea mountain style. The only downside was an unfortunate incident in the bathroom where I seemed to be trailing my headphones behind me through some questionable pool of liquid…ugh!

snack bar in the high atlas

The break over we re-boarded and the bus continued to navigate the hairpin bends until finally we crested the mountains and descended in to the valley below. The light was fading now but the glow of the old Foreign Legion outpost of Ouazazarte shone in the gloom. The first part of the journey was almost over.

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