By Ian K. McLaren


Chapter                    Title

1                    W.Europe / N.Africa

                     (Ian and Justin - 1971)

2                    Morocco 1973


3                        Christmas with a Princess

                            (Morocco 1978-1979)

4                     Morocco 1994

                            Business or Pleasure ? Neither!

                      (Ian and Amarjit)


5                       Before You Go

6                   Once You’re There

7                   Working Your Passage

8                         Do’s and Don’ts

Chapter One

Western Europe / North Africa - (1970)

It was calm and mild, as the midnight car ferry to Ostend, eased out of Dover docks, heading for the mainland of Europe. It was with a little trepidation that Justin and myself saw the floodlit, white cliffs of Dover, disappear into the stillness of the night. Very soon there was little to see but the stars, so we went downstairs to our luggage and after a few card games we both fell asleep on the comfortable aircraft-type seats. When we awoke at about 3.30 a.m., we bought coffee and went outside to the foredeck to see a myriad of street lights stretched out for miles, along the flat, Belgian coast road, about four miles distant. There followed a long, complicated manoeuvre as the roll-on/roll-off (and almost "roll-over"!) ferry, reversed up to the concrete ramp, our gateway to adventure. So at 4.20 a.m. Monday July 21st. 1971, we had arrived ; to begin what proved to be a four and a half month exploit and discovery into the dark, inner secrets of life.

Justin, just before our departure

On setting out from Britain, Justin who was 17, and myself aged 26, had set ourselves no time limit for the adventure. If necessary it could take a lifetime. We had known each other for about nine months and thought we were quite well acquainted, having been in each others company about three or four days, or nights, a week. I had lived with Justin and his mother for the first three months but as we soon discovered, we knew very little about each others personalities. We had met initially through Justin’s mother, an occultist and Luciferian, who like myself had a great affinity with nature, wilderness and a spirit of independence. We were all free- thinkers enjoying naturism, nude beach barbecues, and forest rambles, day or night. Having left the R.A.F. about a year earlier, I was in a bit of a rut so decided to seek out new pastures, sharing the experience with Justin.

I had already left home and after 5 years of R.A.F. service had seen a bit of the world, whilst working as an avionics commissioning engineer with the Royal Saudi Air Force at Dhahran. My appetite had been whetted and I had the continuing desire for travel and adventure and to see the world whilst I was still young, although at the time of writing, now aged 57, I might reminisce for earlier adventures but with serious heart disease I have to be a realist and be grateful for the opportunities I took in my youth, realising that those days are gone. Apart from the selection of appropriate clothing, and the remainder of our kit, including a full 10 year Passport, only minimal planning was the rule. The route was basically planned but as we intended to take life as it came, we remained flexible in our objectives. Although a Luciferian, I had acquired from my Arab friends a practice of total trust and submission, and as things turned out, it was nice to have “a minder”, for protection against disaster when it threatened, which it frequently did! My philosophical aspirations on the trip were to simply try and find a way of life which seemed to be right for me. Each traveller on this great spiritual adventure called life, must find their own way to the truth, but when I’m called to account for my thoughts, words and deeds at the end of this incarnation, when my Akashic Records are reviewed, I want to be able to say, with the inimitable Frank Sinatra, “I did it MY way”.

Ian in his Saudi apartment, RSAF Dhahran, May 1970

As I expected things to get rough at times on the trip, I grew a beard in anticipation of sleeping out rough, not being guaranteed a supply of hot water or electricity. This of course also saved weight, which was an important consideration. With the wisdom which I gained from this trip, I have modified my check list for necessary and un-necessary kit. As it happened we roughed it far more than we lived in comfort.

On arrival at Ostend we were tired and hungry, so we carried our somewhat excessive luggage through the narrow cobbled streets of the dock area until we found an all-night cafe which was open. After a meal of hamburger, egg, chips, coffee, bread and butter which cost us a startling 22s.6d. each (£1.12p), we lazed in there until the town came to life, just after 6 a.m. There then followed a long, tiring walk to the railway station where we thankfully left our luggage and made a six minute telephone call to Justin’s mother to report our safe arrival. It was there in Ostend that we discovered the differences between life in Britain and that in continental Europe. We first noticed a lack of two things, standard and plentiful in Britain : Public Toilets and STD street-based coin box telephones.

Ostend ornamental gardens

The few street public toilets there are on the continent, are locked after dark and the remainder are to be found in cafes which also serve as bars. Being quite fluent in French, language was no problem for me there, but in any case English was widely spoken. In Ostend, most workers start early, being at work by 6.30 a.m.

Ostend appeared to be a rather dismal start to our adventure, there being a generally unwashed, putrid smell to the air. The wide dual carriageways between the different districts, the flatness of the landscape and the concentration of small-windowed, shuttered, white-washed houses in the town centre, extending to tower blocks in the suburbs, reminded me very much of my first visit to an Arabian township.

No longer having to carry our luggage, we were now refreshed and eager to explore the immediate area. Our first task, however, as in most towns, was to locate the Youth Hostel and book in for the night, since we had both taken out twelve months membership of the International YHA before setting out. The hostel was on the coast road, South of Ostend, and was easily found. Unlike British youth hostels, which mainly offer budget priced, dormitory accommodation, most European hostels offer luxury accommodation by comparison, there being at the most four to a room. Unfortunately they do then charge much higher prices. As the aim of the hostelling movement is to provide cheap, simple accommodation for people of limited means, who are generally on the move, or roughing it, the continental policy of offering something more akin to a British bed and breakfast is clearly at variance with this. After booking in we walked the 5 km. back along the beach, which extends a further 50 km. South beyond the hostel.

We realised that Ostend was going to be expensive, so we decided to head next for Amsterdam. Having found out that the single second class train fare from Ostend to Amsterdam was the equivalent of £5 each, I asked a Belgian if he would take us by pony and trap, which he was plying for hire. Since the train fare was 500 Belgian francs each, I thought 800 Belgian francs between us was a fair offer, to which he replied, “800 francs? I wouldn’t do it to Amsterdam for bloody 8,000!” Apparently he thought it a bit much for his horse to do a 1,000km. round trip even for the £8 we offered him. It would certainly form the basis of a very romantic journey, to perhaps go to India or Morocco by pony and trap, doing maybe 30 miles a day.

After sunbathing on the immaculately clean, fine, sandy beach, we got onto a tram which was going along the coast road, past the youth hostel. We heard two English girls talking and after introducing ourselves they asked us if we knew exactly where the youth hostel was. We assured them that we did, but were distracted by our chatting and went past it. So we stopped on the tram to the terminus and returned after a free sight-seeing trip. The girls were frightened that it might be full on their eventual arrival but fortunately it wasn’t.

After another night at the hostel we headed out on the trunk road to Brussels, hitched there in two lifts in one day and booked into a hostel there. There are two hostels in Brussels, one run by the French YHA and the other by the German YHA. We stayed in the French hostel, which was more in the price range and style of British hostels. It was in a dingy back street, opposite a greengrocer’s shop in the Arab quarter, and there were 30 beds to a room, arranged in 15 double bunks. At that time of the year the continental hostels were quite crowded and so we made a point of getting near the front of the queue, even though it meant a longer wait. The price of bed and breakfast was an agreeable surprise, so we had supper also. It was a plentiful supply of well-cooked food in three courses, and was self-service in a large, clean dining room.

"Fetes Des Fleures", Brussels

I befriended a Moroccan Arab staying there and he took Justin and I on a tour of the city. We had a most enjoyable evening, drinking outside the bars and listening to the street entertainers as we sipped our chilled lager. Justin later provided some entertainment on his harmonica and we concluded the evening with a visit to the German hostel. There we met and made many young friends, spending about an hour drinking coffee and exchanging experiences and plans with other hostellers. A German girl asked Justin to go and get a light for her cigarette and not being too good at conversational English, she waited about ten minutes for Justin to return but he was so engrossed talking to a Chinese boy, from whom he had borrowed a lighter, that he completely forgot the purpose of his errand and sat there, holding the lighter, a few tables from the German girl, who getting rather frustrated said to me, “Your friend, he has fire but he no come back”.

The following day we set out by train to Amsterdam, as the roads around Brussels are far too busy and fast, and not suitable for hitch-hiking. On arrival we waited outside the Youth Hostel for about an hour, lying on the pavement, in common with a hundred other hippies and drop-outs, until it opened at about 5 p.m. It was packed and rather derelict, with only one toilet for all male and female residents. Breakfast had to be taken in shifts and we succeeded in getting a casual job, serving breakfast to the other residents and washing the dirty dishes afterwards. For this we were both given free accommodation and free food, morning and evening. After breakfast on the first morning we went out to see a bit of the town. Both Justin and I had previous professional experience in the hotel and catering industry.

Amsterdam canal view

Amsterdam is a sexy, swinging, city; very noisy, very busy and very liberated. During a visit to one of the city’s many sex shops, we bought a pack of pornographic playing cards, to sell again at a profit should we ever be in need of funds. Taking a walk around the town, we sat on a lawn in one of the city’s parks and soon some children aged between about 10 and 13 came up and because it was a hot day, stripped off and proceeded to splash nude in a nearby fountain. They chased each other through the bushes and across the lawn, before lying down to relax and get their all-over tan topped up. Later, on a visit to the Central Park, we saw hippies on the grass, smoking pot, making love, and at night, sleeping out in their sleeping bags. Yes, people in Amsterdam seem to have few inhibitions and anything goes. It was all very much in keeping with our own Luciferian creed, the central tenet of which, is : “Do what Thou Wilt, and Harm None”.

The streets of the city are crowded with mopeds, bicycles and cars, and when the traffic lights turn to green, all hell is let loose with the roads being turned into a race track, police urging drivers on with their whistles, to go faster, faster, faster! After a few weeks, when we were ready to move on, we headed South, by luxury Europabus air-conditioned coach, on our way to Dusseldorf, the business and commercial centre of Germany. On the way there we passed tulip field suburbs with windmills and clogmakers en-route through Rotterdam. There were no Passport or Customs checks as we crossed the border, the coach just slowing down before getting waved on by the armed border police.

The first place we headed for as usual, was the Youth Hostel ; this one being on the Eastern edge of the city, on the banks of the Rhine. A clean, luxurious, pine-built hostel awaited us and as we walked up the car park a group of about 30 German frauleins, in Bavarian national costume, were providing colourful dance entertainment to the accompaniment of an accordion player in traditional lederhosen.

There was a really happy, carefree atmosphere in this hostel which inspired us. By this time the £40 we had brought out between us was down to practically nil, so we went to the British Consul to enquire about work, and were told that before commencing work in Germany we must first acquire a work permit, issued in London.

As we were on the move, and had no definite plans, we were certainly not going to return to the U.K. on the off-chance of getting a work permit and then finding work in Germany. We were told that work permits were not required in Spain, so after confirming this with the Spanish Consul, we decided to head for Spain next. With this encouraging news, we drew £25 out of Justin’s account, having the money telexed through to a Dusseldorf bank, while we waited.

From that day on it was essential that we economise until we found work. So we spent the rest of the day sunbathing on the lawns opposite the British Consul, planning our route through France. In the evening, when the hostel opened, we moved our cooking utensils and sleeping bags out and spent our first evening roughing it, sleeping on the wide banks of the Rhine. At about 5 a.m. a Police van stopped and asked us to move on, or into the hostel, as dossing in the more exclusive areas of Germany was frowned upon. So we took advantage of the early start, had breakfast and were at the Youth Hostel to collect the remainder of our baggage as soon as the doors opened at 7 a.m., then heading South for Luxembourg and the Ardennes.

Thumbing was quite easy in Germany and the good autobahn network meant that we made good progress. About 5 Km. from Aachen we got dropped off on a branch autobahn, and started thumbing again when we noticed a Police helicopter overhead, in radio contact with a Police car which was rounding up a selection of other stranded hitch-hikers. We dived over a convenient hedge and were playing hide-and-seek with the German Police, as we were still technically on an autobahn, and thumbing there was strictly VERBOTEN!

Now panicking slightly and thumbing furiously, we were delighted to see a white Jaguar car pull up a few yards away. “British” I thought. So we rushed up and asked the driver if he was going into Aachen. He said “Yes, I’m going into Aachen - Aachen Police Station - und you are coming with me!” Of all the rotten luck we had thumbed an unmarked Police car. After giving us a telling off, he quoted chapter and verse from the German Penal Code, checked our passports and then “invited” us to contribute 10 DM. each to the German economy. He wouldn’t even give us a lift : we were marched off the motorway in column of route, in common with other transgressors.

We were shattered on arrival in Aachen and not being able to afford accommodation at the hostel, walked about 5 Km. through the town and up a long hill on the road to the Ardennes and Luxembourg. By now things were beginning to get rough, but I thought we might as well work off our negative karma now, in the hope of better times ahead. Tiredness took over and we collapsed over our luggage at the top of a hill. I left Justin with the luggage and went to look for a suitable field nearby where we could spend the night. After finding a suitable place, I was just returning to collect the luggage when a German woman of about 30 pulled up and offered us a lift in her open top sports car. Our prayers had been answered. Things were improving. We were most elated and had our flagging spirits boosted by getting this good lift after such a hard day.

She drove us about 100 Km. to a lovely place only 40 Km. from Luxembourg, in the heart of the pine forests of Ardennes. We were so tired that we couldn’t be bothered eating that night and just flopped thankfully on to a most comfortable bed of pine needles under a clear, starlit sky, on that warm night, and drifted easily into a deep and restful sleep. In the morning we awoke to the sound of the dawn chorus and like the birds we were cheerful and well rested from our exhaustion of the previous day. After breakfast we succeeded in getting a good lift and we were in Luxembourg City by lunchtime. Although it was just a case of passing through, only being there for about half an hour, we got the impression that it was an efficient, business-like city, quiet and independent, having the freshest tasting water of the whole trip. From the outskirts of Luxembourg, one lift took us into France. That afternoon there was a torrential downpour and the car we were in, in common with many others, stopped on the autoroute pulling on to the hard shoulder as the rain was so heavy ; the visibility was practically nil.

After it eased, the driver, a French woman tried to start again, but due to ingress of water into the points, was unable to. After pushing the car under a nearby bridge we soon realised that we were again stranded on a motorway and so set off walking to the nearest exit. Just before we arrived there we were stopped by the French Police who fortunately accepted my story and set off to help the woman.

Once off the autoroute we got a lift within half an hour to the town of Nancy. The driver took us in the back of his canvas covered Landrover to the hostel and helped us off with our luggage. Despite our low financial reserves we were not going to kip out on soaked grass in continuing heavy rain. At the hostel, another expensive luxury type, we had a hot shower, dried our clothes and the following morning we were well fed and feeling refreshed, with the rain now having stopped. Our aim, as on leaving Germany, was to get through France as quickly as possible to Spain where we hoped to find work.


Continuing to hitch-hike through France we arrived one evening at the village of Neufchateau. Deciding to spend the night there, we plodded in darkness through sodden fields to find one dry and sheltered gravel patch, which in fact proved to be quite comfortable. In the morning we awoke to discover we had in fact been sharing a field with a herd of stud bulls !

That day we made no progress until early evening and our only lift of the day was in a taxi returning to base at Langres, 50 Km. from Neufchateau. So it was a good lift and the day having been rather wet it was nice to get into a warm, dry, comfortable taxi. By this time it was getting late and we decided sleep must come first and so with the roads being quiet we kipped on a park bench.

It improved to hot and sunny weather as we progressed South through France and we were now in grape country. One lift dropped us off outside a wine cave and vineyard near Macon where we had a tour, the high point being free wine sampling. We decided to ask the farmer for work whilst we were there but as he had his full compliment of grape-cutters and cave workers for the season, he suggested we try at the Town Hall who keep a register of employment vacancies, but unfortunately the office was shut by the time we got there. After buying some bread and cooked meats we got a lift into Lyons.

We shared a meal of chips with a tramp and in the evening booked into the hostel there, which was rather spartan by continental standards, with camp beds for the few and mattresses for the majority, arranged inches from each other on the damp and rotting wooden floor. The toilets and ablutions stank, through years of inattention to cleanliness and were primitive in style. Once we left our luggage there, we went for a walk and on the way back, Justin discovered an orchard for sale and unoccupied, so he picked about 10 lbs. of pears which he distributed to other hostellers.

The following day we made no progress whatsoever and feeling a bit depressed were longing for some English food, particularly at breakfast time, in place of the rather bland French croissants. So we went along the road out of Lyons asking if anyone had any tomatoes or eggs they could sell us. At the many farms we tried we had no luck, but just as things were looking bleak, I was given six eggs without payment. Justin meanwhile was trying at a house across the road and was unaware of my success. Although the youth at the house had no spare eggs, he inquired on Justin’s behalf with his neighbours. Justin and I then met up and found a suitable place to sleep for the night, behind some trees and an advertisement hoarding. While Justin was setting up camp, I continued to thumb, just in case we were offered a worthwhile lift.

This mini pulled up in response to my thumbing and the driver asked if I had a young, blond friend who was looking for some eggs. I told him I did, and Justin re-appeared, whereupon the driver presented us both with two more eggs and two huge beef-tomatoes without payment. He said he was glad to help us because people had been kind to him whilst he was hitch-hiking on an adventure during his student days.

We eventually reached Avignon after travelling quite a distance by bus. Hitching in France is very uncertain due to the competition. Leaving our luggage in left luggage lockers at the railway station, we brought the things we thought we’d need and found a dry but none too sheltered or comfortable river bank, and because we were feeling in a bit of a daft mood, we danced and sang on the bridge over the river, in accordance with the song, “Sur le pont d’Avignon”.

Sur le pont d'Avignon

After getting fairly settled and ready to cook our evening meal we realised we had left the Camping-Gaz stove in the left-luggage locker at the station, so not wanting to go without cooked food that evening, Justin volunteered to go back and get it, while I stayed with the luggage.

The lack of street lights in the area made it a dreadfully dark place and being a bit nervous staying there alone in the dark, I waited in a nearby well-lit street for Justin to return. On the way to collect the stove he had dropped the key, and having to search for it caused a great delay. It was about an hour later when he eventually returned. By this time I was highly scared, as the thing which haunted me most, at least on the earlier stages of the trip, was the fear of being left out there alone. At a later point in the trip, however, I was forced through circumstances to restore my self-confidence. After supper we went to sleep and in the morning awoke to hear a rustling from a nearby bush which we discovered to be a tramp from what is now the former Yugoslavia, We invited him to join us for breakfast, but he declined the offer saying that he would be getting something to eat in the office. He was, in fact, a very clean dosser, who washed himself in the river, shaved and put on a white shirt and suit before picking up his briefcase and going off to work. Apparently he had suffered a motor-cycle accident and was trying to save up for a new one, so he slept out rough to save money. He gave us each two men’s handkerchiefs, samples from the textile firm he represented.

The last major phase of the journey through France was by train to Perpignan. Our reasoning was that the sooner we got to Spain, the sooner we would find work. The train was in fact going to Toulouse, and we were supposed to change trains at Narbonne and get a connection, but we somehow missed the announcement and were at Carcassone before we realised we were miles off route. So we had to cross the line and get a returning train, making a 100 km. free sight-seeing trip.

On arrival at Perpignan we hitched straight through to the Escala hypermarket, on the road leading to the Spanish border at Le Perthus. Escala has about 10 acres of covered shopping accommodation, plus an enormous car park. A one-stop shop, it sells everything from French loaves to French-letters, and carpets to car accessories. You can even buy a pedal-powered “surrey with a fringe on top”.

After parking, you collect your king-size shopping trolley, known in French as a “chariot”. Shopping bags and other personal effects are deposited at reception before proceeding through electronic turnstiles to the shopping area. There are fifty check-out desks and after payment you then go through the electronically locked gates, to collect your shopping bags and return to the car. One night was spent sleeping out on a dry, stony soil embankment, overlooking Escala and being plagued by thousands of blood-thirsty gnats, under a full moon.

The next day we made good progress, and after crossing the Spanish border at Le Perthus, our lift took us on to Figueras, about 60 km. distant, where we bought bread, cooked meats and other shopping, eating our sandwiches on a park bench under a fierce sun, by a fountain, in beautifully maintained gardens near the town centre. We found Figueras a delightful little town, with happy, helpful people, and vowed to return there after finding work and money. It was apparent from our shopping bill that Spain was a far cheaper country to live in than France, so our diminishing money would last us that much longer.

Rosas, Costa Brava

Setting out in the afternoon we soon got a lift into Rosas, on the fashionable Costa Brava, and it was quite sunny. We spent the afternoon lying on the beach, sunbathing on our sleeping bags and planning to commence our search for work in the morning. At about 9 pm, we were the only ones left on the beach, or so we thought. So we got into our sleeping bags, only to be awakened some time later by the light of a torch being shone into our eyes. It was the Guardia Civil, who rattled on in Spanish. Thinking we were being arrested for something, I pleaded ignorance and said, “Non comprendi Espanyola”, which was as near to Spanish as I could muster at the time. I told him I spoke French, and so he told us that it was illegal to sleep on the beach in Spain, particularly in a smart tourist area like the Costa Brava, and could we please move into a camp-site. He directed us to one and before leaving we both shook his hand and thanked him for being nice about the whole thing. We had found that politeness and respect is always the best policy when dealing with forces of authority, particularly so in a foreign country. A bolshy attitude soon beings with it a pair of handcuffs. It is a good thing to remember that whatever country in the world you live in, you are subject to the laws of that country, which in many cases provide severe penalties.

Certain things allowed in Britain are illegal in other lands, whilst some things illegal in Britain are legal elsewhere. If you are polite, foreign police will often overlook simple breaches of discipline with a warning, as happened to us on several occasions on the trip, but the arrogance of the few can bring about a general contempt of a particular race, which backfires on those who are polite.

The camp site we booked into was typical of continental sites in providing excellent facilities. It cost us only 15p. per day between the two of us, to sleep there in our sleeping bags, tents being charged extra. It is hardly surprising that we got some strange looks from other campers due to our having no tent. However we did have free use of electricity, hot showers, TV lounge and games room, and we did our laundry in the wash basins, which is excellent value for 12 Ptas. per day per person.

The next day, after buying food, we walked to the Ampuriabrava Centre, 7 km. from Rosas.

Ampuriabrava Marina, Costa Brava

It is a commercial recreational centre, providing villas for rent or sale, most having access for cabin cruisers or speedboats, in addition to a golf links, marine servicing centre and social club.

It has a private beach 2 km. long by 22 m. wide, with beach catering, ice cream, soft drinks and bar facility. I was hoping to secure some work there in my trade of avionics fitter, working either at the small airfield on private light aircraft some of which are used by parachutists, or else offering calibration checks on marine navigation and compass systems. I also had, with Justin, worked in a fast food take-away and hotel, in a rehabilitation hostel and I had extensive experience as a professional photographer and film projectionist. We made an appointment for the following day with the Ampuriabrava director, after trying unsuccessfully for work there at the individual facilities.

Extending from the end of the Ampuriabrava beach for a further 2 km. towards Rosas, is a little-used beach having no catering facilities. Between the end of the undiscovered beach and Rosas beach is an access canal from the sea to the Ampuriabrava marina. The only way to get across this access canal is by boat or swimming. After we found a nice patch on the deserted beach, both Justin and I got in about five hours nude sunbathing, having both been naturists since our childhood. In my own case I didn’t discover the joys of naturism until I was 12 but Justin was brought up from infancy as a naturist, living in a detached country house in the New Forest area of Hampshire.

Justin, fishing in the Ardeche, France, aged 12

As we didn’t know the canal existed until we had walked all the way along the beach, it posed a bit of a problem for me, a non-swimmer! I had lost my confidence following a swimming accident at the age of 11 and even though Justin offered to chaperone me across, there was no way I was going to agree to it. So whilst Justin swam across, I was left with a long walk back, via the Ampuriabrava access road.

When I got back to the camp site some three hours later, Justin had prepared a lovely meal. After tea I came out with my earlier fears of being left out there alone, and although he was very sympathetic, he suggested that I confront my fears head-on, and that we deliberately separate for periods in the future. Although disagreeing at times, we had still not tired of each other’s company as it was still so much of an adventure. However, the next morning, I went to meet with the Ampuriabrava director whilst Justin went shopping and swimming. My coping on my own was to prove invaluable at a later stage in my trip when we became accidentally separated in Barcelona.

Although it was true that work permits were not required in Spain, priority went to unemployed Spanish nationals. To help us, the director typed out a card in Spanish, asking for work in cafes, bars, hotels or private houses, doing baby-sitting, chaperoning, teaching English, landscape gardening, dishwashing, making beds, cooking, etc. That night, still without work, we moved our belongings on to the deserted beach, which was not police patrolled, so as to save our ever-diminishing money for food. The tensions arising from being out-of-work dossers led to many disagreements. Justin was beginning to regret the whole adventure and wanted to go to the British Embassy and tell them we were broke, asking for repatriation. On the other hand, I had the confidence to believe that this was a test, and something would always turn up to save us. Just in time, it did.

The receptionists at the Ampuriabrava Centre had taken a personal interest in our case and could speak fluent Spanish, French, German and English. I had come out in a rash because of malnutrition and lack of protein. The staff could see that we were in a desperate state of affairs and had a collection amongst themselves to help us.

Also that afternoon, a French worker, who had got married the previous day, invited us to his rented house in Rosas for tea. Although not beggars by nature, we were glad to accept this offer of hospitality in the interests of health and self-preservation. On arrival there we both had our first bath since leaving the U.K., although we had been showering at youth hostels plus one free shower at Aachen Open-Air Swimming Baths when we went in to use the toilet for free.

After a very filling and wholesome meal, shared by two more of their friends, they arranged two spare beds for us and told us to go and collect our things from the beach and then return for tea that evening, as we would be staying there until our strength recovered and we found work. He helped us by translating the “Situations Vacant” column in the local newspapers.

On the way back from the beach to Rosas, a thunderstorm started and we succeeded in getting a lift. The 2CV had come to a stop in a queue of traffic a few yards from another car. The handbrake was off and Justin, looking through the rear window, saw an approaching car, desperately trying to brake on a sheet of water which covered the road. It aquaplaned out of control and crashed into us, knocking us into the car in front. My head was thrown forward onto the flexible plastic windscreen, without damage to either, and Justin banged his head on the roof without sustaining physical injury. Headlight glass scattered over the road and soon three more vehicles joined us in the pile-up. Petrol tanks were split on two cars, adding a fire risk to the existing skid hazard. I stood back as far as I dared from the scene of the accident, flagging motorists down with a torch. A motorcyclist was unable to stop in time, and ran off into the ditch. A brush was borrowed from a nearby cafe to sweep glass and debris off the road. All cars were later towed off to await repair. Having been in a few accidents in the U.K., I kept calm, but this was Justin’s first crash and so I treated him for shock. He urged me not to tell the honeymooners of our drama, as we did not want them to be put to any more trouble on our behalf. That evening, after eventually getting back to the house, we had another first class meal, after which we played cards and I cast numerology scopes until the electricity supply failed at about 11pm, probably due to lightning striking the power lines.

After a further three days,during which time my rash disappeared and my weight was restored, we decided on advice from the honeymooners that our best chance of finding work was to return to France where the grape harvest was about to begin. We could work cutting grapes, getting free accommodation, free food and a good wage. So leaving our luggage at the house in Rosas we set off travelling light after a good breakfast, and taking with us a packed lunch, had hitched to Perpignan by early afternoon. Travelling light and clean, with all our clothes having been laundered, it was much easier to get lifts. We took with us only a camping-gaz stove, cooking and eating utensils, a spare pair of trousers and a shirt, all packed in an airline bag. Our first night back in France was spent in a field, a few yards away from another team of grape cutters.

The following morning we bought a small loaf in Perpignan, asking the lady shopkeeper if she would accept Spanish currency as we had no French Francs with us. She agreed, and after paying the 5 Ptas. for the bread we walked out of the shop but before we had got very far the shopkeeper caught up with us and presented us with a large bag of fruit with her compliments, then hurried back to the shop without waiting to be properly thanked. Again when things were desperate, fate had stepped in and saved us. I felt sure we had not come out here to die.

Perpignan Airport

Looking around for work on that first full day back in France, I asked at the Flying Club at Perpignan Airport in the hope of getting a more permanent job, but without success. Whilst asking at vineyards near the airport we were offered work by two farmers, but not beginning for three weeks.

That second night was spent on the same embankment overlooking the Escala Hypermarket, this time without the gnats. The Escala complex includes both self-service and waiter-service cafes and restaurants, so we each got a glass of water from the bar and timing things nicely sat down at a table that had just been vacated by paying customers and before it could be cleared by waiters. We then ate whatever bread and cakes were left, and wrapped the remainder in serviettes before leaving hastily. After all, that food had been paid for, so the restaurant were not losing out. When we were hungry, what right had they got to return that food to stock and then resell it, or worse still throw it away? I had not been too practical up to now but was learning to use cunning methods in order to survive. How true that necessity is the mother of invention!

Our differences of opinion were set aside at that time as Justin and I joined forces in a common fight for survival. Is it not said that God helps those who help themselves? We spent the next two nights in the Escala area asking for work at farms and vineyards and because of hunger I ate my first grapes and thoroughly enjoyed them. Green grapes are a highly nutritious and filling food. We also secured some free apples on a night raid at an orchard.

The next day moving on towards Le Perthus and the Spanish border we came across a market gardener with a good stock of lettuce and tomatoes, so while I was asking for our flasks to be refilled, Justin busied himself in discreetly securing some food for that evening’s meal. On the way back we were wondering if it was possible to buy bread or milk locally as shops and bars often stayed open late. So coming across a family of grape cutters we asked if they knew of anywhere. They said there were no shops locally but gave us a large loaf and packets of cheese, jam and butter, saying that they had known hunger and hard times in the past and were pleased to be of assistance to us. So it was that over the next two days we were well fed and our strength was maintained.

We had found throughout the trip so far that the poor of the world were far more generous in proportion to their means, than were the rich, particularly those whose riches had been inherited and not worked for. The only rich people we did come across who were generous were the parents of Gerard, the French honeymooner who had helped us in Rosas. They had worked their way to prosperity.

The following day we located the Ministry of Agriculture office in Perpignan who handled casual labour for grapecutters during the season, but they said there was no work for us. Feeling dejected again we met as we left the office, an American who had just been given work and he felt they were simply being awkward and trying to give us the run-around. He said he would try and help us and took us to his girlfriend’s car. She drove us back to her place where we had a beer and a bath, followed by a nourishing cooked meal, our first since leaving Spain, as we could now only afford to buy bread, fruit and biscuits. After a rest there she drove us to her office in Perpignan to see if they could help us find work. She was secretary of the local branch of the Young Communist League and they had set up a bureau to find work and accommodation for out of work foreigners.

They suggested we go to the Young Communist and Conscientious Objector’s campsite situated at Canet Plage, about 10 Km. from Perpignan.

After spending the night sleeping at her place she drove us, after a good breakfast, to the site situated in a clearing in mixed woodland and the owner of a nearby farm had kindly allowed us to use his facilities for toilets, ablutions and laundry. In addition he had run an extension cable across to give us electricity for lighting in the tents. The sea was about half a mile distant and provided plentiful supplies of fish. The girl left us at the site which was equipped with communal marquees and gave us 10 Francs each to put in the communal kitty, with which to buy that food which could not be caught or picked and also for petrol. The organiser of the camp was a happy bearded Communist who used to go out in a battered old van each day and act as a liaison officer with farmers in providing us with work. So as work was found, the numbers there reduced, occasional new arrivals adding their contribution to the kitty. In fact everyone had been found work within a week and so the camp virtually closed down. To supplement the bought food, one camper would go out each day and catch fish, another pick grapes, apples or other fruit, and another snare a bird or a rabbit, and all would be shared. All cooking was done over a camp-fire for which all campers were responsible for collecting logs. After tea there was a sing-song round the camp-fire with musical accompaniment from guitar and harmonica, with a real sense of comradeship and togetherness, and that week for me was the happiest of the whole adventure.

The helpful, selfless generosity of these young communists, we found to be most inspiring and it proved to be a valuable lesson in the philosophy we were seeking. We had learnt that man is essentially a social animal ; no man is an island and we all need each other in order to survive. The capitalist ruling class needs the workers and the workers need the capitalists.

We were found work at the Co-operative Cave of St. Nazaire, 12 Km. from Perpignan and got there by hitching in pairs, one Englishman with one Frenchman. The two Frenchmen we were to share our lives with for the next few weeks were Buddhists, Communists, conscientious objectors and vegans.

Map of St.Nazaire/Perpignan area

They tried to maintain the disciplined environment of a monastery in the small house we lived in attached to the cave. They wanted complete silence at meal times, also between sunset and sunrise. They ate their meals of brown rice, herbs, fungi and wholemeal bread, sitting cross-legged on the concrete floor and the harder of the two didn’t even sleep in the bed provided. The next couple of months proved to be a time of great trauma in our personal relationships.

The job at the cave involved emptying barrels of grapes weighing 50 Kg. into a crushing machine which squashed them. It was a job shared between two men, one taking each side of the barrel and then putting the empty barrel back on the lorry although the farmers usually helped out in the actual unloading and reloading of the lorry. After crushing was completed the machine was stopped, the grapes weighed, and checked on a computer for sugar content. This was to determine the strength of the alcohol which would be produced. The higher the sugar content, the stronger the resultant alcohol and the more the farmer would be paid per kilo. Then the tray containing the grapes was tipped into a stone vat about 10 feet below the machine, from where they were pumped via gas disinfectant to the appropriate fermentation vat. Several batches were pumped into the same fermentation vat until it was about six foot deep in grapes and this was then left to ferment for several weeks. Samples were drawn off daily to check alcoholic strength, pH, and clarity and when all was deemed well the liquid was drained off into a massive cellar. The front of the fermentation vat was then opened and a fan inserted to clear the interior of poisonous Carbon Dioxide gas. After this, two men climbed down a ladder from the top, into the vat and proceeded to fork the grape skins, via a conveyor belt, into a waiting trolley, which when full was wheeled away and tipped into another stone chamber. From there a conveyor screw fed them into a drying and compressing machine. Here every last drop of juice was extracted and the grape skins emerged as a dry, hard concentrate. This was chipped off using a small pick-axe and then taken by another conveyor high overhead and through the wall to drop into a waiting lorry. The dried skins being high in nitrogenous plant nourishment were later scattered over the roots of the recently cut vines. We were involved in all parts of the process at the cave apart from that of going inside the vat to fork out the grape skins, which was done by better paid specialist workers who were compensated for additional discomfort and risk.

The work we did at the cave was long and arduous, working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, until the harvest was in and all wine fermented but it was well paid and with free accommodation, gas for cooking, and electric lighting, we saved quite a lot.

The accommodation was simple, but very comfortable compared to roughing it. There were four beds on a balcony level floor above the kitchen. On the ground floor level there was a dining table, four chairs, cooker, sink and wall shelves. The lounge area and the bedroom area had carpeted floor whilst the kitchen and dining area had tiled floor. The first personality problems came because Justin and I were seeing too much of each other. Niggling little idiosyncrasies became the cause of major flare-ups. Only when you live, sleep, eat, work and socialise with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, can you begin to know the potential for tension.

We fell out over sharing money. Justin had got used to a subsistence level of diet and wanted to continue this way, saving money for future stages of the trip. I on the other hand wanted to make sure we were in peak physical condition for the work and journey lying ahead. I accused Justin of being all for independence now we were prospering, but keen enough on sharing when funds were low. So we split three times in the next three weeks and would neither talk nor co-operate with each other.

After much argument, I soon realised that silence was golden, in preference to being nagged at. It was a test of nerves, the atmosphere being electric, with the Frenchmen’s curfew on noise. After a while we reunited and joined forces against the Frenchmen, telling them that if they wanted silence as in a Trappist monastery, they should go down the beach. Their response was that we should go down the beach if we wanted to talk, sing or play our harmonicas. It came to the point where we dared them to do anything about if we did make a reasonable noise in the evening, so a truce of sorts was reached, with their submission. After all we assumed that as Buddhists and conscientious objectors they would not resort to violence to settle a dispute, which was perhaps just as well, because they were both quite a bit bigger than either of us!

At times during our disagreements, Justin and I both made our own secret plans for continuing alone, although they were probably just a means of self-relief, as deep down I think we both realised would never go through with them in practice.

On the last day of work at the cave we had a farewell party. Free white wine, the best we produced, called Muscat, was brought from the cellars, being matured stock from three years ago. A communist revolutionary working at the cave brought his guitar and with Justin on his harmonica and myself as lead vocalist giving a repertoire of about thirty popular songs, we had a great time for several hours that evening parting French-style with kisses all around.

After the Frenchmen left, the atmosphere improved tremendously and we made up for good. We realised the futility of strife and that in the long run, such would be to our disadvantage. The cave management allowed us to live on there after the work was over and we made it home-from-home, decorating it in a pleasing manner. The cave manager also got us a job cutting grapes for a farmer in another co-operative, which we eagerly accepted at the time, although we found the work to be even harder than at the cave.

The job we got as a follow-up was split into two parts, that of grape cutter and that of porter. Each cutter working in a team of six, cuts the grapes from the vine and puts them in a plastic bucket which holds about 9 lbs.(4 Kg). The buckets are then emptied into a plastic rucksack carried by the porter, giving him a load of 25 Kg. when full. The porter leans sideways as each cutter in turn empties their bucket. When the rucksack is full the porter then tramps through either stony or muddy soil, depending on the type of grape being grown, until he reaches a lorry parked at the end of the track. They the lean over sideways, tipping the contents of the plastic rucksack into the barrel which is then loaded on to the lorry for transport to the cave and subsequent processing. There are around twenty barrels on each lorry and as one lorry departs for the cave, another arrives back empty at the vineyard.

Hundreds of extrovert Spanish and Moroccan families flood over the French border each season to work as a team, and with the children, earn sufficient in about three months to keep them in funds at home for the remainder of the year. The cutters are invariably happy and contented, singing in harmony to maintain a working rhythm. They also, in common with most other Europeans, eat well and there is a 30 minute break mid-morning and mid-afternoon, as well as one and a half hours for dinner itself. The cutting of the grapes and the portering are by far the hardest part of the job, not that any part of it is easy. All those working in the wine making industry deserve the high wages they are paid.

After the season was over and a few days rest, I then went out with Justin looking for work of a more permanent nature and wrote for several technical vacancies without getting any favourable reply. Being British and not at that time members of the European Union, we were aliens and therefore did not qualify for state benefits or assistance in job finding. Out of our combined money, Justin bought a professional chromonica of 6 octaves and shift, to play around restaurants as buskers.

We decided that the next phase of the journey should be through Spain and across to North Africa, where the cost of living is even cheaper. In order to get as far as North Africa we bought a moped each, finally settling for a Peugeot and a Mobylette Supermatic. After a free de-coke and a new set of points, plus a new plug and one spare, both were running well. We invested in carrying panniers to stow the luggage but this did rather drain our finances so we had to look for work again before we could continue on our journey.

In our two months in France we had made lots of friends among the local boys of the village and a few hours after putting up an advert in the local bakery, appealing for work of any kind, we had a marvellous response from the locals. Michele, the 12 year old son of a local farmer had asked his dad on our behalf and he gave us a job.

For one week immediately before our departure for Africa we cut off the new shoots, thus letting the sap run back during the winter, the shoots then being gathered and burned before the ashes were scattered round the roots for nourishment. So we had in fact worked on the whole process from start to finish, from cutting the grapes to drinking the wine! During that week preceding our departure the farmer’s wife brought us warm clothes and every day made gifts of things we might need for our journey. We really ate to French standards and that is eating well. The French spend about 30% of their disposable income on food. Over and above that the farmer gave us 30 Francs a day each for the work we did. Their generosity was unlimited.

The weekend after getting the mopeds, we rode back over the Spanish border to Rosas, to see the couple who had put us up during their honeymoon. The intention was to collect the remainder of our luggage and we took with us a bottle of 1968 Muscat from the cave. They were in fact staying that night at their parents' house and moving into a new house they had bought, the following day. The parents of Gerard, although once poor, had worked hard and prospered and had built their own house at the Ampuriabrava Marina. The land had cost them £300 for the plot and working in the evenings and at weekends they had built a large, luxury villa within two years, doing all the building work themselves. They had moved in just before we met them and as it was getting dark, they told us to stay the night. So after a beautiful filling meal we slept there the night and returned to France the next morning after breakfast. They were every bit as generous as Gerard and his wife and kept telling us off for saying thank you every time we were given anything.

On the way back from Spain we bought a bottle of champagne and a bottle of brandy for the party we were going to be holding that weekend, prior to our final departure for Spain and Africa. Both drinks were extremely cheap in Spain.

In our discussion back at the cave before making final plans for the route on the next phase of the trip, we agreed to resolve any outstanding differences and to combine our energies and wills to fighting any perils which might arise en-route rather than fighting each other. I told Justin that the next leg of the journey involved leaving civilisation as we knew it and that crossing a thousand miles of the Sahara Desert on our way to Egypt could prove tougher than anything we had been through so far.

At least with my knowledge of French I should be able to communicate easily enough in North Africa where French is the primary commercial language. I also had reasonable conversational Arabic, following my six and a half month contract in Saudi Arabia. We started packing and getting ready to leave. That evening we held a party in appreciation of the kindness of the local people and a splendid time was had by all.

It was mid-afternoon the following day before we finally left, our mopeds fully laden with gifts of vegetables and fruit to last us through Spain at least. We had just crossed the Spanish border as dusk was approaching and our first night was spent sleeping in a quarry high in the Pyrenees, just South of Le Perthus. A church clock with chimes announced every fifteen minutes throughout the night and a cock started to crow about 3 a.m., long before any daylight could be seen. In addition the cold mountain air made sleeping difficult. However by 8 a.m., we felt refreshed enough to make an early start and were beyond Genoa by nightfall on the second day out. That night we slept in an orange grove just outside the town and needless to say we stocked up with a little extra food before leaving, although in fact we found more than enough en-route. Spain is a comparatively easy country to survive in for the traveller who is roughing it.

The next day we made it to Barcelona by evening. Justin was about 25 yards behind me and I just managed to get through an amber traffic light before it changed to red. Justin didn’t make it and had to stop. I turned left as was correct and waited just round the corner for the lights to change and so let Justin catch up, as we wanted to keep together going through the city. However Justin couldn’t see me waiting round the corner and when the lights changed he went straight on. I tried shouting and waving but it was useless above the roar of traffic. The wide, fast, six-lane boulevards are too congested if one makes a mistake. I couldn’t turn round, so I went first right and first right again, along to the end of the road where I thought he’d be waiting, but he had taken first left, and first left again, so we missed each other. All streets in Barcelona, apart from the dual-carriageway boulevards, are alternate one-way streets, all running at right-angles, one set East-West and the other set North-South.

So this was it, here we were in a big city, both strangers, with neither of us able to speak any Spanish, separated and lost. I parked my moped in a triangular shaped car par-park near a funfair and a traffic island and walked over to a policeman on traffic duty. Fortunately he could speak some limited French so I asked him to direct me to a Police Station. I eventually found one and there, only one man, the District Commissioner, could speak French. As it happened I had Justin’s passport and all the paper money. Justin had both tents, cooking utensils, sleeping bags, and all the food, because his Mobylette was more powerful than my Peugeot.

So I gave Justin’s passport to the Commissioner who circulated his description to all other city police stations by telephone with the request that if he should come in reporting himself lost, he was to be told to get accommodation for the night and then report to the British Consul in the morning, and I was to do the same. So I set off in search of accommodation and at most places was turned down, probably because of my beard and unkempt, rough appearance. After tidying myself as much as possible I was eventually accepted at one place and after booking in got their card and set off to collect my moped, except that as I soon realised, I had forgotten exactly where I’d left it. So back I went to the police to report the loss of one moped. I give full credit to the Barcelona police for their powers of detection, based upon my description of landmarks. There are a lot of fountains, funfairs and triangular-shaped car parks in Barcelona. Having eventually found it I returned to the hotel, which was easily found because it fronted on a major boulevard and I remembered some of the landmarks. After a light snack I tried to sleep but found this difficult through worrying about Justin’s fate. But I needn’t have worried. As I might have known, he was enjoying a far better time than me.

Realising he was lost, he had been to a couple of police stations but couldn’t get through because of the language barrier. So he decided that a teenage Spanish boy was more likely to be able to understand English through being taught it at school. So the first boy he picked could in fact speak conversational English. He took Justin home to his parents who handled the situation. They got quite worried about him because he had no money giving him about £3 in Spanish money as they hadn’t any room to put him up for the night. The police weren’t too helpful so they took him to several hotels, but again long hair and hippie looks meant refusal.

They eventually took him to a Roman Catholic priest, who was head of the Sacred Family Cathedral in the city. A monk in the Monastery of Carmenites, part of the Cathedral site, gave up his bed for the night and slept on the floor in Justin’s sleeping bag.

Cathedral of the Sacred Family, Barcelona

Justin even had his moped brought inside for safe keeping. The monks were not in the least concerned that Justin was not of their faith but were only concerned that he be given food, shelter and a comfortable bed until we were reunited. As it was Sunday and they were working doing masses until 10 p.m., they fed him well at their late supper.

In the morning after a breakfast of cheese omelette, bread, marmalade and a huge jug of cafe-au-lait, he was sent by taxi at their expense to the British Consul with instructions to return to the monastery for dinner if we were not reunited. If we were, we were both to go the monastery for food and rest, before continuing our journey. As it happened we were reunited there that morning, and overjoyed we bought a large chocolate cake to give to the monks in gratitude, which of course they accepted on condition that we shared it with them. So that afternoon we both had showers there and a good meal, setting off after a good night’s rest to continue our journey South through Valencia, heading for Algeciras on the Southern tip of Spain. We were so thankful for the selfless generosity of those monks who were fulfilling the commandment “Love thy neighbour”. This is part of the common message of all religions. They were splendid examples of the Good Samaritan in choosing to help a stranger in need. We had proved in fact that we could be separated and survive, and this was to give us confidence in ourselves for a future part of the journey.

On the way during this stage, my moped broke down with overheating problems and points failure, our heavy luggage proving too much in the mountainous area and hot climate. So we decided to cut our losses and sell the mopeds, hitch-hiking from then on. After offering them for sale at several shops without success, we put them on display outside one shop in Valencia. We eventually drew quite a crowd as we auctioned them off, along with other non-essential items which were too heavy to carry. We were assisted in our endeavours by a Spanish University student who could speak Spanish, French and English. Unfortunately they were sold at a loss, but we considered an extra 4,500 Ptas. each was better than a liability.

The next task was to troop with our remaining baggage to a field outside town where we split our money 50/50. We also ditched other non-essential items we had been unable to sell and after a meal and overnight camping, we set off hitch-hiking through the low lying coastal farming region, South of Valencia. Here we had wet weather and had poor luck hitching because we were together. So at my suggestion we split until we reached Algeciras where we would reunite before getting the ferry to North Africa. At that time I was in an independent, adventurous spirit and felt like continuing alone but my conscience wouldn’t let me. Justin had come here because I had suggested it as a joint adventure. However I have certainly now got the experience to undertake a solitary adventure if that is how I set out.

Nothing terribly exciting happened to either of us en-route, except that Justin made it in two days, whereas it took me four and he had been treated to free food by an ex-Army officer who ran the Wimpy Bar in Torremolinos. I think it was because Justin was young looking, blond, and outwardly looking as innocent as a choirboy, that he appealed to people, whereas I who had dark, unkempt hair, an out-of-control beard and looking like a typical dosser after 4 months on the road, was having to rough it. However we met again in the departure lounge and after buying food in the local market we bought our ferry tickets to the Spanish exclave of Ceuta, about two miles from the Moroccan border.

Our first night in North Africa was spent in a disused railway tunnel, the heavy afternoon rain seeping through the brickwork and dripping on us as we slept. That evening Justin collapsed both mentally and physically and was literally sick with worry. I gave him two penicillin tablets and after having a discussion we decided to return to the U.K. As it was me who had invited him out and now he was suffering, I felt morally responsible for his welfare and much as I wanted to continue, I felt I could not have peace of mind if I deserted him in his hour of need. The monks in Barcelona had made personal sacrifices for two strangers, so I must do the same for my best friend. It was now December 2nd. and we aimed to be home in time for the Winter Solstice Festival, getting as far as Barcelona or Madrid and getting repatriated from there.

So the following day we got the boat back to Algeciras, had one night’s accommodation there, in the hotel where Justin had stayed while he was waiting for me to arrive from Valencia, then the next day we set off hitch-hiking on the road to Granada and Madrid, or Barcelona. After a couple of days of very poor lifts we slept one night under a high bridge taking a road over what seemed like a dried up river bed, except that there had been a storm in the mountains earlier that day and late that night we awoke to find ourselves being carried downstream by a flash flood. It was a good job we had warm sunshine the following day to dry out our sodden sleeping bags. Another day we found a house for sale and unoccupied so as we were lying in there, about to go to sleep, we light-heartedly planned how we would decorate it when we had enough money to buy it.

The following day, MY faith collapsed as we had been making such poor progress back to the U.K. I thought that God had deserted us in our hour of need and cursed Him for bringing us out here. Then in the peace that followed, I realised that it had been my decision, not God’s. I was here with Justin in this mess as a result of my own efforts and only by our own efforts would we get home again to civilisation. Of course if I had paused long enough to count our blessings, I would have remembered how when things were desperate, God had intervened to save us from ourselves. But at the time I thought that the total submission to the will of God, shown by Muslims, was utterly futile. It is because of this that Muslim Nations are still living in the Dark Ages, in poverty and backwardness.

After our deep philosophical thoughts had been concluded, we continued hitch-hiking and reached Granada after another day. We then decided to turn North-West, inland and head for Madrid, climbing to the top of a very long hill after stocking up with food. The hill top was reached about 5 Km. from the coast and at this time we were 2,500 feet above sea level. We had a splendid view, with clear sky and hot sunshine, overlooking about 40 miles of Spanish coastline.

By this time, lack of sleep was having it’s effect upon me and bad dreams were more frequent. That night, after our regular meal of sardines and rice, we fell asleep in a pine forest, opposite a house owned by an English couple with a large alsatian guard dog. They had given us two pans of water for our cooking that night. The house was large and furnished with English antiques, the couple obviously being well off. As they were English we were hoping that they might extend some British hospitality to us, but no such luck. To them we were just another couple of hippies - two more drop-outs beating the trail.

However whilst asleep I had a dream that we were invited in for tea and after a while I offered to put the kettle on. On my way back from the kitchen to the lounge, the door was suddenly closed in my face and the light turned off. I dropped the tray as the woman, a vampire, bared her fangs and pressed against my chest several times before lunging for my throat. I screamed and woke up and saw a pale Justin looking at me in terror. Before I had the chance to explain he said, “Oh Ian, don’t frighten me by screaming like you just did. I was trying to wake you by shaking your chest, and when you didn’t awake I went for your throat, because I was trying to alert you to nearby wolves howling in the forest and I thought we might well be in danger”, which just adds one more to the long list of psychic experiences I’ve had in dreams. Neither of us had much more sleep that night as there was a full moon in the clear sky and what with wolves howling and vampires, enough was enough.

One more day of poor hitch-hiking followed and after heavy rain beginning early next morning we decided to get up early. Starting at 4 a.m. we got a good lift within seconds of thumbing, to a cafe in the inland mountains. Fortunately we had enough money to buy food, although we couldn’t have lasted more than a couple of months on what we had. However we had been in much worse conditions, and survived. But the thought of Britain, warm beds, and prosperity drove us on.

After one more lift we were dropped off at a roundabout, about 160 Km. from Madrid. This van, driven by an Englishman and loaded with Moroccan furs, clothes and jewellery, pulled up and the driver in answer to my question said that he was turning off the Madrid road after another 100 Km. and continuing to Barcelona. So we eagerly accepted his lift all the way. Further conversation revealed that he, like us, had been a drop-out, who had left Britain ten years earlier, been robbed of everything but his guitar when in Morocco. Sitting crying on the roadside without passport or money, he was helped by Arab children who were quarrelling with each other over who should have the privilege of helping him. From then on, until he had worked his way to prosperity, he lived amongst the Arabs and eventually bought a sheep farm in Morocco.

Whilst later at a conference on transcendental meditation (T.M), in Majorca, he had met and married a Majorcan girl who now helps him manage the farm. He was totally adapted to the Arab way of life, wore Arab clothes and spoke Arabic. He had embraced Islam and was a well loved and respected member of the community.

He then told us that he was going to Barcelona to get the ferry to Majorca to attend another T.M. conference and sell his souvenirs to tourists. His wife was meanwhile looking after the farm in his absence and the profit he made from the round trip was enough to keep him in comfort for the rest of the year. During the two day journey, we stopped in a comfortable, cheap motel, having the luxury of a long needed bath and a good breakfast for 360 Ptas. between us (about £1.50p).

By mid-afternoon on the following day we had arrived at Barcelona where we were dealt with most efficiently, courteously and sympathetically by the British Consul. We had our train tickets the same afternoon and an immediate 200 Ptas. each, in cash, with which to buy food. So after a good meal we both had haircuts and I had my beard shaved off. We were both overflowing with happiness as we returned to see our friends at the monastery with the intention of offering them 200 Ptas. between us for accommodation with breakfast and then leave for home the next day. But as we should have guessed they would not take our money, insisting that we would need it to keep us going in England until we could claim state benefit, so as a token gesture we bought them another large chocolate cake as it wasn’t often that they had delicacies like that. However they did live in quite comfortable conditions and ate well, despite their vows of poverty.

They gave us each a Carmenite Cross, as a souvenir, which they blessed in the Cathedral after showing us around. That afternoon we left feeling much elated and got the train through Spain and France and on to the U.K. by ferry. Although our problems didn’t end there, the New Year heralded a phase of prosperity and blessings to follow the hard times we had on the trip. Indeed the same pattern has been followed in regards to my 1994 adventure to Morocco, of which more later.

We learned a number of valuable lessons about the nature of life and in my own case these are constantly under review in the light of continuing experience. However as a close to this account of my first adventure, I will summarise my beliefs as they stand at this time. I believe in a Supreme Spirit, Creator and Sustainer, whom some call God, others Allah. I believe that we have a free will, but as with Newton’s third law of motion “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Hence we are subject to the Law of Karma, or cause and effect. As the Christian teaching has it, “As a man sows, so will he reap”. So we are free to go off on an adventure and have new, exciting experiences, but at a price. That price was that we had to sleep out rough, go hungry, be desperately short of money, etc.

When we depart from this life, we will be asked to give an account of our thoughts, words and deeds and it is then that we can argue the toss to justify them, through our spiritual defence barrister. In reviewing our Akashic Records we can then determine how much progress we have made in the preceding term at the Great University of Life. It is like an Open University, with the only entry qualification being that you are alive and born in the flesh. After a period of rest and reconciliation in the World of Spirit, we then feel moved to plan our underlying agenda and curriculum for our next incarnation, where we will have to resit failed exams, time and time again, and so move on to higher planes, more pleasant worlds, where there is abiding peace and love, quickening our vibrations in preparation for drawing ever closer in the return journey to our God. Each incarnation is like a train journey where we move from one station to the next. At times as we deserve it we may get a First Class seat on an express train. At other times the train may be derailed, or be on a head-on collision with another on the same track, but going in the opposite direction. Therein lies grief.

But as regards adventuring, careful planning for all contingencies is VITAL! However make a decision and stick by it. He who hesitates is lost. Whether the decisions made are right or wrong is not in itself of great importance. The important thing is to make the decision and learn what has to be learned. If there is a long uninterrupted spell of misfortune then try a change of scene, or of attitude. Either you are in the wrong place or you are living an inappropriate lifestyle for your particular spiritual condition. Negative karma is generally a sign that something is wrong, just as pain is an indication of disease, danger or injury. Following my first visit to Morocco I have made several return visits, more of which are detailed in later chapters. Approaching the age of 50, I am still lusting after adventure only four months after returning home from what was an unmitigated disaster. However such is the resilience of the human spirit that I can look back on times of trauma with detached amusement. I broke an ankle on my first parachute jump and was in intensive pain but ecstatic at the same time because of the adrenaline buzz I got out of it. In fact rather than putting me off I went on to buy my own parachute and all the gear, at a cost of over £1,000 and still I break bones on my frequent heavy landings but still I’m ecstatic with the thrill of the jump itself. So at that point, I will jump to Chapter 2, and Morocco 1973. See you there!

Chapter Two

MOROCCO - 1973

Having arrived at Marrakech Airport in late April, I found that my first impressions were in regard to its weather. For the first two days of my visit, it was cold, wet and windy; certainly not the kind of climate I expected for a place about 50 km. North of the Sahara Desert. However the climate had improved by the time I returned from the Sahara. The Sahara weather was just as I expected. Hot, dry, sunny days with a clear blue sky and chilly nights by comparison. However it was significantly cooler than the Saudi Empty Quarter, but certainly very pleasant.

As I will relate in this Chapter concerning my 1994 adventure, affluent Western tourists need to be careful with their money and not go flaunting their wealth. Even if a tourist is not OPENLY robbed, the traders there have perfected the gentle art of bleeding the tourist to a greater extent than any other country I have visited. If a tourist wants to live in the manner to which they have become accustomed, they will pay very dearly for the privilege. Morocco compares with Nice or Paris for food and restaurant prices. But if you live in the pre-Sahara regions, as a local, you will get much better prices, e.g.: In the town of Ouarzazate a tin of sardines, a loaf of freshly baked wholemeal bread, butter and two cafe au lait came to less than 20p in 1973. However this was probably half as much again as a local would be expected to pay. “Because tourists can afford to fly here and stay in smart hotels and be waited on, then they can well afford to subsidise the local economy”, is the philosophy and thinking of peasant Arab traders. Although bargaining is not easy with food, particularly if there are no other cafes nearby, and you are hungry (a real sellers’ market), with other things, such as souvenirs, I have learned never to believe an Arab who says he doesn’t barter. Certainly government sponsored stores and large chains do operate a price-fixing arrangement, but bartering is part of Arab culture. So be prepared to show them that you can reduce an Arab to tears, which will only be crocodile tears anyway, and you will be well respected, and not susceptible to being conned.

After two days in Marrakech, I left at 5.45 am. by C.T.M. local bus, rather than the luxury air conditioned coaches laid on for tourists, for a three-day trip to M’hamid, the last Moroccan outpost before the Sahara. It is the last village before Timbuktu, which is 45 days away by camel, or another 7 days travelling time from Zagora, which is where I stopped overnight en-route to M’hamid. After all if you want to find out what a country is really like, you’ll never do it by advertising the fact that you are a tourist. Adapt and become a local even for a two week package holiday. Ask the waiter for the menu item in Arabic. You do not need to be able to read the Arabic script, but just learn the names for things like chicken, cheese omelette, milk, coffee, bread, sugar, etc. Six months practice beforehand should give you reasonable conversational fluency in a chosen foreign language. So go to night school and perhaps add one language a year to your repertoire.

Mohammed is the last Prophet of Islam and the town M’hamid is named such in his honour. It is a large oasis settlement, split into two distinct parts, separated by a desert track. The oases are thousands of hectares of palm groves with clearings for vegetable plots, like a rather large allotment. They have a huge network of irrigation canals and pools, used for washing clothes, the family pick-up truck, or as splash pools for naked, vivacious children. Indeed some enterprising individuals use the abundance of water as a commercial car-wash facility. The Arab word for desert is in fact “Sahara”. Food in these outposts is somewhat spartan and cooked over a camel dung fire. Camel, sheep and goat are the most common dishes with very little evidence of chicken. There is a semolina-type savoury dish called “Cous-cous”. In fact the word “Cous”, in its singular form, is the name given to the vagina. An expedition leader in M’hamid offers two month each-way trips across the Sahara to Timbuktu for £5 per day, by camel, which makes it much more expensive than flying. It is so expensive because he uses up a £600 camel each week for food, cutting its throat in the desert and cooking it there and then in collected camel dung, over an open fire. Then it is camel sandwiches, camel stews, camel steak etc. for the rest of the week.

The locals in the desert regions seem much less industrious than their brothers North of the Atlas Mountains. Temperatures are much the same, but once South of the Atlas, you are in black Africa, where the Arab strain has been lost and racial prejudice is much more noticeable. Blacks of Southern Morocco will never embrace an Arab or European visitor as an equal member of the community, no matter how long they live there. It is quite possible to pass for an Arab after several months in the Southern area of Morocco, since the natural Arab skin colouring is a deep brown tan. Proceeding South from Tangiers, the black African content of the population gradually increases, slowly at first and then more rapidly until at Zagora and M’hamid you have virtually 100% Negroid.

The bus service is very efficient and actually runs on time which is rather surprising as it is normally impossible to induce a sense of urgency into an Arab. They are a very laid-back race. It is a very personal service, the driver stopping en-route to chat to his many acquaintances. If two Arabs meet in the street, or somewhere where there is not a crowd, they will shake hands and kiss each other on the cheek. If they are in a large group where intimacy is impractical, or if through a vehicle window they simply shake hands and then place their hand over their heart as a symbolic gesture of brotherly love.

There is a lot of open begging in Morocco, with boys actually approaching you and asking for money. In this case it is better to dress as an Arab as they are less likely to ask an Arab than a tourist. In some cases it could be a case of genuine need, but if you do feel inclined to give money to what appears to be a poor, hungry child, you can test their sincerity and improve their dignity by asking them to perform a service in exchange, such as acting as a guide in the medina, or souk, or getting a purchase at Arab prices. The genuine child will be eager to accept your offer of casual employment, whilst the con artist will not.

Apart from the natural Arab tongue, French is widely spoken across the whole of North Africa, but English is spoken by those seeking to strike some deal with a tourist, such as selling you some hashish, carrying your bags from the coach or railway station, or finding you a hotel. I found that by bargaining to get a good price for a bottle of “Fanta” on my first day and dealing with the same trader throughout my stay, asking for my needs in Arabic, the trader chased away all beggars thus leaving me to enjoy my food in peace.

By making an effort to learn the language and customs, instead of expecting the locals to adapt their ways, your efforts will be much appreciated, AND you will get a better price as a reward. Morocco is certainly the most Westernised Arab state I’ve ever visited, with great prosperity but regrettably also great poverty, with no national health service free at the point of need, only voluntary education, and no social security benefits. It is perhaps for this reason that Western tourists are at times unwelcome, or potential targets for at the least being ripped off, and at the worst being violently robbed. Yet there are vast palatial residences, colour T.V., an excellent telephone service and a very efficient public transport sector which surpasses British Rail and most of our local bus services.

At each town in the deep South, there is a fortification manned day and night by armed guards against invaders, since it is part of the history of Morocco and other Arab states, that desert outposts have been attacked and plundered. Vehicles are given a thorough check for serviceability by Police mechanics before being allowed to proceed across desert tracks to the next oasis. On one part of the route, just outside the Marrakech ramparts, where the road is too narrow for two vehicles to pass in safety, there is a rough track, generally reserved for cyclists and mopeds, and each driver should move his vehicle on to this track to allow the added width for passing. On one part of the bus journey not long after setting off, a lorry which was approaching our bus failed to move over far enough and knocked the wing mirror off the bus. Neither driver stopped and the bus driver merely shrugged his shoulders praising Allah that it had been nothing more serious than a smashed off-side mirror.

The mountain pass on the road to Ouarzazate is the highest in the Moroccan road system, the highest point en-route being 7441 ft. above sea level. The route through the High Atlas Mountains compares well with Swiss scenery with many hairpin bends taking the road over the mountain. The roadsides are steep and there is an almost shear drop of several thousand feet into the valley. It makes beautiful paragliding and hang-gliding locations, if the Moroccan government permitted it. The bus driver was well experienced, although I must admit I nearly suffered cardiac arrest many times on the journey, but I felt more relaxed on the way down. It is strange, this feeling of increasing fear and insecurity, the closer one gets to Heaven.

Getting back to Marrakech after three days in the desert, a horse drawn trip around the ramparts and gardens was a must, but at £1 an hour the driver is on to a good thing. I was introduced to Coco, a 12 year old Arab stallion, and to Ahmed his driver, not that Coco needed a driver! He had covered that route so many times that he even had the common sense to stop at red traffic lights, which is more than can be said for many Arab humans. The horses in common with other animals, are not well cared for in Arab society, but Coco and Ahmed had a good relationship. He pulled at a nice healthy speed and was never whipped, and I had the reins for a good part of the journey, plus a free ride on another occasion as I had performed a translation service for Ahmed who could speak French and Arabic, but could not read the French language in a letter he received from a girlfriend. So I asked him to give me a reply in French which I then wrote down for him and he signed it in Arabic before posting it. Ahmed also got me some souvenirs at Arab prices which was helpful. The trip around the ramparts wasn’t all that interesting, but that was more than compensated for by the gardens. Marrakech gardens are superlatively beautiful. Historically the city gardens were planted by the Almoravides tribe when they seized the city in the 12th. Century A.D. and the tradition of pride in their beauty has been maintained ever since. The Koran, the Holy Book of Islam, offers the faithful Gardens of Paradise (Jannat al’Firdaus), and so Muslim gardeners take a particular pride in preventing the growth of weeds and caring with passion for the earthly gardens which they tend, in the hope that they can be granted eternal rest and peace in the Heavenly Garden.

The gardens of "Hotel Les Almoravides", Marrakech

As in any Arab country the most popular form of wheeled transport is the bicycle, but as in most of Europe and North Africa the moped is also very popular, as it needs neither licence nor insurance. There are also many donkeys and carts, also mules and horses. Donkeys and camels can be hired by the day, which quite a few enterprising boys do, to offer rides to tourists, making quite a nice living out of it. Taxis are mostly horse-drawn carriages but motorised French Peugeot cabs are also available cheaply and insured Mercedes-Benz taxis, if money is no object.

The Arabs here despite their prosperity, are generally rather scruffy in appearance, clothing being dark, drab and rarely washed, whereas in Saudi Arabia most Arabs wear the clean, white, full length robe, with headscarf. It is common practice to have to step over beggars lying in shop doorways, particularly in the banking and commercial areas of town, lying there in the hope of getting a few crumbs from the rich man’s table. Very often they live there and they die there ; lazy, but quite philosophical . “It’s Allah’s Will” , they say.

As is common in ultra-religious countries, the places of worship whether mosque, temple, gudwara, synagogue or church are maintained in immaculate condition and kept spotlessly clean, whereas the houses are really nothing more than simple shelters against the sun, often with just a mattress on the sand floor, and if you are affluent enough, a propane gas stove, otherwise camel dung, outside. The shortage of windows keeps the houses cool, showing the practical nature of the Arab.

The pace of living in the pre-Sahara regions is very sedate. Nobody ever rushes even in the cool of the evening. The spartan way of life and the relentless sun are responsible for a much more rapid ageing process to the physical body, than in a cooler, more affluent Western society. However their philosophical maturity combined with their simple faith, and unlimited hospitality is a tonic to me, a rather overfed, comfortably off Westerner. Perhaps this is because I’m looking for a simpler and more rewarding alternative to our consumer-led rat-race. The average Westerner has no time for a chat with a neighbour, to ask if he needs anything, or a kind word to a stranger in need, or sympathy for one of the many casualties of our materialistic way of life, such as the alcoholic vagrant sleeping on a park bench, or those living in our many cardboard cities at night, under the arches of railway bridges. Let us all remember the text “There but for the Grace of God, go I”. Personally I appreciate the comforts of a Western life, but I do not find this incompatible with having a faith or showing kindness to those fellow travellers whom I meet as I go about my business. I also love the isolation and peace of the desert or indeed the Scottish mountains, and I would hate to see the slower pace of life destroyed in an effort to embrace Western cultural values and our decadence.

Life in the latter part of the 20th. Century in Britain and the developed West has much to commend it, but there is a need for people like me to escape the shackles of civilisation, and living in a camel skin tent in a simple, homely, desert community, sharing, loving and above all communicating with each other is the essence of life itself.

To see a naked Bedouin Arab, giving his devotions to Allah, in the glory of a desert dawn, is a sight that inspires me. In a later chapter covering the origins of sun-worship in Egypt, I hope to be able to expand on this theme. Ah, C’est Paradis!

Chapter Three


I decided I needed a break from the cold, winter weather of the U.K., so with a few hundred pounds to spare I booked a seat on the British Caledonian flight BR 378 to Casablanca for the following Sunday which would be Christmas Eve 1978. As one who tends to suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD), I get particularly depressed in the dark winter months and need sunshine and preferably total exposure as is available at sun clubs (naturist centres). The original aim was to camp at a sun club just South of Casablanca, but a preliminary phone call to the club revealed that it was subject to harassment from the Moroccan Police and no longer took visitors.

This being the case, I thought I would get accommodation on arrival at Casablanca, as I correctly assumed that there would be plenty of empty hotel rooms. That night, after confirming my flight, for the Wednesday before Christmas Eve, I had an interesting clairvoyant dream. “After going through a number of green painted barriers and along lengthy corridors, I was met by ladies wearing kilts, all in a kind of uniform. They introduced me to a young lady who was a Princess and she fell in love with me, and whisked me off to her palace”.

The kilted girls were obviously British Caledonian stewardesses but who was the Princess? On the Sunday in question I travelled to Gatwick Airport with a young friend, Paul Matthews, a very keen aircraft spotter who wanted to join the Air Training Corps and learn to fly. By the time the check-in formalities were completed, I did not have time to change my Sterling cash into Travellers Cheques but was assured by Customs officers that I could change it into Dhirams, directly at a Moroccan bank, which did prove to be the case. I virtually got straight on to the coach to go out to the aircraft as the flight had been called and within a few minutes I was on board. Shortly afterwards the next transit coach arrived at the aircraft.

This group included a Moroccan nurse working at Hammersmith Hospital in London who sat down in the window seat next to me and her Doctor friend, also a Moroccan, who sat in front of her. She was heavily laden and somewhat weary but we soon got chatting as the flight progressed. She did not have much of an appetite as she was as afraid of flying as I am of sailing.

It transpired she was a Muslim returning to see her family in Meknes about 240 Km. from Casablanca for two weeks over the Christmas and New Year break. On arrival at Casablanca we were slowly processed through Customs and immigration formalities and at an even slower speed changed our money at the airport which had just two windows open to deal with around 350 incoming passengers. Whilst in the queue at the bank, the nurse named Monica Tourabee invited me to share a taxi with her into Casablanca where I could find accommodation, so I agreed and went out to the waiting taxi, where I was met by her uncle, Mohamed and her younger sister Fathima. They had hired a taxi in Meknes that morning to come and meet her.

I noticed whilst sitting in the taxi, that like most Arab girls Fathima was very shy and would not enter into conversation either in French or Arabic. Monica duly arrived and we set off. I decided to commit the matter entirely to the guidance of Spirit and just let things happen naturally. Monica, having worked in the U.K. for six years, was more willing to talk and so I asked her if she knew of any small hotels between the airport and Casablanca, specifying “moins cher” , meaning not too expensive. She pointed to some mud and thatch huts in fields at the side of the road, occupied by peasant farmers, and we both laughed as I said “Not THAT cheap”. I asked her what Meknes was like and she told me it was a medium sized modern town but with an old and new sector and a good selection of reasonably priced hotels. As I wanted to avoid the big commercial cities and live more in a typically local style, I was invited to share the cost of the taxi to Meknes and to spend a day or two with the family, living Arab style and then look around Meknes at my leisure for suitable hotel accommodation.

It was not a very comfortable taxi for such a long journey, being a small saloon, but in fact Monica, myself and Fathima all shared the back seat whilst Mohamed sat in front with the driver. The driver stopped en-route to pick up soldiers who were hitching home on leave, all adding to his income and our discomfort. Fathima was travel sick as we arrived at one village and so we stopped there for some fresh air and to stretch our legs, taking the opportunity for a small meal. We chatted a lot more freely there and I asked for soup, bread and mutton stew, in Arabic, thereby getting a round of applause from the whole ensemble.

Eventually, after stopping once more, this time at the scene of a road traffic accident in a beautiful mountain forest area, we arrived in the Old Sector of Meknes to meet some of Monica’s family. It was a simple Arab-style dwelling and after great emotional greetings we sat down to some herb tea and biscuits. Neighbours came flooding into the house to greet Monica, as news of her arrival spread rapidly by bush telegraph. Because I was her friend, albeit only a friend of about eight hours, I was automatically the friend of all her family and treated as a guest of honour. This was just the beginning of a wonderful week of Arab hospitality, so typical of practising Muslims.

After about an hour there, we continued in the taxi, now piled high with blankets, to the house of Monica’s parents, a brand new apartment in the New Sector still awaiting completion. In accordance with tradition I was required to remove my shoes. After more herb tea, a huge meal of cous-cous and mutton arrived and we chatted freely until about 11.30 pm. There were a total of fifteen in the Tourabee Family, with additional aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. Monica’s brother, Allal, was the eldest of the children at the age of 32.

The lounge was equipped with a padded bench on three sides, covered with deep, square cushions. This was a settee during the day and became several beds at night, the Arabs being economical on furniture. A large oval table occupied the centre of the lounge, as all meals are a social occasion and served from an enormous communal bowl.

Just before midnight I thankfully bedded down in the men's and boys bedroom, sleeping somewhat intermittently until just after sunrise. When I arose that Christmas morning I washed and dressed, then went into the kitchen to greet all the girls in the family and have breakfast, which although rather bland, contrasted in a welcome way with the large evening meal. That morning, after a leisurely breakfast, it was sunny, and a most welcome breeze drifted through the open window. It was about 75F, and this was their winter too! Monica explained to her Muslim family the meaning of Christmas and I was greeted with a chorus of “Bon Noel”, meaning Happy Christmas. The family at this time were unaware of my adoption of the Islamic Faith four years earlier.

After breakfast I was taken on a tour of the town by Allal. I learned which bus to board, the fare payable and we chatted amiably about sport, work, leisure, etc. Allal rented a radio and electrical shop in the Old Sector of town, just around the corner from our first stop of the previous evening. Mohamed, his uncle, rented a grocery and general shop immediately opposite, and next door to Mohamed was another uncle, also called Mohamed, who had a hairdressing shop.

We spent a little while in Allal’s shop repairing a cassette recorder and although Allal could not read a circuit diagram, he found his way, by logic or instinct, to the fault without any test equipment and had it working within twenty minutes. The rest of the day was spent in visiting different parts of the town and we returned to the new apartment for evening meal, after which the table was cleared and a record player brought out to provide dance music for a party, jointly staged in my honour and for the annual return of Monica.

Again we had a late night and I decided that I’d better look for a hotel for the next day, so as I could be assured of a good night of sleep. The Tourabee family all seemed to be night owls, whereas I am not. That evening Fathima lost her inhibitions and we really clicked, she and I dancing very closely to the smoochy music. I wanted to kiss her but realised that Muslim girls are expected to preserve their dignity until they are married, but it was definitely love at first sight.

That evening, after the party was over, it was noted by Monica’s father that I regularly used the words “Insha Allah”, meaning "God willing". I explained that although my performance of prayers was poor, owing to the difficult nature of the Arabic language, in my heart I was a Muslim so he and all the family rejoiced as I recited the “Sura Al Fatiah”, which opens all acts of worship, and is recited before signing a contract, to make it valid. It is just about the equivalent of “The Lord’s Prayer” in the Christian tradition. Monica’s father was the Imam, or prayer leader at a mosque in the New Sector of Meknes.

The New Sector mosque, Meknes

The following morning, Allal and myself searched for suitable hotel accommodation for myself, and I booked into the "Hotel Centrale", which was 12 Dhirams a day, which was the equivalent of £1. 50p, for a comfortable room with en-suite shower , bidet and balcony. We then returned through one of the many beautiful parks, collected my baggage and I moved in. I then explored the town by myself and learned to find my way around the medina with confidence. After tea I returned to the apartment to see Fathima and report on the day’s successes over a nice cup of coffee, returning to the hotel about 9 pm and getting a very welcome early night and much needed restful sleep.

After breakfast of cheese omelette and French bread at a nearby cafe, I got the head waiter at the cafe to translate my business card into neatly written Arabic, in order to advertise and seek either local work or export business opportunities. I then enquired of Allal as to the price of shop rental in the Old Sector, and found this to be around 25 Dh, or about £3 a week. With breakfast being £1 a day, room at the hotel another £1. 50p a day and evening meal £1 a day, my weekly cost of living would amount to about £27.50p, just about as cheap as living in my flat in Birmingham and certainly a lot warmer. I would thus need an income of 220 Dh a week to cover costs. On the basis of a 44 hour working week, this is 5 Dh per hour. I learned from the Moroccan authorities that they welcomed sterling investment and would subsidise shop rental, purchase, or stock for about 12 months in order to help me get established and so provide local employment. There is in fact a 12 month tax holiday for new businesses although a failed attempt to start a business in Meknes showed that there are many legal and administrative hurdles to be overcome.

Monica meanwhile had some legal problems to sort out and spent many hours at the Police Station. In Morocco judges will voluntarily sit and judge on domestic disputes and other non-criminal matters, basing their advice on Quranic Law, called Sharia. Monica’s family made use of this service and although there were many tears and much shouting at first, everyone emerged with smiling faces. I had prayed about it and rejoiced in their amicable settlement, buying the six relatives involved a meal in a cafe on the outskirts of the medina, which they graciously accepted.

The medina is the walled inner sector in any Arab town, containing an abundance of tiny shops in an indoor market, all shops in any one street carrying on the same business as their neighbour. This is freely competitive private enterprise at its best with no price fixing, bartering being expected.

The next day I was invited to lunch at the home of Mohamed the hairdresser. He had a small white-washed shack in one of the poorer areas of Meknes. There is always a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots in the Arab world. In any one town, you will find shanty dwellings and luxury air conditioned villas with landscaped gardens. However the interiors of both types are simple in style. So I had a comfortable seat on the settee, from where I ate my cous-cous and mutton. Islamic practices encompass the whole spectrum of human activity from the cradle to the grave, so I used my right hand rather than a knife and fork although there is in fact nothing un-Islamic about cutlery or plates. It was just tradition. That week of living in traditional Arab ways in Meknes brought great enlightenment and I really felt at home there. I’ve been back since, in 1994 to try to establish an electronic manufacturing business there but so far without success.

One day I was walking past the souk, or open-air market, just outside the medina walls, in the town centre, confidently looking as though I knew the place well, when I was descended upon by a rather scruffy boy of about 17 years old who identified me as a tourist and offered, for a small fee, to show me the medina. To this approach I was polite and declined firmly, embarrassing him slightly by showing him that I knew the medina as well as he did. He then treated me with greater respect and when the tourist guide approach failed he then turned to sex.

Islam forbids the practice of homosexuality but treats it less harshly than illicit sexual gratification with a person of the opposite sex, so for Arab men it is a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. Again I politely declined his offer, explaining I was a Muslim and that the Koran encourages a man to have sexual activity with his own wife, or wives, but forbids it on all other occasions. I added, rubbing salt into the wound, that even if I was a homosexual I wouldn’t stoop to choosing him as a boyfriend. I then went to see Allal and the young lad left me, somewhat upset at my rejection of his advances.

In Arab towns, some young men jealous of Western affluence, will try to fleece the unwary tourist who perhaps does not know the area but I would strongly advise any traveller, if you DO want a guide, choose a badged and registered one, who earns his living at it officially, can be trusted and pays taxes on his earnings. If you want to do it unofficially and support the black economy then ask any small boy if he’d like to earn some pocket money by showing you round the medina. Most will be only too willing. They have a good command of English and several other languages, and are also likely to be street-wise.

Towards the end of the week, I bought, with Allal’s guidance, some presents for the family in their new home to serve as an everlasting reminder of my visit and my appreciation of their hospitality. I decided to hold a party in THEIR honour, just before my scheduled return to the U.K. This was arranged for the Friday evening and was a very emotional occasion. I wanted to show my love for Fathima as we danced the night away and realised that Monica was getting jealous of my love for her younger sister. I tried to give Monica a “thank you” kiss but she shied away, saying, “It isn’t done in our country”. Meanwhile her parents were encouraging me and so I officially asked Fathima’s father for his permission to kiss her. All the rest of the family were encouraging me too, as they could see that Fathima and I were very fond of each other and straining at the leash to show it. Consent was given and now she had her father’s blessing we melted together tenderly, with a long, deep, French kiss.

I then told Fathima’s father that I wanted to marry her. The parents discussed the matter and said they approved on condition I first buy a new house and establish a successful business in Meknes. To this end, I decided to save up for what at the time was a new £3,000 house with garden in the New Sector. I figured that 12 months steady contracting in the U.K. should give me enough money to establish the Meknes based business and cover the cost of emigration, the new house in Meknes and the wedding.

Regrettably it was not to be, as you will discover in the chapter detailing my 1994 expedition there. On the Saturday morning I established the train times to Casablanca and realised I’d be better leaving that afternoon and spending a night in a Casablanca hotel before going to the airport for the Sunday afternoon flight. However I had fallen so much in love with Fathima and Meknes, I seriously considered not returning to Casablanca but instead wanted to put my trust in God to allow me to stay out there and make a living in Meknes, telexing my bank to get the balance of my U.K. account transferred to a Meknes Bank and living in a rented working-class house until I got established.

I really felt tremendously homesick at the prospect of leaving Meknes, however I reluctantly joined the throngs of travellers on the train to Casablanca, realising I could make more money by returning to contract electronics in the U.K. and trusting that God would in due course permit my return to Fathima in a much more comfortable position. After all I wanted to give her the best possible start to our married life.

Getting a train ticket in Morocco is an experience in itself. The Arabs do not have the same disciplined approach to queuing as the British and it is necessary to jostle one’s way to the ticket clerk. Various troops and others were trying to bribe those at the front to get their tickets for them so avoiding having to wait like anyone else and were paying a commission for this service. Seasoned professionals were getting enough commission to travel free themselves. After about half an hour I arrived at the window and ordered my ticket with the words, “Wahed a Casa” as everyone else had done. I managed to get a seat easily enough when the train arrived on time and chatted with other passengers en-route, sharing what food we had, between us.

On arrival at Casablanca Port I tried to look as though I knew the place and walked inland, past wolves roaming a city park, only to find a human wolf giving me his unwelcome attentions. The rather scruffy shoe-shine boy offered me his body saying it was very cheap. When I declined, he first offered to find me a small boy if that was more to my taste, or a young girl. Finally he asked in desperation what it was I wanted. So I told him in plain English, reinforcing my spoken message with an internationally recognised gesture involving the middle and index fingers of the right hand.

I eventually found a hotel and booked in and he then had the cheek to demand a tip for having led me to the hotel! Bearing in mind I had already been denied a bed at two hotels, probably because the management thought he was on the game and I would be sharing a bed with him, I told him in no uncertain manner to take up sex and travel in that order!

The following morning I had virtually run out of money apart from my bus fare to the airport. So I had to fast after breakfast until I could get a meal on the afternoon flight back to London Gatwick. As it happened our aircraft was stranded at Gatwick, due to a blizzard and then engine failure, so the British Caledonian agents in Morocco, who are Royal Air Maroc, bought us an early dinner at the airport restaurant which was most welcome and nourishing. When word came through that we could not get out that day we were all given taxi vouchers to go by luxury, air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz taxis to the five star "Hotel Transatlantique" in Casablanca. The airline laid on a fantastic evening meal and champagne to let us celebrate New Year. Our free hotel room was a suite of two single bedrooms and self-contained bathroom suite. On New Year’s Day, after breakfast, we were allowed a five hour conducted sight-seeing tour of the city, then after lunch at the hotel, we were taken by luxury coach to the airport, arriving back at Gatwick at around 11.30 p.m.

Because of deep snow on the railway lines, even though the runways, taxi-track and dispersal area had been cleared, I was stranded there until I could walk the three miles back to Gossop’s Green and the family I was staying with whilst working in the Crawley area. I had gone out to Morocco to be spiritually recharged and escape the winter weather, but in fact came back to much worse weather than I had left. But the trip certainly did me good as I had said to Fathima, “You are my Princess. You met me at the airport and whisked me off to your palace in Meknes”.

Chapter Four


I set off with Amarjit Srah, my Gujurati friend and business colleague, on what proved to be the most traumatic and ill-fated adventure I have ever been on. Amarjit, a former A.T.C. cadet of mine, had not been abroad before and so this was something of a baptism by fire for him. As this was my fifth time in Morocco and having a good command of French, Arabic and Islamic ways, I expected the experience to be almost routine. However I was ill-prepared for the dramatic and unwelcome changes in Moroccan lifestyle, and the obstructionist establishment attitudes.

One mistake made was not finding out what is legal and what is not. We took an Air-Band transceiver and a paraglider, both of which were seized on our arrival by car ferry in Tangier. The bolshy Senior Customs Officer also confiscated all my electronic product samples and my tool-kit but did at least allow me to import my meteorological sensors and displays so that I could monitor the weather. As I did not pre-arrange a sponsor to meet me and vouch for me, it was illegal just to go there on a roving business trip.

My nerves were in bad shape because of rough weather on the sea crossing and I had several bottles of lager to try and relax. The customs officer, smelt this on my breath on arrival and in a self-righteous way castigated me for drinking alcohol whilst proclaiming Islam. I told him, “I will account for my sins and you will account for yours”. We were detained by Customs for so long that the coach driver left without us. Fortunately I had only left my raincoat on the coach and not my video camera. We had to wait to get another coach arriving off a later ferry, arriving over-burdened and dis-spirited at the "Hotel Centrale", in Meknes, (reception being open 24 hours a day) at 2.30 a.m. on the morning of March 28th. I mentioned we were over-burdened ; even without the paraglider and all my electronic equipment we still took far too much. After two nights at the first and most expensive hotel, we searched for somewhere of better value.

Although allegedly a Muslim state, Morocco still celebrated Easter as a public holiday and we couldn’t get any further South by coach, to the desert where we wanted to go, as all long distance coaches were fully booked.

I was searching for Fathima. I asked a young, well educated man at the Mosque in the New Sector, if he knew of a family Tourabee, whose father was an Imam in that area. He said he did but later investigation revealed that the name Tourabee is as common in Meknes as Jones is in Wales. However I eventually traced Fathima after three days by working through a local telephone directory and got a taxi out to meet her in her house in a suburb of Meknes. Apparently she had waited two years for me to return and then married a Moroccan and now had a 13 year old daughter. All the rest of the family had emigrated to Canada three years earlier, so Allal, who had the electronic business, was no longer there to partner me in my proposed business venture.

I had wanted to establish an electronic manufacturing business in Meknes making good use of the cheap labour rates there and the comparatively low cost of living. I could pay a good living wage to ten workers there for the price of one in the U.K. It made good commercial sense. However the bureaucracy made it virtually impossible without a Moroccan business partner, which I didn’t have. I needed someone who was bright, with a good business brain, fluent in Arabic, French and English, written as well as spoken, and who had an in depth familiarity with Moroccan business law.

So after about five days we abandoned the business side and just treated it as a holiday. We had hoped to do paragliding from the Middle Atlas Mountains, which rise to 8,500 ft., but the Tangier customs officer had scuppered that idea. The only way out was by train to the North, as there was a major international conference (The World Trade Organisation) taking place in Marrakech and the place was swarming with media, and not a bed to had for miles around. The train service like the rest of the public transport system, is VERY efficient in Morocco as also is their international telephone system, which was to prove something of a lifeline later in the trip, due to another major error of judgment on our part - not having a return ticket.

On one day trip from Meknes, we got a rather battered Mercedes-Benz taxi to the ancient Roman site of Volubilis, about 40 miles to the North. It is about three miles from Moulay-Idris, named after the man who established there the first mosque in Morocco the town bearing his name. The entrance is guarded by a substantial oak beam, so worshippers need to stoop to enter the mosque as a token of humility before Allah.

Morocco's oldest mosque at Moulay Idris, 5Km. from Volubilis

As is common in the Middle East and Asian mainland such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the mosques are maintained to exquisite standards whilst the houses are crumbling shacks, just functional shelters against the strong sun. On arrival in Moulay-Idris, a rather scruffy and objectionable peasant latched on to us and after our trip was over he organised our return to Meknes, for a fee, in an unroadworthy, unlicensed, pick-up truck. The driver, his friend (or should I say, partner-in-crime) was not licensed or insured to operate a taxi service yet the guide whom we had not recruited, demanded not only the same taxi fare as the licensed Mercedes-Benz(200 Dh), but also an additional 200 Dh (£14), for his unsolicited services as a guide and downright pest! I refused and threatened to take him to the Police so he went off in a huff, presumably to rip off some other tourist the following day.

Many pleasant days were spent in the warm sunshine and virtually cloudless skies, even though it was still their winter. We then decided to head North by train, to Tangier and soon experienced cold, wet and windy weather. On arrival we struggled with our excessive baggage inland from the main promenade area where the expensive hotels are to be found, and headed towards the medina looking for a cheaper hotel. In fact the Hotel Mamoura where we were to spend the remainder of our time in Morocco is in a narrow alleyway up a steep hill and many flights of steps, near the Grand Juma Mosque.

It had the highest standards of furnishing of any hotel we stopped in and was also, by the time of our departure, the cheapest. We stopped in a double room with two single beds, with en-suite shower, wash basin and bidet. For the last few days of our trip we had negotiated the cost down to only 70 Dh. between us (about £2.50p. per person). As can be expected in a tourist area, the vultures are there to be of service when trains, boats, planes and coaches arrive, eager to carry our bags, which WAS welcome, but the cost was about twice that of a taxi, door to door, station forecourt to hotel! There then followed much argument and ill feeling when we sent them on their way with half what they asked for.

Although we met them again later during our stay, still wheeling and dealing, they bore us no animosity and indeed were quite friendly. There are a lot of people in Tangier looking to buy foreign currency and offering much better rates of exchange than the banks. Indeed I was able to trade in Spanish Pesetas, Saudi Riyals and Greek Drachmas, although I couldn’t even GIVE AWAY my Egyptian Piastres. Even the beggars are choosers there!

Both in Meknes and in Tangier we quickly made friends and soon found a good quality restaurant offering excellent value for money and we gave them most of our business. A huge bowl of Moroccan soup with French bread loaf, the soup having the consistency and nourishment of Scotch Broth, was 3 Dh (21p). A mushroom and cheese omelette with chips and garden peas was only 14 Dh (£1).

On our second day there disaster struck again. I’m sure Tangier is jinxed. We were lying sunbathing on the beach, after Amarjit had been on a camel ride.

Tangier: Two entrances to the Medina, approaching the Hotel Mamoura

As we couldn’t get South to the desert, he decided that a walk along the beach on a camel was as near as he would get on this trip. I filmed it creatively with my video camera, so that it was impossible to tell. Whilst soaking up the sun, two traders arrived, one carrying a black plastic bag, and they were offering wallets for sale. I declined, saying that I already had one. Whilst one was showing me the wallets, which I really didn’t want, with me looking to my left and my jacket lying on the beach to my right, and hence out of sight, the other crook put his hand in, lifted the wallet and replaced the jacket to make it look undisturbed. At this, his pal, who was showing me the wallets, said, “OK, not to worry, have a nice day”, and I thought at the time that he hadn’t really pestered us when we said that we didn’t want to buy. We subsequently got up to go and on arrival at the bus station to book our return tickets, I suddenly noticed that my wallet was gone and with it all our remaining cash, which was to get us back to the U.K. It also had the receipts for the goods confiscated by Customs, plus driving licence, donor card and lots of personal papers. We only had 300 Spanish Pesetas between us, which of course we were able to change back into Dhirams without trouble but it did mean we were stranded and running up a hotel bill we could not afford to pay.

The following morning we went to the British Embassy but it was closed for Easter. So next day we went back and asked for repatriation but apparently it is no longer British Government policy to help stranded travellers, unless of course, as I pointed out to the Consul staff, you happen to be the wayward son of the then British Prime Minister and get lost during a desert rally. Then no expense was spared by the British and Moroccan authorities to rescue Mark Thatcher from HIS distress.

The Consul had bullet-proof glass, electric locks, and even the lift needed staff to insert a coded card to get it to operate. The Consul told us we needed to have money deposited in a Foreign Office bank account in London and then they would pay us the equivalent in local currency, less £15 “service” charge. So the Consul contacted the Foreign Office by fax, with instructions to phone my landlord and ask him to send £150 to facilitate our rescue. The £15 was to cover the fax and one telephone call, which must have come to all of £1. 50p. The Consul told us to return the following day to check on the progress and we did as requested, except that by that time we had insufficient money to buy any food, so the Consul gave us a sub of 100 Dh. from his own pocket to keep us going for a few days, pending arrival of the £150. In fact it was enough for about three days and then I had to change my Saudi and Greek currency to keep us going.

The following day my back muscles went into spasm and I was in unremitting intense pain for the next five days. My digestive system shut down and I was unable to urinate, defaecate, eat, drink or sleep. Amarjit nursed me and wet my parched mouth with orange juice. The powerful pain killers I took were just lying in an empty stomach and so when, after five days my digestive system did come back on line, I immediately vomited as a reaction to what would have been an overdose. The only pain killer and muscle relaxant to take effect was some high quality cannabis resin obtained by Amarjit from one of the street traders, which I smoked in a pipe and had IMMEDIATE relief.

This again made me mobile and I went for a slow walk, bought a walking stick and went to the Juma Mosque. I was again in pain but the following day, after another joint, I was totally healed and joined other worshippers in full prayers. After another sub from the Consul, the money came through, seven days after the theft, so we made plans for our return.

The customs officer would not release my confiscated goods without the receipts which were in the stolen wallet, even though he recognised me. I had to get a declaration of theft certificate from the Police. I was shunted from one Police Station to another and charged 10 Dh. for a diabolical photocopy and a further 10 Dh. for the paperwork itself. I gave my statement, first in French and then had it translated into Arabic. It took two days of intensive walking to complete the documentation and another day before Customs could trace their paperwork. I eventually recovered some of the goods in time to get a ferry out of that hell-hole, only to discover on our return to the U.K. that they had separated the air band transceiver and electronic samples from out of the toolbox and as of the time of writing I am still trying to recover them via the Trade Attache of the Moroccan Embassy in London. Knowing the corruption endemic in the Moroccan establishment I suspect they were probably sold or mis-appropriated very soon after our arrival which is why the paperwork never materialised. 

I had to sell my £1,200 video camera and professional tripod for £260 to pay off the hotel bill, as we only had enough money to get to Barcelona where we would need to repeat the procedure at the British Consul there. However in Barcelona things went much more efficiently and we had our money within 24 hours from my business partner.

As it happened this only got us as far as London Victoria Coach Station where I had to make a reverse-charge phone call to two more friends to get us back as far as Birmingham City Centre. Then another call was needed around midnight with my last 10p, to get yet more money for a taxi to get us home. However more of that later.

The ferry crossing back to Algeciras, in Spain, was significantly rougher than the outbound leg and I couldn’t afford any lager to calm my nerves. However the thought of returning to civilisation did help. On arrival at Algeciras we had about one mile to walk with heavy luggage to reach the railway station. The Spanish have a nasty habit of siting railway stations a great distance from ferry terminals or coach stations.

The last train of the day was ready to depart but none of the staff told us our ticket, obtained from a travel agent in Tangier, was not valid for use on this particular express train and therefore we had to pay 500 Ptas. each to validate it and get as far as was possible on that train. We then had a six hour wait in a bitterly cold waiting room, with no free water to drink, until the next train arrived, for which our ticket was valid. This got us as far as Valencia, where we had to change trains but again we got on the wrong train and when I refused to pay the surcharge the guard had us put off at a tiny station, in the middle of nowhere, to await the next train which we could use and that was about eight hours later. We could only afford one banana between us as we were fast running out of money for food. As we pulled out of the station we saw the village was surrounded by orange groves and we had gone hungry!

Finally we arrived in Barcelona at about 11.30 pm with insufficient money to book into a camp site or buy food. At least in Tangier I could speak French and Arabic but with neither of us having any understanding of Spanish I was despairing, wondering if we would ever make it back to civilisation. The weather was bitterly cold and windy, making sleeping very difficult. We thankfully found a lovely, generous girl at the tourist information desk who gave us a map and directed us to the British Consul. She showed us the location of some waste ground to camp on as all the parks were locked at night to stop dossers. It would have been bad for the image of the city which hosted the Olympic Games. She then risked her job for us by opening up two giant left-luggage lockers with a pass key and feeding them with tokens for the next two days. She also gave us 500 Ptas. each with which to buy food and get a metro ticket to save our weary legs, saying that we could repay her out of the money from the Consul.

We then stashed most of our non-essential luggage in the free lockers and trudged wearily with one tent and cooking equipment and the last of our food, to the waste ground. It was a land-fill rubbish tip with hardened mud and rocks to lie on. We put up the lightweight frame tent and cooked rice with Soya mince and gravy at about 1 am. We did not enjoy the rather bland food but we needed the energy. We did in fact manage to sleep until about 8 am, probably due to total exhaustion. The following morning we set off to find the Consul.

It was raining overnight for the first time for months and we looked like tramps as we arrived at the Consul, which took several hours and many weary miles to find. Fortunately there are no hills of any significance in Barcelona, but being so fed up as we were it was a debilitating walk. The money was with us within 24 hours and we then phoned FREE from the Consul to check the availability of seats on the next coach leaving for the U.K. We established it to be midnight on the following day so we then made our way to the coach station with all our luggage and parked ourselves in a nearby railway station, which was equipped with perforated metal seats, seemingly designed to specifically discourage long term use, as the pattern of small holes was imprinted on your backside within a very short while. If anybody did go to sleep lying down, they were kicked off for a first offence and ordered to sit up or get out. A second offence of sleeping led to you being frog-marched off the station forecourt by armed Group-4 security guards. When the rail station closed down at around 12.30 am, all occupants were ordered out and moved to nearby cardboard-city, where they tried as best they could to sleep on concrete benches or on the stone cold ground, which was part of the coach station. We got NO sleep that night and Amarjit was propositioned by an off-duty male nurse, who spent his time and money trying to buy sexual favours in the early hours of the morning. At least we both ate well for a change and had hot drinks and soup to offset the bitterly cold wind.

On the coach coming back we had to beg from other passengers for food, hot drinks and cigarettes. The Spanish cafeteria near the border with France reluctantly took all my French money, about £5 worth, for a bowl of soup and a sandwich, which we shared between us.

As we got off the ferry at Dover we tried to phone friends to get a lift from Victoria Coach Station, back to Birmingham but no one was available. The coach driver got badly lost in London and had to be directed by a passenger. Again it was bitterly cold and we had less than 50p between us. Three reverse charge telephone calls later and we had a ticket, thanks to a lovely young lady we both knew. On arrival in Birmingham I had to spend my last 10p. on a telephone call to our friend, Philip Stones, who should have been joining us on our adventure. He arranged for us to collect £10 for the taxi fare and food on arrival at his flat. We got back to my home at around midnight to be given soup, butter beans, coffee and cigarettes by a Greek sailor, Denis, who was another tenant there.

The following morning, after a brilliant night of sleep, I had to go to get food, sign-on again and the following day get a sub from Social Security just to keep body and soul together. Although I have bounced back from the ordeal, I’m still paying off debts to people who rescued me and paying for a video camera and tripod I no longer have. So now let’s press rewind and see how it should have been done.

1. Plan carefully for all contingencies.

2. Buy a RETURN ticket before setting out.

3. Buy travellers cheques rather than carrying large sums of cash. They are insured and can be replaced within 24 hours if stolen.

4. Take out comprehensive travel and health insurance to cover the whole trip, to include air-ambulance cover. Most other countries do not have a free health service, and even in Europe cover is limited. Often bills need to be paid there and then and reclaimed from DSS on your eventual return.

5. Obtain the booklet “Health Advice for Travellers”, from the Post Office. This contains a Form E-111, which needs to be completed and stamped by the Post Office, before your departure. The booklet details what is free and what is chargeable, in both European Union, and many other countries.

Chapter Five



Adventures do not need to be expensive affairs. In 1971, when the average wage for a skilled man was around £20 a week after deductions, I had over four months travel through seven countries and two continents, setting off with a combined budget of £40. Admittedly we did earn some money en-route with grape harvesting but I hope to show how by careful planning beforehand you can reach exotic places with no more that £1 a day allowance for food. Walking costs nothing, sleeping rough costs nothing and you can get across to mainland Europe, courtesy of some tabloid newspapers, for just £1, plus the cost of newspapers, currently also £1.

Although there are slightly greater hassles these days over visas, import restrictions and airport delays, I’d like to offer guidelines on how even the unemployed, on a very tight budget, can get out of a rut and see much of the world on an open ended time limit.


Flight-only deals from package tour operators are a very cost effective way of getting to far-flung places, or you could wait a day or so before you are ready to go and perhaps get last-minute bargains, which include seven or fourteen night’s accommodation to start you off. You can then begin your adventure in relative comfort and might even get half-board. Tour operators often offer big discounts for late booking because they would otherwise be left with an unfilled place. When the time comes for you to return from your package deal, you simply tell the tour operator that you will not be requiring your return flight and they can then offer it to some other passenger waiting on stand-by for a cancellation, or no show.

If you go on a flight-only deal on a charter flight, the tour operator will probably supply you with an accommodation address, or a hotel voucher, which of course will not be honoured as there is a legal need for charter flights to include an accommodation component. They normally charge a nominal £1 for the non-existent accommodation. If you are travelling to continental Europe by ferry or hovercraft, you can hitch-hike to Dover and then try to get a lift in a lorry or car, where the charge is only for the vehicle and passengers travel free. If going by lorry you can then get a lift on to wherever the lorry driver is going, which could get you as far as Rome, Athens, Tangier, or perhaps the Spanish Costas.

Throughout most of Western Europe and North Africa, travel can be by hitch-hiking, walking or cycling at a leisurely pace. If reasonably fit (which you SHOULD be if undertaking an adventure) you should be able to manage 10 miles a day on foot (4 hours of gentle walking), 25 - 30 miles a day on your bike, which should be well-equipped with luggage panniers, and a very uncertain amount if hitch-hiking. On my first adventure, my friend and I got back from North Africa in three days and two lifts, at a total cost of £3 for the two nights’ accommodation in a shared twin-bedded room, but then again I have gone several days without getting a lift anywhere. In Arab countries, and further East, hitch-hiking is a normal means of transport, but you may well be expected to contribute to the fuel costs.

However you decide to travel, careful planning of your route is vital. You should allow as long on the planning stage as the proposed adventure itself. Portions of maps may be photocopied at public libraries and then your proposed route can be marked, using coloured felt tip pen. You should also, at this stage, make a written route chart, setting realistic targets as to where you can expect to be resting at the end of each day.


Most travellers make the mistake of taking far too much excess baggage and then, finding it too great a burden, have to dispose of well-loved luxuries en-route, usually at a loss. If you are walking, a pair of good “desert boots” are comfortable and hard wearing. Unlike conventional hiking or mountaineering commando-type boots, they have very soft upper leathers and do not need breaking in.

They also permit the feet to breathe, but have the disadvantage of being liable to waterlogging in rainy areas and take a long time to dry out. I would recommend around a dozen pairs of new socks for each year of your adventure. If you get them all of the same colour, then as individual socks wear out you can at least discard the one sock, and still use the other one as part of a matching pair.

A magnetic compass worn around the neck, or on the wrist, will help you keep check on the navigation. Even without this you can navigate using the Sun, providing you know the time. The Sun is due South at mid-day in the Northern Hemisphere, and everywhere on Earth, rises in the East and sets in the West, so providing it is not cloudy you can find your way. Survival books will detail other methods which should, like other survival skills, be practised near to home before setting out.

A lightweight waterproof anorak can be carried to protect against inclement weather. A towel can double as a scarf if the need arises, or as a protection against blown sand in the desert wind. A lightweight tent in a zip-up bag, preferably in dark green or brown, to blend more easily into the surroundings, can be carried on the base of a framed rucksack or shopping trolley, but do practice putting it up before you set off.

A modern fibre-filled 38 oz sleeping bag will bring warmth and comfort on chilly nights. Remember that clear skies are liable to produce very warm days and chilly nights, as the heat escapes as soon as the Sun sets. An air bed can be folded away into a very small volume, then inflated with a rubber foot pump each night, or you may prefer a folding camp-bed, which gives firmer support and cannot sustain punctures or leaks. If you choose to take a ready made tent for accommodation I would definitely advise the use of one with sewn-in ground sheet and mosquito net, with zip-up entrance.

If you shave, a dual-voltage electric razor is ideal if you will be stopping in youth hostels, but probably better would be disposable wet razor blades. You don't need things like shaving cream or foam if you shave regularly, nor indeed water, hot or cold. If the weight of your kit permits, a double-sided shaving mirror is very useful as an emergency signalling aid. A multi-function Swiss Army knife is a valuable companion and can be hung from the waist. Money and passports are much safer in a money belt. For security, a whistle on a string around your neck is very useful.

As an alternative to a framed rucksack for walkers, a wheeled shopping trolley for around £5 will make life easier and can still be easily stowed in a car boot if you are offered a lift. Cyclists could tow one, or make up a cheap DIY trailer to carry the load. For hot foods, a camping gas stove is ideal, such as the Super-Bluet 200. Cartridges are readily available at hardware and general stores throughout the world. If you are starting your journey by sea, you can take cartridges with you when you go. For air travellers it is most important that you take no gas with you, but buy it on arrival at your destination and ensure that you disconnect the cartridge having used up all the gas before returning, disposing of the spent cartridge thoughtfully.

A basic First-Aid kit should be carried, comprising plasters, crepe bandage for sprains or inflammation injuries; 1 inch wide cotton bandage; TCP anti-septic; cotton wool; Vaseline; insect repellent; sun cream and water purification tablets. To protect against the use of un-sterilised equipment in Third World countries, approved sealed syringe and needle kits are available from chemists.

As will be explained later, a folded 10 ft x 6 ft plastic sheet can fulfil a multiplicity of functions. Useful odds and ends could include a pair of scissors, some string, a pocket torch with spare bulb, and safety matches. If weight permits, take a diary with you to make notes and these can then be used as the basis of an article to submit to your favourite adventure magazine on your return, preferable supplemented by good colour transparencies. If you do not already own one, I would suggest something like a second-hand Russian Zenith-E, which is a 35 mm format S.L.R., selling at around £25.

As regards clothing, cotton is far more comfortable than nylon in hot climates and I would suggest three poly-cotton shirts should last you for a 12 month adventure if you wash them regularly, unless of course you are going on a naturist adventure, in which case the one set of clothes you are wearing to get there will suffice.

If you want to try to get to know the natives I would suggest that they would much appreciate you buying local style clothing. In the Arab countries of North Africa, a long, flowing loose-fitting white cotton robe is ideal, called a jellaba in Morocco and Egypt, and a thobe in Saudi Arabia. In Muslim countries you should wear a clean pair of underpants beneath it. A spare pair of trousers and about half a dozen handkerchiefs should be fine for up to twelve months. Socks should be comfortable and hard wearing, such as poly-cotton, nylon-terylene or towelling material. Remember that in warm, sunny countries, clothes can be washed in a lake or river and laid out to dry on a rock, while you too are drying after bathing.

For eating equipment I would suggest a good compendium set of pans, which double as plates or bowls, and a knife, fork and spoon set, which all clip together for economy of space. A plastic mug is not going to burn your lips like a tin one will. However for ease of cleaning, if your weight allowance is OK, as for cyclists, then non-stick cookware is much superior.


Before leaving, spend a few hours in your favourite photo-booth, stocking up on passport size colour photographs for en-route visas and Police registration/immigration purposes. If you can plan your adventure to an accurate time schedule, then by all means obtain any necessary visas before you go, but be sure to keep to your schedule, or you may well arrive at a border only to find that you are refused entry because your visa is time-expired and therefore invalid. Of course some countries will require advanced visa registration so you will need to organise this before setting out.

If you have room to include it I would suggest a paperback guide, such as “Africa on a Shoestring (Lonely Planet Publications)”, or other guides in the same series, or perhaps a Fodor’s Guide to the country of your choice. It will provide valuable en-route visa, social, currency and geographical information.

Keep all your vaccination certificates in the back of your passport, secured with a rubber band, and ensure that you do not carry money and passport together in the same wallet. If you lose either, then an early visit to your nearest Consulate is called for, but it is best to contact the local police first to report the loss. Your details can be faxed or phoned to the Consulate on your behalf, and steps taken locally to find the missing items. Carry in a separate pocket a photocopy of your passport pages dealing with personal data, also medical certificates confirming blood group and your donor card if you carry one, and of course next-of-kin details.

Some Arab countries will require you to produce a certificate confirming that you are not of the Jewish Faith. It is important that as a traveller you avoid offending religious sensibilities. For example, in many Arab countries you will not be made welcome if you wear a pendant cross on a chain around your neck, or if you carry a Bible, or New Testament. So commit your prayers and favourite texts to memory. Protestant Christianity is tolerated grudgingly in Saudi Arabia but overt Christian worship is not, so please be discreet. If you are not a practising Christian it is advisable, if you intend visiting a fundamentalist Muslim country, to carry a Certificate of Religion with you, from a Protestant church. Many clerics will happily supply you with such a letter or certificate if you make a generous donation to their favourite charity. Of course, as an option, you could prepare by going to confirmation classes in advance of your adventure; who knows, it may be just what you are looking for. But wherever you go it is very inconsiderate to try to undermine the faith of those whom you do not agree with.

Chapter Six



Several options are available to the budget adventurer. If you begin with a last minute package deal then you can get seven or fourteen nights in a hotel, pension or guest house. This method at least gets you a reasonably comfortable start whilst you are exploring the immediate surroundings and getting your bearings.

The next possibility for flight-only deals, or if hitch-hiking, walking or cycling, is a ridge tent, or one of the modern ultra light-weight tents with fibreglass rods to give it shape, known as geodesic tents. These come supplied in a zip-up bag or outer holdall. Be sure that you practice erecting it before you leave for your adventure. You should arrange to have your tent erected in a suitable location, being a sheltered spot within easy reach of fresh water, before dusk. If you haven’t been camping before, give it a try before you go, as once you are in a strange land it’s too late to decide you don’t like it.

If travelling very lightly, using only a sleeping bag and roll up camping mat, or perhaps an air bed or camp bed, it is obviously necessary to find somewhere to sleep that offers you a roof over your head as protection against inclement weather, unless in dry climatic conditions such as deserts. If your budget permits it is a good idea to spend say one night a week in a youth hostel, where you will have access to a comfortable bed, shower, electricity, etc. Hostelling is designed to offer budget dormitory accommodation in the region of £3 - £5 a night at 1994 prices. You are expected to maintain the youth hostel and help out in some way, perhaps preparing meals, cleaning dormitories, windows or paintwork, etc. Breakfast and evening meals are usually available at good prices, so you can get the chance of a decent meal at least once a week. As with other aspects of preparation for the adventure, give it a try for a few weekends before you set off.

If the weather is fine you can of course sleep out under the stars, in fields, on beaches and in forests. If in need of shelter there are caves, tunnels (including the small ducts running between motorways), deserted houses, barns and stables, and the banks of wide rivers beneath bridges, but keep near the edge and beware of flash floods.

Another option is to find a dead branch about 10 feet long and drop it between the branches of two adjacent softwood trees. It is now a ridge pole and can be used as such, enabling you to drape the 10 ft x 6 ft. plastic sheet mentioned earlier, over it. A few rocks either side to hold it down and you have an instant tent.

Although taking longer to establish, the forest bivouac is more able to blend in with the surroundings than a simple tent, and is designed for longer term occupancy. Having got your positive waterproofing with the plastic sheeting, you lay a framework of dead branches over the ridge pole and cover the frame with fern. An even more luxurious and comfortable bivouac is based upon a flat roof construction where two ridge poles lying approximately parallel to each other are used as a structural framework for a roof. Then a larger plastic sheet, perhaps 21 ft. X 9 ft, is draped over the framework and covered with fern and moss.

If you are going to be bivouacking in tropical environments it is well worth taking with you a hammock to keep you clear of ground insects and snakes. A length of canvas sheeting, about 6ft. X 4 ft, with three sewn-in rings at each end can be suspended from low branches by three lengths of 1/4” tow rope or parachute rigging line, which has enormous strength. Ropes should be around 6 ft. long each and converge to a single spliced rope which in turn will be securely fastened around the trunk and lower branches of two adjoining softwood trees. As you climb in the sides will fold up to prevent you falling out of bed.


The vegetarian adventurer will probably find life easier than the omnivore when living in wilderness conditions and if working to a tight budget. The further South in Europe you go, the more abundant will be citrus fruits, grapes, tomatoes and lettuce. Also locally grown pulses, beetroot, (and in tropical climates, bananas and plantains) are all very nourishing. Whilst you can survive on fruits and fungi, even vegetarians will benefit from cooked foods, including potatoes in their various forms, broad beans, green beans, lentils, etc. Soup is another nourishing option. It can either be made locally from a concoction of fresh produce, or you could carry several dozen packets of dehydrated soup which is quickly prepared by just adding boiling water and stirring. Dehydrated potatoes provide bulk and are rich in many added vitamins and minerals, and like soup are easily prepared with boiling water.

Wherever you are it is important to have a balanced diet comprising one part protein (found in fish, eggs, milk, cheese and red or white meat); one part fat (found in all the above, or vegetable and fish-based oils, such as sardines and mackerel); and three parts carbohydrate (found in bread, bananas, pulses, and potatoes). By studying a library book on healthy eating before you go, you can draw up a diet that suits your particular preferences, having regard to the intended local environment and your financial resources.

Ten miles of walking a day, carrying a 35 lb rucksack, will require around 2,500 calories to maintain body weight in temperate climates. This energy requirement drops in tropical climates due to less energy being required to heat the body, but there is a greater need for fluids to offset losses through perspiration, and juicy fruits make a very palatable way of taking additional fluid on board. They are also high in fructose, a fruit-based form of sugar which meets a fair proportion of your carbohydrate needs.

High-calorie, lightweight foods, ideal for emergency rations include chocolate, raisins and peanuts. Of course many enterprising snack food manufacturers incorporate precisely these three basic constituents in their products, usually around a biscuit base, providing additional carbohydrate.

Fibre is indigestible but provides the necessary bulk to keep our bowels in good order. High fibre foods include spinach, cabbage and bran-rich wholemeal bread. Whole grain or high-bran bread, when spread with low fat spread, and with a fruit filling, preferably washed down with a glass of milk, is a nutritious and well balanced meal in itself.

Fruit provides a plentiful supply of fluids. Desert travellers in particular, should pay strict attention to the need for an abundant fluid intake. Where the ambient air temperature exceeds the normal body temperature (37 C), travellers should allow at least one gallon of fluid intake per day to compensate for losses through perspiration. Urination will be diminished in hot climates and increased in cold climates. Any excess fluids will be flushed out through the kidneys, as urine. In the early stages at least, desert travellers should walk just around dawn and sunset for no more than an hour at each end of the day, resting in a shady area during the heat of the day. An old parachute makes an ideal desert bivouac, or even tent. But it should preferably be an aeroconical (circular type), rather than the more modern ram-air sports canopies. Remember that the temperature experienced is the EXPOSED temperature and this is significantly more extreme that recorded in Stevenson Screens as used by meteorologists. In cold climates you are subject to the wind chill factor, and in hot climates, the exposed traveller experiences air temperatures in the deserts of North Africa and Saudi Arabia of around 180 F, which is hot enough to fry an egg on exposed rocks.

If you are staying in a forest area then squirrels, rabbits or birds can be caught. Go silently and keep downwind of your target. You can make a bow and arrow from available branches and either string or nylon parachute rigging. Sharpen the arrows and prepare the bow using your Swiss Army knife. As an alternative you could use a well aimed rock to initially stun your quarry and then when unconscious, kill it quickly with a massive blow to the head. In the absence of loose rocks, pick it up by its back legs, and swing it against a massive tree trunk or rock face.

Snakes also make a nice casserole but in the event of coming across one that is alive, keep well out of harms way and approach cautiously from the rear. In the South of France on one adventure, I saw a European Dice snake crossing the road, which was run over by a car. So I thought, waste not-want not, and picked it up, hanging it round my neck and returned to where I was living at the time. After decapitating it, I skinned it and cut it into slices, adding lentils, potatoes and tomatoes, and stewed the whole lot in a hot-pot.

Small animals and birds can be cooked in the open, over an open fire, supported on a spit. Bind two pieces of wood together in the shape of a letter “T” , the longer piece being sharpened to a point. This sharpened piece is either speared through the animal, or the animal is bound around it with metal wire. The T-shaped stick assembly is supported by two “Y” shaped branches and the animal is periodically turned to allow even cooking. The flames will easily remove the hair as it is cooking and the melting fat will drip down and feed the fire if you first cut a few slits in the body. Animals ought to be bled before cooking. You can simply cut off the head thereby exposing the open carotid arteries supplying the brain. Then go through the motions of giving external cardiac massage, squeezing the heart by mechanical action causing it to continue to fill with blood from the venous system, and then pumping this out to the brain. The brain no longer being there, the blood will just drain out on to the floor, or if you are enterprising you can let it run into a dish and use it to make black pudding.

Desert adventurers can supplement their water supply by using the 10 ft. X 6 ft. plastic sheet as a solar still. Scoop a hollow in the sand, place the bowl from your compendium at the centre of the hollow and lay your plastic sheet out on the sand, anchoring it around the edges with a few rocks. Moisture is evaporated from the ground by the heat of the sun and condenses on the underside of the plastic sheet, running down into your container. Partial filling of the sheet with urine, radiator fluid or even green plants will increase the rate of condensation and thus the amount of fresh water produced. So you are effectively recycling stale, undrinkable water.

Fish can be caught with a net made from a thin piece of clothing and the forked branch of a tree. Dawn and dusk are the best times for fishing and whilst it is raining as fish come up to the surface for the enriched oxygen. At night they can be attracted by a light source and after floods they can be left high and dry as the floodwater recedes.


Closely allied to the previous subject, good health requires an adequate well-balanced diet and sufficient fluid intake. For inexperienced walkers and when breaking in new shoes, blisters are a likely hazard. It is therefore wise to get into the habit of long walks in wild country before you leave home and to ensure that you pay close attention to footwear and foot care.

Over a month before you plan to set out to exotic places, visit your G.P., or a vaccination centre to check on the latest requirements for countries on your proposed route. Some vaccinations require injections spaced one month apart and you may well be refused admission to a country if your vaccinations are not valid, as they will not be wanting to take the risk of having an ill prepared foreign traveller becoming a burden to their health service.

In general, for countries South of the Northern borders of the Sahara Desert, and East of Greece, you can be fairly certain of needing a comprehensive package of vaccinations, typically those against cholera, typhus, T.A.B., tetanus, yellow fever and polio, to name but a few. Even if all of these diseases are not endemic at any one time, it is better to be safe than sorry. All vaccines need booster doses, some like cholera only offer six months protection, others like T.A.B. last two years, tetanus five years and yellow fever ten years. Therefore if it is a long-term adventure to a high risk area, you will need to organise revaccination at local health centre. As a general rule the more primitive the country, the greater will be the risk of communicable disease.

With the problem of AIDS in the developing world, it is a good idea to take with you a pack of sealed, sterile syringes and needles for subsequent revaccination injections. These kits are available from chemists as a properly labelled and approved kit to satisfy immigration officers that you are not a junkie. With the problem of drug abuse in some countries you should guard this kit with your life. It is also a wise precaution to ask your G.P. for a blood test if you do not already have a blood donor card showing your blood group.

Carry with you at all times a printed card showing your blood group, rhesus status, any allergies, or medical conditions which may require special treatment, such as diabetes, haemophilia or streptokynase infusion within six months, and your next of kin. This can be ANYONE whom you wish to be notified in the event of any accident or dramatic turn of events, such as perhaps requiring repatriation, or finishing up in jail.

Also I personally carry a universal donor card offering ANY parts of my body for transplant, or medical research by student doctors or trainee surgeons, in the event of my dying away from home. Whilst on the subject of drug abuse, note the severe penalties to users, dealers and couriers in many places. In Saudi Arabia and a few other Islamic states, the penalty is death by beheading, by the sword, or hanging in Iran and Pakistan. The same measures apply for certain sexual offences. The death penalty also applies in certain Far eastern states. This includes in some cases the possession and use of cannabis. So even if you are broke and thousands of miles away from home, there is NO WAY you should agree to act as a courier in return for a free ticket home. You might just get a free ride to death row!

Be careful what you eat in the way of wild fruit or fungi. As a general rule satisfy yourself with what you can positively identify or those exotic foods available at local markets. Test any strange plant for milky sap, strange pungent smell, or bitter taste. If in doubt ask the locals if it safe to eat.

Cleanliness is next to godliness but must come first. If only for reasons of morale, dignity and self-respect it is important that you keep yourself clean. If you are dirty and unkempt you are not likely to engender hospitality, so don’t let yourself get into that state. Wash at least twice a day and brush your teeth after every meal, even if only in water. If you cannot manage hostelling at least once a week, find a waterfall, lake or river and bathe regularly. Hot climates encourage B.O. If you are going to be bearded, grow it fully before you go, and keep it neatly trimmed, using a wet razor every few days to remove stubble and keep a neat line around the neck. If you are not going to grow a beard then shave as often as is necessary to keep yourself clean and presentable. It certainly helps in getting across borders. If you look like a dosser you could well be turned away.

If you get bitten by a dog, seek immediate medical attention, and try to get a passer-by to capture it without risking their own life in the process, so as the dog can be tested for possible rabies infection. Casual cuts and grazes should be treated by cleaning the wound with cotton wool, or clean lint, soaked in TCP anti-septic, then covered with a waterproof plaster. Study a book on First-Aid before you go, or better still train as a qualified First-Aider with St. John Ambulance or the Red Cross, then you can be well equipped to help others as well as yourself.

If you get bitten by a spider, snake or scorpion, kill it if possible and take it with you to a clinic or First-Aid post, in order for the staff there to identify the correct anti-venom. TRY not to panic. Many people have gone into shock and died following a bite from a non-poisonous snake which they just assumed was poisonous. Indeed even with bites from venomous snakes, many needless deaths occur through shock and mishandling the situation, rather than from the venom itself. Firstly a snake may simply bite and NOT inject venom. It may simply be giving a warning or it may have bitten recently and have insufficient fresh venom in the sacs to do any harm. If the snake is REALLY deadly you will probably die before reaching medical attention anyway. So if after half an hour you have a fever, parched throat, intensive pain or are shivering badly there is every likelihood of you surviving the experience. I was once bitten by a wasp which had settled in my shoe and I didn’t check it before putting it on. It was only young but when it injected its sting into the fleshy part just above the root of my big toe, it caused so much pain and swelling I thought I was at death’s door. I phoned my G.P. to get him to come out and administer morphine but he told me that if it was still the same in 24 hours to call him again. At the time I seriously didn’t think I’d live for 24 hours but I did and the pain and swelling subsided as predicted by my G.P. For any bites of that kind, try to immobilise the wound and do NOT use a tourniquet or cut or suck the bite site. You could try taking a couple of Paracetamol as part of the First-Aid.

Sexually active and promiscuous adventurers should be alert to the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in the developing world where A.I.D.S and Hepatitis-B are common. If you must sleep around then do take the precaution of using a condom. Many countries now expect a letter from an S.T.D clinic confirming that you have had a voluntary blood test for A.I.D.S and that you are anti-body negative, as a condition of entry, particularly to take up employment or residence and business trips of greater than one month’s duration, Saudi Arabia being one such example.

Chapter Seven


It is possible to be self-financing on an adventure and thereby extend the scope of your travel. This can be done, if you are a tradesman or professional, by taking up employment somewhere that appeals to you and thereby using the facility of free travel, accommodation and in most cases free food as well. When you have free time for local leave then at least you are on location. Also when the job finishes, the government may give you permission to stay on in the country or if you are entitled to a free return flight for annual leave, you can get the ticket to wherever you want to go on a one month adventure, up to the value of your return passage home. I have done this on an annual contract in Saudi Arabia with a month in the Seychelles.

If you are going on an adventure by speedboat, this can be self-financing by offering 10 minute trips around the bay to locals or visitors. All the profits made on these pleasure trips will finance the next leg of your journey. Also remember to seek sponsorship from speedboat manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and fuel suppliers who may wish to use the journey for advertising purposes and to field test equipment such as satellite navigation systems.

If you have experience in, or a flair for, teaching or lecturing, you can be entirely self-supporting and get the schools, colleges, societies, or universities to give you free overnight accommodation in return for your talks. You may also get a fee if you give a professional presentation. Also by joining the Royal Geographical Society and getting the support of the Expedition Advisory Centre, you can get sponsorship with the opportunity to give a lecture tour on your return to the U.K.

For those who do not have a specific skill to offer there are numerous opportunities, such as cleaning, preparing and serving food, making beds, dish and glass washing, weeding, grape cutting and other aspects of the vendage and also general labouring, perhaps on a building site.

Those with language skills could finance their adventure through offering a translation service or by teaching English as a foreign language for which the official T.E.S.O.L Diploma would be a distinct advantage. TESOL is “Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages”. You can live with a family free, doing housework and teaching English to the children, taking them to school or on outings, walking the dogs, etc. If you secure work in a Youth Hostel, or Hotel / Guest House, you will invariably get free food and accommodation, although Youth Hostels are unlikely to offer you a wage on top, but at least that is an important saving and you get a roof over your head, so it means not sleeping out rough.

It is a good idea to prepare in advance, word-processed or typed cards offering your services and seeking work in your particular speciality, typed, word-processed or neatly written in the languages of the countries you will be visiting on your travels, preferably prepared by a literate local. It is much appreciated by any community if visitors and adventurers will take the trouble to learn the fundamentals of the local language and customs and not expect the locals to learn English.

Yet another option available to appropriately experienced people is to travel as a crew member with a shipping company and just get off when you feel like it, joining another ship for the next leg of your journey. Finally I would suggest that all adventurers join the Royal Geographical Society, registering their skills and interests with the Expedition Advisory Centre so that they can have the opportunity to either join an expedition or lead one of their own, recruiting other specialists from the E.A.C register.

Chapter Eight

DO’s and DON’Ts

DO show respect and politeness to those in authority, wherever you visit, whether police, immigration staff or civil servants.

DO keep yourself clean, well groomed and presentable.

DO travel at a pace that you can comfortably manage.

DO remember that in any country you visit as a guest, you are there by invitation, not by right. Offensive behaviour can easily result in the host country withdrawing your privileges.

DO remember that wherever you go you are subject to the laws of the country in which you live, whether or not you agree with those laws or sanctions. If you don’t like a country to that extent, then stay away. For example Saudi Arabia cuts off the left hand of convicted thieves, whether Saudi nationals, Brits, Americans, or whoever.

DO ask permission of any people you wish to include in a photograph, and if their answer is NO, then respect their decision.

DO show kindness, gratitude and understanding to all those you meet on your travels. Be a good ambassador without going in for flag waving.

DO make an effort to learn some foreign words, phrases and customs, and try to adapt yourself to the local way of life wherever you go.

DO ensure that you plan your adventure carefully, paying particular attention to documentation and an appreciation of local laws and customs. Also consider carefully your financial security, getting a return ticket before you set out, even if it is open dated. Also remember the importance of comprehensive insurance cover which is usually more cost-effective if bought on an annual, multi-trip basis.

DO observe the Country Code, avoiding un-necessary damage or harm to property, animals, crops, etc. If you need to kill a wild animal for food, let the death be swift and dignified.

DON’T get politically involved in any sense, in any country undergoing change, or whose political or social ideology you disagree with. If you wish to support a particular cause then do it from your home base by lobbying. I personally feel that in fact it is an intrusion into the affairs of another state for you even to do that. Each country should be allowed to work out its own salvation in its own way.

DON’T offend religious sensibilities in countries whose religious system differs from your own. As with politics it is an unwarranted intrusion. If your own faith is not strong enough and compassionate enough to accept different practices or perspectives, then it is YOUR faith that is in need of closer examination.

DON’T disgrace your country and your flag with undisciplined behaviour.

DON’T set out on an adventure unless you have thought it through fully and are prepared for a significant change in life-style. You should think through the WHY as well as the HOW.

DON’T set out on an adventure without proper preparation, training and equipment. To do so risks the need to be rescued. You can practice survival, camping, bivouacking and long walks in wild country, close to home, to be certain of your ability to survive in a strange land.

DON’T make unwelcome advances of an amorous or sexually explicit nature where such advances are likely to offend your host country. Some people set off to places like Bangkok or India, specifically to secure sexual favours from child slaves, who get only a tiny percentage of the money paid to their master. This is in no way helpful to the child and merely continues their enslavement or risks of disease.

DON’T take cylinders of compressed gas if travelling by air.

DON’T get involved in affrays between local people. If this does happen in circumstances beyond your control and you get caught up as an innocent third party, then try to talk your way out of trouble, or walk away from it. If you do get arrested for any misdemeanour then make a full apology to the authorities and accept any penalty with dignity and without malice.

Good luck and GO FOR IT!

For planning advice on Adventure Travel,please e-mail me. I am registered with the Expedition Advisory Centre as a Consultant in Adventure Travel Techniques, specialising in desert adventures. Click anywhere on this link.

Warning to travellers on revised Repatriation Policy of U.K.Government

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