Published: August 4th 2008August 3rd 2008
It is with sheer frustration that I RESTART this freaking entry.
When I havent posted for a couple of days, feel free to assume that Ive had all my money stolen, that Ive been kidnapped, or that Ive been a victim of a terrorist bombing.
Seriously, Im joking.
It is much safer to assume that Im having a ridiculously wild time.
And Algeria is that: a wild ride of epic proportions. That really quite unfortunatly, suffers from one of the worst raps out of any country in this big old world of ours. But Ill get to that. (obviously, unless the internet cuts out again)
Nador, Morocco to Almeria, Spain to Ghazaouet, Algeria in the space of 24 hours.
That seems like a lifetime away, but here goes:
I remember thinking to myself: one persons free roaming adventurer is another persons giant, but GIANT idiot. Needless to say, on the entire trip bypassing the border, I self-associated much more with the latter. Having never taken a ferry, not knowing the location, procedures, nor having the ability to communicate, I was left as a mess of goo; that crazy tourist girl laughing desperately to herself in the corner.
However, I then met a form of saviour, in the form of a Parisien-Algerian that I started talking to on the ferry ride to Algeria. It is also with him that I got my first glimpse into the overwhelmingly open and giving nature of these people. Working our way through the masses of police and officers at customs, etc, I was still out of my element- but it sure helps to tag along with someone in his.
He left me when we were finally free to roam the country as we please, where he pointed me in the direction of the closest money exchange office. After five minutes of idle chatter with a port guard in the office, he gives me his name, email address, and phone number and tells me to contact him anywhere, anytime, and in any situation should I run into any form of trouble. The banker kindly points me in the direction of taxis to Oran; half an hour after I enter the country I soon find myself hurtling off to the city in a cab shared with five Algerian men.
Not bad for the girl who enters the country without Algerian money, a guidebook, connections, reservations, and with absolutely no idea or plan in mind.
However, once arrived in Oran, the excitemed buzz of adrenaline and panic wears off and it hits that I am without any clue as to what to do next.
I read the Kite Runner in Fez, and I am reminded of a line from the book: "...how a child deals with terror- they sleep."
And while Im not a child, and I couldnt be called terrified, I could sympathize with the feeling. I slept.
Hours later, after languishing in an internet cafe, I walked into a bakery to ask for a bottle of water on my way back to my hotel. Two days later, a friend of a friend of the owner of the bakery is driving me at 630AM to the train station headed for Algiers. He gives me a present (shells he found on the beach) and insists on buying my ticket.
I spent the two days in a blur of meeting people, being invited out to eat, being given free cakes, sweets, and ice cream from the bakery, and being toured around the entire city.
I arrive into Algiers, after being offered water, juice, and sweets of every kind from my fellow passengers. This is seen as normal.
As an aside:
Most hardcore travelers scorn the use of guidebooks, which essentially drain the adventurous spirit of a trip. However, I don't consider myself one of these. I like my travel guides. In fact, I long for a travelguide. Not so much for the list of 'must-sees' and 'must-dos', but more for the practical traveling information such as: 'this place is sketchy', 'this is how to get a train ticket', 'this is how much this should cost'.
oh. and 'Everything, but Everything, closes on freaking Fridays'
The theme of my stay in Algiers can thus be summed up as 'the search for a cybercafe.' It was great, actually- I saw the city, I met locals, I became eternally frustrated and then reached a zen-like state of indifference. It's not like I particularly NEEDED a cafe, but it sure did occupy the hours. I finally found one, hours later, in the basement of a hotel; the door was half fenced in by a barricade, and the guy was only there by chance.
(Unfortunately, as I wandered, I did not get to see much of the infamous Casbah. As badass as I think I am, I have a pretty solid rule against wandering small alleyways by myself, no matter what time of day. No matter.)
Anyway, I finally returned back to my hotel, satisfied in my 'quest.'
...Another reason why guidebooks are handy: they also recommend lodging. Now, I thought I would be organized for once and book ahead. Lonely Planet recommended a cheap hotel. I tell you now: should you find yourself in Algiers, do NOT stay at the Central Touring Hotel.
I knew from the minute I saw the room that the bed was slightly sketchy. And me, who laughed in the face of bedbugs, thinking I wasn't allergic.
They MASSACRED me. Devoured me. Ate me alive. I slept in my liner, but no matter- every inch of exposed skin was feasted upon.
Yesterday, bored, I tried to count them. I have about 70+ bites on each arm. Not to mention those who got my legs, chest, and face. Some mosquitoes got me too- just to break up the monotony of the chicken-pox like bites, there are gigantic furious red ones too. Lovely souvenirs of Algiers.
Anyway, the next morning I hightailed it out of there. I got my haircut (and actually felt pretty for once!) just to leave on a positive note. I got offered a free ride from an optician right next to the hotel on holidays, and I was on my way to Tipaza to see me some Roman ruins.
Wow. props if you've made it this far. Apparently this is a very long post. (almost as long as my deleted one! lost in cyberspace... argh!)
Well. Tipaza has been sweet. It's a little vacation-y type beach town, and I feel much more at home. It's also pretty well known for its Roman ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The first day I met two women- the first women who weren't too intimidated to talk to me!- and ended up spending the rest of the day with them, wandering the ruins, eating eating eating, meeting their friends, having great conversation, and drinking good wine and algerian beer (called 33 export- fortunately, tasting much better than the name would suggest). As I stumbled up the stairs to my room I realized that perhaps I had a bit too much of the former (and latter), and had passed an excellent, excellent day.
Yesterday I finally had my first day of solitude that I craved so so so much. Algerian people are so friendly and welcoming I have a hard time telling them that sometimes, all I need is some alone time! I walked the ruins, dove into the Meditaranean (with all my clothes on, as to not shock the locals), and read my book on rocks dating from the 2nd century.
Anyway, there you have it. Today I'm heading back east to Algiers because one of the women I met (a grand lady- seriously, a whirlwind of energy and a force to be reckoned with), offered me a place to stay, and she's not the kind of lady you'd refuse anything, and it would be nice to stay somewhere other than a hotel!
If you've stayed with me this long, congrats. Know that I'm having an excellent time- these are the nicest people I've ever met; their generosity is overwhelming, and it angers me constantly to know that they constantly live under this media umbrella where everyone is an extremist terrorist, where women are repressed, and where you're likely to have your stuff stolen and head hacked off before anything else.
Hope all is well at home! (you know you're jealous of me- aside from the bites. ugh!)