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The long road

My recent writings have confused some of my readers on where I am. Therefore a quick overview of the last couple of months.
In September of 2011 I returned to Europe for a relatively brief visit. Old friends from business school in South of France, my parents and of course Amsterdam. Quite honestly, ‘visiting’ Amsterdam probably was one of the weirdest things I’ve done. The actual reason for coming back to Europe was my grandmother’s 95th birthday. We celebrated it with the entire family, including 5 great- grandchildren. Grandmother was doing great and it came as a great shock for us all that she suddenly passed away only 2 weeks later.

Once I left The Netherlands, I wondered whether continuing to travel made any sense at all. Sure, I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of the world last year and it will take many lifetimes to see it ‘all’. But do the additional experiences really add that much that they are worth forsaking precious time with family and friends back home? I don’t have the final answer to that.

First of all, I went back to my old love ‘Berlin’. One of my favorite places on the planet. Any temporary stay in Berlin is to short and thanks to my great host and old friend, time passed even quicker than expected.

Up next was Austria, meeting a new friend. The seemingly ‘ancient’ civilization of Vienna was a shock for somebody who has spend the previous months in countries where a 100 years is considered long ago. To my own surprise we even ended up on the Austrian ski slopes with a great combination of amazing snow and sunny weather.

I had, for the second time during this trip, the pleasure of spending some quality time with my parents. We decided to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao and visit Madrid. Needless to say we had an excellent time and saw equal quantities of paintings and tapas places.

And suddenly and completely unexpected I was traveling on my own again. Without realizing it, I had spend several months visiting friends around the world. From sunny California and Austin to drizzly Berlin and freezing glaciers in Austria. And there I was: on my own on a terribly touristy island (Gran Canaria) looking for a sailing boat, which took longer than expected. As usual during the tougher moments of this trip lady luck smiled at me once again. The boat I found was better than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Not only did I have my own cabin (and shower), the French captain is a former cook and his wife cooks even better. Our already healthy diet was supplemented by freshly caught fish and fruit we picked ourselves during day trips on the shore.

I originally wanted to visit Africa and Central/South America on the second leg of this trip. However, I couldn’t be happier when we decided to visit the southern tip of Morocco. Actually, I could be happier as later I found out that this place was the self proclaimed second-best-kitesurf-spot-in-the-world (after Hawaii). In Dahkla I slept in the most basic of nomad tents while kitesurfing until the sun set behind the dessert mountains. Friendly locals everywhere. And their amazement at my travel modus (boat hitch hiking), made me realize once again how lucky I am.

And then it was time to do yet another ‘first’ during this trip: sail on the ocean for 4 days and nights to Cape Verde. Strong winds and relatively high seas (up to 7 meters). Life lines, life jackets and loads of reading (finished 2 books in 48 hours). And yes, endless seas and long watches under star filled nights does make one more philosophical.

Cape Verde has been one big surprise. I had never been in a country with a Caribbean – African culture. And by God, have I missed on something. It sounds like a cliche, but the warmth of the people here is really amazing. The other day I wanted to go for a long hike. I only made 500 meters as I got invited into three different houses with people eager to talk. Being Dutch is a great advantage here as many Cape Verdians worked in the Dutch shipping industry in the early 60s and everybody has family in The Netherlands. One of the most heart warming stories was of an elderly man who, took me in his house to look at a poster of a boat from the HAL, the Holland America Line. When even in 2012 most Cape Verdians don’t have money to leave this archipelago, he had the opportunity to go to New York and many other cities with this cruise ship. When I asked him what he did on board, this fellow sailor eyes shone and he proudly stated that he painted the yacht that had a central spot in his living room. In rusty Dutch he confessed that the 9 years he had worked for the HAL were the best years of life…

And now I’m temporarily ‘stuck’ in Cape Verde due to a car incident followed by a robbery. The good news is, there are far worse places to get stuck 🙂

Another day in Cape Verde

It was one of those standard days. After a delightful evening the
night before, I decided to go for a hike. Bought some food and water
and off I went.

As the subburbs of Mindelo are quite extensive I opted for a bus. I
stopped the first bus that passed by. The driver asked me where I
wanted to go, and I could only answer ‘I don’t know’ (please note that
my Portugese language skills are limited to speaking broken Spanish
with a funny accent). The guy and sold me a ticket costing the
equivalent of 3 eurocents.

After 15 minutes ride we were well at the outskirts of the city.
Everybody got off at one point, so I did the same. Attempts to find
out (with a map) where I was were in vain. I therefore decided to walk
up the highest mountain I could find. The dirt track dissappeared
quickly and soon I was on my own in the prairie. After a long hike, I
found myself on top of the mountain with an amazing view: one tiny
house in the valley, see and a beautiful landscape. During the long
walk downhill I got a call from my family back in The Netherlands
which made this beautiful day even more special.

When I finally arrived at the sea I hitch hiked (by car this time) and
was taken by the 3rd car passing by: a Cape Verdian living in Canada,
giving an old aunt a ride because she had a stroke. He was a martial
arts instructor, real estate broker and a genuinely nice guy, who
dropped me off at my hotel.

Me like Cape Verde 🙂

Sunny Christmas everyone

Monte_verdeMonte_verde2

Leaving the harbor

The story is both sad and beautiful. A French singer/songwriter finds out he has terminal cancer. He decides to make one more album. In this 9 minutes epos he contemplates life as only the French can..

It’s the song my captain played each time we had left the harbor and set sail for a new destination. Full blast. Shivers down my spine.

(Merci Philippe!)

 

C’est un grand terrain de nulle part
Avec de belles poignées d’argent
La lunette d’un microscope
Et tous ces petits êtres qui courent

Car chacun vaque à son destin
Petits ou grands
Comme durant les siècles égyptiens
Péniblement…

A porter mille fois son poids sur lui
Sous la chaleur et dans le vent
Dans le soleil ou dans la nuit
Voyez-vous ces êtres vivants ?

Quelqu’un a inventé ce jeu
Terrible, cruel, captivant
Les maisons, les lacs, les continents
Comme un légo avec du vent…

La faiblesse des tout-puissants
Comme un légo avec du sang
La force décuplée des perdants
Comme un légo avec des dents
Comme un légo avec des mains
Comme un légo…

Voyez-vous tous ces humains
Danser ensemble à se donner la main
S’embrasser dans le noir à cheveux blonds
A ne pas voir demain comme ils seront…

Car si la Terre est ronde
Et qu’ils s’agrippent
Au-delà, c’est le vide
Assis devant le restant d’une portion de frites
Noir sidéral et quelques plats d’amibes

Les capitales sont toutes les mêmes devenues
Aux facettes d’un même miroir
Vêtues d’acier, vêtues de noir
Comme un légo mais sans mémoire

Pourquoi ne me réponds-tu jamais ?
Sous ce manguier de plus de dix milles pages
A te balancer dans cette cage…

A voir le monde de si haut
Comme un damier, comme un légo
Comme un imputrescible radeau
Comme un insecte mais sur le dos
Comme un insecte sur le dos

C’est un grand terrain de nulle part
Avec de belles poignées d’argent
La lunette d’un microscope
On regarde, on regarde, on regarde dedans…

On voit de toutes petites choses qui luisent
Ce sont des gens dans des chemises
Comme durant ces siècles de la longue nuit
Dans le silence ou dans le bruit…

Boat hunting

Looking for a boat to hitch hike the Atlantic is quite an adventure in itself. A selection:

A small catamaran with an extended family of 6 persons on it. They really had no space for me.

A French family on a catemaran with a young kid. They are interested in taking me, but he has thin lips and an unfriendly smile. So, I’m not going with them.

I had borrowed the dinghy / Zodiac from my current boat and during my search for all the anchored boats, I passed a yacht with a kid on it. I asked him whether his parents were on the boat. He responded negatively and asked me why I wanted to know. Feeling a bit unsure about talking to a kid alone on a yacht, I approached with the dinghy and I noticed he had (literally) a live monkey on his back. The kid and I talked a bit and the idea of crossing the ocean with this kind of people seemed very appealing. Later that day, I heard from two independent and reliable sources that the father was particularly unfriendly. Which ruled them out as 3 weeks on the ocean with unfriendly people is a definite no-go.

After lunch I ended up on an old large steel boat. When I told the owner that I am searching a boat in order ‘to cross’ he looked at me like I was his long lost son. Hopefully I am not. The guy and his wife were particularly filthy. The boat was in desperate need of a cleanup too, not in the last place because of the two big dogs on board. Their excrements were still on the deck as the owners were probably busy repairing the boat. The captain confessed he didn’t know the boat well and sometimes the chain for the rudder fell of but ‘only for a maximum of 5-10 minutes or so as it happens often’. In addition he was going to experiment with a home-made auto pilot that he ‘read about on the Internet’. Which took away the last tiny bit of doubt for wanting to join that particular boat.

One of the first boats I had spotted was a beautiful yacht under the Dutch flag. The owner (from the north of The Netherlands) and his friendly wife spoke at length with me. Unfortunately, they told me right at the beginning that they weren’t looking for anybody.

A Swedish guy had a very unlucky accident on the boat 1 day down from the canary islands. His wrist was broken in a nasty spot. They send a helicopter to take him off the boat. This meant that there was a space on that boat for me. The co-owner and myself chatted for almost an hour yesterday and ran into each other twice today, but unfortunately We couldn’t follow up on our earlier discussion as it looked like a good boat.

When I asked a captain of moored boat in the harbor whether he was looking for crew, another guy, who was just walking by, informed me that he knew of somebody who was looking for a crew member. He had been looking as well and really could recommended this guy. I went to see him. A friendly Englishman, on a big 2 mast yacht build in The Netherlands. He is looking to leave in about 10 days for the Grenadines, leaving ample time for me to discover the islands. A nice option indeed.

Further down the harbor I ran into a Spanish couple that I had seen the day before. A really friendly and smiley guy. His girlfriend who was on the boat had fallen ill and as they had to leave in order to make a deadline, they were looking for a replacement. Today we had a short chat. The girlfriend had fortunately recovered completely, but it meant that this boat was no longer an option.

The most spectacular option came last in the evening. An English gentleman in his late 60s, who had been an engineer on particle accelerators in the USA. I scored major points when I told him I had started yesterday to read a book on Richard Feynman. He confessed he never met Feynman, but had worked intensively on another Nobel price winning project. Things went great from there. He’s a collector of classic cars. His oldest car is from 1928 and he has a jaguar e-type from 1969. He has got to be back in NY by May as there is a classic car rally he has attended for 32 years consecutively (without missing a single year). After his wife passed away he sailed 3 times around the globe, went 4 times to the Antarctic, etc. etc. A very experienced sailor indeed. The big ‘but’ is that he is looking for somebody who will go not only to Brazil, but directly to the Caribbean as well. Which not only is a long trip, but forces me to backtrack to Brazil afterwards. Hmmm….

One thing is for sure, there are quite a number of characters to be found here 🙂

Sad arrival

Yesterday was my first day in Cape Verde. And a sad one. Cape Verde's most famous daughter had passed away. Cesaria Evora made the small archipelago famous. And she was famous walking barefoot and smoking continuously.

Yesterday she received a state funeral. A host of dignitaries, a passionate speech by the president and many people crying in the street. It was an official 'day of mourning' for the entire country. A well deserved tribute for a great singer.

more info: http://www.rfimusic.com/artist/world-music/cesaria-evora/biography

What’s the plan?

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People regularly ask me for a plan for my trip. With a sheepish look I then have to admit that there is none. Vague ideas like ‘go to Iran and see from there’, ‘have a look in South East Asia’ somehow resulted in a fantastic trip.

Similar to before, I had the idea to ‘go sailing’. Wise friends and family warned me for drunk captains, high seas and full boats. Without a name nor location of a harbor (‘how do you say ‘harbor in Spanish anyway?’) and just a plane ticket to Gran Canaria, I was on my way for another exciting part of this trip.

In hindsight, I forgot to think of some of the most important things: a large and (ideally) luxurious yacht, a private cabin and shower. A trustworthy captain and a great cook on board cooking our freshly caught fish. A nice mix of sailing at night with strong winds and sunshine filled days reading on deck. Shore leave in town and hiking on a quiet island.

And all that came true.
🙂

The opposite way

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I hitch hiked to France with my best friend. It was a holiday that could rival this trip in terms of events.

As a hitch hiker you need to be optimistic and persistent. Being two guys, you need to be creative, insane or both. Being patient is a virtue when hitch hiking, but finding fun ways to keep you too.

Nearly every long distance hitch hiker has a cardboard sign indications where he/she wants to go. One day, stuck for hours at an impossible location, we decided to put a sign for a city in the opposite direction. Typically people drive past without giving you a glance. This changed once we put up the new sign. People started pointing, gesturing, horning in order to correct our ‘stupid’ mistake. Needless to say that we had great fun being ignorant. The real idea behind all of this was to make people stop and explain us our mistake, which would give us the opportunity to get a ride in the direction we really wanted anyway.

People never halted and we got a ride. Typically people would characterize this experiment as a failure. For us, it gave us the energy to continue waiting for a ride that inevitably would come. And the two of us ended up in Cannes.

The ARC rally is the largest cross ocean sailing race in the world. Loads of boats looking to go where I want to go: across the ocean. After looking for days on end for a spot and competing with dozens of other near desperate boat hitch hikers, I decided my strategy wasn’t working. Just like everybody else I put up signs in the harbor, told all the captains I was looking for a boat and even made it to the semi-finals of the volleyball event. Somebody suggested swimming to the sailing boats that were parked outside the harbor in order to surprise the captain with the determination, a captain responded that he had already 5 people swim to his boat in the last couple of days.

The opposite way

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I hitch hiked to France with my best friend. It was a holiday that could rival this trip in terms of events.

As a hitch hiker you need to be optimistic and persistent. Being two guys, you need to be creative, insane or both. Being patient is a virtue when hitch hiking, but finding fun ways to keep you too.

Nearly every long distance hitch hiker has a cardboard sign indications where he/she wants to go. One day, stuck for hours at an impossible location, we decided to put a sign for a city in the opposite direction. Typically people drive past without giving you a glance. This changed once we put up the new sign. People started pointing, gesturing, horning in order to correct our ‘stupid’ mistake. Needless to say that we had great fun being ignorant. The real idea behind all of this was to make people stop and explain us our mistake, which would give us the opportunity to get a ride in the direction we really wanted anyway.

People never halted and we got a ride. Typically people would characterize this experiment as a failure. For us, it gave us the energy to continue waiting for a ride that inevitably would come. And the two of us ended up in Cannes.

The ARC rally is the largest cross ocean sailing race in the world. Loads of boats looking to go where I want to go: across the ocean. After looking for days on end for a spot and competing with dozens of other near desperate boat hitch hikers, I decided my strategy wasn’t working. Just like everybody else I put up signs in the harbor, told all the captains I was looking for a boat and even made it to the semi-finals of the volleyball event. Somebody suggested swimming to the sailing boats that were parked outside the harbor in order to surprise the captain with the determination, a captain responded that he had already 5 people swim to his boat in the last couple of days.

So I decided fishing in another pond. I took a cheap flight to Lanzarote and found a boat within 6 hours of arriving at the island. Even better, it gave me the time to take an epic bicycle ride around Lanzarote. Good fun all around!

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Hidden gems

Now that you’re sure that you’ve read the most popular stories of last year (https://gijsbos.com/most-popular-posts-of-last-year). You’re probably wondering which posts were most overlooked. Maybe because they didn’t have a picture with them on Facebook? An univitingg title? Published when you were on holiday? Or in the middle of your night? Anyway, here are stories that didn’t get the attention they deserved:

16. A bull fight with a twist https://gijsbos.com/a-bull-fight-with-a-twist
15. Bye https://gijsbos.com/bye
14. Comparing girlfriends https://gijsbos.com/comparing-girlfriends
13. How was Australia https://gijsbos.com/how-was-australia
12. Money talks https://gijsbos.com/money-talks
11. Privileged https://gijsbos.com/privileged
10. So, what do you think of India? https://gijsbos.com/so-what-do-you-think-of-india
9. Sorry https://gijsbos.com/so-what-do-you-think-of-india
8. The beauty of nomadic life https://gijsbos.com/the-beauty-of-nomadic-life
7. Aankondiging https://gijsbos.com/aankondiging
6. Delhi shock https://gijsbos.com/delhi-shock
5. Don’t believe a yoga teacher https://gijsbos.com/dont-believe-a-yoga-teacher
4. Exit Iran https://gijsbos.com/exit-iran
3. First impressions of Teheran https://gijsbos.com/first-impressions-of-tehran
2. Teheran quite a ride https://gijsbos.com/teheran-quite-a-ride
1. The sound of cooking https://gijsbos.com/the-sound-of-cooking

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Most popular posts of last year

Surely you’ve tried to keep up with my erratic publishing schedule: sometimes a story every other day, sometimes nothing for weeks. That’s why you’ve missed some stories. Here’s an overview of the most popular stories of the first year.

 

10. I’m going to Texas
9. Steve is my hero
8. After Burning Man
7. The most beautiful place in the world
6. Bad news at a bad moment
5. A tale of love hate and credit cards
4. You’re doing what?
3. Rotting away in a Delhi prison cell
2. My trip is a failure
1. NGO glamour

 

Happy reading!