Archive for September, 2010


The Sahara Desert

Posted in Excerpts at 11:14 am by admin

            Saturday, September 18th is our 7th day of riding.  However, we opted for  Toyoto 4 by 4 Land Cruisers over the desert roads and sand dunes on the way to our tents.  A previous tour took motorcycles part way and even so the motorcycles had trouble with the rough ride on lava rock and staying upright in the soft desert sand.  It took us about one hour and a half to reach our destination.

            On the way we had some interesting stops.  One was to the village of the “Black People.” Here we were entertained with music, dancing, and mint tea by the village men. These were Africans slaves brought here in the early 1900.  They intermarried and did not mix with the Moroccan population, and today still live and survive in their separate village, mainly from tourists coming to see them perform.  It was interesting to note that we did not see a single women, either in performance or on the village streets.

            One more stop was to a high point in the desert where the Moroccan soldiers quartered near a closed mine shaft.   This area is about 50Km (30 miles) from the Algerian border, and the function of these soldiers is to monitor the borders and make sure no Algerian crosses over to Morocco.  Sound familiar? !!! 

Our 4 wheel Land Cruiser took us over sand dunes, gravel pits, dry lakes, and by 5:00 P.M. we arrived at our desert Bivouac (tents).  Soon after we mounted camels for the ride to the top of the erg.  These dunes are 22 km long (North to South) and 5 km wide.  The tallest dune reaches 150 meters (approx. 500 feet high).

The camels took us to the base of one of the tallest dunes, we dismounted and walked up the edge of the dune until we reached the very top.  There we sat on the ridge, watched the sun set, and were served champagne.  This was surreal and I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming.  Then we rode our camels back to the camp.

The “Black People” came to our camp and provided music while we sat around a camp fire.  A Mo (more…)


Our Motorcycle Adventure

Posted in Excerpts at 04:30 am by admin


On our way to Marrakech

Today we are starting the second week on the BMW 1200 G.S. motorcycle. Westarted in Seville, Spain.  There are two guides and 7 couples, a total of 8 motorcycles and a mini van that caries our gear plus an extra motorcycle. Three couples are from Rio de Janeiro, one from Canada, two couples from Sedona, Arizona plus Bill and me.  Our incredibly handsome main guide, Nuno, is from Portugal, and newly married to a Brazilian. The driver Malcolm is from Argentina where he has a raspberry farm, run by Malcolm, his wife and two young children, and to supplement their income he leads motorcycle tours 4 times a year.

            We crossed over from Spain to Morocco by ferry and Tangier was our first glance of this amazing Country. Tangier was a pleasant surprise.  The women wore beautiful long colorful dresses with matching solid color head scarf.  Young girls usually wore jeans and a colorful blouse often without head scarf.  The young men wore jeans with colorful shirts.  There were many women driving cars, which surprised me.  The men looked like any western dressed men, only occasionally the older men wore long, white traditional dress. The children loved to wave at us, and many wanted the motorcycles to make loud motor sounds and with their hands asked us to rev-up the engines and then they laughed and waved.

            Without going into a daily travel log, I will summarize the trip so far, as being damned difficult. The first day we travelled only 200 miles to Menzeh, on a freeway, going about 75 to 80 PMH and the temperature was averaging 106 degrees.  We made frequent stops, and lunch took about 2 hours, so it was a full day.

            The next day we rode 310 miles (about 500 km) to Marrakech.  We crossed the Atlas mountains which gave us some relief from the heat of the desert, but the roads were winding and the motorcycles had to slow down a bit.  By the end of the day Bill and I had used every bit of our energy, and wished we were 15 years younger.  The traffic in Marrakech is something else, lots of traffic circles, and full of cars, trucks, motorbikes , bicycles, horse driven carriages, etc… In the evening the group went out to eat at a traditional Moroccan restaurant with belly dancers, lots of atmosphere and great food.   Bill and I could hardly stay awake.

            Thank goodness, the next day was a free day.  We slept, exercised, had massages, and in the evening went to the Djemaa el Fna market which is the busiest and largest market square in Africa and the world.  Here we saw snake charmers, story tellers, musicians, vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to live chickens. (more…)


Stop! Being Overly Respectful to Seniors

Posted in Excerpts at 08:45 pm by admin

           I have a pet peeve and wonder how common this may be.  I hesitate bringing it up because I know it is done with the best of intentions, but it still “bugs” me and I don’t think it is proper, and here it comes.

Its me

 It seems as I got older, and in my 60’s I became everyone’s sweetheart, honey and dear.  I’ve even had people call me lovie.  This is done in person, and on the phone.  What surprises me is that I am called by these names in restaurants, banks and various businesses.  I hate to be unfriendly, but these people are not my sweetheart, my honey or dearie.  I don’t even know them!  Often, inappropriately, I’ve had people moving light chairs for me or asking if I need help lifting small boxes, etc.

            I’ve asked friends about this and most agree that it makes them “mad” specifically, my friend Carole who is five years younger than me.  When I was in my early sixties I told her about this phenomenon.  She half believed me, but a few years later Carole called me and said: ”Gracie, you are right, I’m becoming everyone’s love. “

          To me this means I’m old, feeble, needing assistance and not up to par.  I believe there are elderly folks who appreciate this attention and need the help, and I believe for some it gives them status, but it is only a small minority of seniors who need help and if so, it is usually obvious.   But for the majority of us, it is degrading and disrespectful.  Businesses should teach their employees when and where not to use these familiar terms such as: Hon, Honey, Dearie, Sweaty, Lovie, etc…when addressing a senior.

          Grace & Husband Motorcycling in EuropeBy the way, I’m in my 70’s but I’m grateful for outstanding health, and although my face may have a few lines, I’m in better shape and have more energy than when I was in my 40’s..  I play tennis at least 3 times a week, I ski, I walk 5 to 6 miles at least 2 times per week, and next week I am going on a 3 weeks motorcycle trip (renting BMW’s in Seville) to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.  I believe it is important and respectful to treat seniors as an equal, not to assume we are old, feeble and in need of nurturing and physical assistance, unless asked.

          I plan to add a few blogs during these next three weeks and let you know what it is like to be on a motorcycle in these Countries and what the experience is for me.  Hopefully, I can encourage you to take a similar trip. (more…)


The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro – Part II – Building Walls

Posted in Excerpts at 04:30 pm by admin


Rocinha Favela

 I have received many comments about my blog of January 26, 2010, entitled “The Favelas (Slums) of Rio de Janeiro. Therefore, many of you may be interested in the latest development in the favelas.

            First, Rio has a hundred slums which is estimated to be one fifth of Rio’s population.  In 2004 it was proposed to build walls around 40 of the largest slums. These walls would be 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall. This project today is fully underway.  In my blog I particularly spoke of the favela I visited, Rocinha, which is one of the largest slums and is one of the first favelas to be walled off.

            The government says that the wall will act as an “ecobarrier” preventing the expansion of the favela to the surrounding lush tropical forests.  The residents of Rocinha do not see it this way. The residents see it as a wall around a “ghetto,” and an effort to control violence, and separating the slums from the wealthy areas of Rio. It is interesting to note that of the 13 favelas at the top of the list, 12 of them are near the richest areas of Rio, the fancy hotels, restaurant, and beaches, and away from the western areas where the rapidly expanding slums really do effect the forests.  The residents of Rocinha see this wall as a preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.  They are comparing it to the Berlin Wall, and the Walls built to separate Israel and Palestine.

Building Favela Wall

Spokesmen for the Rocinha have proposed better ways of defining this area, and preventing growth.  If this is their true objective, why not build walking paths, ecological parks and low walls to help define this neighborhood.  Or maybe provide affordable housing for those who wish to relocate.  The Brazilian government has allocated funds to build one million low-income homes by 2011.  But this is just a drop in the bucket, when there is a need for at least 7.2 million homes, and the population has increased from 169.9 million in 2000 to 190 million in the last 10 years.  I appreciate how difficult it is to find a solution to this very real problem, but I absolutely hate the idea of building walls.

             Psychologically there are even taller walls than 3 meters which separate the slum dwellers from the local middle and upper classes in Brazil.  These walls are ignorance, poverty, lack of medical care, and the fact the workers, maids, gardeners, for all of Rio  comes from the favelas.  (more…)

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