Many people ask me, 'How was the journey?' And I reply, 'It was an experience.' I point people to my Facebook page for all the videos and photos, but for those who actually sponsored me, well I have a dialogue and a responsibility towards them. Generally I discuss the issues of my health having traversed 5,500km across Morocco and the Atlas mountains, the desert of Western Sahara and Mauritania, and the black country of Senegal and The Gambia. Of course, I shouldn't forget the east coast of Spain, beautiful in its national parks and rugged coastline. I was the healthiest I think I have ever been up to the point at which I entered Mauritania where I drastically plummeted in will and energy, whether that was from the change of goat's milk to camel milk, or the soft, fantastic ground water that lies just beneath the sand in its many underground rivers, or the debilitating sand storms that truly define a greenless scorched environment, or food-posing from the many persons who took it in their stride to feed me.
I think the Gendarme police force and the military had a deeper respect for what I am. It ended up like a cat and mouse game - how to be left alone to experience nature in its full wonder; the freedom of the cyclist. It was nature: the raucous wind and waves of the Atlantic, the enveloping peace of the night and the lamp of the moon, the snowbound finger-numbing mountain peaks. These provided the inspiration for some of the best poetry I could write. My guitar as usual provided the visa and friendly banter between me and the Muslim world. But as as it paid its way through Spain where on such short funds I managed to leave the country at Almeria having made a profit from busking, I couldn't leave quick enough then, the factory tourism of British holiday resorts and kilometers of plastic polytunnels squatting over the landscape like martian colonies.
There were some interesting ecological advantages I discovered en route. For instance, I came across the only Aloe Vera farm in the south of Spain with something like 40,000 plants. I thought about the business prospects here as I did for the saffron and the argan trees that grow in the central and west of Morocco. All these are potential crops that could be implemented in Catalonia in spite of its dry climate. I hope to work closer with the botanical gardens in Barcelona in the future. Further south I continued collecting date seeds, free food for the traveler, and then on entering Senegal started experiencing a real change as the great rivers brought along irrigation water for rice paddies and mango groves. In the sub-tropics the diversity increases dramatically with farms and horticultural enterprises strewn across their landscapes. I thought about the possibility of cashews, their long fruiting season providing sweet juice and nuts for a by-product. Not least though Senegal is renowned for music such that I recorded some beautiful moments which in the future I will compile the hundreds or so recordings into a video book. For now look at this beautiful man and his friend from Guinea explaining the lute.
The culmination of the journey would not have been complete had I not visited two farms, MyFarm run by a European NGO, and Home Farm financed by an English patron educated in holistic and permaculture systems. There I lived with a small family among chickens and bananas and got to know the village life where black women dress in fantastic flowery garments when going to the market or a local festival. I saw how they made fedges out of palm fronds. Arriving just before the rainy season my inconsistent toilet habits tugged at me to return to Spain, where I duly recovered. As part of those farms I ran an introductory to permaculture. MyFarm in particular was an astonishing center for learning, employing about 15 persons where they make soaps, wax candles from the bee hives they keep, and a selection of moringa products including creams, teas, and food additives. This, more than any other product, stood out as the real food crop I could grow in Catalonia under partial-drought conditions. As a gift I was given a seed press, a little worn but easily reparable, as I imagined my fourth potential crop after carobs and honey. A full reading of the journey is available on my community Facebook page at DestinationAfrica. And as an ongoing enterprise, one may still donate here at Solteriologic Garden for when I intend to run a full permaculture design course in collaboration with other teachers.
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