Sunday, 22 February 2009

Cleared the Algerian side

Once we finally cleared the Algerian side of the border we entered a town called Maghnia where thousands of people had waited all day for us. It was crazy, cars beeping, overladen motorcycles weaving in and out of the convoy, people giving us food, coffee, dates and kisses as we passed. Children were kept up way past their bedtimes and beautiful they were too. Young lads danced in front me the vans and if we dared get out of them we were hugged and begged to have a photo taken with them. They are truly overwhelmed that British people have shown their own Arab governments the way forward. In fact it appears that we are largely being guided "for our own protection" bypassing large towns and cities for fear we might inspire civil unrest. As we head for the capital Algiers farmers down tools to wave, workers walk off their jobs, kids pour out of schools and women wail, cry and blow us kisses, sometimes all at once. The feeling that we are able to change the world comes rarely because we buy into the illusion, created to maintain the status quo, that we can't.

On this convoy we know we are changing the world outside and inside ourselves. Its difficult and fraught with contradictions. Last night someone slashed the convoy organiser's tyres. Probably because he wanted some militants turned back at the Algerian border but relented under pressure of a mutiny. The people we're hanging out with are a real mixed bunch, but all passionate about the changes, sights, sounds and debates that are happening along the road. Last night I slept on top of the cargo in a sleeping bag, thermals plus two t shirts, socks and a hat and still froze my balls off. I had to be up at 6.30 as I now have a loud hailer and the responsibility of getting the convoy organised to roll. I did it in 1hr 15mins this morning, shattering the previous record by well over two hours. I knew God gave me a big gob for a reason and I think I've just found it.

Today the sky is cloudlessly precise. The road weaved through fertile valleys till it reached a sand duned coast. Its now 30 degrees but the cold of last night is still in my bones. We've tried to institute rules, like No Overtaking. When people do it makes lorries like ours have to slam our brakes on. An old Moroccan man flew at John at the last break because he wouldn't let him pass. Handbag stuff but it shows you how tempers get frayed. Most people have never driven further than the shops and they're driving the professionals mad. We are supposed to be having a meeting tonight. Its going to be explosive for all sorts of reasons. I want to say that the journey should reflect the ultimate aim, to breakdown barriers, cross borders, bring humanitarian relief to our brothers and sisters. It seems more than a contradiction, an hypocrisy, not to treat each other the way we would wish to be treated.

To glimpse, along our journey, a future built upon the freedom to learn, change and believe, where every person gets a chance to achieve their potential and contribute. Old fashioned socialist values which come springing back to life it this context.


  1. Mate, firstly may I say I am utterly flabbergasted by the fact that you have the roll of getting everyone up in the morning! Over the last few years at NYTW trying to wake you was an impossible job, getting you moving was a job for a greater man than I. Although a megaphone next to those rousing grunts, coughs, insanely loud yawns, dulcet tones and tribal like chants as you wake would get any convoy moving I'm sure.
    Secondly, I am in total awe of what you are doing and indeed why. Glad you at least are keeping the objective at the forefront of the mission. I'm sure it is will be an explosive meeting tonight, woe betide when Cullen vents his spleen! Maybe you should use the megaphone for this too!
    Best wishes as always
    P X

  2. Keep up the good blogs, it is really a fantastic way of understanding what it's like to be on the convoy without the sugarcoated official lines, and I hope the situation improves with some of the hard-headed people who might be accompanying you (by the way the prophet Muhammad [PBUH] himself would only stop to pray 3 times per day when he was travelling, those people are being silly).. in any case I hope your journey continues smoothly through algeria,tunisia and lybia - and pray to God you get through Egypt alright (seriously, I'm egyptian, the govt there is something completely different from all the countries you're passing through), but never let your spirits down, and as the Quran says إدخلوا مصر إن شاء الله آمنين 'Enter Egypt - God Willing - Safely'
    Please keep up & I will definitely try my best to share