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Alice Morrison (Adventurer & Author)

On the podcast today, we have Alice Morrison, an Adventurer, Author and Presenter. Her first series for the BBC was Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure when she travelled the old salt and slave routes from the tip of Morocco, where she now lives, to the fabled and perilous city of Timbuktu. Her third book, 1001 Nights, was published in April 2019 with Simon & Schuster.

Alice is a journalist by background and has worked on BBC News in English and Arabic, and Sky News.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Alice Morrison

[00:00:00] Alice Morrison: Hello, and welcome to the modern adventurer podcast coming up as a woman. I don’t want to like go on about gender differences, but actually the one thing I can, my super power is that I can talk to women in traditional communities, which men can. And I’m sure you’ve found this in your travels. You know, I literally get separated from the men and that’s actually a privilege because it means I get both sides of the story and I get to hear.

Well, what’s troubling. The, what the women are thinking about during Corona, as well as the men, the men are thinking about how they’re going to feed the family. Can they get any money for their sheep? Because the bottom consistently dropped out of the meat market. How are they going to, you know, if they don’t have enough grazing, how are they going to afford a bag of oats?

The women are not talking about that. The women are talking about their children, their health, the women they’re talking about. They’re worried about their, daughter’s not going to school because it’s such yeah. It’s relatively, relatively new that universal education. Women [00:01:00] want their daughters to be educated.

So a lot of the things I heard were, you know, we’re really worried are our children are missing out, are our girls are missing out on their education. We want them to have a different life from us.

My next guest is an author and adventurer growing up Ganda and Ghana from a young age, she had a wild childhood and has used that to pursue adventures around the world. After getting a degree in Arabic and Turkish, she used that as a platform for journalism and works all over the world. But then in 2001, she packed it all in and went on some crazy expeditions today on the podcast, we get into detail about her stories from that.

As well as the nomadic community out in Morocco, where she lives in the Atlas mountains. So I am delighted to introduce [00:02:00] Alice Morrison to the podcast. Absolutely pleasure. Well, I mean, you have quite the, the collection of trips over the last few years, and I think for people listening, probably the best place to start is at the beginning because you have such an amazing sort of childhood growing up.

Such sort of exotic places. And I would love to sort of hear about how you sort of got started in this sort of world of adventure. Well, I like to say that I started very early because when I was six weeks old by parents who was Scott’s my mom had never left Edinburgh before. Oh, sorry. Scotland before.

And they got on a boat, sail to Africa, got a train up to Uganda. Celtic ambassador in Kenya, got a train up to Uganda. And when to live in the African Bush in the countryside and we’re teachers. So my, I started off. If you like with a bit of a life of adventure, thanks to my father. Wow. And what part of the world [00:03:00] in Uganda where you for portals?

So we were in a place called kitsch Womba for portal was the nearest town. And we were in a teacher training college looking out over the ruins story mountains, the mountains of the moon. And I mean, it was a fantastic childhood. There’s no doubt, but complete freedom. I didn’t go to school till I was seven.

My mom taught me to read when I was three. And I think all of those very early things, you don’t think they shape you. You really don’t. They really shape you. And I find that as I’ve gone through life, I’ve definitely moved full circle back to the kind of things that those earliest memories are. So for example, now I live in the Atlas mountains and our view is not dissimilar to the view I had growing up.

I’ve got my two peaks, clean air, cold nights and freedom. And I think for me, I had a very free childhood running around. There was no. Even though the property were dangerous, there was no feeling of danger or worry for my parents. You know, we literally would go [00:04:00] off and walk around in, in the rainforest of the mountains.

Things would happen to us. I remember at one point I got stung by a swarm of wild Hornets, my head swelled up, but we were fine and, and that. That no problem kind of attitude. I think that my parents really encapsulated has definitely stood me in good stead for later life. And that’s where it will start.

Yeah. Yeah. I always think you never, you can never connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking back. And it’s so true. You sort of always come back to the sort of full circle in the end with it. I really do think that. And I think as well, anyone who’s been to Africa. He’s not from Africa, if you’re from Africa.

Cause he feel there’s anyway. There is something about the constant and now I’m living in north Africa, but it’s something about the red RF and the smell of wild basil and wild time and the blue blue sky and on [00:05:00] the adventure I just finished. I spent a lot of time and yeah. Sahara and Sahara desert region, and you know, those Umrah trees, the thorn thorn trees, the flattop trees against the completely empty landscape with the setting sun and those things.

They feel like cliches in a way, but they’re not, they completely get into your blood. And, and it makes me feel so happy and comfortable and. Somehow at one with the world I live in, when I see and experience and smell and hear those songs. God. And so what you lived in Uganda for your entire childhood? No, I lived there till I was eight and then we came back to Scotland and my parents wanted us to go to school in Scotland to get an education.

So we came back to Scotland, but mom and dad didn’t have any cash whatsoever. They were teachers. And so my dad. Teach at the local high school in the Highlands and open and we lifted the tent. Because we didn’t have a house, so my brother would be born by then. He was forced. So we did it in his tent for a [00:06:00] while, and then it flew down in a Gale and we upgraded to a caravan.

So again, I think there was quite a lot of fun growing up. And then we were back in Scotland for a while. Then we went back to Africa, west Africa to Ghana, and then the terrible thing happened that I was sent to boarding school at the age of 11. That was a very nasty shock. Suddenly we weren’t allowed to do anything from having been able to do everything.

I was at 40 school in Edinburgh where you weren’t even allowed out of the boarding school, except for once a week for three hours on a Saturday morning to the sweet shop. And you had to wear two pairs of pants. Other than that was quite good. Cause it was very, very, very cold. So two pairs of pants at least kept my bottom warm, but it was all very.

Intuitive to be in a bit strange. And what’s the reasoning behind Tepe has a pen. I don’t even want to speculate. We also had to wear beige ankle socks and the green velure hat, as well as normal clothes. On top. Of course we didn’t just go out in that, but it was [00:07:00] all very, it was, you know, it was the Dennis and kindly ladies academy for young ladies in Edinburgh.

So it was a very different atmosphere from what I’d been used to. But I got my education. I left when I, as soon as I could, when I was 17 and went to the least. So. You know, everything serves a purpose, everything works out for the best. Sometimes you were in the middle east and I think I’m right in saying that’s you got your sort of degree in journalism and you studied Arabic.

Turkish was it? Yeah, I did. This is terrible because I was a journalist and still am a journalist. But I did never do a degree in journalism. I studied Arabic, Turkish politics, Islam, literature, everything that middle Eastern, if you like. And I did that Edinburg for four years, but before I went, and again, this is all these steps on the path.

What you said about joining circle. I go to job at a magazine in Dubai called what’s on [00:08:00] in Dubai which is still going. That year of experience, which was amazing. So I joined at the second issue, psych, I got to do upstate everything. I was only 17 and I was writing articles about the rugby club. I know nothing about rugby and going to Bali.

I’d never been to Bali such free on the path of journalism. I’ve become much more truthful in my old age. So I think everything kind of woven into a pattern and the Arabic and the journalism. Have really, I would say shaped, shaped my life. Got it. And yeah, it’s an it sorta, must’ve given you such a great springboard to sort of travel with that and see some of the masons.

Incredible parts of the world. Really? Yeah. I think, I think people have actually got a natural bent. Obviously, most people love their own country and then some people are very attracted to different cultures. So for example, some people definitely is India or for other people it’s [00:09:00] Europe. Venice and Vienna and Rome.

And for me, it’s always been Africa and the middle east, although I really liked south America as well, but it stopped kind of for whatever reason. I don’t know if it’s, again, that early imprinting, which must be a factor. They just always attracted me. I felt very comfortable. I felt that I can, I ha not having an insight into the people there, but I feel I can relate.

Live with people and understand where they’re coming from and they understand where I’m coming from. And so I feel comfortable, which I think most people need to feel comfortable with the people they’re living with. Otherwise, if you just feel like a complete stranger, of course, I’m a stranger here, but if you, if you, if you feel very strange, I think it’s difficult to live in different countries.

Yeah, by sort of moving around when you were younger, it’s different countries gave you that sort of comfort in [00:10:00] being in, by living in foreign countries. Whereas someone who’s probably based themselves in one country the whole time. Going and living abroad is very alien to them. It is. And I think something which I’ve come to realize on, which I think is a little bit odd about we actually, but it is the truth.

So, you know, just fit your truths. Is the, I actually quite like being the strange one, the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant, the expatriate doesn’t matter what you call it, having a level of observation. From where I am, because I’m not from there. So I’m slightly observing what’s going on. And as I like to think of myself as a kind of a storyteller or a minstrel, because I tell a lot of stories and I think that’s one of the things that appeals to me about living in different places is, is the I’m constantly seeking out and searching for and listening really hard and learning.

And I find that that really [00:11:00] stimulates me and inspires my life. It also ties me out. I need some dogs and quite a lot of downtime with Netflix. I think sometimes we all need that. So what was the turning point in your life where you suddenly decided to pursue these more? Let’s say extreme adventure. I think that’s a really good question.

And I think most people think there is a big turning point. And I would say that mine’s almost been a progression. And I don’t know if that sounds sometimes in denial about what I’m doing which is a possibility to make it less frightening. But I think there was a very big trigger point and that was, I was chief executive of a media development company called vision and media in the Northwest of India.

We built it up from scratch. For nine years, I had 40 staff. We’d had to budget. I built up a budget of 10 million pounds a year, but we’re very successful. And then absolutely no personal cause, [00:12:00] but the tourists came into power. We were acquired, go. And David Cameron said, I’m going to abolish all congos. And so he abolished our two main funders within a week of each other.

The people that we won money from to that invest in the economy and it’s film companies, TV companies, games, companies. So the long and short of it was I had to meld my company into a bigger company staff or some of the stuff were made redundant. I was made, I was redundant. And those, those events in someone’s life are quite shocking.

Even if you know, when you’re in charge. I was going to be without a job, but also I was making other people lose their jobs and that responsibility did certainly weighed very heavily. And I’d seen this race years before to race across Africa. And I’d always wanted to go back to my African roots to, you know, feel those things I felt as a child again, and wonder if I could remember more from my childhood.

So I signed up for a [00:13:00] race. I signed up to race across the continent from Cairo to Cape town, which is eight, 8,000 miles, 12 and a half thousand K. On my bike without any I’d like you I’m very bad at treating. So my training consisted of watching strictly come dancing and going on a turbo trainer with chocolate.

So I was really unprepared. I, I signed up in November. I left in January and partly it was to. Try and get away from what I’ve been going through. And especially this feeling of guilt of having to, you know, put stuff into redundancy, which I find very difficult and the feeling of anger that the government was making us was, was cutting us.

And then it sets up three different organizations that our place and that kind of. That childlike feeling of it’s not fair. Well, life isn’t fair, you know, and unselfish one. And really that was, that was a turning point. Because I think I remember when I signed up for it, [00:14:00] my mom was really upset and she said, what are you doing?

You’ll never get another job again. And actually she’s kind of right, but not for the reasons that she thought, but the reason was the after spending, you know, from January til may and the total freedom, riding a bike across Africa, putting yourself through that as well. The physical duress of it. Yeah. The, the, the, kind of the mental strength you needed to just get on the bike in the morning when you, oh my goodness.

I didn’t want to so many days I didn’t want to. And then getting to the end, the camaraderie of the group, the, the dangerous we encountered, because we did all of those things and the, just the sheer enormous, fantastic pleasure of it. You know, the thought of going back to being a chief executive after that was.

It was impossible. And also I think I’d become probably more or less unemployable. Yeah. It’s this sort of taking the risk to do it. And I suppose, [00:15:00] what was that trip lakes? I know you came out with the book dodging elephant. You are very good at doing you reset. Yes. Dodging elephants. So that will give you a clue as to some of the things that happened during the trip.

There was wildlife. That trip was amazing. It’s the tour de freak and that’s H a F R I Q U E as opposed to F R E K. It’s an annual race three times longer than the tour de France. You do a stage that’s a hundred days racing 20 days. You, someone that you do in a Peloton just in order to keep your time’s up and because you’re on a tarmac, other parts of it, there’s no way, you know, you’re way off road.

You’re just on your own. And the African countryside, the African verse, which is my favorite days. And you, you go through 10 countries, you go through a whole continent, you go through the seasons, you go through, you know, we were at 50 degrees heat and the Sudan. And then we went into the rabies season in Tanzania, where you have to stop your bike, find a puddle that was [00:16:00] easy, wash, you know, declawed, the derailleur and your paddles, and then get back on the bike and then do the same again in an hour because the mud was just so thick.

And we, we kind of cycled into. Cold cold beginning of winter in South Africa. So that whole. Across the planet kind of feeling of, of a journey and over length and of actually spending time in the world was very addictive. Yeah. I’m sure. And so what were the sort of amazing moments from that other than picking up your bike and put it in a puddle and Washington washing the Tanzania muddled?

I think there was, there was some. The dodgy elephants was a very big moment because that was very dangerous. But I think one of the big days for me was we hit, we hit a place called the lava road and it’s in Northern Kenya. And when we cycled through Northern Kenya, it was the biggest drought that’s been for 25 years.

And if [00:17:00] the temperature was in that say the mid thirties and the lava road was exactly what it said, it was a road across the love of field. So if you can imagine cycling over sharp black rocks I think I saw one tree. On that whole expanse and sitting by the side of the road where people begging for water, because there was no water.

Now, if you can imagine a human being, having to sit beside a road and beg for the, the thing you need off to air to actually survive. That that really affected me and made me understand, you know, the, in the unbelievable privilege of my own life and of all of us who live, where you can drink water without sitting there by the side of a road in the hope that Laurie will come past.

And the second thing was, I couldn’t give them water because I had my Camelback and I needed it. And I knew. So I actually denied a human being, the thing they needed. [00:18:00] So that’s pretty shitty actually. So that, that they always stuck with me. And the other thing that stuck with me is if you, again, the concept of anyone who’s been on the site, a bike, like there is some kind of momentum, usually your, your paddle, but at some point you’re not paddling every street.

On the lava road, you’re pedaling episodes from the stroke because you’re basically going over these black rocks. So your, your arm is slamming into the saddle with every single pedal stroke. And I managed to develop system. Halfway through that day, which was very unpleasant. Cause I felt like I needed to pee.

I didn’t need to pee it’s in the thirties. I have to get to the end of the road. And that day was the only day. I very rarely cry at things extremely apart from the Olympics when people wouldn’t go that I’m very happy for them. I very, very rarely cry. But I remember on that day, The sun was almost setting.

I was the last person on the road. Everyone else had either given up, got in the truck. Most people gave up two thirds of people that day gave up. I was the last one on the road, the [00:19:00] person in front of me, Sam I’d seen him. He was 20 minutes ahead of me and he was still cycling and I’m still on the road.

And, you know, Nether regions were on fire. Just everything was caked in sweat. My legs were giving up. They were just trembling, trembling, trembling from going everything. I was just thinking, this is never, ever going to end. This is literally, this is like some kind of Sisyphean nightmare. I’m never going to get there.

And seeing Sam disappeared to the distance thinking he’s still 20 minutes ahead. And his tears just trickled down my face. I remember thinking. What are you doing? You don’t have enough water stop crying immediately. So I did. But that was the key. That was the day that forged me a little bit, I think through discomfort like that you grow quite a lot very quickly, especially in situations like that.

By putting yourself in such a vulnerable and uncomfortable position [00:20:00] you know, sort of, sort of what’s the word? It. It sort of shows you who you really are. It sort of breaks you down to the bare Bains and that’s when you sort of come through and you’re like, oh wow. Actually I am made of so much more than I ever gave myself any credit for.

Yeah, I think that’s true. But do you also find it’s like now I just think, how did I do that? Looking back at it, I’m like, I don’t, you know, for me, it’s always the first time and I always think I could, you know, I’m not sure I could do it again. You know, am I going to be able to face the next challenge? I think there’s never any certainty, even when you do overcome things, at least for me phase a lot has to do with your mindset that you, or your frame of mind when you went into that race.

You know, if your mindset was no matter what I am going to complete this journey. Rather than, [00:21:00] oh, someone said this might be fun that see what it’s like two very different mindsets to where someone who might come into a lot of trouble and pain might say, well, this is just awful. I need to quit. Whereas if your mindset is like, no matter what gets thrown at them, I’m just going to embrace it and carry on and take it a step further and try and overcome it.

And I think your mindset in those situations are incredibly important. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I think for me, after I’d finished towards the freak, the, I signed up for the marathon. They solved that having got a bit addicted to adventures, which is a six marathons cost, does it in six days and used to be called the toughest race on earth.

I don’t think it is, but it’s quite hard. And on that one, I was like, ah, you know, they will literally have to carry me off in my coffin before I stopped doing this. I am going to finish this race because I’m an absolutely terrible runner. And I was [00:22:00] determined to finish it. So for that one, I didn’t even let the possibility of failure and to my head.

And I think it’s quite important not to let that idea that you might, if I ever think, oh, I can stop. If I literally, if I think, oh, I can stop, then I will stop. Even if I’m not tired, if I, you know, if I’m walking up the hill to my house, which I have to do with all my groceries, which is not nothing here.

Cause I live up a mule track on the side of a mountain. If I think, oh, I’ll just stop half I can, I can stop halfway for rest. I immediately stop even though I’m not halfway and put my bags down. So mindset is all. Yeah, God. And you know, the math and the sub let does throw up a few sort of curve balls and everything.

Were you running quite a lot through it or was it more cause I know a lot of people, most, a lot of people like to walk it because. [00:23:00] It’s sort of, they can preserve energy better, or a lot of people run it because they’re like, I want to get the hell out of here. I think I, well, I, there were 1,100 people that did it in my year and I came 665th.

I just missed side of the beast. So, which was brilliant for me. I was kind of midfield. I was expecting I ran and walked and I would strongly advise anyone going into an ultra to go into the mindset that you’re going to run as much as you can. Because yes, you could walk, I guess, the whole of MDs and finishing the time limits, but it would take a huge toll on your body and your feet, and also running, you know, running, you have a different footfall from walking.

Everyone walks a little bit in the MDs, even the elites, because you’re going up a whacking great sand dunes. So everybody has to walk a little bit. It’s all a matter of degree. So I would say I, well, I don’t know if I had to [00:24:00] really calculate it. I’d say probably run 40% walk, 60% or maybe 50 50, but that kind of, that kind of balance The last day, the last Morrison day when my feet were absolutely destroyed.

As in walking up to the start, I thought, I know I’m going to do it because I’m on my last day, but I don’t know how I’m going to bear the pain. I genuinely don’t. I was on my sticks and others, you know, I could have been 387 years old. And my friend Charlie, I was riding with was like, well, how many painkillers you got?

I’ve got, I’ve got, I’ve got 20 left. It’s like, take six. Now, take two of each time you’ve got, and then take two different ones every hour. So I started off the last stage, highest coat. Tripping on ibuprofen, Co-codamol add of paracetamol. And actually, and I thought, oh my God, my feet hurt so much. I might as well just run this.

I won’t say the word dispatch race, because everything hurts so much. What can go wrong? And I [00:25:00] started running and I ran almost that whole marathon with only like a couple of when, when the gradients got to Steve I’ve walked it, but that was my best day weirdly. And I think it was. Realizing that running actually saved my feet because we’d just come out of the long stage where you do a lot of walking and it’s my heels that were knackered.

So running on my fourth forefoot is actually less painful.

Yeah, it is take painkillers. Use them. Don’t be afraid. Sorry. Under doctor’s supervision. Of course. It’s the same in my run that I did in Kenya. I, by the end, I was taking sort of, you know, four, six painkillers. And when I finished, I couldn’t walk, but then as soon as I had to run take the painkillers and then I’d run.

It was a really sort of strange because anytime someone saw me. Towards the end. There’ll be like, you know, how is this even possible? You can’t even get up off the seat. He [00:26:00] can’t even walk. He has to sort of get help. And then as soon as take a few painkillers right. Run, and then, you know, you’d run a marathon in, you know, sort of get to the end and you’d be like, right.

That wear off you collapse in a heap and then next day, take them go again. That’s very intense. But you did though. I mean that Bravo, I take my chapeau often. Well, and so you’re in Muraki now and you during lockdown managed to go on quite a sort of epic trip. In the lockdown I th well, so what happened was I I kind of wants to morph a little bit from that adventure adventures into doing more exploring and trying to use my languages.

I speak Arabic and I’ve been learning Tasha heats, which is one of the atmosphere of Berber languages here. And I thought I want to do something in Morocco. You know, I’m in Morocco. I love it. It’s like I came here to train for the marathon. They solved it by the way, I’d liked it so much that I stayed. So [00:27:00] be careful if you do things like that, you don’t know where it’s going to lead you and I D I D started this expedition in 2019.

I walked the legs of the dry river, which is the longest river in Morocco. And I was the first woman. Well, these firsts are always a bit dodgy, but yeah. As far as I know, I was the first woman to do it. And then it morphed into thinking, well, I’ll do the whole of rock. I’ll join up with a desert leg and a Northern leg, and then I’ll have done the whole thing with the kind of a weird crisscross in the middle.

I’ve done the dry leg. I’d done this horror leg, which was insanely difficult. And then the last leg was the Atlas leg, which was from the door towards the Sutton, the door and the Mediterranean coast down in the down the reef mountains, the Atlas mountains, and down into Watson’s out where I started the whole thing with the draw.

And we checked you out to do it in June of 2020. And then of course, Corona hit and in Rocco’s very strict. I was here in . We weren’t allowed to [00:28:00] leave our house. At all for 14 weeks except to go shopping. And we had to have a paper from the government saying that one person for her solders that had to go out.

So it was incredibly strict. And as a foreigner, as a guest in someone else’s country I stuck to the rules. Like 99.9% because I am the only westerner in this village. I am a woman. I am, as I say, I strongly feel that I’m in somebody else’s country and that I have to abide by their rules. I like a hundred percent.

And also, I didn’t know what would happen. You know, Morocco was infected by COVID. From Europe. So it was not understood. Sure. How people were going to feel about that. So I stayed in doors and in 14 weeks, the most I walked was a kilometer. And that I just find that insanely difficult. I really locked.

[00:29:00] I was not, you know, I was not one of those who was breaking sour bread and doing yoga and learning to play the violin. I just basically sat and moaned quite a lot and try to keep, I did quite a few articles. Yeah. Talks, but I certainly didn’t thrive during lockdown. And then we came out of strict lockdown.

We were allowed to move within the country a little bit and we managed John Pierre, my expedition organizer from . He managed to get the permissions from all the local authorities, except for the last one. And we settled on our expedition across the Atlas mountains. And we set off in August, the end of August.

It was so unbelievably hot. It’s the hottest time of year. It was so hot that on the first day, the camels who were undernourished, because one of the bad things about Corona in Brocco is that the, and we’ve had a double whammy. We’ve had Corona and we’ve had an ongoing. [00:30:00] So the animals usually graze wild in the desert in the case of the camels in the Sahara and south.

But their diet is supplemented by food bought by their work in the tourism. And yeah. No work, no supplementary food. No, none of the farmers can afford to feed their animals, extra food. They, you know, people are hanging on. So this was the, the, the animals were, they were fine, but they were not in fantastic shape that I was used to.

And. On the first day they all sat done. They just sat down in the mopes and say, couch, you know, Campbell’s couch on their four legs and then their home legs and tuck them all underneath. And they just pitched. And when I said to Brahim, I was like, for him, who’s our expedition leader who assisted me for seven and a half months for the whole trip.

I was like for him, what is going on? Why is he missing my favorite homework? Why, why are they, why are the coaching. It’s too hot. It’s too hot. I’m Scottish. It’s [00:31:00] too hot for me. My space was beetroot and I was just sweating like a shower. I was like, it’s too hot for me. It’s too hot. It’s too hot for them to be carrying loads up Hills in this weather.

So we started off very, very gently because the camels were our most important. So the most important part of this expedition is carrying our food and water and our equipment. And also, you know, we like our camels, so we had to go very slowly at the start for the Campbells, not for the affair Scottish person.

God. Wow. And what was the sort of, because how long was that trip for? It was, it was just over two months. We made good time and it was fun. Fascinating for me, the quest, I mean, it was the part three of my Moroccan journey. So it was burning pretty in that trilogy to an end, it was through the Atlas muntons, which are just defacto, stunningly, beautiful and varied.

We have plenty of water. Not [00:32:00] entirely the whole way, but most of the way we have plenty of water, whereas the Sahara expedition water had been absolutely in crisis. So I was really looking forward to it. And also it was the men’s, the men are berberine all the atmospheres. So we were going at the end, we would be near their homes.

So they knew the route and they were like really into it. They’re like, we’re going to show you this and we’re going to show you this and wait to see this. And, you know, so I was excited about all of that. I was also on the hunt for dinosaur footprints. Because the final part of the expedition goes through an area where there are dinosaur traces.

So it was a very exciting thought being in freedom. Again, this idea of, you know, lockdown, it’d be like boarding school and an expedition it’s like back to the running around in the, in the countryside. So the sheer freedom of walking was just amazing. And then what I hadn’t thought about particularly.

And again, it, it struck me as I was doing, it was walking through this incredible point of history because [00:33:00] I just walked through Corona. You know, I got to see how the virus is affecting the most remote, some of the most remote communities on earth. And you would think it wouldn’t affect them at all. You know, nomadic community that lives off office animals.

How are they going to be affected by Corona? They’re not going to get it. We didn’t meet a single person by the way. In 1500 kilometers who had Corona. Or, or even who knew someone who had that there wasn’t any, and we took our precautions. We took our lead just to assure people that we were safe. We took very good precautions and we also took our lead from the people we met on the way, if they kept their distance, we, we always put our masks on.

We always kept our distance, but then if they came and welcomed us and embraced us, we buy, you know, after the first 10 days we knew we didn’t have it. We were in our own little bubble. And we’d had tests anyway. So. We just went by their lead. And some people welcomed us. A few people were frightened of us, but most people were delighted to see somebody doing something active.

[00:34:00] And something kind of historic in Corona because for Moroccans, what’s fascinating for me. And I’d actually rather delights my soul is that I’m, I’m going through taking notes on traditional architect architecture, clay, built houses. On what the women are wearing the traditional clothing on how they’re farming, you know, what people are eating and I’m like, Ooh, that’s very interesting.

And then of course, they’re looking at our camel caravan and they’re saying to us, you would like something from 1,001 nights. You would like something from a fairy tale and taking videos with us and selfies at the cabals because nobody travels in camel caravan anymore. So. Whereas I’m physically looking at the traditions I’m passing through.

They’re looking at me and the camels and the R and the man going, oh my goodness, me you’re from the medieval past God. What a, what a site, how amazing must have been just such an incredible. Experience sort of going [00:35:00] through that, especially after probably the sort of winter locked down that we will all had.

I mean you know, went to lot died and grim and yes, I do think I love for there’s some beautiful, especially in the, I mean, all through Morocco Morocco’s is extremely Richard landscape. You have a huge variety of landscapes in one country. But in this Atlas trip, we started in the reef mountains, which are these colorful.

Mountains but not steep as the Atlas, we went through those. It was very, very hot dusty. And then we went onto the recom plateau, which is a hundred kilometer long, very high it’s, a thousand meters high plateau of just dead, you know, sand. The edge flat some scrub wild, you know, some wild, Herb’s some grazing for the flocks and it’s inhabited by a very specific tripe I think is the correct word of nomads who can trace their descendants [00:36:00] back to Yemen.

And the Arab peninsula they’re called Benny the sons of the Crescent moon because they came over in the Arab conquest. Streamy hospitable people. We had the most beautiful experiences there. They live in. Goats hair tenths. Wasn’t from their flocks by the women. And they usually have a one concrete room built with a huge solar panel on the top, which powers up their mobile phones and their fridge.

Everybody has one fridge or freezer that they can. Things in. And then the women tend to do all the cooking and caring for the animals, caring for the children in the tent, which is much cooler and more comfortable. And then the concrete room is like a salon. So when we were invited for a feast, I be with the women in the texts where we split off.

So I’d be with the women and the men would be in the salon. And then I’d usually be asked to join as a kind of Henri man later on. So that was another thing that would just be fascinating for me is because as a woman [00:37:00] I don’t want to like go on about gender differences, but actually the one thing I can, my super power is that I can talk to women in traditional communities, which men can.

And I’m sure you’ve found this in your travels. You know, I literally get separated from the men and that’s actually a privilege because it means I get both sides of the story and I get to hear what. Well, what’s troubling. W what the women are thinking about during Corona, as well as the men, the men are thinking about how they’re going to feed the family.

Can they get any money for their sheep? Because the. Bottom completely dropped out of the meat market. How were they gonna, you know, if they don’t have enough grazing, how are they going to afford a bag of oats? The women are not talking about that. The women are talking about their children, their health, the women are talking about.

They’re worried about the, daughter’s not going to school because it’s such a relatively, relatively new that universal education. Women want their daughters to be educated. So a lot of the things I heard were, you know, we’re really worried are our children are missing out. Our girls are missing [00:38:00] out on their education.

We want them to have a different life from us. So that was fascinating for me. And I felt it as like a, an additional gift that I was able to mix with both sides of it. Gender defined God. Wow. And so after two, two months there, you sort of finished it. Where whereabouts was it? Where did it finish? So the, the point, because we were doing this whole all the way through Morocco, but we’d started in the middle.

So my, my three-part rocker journey was I did the middle first. I did the last bit second if you were doing north to south and I did the first bit last, and the reason for that was partly that it had grown out of the dry expedition. I had such a fun time. Steak experience on the dry expedition. And it was so fascinating and rich, I thought, yeah, I’m just continuing.

And then it was weather related, you know, the Sahara you can only do in adventuring season, really between October and March, March and the Atlas, we spent our whole time in the [00:39:00] Atlas yeah. In that burning heat. And then by the end, we have snow on the mountains and we were so worried that. Two weeks. I’d say we were, we were trying to keep ahead of the snow fall because if the snow had fallen heavily, which account at that time a year we’d have been trapped, or if there’d been a very big flood rain, rainfall, and snow melt, we we’d been trapped.

So again, I think the fascinating thing about long expeditions, this is whether the company sure. So important. It’s not just that like, oh, nice weather we’re having today. No coming it’s the co is, have you heard any snow and things like that. So you’re always thinking ahead to the next, the next type of weather you’re going to encounter.

Wow. And so these sort of communities, how are they sort of holding up now? Well, it’s, we’ve just had to eat a lot at heart, which is the big holiday and we’re in the Muslim stomach world, which marks the, the feast of the sacrifice. [00:40:00] When God asks. I have to sacrifice the sun. And then at the last minute substituted different.

A goat or sheep. And it’s a big deal here as it is everywhere in the Muslim world is really, it’s a very religious moment. Everybody praise him when he goes to the mosque and everybody remembers and is grateful for the things that we have. But it’s also finding time. So we will come together. So this year, last year, the government.

Was supplying the people with extra food because it’s a feast, you know, it’s like Christmas, people want to have extra food for their families and this year they weren’t. So it was tighter for people in this rural community. And. Really, every family wants to have a sheep or a goat. It’s very much the tradition, the father of the house slaughters.

It it’s part of the whole ritual of Thanksgiving effectively. And also to have the meat because people here don’t eat very much meat. I think they [00:41:00] probably eat in a week. What a Western person would eat, eat in one meal, actually SPE two meals. And so things were hard to hear. So the community. Always works together and people have a bit more giveaway.

And when you, even, when you have your sheep, they you’re meant to eat a third giveaway, two thirds. I think in a mill, for example, where I live, it’s very much. Tracking village we’re right at the heart of the outspokenness world, the gateway to north Africa’s highest mountain mud to count. I don’t know if you’ve climbed it yet as welcome.

So it has the feeling of one of those Nepalese tracking villages. So here there’s like loads of meals, loads of ’em for baggage. There are loads and loads of guides, and there’s lots of very small sheets nicer hotels as it’s geared up for that backpacking industry. And of course it hasn’t been anything.

Buy me a year and a half. [00:42:00] So what, but it’s also agricultural. So where I live, I live above the Walnut trees. So my terrorists is because I’m built on a mountain. The Walnut tree tips come over the top of my terrorists, which is really pretty. So I look out into a sea of green, very rich agriculturally here.

It’s very rich ground. So everybody has a small farm. The cow for that, I live in the family, compound the cabin in front, under my bedroom and the chickens just live at that window down below. So you might hear them. So everybody’s reasonably self-sufficient. So I don’t think this area suffered as much as some of the citizens.

Where they can’t fall back on, you know, tending their gardens, doing the farming a bit harder, at least getting your staple, vegetables, your potatoes, carrots, onions, getting milk from the cow. You might have a couple of sheep or goats that, you know, You can use through the year you’ve got chickens, you can get the eggs.

So I think here people were slightly better off, but what nobody’s been [00:43:00] able to do is what I constantly hear is, is progress plan for the future. Take any risks people have been building, because again, they just do it with local, local materials, you know, get the stones out of the river valley. You get the mud fit further up the river.

Or you might buy some cement. And then because nobody’s working, a lot of people are guides or hotel sheet Oberg who was here in owners. All the men get together and build things. So we see a lot of buildings, but people haven’t been able to progress with their lives. And I think that’s been a huge frustration as it has for everybody, but there’s no in a community like this, you wouldn’t have a family going hungry because everybody else would team together to get them.

God. Yeah, it’s, it’s always it always comes back to sort of knock, knock these sort of groups out rarely, and there’s always the ones that. [00:44:00] Struggle. But no, it’s, it’s incredible. And I have to say I’m slightly jealous of where you are at the moment. It’s the, it’s just like the most incredible place.

Alice was very kind to sort of show me her view just before the podcast started. We would have done it outside, but it’s too windy. You have to sit in. It’s so hot here at the moment that during the day you tend to sit inside between kind of tenants. Five with the windows shut, which sounds awful. And then you, you try and do your outside vets in the morning or in the evening.

Although last week I did go on a 13 hour hike. Which, yeah, it was that long because I’m so unfair and I’m so fat at the moment. So it’s, self-inflicted those magnums during lockdown. My God, it really took out to me. I, by the end of it, because the sun is, you know, it’s pretty hot and we’re at high altitude, started off at 1,750 meters.

And the first climb was 1200 meters straight up. [00:45:00] Oh, man, by the time I got to the top, I was huffing and puffing like a demon, but it was great. And again, it was one of those things I kind of woke up in the morning and I thought, oh man, I don’t want to do this. But I booked, I booked guide. One of the things I like to do is work with the local guides because they are amazing.

I get so much information. I have so much fun. And also frankly, you know, walking up a mountain, you don’t know on your own is stupid. So I didn’t want to let my guide. I thought I had everything ready the night before, so I had their excuses went up and then of course, as you’re doing it, you’re part of you just enjoys it so much.

You know, meeting shepherds on the top of the peak who made us a cup of tea, cup of hot sweet tea, and then finding out when he looked up this chapter to Vegas, teeny little teapot boiled on some scrubs. Two bushes and he’d been tending the Tisa. His face was done the whole time. And then when he looked up, we worked out that he was the [00:46:00] shepherd I’ve met on the very first day after the first lockdown.

When we were sorry about your pieces, come out. When we were allowed out, I went on a walk up my local pass and he was at the top of the past and really. Incredibly unusually and Rocco and, and not to know in any way, a kind of aggressive way. He gave me a kiss on the cheek because he was so relieved to be out of lockdown.

And I was so relieved to be out, locked down and we’d shared a cup of tea then as well. And imagine meeting him on that 13 hour hike the other day, it was just so nice. Wow. I mean, it has some incredible stories of Morocco and. You know, some of the stuff you’ve done over the year is truly incredible. And I imagine you’ve got quite a few more planned for the future ahead.

I have it’s quite interesting at this time, crone, I don’t know how everyone else is managing. I ha I have got an expedition on what to do. It’s not actually a Morocco and I don’t want to be too expensive to buy to at the moment because it feels very far away from being real. [00:47:00] So the way I’m trying to think of my, you know, my, my, my work at the moment is I’m going to continue to explore in the country while flights and traveling are so complicated, you know, literally you can leave a country and then the next thing you’re not allowed back into it, which has happened to me.

So I think, yeah. I think one has to be a bit, you just have to weigh up what you’re going to do. So loads of things to do in Rocca, there’s an area in the north where this big national park where they’ve got Eagles, I haven’t explored yet. So I’m thinking of going up there. I might get back on my bike and cycle to Essaouira which will kill me because I haven’t been on by boat for so long, but I think sometimes just do stuff and worry about it after, and then I’m planning this big expedition, which will be outside of Morocco.

And I’m hoping to get some traction on that and to start, yeah. Wrecking for it in the autumn and doing it promptly in a year’s time next autumn, [00:48:00] which, which feels very long away, but these big expeditions where you’re trying to explore a little bit. Breaking a little bit of new ground. They do take adventures of one thing.

Cause adventurous in a way, especially if you do an organized one, which are absolutely fantastic and which I love and which I would jump at doing in between. I, one thing, but if you’re organizing itself, you know, having to get. By camels or higher camels or find a route, find guides navigate the governments of the different countries.

Because I think, I don’t know if people understand this, but for example, in Rocco, if you want to go off the beaten track in the way that I was, you need government position permission. We have to send our coordinates every single night to the Chandon robbery, the police force and the military when we were military zones.

There’s none of that hidden secret, you know, going under the radar, there is no under the radar here. And I think that’s true for an awful lot [00:49:00] of the countries that I I’m particularly interested in traveling. And, and also there’s no, I mean, I’m trying to publicize what I do, so I’m not trying to be under the radar and in fairness.

But I think people might be surprised at how much time and effort you need to get the government. On side because it’s national government, but it’s also local government and regional government usually. And then you might also have to get the army on site. Yeah. Planning, planning, expeditions do, does take an enormous amount.

It’s actually probably the hardest part of the expedition is getting it off the ground. I mean, once you start, you know, everything about it, so. That’s the main bit, but getting everything sorted, fundraising, the equipment, it’s all great fun, but yeah, it takes a lot of work. And do you find it? I mean, I’m, I find it daunting.

I really find, I find it daunting. I’m like, how am I going to do this? I D the countries [00:50:00] I’m going to, I don’t know anyone there. I don’t know a single person. How am I even going to start this? You know, far less get a meeting with the minister of, and the team. I mean, it really is genuinely quite kind of, well, it can be quite paralyzing.

I think you just have to start. Well, Alice is a part of the podcast where we asked the same five questions to each guest each week with the first one being, what gadget do you always take on your expedition? I always take an expert stove and to Tanium mug with the lead, which is a pot so that I can make a, some some, you know, little compressed fuel so that I can make myself a cup of tea in my tent.

If it’s Gale force winds, that I can’t go over to the best 10 or cookout. What is your favorite adventure or travel book? I like [00:51:00] everything written by Francis stark. She is a heroine of mine and she wrote one about the assassins, which is about traveling through the the valleys in where the original assassin, the word comes from there.

And they, they were a group of blokes who basically were high on hashish all the time. Hence the name and were guns for hire. So. I love. Frehstart very nice. Why are adventures important to you? I think they make me feel fully alive and they give a structure to my life and they increased learning and they allowed me to communicate stories to other people and to bring in a little bit of sometimes a little bit of enjoyment and pleasure to other people, which I really enjoy.

But yeah, they make me feel fully alive. That’s the thing. Very nice. What about your favorite quote? I will never surrender [00:52:00] Winston Churchill. It was it. Was there a bit more to it or just, I will never surrender. No, I think I’ve misquoted him horribly, but I didn’t do any research, but that’s the, I actually took and I know he’s not very fashionable at moment, but I do think if you want to just think about resilience and keeping going, when things look really, really, really dark.

Really impossible to win. I would have said that for many people, the thought of Britain and the allies winning the war at some stages was impossible. If you listen to some Churchill speeches, I actually took one of the speeches on the marathon. They solver with me on my phone just in case, but it was about, you know, in the docs the times just we will never.

Yeah, I think on one of my trips, someone had put a little Quate of Churchill, which was winning I’m going to ask cause I’ve completely forgotten it, but it was like, winning is not permanent. Failure is not [00:53:00] fatal. It is the courage to continue that. That’s a beautiful quote, you know, and there’s another one by Maya Angelou, which I have on my website, which I also really, really love, but it’s it I’m going to paraphrase it cause I’m not very good at remembering.

And it basically says you know, I’m not gonna, I’m not going to eradicate intolerance by traveling, but maybe by showing people that we’re all basically the same that we all laugh, we all cry. We all hurt. We’re all hungry. We can at least become friends and that’s, that’s kind of. Another really kind of beautiful sentiment.

So it says, I think adventuring and exploring between those two things. Aren’t they, they are between having to have some resilience and determination, but also that having that desire to, to be part of this human family, to be part of this beautiful, amazing planet, and to share that with others and add, to try and promote, even within yourself, promote tolerance and understanding and patience, and there’s things that you learn because.

[00:54:00] I mean, I, you know, I I’ve impatient, I’ve got Celtic temperament and you, you just have to try and overcome those personal obstacles as well. For moving through people, listening are always keen to travel and go on these sort of grand adventures. What’s the one thing you would recommend to people wanting to get started, be realistic.

And I don’t mean curb your enthusiasm. I mean, literally think about how are you going to get the money to do it. Yeah. Or the opportunity to do it. Is it attainable? Is that, is your dream maybe step two. How are you going to w what’s what’s your exact aim with what you’re doing? You know, is it because you want to do a TV program or to write your book bites?

It is because you just want to do the adventure. Can you pay for yourself? Do you need to get someone else to do it because that will change how you approach things. So I think. Mine. Mine is very boring. I think, look at the kind of practicalities of it. If you can seek advice from others, there were so many [00:55:00] great podcasts like that where people could give you advice, reach out, you know, I mean, I’m always willing to share advice and, and just, just ask around them.

And usually the community is very helpful. I would say. Yeah. I, I mean, I, I try if people have a specific question that they want answering about travel a place in central Asia. I mean, I recently had someone who’s out in central Asia asked me about Tajikistan. And as you say, I didn’t know, I can’t speak for others, but when someone’s like, oh, you know, how is Tajikistan or somewhere suddenly I’m in there.

A roll of just really enough, the best places, because it just brings back these incredible memories. And I think people love sharing those moments.

Say. Yeah, it’s definitely yeah, something I, I always like to hear from people. [00:56:00] Finally, what are you doing now? And how can people follow you and find you in the future? Right now, I’m back living in the mountains, in my small Amasya community, Berber community. I am podcasting blogging. Trying to get fit again so that my next height doesn’t take 13 hours planning for the next adventure.

I’ve just written a book, so I have to do some revisions. So I’m in that kind of stage of things. Also having been banned from Rocca for six months because of Corona, I got stuck in the UK. I’m keen to do a bit kind of continue exploring locally and seeing things I haven’t seen. People can contact me best ways through my website because all my links are on there.

It’s allosaurus and.co.uk. But I am Alice out there. One on Twitter, Instagram, and tick-tock, I’m a new tick-tock star, by the way, I’ve put up, I’ve put up my third video got 95,000 views. I know, I know it’s [00:57:00] so funny. I’m not, obviously not a Tik TOK star, but I’ve just started putting up just little videos from the hikes and, you know, meeting and goat and also having tea with people.

Those two are parallel, but yeah, so everything’s on my website. Alice watson.co.uk, including the books, the podcast, Alice in Wonderland. I think that’s enough stuff for promotion. Well, it’s been absolutely amazing listening to your stories and I cannot thank you enough for coming on the podcast today.

My pleasure. It’s so much fun to be allowed to talk about the adventures. Usually like if you try and talk to friends and family, their eyes just glaze, they’re not interested. And as I say, it’s just, it’s just great fun listening and speaking about adventures. It’s one of the best things about this.

Can I only say one thing as well? Is that you know, I I’ve been lucky cause I built up to doing some really amazing stuff and, but, but anyone can [00:58:00] do this literally, you know, if I can set off a cycle across Africa, after training in front of strictly come dancing on the turbo and not even do that very well, it really is.

If you want to do something, just, just really do, go for it. It will be worth it. It doesn’t matter where it takes you. And don’t think you need to know all the answers before you start. I, I didn’t know. I was going to end up living in Morocco, walking. The whole of Morocco is six Campbell’s, one called Hamish.

I came to run the marathon. They solved. Like I stayed. Life is an adventure. It does lead you places, just be open to where it leads you and it’s always worth it. And don’t worry about what other people think at all, because it doesn’t matter, truthfully. It really doesn’t. Unless they’re going to put you in prison, that it does well.

Are you gay? What are you waiting for?

Alice? Thank you so much.

Well, that is it for today. [00:59:00] Thank you so much for watching and I hope you got something out of it. If you did hit that like button and subscribe, if you haven’t already die, we’ll see you in the next video. .

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