6 min read
Two weeks ago, I could not drive a stick to save a life. Past tense. As over the past two weeks I have reacquainted myself with driving a manual car since hitting Morocco. The plan was always that Thomas would get on the Zero and I would follow closely behind with Jolene. I remember so many times assuring Thomas that I had done my driving lessons using a manual car and so I should be able to handle this car that he had bought. You can imagine both our surprise when it turned out I could not. The night before I had to drive on my own was spent in pure dread. As an overthinker, I of course feared the worst – that I would not be able to switch to gear one while pressing in the clutch and the break fast enough – and end up hitting Thomas in front of me.
Eyes on the road, gear two
Practice sessions were painful to say the least. Manual car aside, the first challenge was that I am used to driving a right hand car on the left side of the road, now adjusting to driving a left hand car on the right side of the road. I got a bit dizzy just typing that. At the beginning I was always looking down at the gears to locate them and ended up swerving, making Thomas yell ‘eyes on the road eyes on the road eyes on the road’. The instruction now became ‘eyes on the road gear two’, as he had learned that saying ‘gear two’ alone would result in eyes off the road to figure out where gear two is. Another instruction he liked to give me was ‘gently’ release the clutch while you ‘gently’ tap on the gas. Because if you are not ‘gentle’ enough (which I wasn’t) then the car stops (which it did). I cannot tell you how much I dislike the word gentle at this point. He would also say it while putting his thumb and index finger closely together to imply very little, and his right eye would twitch. We additionally didn’t appear to be speaking the same English because at one point as we got on the roundabout he said ‘blinkers blinkers blinkers’ and I had no idea that he meant ‘indicator’. And him giving me the science behind the clutch, break and accelerator and how they work together in some fairytale harmony just accelerated my frustration – I vetoed all such explanations until a time when I could just get the car moving. Hill situations are still a challenge my friends, because you turn on the car and you are immediately rolling backwards which freaks me out and now we are stuck on a hill with hazard signs on and Thomas (bless his patience) trying to reassure me that I will not crash. But other than that, we are moving.
Rolling in at zero percent
We are slowly getting into the rhythm of being on the road. We wake up and listen to the Course of Miracles. This is after quite literally 10 alarms on multiple phones in multiple positions in the room. I work out as Thomas meditates, Thomas works out as I take a shower, Thomas takes a shower as I pack up, we have breakfast, then hit the road. When the distance to be covered is less than 200km, we go all the way to the next hotel without needing to charge the Zero. But when we get ambitious and want to do closer to 300km, then the trip gets a little more interesting. We mostly ask at gas stations whether we can plug in to any wall outlet, explaining that it is an electric motorbike. Sometimes they let us charge, sometimes they insist that they have to call their boss to check if it’s okay – a boss that never picks up the call. One time an attendant had let us plug in, but we had become an attraction for the other attendants and the boss did not like this, so we were chased away. In another situation, we found a charging station via PlugShare, a tool that allows you to find electric vehicle EV charging stations wherever you go. Now PlugShare was not even on our radar, until the head of the Tesla Club in Morocco reached out to us offering support and mentioned it – what great hospitality! It turned out that we were the first to charge at this station, so it was very experimental for both the attendant and us. We figured out that he needed to activate a key card for the electricity to start flowing and once the Zero was charging, he happily went home. Two hours later when it was fully charged, we realized we needed the key card to unplug, a key card that was nicely locked away and could only be accessed by our friendly attendant who lived one hour away. They called him and we got to see the sunset while we waited for his return. The man came back, got the keycard to unleash us, and we were on our way! Two times we have rolled into a place at 0%. I am still waiting for the day that Thomas (maybe I will help him haha) has to push the Zero, but so far it seems quite resilient. We did some research and found that it can go up to 10km at 0%!!! The Zero can move at zero (somebody quote me).
Meeting changemakers has also been very gratifying. We have met and learned from the founders of Netwookie, Epicerie Verte and Alternative Solutions through connections at the GIZ Morocco. Netwookie is an app that helps users to find local service providers that their close family and friends trust. Epicerie Verte is the first online marketplace in Morocco that specializes in organic and natural products, and delivers to clients on an eco-friendly electric tricycle. Alternative Solutions is fighting deforestation and creating jobs in rural Morocco by producing a wood alternative through recycling waste from palm trees. We encountered Ecodome Maroc through research, a company that constructs houses and infrastructure for the development of rural communities by exploiting locally available resources. Rive Maroc reached out to us via social media, and their mission is to promote tourism and e-mobility in Morocco by organizing an annual international meeting of electric vehicles where drivers travel from Tangier to Ouarzazate in a week. All inspiring projects that were started by individuals that decided to be proactive in improving a situation in their environment. Each of their journeys is unique but a common factor and piece of advice each follow is that you have to believe in yourself, sacrifice some comforts to overcome challenges, and just go for it! Morocco has been good to us. With its welcoming people, tasty tagines and refreshing tea. We are now in Western Sahara as we make our way down to Mauritania. Five changemakers and one country done, 95 and 19 more to go!