Text by Hugo Papillon, #localhero, skateboarder, Montréal, CAN.
Cover photo credits @danmathieu
JOURNEY #1 : MAROC
First thing we noticed on our arrival in Casablanca, Morocco, was that a crew member was missing. After checking our text messages, we understood that said crew member decided to let us down as soon as he sat on the plane. He just got up and left without telling anyone. After all these years of taking trips with skaters, they still find ways to amaze me. On this trip, we had a mixed crew of 10 guys from Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and P.E.I, plus 2 Moroccan guides. Our mission was to shoot as much as possible for an upcoming article in SBC Skateboard magazine, test the world’s most notorious hash and experience a couple of life hammers en route. And our schedule was pretty tight too: Casablanca, Marrakech, Ouarzazate, the Sahara Desert and Agadir.
When I think about Morocco, I see a warm place and the desert, so I brought summer clothes without checking the forecast. Not a good idea. In the northern part of the country, temperatures are hovering just above the freezing point, and it can drop as low as ‑10 °C at night.
The Moroccans are very welcoming and it’s easy to get along speaking French. The food is great and skate spots are worth searching (albeit rare). Still, you need to watch your back, mostly in the inner city, as many suspicious individuals are carrying knives and groups of wandering kids can get you in dangerous situations. For instance, in Casablanca, I witnessed a group of kids demolish a Porche Cayenne on a street corner because the driver wouldn’t give them money, a perfect example of the social atmosphere of this country experiencing an economical boom and indecent social inequalities.
JOURNEY #2 : SOUTH AMERICA
After a 2-week break in Quebec, my girlfriend and I land in Lima, Peru, and no plan for the next month. After disembarking the plane, without our luggage since the airline company lost them, someone on a motorbike rode by us and tried to steal my phone right from my hands. Talk about a reality check, we are far from home.
The skaters in Lima are seriously amazing and the vibe isn’t different from home: every day at the same spot, refining our technique. They are genuine plaza skaters. I was impressed with the quality of the spots in the city, home to 9 million people, and the skill level of the locals.
Our next flight took us to the Inca capital, Cusco. This is where I saw the most breathtaking landscapes ever and the inevitable Machu Picchu, with the 7-hour bus drive on rough roads along crazy cliffs that comes with it. This is the most stunning place I’ve seen in my life. Anybody traveling to Peru need to see it. Next stop: Colombia.
Bogotá is a sketchy place. Don’t get lost, never lower your guard, and follow your instinct if it tells you not to trust someone. At least there was a lot of spots and I met a few skaters that weren’t too hostile… We then escaped to Medellin, a super modern city, clean and well organized. The metrocable is part of an efficient public transport system and the party scene really lives up to its reputation. It’s also the best skate scene I met in Latin America so far: unique spots, smooth surfaces and a lot of skaters.
Our trip ended in Cartagena, an old walled city with a lot of tourists. There is a very palpable Antilles vibe, the water is warm, and the party is on! Heads up to the gringos: a situation can take a bad turn if you don’t give beggars a little money. Even if the country is relatively developed, it remains also very poor, which can put tourists in dangerous situations.
We came back from this trip with a good base of Spanish (English won’t help you there!), a damaged liver, thanks to the booze, and the same urge to discover the world I felt before the trip.