Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rules of the Wild

One of the best things about travelling is talking to all the different people that you meet. Some folk you meet leave lasting memories and others just an awkward silence. It is important to know what subject areas you can and can't talk about when chatting with these near-strangers around the campfire..or table. My friends and I made a list of subjects deemed as inappropriate chat whilst travelling -I will call them 'Forbidden subjects':
  • The 'BEST'- this could be best beaches, hostels, caves, game etc- travelling is not a game of trumps!
  • Ex-boyfriends/girlfriends/partners-this just makes all the listeners feel rather uncomfortable-too much sharing for strangers!
  • 'Africa' and 'Africans' - this is specifically on the Forbidden list for people travelling around Africa. Funnily enough 1.2 billion people don't easily fit into a collective noun.
And last but not least...
  • Safaris! I hate to say it, but talking about safaris should not be allowed. We all know what a zebra looks is black and white...or is it white and black.!!??Nonetheless, I have seen a lion on television and in the zoo-big deal!!?? (well...) 
So now we know what we can't talk about whilst travelling..what is left to discuss!? Well, plenty...everything else! Favourite subjects for my buddies and I whilst travelling (mostly with each other mind) were; the recent bombings in Uganda, the joys of shopping in a first world city (Nairobi), Karen Blixon, transportation, roads and BOOKS! The last is particularly interesting when all travelling buddies read the same book..which we did! This led to many discussions on whether Denys Fitch Hatton just used Karen Blixon or whether Karla in The Believers got off the train at the end of the novel .

We couldn't get over the excitement of shopping in Nairobi...
we could never get sick of this subject! I even found hummus and Dorset cereal!
Whether the people you meet travelling are strange or super nice, wonderful or weird, many stories arise from your short encounters!Like the owners of the villa we stayed at that brought us daily gifts from the garden and encouraged us to eat radishes. Or the fresh faced overlander (a unique species of creature) that when he found out we were just in Kenya to do a beach holiday, innocently inquired after which overland company that 'did that'!

Even though most people you meet whilst travelling are just passing through, they become part of your stories and you part of theirs.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I have just come back from a 'holiday' in Kenya. I use the word 'holiday', opposed to 'travelling' , or 'backpacking' for a number of reasons: although I was travelling around a little (not doing a 2 week stint in a hotel) and I had a backpack,  I was not 'backpacking' or on safari. Forget the actual translation of the Swahili word 'safari', most people think when you go to Kenya for a holiday, animals will at the top of your priorities. Not this 'holiday'- I was going to the coast to relax, so on 'holiday' I was.

I carried a backpack, when I couldn't find a man to carry it for me (!) but I can definitely say that my backpacking days are over...if they ever began! This is not to say that I 'roughed' it during my holiday. I did stay in a couple of hostels and guest houses but they were all very nice and for one week I stayed in a great self-catering villa. The villa came complete with all the usual necessities; a private pool, sun loungers, a BBQ, a coffee maker and  staff! As there were only 3 of us staying in the villa we did wonder what we would do with all the young men! Men that came in at least 3 times a day to do the dishes, light the braai and clean the coffee filter...they did occasionally miss patches when putting on my suncream though!!!

The bit of the 'holiday' that I had more difficulty coping with was the transport!!
Buses, boats, bodas, taxis, trains, tuk-tuks and mutatus!
At one stage my friend and I were very tempted to say, 'sod this' and jump on a plane out of Lamu, rather than face being in a rattle-cage of a bus for 20 hours...something that Jo and I also did in Mexico.(Actually the only reason why I didn't resort to flying whilst in Kenya was that there was no space on flights with such short notice!)
However, if I had not travelled on public transport I was have missed out on the opportunity to share lots of little anecdotes. If I had not got the bus from Mombasa to Nairobi I would have missed the travelling salesmen; they buy a ticket and dressed in the Sunday best proceed to 'sale' lotions and potions that cure all ailments and diseases. If I hadn't got the overnight iron-snake through Tsavo, I wouldn't have been able to experience the sit-down silver-service meal.. I commented how thoughtful it was that they stopped the train while we had our soup...we hadn't then realised that it was the first of a couple of unscheduled stops! This one was due to a train ahead de-railing, the next was because our compartment was on fire!

From now on all my 'holidays' will be to somewhere I can fly to or drive my own car to.
Please remind me!!

Oh, and for my holiday to Scotland...I'm leaving the backpack in Uganda and taking my dolly-trolley!