12 February, 2007

African Summary.

Is a quick summary of Africa possible? How dare I! It has been a fantastically wonderful place full of the kindest people you could ever imagine. Diverse cultures throughout the continent have amazed, educated and entertained me from top to bottom. There are no favourite countries since some excelled in their scenery and wildlife while others in the extreme kindnesses and warmth of their peoples.

I managed - somehow, and not wishing to tempt the fates – to get through without any punctures, without paying any bribes, without being assaulted or mugged or having any guns pointed at me maliciously. On the whole policemen and even bored border guards treated me well and with courtesy, if not always efficiency. In most of the countries I passed through I had no language, but I smiled and made ridiculous gestures and almost always got what I wanted with smiles as a bonus. Neither did I get ill in any kind of way whatsoever. I did eat some fairly dodgy food from time to time as well. I was reading the NHS's advice on going abroad the other day - 'boil it, peel it or forget it', it said. I was to ensure that all food was piping hot, avoid salads, stand my drink in a bucket of ice rather than put ice in the glass (ice!!? HA! HA!), peel all fruits and vegetables . . . I really would have starved if I'd done all that. When you are hungry, and the entire menu is already in front of you, on the tea plate, there's just no time for any such fripperies. And you will definately appear rude. So you eat it, hot, cold or lukewarm. Sometimes (like the vinegar bread of Ethiopia), you choke it down, and those who served it to you smile indulgently as you apologise for not finishing it, then finish it themselves, right in front of you, and rightly so! But these people have little enough as it is. A stronger (unbearably hard-necked) social constition than mine would stop to measure temperature and ask for it to go back. I concluded that this must be advice for use in Europe, the Americas or the Far East. I'll try to remember it when I get there.
In every country there were kind, friendly, extremely happy and very helpful people. When I think about it, I’m entirely overwhelmed by the inherent, unthinking, open unselfishness of those who I’ve been privileged to meet along the way. They were either put into my path by friends at home or appeared, as if by some sort of magic, of their own accord. They fed, watered, housed, entertained, saved, patched-up, fixed, helped and, in many ways, made the trip what it was – brilliant! From Adel, the taxi driver in Tunis who took me right into his home to feed me, through Paur, who kept me sane in northern Kenya, all the way down to Ian and Jayne, who dropped me off at Johannesburg Airport at 3am, having first taken me along with them to another friend’s birthday braai! I can only hope I didn’t take too much advantage, or overstay any welcomes. Thanks so much to them and to all those in between, without whom the African leg of this trip would have been much less fun, and the experiences that bit less illuminating. I hope you’ll all consider my home to be yours, if ever you, or any of yours make it to Scotland!
I would very strongly encourage absolutely everyone to do this trip. I'm sure that anyone could, and there really is nothing at all to fear. Don’t believe a word you read in the papers or hear on the telly. You maybe wouldn't want to bring an elderly, road-oriented motorbike necessarily, but any decent 4WD will do it. And you'd even make it in a reliable 2CV, or anything with reasonable ground clearance. Certainly the dafter the vehicle the better, I’d have to say. People seem more willing to interact positively if they get to have a giggle and you haven’t got the latest high-tech gizmo-machine. Maybe it’s pity, but I don’t really think so. I think it’s more about appearing that bit more vulnerable. I was never entirely in control of events and I often needed external assistance. I set out from home knowing I’d need that, sure that I’d get it. Some other travellers I met had everything arranged and relied on no one. They tended (though not always) therefore, to be naturally more insulated.
Africa is an experience I'll never, ever forget. Every day was an adventure, just being in Africa is an adventure. I never quite knew what was going to happen next – cool!! I'll be back with an old 4WD when I retire, or win the Lottery I never buy tickets for, definitely. Then I'll hope to take a year or two or three to go very, very slowly round the whole continent. Coming?


At 13/02/2007, 11:23, Blogger alf said...

Yes, I'm coming on the next one. 4WD or whatever. Still fancy the 1WD option though!

At 14/02/2007, 18:49, Blogger Karen said...

Hello Mick
Such a wonderful account of your stay. Thanks for it.

I have bought some trees or lightbulbs (can't remember which they do)as offsets for your flight.

Glad to hear you did tango in Buenos Aires, I quite envy you that.

Much love Karenx


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