TRAV­EL­LING TALES

There’s a rea­son some roads are less trav­elled than oth­ers, but don’t let that stop you go­ing down them, says our guest colum­nist

Getaway (South Africa) - - NEWS -

Ben Trovato‘s bucket list of tricky sit­u­a­tions

I am smit­ten with trav­el­ling. Whether it’s in the back of a Bangkok tuk-tuk or in the back of a South African po­lice van, the con­cept of mov­ing towards an un­fa­mil­iar des­ti­na­tion fills me with ex­hil­a­ra­tion. And, in the case of the lat­ter, a fair amount of dread. In­deed, fear and loathing are as much my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions as are in­tox­i­ca­tion and eu­pho­ria. Here, then, are some of my less pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ences on the road.

Sene­gal Hope­lessly lost in a densely packed mar­ket in Dakar at dusk, then lured into a labyrinthine maze of in­ter­lock­ing stalls that got pro­gres­sively darker the deeper I went. Eyes stream­ing from clouds of im­pen­e­tra­ble ganja smoke and sur­rounded by indis­tinct, mum­bling shapes, I was re­lieved of all my cash and given a small djembe ‘talk­ing drum’ by way of com­pen­sa­tion.

Mozam­bique Spend­ing a cou­ple of weeks on a 4x4 ex­pe­di­tion along with 20 beer-bel­lied brutes, who cheered ev­ery time we passed a bombed-out Fre­limo tank and who openly mocked the vil­lagers for hav­ing so lit­tle, for­get­ting that it was their chom­mies in the SADF who were largely re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing such des­ti­tu­tion in the first place.

The Gam­bia Threat­ened with ar­rest by heav­ily armed guards in­side the grounds of State House in Ban­jul. They ac­cused me of work­ing for Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh’s en­e­mies and se­cretly film­ing the premises as part of a plot to top­ple the gov­ern­ment. I swore that the cam­era was off, even though I had in­deed been covertly shoot­ing from the hip. As­tound­ingly, they took me at my word.

Kenya Ly­ing in a tent, sweat­ing heav­ily and shak­ing like a lu­natic, on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Sam­buru Na­tional Re­serve, miles from any med­i­ca­tion and con­vinced that I was dy­ing of cere­bral malaria. Only much later I con­ceded that I might have been suf­fer­ing from some­thing less se­ri­ous. Like al­co­hol poi­son­ing.

Namibia A short trip to Wind­hoek in the 1980s re­sulted in mar­riage and a 10-year stay in this strange town.

Spain In­ad­ver­tently in­gest­ing a semisyn­thetic psy­che­delic drug of the er­go­line fam­ily and find­ing my­self at 3am, lost and alone in the nar­row streets of Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic, be­ing trailed by a gang of Al­ge­rian mug­gers. I took refuge in a small sub­ter­ranean bar that was still open. Af­ter get­ting a beer, one of the lo­cals un­zipped his trousers, placed his prodi­gious mem­ber on the bar counter and pro­ceeded to have the bar­maid baste it with tomato sauce and mus­tard. I left shortly af­ter­wards.

Greece Stand­ing on the near-de­serted road be­tween Irak­lion and Cha­nia in crush­ing heat, the only shade pro­vided by my back­pack. De­hy­drated to the point of delir­ium, I found a tap at an aban­doned build­ing site. The wa­ter was lit­er­ally boil­ing and im­pos­si­ble to drink. Even­tu­ally a taxi driver found me and helped me into his cab. His tem­per­a­ture gauge read 45˚C. Some weeks later, af­ter pick­ing grapes for a pit­tance and sell­ing my cam­era to buy a ferry ticket back to Athens, I wound up liv­ing on the docks at Pi­raeus har­bour along with the flot­sam and jet­sam of Euro­pean travel. One night a young tat­tooed Ger­man whipped out his hunt­ing knife and in­sisted we be­come blood brothers. So, mad with retsina, we did. An­other night a de­gen­er­ate Greek fish­er­man tried to join me in my sleep­ing bag. Then there were the dock rats as big as cats. Af­ter more than a fort­night of sleep­ing on the wharf, steal­ing food from mar­kets to sur­vive, the South African Em­bassy fi­nally re­lented and gave me just enough money for a three-day bus ride back to Lon­don.

Lon­don Break­ing into an empty coun­cil flat in the East End, only to find that cer­tain es­sen­tial ameni­ties were lack­ing. I lived in that squat for al­most an en­tire win­ter with­out elec­tric­ity, ru­in­ing the ro­mance of din­ner by can­dle­light for the rest of my life. One of the perks of work­ing at Shell head­quar­ters was that I could shower af­ter my shift ended. Less im­pres­sive was the fact that I worked as a dish­washer in their kitchen.

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