Monday, October 10, 2016

Traveller, beware! Or not.

You would think that, in a city of just 1.5 million, it wouldn't be hugely unusual to see a photo of someone I know in our local newspaper - but I can't actually remember it ever happening before. Now it has, though. And you know who it turned out to be? Only a man I met on the Amazon River in Peru. How bizarre is that?

Somewhat belatedly, the NZ Herald has published a story about a pirate invasion of a riverboat in which a couple of Kiwis were amongst the guests threatened with violence back in July. It all ended well - if you can call losing all your money, valuables and electronica, and the abortion of the cruise, ending well. Nobody died; though Denis, I'm sorry to say, got whacked a few times.

What makes this an especially fascinating connection for me is that the riverboat was one owned by Delfin, the company I cruised with, on the same route that I did, out of Iquitos. This attack absolutely could have happened on my cruise, which is a possibility I never gave a moment's thought to (despite one of New Zealand's great modern heroes, Sir Peter Blake, being killed by pirates on the same river near Manaus). I did know, of course, that Iquitos is a dodgy city, and was happy to be under escort all the time I was there; but once I was on board the Delfin II, this sort of danger didn't occur to me once. I was much more concerned about piranhas and tarantulas, quite honestly.
Ignorance is such bliss. I did actually know, before we arrived recently at the lovely Fugitives' Drift lodge in South Africa for what was assuredly one of the highlights of the whole visit, that David Rattray, the original owner and founder of the operation, had been murdered there by intruders armed with guns. That was more than 9 years ago, though; and when we arrived, it was to razor wire fencing around the grounds, and a 24-hour guard on the gate so, as far as I thought about it, which was fleetingly, I felt perfectly safe. 

What I didn't know, until I got back home, was that another esteemed guide, Robert Gerrard, who had worked there for 20 years, had been horribly attacked by armed invaders in his home nearby in February this year. He never recovered from his injuries, and died in hospital the day after we arrived at the lodge. Of course, nobody mentioned it, although the staff must all have been shocked and sad.

So, what conclusions are to be drawn here? Nothing new. Risky places have that reputation for a reason. Most of the time you're lucky, sometimes you're not. Bad stuff can happen anywhere. Not going to these places means missing out on things you'll remember forever, for all the right reasons. Keep your fingers crossed - but keep travelling,

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