Monday 25 October 2021

A to G here now

In an almost last-ditch attempt to save October, blog-wise, I am shamelessly going to copy the format of a story published recently written by a travel-mate. It's an A-Z of what Brett's currently missing, and I only read as far as C before I got both envious (he's gone to so many places I haven't) (though, also, a bit, vice versa) and inspired to do my own travel alphabet. I stopped reading then (I'll finish it later) to keep from being unduly influenced. Here's the first section:

A: I nearly went with Brett's choice, of airports. He contrasted big and small, and I could compare Dubai's vast distances with, say, dinky Atiu in the Cook Islands. But even more memorable are Airstrips like the one in Zambia, which we had to buzz before landing to scare away a bull elephant. That was exciting - and a very suitable introduction to Royal Zambezi Lodge, which we had to wait patiently to get to until a handful of eles chose to move on from the road they were blocking. I've bounced along quite a few grassy landing strips, and they've always led to fun, and often actual adventure.

B: Bircher muesli, which I first tasted in 1977 on the Indian Pacific train in Australia, at the start of my big OE. It's been a very minor, but personally satisfying thread that's run through all my travels since, turning up on breakfast buffets in hotels and lodges all over the place, a literal taste of familiarity. It's also a suitable symbol for my travel experiences generally because it's always different and, though it's very occasionally, to be brutally honest, not quite as good as I hoped it would have been, I never regret choosing it. 

C: Cameras have been an essential part of my travel equipment from the start. I've never been more than amateur, which has been very obvious on the trips I've shared with professionals but - economics being what they are - newspapers and magazines these days will not/cannot pay for their superior images, so we writers just have to do our best. That meant hauling around a cumbersome body and lenses, making sure batteries were charged each day and memory cards had room, and tedious downloading each night. It was certainly a thrill to get (more by luck than skill) a good shot, and to see it on a magazine cover - but I'm ok with swapping that for the sheer convenience of using my iPhone instead these days (and not having to helplessly watch my Olympus fly out of my bag as it tumbled downhill on Skye, to crash fatally onto some rocks). 

D: Diving - that's proper diving, not including snorkelling, during which some people are able to dive, but not me, purely because of my natural buoyancy (and not vast quantities of subcutaneous fat). No, I mean scuba, which I did on the Great Barrier Reef after a surface-skimming (ha) introduction on the boat trip out there from Cairns. We put on all the proper gear and were escorted down under, super-conscious the whole time of every single breath, but still enjoying the novelty of being so far below the water, watching fish swimming all around us. The other time I did something similar was in Moorea, Tahiti where, instead of strapping into tanks and a mouthpiece, we took turns at wearing an unwieldy-looking diving helmet that actually worked very well. I walked about in slo-mo on the bottom of the lagoon, able to wear my glasses and thus see perfectly all the fish - which included reef sharks and stingrays, plus prettier ones - flitting around me. It was fun.

E: Enthusiasts are standard for me, but never taken for granted. My work trips are always very organised and usually involve a host and guides. These people are invariably, and by definition, full of pride and praise for the places they are showing me, and it's usually so clearly genuine that it really is a joy. Positive people are always a delight, and to spend hours - days - in their company, learning about their bit of the country, being shown places and customs, and given often literal tastes of what their life is like there is hugely enjoyable and inspiring. I remember the best ones for years afterwards - especially you, Suri.

F: Flying which most people consider a necessary evil, and is especially unavoidable if you live way down the bottom of the planet (or nearly at the top - there's no actual rule that north has to be up, you know). But I do like the thrill of boarding a plane at the start of a trip, especially if I get to turn left or, even better, take a different airbridge to go upstairs. Even when crammed into economy, though, and even when heading back home, I still love getting into my zone, comfy noise-cancellers on, plugged into the entertainment, with nothing to do but watch TV, eat and sleep for hours and hours. (I have fortunately, it must be said, never had An Event happen during a flight.)

G: Has to be Galapagos, where I've been lucky enough to go twice. Of course it's the birds and animals draped, uncaring, everywhere that make the biggest impression - you literally have to step over iguanas and around seals - and it was a real thrill to see bait balls of fish swooping and dividing beneath me as I snorkelled (the nearest, so far, I've got to my dream of a murmuration of starlings). Sitting in a small boat looking down at the silvery belly of a huge humpback lolling beneath us was amazing, too - but actually my strongest memory of that first trip was of what came soon after that. Back on the ship, I was sharing the excitement of the whale-watch with Brett and a previous editor of the paper that ran Brett's A-Z story, who had been in the boat with me. I blurted out how, when the captain delivered the early morning message about the whale, and the chance to go see it, I leaped out of bed, flung on literally just a fleece and shorts, and headed straight to the Zodiac. The identical look on both their faces when I said that was as hilarious as it was unexpected. Still makes me smile.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...