How long and where?
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is no intent on arriving – Lao Tzu
My Heathrow Express ticket
I left London on Friday, 20th October 2006, and so, today, on Thursday, 13th March 2008 it will be 511 days on the road! I arrived into Venice by ship on the 500th day, and was just leaving Easter Island for New Zealand this time last year.
The countries I have visited in order: UAE, Mauritius, Egypt, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Tahiti, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, India, Nepal, Tibet, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, UK!
In doing this, I have counted that including connections I have taken 75 flights! Time to get planting trees. In total, I have been to 64 countries around the world. 36 more for the 100, how on earth do people do it?!
Favourite Country:The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, without a doubt. If anything, having seen the world, and much of the good and great that the Empire brought to all in her wings, I am more proud than ever before of England and our sister kingdoms under the Act of Union. Rule Britannia!
No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. – Lin Yutang
The variation in hair:
The Clean-cut look, dipping in the Nile
The Fisherman look in the Patagonian Channels
And finally, the Afro in Rome
Pubs to be visited on my return:
As HW Tilman often quipped, there is no scenery that would not be improved by the inclusion of a good inn in the foreground!
When asked what I miss from home, friends and family aside, I would say good ale, my music collection, my bicycle and the multi-cultural food mix of London. For beer, one of my on-going quests in London is seeking out nice pubs that would please an old man like myself. The following will be high on my list of places to revisit on my return:
Carpenter’s Arms and Mason’s Arms, Marble Arch
Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead
Old Tea Warehouse, Aldgate
Ship and Shovel, Charing Cross
Phene Arms, King’s Road
Eel Pie, Twickenham
Most Beautiful Girl Countries:
In no particular order:
Brazil – girls in Brazil are on a different level – girls who in the UK would be supermodels, or at the very least have people tripping over in the street, in Brazil just stand at bus stops with their supermarket plastic bags, or just potter about. Just a regular Brazilian girl!
Ethiopia – pipping Mozambique to the bedpost just before I left Africa, Ethiopian girls are truly beautiful. I even met a Chinese guy who thought they were amazing, and you don’t often meet Chinese guys who are into black girls, believe me! Ethiopia seems to have solved the “big bottom” issue that much of Africa suffers from, plus they’re really really pretty girls.
Korea – especially Seoul. This was a new country for me – I knew lots of Japanese people, but Japanese girls tend to be a bit more quirky and wacky, whereas Korean girls lean to a more classical chic conservative look – think Italian girls vs French girls. I of course prefer more ladylike look, and Koreans have it in bundles, long black hair, big eyes, fashionable clothes, though the word is that once you marry them you’ll never see them again, culturally Korean girls apparently don’t expect to have to see their husbands, as they should be working 20 hours a day!
Nepal – I was surprised not to find many Indians that attractive, but it’s different in Nepal, where the girls tend to be small, tough, perhaps a blend of Indian and Chinese, and very pretty, especially those in the mountains with their rosy cheeks and ponytails.
And so in the end.. of course I return home single as usual!
Top Crime Spots:
Johannesburg, South Africa
Everywhere else, South Africa – first attempted mugging of my life just outside Cape Town station!
Rio (City of God), Brazil
Lima (Old Town), Peru
Overall though, I’ve felt safe in 99% of the world. As long as you never go to Johannesburg, you’ll be fine. Don’t ever fear travelling!
Professions Listed at Pointless Checkpoints:
Lover, not a fighter
Things lost along the way:
The penknife Jina gave me (J-A)
Two pairs of Boots sunglasses
Travel alarm clock
Corkscrew (well, confiscated by airport security!)
Things worn out or broken:
Sony DSC-P200 Camera
Panasonic Lumix Camera
Sigma 28-300mm lens
Canon 50mm fixed lens
(are you getting the theme here? I don’t recommend taking expensive camera gear on an extended trip like this!)
Main pack rain cover x2
Karrimor Walking Boots
And I suspect almost: Canon EOS 400d!
Most valuable travel companions:
Laptop, without which this blog would not exist
iRiver N11 mp3 player with BBC Radio 4 podcasts
Rum Doodle by WE Bowman
Shaving oil (packs small!)
Next holiday Plans (no, really!):
Fox Cottage in Aldborough, Norfolk, UK
Three Men in a Boat Trip on Thames
Senegal and Mali
Diving the Red Sea, possibly off Sudan or Eritrea
New York (it’s been a while)
Nepal EBC (Everest Base Camp)
Iceland (Northern Lights)
Libya (Leptis Magna)
St. Helena (to visit my old boss Vince)
Iran (when it’s a bit warmer than now)
Mt Kenya and Oldoinyo Lengai Volcano
Silk Road Trip
RTW Sailing Trip
Central America (Columbia, Venezuela etc)
West Coast US (roadtrip?)
Chicago to New Orleans (Blues roadtrip?)
Top Food Countries in no particular order: Thailand, Korea, China, Malaysia, Burma (Shan), India (anyone sensing an Asian theme?!) and Italy!
Sichuan food, yum!
Worst Food Countries: Indonesia (fried, oily, dirty), Botswana (fast food only!), Easter Island (disappointing seafood), Chile (Bland steaks with potatoes and pasta, twice a day)
Since I’ve Been Away:
Chucky, Supi, Chris Pepper, and goodness knows how many others have married (am I getting to that age?!)
New 20 pounds note introduced in the UK
Grandma Daphne’s had no shirts to iron!
Smoking ban in public places has come in, thank goodness!
We have a Scot in charge of the UK, their takeover is almost complete
Westminster City Council launched the "SatLav" mobile phone service which alerts people to the nearest public toilets. Texting the word "toilet" to the number 80097 apparently prompts a quick-response text with details of the nearest facilities and their opening times.
Hedgy’s bought me a house, thanks Hedge!
Not enough for a Zone 1 Tube Fare without Oystercard! I need a job!
I conclude with a late poem by St. John of the Cross, which I picked up in the introduction to the late great Eric Shipton’s Six Mountain Volume, quoted here in the translation by Roy Campbell:
The generous heart upon its quest
Will never falter, nor go slow,
But pushes on, and scorns to rest,
Wherever it’s most hard to go.
It runs ahead and wearies not
But upward hurls its fierce advance
For it enjoys I know not what
That is achieved by lucky chance.
And in thanks to,
My parents and family for bringing me up to be someone so happy and confident
Rob Meredith for nagging me repeatedly into doing this trip
Andre Leigh for sending me from COLT with such good faith
And finally for the countless acts of selfless generosity experienced along the way, in every corner of the world, which renew one’s faith in humanity.
Finally, I am bound to point what is essentially obvious but often shelved from the forefront of our minds: One never knows when or if you’ll have these wonderful opportunities, so I say to you in Gordon Rodway’s imperative: Travel!