I finished Fear of Hat Loss in Las Vegas, by Brendon Burns, which I mentioned previously. Whilst the book is reasonably well written, I didn’t take to the author one little bit, which is peculair, because usually you can relate to a writer on at least some level. Brendon Burns is a comedian, but he didn’t make me laugh. Late on in the book he writes that he eventually went into rehab.
It’s a far cry from my latest read, Lost Oasis: Adventures In and Out of the Egyptian Desert, by Robert Twigger, which is a very entertaining and funny book written by someone you can immediately associate with because of his particular brand of humour. The more I read about his life and travels in Egypt, the more I’m enjoying it. His blog is excellent as well. Early on in the book he goes on an expedition into the Egyptian desert with a number of Italians who are, like him, paying for the privilege. He writes:
There would be plenty of time to get to know the others. I had already taken against several of them, as I always do in such situations, usually for utterly trivial and imaginary reasons which sometimes harden into real enmity only to crack and soften, sometimes too late in the day when you realize that they could have been your friend all along.
Anyone who has been on an expedition with strangers can relate to that, to some extent. Lindsey and I once did a six-day trip from Nairobi to Lake Turkana and back with one of the overland companies – I can’t remember if it was Dragoman, Explore, Exodus or a local Kenyan company. There were sixteen paying people on the trip altogether, plus a driver, a guide and a cook. The driver and cook sat in the cab, and when I was the last to get on the truck before it left Nairobi I discovered that there were only sixteen seats in the back! Strewth, I thought, am I going to have to squeeze in beside two others, on the last three inches of bench with my feet up on the food box, in the centre of the truck so I can’t actually see out of the windows, for six days!
Thankfully, it didn’t turn out that way, and the guide eventually sat in the front cabin, and everyone took it in turns to take the worst seats at the front for each half-day period, all except for one couple from Sussex. Not only that, but everyone couldn’t help noticing that the same couple were always the first to get on the truck after breakfast and lunch, and they always took two of the best seats. There were eight good seats – in the centre of the truck at either side. Further back and you got bounced around and up and down for hours on end, and from the four at the front you couldn’t see very much.
On the afternoon of the second last day, the driver told us that it was only a couple of hours ride for the next stint. And you know what? The couple from Sussex shot into the truck yet again, and took the bad seats for the shortest possible ride of the trip.
Tiny things like that can turn you against people, but generally speaking the trip was extremely good-natured and everyone got on well with everyone else. There was one incident when two guys from New York thought that the guide had pinched their bottle of beer, and that was about it. There was also a funny couple from somewhere who had long discussions about whether various incidents on previous travels abroad had happened on their first, or second trip to Pakistan. There was a love affair as well, when the Swiss chap got off with the French girl.
The road north of Baragoi goes through some pretty bleak landscapes, and you wonder how anyone can exist there. Despite this, there are actually plenty people who live there. When we broke down with a puncture in the middle of nowhere, not having seen any human habitation for two hours or more, a Samburu girl appeared within five minutes to see what was going on. You can see her on the far right in the photo below.
We eventually reached Loiyangalani, where there was a basic campsite. It’s now on the tourist map, but in those days only a handful of wazungu passed through each week. That evening, there was some sort of local celebration outside the Turkana village, which we all went to. It was absolutely pitch black, but for half an hour we listened to Turkana women clapping, singing, ululating and jumping up and down. Nowadays, they probably put on the same show for tourists, but at that time we had no idea what the event was about, and those of us from the truck were obviously the outsiders.
There was a Rendille village by the shore of the lake where I took the above photo. Amazingly, since then I’ve seen the girl on the right in two television documentaries, one about a Flying Catalina Boat which landed at Loiyangalani, and one about Lake Turkana.
Everyone was delighted to get a swim at Buffalo Springs.
Our truck load of sixteen tourists, driver, guide and cook, at the equator.