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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Klaserie Sands River Camp

Ignorance was bliss. We have now seen ourselves through the eyes of others. And what we have seen is not pretty.

Four months on the road with only each other as behaviour-moderators has left myself and Tough Guy in a pitiful state. This has only become apparent with the arrival of family and – gulp – spouses. The look on their faces when laying eyes on us was not joy or relief. It was fear. We have become feral.

Our personal appearances have been the hardest hit. Tough Guy’s mustache looks like a cross between Hitler and Ron Weasley. My beard is less Kingsley Holgate and more Mr Twit. It looks like pubic hair has been stuck haphazardly on my pale cheeks by a three-year-old with a bad sense of humour. Then there is the state of our clothes – months in crusty buses and seedy accommodation has left them not only with a collection of stains that can only vaguely be accounted for but with an ensemble of odours whose collective pong is so strong it has formed its own personality and joined our travel group as a third member: Malcolm. Our underwear is washed so infrequently that swarms of flies have been seen to leave their orgy on rubbish heaps to make a bee-line for our respective groins.

We talk freely about the people sitting right beside us – usually safe in the knowledge that their grasp of English is insufficient to understand our derogatory critique. This served us well through West Africa. It didn’t serve us well in Ghana. In fact, it almost got us killed. Having passed through so many lands with so many different religious hardliners likewise has posed some interesting problems. Being of somewhat loose religious affiliation has been both a blessing and a curse. Tough Guy may yet face a lynching for stating ‘Alhamdoulilahi!’ in front the wrong audience. I have let slip ‘inshallah’ in front of more Christian priests than I can count. And this always seems to signal the end of our engagement. A particular problem when we are camping at their mission. Few things are reverent enough not to have humorous pictures taken in them. Not even Emperor Haile Selassies bath – the setting for a particularly bad-taste photo-shoot.

Emperor Haile Selassies bath tub

Finally there are our eating habits. Cutlery is not big in Africa so we have become used to shovelling vast handfuls of food down our gullets. Locals have practised this for years and do it with a semblance of panache. We are new to it and do it with a semblance of stroke-victim. It looks like a mother penguin feeding her ravenous chick.

Hopefully, with the arrival of outside, moderating influences, this devolution of ours will be curbed. I can only wish upon a star. Because as fond as we have become of Malcolm (he loves a good practical joke and does a great Rosie O’Donnell impersonation) I fear he may make it difficult to make new friends. And as you can see from this article, even our senses of humour have begun to decay.
I fear the worst for the next five months.
Ndumu River Lodge
Dave McAlpine

David is pastey of complexion and lily-livered of disposition. None-the-less he has been forced to overcome these genetic handicaps in order to fulfil a lifelong dream of travelling from Casablanca to Johannesburg overland. This journey has required two primary prerequisites: oodles of patience and unemployment. David has been particularly happy to oblige the second of these. When he is not unemployed he can be seen in the hospitals of KwaZulu-Natal trying to convince both patients and nurses alike that he is, in fact, a doctor. He believed that his interest in Emergency Medicine may come in handy during his travels. He was wrong. His predisposition to rashes in ungodly places would have made dermatology a finer choice. His great love is to travel and he has been fortunate enough to have stumbled through over thirty countries spanning every continent except for Antarctica. But of all of these Africa has always held the most allure and David has been happy to shed many layers of singed skin along its crazy and varied landscapes.