On Saturday 1st June 2013 at 10:15 in the morning, I booked up to go on my trip of a lifetime so far. I’ve booked up on a few trips of a lifetime but this one was going to be the big one … the hyena’s bollocks! I was going for the best part of a month on a Dragoman truck drive through the remote bits of Ghana, Togo and Benin … the land of the Ashanti people with their Voodoo customs, their wonderful music and their horrific history which saw them stuck in the thick of the European colonials’ slave trade. This was going to be full on, no nonsense, off the beaten track stuff with no sign of hotels, electricity, bathroom facilities, people wearing English Premier League football shirts, fridge magnets, all you can eat buffet breakfasts and possibly even beer. This was going to be living with the native people in native accommodation and I couldn’t wait for the fifteen and a half months to pass to the date of my departure this September.
With less than two months to go, disaster struck. It’s nobody’s fault but I’m not going. The trip has been cancelled, my dream has been shattered, my heart has been broken, my travel bag has been unpacked, my Lonely Planet guide book has been fed to the gerbil and my metaphoric parrot is nowhere near as sick as I have been. The reason for this desperate news is the recent spread of the Ebola virus which has so far killed well over a thousand people in West Africa. I won’t complain as many people have suffered far worse than a cancelled holiday but I will mutter under my breath in a disgruntled sort of way.
Three weeks after my coconut mat was pulled from underneath me I have now got over the disappointment, written off all the countless hours of wasted effort I had put into the planning and I’ve put behind me the fact that I had wasted ten times as much time just daydreaming about how good it was going to be. One day I will go there. I will not be beaten. Just you wait and see. So, West Africa, I hope you get well soon and Mr and Mrs Ashanti, please save me a seat.
I couldn’t find another four week long trip to fit into the time I had arranged to be off work and it was a struggle to find another trip where I wouldn’t have to start from scratch with the long drawn out process of applying for visas. Also, with my heart still set on Africa, it was difficult to find another trip that wasn’t all about standing about all day and every day looking for big animals or climbing Kilimanjaro, neither of which appeal to me … apart from climbing Kilimanjaro, that is, but not just yet. I love rooting around on the internet in search of exotic and exciting holidays but it wasn’t anywhere near as much fun doing this with time constraints in place and with what would have been the perfect adventure still gnawing at my brain like a deadly virus.
Madagascar turned out to be the answer. The lovely people at Exodus Travels (Zanahary bless them) came to my rescue with a trekking trip that involves not just trekking but also just about every aspect of a paradise island’s culture. There’s scenery, seafood, spices, sunshine, music, rare flora and fauna, sandy beaches and, probably best of all, it’s famous for its rum. Although an island in the Indian Ocean, technically it’s Africa, and although it’s Africa, technically I won’t need a visa.
It sounds perfect to me but for the fact that I’ll only be going for two weeks instead of four and I might end up with a cameo role in a Disney cartoon but, under the circumstances, I’m happy to make do with Madagascar.
The sort of thing I'm going to have to put up with
on my trip to Madagascar.