Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Romance Of Foreign Travel

Did I ever tell you how my staff met? No? Well I've told everyone else so I suppose I might as well inflict the tale on you as well. If you're all sitting comfortably and promise not to fidget or interject I'll begin.

For a start you must be wondering how a gargoyle like my male staff ended up with someone as beautiful as my female staff.  I know she's beautiful (at least for a human) because before I crossed the Rainbow Bridge she would tell me every morning. She'd say -

 "Piggy piggy under the hay
See how gorgeous I am today."

And I must admit she did look pretty amazing as she approached my pen carrying my breakfast.  Mind you, a bowl of fresh vegetables that you know is heading your way will improve the looks of most humans.  Anyway, I digress.  It was love at first sight for my staff.  My male staff was shambling along the street, trying unsuccessfully not to scrape his knuckles on the pavement and my female staff was just coming out of a mobility shop with her Labrador dog having just purchased a pair of dark glasses and a brand new white stick.  Just kidding, though you may remember a little while ago she was waiting for my male staff in the recovery room of an eye surgery having had cataracts removed. When he showed up and she saw him clearly for the first time in a few months she immediately asked the surgeon if it was possible to have the cataracts reinserted.

Actually their first meeting was much less mundane than that.  They met for the first time on a beach in Togo. "Where?" I hear you ask.  Look I won't tell you again.  I did ask you not to interject.  Togo is a tiny sliver of a nation in West Africa, wedged between Ghana and Benin, and if you don't know where they are I suggest you purchase an atlas.  It was May 1985 - before I was even a faint cheeky glimmer in my great great great great great great grandfather's eye.  My male staff had signed up for an overland expedition from Togo's capital city Lome across the Sahara desert to Tunis.  He'd been inoculated against every conceivable disease under the sun and had grown to really dislike the nurse who administered them because before every jab she liked to say "You'll just feel a bit of a prick. But then I expect you're used to that."  The KLM flight from Amsterdam landed at Lome airport shortly after the steamy tropical night had closed in.  The expedition leader met my male staff once he'd cleared the primitive customs and immigration area and led him through a chaotic car park to the four ton Bedford truck that was to be his home for the next month or so.

Half an hour later they reached the beach where the rest of the group were camped.  Dinner was being cooked over a fire of driftwood and soon a plate of vegetable curry was placed in my male staff's hands.  It was a hot, humid, airless night of low cloud and the soft shushing of the Atlantic Ocean caressed the shore.  In the flickering light of the campfire my male staff saw a vision of unexpected beauty. He stopped eating for a moment, so it must have been pretty bloody special.  It was a bar, no more than a hundred metres away.  Like a man in a trance he was drawn towards the neon lights and the illuminated sign that read "Le Bar de la Plage".  A few minutes later the hand that wasn't clutching the plate of vegetable curry was wrapped around a disappointingly warm bottle of Awooyo Special Beer.  He wandered back to the camp wishing he had a third hand with which to slap at the mosquitoes that were now whining around his ears.

Back at the camp he was introduced to my female staff who had just crossed the Sahara on a southbound expedition that had taken a more easterly route through Niger across the Sahara from Tunis.  This northbound trip was to cross Mali, visiting the fabled Timbuktu and Djenne. So, my staff shook hands and that was it; their first meeting.  The only sparks were from the camp fire which drifted off into the night until they were extinguished by the warm, moist sea breeze.  The expedition leader handed my male staff a tent and a mosquito net.  It was way too hot to sleep under canvas so my male staff rigged up the mosquito net, stripped down to his underpants, (Sorry if that mental image is making you nauseous.) crawled under it and finally went to sleep with one bare knee touching the net.  He swears that when he awoke on that clammy, grey dawn he found that his knee had been eaten away to the bone by the mosquitoes during the night but he is prone to the occasional exaggeration.  Suffice to say that it itched for about six weeks after and that he whinged about it long after that.

So, the next day the expedition commenced. Seventeen humans in a Bedford truck heading north towards the Mediterranean Sea. British, Australians, Canadians, Americans, Japanese and Germans.
By the end of the first day my future staff had hardly spoken a word to each other. So to cut a very long story very short indeed here's a brief rundown of what happened on the trip.

There was an uneventful drive through Togo followed by a border crossing into Burkina Faso (Many of you will need an atlas for that one too.) where the truck was stripped right down by the border guards who went through everyone's belongings looking for contraband.  They were so disappointed not to find any that the expedition leader had to give them a few bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label to persuade them not to detain the group indefinitely.  Burkina Faso was hot, dusty and grindingly poor with a life expectancy of just twenty eight years at the time. It was a sad place of vultures, skeletal cattle, ragged children and UN aid trucks.  At the capital Ouagadougou my staff's truck stopped for a couple of hours at the best hotel in town and while my female staff and some of the others frolicked in the swimming pool my male staff sat and watched them with a warm beer and a plate of kidneys and rice in front of him.  Please don't ask why he chose to order offal in a place like Burkina Faso where the temperature was one hundred degrees Fahrenheit and any refrigeration that there was probably didn't work for more than half the time.  He doesn't even like offal.  Let's be charitable and put it down to sunstroke.  In any case he soon wished that he had joined the others in the pool because six or seven hours later as they set up camp in the bush his bowels started to complain about the kidneys.  Then two hours later in pitch darkness he woke up under his mosquito net double up in pain.  Fighting his way out of the net he ran to the truck, grabbed one of the "toilet trowels" and staggered behind a thorn tree a decent distance from the camp.  Two hours later with cramped legs and Johnny Cash's "Burning Ring of Fire" he returned to his mosquito net where he lay awake until dawn listening to the eerie "whooooo - up" of a distant hyena.

The next day his bowels forced several roadside stops as the group headed north towards the Mali border and the Bandiagara Escarpment. My male staff would grab the trowel and dash towards the nearest bush.  The first time he was very careful to select a secluded spot to stop in before he squatted to relieve himself, only to find that a large crowd of ragged locals had materialsed to spectate as he pulled up his trousers. He'd played soccer in front of smaller crowds, but at least this bunch didn't chant "'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go!" At length after three such stops he gave up trying to be discrete and instead bowed to the crowd when he'd finished and then gave an encore performance a few miles down the road.  Always though he was touched by the patience and sympathetic words of my female staff.

As the trip progressed my staff found it interesting to watch their fellow travelers and observed how in some of them their attitudes and states of minds altered as the going got tougher.  The married Japanese couple started huddling together in the corner of the truck as it bumped along through increasing heat.  They didn't talk to each other much and the woman started to emerge from her tent with bruises some mornings.  The two young Australian lads proved to be lazy and good for nothing, claiming to have sprained ankles that precluded them from helping my male staff with the early morning fire making.  Fortunately the two Japanese men were always up early and ready and willing to lend a hand.  Towards the end of the expedition in Algeria we discovered that the middle aged Czech-Canadian man had been filling his water bottle with duty free vodka rather than water, so you might be able to imagine how dehydrated he had become after a month of temperatures of well over one hundred degrees.  One night he asked a nomadic tribesman who'd been passing our camp if he could try riding his camel.  The tribesman happily agreed and the group watched as the permanently inebriated  Czech-Canadian tried three times to mount the camel, each time crashing sickeningly to the rocky earth before giving up and retiring to his tent for another swig of vodka.  Eventually he passed out and was suffering from an extraordinarily fast heart beat.  Luckily for him when this occurred the group was passing through a town with a hospital.  My female staff led him in and he was immediately hooked up to various drips.  To everyone's alarm he was released the next day to continue the trip.  Unfortunately his disgustingly filthy, poo encrusted trousers came with him.  This at least made the rest of the journey more comfortable for him as he now had more than half the vehicle to himself while the others were crammed at one end in an attempt to distance themselves from his trousers.  Oh the romance of foreign travel.

And so it went on.  The expedition followed the Niger River for some time, visiting the legendary town of Djenne with it's incredible mud mosque top with ostrich eggs.  Then there was Timbuktu - the place that my male staffs mother had always threatened to send him to when he was naughty as a boy.  It was a furnace hot desolate place with the desert sand lapping at its walls.  The tall Tuareg tribesman in indigo robes and blue-black skin who the expedition leader hired to guard the truck entertained the group at night by squeezing a goat's neck until it passed out.  Moments later the animal stood up, shook itself and trotted away unharmed.  This not only impressed my staff but also the dozens of ragamuffin kids who were no doubt hoping to raid the truck for goodies when everyone was asleep.  Wisely, having witnessed the Tuareg's demonstration they decided against it.

 Djenne's amazing mud mosque.

My staff went through all this together and still showed little interest in each other beyond being friends.  Upon reaching Tunis they said goodbye to the rest of the group and boarded a KLM flight to Heathrow via Amsterdam.  Before parting they swapped addresses and suggested that they get together some time.  My female staff foolishly invited my male staff to visit her in Australia if he ever traveled Down Under.  Big mistake!  He did, and now she can't get rid of him.  She should have known better even after what I suppose you would call their first real date.  It was a romantic dinner cruise on Sydney Harbour.  There was dancing with a live band and the glittering lights of the city skyline with its famous bridge and opera house.  It was the perfect night my staff thought until my male staff found he was five dollars short when it came to paying the bill at the end.
  "Errrrrmm. Can I borrow five dollars?" He asked, embarrassed.  My female staff should have said "No, certainly not." at that point, walked off and let my male staff explain the situation to the waiter, and later probably the police.  But no, foolishly she happily stumped up the money and then drove my male staff to Central Station for the train back to the western suburbs where he was staying with a friend.

Guess what.  Yes, he'd missed the last train and in any case he had no money for a ticket so he had to walk the twenty kilometres to his friend's house.  Still, by my male staff's standards it had been a successful date.  That is to say nobody was badly injured and it didn't end with a glass of red wine being tipped over his head.  He was happy.

Four years later, after a true long distance relationship and much to-ing and fro-ing between England and Australia the two of them were married and eventually produced a family of handsome cavies.

I want to no wye I can't get a gurlfrend or a wife.  Wye do I haf to like sit in my cage all day looking at other boy ginny pigs' fat furry butts.  Goodness me if a big ugly chump like Uncal Billy's mail staff can get a wife shorely a hansum piggy like me deeserves a beootiful gurly pig hoose butt doesn't like smell of boy piggy musk.  It's not too mutch to arsk is it?



  1. Baci you need to be single, because choosing just one girl would make all the others too sad. Xoxoxo

  2. Hi Jazzy. Baci says he has no intention of choosing just one girl piggy, although just one would be a good start.