It’s safe to say that very few people enjoy bumpy, vomity bus journeys. Fewer still enjoy bus journeys in ancient buses with creaky engines, across dusty African plains, with chickens in the aisles and strangers sitting on your lap. By this point, however, we’d come to know and love them. They’d become a part of our daily life, and all fear-for-one’s-life had, by now, gone straight out the cracked and barely transparent window.
There were other mazungus (white people) on the bus with us. For some reason, you find yourself staring at tourists when you’re travelling; trying to work out why they’re there, and what their purpose is in Africa. You feel like a local, and you want to know what their intentions are towards your country. Father contemplating a marriage proposal on behalf of his daughter; that kind of thing.
Yet this time, the tourists were staring at us. The staring was in fact coming from one tourist in particular: the Bob Geldolf-meets-Sandy Cohen-meets-a-bush-backwards, grey-haired guy sitting in the row in front of us. Nationality? We were usually pretty good at these sorts of predictions (which tells you a lot about the games we play whilst travelling) but not this time. No idea in hell, except that he’d probably suit a toga.
That should have answered it for us. He was an Italian…
“Hhhellooooo,” he said in the voice of an over-excited holiday resort person, “where are you girls from?!”
“Ummm. England.” It was 4am – not really the time for a casual chat about background.
“I’m Sandro from Eeeeeetaly!”
“I draw – see, look at my pictures”. A sketch book was thrust into our hands, and we flicked through a gold mine of nude drawings. They weren’t bad either, but then again I suppose all Italians are related to Leonardo, in the same way that we’re all related to David Beckham, so that should explain it.
A few more words were shared, before we lay back and pretended to sleep. We could all chat later, surely. 4am just didn’t work for us, thanks.
That was when he decided to party it up Italian-style. Within seconds, the tube net which the oranges were being stashed in was called upon by crazy Sandro. He opened it, and put his head inside. He then peeled the net down over his face, and looked over at us.
There was no way there would be any sleeping on THIS bus ride.
“I’m an alien!” he began to shriek, whilst grinning through the net meshing. “Does anyone want to join me?! ”
We didn’t, but we did. Never say never.
So one of our trio stood and shunted up a seat, to put her head near to Sandro’s. He took the other end of his net tube, and pulled it down over her head. They were joined by a net tunnel.
It actually sort-of looked like one of those ‘boyfriend catchers’ you use to trap a guy’s finger with. (Not that I’ve ever used one before).
“Romantico!” he said in his grainy voice, “mi piace…mi piace MOLTO”.
Our relationship with Sandro actually turned out to be a beautiful one. Somehow, the crazy first impression that he gave us made him a keeper, and we adopted him to join our travelling clan. More adventures obviously followed, including one involving bunkbeds, a Turkish man and a can of deodorant. But that’s another story for another blog post…
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I think it’s ultimately the people you meet whilst travelling that make the whole experience so amazing. Whether it be the locals, with their welcoming smiles and overflowing fountains of knowledge, or fellow travellers, with their thirst for adventure and meeting new people. You live in a microcosm of exploration, where everybody wants to like everybody, and where it’s bizarre if you don’t witness something out of the ordinary every few minutes. It’s a comfort zone-pusher, which leaves you with what feels like an infinite adrenalin high.
That’s why it’s so addictive. Travelling releases this inner ‘child’, who sees everything for the first time, through wide eyes. You’re a kid navigating your way through a whirling playground of colours and figures. And it’s exciting.