Farewell

December 15th, 2000

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, there you have it, the end of this particular adventure. Finally it’s time to unpack my rucsac, take off my hiking boots and give my camera a chance to cool down.

In the end, I was on the road for a total of 20 months and in that time covered 80,000km (50,000 miles) visiting 16 different countries on 3 continents as well as taking over 4,300 photos and writing 16 diaries that log every day of the trip. Maybe I should write a book ?

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see many different cultures and landscapes from snowy mountain peaks to desert to lush tropical jungle. I’ve been the furthest south that I have ever been (Ushuaia) the highest that I have ever been (Huayna Potosí) and the deepest (diving in the Coral Sea).

Highlights
Lots of people have asked me what my favorite place was and I have to put my hand on my heart and say that I honestly don’t know. There were too many wonderful places for too many different reasons. Some were simply places of outstanding natural beauty and others are special, not so much for the place itself but for the people that I was with or the things that happened there.

If I did have to write a list of “must see” places then it would definitely include:

  • Borneo
  • Kakadu and the Top End of Oz
  • Bora Bora and Maupiti, Polynesia
  • Chilean Lake District, Patagonia, Torres del Paine and Ushuaia
  • Rio de Janiero
  • Foz d’Iguacu
  • Bolivia !
  • Machu Pichu & Cusco

The World Keeps Turning
They say that a week is a long time in politics and it has been noticeable how quickly things have changed in some of the places that I visited.

I was in Indonesia just after their elections and I remember sitting in the market in Berastagi, Sumatra and talking to two locals: Ira and Jani. They told be about the elections and how important they were. They said that for the last 30 years Indonesia had trusted Suharto, a national hero, with their country and lives, only to discover that he was corrupt, had abused his power and had basically “taken them for a ride”. They said that the country was devastated and that things were on a knife-edge. If a good, trusted leader wasn’t found in the presidential elections, due to take place a couple of months later, then the country would be thrown into turmoil and possible civil war. The country’s hope and future was in the outcome of those elections. Abdurrahman Wahid was duly elected and there was a real optimism, finally they could move on !

It’s been heartbreaking for me to hear that that new leader has just been accused of corruption and that the political system there is again in turmoil. I think of Ira and Jani and the other Indonesians and of how their hopes must have been dashed again by self-seeking politicians.

In Rio there were posters at the hostel where I stayed advertising BBQ’s at the home of a certain Ronnie Biggs, the infamous Great Train robber. Now, less than a year later, he is back in the UK and in prison.

The coup in Fiji came as a bit of a surprise as it happened only a couple of weeks after I left. I didn’t really notice any tension while I was there (admittedly living on a beautiful desert island probably didn’t tune me into the political problems) and to be honest I was surprised that one of the most laid-back countries I have ever been to, actually got around to it ! You could imagine a bunch of generals sitting around smoking and drinking Kava and one of them says “What about this Coup then ?” and the others kick back, lie starting at the ceiling and, taking a long thoughtful drag of their thin cigarettes, say “Tomorrow, we’ll do it tomorrow…Bula !”

“You’ve got to have a dream / If you don’t have a dream / How, you gonna have a dream come true ?”
There were quite a few dreams that I had before travelling. Things that I wanted to do, places that I wanted to see. So many of them came true that I don’t know where to begin. There were so many places that I’d read about, or seen pictures of, and to actually be there and to see them “in the flesh”, so to speak, was unreal.
Riding an Elephant, diving with Sharks, seeing Penguins, Whales, Kangaroos, Piranhas, Koalas, Orangutans, Proboscis Monkeys, Toucans etc was unbelievable.

The food was also quite alternative and included: LLama, Alpaca, Crocodile, Camel, Emu, Guinea Pig, Kangaroo, Beetle Grubs and Dog – and they’re only the ones that I know about !

I consider myself very fortunate in that I was rarely ill. I got Giardia a couple of times, tooth-ache once and the odd cold etc but nothing too serious. Did things go wrong ? Of course, that’s all part of travelling. Things rarely worked out the way that you expected them to but they always worked out somehow – you just have to be flexible.

Any Differences
People ask “What have you learnt ?”, “Have you changed ?”. They are difficult questions to answer. If I’d learnt nothing and hadn’t changed in some way then it would be quite sad really. As to how I’ve changed ? That’s probably easier for someone else to say than me.

It’s been fascinating to see how different cultures have different ideas about things and approach common problems in different ways. Not necessarily better or worse ways, just different.

It’s only when you get to some of these places that you realise just how protected we are in the west. We take consumer rights, road safety, food hygiene, justice, democracy, even holidays etc for granted without ever thinking of how lucky we are to live in a society that provides those things. I guess that that is one of the things that I love about travelling – the different perspective on life, the different pace.

Is travelling a holiday ? No, not really. It can sound fascinating and exciting, which a lot of the time it is, but it can also be quite stressful, what with the continuous packing and unpacking, finding yourself in new cities, countries and situations that you’re not sure of and sometimes having to deal with things in a language that you don’t know, constantly meeting new poeple. Although all these things can definitely give you a buzz they can also be a strain at times. Saying “Goodbye” is probably the hardest thing to get used to. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled with many different people over the course of the trip, sometimes for only a day or two, sometimes for several weeks.

Maybe because the situations in which you meet are often intense you feel that you have got to know people well in a very short space of time. Ultimately, though, a time comes when, for whatever reason, you part company and have to say goodbye. I’ve lost count of the number of times where I’ve had a great time with people and then you have to part company and you suddenly find yourself on your own again. There is no family to go back to, to friends to call up and go out with, it’s just you and the big wide world.

Faster, faster !!
It can be all too easy to see another amazing view or sunset and to say “That’s nice”, whip out the camera for a quick picture and then move on. How quickly in life do we rush around and not appreciate things for what they are ? I got myself into the habit of stopping, sitting down, putting the camera away and simply observing the scene, looking at the details and controlling my breathing as I did so – meditating I guess. That way I didn’t just see it but I experienced it, breathed it in. You probably all think that I’m a bit of a fruit loop but you should try it – it will change your perception of things.

This not only happened with scenery but also with my diving. When I was doing my Dive-master I had to assist a friend, Jason, who was doing his Naturalist Speciality. Our instructor, JC, briefed us before going down telling us, amongst other things, to find a big rock and to study it for at least 20 minutes. I’ve never seen diving in the same way since. We saw so many plants and animals that we hadn’t even noticed before, as well as seeing the interaction between them. As JC said “If you go down looking for big fish, then that is all that you’ll ever see. Look for the small and you will always see the big.” Again, it’s about slowing down and taking time to look. That’s not just for diving but for life in general.

Where do we go from here ?
Who was it that said:

“The more I know, the more I know I don’t know” ?

travelling is a bit like that:


“The more you travel, the more you realise that you haven’t really seen anything”

I think that it is true to say that my list of places that I’d love to visit is probably longer now than when I started. Is travelling out of my system ? No, I’ll probably always travel to some extent. I’m not sure that I would travel for so long next time, 20 months is a long time to be constantly on the move but I definitely intend to be doing some extended holidays in the future. That said, for me it’s time to stop for a while. It’s been a long time since I stayed a while in one place and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and family.

Thank You
So that’s it ! A big “Thank You” to everyone that has taken the time to read this web-site and to email me with ideas, support, gossip etc. It really was appreciated. Also, I’d like to thank all of you that I’ve been lucky enough to travel or meet with over the last 20 months for making my trip so special and for giving me friendship, support and a different perspective on things.

I hope your dreams come true !

Iain

xx

Leave a Reply