On a warm June morning the golden rays of the sun shimmered through the haze of a new dawn, the rays flickered through the leaves of an ancient tree as a gentle breeze caressed its weary branches. In the distance the morning chorus echoed slowly, timelessly towards me as birds awoke from their night time slumber. Children played in the shadow of an ancient tree with toys grandparents had lovingly made from old bits of wood and metal, materials others left behind by as mere rubbish. A small girl with a cherub like face with a look that could break the heart of the hardest of men played with a spinning top. Suddenly without a care in the world, of which only one so young could have, she lifted up her skirt, crouched down and did a huge steaming pile of poo on the path right in front of me! Morning was most definitely broken! I thought to myself “Yes, I understand, this is India, I get it now” but why the hell was I here and what did I get?……………………………….
I had always wanted to see the world but not necessarily all at once, the usual six to twelve months travelling without basic sanitation did not appeal. It was also something the posh kids did in their ‘gap year’ and not something a kid from a ‘normal’ family in Sheffield did. But one Christmas as a child I’d been given an ‘encyclopaedia of the world’ by my parents, in it were amazing images from the Taj Mahal, Himalayas and temples of Cambodia to Ayres Rock and the Lost City of the Inca. I’d wanted to see these places but never thought I would and that’s were University came in. I don’t think I ever really wanted to go to University, I just wanted to put off getting a job for as long as possible but it was there where I was taught that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. The only thing holding you back is yourself. The confidence of the other students was infectious so I ripped up my primary school English book in which I’d written the plan for my life stating that by now I should have been married! I was going to head off as soon as I finished Uni.
I wanted to go around the world in bite sized pieces and in comfort. I suppose I wanted to travel the world from a travel phobic’s point of view. As this was my first real trip outside of the relative safety and familiarity of the western world, I wanted a big ‘Jim’ll fix it’ chair which would give me all of the sights and sounds of a country by remote control, without the stresses and strains of travel. Then if it all got too much I could simply change channel. As usually happens when you discuss trips with friends we hit upon a plan to slowly get me used to backpacking by travelling from London, or Kentish Town to be more precise, to Guildford. However there’s always a catch, although Guildford is only thirty miles south west of London, I had to get there without crossing a line 0.45 degrees west of the Greenwich Meridian. This rather conveniently went straight through the middle of Heathrow airport so this clearly meant that I had to go around the world to get there. Initially I planned quite a quick trip, this was a bit cliché with just eighty days like that Phileas Fogg bloke so I wouldn’t have to put up with the discomforts for too long. However, after thinking about what I wanted to see it became apparent that this was too short so to my horror this quickly increased to five months. Obviously with this time scale the whole world was out of the question so I settled on three continents, namely, Asia, Australasia and South America. So without too much planning other than having about fifteen injections, countless malaria tablets and a round-the-world air ticket in hand, I was at Kentish Town Tube Station a mere thirty three miles from my final destination.
……………. Meanwhile in the sunshine and heat of the June morning, the girl who had just deposited the runniest poo I’d ever seen got her left hand and stuck it up her bum! Ahhh, the Indian method of cleaning your backside. This shocked me, and I thought that this must have been the culture shock so many had talked about, then again it could have just been disgusting! I knew so little about the world but was about to learn so much more……………