Friday Diary Excerpts.
It was a misty dream of younger years which got me going. Way back on the dusty paths of Nakuru School, Kenya, I meandered down the broad grass avenue to the playing fields, in company with little people like me in red, blue, and yellow shirts. Menengai, the world’s third largest crater, loomed purple and forest-topped behind me. Lake Nakuru hid below the grassy plain in front. The flamingos had gone, and whitish swirls of soda spiralled upwards against a backdrop of purple thunderclouds.
I found a dandelion, and, blowing away the seeds, made a wish: I want to go round the world when I grow up.
Fifty years on, I dreaded saying goodbye to my home, my country. How could I leave? How was I going to be able to leave? Where was that stiff upper lip – my sense of adventure – my ability to take what comes? All I could think of was the dread of an English winter; the drudge of having to endure the cramped confinement of the tiny two bedroom flat awaiting us in Eastbourne, and the need to look for work in what was virtually a foreign country.
Then I remembered the dream. I’ll go round the world! What a tonic it was to start planning and organising; to look forward. Don’t look back, I told myself.
August, 2001 Eastbourne
There are only nine days to go. Most of the shopping is done, although there’ll always be those last-minute bits and pieces. Like for Nepal, obedient to the blurb, I bought myself a knee-length shower-resistant wrap-around skirt especially for trekking “modestly.” But now I’ve read a travel book on Nepal, which says calf-length skirts are the most appropriate, especially for discrete moments in fields – aren’t men lucky. I wear my wrap-around for practice on a local walk, which ends with a tour of Polegate Windmill. This entails climbing up and down three flights of very steep open steps to view the various levels. I’m glad I’d donned a pair of cycling pants underneath.
For the moment I am shying away from forking out £30 for a “trekking pole” (I cannot dismiss from my mind the image of myself using a rough stick for the same purpose when climbing Mt.Kenya in the past).
These boots are made for walking … great boots, Courtenay buffalo hide made in Zimbabwe, which cost me the ridiculous equivalent of £8 sterling.
Now for some serious training. Bravely, I march the ten-mile “Seven Sisters” cliffs in six hours, led by a 6’8” guide, whose one step is equivalent to my three. Another six hour hike follows, with the Beachy Head Ramblers across the rolling downs between the Cuckmere and the Ouse rivers (we do stop for an hour for lunch). They mean business, these crazy ramblers, and my short legs find it hard to work so quickly. But I persevere, complete with weighty backpack for practice, and only make them ten minutes behind schedule. I hike between Lewis and Uckfield in company with forty-five enthusiasts, intent on MENDING THE GAP in the rail link between the two towns. We experience some good old English mud on that walk, and I suspect the authorities have no intention of bridging that gap.
Next stop Toronto.