Palermo Part 1

After 5 weeks of travelling in Southern Italy, I ended my trip in Palermo, Sicily, where I was due to get on a flight to Rotterdam. On arriving there, I wandered from the bus station down a busy road, looking for a place to stay the night. Most of the hotels were booked out. I finally found a small hotel in a narrow side lane off the main road.

I didn´t know anything about Palermo and it didn´t matter; it was a stop on the way to the airport. But Palermo turned out to be far more than that.

It was memorable experience – and a quintessential Italian experience. 

And it all happened within 24 hours………..

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Sore Trouble

 

It’s 1897.

 We are in the south of Egypt.  

 There are three contingents of soldiers: Egyptian, Sudanese and British.

The Egyptian and Sudanese armies have been trained by British military instructors and are being led by British officers.

 We are in the heyday of The Empire, which is living on borrowed time. Come the 20th century and it will crumble before the tumult and upheaval of two world wars, a Great Depression, and two major revolutions.

But right now, in 1897, The Empire is in its full glory. No power on earth can defeat it.

Or so it seems…..

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Casuality Part 1: Egypt 2011

Late one afternoon, I twisted my ankle.

It happened whilst I was descending a short flight of stone steps in the temple at Karnak, just outside the city of Luxor. In the fading light, mesmerised by the massive stone columns all around me, the largest in the ancient world, I missed a step, stumbled and fell.

When I got up, my ankle hurt.

That night, back in my room, it began swelling up.

I was staying in a seedy end of Luxor, in a low budget hotel. It reminded me of Old Dehli; there was a maze of narrow streets thronging with people and traffic. I liked the area. It was boisterous, run down, and colourful. It was a place where one could get pleasantly lost in, especially in the evenings, when it was cool and everyone appeared on the streets.

But that evening, I couldn’t go anywhere.

The pain in my ankle was searing.

I hobbled to a small backstreet restaurant but half way through my meal, with the pain throbbing in my ankle, I realised I needed medical attention. It occurred to me that I might have broken my ankle and it that was the case, then my trip was over.

The owner of the restaurant ordered me a taxi and told the driver to take me to the casuality department of the nearest hospital.

Casuality?

All I needed was a doctor. But I was in no mood to argue the point. The taxi appeared and away we went …… Read more

Frogs


frog-swimming

One summer in 2016, Anya and I booked a hotel on the coast of southern Spain.  

We were keen ocean swimmers and over the years we had swum in the oceans lapping the coasts of many different countries including: Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, The Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Croatia, Albania, Greece and Italy.

And in order to indulge our passion, we had stayed in a bewildering variety of accommodation: from basic thatch huts surrounded by palm trees to small family run hotels.  

Now it was a megahotel on the coast of Spain with 500 rooms. One of hundreds lining most of Spanish coast, a forest of mega-hotels.

 It was the last place where I expected to see them, let alone confront some of the basic questions of our lives on this planet: frogs!….

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The Laotian Bus Driver Part 2

It was an extraordinary night and it was about to get more extraordinary.

Marooned in the mountains of northern Laos thanks to a bus breaking down and the driver hitching a  ride into a large town and with the temperature plummeting, we huddled inside the bus and waited. The hours passed and then the driver appeared with a spare drive shaft and slid under the bus. The Laotians blissfully asleep, the tourists got out and looked under the bus, only half believing what they saw….

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