Years later I hung out with a number of ex-pat in ,”The Bahamas, Jamaica, Japan, Thailand ,
Singapore, Malaysia, France, Hong Kong , Bali and Australia. From the experience of being in all these countries I formed a different opinion. This will be a subject to be dealt with later on in this journey.
East Africa 1974
The name of the course was aptly named,”East African Studies”. We studied mostly about Kenya and Tanzania. Idi Amin had begun his murderous campaign in Uganda and it was not deign safe to journey there at this time.
The lessons I learned on this trip were invaluable in keeping me safe and street savvy for the next 35 years of traveling.
There were 16 of us on the trip with ages ranging from 18 to 45. There were several more men than women. There was one young pretty woman on the trip and she hung out with my roommate John who was my age. There were a couple or social workers who were a bit older than I. Out leader Dr. Larry Richards was an English professor at Humber college and had been my English teacher during my under graduate years.
It was my first Transatlantic flight and I remember that it seemed to take forever. Now, 35 years later with annual trans pacific flights lasting over 25 hours , an 8 hour flight is merely a stroll down the street. We stayed in London for five days. Upon our arrival the lady who was hosting us was not to be seen and the English neighbours with their privacy principles had no idea when their neighbours might return. But return they did within an hour or so and we settled in for the next five days. Being an avid reader, I my inner book homing device led me to several lovely books shops in London on Charing Cross Road,
I was very touched by our visit to Westminister Abbey. Of course true to form it rained several times while we were there. I enjoyed riding around the city on the double decker buses.
All in all it was a wonderful transition to the next leg of the journey- a ten hour flight to Nairobi where the main event awaited us.
This was a dream for this farm boy scarcely a decade off the farm. I had no fears of going only a very sore arm from having to take a Yellow Fever vaccination. The soreness disappeared before we boarded the plane in Toronto to our Heaththrow destination.
I remember arriving in Nairobi around noon. The first thing I did – a most foolish decision looking back- was to walk the back streets of the city with several thousand dollars of Nikon cameras hanging abt my neck. I was walking with a woman near my age down the back streets witnessing poverty I had never imagined existed. It would be nearly 2 decades later before the advent of homelessness would arrive to any great extent in the staid town of Toronto.
Everywhere were homeless men , missing limbs, hunger in their eyes , and dirty ,wasted bodies living in the most run down condition.
It was extremely shocking to me.
Returning to my hotel an hour later, I could feel every muscle in my body aching with fear .
How foolish I was to have gone into the back streets like I did carrying goods-the cameras- that would easily feed a man for a year.
That lesson was invaluable to me when I began my serious travels to Asia on April 1st, 1990
The highlights of this trip was a toss up the breathless moments down the the Ngorongoro Crater or the spell bound stories narrated by Mary Leakey on her then current site, Olduvai Gorge.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanysania
As I was the trip photographer, I began shooting an old male lion with his face and body bearing scars from being the enforcer of his pride of female lions. The upper half of my body was out of the mini van in an attempt to capture the best shot possible.
Suddenly, with the lion being about six feet away , the dust flying as the veteren hunter padded next to the van , he stopped and looked at me. At the moment , I felt my heart stop.
With one leap he could have easily ended my life at the tender age of 26.
After a few moments , the tired male padded away. Now, 40 years later , I can still feel the fear of that moment.o
In the crater I felt that this is the closest that man might get to Paradise on earth. It was absolutely still that afternoon in the crater as we observed the pride of lions and other animals.
I’ve never been in a more quiet place all my life.
Now, as I head forth to Ecuador on Oct. 16th, 2010 in search of my heaven of earth in a part of Ecuador called ,The Valley of Longevity , I am reminded of my experience 40 years ago. It is situated a ten hour drive from Quito , the capital.
It is called Vilicambaba.
I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I learned that fears of the unknown will come up while traveling, loneliness will be by your side even in the midst of a group of 16 people.
In the end ,however , it is the times of beauty, of discovery that I live with 40 years later.
The following year on my second group trip the inner changes were formed.