Brave wee soul or raving lunatic?
I have been asking myself that question a lot since deciding to embark on this adventure and decided that it is probably a bit of both!
What started as a wee escape trip to Africa after my husband left has now developed into a full blown gap year! At times I think I must be nuts, 47 years old, selling all my possessions, leaving a pretty good job and venturing off into the unknown, alone. But then I think I would be nuts not to grab an opportunity like this.
I originally felt that I had nothing, no home, job I detested, pets all ferried out to new homes, no money as all proceeds from the sale of our house were used to pay off our horrendous debts. Nothing. But then I realised that I actually had everything, total freedom, no ties and debt free. Everything. Oh joy!
I moved in with my parents, took on an extra job and started saving like I have never saved before. Enough now to take me to Africa and beyond.
The last nine months have not been easy, an emotional rollercoaster to say the least and I owe so much to my family, friends and all of you at Barbours and Claudio's who have supported and encouraged me every step of the way. In particular, my parents who put a roof over my head, fed and watered me, put up with the anger and the depression and so much more. Thanks Mum and Dad, I would never have got here without you!
There is one other special person who has got me here. My bestest mate in the whole world without whom I could still be in the very dark hole I had dug for myself. A friend who has lifted my spirits, warmed my heart and restored my faith in mankind. Thanks BM, I know we shall stay in touch and remain good friends always!
And of course thanks to all you TPers for the information, advice and encouragement. Where on earth would we be without TP?
So, here I am, eight days to go. Packed in both of my jobs and joined the ranks of the unemployed for the first time in my life! I am innoculated against virtually every disease known to mankind, survived three weeks of Lariam without going completely off my rocker and armed to the teeth with Deet and dysentry remedies. Bloody hell! I also have the contents of a small department store stuffed into an already too large backpack! I shall spend the next week packing and repacking, deliberating over whether I should take hairdryer or straighteners. Do I really need 62 pairs of knickers? ....!
First stop is Hertfordshire followed by Sussex to say goodbye to family and friends. Finally flying out to Cairo on 24th October where I shall have five days to explore before meeting up with a group of 23 total strangers all of whom will probably be half my age. Bugger! Still, experience is everything is it not?
The first leg of my journey is with Oasis Overland on the Cairo to Capetown trip lasting 16 weeks. A good reintroduction to travelling I thought. Hmmm. 16 weeks with 23 youngsters, possibly half of which will suffer PMT and the other half keep their brains in their dicks. Nooo! Positive thinking Claire! 23 like minded people full of adventure, bursting with enthusiasm and energy!
After Capetown, then I am on my own. My outline itinerary is..
Capetown - Johannesburg - Seychelles - Mauritius - Madagascar - Malaysia - Borneo - Indonesia - Malaysia - Thailand - India - Tajikistan - Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Azerbaijan - then..oh bugger..what then? Well, either back to India cos money runnng short, or Georgia then back through Europe, or backtrack to Irkutsk to catch the trans siberian to Moscow then home. I dont know! Can't plan that far in advance! It will be interesting to see if I stick to the outline itinerary. Who knows...watch this space! As long as I see lions, lemurs and Komodo dragons, I shall be happy!
Excited? Bet your arse! Nervous? Healthily so. Scared? A little, I mean, what is the worst that could happen? Malaria, Amoebic dystentry,bitten by snake, croc, lion, tiger etc. robbery, rape, murder. Shite! But compared to rolling down sand dunes in Egypt, walking with giraffes in Kenya, swimming with dolphins in Zanzibar, flying over Victoria falls, sleeping uder the stars in Namibia, sticking your tongue out to sharks in South Africa, playing with Lemurs in Madagascar and basking on the beaches of Mauritius to name but a very few highlights, whats the alternative...stay at home and watch it on TV? No thanks!
On a more serious note, this trip is not just about discovering the world, more importantly it's about discovering me.
Finally, I shall introduce you to William, my companion for the trip! William is actually a Ringtail Lemur, hand reared at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria. The most adorable and mischievous creature I have ever encountered. I have the silly soft toy version and where I go, he goes!
Poor William..crapping himself!