blast from the past, 30 years ago


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8 minutes ago, CaptainQuintero said:

 Great stuff Ken, I wonder about the logistics need now to try and get a similar ad hoc trip going, or if it even is possible anymore.

visiting the gorillas is the most amazing thing i can imagine. fortunately, it was way way cheaper back then. now, horrendous, i believe. 

as for repeating it, not without a small and very powerful army. i remember a few of us one evening walking up a hill near lake victoria and sitting and chatting and one of us made the point about how lucky we were to do it when we did (87 and almost all 88) as from now on, it would become so much easier. we could not have been more wrong. 

the basic agenda was starting at london and then across france and spain, as fast as possible (not that fast as we got stuck in paris waiting certain visas as we'd accidently timed it for the same time as the paris - dakar race, - we came across the race several times later in the trip and even had to drag one contestant out of the sand and back to tamanrasset). across on the ferry to morocco, around morocco, along the med to algiers and then south across the sahara until we hit the algeria/niger border. through niger into nigeria to kano etc. east into cameroon (which i utterly loved) and then into the central african republic (all of this was not too dangerous unless you inadvertently happened to drive into a village that had recently been visited by the french foriegn legion - no idea what those guys did but they left every village very very angry and anti-west). then right through zaire (now congo) which was amazing. then burundi, rwanda, tanzania (climbed kilimanjaro which was nearly as special as the gorillas), and up to kenya and nairobi (nairobi ranks with montreal at the very bottom of my fave cities list). we flew into khartoum (where i was mistaken for a spy - in the congo, i'd been mistaken for a wanted criminal) and then across into ethiopia and drove down to the lakes region there which is so extraordinary - more birdlife than i have ever seen anywhere. back to khartoum and then a train back through the sahara and partly along the nile. stopped at wadi halfa on the border. missed the ferry by an hour so stuck there for a week (had run out of almost everything by then and it was 110F every day and we were reduced to drinking dark brown water scooped from the nile, but we'd had every known illness by then so no one had a problem). paid to sneak onto a smugglers boat eventually and went up past abu simbel etc, and they dropped us off at the aswan in eygpt. got a new truck there and headed up the nile eventually to cairo. then drove down and crossed the red sea into the sinai and then up through jordan and into syria. spent time in damascus, aleppo and hama - loved aleppo but the worst hangover in history in hama - syrian gin. 

into eastern turkey, where a couple of us had a strange meeting with some kurds about 2am in the middle of nowhere, not that far from mt arras. at the time, seemed fun. now i realise how dangerous it could have been. i suspect they were smugglers in the middle of the plains and to run into an aussie and two brothers from iceland was probably the last thing they ever expected. then went right across iran, which was so interesting. such fantastic people, though we had someone, as all groups did then, attach himself to us in the guise of an interested local (i know this was rubbish because my sister had been through about 6 months earlier and he was in a number of her photos and claimed a different career - i guess whatever suits). crossed into pakistan near quetta and then travelled right along northern pakistan through peshawar and eventually down to lahore. the people could not have been more welcoming. 

then into india for  a month. we managed to get up into kashmir, strongly recommended not to at the time but we thought we were bulletproof of course. the beheadings started about 8 months later! spent time on dal lake there. one of the most exquisitely beautiful places on earth. anyone who has read 'midnight's children' by rushdie might recall that is where the book starts. i did not know that but had it with me and by chance, opened it while sitting on a houseboat on the lake. nearly fell in with surprise. did all the usual stuff in india and eventually crossed into nepal via varanasi (unique place). loved nepal. did the trekking and the white water rafting which was massive. official trip finished there but most of us hung around kathmandu for 3-4 more weeks as it was such fun. i went down into thailand and malaysia (mostly on a small island - koh phangan) for a couple of months before home and then across to DC to work. phangan was unknown then - two small ferries a week - but now is home to the full moon parties etc. 

so if you go over that, there are many places that i would not go near these days and many i would not expect to survive if i did. such a shame but i was so fortunate to go when i did. 

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  That sounds life changing, and in the good way! What stands out most is how big the world seemed back then. I think if you attempted it now, apart from having to cut out at least half of the trip to give you at least a fighting chance to come out alive, I'd think you'd spend half the time in offices going through endless red tape before you had to speed through each country in order to get to your next lot of red tape.

 It would be interesting to, in theory, attempt the same thing again today and see how much has homogenised and if things have changed for the better. When I used to talk to my grandmother, who did extensive European and Middle East exploring (As a lone widow no least) even by the late 80's things had significantly shifted

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9 hours ago, CaptainQuintero said:

  That sounds life changing, and in the good way! What stands out most is how big the world seemed back then. I think if you attempted it now, apart from having to cut out at least half of the trip to give you at least a fighting chance to come out alive, I'd think you'd spend half the time in offices going through endless red tape before you had to speed through each country in order to get to your next lot of red tape.

 It would be interesting to, in theory, attempt the same thing again today and see how much has homogenised and if things have changed for the better. When I used to talk to my grandmother, who did extensive European and Middle East exploring (As a lone widow no least) even by the late 80's things had significantly shifted

i'm sure it was life changing, and in a good way. sometimes harder to tell if you are that close. there was more than enough red tape though, although suspect you would be right. worse now. we used to bank on a day to cross any border. sometimes, less, sometimes more. 

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I was on Koh Phangan in July or August of 1988. Took a long tail boat across from Koh Samui. Magic days traveling through Thailand. I spent a month there and time and again would find myself in the right place at the right time. After visiting some spartan refugee camps in the north, I was ready for some R&R. I hitched a lift in a truck to the Mekong River and was dropped off just in time to catch the daily bus to Nong Khai where I though I'd cross into Laos,. The border to Laos was closed that day so I headed south and wound up on Koh Samui again. Got dropped off by a tuktuk just across the road from an Aussie gal and her mum who had been at the same place I'd stayed earlier on Koh Samui. They'd moved to Koh Phangan and had come across to check for mail and buy some herb. They boat was waiting and off I went with them to Phangan and lived in a hut with a monkey for a while. No running water. They had a 50 cc motorbike that they'd run over the hill to the other side of the island to fill the cooler with Ice and beer. At night, bikes battery ran the boom box and a string of party lights. meals were crepes, yogurt and fresh fruit or rice and grilled fish and veggies. So...did we meet in the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago? I will did out my slides and have a look.

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28 minutes ago, Drguano said:

I was on Koh Phangan in July or August of 1988. Took a long tail boat across from Koh Samui. Magic days traveling through Thailand. I spent a month there and time and again would find myself in the right place at the right time. After visiting some spartan refugee camps in the north, I was ready for some R&R. I hitched a lift in a truck to the Mekong River and was dropped off just in time to catch the daily bus to Nong Khai where I though I'd cross into Laos,. The border to Laos was closed that day so I headed south and wound up on Koh Samui again. Got dropped off by a tuktuk just across the road from an Aussie gal and her mum who had been at the same place I'd stayed earlier on Koh Samui. They'd moved to Koh Phangan and had come across to check for mail and buy some herb. They boat was waiting and off I went with them to Phangan and lived in a hut with a monkey for a while. No running water. They had a 50 cc motorbike that they'd run over the hill to the other side of the island to fill the cooler with Ice and beer. At night, bikes battery ran the boom box and a string of party lights. meals were crepes, yogurt and fresh fruit or rice and grilled fish and veggies. So...did we meet in the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago? I will did out my slides and have a look.

i suspect we missed it by that much! i would have been late August/Sept, from memory. i had planned to cross for just three days and come home to KS on the next ferry. met a young thai kid who was a great character. missing a great chunk out of his knee from kickboxing. he convinced me to stay with the place run by the family he worked with. so we landed, it was early evening. by chance, i'd been to a 2nd hand bookstore and stocked up. had 30 books in the backpack - everything from short stories to war & peace. jumped in the back of a ute which took the pair of us to the far end of the island. hopped in a longboat which took us out around the headland, across a bar and into a small cay. the family owned the headland (while i was there, they were offered $12 mill for it but knocked it back) and she (the wife ran it all and the hubbie sat around - apparently a former HK gang member and while we were there, the cops came and arrested him, we were never just why) had about 6 tiny huts that were $2 a day and a big covered area with hammocks where she provided meals. she was trained in both classical french cooking and thai cooking. utterly brilliant. 

i remember my one outing. we went out fishing and got zero but one of the local hangers-on got a huge coral trout spearfishing. there were only four of us staying at the time and i asked what she would do with it. she apologised and said that she was very sorry but it would bring too much money so she had to sell it. fair enough. i asked how much she'd get for it. perhaps $8! 

i suggested that if we each paid $2, could we buy it and pay her to cook it. for $8, saving her from having to go on the boat out over the bar and then travel to the nearest town (largely hookers for fishermen apparently), she would not only cook it as well but make a full thai feast. it was unbelievable. extraordinary. dish after dish.

i only left when i finally finished all 30 books, which took about 30 days. half lying in hammocks with a thai beer, half lying on the beach - they had a young son, spoke no english, called bum. bum would see me on the beach towel, come down and whack me until i moved over and gave him half the towel. then he would lie down and go to sleep next to me. great kid. 

so we may have crossed, but unless you stayed at the same place, it was in passing only. 

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10 hours ago, Ken Gargett said:

so we may have crossed, but unless you stayed at the same place, it was in passing only. 

I did a little digging and found my passport from that era and I was there in June and July. This was a bit of vacation after stage managing a group who performed at Expo in Brisbane and then in Singapore for a week. My first wife taught Hmong refugee children in Minnesot and flew over to meet me in Singapore. from there we went to Thailand where she wanted to visit the refugee camps that her students had passed through. After that and a futile search for the Lost Monkey Temple up north near Chang Rai, we wound up on Koh Phangan with our friends the pot smoking Aussie Grannie and daughter. The place we stayed sounds remarkably like yours but cheaper. Our hut was $1.75 a night.

Those were the days or rather, those were those days..

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8 hours ago, Drguano said:

I did a little digging and found my passport from that era and I was there in June and July. This was a bit of vacation after stage managing a group who performed at Expo in Brisbane and then in Singapore for a week. My first wife taught Hmong refugee children in Minnesot and flew over to meet me in Singapore. from there we went to Thailand where she wanted to visit the refugee camps that her students had passed through. After that and a futile search for the Lost Monkey Temple up north near Chang Rai, we wound up on Koh Phangan with our friends the pot smoking Aussie Grannie and daughter. The place we stayed sounds remarkably like yours but cheaper. Our hut was $1.75 a night.

Those were the days or rather, those were those days..

i was up at chang mai before koh P. and got back to brizzy for the last two days of expo. but i think you were a month ahead. they were great days. 

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