Iris to Ivy

HAVE been on a few lengthy  journeys in the last decade or so. That’s actual journeys, not the ones people go through during a few weeks on reality TV.

While chasing a lifelong dream to succeed in a show which did not exist for much of their lifetime.

In my reality, there has been London to New York without flying. Ten months from the north to south of Africa and back again. An uncompleted circle of South America. And being a Gloucester rugby fan.

But one journey has lasted longer than all of those combined (bar the Gloucester bit, that’s been going on for decades, currently on a largely upward curve) – the one through the I songs on my iPod.

A lot has changed since the start of that journey though songs beginning with I, towards the end of a (possibly ill-conceived) drive to write a blog post a day for a month with the only live blogging entry of listening to my iPod.

One is more likely to be repeated than the other (although, with the assistance of time, both have their merits).

Back then (May 2019), Gloucester had just lost in their first play-off semi-final for far too long and are still in with a chance of their first since, having changed coaching staff, lost a lot of big-name players, flirted with the wrong end of the table, blooded a lot of young players, returned to the play-off flight and still have Billy Twelvetrees in the midfield when necessary.

And, oh yeah, they scored more than 130 points in two home games against Bath. Just thought that needed mentioning.

More important stuff has happened in the wider world – the dog years of Trump and its ridiculous aftermath, the equally ridiculous ongoing Johnson Government, Covid, the fallout from Brexit, the war in U…. oh, just trust me on this, a lot has happened. it is all getting downbeat.

The UK even managed to go from zero points to second in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Seriously, it happened.

Personally, went from working out my notice at the start to journeying overland most of the way around South America, meeting someone along the way (she reckons she is the star of this blog so apparently has to be mentioned somewhere), being forced home from Colombia by Covid, working predominantly as a reporter for the first time in many, many years, keeping up a long-distance relationship, heading back to the newspaper production and getting engaged.

And listened to a lot of songs beginning with I (with several long breaks along the way).

The last blast took us through about 160 tracks from The Goo Goo Dolls (one of those songs which always seems to have been there and have no memory of downloading) to Taylor Swift.

There were plenty of frequent visitors, topped by four versions – two of them live – of It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by REM, which is a lot back to back even for such a great song.

Is This It by The Strokes popped up twice while there multiple entries by Half Man Half Biscuit (Irk The Purists and It’s Easy To Be Cynical at Christmas), Belle and Sebastian (Is It Wicked Not To Care? and It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career) and early career Billy Bragg (It Says Here and Island of No Return).

And it would appear Evan Dando has a penchant for writing songs beginning with It’s as there were appearances for It’s A Shame About Ray (title track of one of those albums which revisiting always brings happy feelings), It’s All True and It’s About Time.

The latter has one my favourite moments in any song- when Juliana Hatfield echoes ‘Sunshine’ to herald the band kicking back in and manages to spread a little bit of exactly that – which is always worth anticipating as it approaches and then savour as if drifts off into a tune which deserves more than being remembered for a single moment.

Other old favourites popping up to wave farewell to I included Echo and The Bunnymen (It Was A Pleasure), The Undertones (It’s Going To Happen), Jason Isbell (It Gets Easier), The Pogues (in tandem with The Dubliners on The Irish Rover) and John Grant (It Doesn’t Matter To Him).

There were less frequent, but nonetheless welcome, visitors The Streets (It Was Supposed To Be So Easy) and Let’s Eat Grandma (It’s Not Just Me), who will pop up with their latest album on the catch-up before we start cracking on with K.

There was also It’s All You from Sebadoh, which takes me back to a summer when the album it came from seemed to live in my car stereo (1999 apparently).

And we had two first-time appearances – one welcome, one not so much amid a debate over my self-imposed rules.

The welcome one was the first track from the Hamilton soundtrack – It’s Quiet Uptown – after a very enjoyable night out on a post-engagement few days in  London.

Less so was a second song called Iris – this one, complete with the brackets (Hold Me Close) from Apple’s less than appreciated dumping of U2 tracks in my collection a few years back.

Have ignored them by not downloading them, but a change of iPod – not sure how many more times can do that – brought it in automatically and after much debate with myself, opted to follow the rules and listen to it on a walk along the canal to Sainsbury’s

Which is pretty much all that sticks in the mind.

So that, after all that time and the largest number of tracks for one letter, is that and on to J… well, almost.

Over the three years it has taken through I,  a lot of new stuff has dropped in that needs mopping up from A-I – a late burst of new releases in recent weeks taking that diversion up towards 600 tracks.

Better get started…

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In The Act to Irene

NOT a regular poster on Facebook – bar the links to these posts which may have brought you here – but do tend to have it running in the background when online.

Among the promoted posts, things its latest algorithm seems to think will interest me (based on what evidence, not sure anyone could explain), ads for items searched for once weeks ago and birthday reminders (happy birthday to one regular reader), there is the odd item of interest.

For the traveller, that includes keep tabs on friends around the world or their ongoing overland trips – thankfully, starting to happen again after an understandable hiatus.

And, courtesy of changing the cover picture on the first anniversary of each day from major travels, it provides a daily reminder of places and experiences from simpler times.

Two years ago today, that was swinging in a hammock on a boat down the Amazon for six days as reality was suspended between Manaus – the epicentre of Brazil’s Covid crisis which bit for the first time within days of our departure – and Colombia where the virus brought us crashing back to reality.

Seven years ago, we were being encouraged to make a ‘donation’ to the police in the Congo before being allowed to make our way to the coast, having spent the previous morning digging a lorry out of a huge pothole, while 12 years ago the clock was ticking on the final few days before my first lengthy overland adventure.

All of those are chronicled on this website, writing about the journeys providing the reason the blog exists in the first place.

And in among them winds the meandering, often faltering, journey through my iPod from A-Z, filling the gaps between travelling – at least that is the plan, the silence of much of the last couple of years suggests otherwise.

Facebook reminded me this week that it was eight years ago that the idea of blogging such a journey would plug those non-travelling times, the first post arriving a couple of weeks later ahead of a sprint through the early tracks which ended with the first of several breaks when combining it with writing about African travels became too distracting from more important things.

Enjoying Africa for one.

Another, planned, break followed while in South America and despite good intentions and a brief flurry of posts in the weeks after returning, it has been sporadic at best since. Non-existent might be more accurate.

But it is time to get writing again, time to get back in the habit.

So to kick off that resumption, time to recap what all this A-Z Challenge is all about for any more recent arrivals, as well as checking out where it has reached in the seemingly never-ending trip through I songs (close to three years and counting).

  • My iPod decides the order

Not as simple as it seems  – A Day In The Life is first in the list, as it was when things kicked off all that time ago. But punctuation, definite and indefinite articles can get a bit confusing.

A-Punk was once the opening track, as was (A Belated) Invite To Eternity by Stornoway which has now been listed under B.

The latest section from The Von Bondies to Beach House (in a move designed to ignore any sensible SEO advice, each post is titled by the two tracks which bookended the latest chunk) was fairly simple for all that.

Billy Bragg’s The Internationale slots in after International Velvet by Catatonia, which is probably a good thing or the  stretch of songs starting The would be as impassable as much of the Congo.

  • No skipping

Each song needs playing in full so that it registers as having been played in my iTunes library.

There is the odd exception – for some reason, a Soundtrack of Our Lives album among a few other songs have appeared on my iPod in poor quality – but have stuck rigidly to my rule.

Long silences stretch the patience – Holden’s Intentionally Left Blank was just annoying while the 14 minutes of silence in the middle of Into The Storm by Lift To Experience was mystifying.

Although it did add up to stretching it out to 28 minutes, 57 seconds and the longest track to date. Fourth longest overall.

  • It’s the tracks that count, not songs

Multiple versions of the same song have to be listened to – covers, live versions, alternative versions or songs appearing on multiple albums or sources.

The most so far is five – one cover and four of the original in various different guises.

This chunk saw three versions of Infected by The The and two apiece for Inside Me by Jesus and Mary Chain, plus the wonderful Into Your Arms by The Lemonheads.

  • No revisionism

There’s some rubbish on there, but nobody put it on there but me (even if the reason is lost in the mists of time), so there’s nobody else to blame.

Except for Bono and his band of merry men who conspired with Apple to deliver tracks into my iTunes – ignored and steadfastly not downloaded to my iPod, although a quick look at what is to come (best avoided, to be honest) suggests a change of iPod has done it automatically.

My mood at the time may depend on whether a new rule is added.

  • New additions count

When this journey started, the A-Z was 11, 235 tracks long. That has grown – despite periods of little or no additions – to 15,636 with more to come when pre-release downloads appear.

At the end of each letter, there is a quick catch-up for any additions since that track’s place in the journey was passed.

Previously, this has been  a pretty quick sprint through a hundred or so tracks, but the current playlist of tracks from A-I waiting to be rattled through runs to 564 songs and will take a day and a half to work through.

That is partly down to the length of the I section, partly down to the amount of music downloaded over the last couple of years and largely down to those lengthy breaks.

May well have to split that into a few posts, once the remaining 150 or so I tracks have  come and gone.

  • Breaks are allowed

This rule was  meant to allow for  a short break to listen to new albums as they arrive, but sheer practicality has seen it stretch much longer at times.

And with good reason, not just because other things were squeezing my time, but it means each fresh start brings a new drive to plough through the next chapter.

This latest chunk has taken its time, the undoubted highlight being Invalid Litter Dept by At The Drive-In, one from the Relationship of Command album which remains one of the prime choices when a bit of noise is needed.

It was, that and The Lemonheads apart, not the most inspiring chunk although there was a couple of tracks from The Joy Formidable who always leave me thinking they need more exploration.

And that is sort of what this whole A-Z journey is all about.

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Under A Long-Haul Flight Path

THERE is a, potentially British, test of etiquette at the start of each year – how long after January 1 is it expected and then acceptable to wish people a happy new year?

Some begrudge it anywhere beyond the first dawn of the new year while others – looking at you marketing emails – will keep going until at least the middle of the month.

Personally, think the first morning back in the office – or first team video meeting – is about the limit.

Think we have all got the idea by then.

Which is why this blog is posting its traditional new year post (and reduced look at the best of 2021’s music) in the final days of February.

St Ives in the January sun

There is a good excuse – as there has been most years since the first of these posts was written in a dark Ghanaian beach bar seven years ago – and it is my normal  life was sort of put on hold for the first six weeks of the year.

Could not blame being busy at work as was off for the bulk of that time, but those six weeks were a step away from normal life after a wait of almost two years – 649 days apparently.

We will get to that, but let’s break a habit and get to the point of this post early by looking back at the last 12 months.

There were more longer than hoped for waits, at least between blog posts – not through any plan or intended reason.

It just sort of happened, most probably courtesy of spending so much time each day tapping away in front of a screen and wanting to do anything else in my spare time.

Consider this the first step in a drive to remedy that as form of belated resolution, along with losing the lockdown weight and regaining pre-pandemic fitness levels.

Not that there was much else to get in the way, especially with largely working from home, as life continued to remain largely wedged between the four walls of my flat.

Horizons were expanded by a change of job which has had me, at least occasionally, making the trip to Worcester although far more often rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, grabbing a shower and breakfast en route to logging on at home.

A year ago, work was writing about business, but when the offer came in to look after production for various newspapers – ask your parents kids – churning out pages and fighting a string of deadlines, it was not too difficult to accept.

Feel much more at home doing that. Especially at home.

Blending in with the locals

And then there was the other expanded horizon – the one over which the main distraction over the last couple of months emerged far too early one post-Christmas morning.

Anyone paying attention to the new year’s post two years ago – from the considerably warmer and sandier surroundings of a Rio hotel room – will remember a public declaration of no longer being single.

And it was Lisa – responsible for much of that sand, however much she denies it – who emerged into that grey Heathrow morning, a wrong turn through the departure gate delaying our reunion a few brief seconds.

But after 649 days (courtesy of PCR tests and security, she had a lot of time at Sydney airport to work it out), what does that matter?

Not that we haven’t see each other during that long time between bidding farewell in Bogota as the pandemic descended and her arrival from an Australian summer to an English winter.

Pretty much every evening in that time – or early morning, once her cat alarm system kicks in on the other side of the world – has been spent chatting via video until eventually restrictions lifted, borders opened and we could actually plan something definite.

So for those six weeks – much of my holiday time used up either side of being back at work – we were reunited, testing out the restaurants by my flat which normally just walk past, meeting up with friends and introducing her to the delights of Cornwall, a series of day trips from Gloucester and a final week chalking up the miles on foot around London.

She also developed a love for The Detectorists and The Repair Shop.

And on one of those day trips we got engaged.

Extra baggage to take home

No, did not kneel down (chances of getting up again not good with my knees), did not have a ring (that was the next day’s trip) or have any romantic words prepared.

But sat on a bench at Symonds Yat Rock – not the classic viewpoint, it is closed – came up with something which managed to take her by surprise and get the desired yes.

It opens up a lot of other questions for a long-distance relationship, but we will get there.

And need something to write about in all those upcoming posts.

• There is traditionally a second part of the new year post which has grown into its own accompanying article – the Travel Marmot nods to the best of the previous 12 months music.

A year ago, my music-listening habits provided enough candidates for long lists of album and track of the year.

But those habits appear to have changed in the past 12 months – less time in the gym with headphones, more time working, more podcasts – and we are back to a briefer affair on the end of this post.

That’s another thing that needs to change in the coming months…

Album of the Year
Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

Not a clear-cut winner in a year with plenty of good albums, but few standouts. Dry Cleaning was an early contender nobody quite managed to overhaul, starting a trend for spoke-sung lyrics and in Scratchcard Lanyard they almost produced the track of the year.

Surprisingly Close to Album of the Year
Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure

Topped several end-of-year lists but on paper it is hardly my cup of tea. On vinyl (or whatever the download equivalent is), it most definitely is and soundtracked several train journeys to Worcester and back. To nobody’s surprise more than mine – some fucking wizardry.

Track of the Year
Wet Leg – Chaise Longue

“What?”

If you are going to release a debut single, make it this catchy, funny, Mean Girl referencing and did we mention catchy? All while remaining charmingly odd, making buttering muffins and chaises longue part of the zeigeist, Wet Leg produced an instant indie classic and their debut album is the most anticipated of the coming months (even with Fontaines DC on the horizon).

Obligatory Phoebe Bridgers Entry of the Year
Muna – Silk Chiffon

Having released last year’s album of the year, this is a fifth successive appearance in various guises for Bridgers – this time as guest vocalist for a band on a her own label. Slice of bubblegum indie guitar pop runs Chaise Longue a close second for catchiness.

Verging on Edge of Genius and Irritating Discovery of the Year
Yard Act – The Overload

The Leeds band were not too far behind Wet Leg for media excitement about new bands, enlivened by this witty slice of modern life.  Not sure if or for how long it falls on the right of the engrossing/irritating line, but for the moment it is very much in the to be embraced category.

Welcome Old Friend of the Year
Billy Bragg – The Million Things That Never Happened

Could have been The Wedding Present’s category as they found a lockdown niche of online shows and reimagined oldies, but Bragg’s latest musings on modern life at a certain age show you can grow older with charm, humour and valuable insight. Have to give it a try.

As ever, there is a long list of contenders well worth a listen or in need of greater exploration but chances are we will cover much of that as the A-Z iPod challenge kicks back into gear.

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If We Make It Through December to In Spite of All The Damage

ONE of my favourite nights in a bar – and there have been a few to choose from – came partly due to a T-shirt.

There were other reasons.

We had been recommended Brendan Behan’s by a friend who had made a previous visit to Boston (the one in Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire – we had plenty of inside information there and another T-shirt story, but we will save that for another time).

But having moved beyond the confines of downtown Boston on the Friday night of our first visit to the States – the first of many which would change both of our lives in years to come – we had got slightly lost.

We had rough directions. We knew it was in Jamaica Plain and we had made it as far as a largely deserted subway station, but with no idea where to go next and no real way of finding out (this was before smart phones, kids), we were debating the wisdom of leaving a dark, less than salubrious-looking neighbourhood and heading back to one of the bars we had come to know in the previous few nights.

Until a bloke stumbled out of the shadows and, as he reached us, stopped, did a double take and broke into a smile.

He was quite taken with Nick’s well-worn Mighty Mighty Bosstones T-shirt and suddenly became very helpful.

While he regaled us of his love for the Boston ska punk band, we managed to break in long enough to ask for directions for our destination and we were on our way.

His opening gambit of “you go past The Projects” was hardly promising, but it turned out we were not too far from our intended target, a walk up a hill away.

Settling in for a long night

What we found was the type of bar you do not find too much anymore. Certainly not in the States (apart from the Irish bit, they are everywhere in Boston).

Small, rough wooden floors, no food and no TV showing sports – which had us waiting for the latest Red Sox score until the next morning at the start of a long fixation – with people (and dogs) wandering in and out with pizzas from the takeaway place across the street.

All watched over by pictures of Behan himself.

We warmed to it immediately. Even more so when the barman had our drinks memorised after the first round – we pretty much only had to look at him for the rest of the evening to get served.

It did not take much longer for a darts game to break out which pitted us against half of the bar and by the time we rolled out of there several hours later, we had savoured a wonderful evening that cemented the early impression that we got about Boston being to be our new favourite place.

The taxi ride home also confirmed how much of a ridiculously circuitous route we had taken to get there.

Pretty sure neither of us made it back to Brendan Behan’s, despite good intentions and repeated visits to Boston – both solo and together at the end of a trip four years later in which the same T-shirt had another part to play.

This tale owes less to musical taste as cheese.

Cheese damage

The shirt had been a regular in Nick’s travel wardrobe throughout three months on the road from London to New York without flying – the trip which ended with him meeting his future wife when we headed to Boston at the end of the journey and which kicked off my overland travel addiction (and, in turn, this website).

By the time we reached New Ulm in Minnesota a few days from the finish, thoughts were turning  to journey’s end and clear outs of our kit revealed we all wanted to do some laundry, but none of us had a full load.

With several hours to kill in town – and blog posts to write while waiting and using the launderette’s WiFi – we threw several of our piles in together, sat back, started tapping away and waited.

Right up until the load was finished and reaching in to pull the clothes out of the machine answered one of the questions which had popped up in the group over the previous few days.

What had happened to Phil’s lump of blue cheese?

Most of the laundry escaped largely unscathed – although we felt it best to put it through another wash – but a pair of socks and Nick’s Mighty Mighty Bosstones T-shirt bore the brunt.

Whenever anyone mentions cheesy music, my mind heads in a different direction to most people’s.

And when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones crop up, it brings back good memories of trips and Nick. Which is always welcome.

Crop up they did in the latest batch of songs on the A-Z trawl through my iPod with The Impression That I Get.

The latest section took us from Phoebe Bridgers’ festive offering – far more apt now, in many ways, than when these songs were actually listened to many months ago, such has been the delay in getting back to writing – to The Be-Good Tanyas.

Never bad places to be.

Along the way we had two outings for the Manic Street Preachers – and one “cover” from The Shirehorses – with other multiple visits from REM (Ignoreland and Imitation of Life, twice), In My Life by The Beatles (and a cover by Johnny Cash), If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell and three plays of In Between Days by The Cure.

And two appearances by The Jesus & Mary Chain  taught us the song is In A Hole, not In My Hole as thought for all these years.

There was also two versions of In Bloom – the original by Nirvana and the very acceptable cover by Sturgill Simpson – and 25 minutes plus of Impossible Soul by Sufjan Stevens.

Beyond the list of songs, cannot tell you too much about what was happening as they played – it was several months ago when good intentions to get back to writing got overtaken by events.

We will get to what those events were. Along with the promise to write more as a new year’s resolution – one of the annual traditions which this blog specialises in come this time of year.

• The last outing for this blog in February was something of a standalone, an elegy for the demise of the overland travel company Oasis Overland as it headed into administration.

Wrote at the time about how “that exciting world waiting out there for us when we are able to get out in it again got a whole lot smaller”.

Thankfully, not too much smaller – Oasis exists again under new owners, with one of the founders remaining, so the “blocked horizons” have been cleared and are ready to be explored.

Some time soon.

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Goodbye Yellow Truck Road

A year ago today, caught my last sight of a big, yellow overland truck as we boarded the replacement ferry over the river from Suriname to Guyana it had narrowly failed to fit on.

A reunion was delayed by red tape, missing paperwork and, eventually, by our forced retreat from Colombia as borders shut and the world shrank with the spread of coronavirus.

But for the last 12 months, there has always been the belief the big yellow truck was out there waiting to open up new horizons when we eventually emerge blinking into the light when travel is not a dirty word.

And then came this week’s news that Oasis Overland, the small company which operates the yellow trucks, had ceased trading.

Final farewell to Spongebob

All of a sudden, that exciting world waiting out there for us when we are able to get out in it again got a whole lot smaller.

The news of Oasis’ demise was met with dismay and no end of shared memories from former passengers and staff on social media – it may not be the best known company in the world, but those in the know will really miss it.

To understand why is to  understand the aspects of these trips which are hard to explain when people ask about what makes an overland adventure on a big yellow truck.

Overlanding: The Things They Don’t Tell You

Have tried to do that elsewhere on this blog – and there is plenty more on the list of pieces to write – but here goes.

My two Oasis trips total more than a year when the answer in the address box on a visa form could easily have been “a big yellow truck” – 10 months on Nala around Africa from north to south and back again, followed by six months on Spongebob in a (sadly uncompleted) circle of South America.

Along the way, both trips took in extraordinary sights and experiences which feature highly on any travel bucket list – trekking to see gorillas, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Serengeti, New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach, journeying up the Nile, the Uyuni Salt Flats, some of the world’s great cities and so much more.

You will find plenty about those in travel guides. They are on the highlights list for the trip that persuade people to sign up in the first place.

And they are all great – an hour spent with gorillas is one of the greatest experiences of my life, likewise rather longer trekking to Machu Picchu.

Even if we could not see much of it through the mist and rain when we got there.

But suspect the reason people feel so strongly about their Oasis experience runs rather deeper than that – it is not the big-ticket items, it is the imponderables, those moments you share with your truck family which elevate the whole experience.

They might be small moments, the stories behind the pictures, but they add up to something special that makes me – and many others – itching to get back for more.

While trying to forget the itching from insect bites.

Travel is not so much about the destination but the getting there. Nowhere is that truer than life on a big yellow truck (and it is always a truck, never a bus – unless putting that on a form makes life easier).

There is some truth in that joke about putting the truck as your address. These trips, certainly the longer adventures, are not holidays. They do become your life, your home.

Even provided an emergency bed when we found ourselves locked out of the hostel at the end of the world.

And the people you share those days, weeks, months, miles, campsites, bush camps, cook groups, nights out, border crossings and back of the truck with become as important as those travel highlights. Even digging the truck out of whatever it is stuck in.

A Day In The Life On A Big Yellow Truck

One of the high points of South America was a reunion in Buenos Aires with a friend who shared those 10 months in Africa for the first time in five years. It was an instant reconnection.

At rough count, have travelled with about 40-plus people on those trips and would happily meet up and share a few beers, rum and cokes or caipirinhas with pretty much all of them.

Couple of honourable exceptions, but even one of them might be fun to see how much effort they put in to avoiding talking, or even making eye contact, with me.

Mind you, at the moment would be delighted to have a drink with pretty much anybody.

While such a drink or travel is off the agenda, spend much of each day surrounded by the same four brick walls.

Given the huge distances covered, overland travel can mean equally long hours surrounded by the four sides of the truck. Often while hot, sweaty, dusty and sharing the space with a number of other people with equally limited access to a shower.

The Overlanding Cookbook

But rather than being restrictive (or even that smelly – you are, after all, in the same boat), those days on the truck always offered a window and access to a wider world full of anticipation about what view is round the next corner or what lies in wait at the next destination.

Be that a Patagonian wilderness, west African dirt road, Brazilian beach, Sudanese desert – all of which provided scenery, destination and camp for the night – or a small village or settlement keen to welcome us with open arms. Or the odd rock.

News of Oasis closure has obscured that view, blocked those horizons.

Thoughts are with the staff and crew – several of whom have become good friends – and the countless guides, local operators and fixers along the way who all help to make the adventure and depend on travellers to make a living.

One day, when this pandemic is over and the world is open again, we may see the yellow trucks or something similar back on the road.

Into The Wild Camping

Until then, we can dream about more amazing overland adventures – and those remaining five weeks we were forced to miss in Colombia and Ecuador, plus a Trans Africa return and the Silk Road adventure were very high on the list – and reflect on the memories of those life-changing journeys.

And life changing is not pushing it too far – even without the yellow trucks, my horizons are far broader than they were before first stepping on Nala six-and-a-bit years ago. Even in lockdown.

Have made friends for life, seen places and experienced things which seemed to be out of reach, have countless tales to tell, learned a lot about myself (despite being well past 40 before starting this obsession), challenged my physical capabilities and my own conceptions of them.

And fell in love.

So for all that and so much more, thank you Oasis.

If this is the end of the road, it has been an amazing journey – there is just an awful lot more miles left to go.

 

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