Thursday, 21 October 2010

An Idiot's Guide to Packing for Afrika

(Due to the rather darsh internet connection they have over here, these next two blogs are a little belated, thought I'd stick them up at the same time as I have long since packed and left Gatwick/Dubai)

Everyone prepares for big events in different ways; Rocky prepared for his fight against Apollo Creed by chasing a chicken round a street and doing an uncanny impression of a moron, whilst Spurs footballers prepare for a big game by way of a three day bender in Dublin some some sort of related sexual assault charge. For my own ‘big event’ both these seemed tempting as preparation, but an earlier incident in Dublin and a distrust of mobile poultry meant that the cornerstone of my preparation for Afrika consisted of watching the film Blood Diamond.

Little tip for any other budding Afrika-bound travellers; don’t watch Blood Diamond. A brilliant film it may be, but the constant gunfire, casual genocide and perennial screaming did little to sooth over any underlying fears about the continent. Though saying that it did provide me with three invaluable lessons which I will adhear to over coming months; firstly, don’t trust anyone with a dodgy South African accent (he’s only after one thing), secondly, everybody in Afrika wears wife-beaters, and thirdly, never, ever, use the phrase ‘Your just another black man in Africa,’ when speaking to the local population, it does not go down well.
Blood Diamond aside, my preparation for the trip has been fairly coherent and surprisingly organised, thanks in no small part to the willingness of everybody to impart some sort of ‘advice’ or insight when it comes to Afrika. These ranged from my brothers insistence that driving from Tanz, through Somalia and Sudan, and back to Manchester was a ‘do-able exercise,’ to my uncle’s solitary piece of travel advice, namely “Make sure you don’t catch anything uncureable out there,” said with a wry smile and the knowledge I knew exactly what he was getting at. As a result, the subsequent packing for this particular expedition has been comparable to a Columbian man stumbling across a world of drugs but only having one, small mule to put them all in.
I can sincerely recommend the website, as a solid place to sort regardless of your destination; essentials such as mosquito nets, water purification kits and a wind-up torch can all by found with relative ease. They are all rather pricey, but as it turns out there is a limit on the crap Tescos is willing to sell, the idiot traveller is often given little choice. After spending on this fun-filled website the equivilant of what  Tanzania's answer to Alan Sugar earns in a year, and filling up my man-size backpack with such gear, I had a similar amount of difficulty deciding on what clothes to take.

Now, this isn’t a night out in Sheffield. A dirty shirt (nobody will notice the smell once we are in the club, and if they do, theres usally someone whose pissed themselves in the corner I can blame), and shoes held together by an ecletic mix of glue and gaffer tape is unlikely to impress the locals. My next thought was inspired by Roger Moore, and his one-man mission to resurrect the safari suit in the 1980’s Bond films, however a jumped-up white bloke in a linen suit waltzing about rural Africa teaching the ‘Queen’s English’ is one thing that my degree taught me not to do. Africa’s twin tormentors of sun and mosquitos, mean that it is wise for those of a fairer complexion (no one cares if you don’t burn in Rochdale, this is Afrika) to cover up as much as is possible, with long-sleeve shirts and preferably lighter trousers. Obviously, I am also taking a range of Topman’s shorts for those days when I fancy a breeze circulating, though this in itself brings a new problem as knees are considered offensive by many of Tanzania’s more conservative population, and we have been advised to wear shorts which cover the offending body parts. Sure, drunk policeman and ‘white man bus fares’ are part of life, but as soon as someone shows a bit a knee everyone kicks up a fuss. Typical.

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