I have to admit that I wasn’t quite prepared for just how unfamiliar travelling in Africa would feel right at the start. And once that shock was over, for then just how familiar travelling in Africa would feel once a few days had passed. With new countries, new cultures, new languages, new companions and a good few years since I last attempted anything similar I guess it was only natural that it would take all of us a few days to find our feet.
Finding one’s travelling feet can be likened a bit to crossing the road in Cairo. On that first day when we stepped off the bus from the airport in Downtown, bemused and confused by the way in which traffic lanes appeared to have no meaning, the road appeared to have no rules and the bus would stop and start in the carriageway to let people on and off at will (albeit to a cacophany of noise from the cars that suddenly found themselves trapped behind), making our way across the nightmare of rushing, honking, swerving traffic that separated the us and our backpacks from our hostel seemed like the most dauntingly impossible feat in the world. In the end, after a lot of hesitation, a few false starts and just a touch of girly screaming, we gritted our teeth and made a run for it. We survived.
After that first ordeal, crossing the road in Cairo became easier. We became bolder, learnt new techniques, took greater risks. After all, if other people were surviving it there must be a way. By the end of our stay in Egypt, we could cross Cairo’s roads with the same blasé and easy confidence that the local inhabitants showed – all you need to do, really, is walk out and show no fear. Travelling, I think, is similar at the beginning – all you can think about is just how incomprehensibly big and scary and unusual the world is, and how you’re not really sure how to tackle it. You’re cautious and hesitant, but sooner or later a time comes when you have to make a break for it – even a small one – and once you survive that first intimidating bus ride, or cultural misunderstanding, or aggressive sales pitch, everything starts to come a lot easier, because you survived. And because you start to understand that where there are other people surviving, there’s always a way.