Bosman's Bush Telegraph - the final edition! - 5 December 2000
Well, I guess its mission accomplished! We arrived on this little waterlogged island on Friday afternoon after a whistle stop tour through Paris. Our plans regarding the Paris bit were very ambitious and as usual things never quite work out as they are supposed to. We had thought we would just sail into the city, find a little pension in the Latin Quarter to spend the night, scoff a couple of baguettes and then head off on foot to take in the sights. Ha Ha! Any of you who have ever driven in Paris will know that it is like ancient Chinese torture. The drivers rival the diabolical Syrians and its not difficult to understand how Diana died in a speed related motor accident. Every Tom, Jacques and Michel thinks that they are professional rally drivers and cars weave in and out of the traffic at breakneck speed. All the cars are covered in dings and scrapes - either from being side swiped or from being rear ended. Tempers flare and rude hand signals are the order of the day. And that's not even mentioning the general mayhem that takes place at the Place Charles de Gaulle which sees 11 of Paris major roads merge into a single circle around the Arc de Triomphe. Not the place for a little diesel Land Rover, I might add. The other stumbling block was that every small, authentic Francophone pension (read dingy but well situated) charged an extortionate price for a room. In the end, after spending the better part of three hours trying to find suitable lodgings we had to chuck the pension idea and very unceremoniously dumped the Landy at the train station. From there we caught the metro into town to see the sights which involved a quick peek at the Tuilerie gardens and the Louvre, a hike up the Champs Elysee and a trip up the Eiffel Tower. Oh, and of course, the obligatory pilgrimage to the Virgin Mega Store to by an overpriced CD. By 11pm we were footsore and exhausted and managed to pick the right train back to the station (not by our own skill, I might add, but by some sort of force majeure or act of God) It was good to be there despite all the moans and groans but Paris is yet another thing to be added to the Bosman's versus the World rematch list!
From Paris we headed up to Calais where we caught the ferry to Dover. What a relief to be among English speakers again! We had thought that the English would be just like us, you know, as ex-colonials we would feel a sense of homecoming to be back on English soil. Ha, ha again! Our fellow ferry passengers were a breed apart. The minute they got onto the ferry they hit the duty free shop, everyone loading up trolleys full of beer, wine and spirits. The ferry company actually offers a free delivery service to the car deck should you spend more than 150 pounds at the duty free and there were a lot of chaps taking P&O up on their offer. For the rest, everyone immediately settled down to the serious business of getting tanked up in the bar and grousing about the weather and the trains.
The ferry landed at Dover at half past two and we sailed through customs in a matter of minutes. It's just more than 100 miles from Dover to London so we expected to be there by mid afternoon. Another ha, ha for that! The gallivanting Bosman's who have navigated their way through the whole African continent were completely floored by the London road system. Its like code - everything has a number like M25, A23 and Junction 7 which is all very well if you know where you are headed but for newcomers who are mapless its a nightmare. We had been given some pretty decent instructions by Rich so we set about following them diligently. His first instruction was to get onto the M25 which we did and we merrily carried on for nearly an hour before we started seeing road signs for Cambridge which was a tad worrying considering that even we knew that Cambridge was not in London. We decided that we had better turn around and pulled off the M25 into one of London's northern suburbs. Miraculously at this point we got a call from Jen who lives here in London and she was able to consult her map book and give us some on the spot directions. Thanks Jen! We had gone north instead of south on the M25!! We knew we had to turn around but this left us facing yet another problem. On our way north we had been through what's know here as the Dartford tunnel (read mammoth traffic hell)! In one direction traffic flows through a tunnel and in the other it flows over the most enormous bridge I have ever seen. From what we could establish, the Dartford tunnel is THE busiest place in London from a traffic perspective. More worrying though was the fact that we had had to pay one pound to travel through the tunnel and it was the only pound that we had having been change received when we spent our last francs on the ferry. To get back over the bridge we would need at least another pound and as we were penniless at that stage we had to find an ATM. To cut some cash and headed south we were stuck in London's Friday afternoon rush hour. We tuned into the BBC and listened to the traffic report. We kept hearing how the M25 was blocked up for 4 miles through exits blah and blah and consulting the road signs we found that we were pretty much slap bang between exits blah and blah! Who else but us would have meandered through the busiest traffic area on a friday afternoon - TWICE!
Needless to say it was only five hours later that we finally made it to Bridget's flat in what she and John have christened DUC (Deeply Unfashionable Croydon) home to a small and very close knit group of our South African friends (no names mentioned). It was great to be back in the welcoming arms of Bridge, John, Jill and Marke who had organized an ad hoc "you've finally arrived (and not a minute too soon) party" complete with the most delicious home cooked meal and champagne. Thanks guys! Being in the UK is quite an experience. Everything is incredibly organized - great public transport (we think so at least), special pedestrian crossings, central heating and the most divine supermarkets (Marks and Spencer is like Woolies gone mad!). We are already getting into the swing of things though and are learning more about the Spice Girls, the Gallaghers (Liam and Noel), the Queen Mum, the problems with the trains and the bad weather than we care to know at present. We have already got lost at least once on the tube system and ended up at Clapham junction (If you get lost there you may as well be in hell - its a complete maze!) and been yelled at by a train driver (can you believe that - the only pity was that we couldn't understand him because of his thick London accent).
Our first priority (other than watching SA getting clobbered by the Brits on the rugby field) was to find a home for our Land Rover here in London. Not an easy prospect. Luckily Bridget has a garage although its one of those minute garages only fit for those cars that look no bigger than a shopping trolley on steroids. We sussed out this garage and figured there was no way our car would fit in without having its roof rack and tent taken off. Bridge had told us that her
garage was number 3 and had given us the keys to it. There was some stuff in it, she had said, but she wasn't sure who it belonged to - it had been there since she had moved in. Nev had just
taken off all the stuff on the roof and was in the process of dismantling the roof rack when a women popped her head around the door and demanded to know what we were doing in her garage. Nev was of course very righteous in his insistence that the garage belonged to Bridget and John's flat. No, she insisted, it was hers and belonged to no 9 (her flat) and, in fact, the stuff at the back was hers! We agreed to check it out and low and behold, one call to Bridget's landlord revealed that Bridget and John's garage was in fact number 22 and not no 3 as we had thought! We all felt incredibly sheepish and embarrassed and poor Bridge had to go on a PR exercise with the women in no 9. Sorry Bridge! No permanent damage done, I hope, and we rapidly moved our stuff out into no 22. All of our stuff looks totally out of place in pristine London. Carrying our jerry cans, spades, pangas and axes from garage to garage we felt like neanderthals plus we got a couple of stares from some very nervous looking Brits in Bridgets block. Unfortunately, despite all our wrestling and fighting there was no way we could get the Landy into the garage so we had to make another plan. Fortunately Hamish came to our rescue and agreed to let us park our car in his garage. So the Landy is putting her feet up and having a well deserved rest in her new, very swishy lodgings in Maidenhead right next to the Thames albeit in two inches of water due to the recent floods!
So our journey is over - its been a real epic which has taken us from the southern most point of Africa over the entire continent to the Sudan, through the Middle East and Europe and to one of the business capitals of the world. We've travelled from the Atlantic ocean to the English channel taking in the Indian ocean, the Red sea, the Mediterranean, the Adriatic and the Aegean. We've been to the highest point in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro, and the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea. We've checked out the Limpopo, the Zambezi, the great Nile, the Seine and the Thames. We've fought the Sudanese bureaucracy, the diabolical Ethiopian roads, the manic Syrian drivers and the massive European fuel prices. We've relished the ancient churches in Lalibela, Vic Falls, the pyramids of Meroe, the ancient city of Palmyra, the mind-blowing Venetian cappuccinos and the migrating herds of the Masai Mara. From Zanzibar to Petra its been a roller coaster ride and its been so worth it! Not only have we got a pretty good idea about just how far London is from Cape Town but we have learned a heck of a lot about the world and more importantly about our place in it. We have dispelled the media gloom about Africa and discovered it to be a genuinely fantastic and worthwhile place to visit. We've learned a lot about ourselves and each other (and Land Rover maintenance) and, all in all, feel dead ready for a boring, settled life!
So, I guess this is the last Bush Telegraph. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as we have. Thanks so much for all your support and the "save the Bosman's campaign" suggestions – your emails have honestly kept us sane! Don't despair though - we may not be gallivanting through Africa but if our last couple of days in London are anything to go by we will continue to have adventures. So watch this space for the "Bosman's London letter" - first edition expected in Jan! If you want to "unsubscribe" (or subscribe) as it were, let us know and we will take you off our list – no offence taken, guaranteed!
lots of love
Penny and Neville