“Make love in a hammock! Life is the ultimate experience, and you have to live it to write about it”, said the English teacher in the 1980s film The Sure Thing, starring John Cusack. To me this makes perfect sense (writer or not), for the garden is colourful, wonderful beyond words, experience it and live life. So along these lines, here’s three adventurous things to do while travelling, which you’ll never forget.
1. Trek through Madidi National Park
Touted as the most biologically diverse place on earth, Madidi National Park is nothing short of astounding. A virtually impenetrable fortress, teeming with life forms one only reads about, the place sits in the north-east corner of Bolivia. I had the good fortune to venture there one Bolivian summer.
After being dropped up river and left in the jungle, my companion and I were circled by a jaguar one night, before we crossed a river on foot, chopped down trees, and built a raft (all under the instruction of an amazing guide). We were covered in bees, flies and ticks daily, and I had a botfly maggot living in my leg for weeks after the trek. Not for the faint of heart.
2. Ride a third class train in India
I happened upon this only because I ran out of money in Bodh Gaya. Having just enough to get to Calcutta in third class, I walked down the platform with my huge pack, reeling at the thought of my fate. Seeing the ludicrously congested carriages, with bodies sprouting outside like wild bamboo, I kept looking further down for a carriage more sparsely populated.
As the train started to pull away, I realised there was none, so I ran and dived into a sea of Indians. Being tall, I hung my pack on a wire above everyone’s heads, which helped. For eight hours I stood wedged against the wall, barely able to move, while people managed to pass through the carriage selling eggs and spices (by some nimble trick of magic).
It was amazing being amongst the pulse of proletariat India, and by the end of the trip I’d even received a few nods and smiles. One affluent-looking Indian looked at me bemused and asked “why are you here?” Whilst fairly painful, it was also one of the most colourful travelling experiences I’ve had.
3. Take a job as a bicycle courier in London
Working as a bicycle courier in London, not only did I get fitter, a friend lent me a book on the city’s history to rouse my interest, and so began one of the best summers of my life. Dodging taxis and buses at peak hour in Piccadilly Circus, discovering obscure laneways and delights such as St Paul’s Cathedral, all while reading about its fine history. I even once told a London cabbie a short cut.
Getting in with the East London boys, they took me through hidden alleys that were fun and interesting. I felt like I’d been let in on a grand secret. Besides having numb feet in early spring, riding in London was one of my most memorable experiences ever.