“Just do it”, ”Life be in it” and “seize the day” are common enough motivational and marketing phases so it’s refreshing when you meet ‘the real deal’.
J.M. is a mid sixties female patient of mine with significant asthma. You could imagine her in the CWA or playing bingo at the local RSL. Scratch the surface and you find a hard core travel pedigree that would make a 1970s adventure surfer blush with envy. A couple of years ago she spent 3 months in West Africa travelling through some of the poorest and ‘wildest’ countries in the world. Solo and overland using local transport she travelled across Senegal, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Mali. Places that have most of us reaching for a map just to locate. Inhospitable deserts and lush jungles revealed their secret gems to her such as the amazing mud mosque of Djenne, built in 1907. See right.
As I lived her tales vicariously, sitting my clinic in Maroochydore I was in awe of her river boat [known as a passasse trip up the Niger River, Mali to the legendary Timbuktu [or Tomobouctou – it sounds great in French].
No European returned alive from Timbuktu until 1868. A similar trip was once described as ‘for those who like their pleasures lonely and their comforts few’.
Now as far as ‘out there’ trips go it’s hard to top the Sahara and West Africa but, of course ,she did .2012 saw her overland from Georgia [where’s that map], Armenia, Iran, Pakistan, China and Mongolia. This carves a huge slice through the Middle East and Asia.
Of course, travel like this is not without drama. At the Iran-Pakistan border she has to have an army escort and travelled on a bus filled with fifty Bangladeshi refugees. No food or water was provided for them for the 18 hour 600 km ‘journey from hell’ so she was able to buy bread and distribute it through the bus. They, and she, survived and she travelled on along the Karakoram Highway-the highest paved road in the world from Abbottabad, Pakistan to Xinjiang in China. This highway is known as ‘the Friendship Highway’ in China and is also known as the ‘ninth wonder of the world’.
Friendship Highway. Earthquakes and floods had cut the road and she needed a
three hour boat trip to link up road sections
Boating in the mountains.
Aggressive border guards and lack of facilities [worse than the Sahara] were balanced by warm, friendly locals happy to help her out or put her up for the night if needed. This proved, once again, regardless of politics, people are generally kind the world over-especially for the PREPARED TRAVELLER.
J.M. is 2nd from the left with an escort of border guards.
Speaking of being prepared please read this post by a travel nurse in Uganda on the International Travel Medicine website.
“In travel medicine we talk of “risk assessment” but we must also clearly ask patients/travellers what level of “risk acceptance” that they are prepared for. Even in Uganda, many new expats seem to think that all magic will happen if they are sick/injured and they will be whisked away to a fully equipped and staffed “developed world type” ER – which of course is usually not the case. When orienting new expats to the health issues in Uganda – I always stress, with a lot of emphasis, if you have a car accident here, be prepared that there is no 911! The first people on the scene will take your wallet, watch, computer, and iPhone. The next people will be the good Samaritans and they will do their best to put you in the back of a pick-up or taxi and take you to the nearest (which is not usually the best) clinic. Travellers and expats to remote areas and developing nations must understand that they do take significant risks with their lives/health and they should be prepared if the worst happens”. Cindy Rugsten RN BN DTM AFTM RCPS (Glasgow) Travel Medicine Nurse Specialist