Saturday, 23 May 2015

Choking on Breakfast

(There's a wide gap between my last post and this one.  My last post was October.  This post is happening right now, today.  I'll still fill in the gaps)

I had what I would call "idle curiosity."  A friend of mine who I've known for ages spent years researching everything that she and her partner wanted to do with their world tour, and planned each step of their travels to the nth degree.  They found odd museums of pickled brains in South America, they ate Ostritch eggs in Africa, and they knew exactly what they wanted to do as they tooled around the globe.

Me...  I did some research, but somehow my heart just never seemed called to a specific thing.  I was curious to go to a place and see what was there, see what the people were like, breathe the air and find out if it was different.  No travelogues I read were inspiring.  No stories of adventures or caving or underground salt mine tours inspired me enough for me to stand up and say "Yeah!  I want to do that.  I'm going to plan that."  I wanted to wander softly through the world.  That was the original plan.  Me, my backpack and the wind would just go wherever seemed like a good idea from day to day.

The one exception was St Helena.  Of all things I found it on a website that talked about the places in the world you would never, ever want to go, like the "doorway to hell."  Places that sound bleak and lonely and impossible.  It painted the 6-day ocean voyage to the island as lonely and empty, and the exile of Napoleon as one of the lonesome and forlorn tourist attractions.  I remember reading the article and thinking "the hell with that, I want to go there."  It was one of the only places I really felt called to go to, during the time that I was planning all of this.  I would wander the world without a plan... except for going to Cape Town, boarding the RMS St Helena, and going to one of the most remote archipelagos on the planet and finding out what the world looked like, smelled like and felt like when the rest of the world was impossibly remote.

The circumstances in my life changed so quickly that the transition from "I plan to go there" to "I'm going there" happened in less than 10 days.  When a voyage takes 24 days back-to-front if you push hard at each edge (2 days to fly there, 6 days at sea, 8 days on the island, 6 days at sea back to cape Town, 2 days to fly home) people don't tend to call the relevant booking agency and say "I'd like to be on the boat in 10 days."

So... the day I was scheduled to get on an airplane for 36 hours they informed me that I needed travel insurance and that I needed accommodation on the island.  I made some inquiries.  What they didn't tell me is that unless I have a specific type of travel insurance (with a specific threshold of repatriation insurance in case of severe injury) and also travel insurance of the appropriate type *they will deny me passage.* I just about choked on my breakfast.  I had flights and accommodations booked in Cape Town before I ever had any idea this was needed, and I was panicked.  In three hours I left to get on the airplane.  I had to have accommodation finalized before I landed.  None of my emails had been successful (the island life), and phone calls seemed abjectly impossible (also the island life, in the middle of the Atlantic with minimal infrastructure).

I took a hail mary pass.  I tested a few phone calls and prayed that the time difference wasn't too great.  One of the B&Bs on the island let me know 10 minutes before the travel office closed that even though they were full, they'd give me a place to stay.  I didn't need to rearrange my whole life around the cancellation of this trip.  I am, indeed, going to St Helena.

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