A-Z of Travel in Africa

A is for Anopheles, a murderous little bastard who drinks your blood and thanks you for it by infecting you with malaria. Also for Adoption, which gives African orphans the chance to be exposed to a life of isolation and domestic discord. Also for Amputees. Thanks to the gentleman who invented the land mine, Africa will always be strongly represented at the Paralympics.

B is for Beer, a liquid asset that is used everywhere for Bartering, Bribing and all matters Bibulous. Also for Borders, the crossing of which involves grovelling for the privilege of bringing foreign currency into an impoverished country.

C is for Coconuts, a hardy thug of a fruit that launches aerial attacks with lethal consequences. Also for Crayfish, Chickens, Cashews and Cassava. In Africa, it is safe to eat anything that starts with a C, except Children, who are full of bones. Also for Colonialism, a superb system that gave Africans the chance to learn French, Portuguese and English for free.

D is for Darkies. Africa is full of them and members of white supremacist groups are advised to take their holidays elsewhere. Scandinavia, perhaps. Also for Deportation, a useful way of getting home when the money runs out.

E is for Elephants, a large mammal that is kept alive to protect the salaries of endangered white people employed by the World Wildlife Fund. Also for Ebola, a delightful virus that puts a damper on your trip by leaving you bleeding from every orifice.

F is for Fish, Faeces and Fornication, of which there is a healthy abundance in Africa, although Fish comes with fewer consequences.

G is for Goat, an unofficial currency with a good exchange rate. Notoriously difficult to fold up and slip into the back pocket.

H is for Hut, a popular form of housing that comes out well in photographs but less so in hurricanes. Also for Hitchhiking, a method of travel that entails standing on the side of the road until your visa expires. Also for Haggling, a way of supporting local craftsmen while simultaneously destroying race relations.

I is for Instinct, to be used when a red-eyed man wearing little more than a blunt machete invites you to walk with him through the bush to a disused mine where, for the price of a beer, there are emeralds the size of a baby’s head.

J is for Jack, a mechanical device that makes it easier for someone to remove your CD player while you are busy changing the wheel. Also for Jungle Fever, a syndrome that causes unattractive European women to engage the services of lithe Rastafarian lads for the duration of their stay.

K is for Kalashnikov, a Russian whose creation, the AK-47, has gone a long way towards bringing peace and stability to the African continent.

L is for Lesbians, usually spotted at luxury lodges eating their way through the buffet and each other.

M is for Morphine, a medicinal herb from the Morph bush that dulls the pain of a severed limb while enhancing full moons and sunsets. Also for Markets, places of trade that serve as China’s entry point to Africa and your handbag’s departure point.

N is for No, usually accompanied by “thank you” or a sharp blow to the kidneys, depending on the curio sellers’ persistence.

O is for Off-road, a means of getting from point A to point B using endangered species for traction. Also for Organ donation, which, if done voluntarily, can pay for boat trips to Offshore islands.

P is for Police (see Beer).

Q is for Queue, a Western concept rejected by indigenous proponents of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

R is for Rebels, Riots and Revolution. A lot of fun if you have the right T-shirt.

S is for Sunburn, nature’s way of reminding white people that they are not African.

T is for Tipping. After ordering a meal – if paramedics have not arrived to treat you for malnutrition by the time it arrives – it is courteous to give your waiter something. In most cases, suggesting a career working with animals would be considered a good tip. Also for Time and Toilets, neither of which should ever be taken for granted.

U is for Umbrella, a British invention that is used to protect yourself from rain, sun and small boys trying to sell you cowrie shell bracelets. Also for Ululating, a sound made by rapidly vibrating your tongue against the roof of a Swedish girl’s mouth.

V is for Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese chef who introduced flame-grilled chicken to many parts of Africa.

W is for Weapons. No need to bring one from home. Africa is full of them. Impress your lover by taking her down to the beach in a Soviet tank, available at most village markets (see Haggling).

X is for Xylophone, a harmonious traditional instrument that makes a flat, lifeless sound the moment you get it back home.

Y is for Y the hell am I suffocating in the middle of this godforsaken shit-hole when I could be at home eating Chinese takeaways and watching The Simpsons.

Z is for Zirconia, deal-of-a-lifetime “diamonds” that were meant to take care of your retirement but instead left you divorced and homeless.

4 thoughts on “A-Z of Travel in Africa

  1. Karen says:

    Some of us are too poor to pay for a subscription or a newpapr, so the free internet at work is the only way we can read you… *hint hint*

  2. blondeliberation says:

    B is for Bravo BT!

  3. Albert Jack says:

    Most enjoyable. Have you gone subscription only yet…?

    1. Hello mate. Everyone I speak to seems to think subscription sites just don’t work. Too much free stuff on the net. Looks like I might have to go back to writing for papers, if anyone will have me. Enjoying your letters from Hanoi.

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