“Where everyone knows your name” is now published by Bradt Travel Guides. The tale takes place in tiny Wimbí, an Afroecuadorian village along the farthest reaches of the Cayapa River, as it snakes its way through the Chocó rainforest. Separated from the Amazon by the Andes, the Chocó is remote, barely explored, and bloody hot.
You produced gifts, all the more romantic for their simplicity. A fiery sunset, a conch shell, almost intact. A fresh coconut, a mango and a bitter green lemon. I devoured the fruits, an internal embrace, you infused me inside and out. In some ways you were very traditional in your tastes. You offered up flowers: ginger, hibiscus, in all the colours of your Caribbean sunset.
There is an island off the coast of Cartagena de Indias, far from the sounds of horses and carts clattering over cobblestones, from the salsa drum that drifts through shuttered windows. The island is near silent – the Caribbean heat is brutal here, and nothing can bear to move.
“England, huh? So what language do they speak there?” It sounds like the punchline to a rubbish joke, but this was a question I was once asked by a Panamanian boat driver. As we cruised between Caribbean islets, I wasn’t exactly feeling close to home, but the question reminded me just how far away I really was.
I’ve long held the belief that when you want something badly enough, the whole universe conspires to make it happen – and never more so than when you’re travelling. My entire solo trip across South America seemed to be a happy chain of conspiracies – including when I awoke on an epic Bolivian bus journey …
These stories were told at Uganda’s Ndere Cultural Centre. I went to a cultural evening there after having lived in the country for six weeks, and the stories summed up my experiences – of making friends, working, travelling, my daily Ugandan life and frustrations – rather beautifully.
In town, across the twinkling waters, the bugs are fewer, replaced by leech-like men: loco locals and pickled expats, attracted to light eyes and freckles and exposed skin like moths round a candle. “Hermosa” they say “Que bella!” They give you a hibiscus, a blessing, a kiss on the back of your hand, and their bloodshot eyes are mournful and lost and lonely.