In 2006 I went to Southern Africa on my first overlanding tour. Starting in South Africa we visited Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. The animals and scenery were wonderful. The same couldn’t be said of my tour group…
Anna had grown up as an English girl in the Indian Raj, surrounded by manservants. Early in life she decided to be an actress, so moved to the US and married a famous Broadway producer.
Shortly after appearing on stage, her first film role was as one of Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus in my favourite James Bond film Goldfinger. She then moved to the UK where she starred in Juliet Bravo, a popular 80’s police drama.
Having watched Goldfinger again, and remembering Juliet Bravo from my childhood, much of this was untrue. IMDB would support me on this.
Now in her sixties, Anna had become a devout racist. There were too many African people in Africa for her liking.
She griped about our black driver and black chef behind their backs and found a kindred spirit in a neo-Nazi hotel owner in Swakopmund.
The only time she was upfront about it came when we reached Victoria Falls and booked a helicopter flight. Our pilot came to brief us and she called over the manager “Oh no, we need a different pilot – black people weren’t designed to fly”.
The manager rightly told her to like it or lump it. Undeterred she claimed to be a helicopter pilot, so would keep an eye on him.
Surprisingly for someone so racist, Anna’s best friend was an elderly Japanese lady called Kumi.
Kumi claimed to be a martial arts expert, and would easily catch flies with chopsticks.
Any time a member of the group called Anna out on her beliefs, Kumi would shove them against a wall or tree and jab her rigid fingers against their windpipe.
It’s hard to come off dignified as a man resisting against a small, sixty year old lady, no matter how violent she may be.
Anna and Kumi thought it beneath them to carry their own huge bags, instead demanding that the nearest young chap bring them up to their room. There were only two young chaps (and George who is mentioned below, who didn’t get asked.) so being respectful we would carry their bags upstairs without any thanks.
Any suggestion that we might need a drink or a trip to the loo first was met with the threat of martial arts.
On the last day we stopped at a beautiful bed & breakfast. Our booking included a room at the top of the hotel, looking down over Cape Town towards the sea. Before we’d even got out the bus the elderly pair had gained the mobility to run up the stairs two at a time, and grab the best room.
We left their bags in the bus. This led to a formal complaint to the tour company that fellow passengers had abused them.
Bob and Mrs Bob
Bob was rich. Bob liked to tell everyone how rich he was and quoted an impressive bank balance with lots of zeros. Once we found out the exchange rate to $NZ we realised Bob wasn’t particularly rich.
Bob’s wife was very glamorous but she was always introduced as “My Wife”.
It wasn’t until a few days in we realised we didn’t know her name, so asked around and found that nobody knew, but everyone had a story. Mrs Bob was only allowed to eat small portions. Mrs Bob wasn’t allowed to weigh over 45 kilos. Mrs Bob was instructed to wear tight-fitting clothes and short shorts. Mrs Bob had to do all the shopping, laundry and cleaning.
Mrs Bob seemed to accept all this without a word. Or a smile.
Overly loud, overly tactile and wearing tight pink trousers, there was never any question of George’s sexuality. Also, because he introduced himself on the first day as “I’m George, I’m gay and I’m fabulous”.
Every time we saw animals George wanted to give everyone hugs and kisses.
Every time we saw natural beauty George wanted to give everyone hugs and kisses.
At breakfast, after lunch, after dinner and before bed George wanted to give everyone hugs and kisses.
This was time consuming.
George’s excessive affection was appreciated least of all by the conservative South African rangers and guides.
When we got back to Cape Town. George went out clubbing and met some less than tolerant South Africans. George returned the next day covered in bruises and his wallet and passport stolen.
This distracted an ultra-religious couple from trying to convert me, who hugged and kissed each other with evil glee.
Derek was a farmer’s son and a hunter, so had an uncanny ability to spot animals moving through dense undergrowth at extreme distances.
Derek was also homosexual but didn’t feel the need to tell everyone as a conversation opener. He despised everything about George – particularly how he only defined himself as gay, rather than any profession or talent.
He was assigned George as a roommate…
I’ve completely forgotten his name, but his rapturous face is etched in my memory, hovering millimetres from a red vinyl stool.
Tim had a fetish and didn’t care who knew. Any time we went to a restaurant or bar he would be seen leaning over and sniffing any seat recently vacated by a girl.
Tim was also obsessed over the female tour guide and would sit behind her, sniffing her hair in full view of the rest of the passengers. If called out on it, he’d sit and look glum for a moment, then start again.
I was assigned Tim as a roommate…
Royce and his wife were a wonderful Canadian couple. Their endless supply of stories and cheesy jokes were the only thing that kept Derek and I sane for the 29 days.
Our flight home was cancelled, and only two people could fit on the other plane to leave that day. We launched into a group discussion to see if anyone needed to get home urgently. Meanwhile Anna snuck away (without Kumi) and made sure she was on the first flight. This left the couple that had connecting flights in a quandary.
Poor form Anna.
Just before take-off the airline representative appeared again to tell us that they’d found more space and we could all fly. We boarded the plane, and walked through to Economy to where Anna was sitting in the second row, looking belligerent.
We then turned round and went back to our assigned seats in Business Class and with our complimentary Champagne held aloft moved aside the curtain to toast her unwitting self-sacrifice.
Bad luck Anna.
Who were some of the worst people you’ve travelled with? Share your stories in the comments below.