The sweet sounds of ‘Blowing in the wind’ drifted down the street from the open upstairs window. The guitarist also had a good voice.
I went into the hotel and found the staircase. I went up to the door and listened for a while to make sure I had the right room.
I hammered on the door.
‘Senor Conte. Per favor, stop that dreadful noise!’
The playing and singing stopped abruptly.
I heard the door being unlocked and Senor Conte opened it slowly to see who was complaining about his superb playing and singing. He did not look very happy.
I grinned at him.
‘Sergio! Como estas?’
His face changed from anger to a big smile very quickly.
‘Jerome! Muy bien, y tu?
We had a big manly hug, Italian style.
I first met Sergio on the four night trip up lake Malawi on the Ilala ferry in October 2000. He hadn’t changed at all. His long brown hair still flopped around his face and he was still very brown.
Sergio is not your normal Italian playboy. He is cast from a different mold. He works in the family business on the Island of Ischia just off Naples. The company designs and makes shop signs and banners. Every year for three or four months he sets off to backpack around a different part of the world. When we met he was doing the Cape Town to Dar Es Salam route.
When the Ilala pulled in at one of the many stops between Monkey Bay and Nkhata Bay we got on board one of the lifeboats used to ferry people and goods from the shore.
As we got into the boat Sergio went aft and told the helmsman he was now taking control.Have you done this before?’
‘I am a Sea Captain’, replied Sergio authoritatively and gave the poor man no chance but to acquiesce.
Sergio grabbed the tiller and pushed the throttle as far ahead as it would go. Black smoke belched from the side of the boat as the ancient engine whirled itself into life. We accelerated away from the ship and headed for the shore. All the rest of the passengers were smiling and laughing as Capitan Sergio led us in.
He always travels with his guitar, playing and singing his way from place to place.
When he sent me an email saying he was starting his next holiday in Guatemala and then heading south through Central America to Columbia and Venezuela we simply had to meet up.
Visit www.fowb.co.uk for more details on this and previous trips.
Posted by Jeremy Bullard at March 05, 2004 06:40 PM GMT
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