January 09, 2011 GMT
Transport Of Delight

Have been loading larger photos.
They now go back as far as Tanzania. Much better than the previous small ones.
(Links to different countries are down the right hand side)

We have photos of motorbikes, bicycles, trains, a ferry, an airplane, Nile sailing boats, papyrus canoes, ships in the Suez Canal, camels and elephants, a Transit van, but not many of the true Kings of the African Road, the buses.
I found a few amongst the back-ups.
So, some African buses in full flight, mainly in Tanzania:





I pay a little tribute here to those travellers I met exploring Africa by public transport. That truly is an adventure. I little more so, I suspect, than the luxury of your very own pair of wheels.

Here's another Transport of Delight - border crossings.
Looking back, on the whole, they're OK.
Some are incredibly welcoming, Syria sticks in the mind, and Zimbabwe.
Others are memorable half-day or whole-day projects, like Egypt.
At some, it's difficult to shake off the fixers. Ethiopia, plus one other somewhere between Kenya and Zimbabwe. Don't remember where so it couldn't have been a big problem.
For anyone interested, the only borders on our route where a fixer is necessary are Egypt and Sudan.

This border was about the worst.........

There was a steadily moving, not-very-long queue leading to the passport desk. Just beyond the desk were two growling faces, huge arms folded, steely eyes firing daggers at everyone arriving. One or two more clerks of similar appearance hung about at the sides. This wasn't Uganda, yet there seemed to be more gorillas here than in the western highlands of that country.
At least the queue moved along OK and at last I could see a smiley welcoming face, the Asian-looking woman behind the desk. She was cheerily dealing with each passport, so that was OK. More like the border scenes I had become accustomed to in my progress across Africa.
I wondered if it would be safe to ask someone why the gorillas were hanging around, without the risk of being arrested.
It was a little strange, only one solitary smiley face in the whole immigration room. At all the passport controls up to now, you'd always hear "welcome!" and "how are you?" at least a couple of times.

Now I was closer to the front of the queue. I couldn't work out what the two bouncers beyond the desk were looking at so intently, it didn't seem to be anyone or anything in particular, and the ones at the side were trying to make their folded arms look as huge as possible. Almost as though they wished all these people would go away and not clutter up the room. Really strange. I suppose it stops the knuckles scraping the floor.
I thought maybe they'd start playing "I Wan'na Be Like You" on the PA system. I have it on my MP3 player, I could offer to put it on for them.
No, probably not a good idea. I'd probably not make much more progress on this journey. And I didn't have the player with me anyway. It was outside with my other luggage.
(As always, here's a link in case anyone needs to know what that tune is about)

Just as I was thinking, "Must avoid this country next time......," it was my turn. The immigration officer gave me the same smile as she gave the previous travellers, so I thought I should venture some enquiry about these grim-faced attendants.
The contrast to previous border crossings was so marked.

"Hello, it's nice to get a nice smile and welcome as usual, but what's wrong with these fellows behind you? They don't look too happy!"
"Oh, they're OK. Quite harmless."
I got my passport back, and suggested, "Maybe when you've finished you can try to cheer them up, they look really out of place, not very welcoming."
"Well, I could try, but I think they might be immune to that sort of thing!"

This, for some reason, was definitely the darkest border crossing of any I'd passed through on this African journey.

Then, all was explained.

Beyond was the big sign.

One of those "This is not Africa" moments.

I wondered what to make of it.

It definitely wasn't Africa:

- Welcome To Heathrow -

Pictures directly from the homepage of the 'Welcome to the UK Border Agency' website.
Delightful welcome after over a year away.

Marginally more despair was to follow. Outside I found The English Winter.


It continues to be strange here, having jumped instantaneously from African sunshine to no sunshine.

And I'm grateful to my cousin in Edinburgh who offered the following piece of research she found in a book about modern man, modern society, and the environment.

A lot happens to a white north-European person who suddenly returns to the home country in midwinter after spending a year or more in continuous tropical sun. The rapid change is so great there's a tendency for the body to attempt a regression to the characteristics of the mammals of these northern latitudes. "The returning traveller's physiology may prepare for, or even start to enter, hibernation."
Well! Am I glad to learn that! At last I have the word that describes how things feel since arriving home.
Like I'm about to hibernate.

My computer has a switch: "Restart - Sleep - Hibernate - Shut Down"

Can I have some "Restart" please?

A couple of days ago, the light bulb in my front room blew. A hundred-ish 'equivalent' Watts from one of those energy-saving bulbs. So I put in a traditional 150W tungsten bulb, to get some proper light from white-hot metal instead of from mercury vapour.
Wow, what a difference.
I asked for 'Restart', and my lightbulb obliges!

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