Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kooky Characters in the Karoo

One of the most interesting things about traveling is the people you meet. We've met all sorts of interesting characters. Last night was a classic example of the social outliers you meet while backpacking around in the middle of no where. We are currently in Nieu Bethesda, a tiny town located at the end of a long dirt road connected to a paved road which is a long way from just about anywhere. Last night Nayan and I were lounging on some plywood benches out front, when an elderly gentleman appeared wearing one very old sandal and one large hiking boot, neither the laces on the boot, nor the straps on his sandals, were done. He had a neatly trimmed white beard, and looked about 65 years of age. We started chatting and he described himself as retired and permanently in a state of travel with his shortest travels to his homeland of England. The gentleman described his 50+ year career as that of a "bureaucrat serving bureaucrats bureaucratically." Something about a now disbanded office of government real estate assistance related services. He has been traveling non-stop for over 7 years now, having been to any country I could think to name for many months on end. The town we're in is infested with mosquitos right now, so I was making small talk about the annoying creatures. He said he had no idea there were any, saying, "they don't bother me any more." When I asked him about his shoe, he related this story, "A few weeks ago I was in a very rural area in the Northern Cape camping in a backpackers place surrounded by the usual razor wire and ADT signs. In the middle of the night I awoke and 2 thieves demanded I give them my wallet. I started shouting and yelling and raising quite a ruckus. The thieves were annoyed I wouldn't give them anything so they stole one of each of my shoes which were outside my tent. They did this just to spite me." He laughed and then said, "fortunately for me they took one right and one left shoe, so I am hardly affected. I refuse to buy new shoes just to show them that they did not win."

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