The Story So Far …..
It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – ///tall.logo.select – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the middle of the desert ion Turkmenistan (///ironing.wink.quite) at which point I chose the next of our eighty words – basket.
“Can you stop whistling that tune?” If there is one thing worse than a talking dog, it’s a whistling dog. Lucy ignored me and continued with a somewhat tuneless rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. “And as I have already told you, there are no lions around here – I’ve looked it up”. Lucy continued with her whistling – “..In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight”. She was feeling pleased with herself as it had been my choice of word that had propelled us into the Bundas municipality of the Moxico province of Angola. In our quest to go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, we had come to ///ironing.basket.quite which was a kind of scrubby plain with not many people and a lot of zebras and wildebeest.
Angola, sadly, is as famous for its long running civil war – which came to an end in 2002 – as most other things. The country itself, and Moxico province in which we were, are equally famous for one of the most destructive and terrifying legacies of that war – land mines. Someone has calculated that there are still between 10 and 20 million unexploded land mines in situ in this wretched country, a couple for every living citizen. Each day, each week, each month they provide a harrowing reminder that the price of war can be as enduring as the metal caskets that were buried in the fields, along the paths, and by the roads. As Lucy and I walked across the open plain we might have been risking our lives much more than when we flirted with the murder capitals of Honduras, or the deserts of Turkmenistan.
But, Lucy and I were lucky. We inhabit a virtual world – a world in which children maimed by exploding land mines can be conveniently sidestepped, a world in which poverty can be forgotten about, a world in which deforestation is rarely seen. And so we walk on, trying to spot wild animals, or, even better, a decent hotel with rooms for the night. So in this virtual world of ours there were zebras quietly grazing, wildebeests getting wild over nothing in particular, and the odd hyena casting a curious glance or two in the direction of my travelling companion. I tried to distract her with information.
If you look this area up on Google, you see it is famous for the Tsessebe, which is a large antelope. We watched one or two pass by but Lucy was unimpressed. “They seem to have far too many “s”’s and “e”’s in their name for their own good, she remarked as she kept a weathered eye on a gathering pack of hyenas.
I delved back into Google and did an image search for Bundas Municipality, Angola, and then quickly wished that I hadn’t! (Don’t try this at home if you are of a nervous disposition!). I managed to clear the search results before Lucy managed to see it. She was more interested in the hyenas. She’d obviously attempted to engage them in canine conversation – saying something or other about her Aunty Miriam having been descended from a hyena – and it hadn’t gone down well. The pack of hyenas seemed to be viewing her more in terms of lunch rather than a visiting celebrity taking part in a dog version of “Who Do You Think You Are”
“Let’s go,” she whispered. “Where to?” I replied. The nearest town of any significance was Lumbala, the administrative centre of Bundas, but in terms of fine hotels, posh bars, and entertaining nightlife, it would come a distant second to Cleethorpes on a wet Tuesday in February. The alternative was to cross the border (only five miles to the east of us) into Zambia and then head north to the town of Zambezi. It didn’t take much thinking about. Lucy started whistling “Zambezi” and we started for the border. The eighty mile walk to the town of Zambezi would have been arduous if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were doing it virtually, and therefore it was virtually over before it had begun. Before you could say “open sesame” to a Tsessebe, we were unpacking our suitcase at the Royal Kutachika Lodge Hotel overlooking the Zambezi River and trying to decide whether to book a day trip to see the Victoria Falls or go Tiger Fishing in the river.
We decided on neither but went to the bar instead for a well-earned drink, but for the first time on our trip around the world I was met with canine discrimination. “Sorry sir, no dogs allowed,” the doorman explained. And so we finished up at the appropriately named “Poorman’s Restaurant” – who, since 1984 have been “striving to offer satisfactory service to people of all status in life.” If you visit the restaurant now, you might notice that someone has amended the proclamation by adding “… and dogs” at the end of the statement.
As we returned to our hotel room we ticked off another word, another country and another continent on our round the world adventure. “Your turn to choose our next word”, I reminded Lucy. “What do you want to put in your ironing basket? “Shirt!”, I think she replied, although I couldn’t be sure because at that precise moment we heard the call of a hyena in the distance. So, for whatever the reason, that’s where we are off to next – ///ironing.basket.shirt.