TRAVEL: HOLIDAY DISASTERS

She had all the right gear for her African adventure, but there was just one little thing that Jessica Wood had forgotten to pack ...
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The Independent Travel
n a rather pioneering move, my best friend and I had decided to go on a three-week tour of Africa in a truck. I say pioneering because we are not renowned for our sturdiness, ability to cope with trucks, or for having any interest in Africa.

All was well when we arrived in Victoria Falls to meet the rest of the group. We were introduced to our courier and driver and loaded our rucksacks on to the truck. The courier asked if we all had our yellow fever certificates. I remembered, on leaving the house, catching sight of mine lying on the hall table and thinking: "Oh, yes, I've had that", and breezing into my taxi. I was unaware that Tanzania had virtually dispensed with yellow fever. Consequently it was strict about people entering the country being fever-free.

On telling the courier that I had no certificate, I still hadn't grasped the severity of my plight. She frowned. The rest of the group gazed on in disbelief. "Didn't you read your instruction pack? It was written in capitals at the top of your 'things to bring' list. You didn't know this would be a problem in Africa?" It was becoming clear that they were to be saddled with two clueless townies on their trip of a lifetime.

Breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of my own stupidity, I cast about for some advice. The driver had now been told and he was striding over. "Right," he began, glaring at me, "the authorities are very strict and they won't let you into Tanzania. If you don't sort it, I'll have to leave you at the border."

As he strode off, I ran after him. "I'll phone my mum," I garbled, "she might be able to fax it."

"Fax? Over here?" he snorted. "Anyway, I am sure the border would never accept a fax."

"Do you think we go anywhere near a doctor who could give me another certificate?"

"What, in the bush? There's a hospital in Malawi, but we'll only be stopping for half-an- hour. Anyway, that's for people with real medical problems."

It transpired that the driver and the courier were a couple, and though the courier would possibly have been helpful on her own, her blind adoration of the driver meant she was compelled to show solidarity with him at all times.

Meanwhile, our popularity with the group dwindled ever lower - our complete inability to put up our rather complicated tent was at first a source of amusement, but began to irritate as we systematically borrowed and lost the torches of every member of the party as we crashed about in the dark every night. This crisis would worsen in the morning, when we had to take down our tents and fit them into their tiny bags. The entire truck, packed and ready to go, would watch as we jumped, lay and walked over our tent in an effort to flatten it, while the driver shouted that he was leaving without us. The situation was resolved when I found a doctor willing to sell me a certificate for a large amount of money, and I passed over the border into Tanzania without event.

As we all left the truck at Nairobi on the last day, the rest of the group shook hands with the driver and presented the courier with gifts. When they came to us, however, neither side could cope with the hypocrisy and we all just shook our heads in disbelief and escaped to our respective hotels.

Share your holiday nightmares by sending a 600-word account to: Holiday Disasters, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. E-mail: sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

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