End of story

Share
I once went on one of those overland expeditions. Nairobi to London via Timbuktu. Twenty-two of us crammed in the back of an army truck driven by a muscle-bound, Pom-hating Australian surfie called Rod. It took five months.

We hadn't gone far when I caught amoebic dysentery and ran out of toilet paper. Too proud to borrow from my fellow tourists, I resorted to using pages torn from Shiva Naipaul's excellent travel book, North of South. When I reached the end of the book I used leaves; and on the Serengeti Plains smooth stones, twigs, and handy pieces of desiccated elephant dung. By the time we reached the windy shore of Lake Victoria the dysentery had ceased, but unsurprisingly I had an enormous abscess on the rim of my anus. Probing with my finger tips, it felt about the size of a championship- winning conker. And it hurt, too. It got to the stage where I could barely walk.

Rod was unsympathetic, "Bloody whinging Pom faggot," he said. But he did grudgingly offer to have a look at it for me in order to ascertain whether it showed any signs of bursting.

We were camped among some attractive pink boulders. I led Rod behind one of these, dropped my shorts and bent over. He peered at my behind.

"Mate," he said seriously, "do you think you could part your cheeks a bit?"

I parted my cheeks.

Judging from his response it was the first time that Rod had ever been impressed by any attribute of an Englishman.

"Jeez!" he exclaimed, "D'you mind if I get a photo of that to show the boys back home?" And without waiting for an answer he hurried off to get his camera.

That night Rod generously offered to perform some no-nonsense bush medicine on my abscess. When the guys back home in the bush get an abscess, Rod said, they heat an old milk bottle in the campfire, "get it good 'n' hot," then place the open end of the bottle over the abscess to let the vacuum draw out the poison.

"All things considered," I told Rod, "I think I'd prefer to let the thing run its course."

The abscess burst in Rwanda. I kept the hole clean by sitting in a plastic bowl of diluted Dettol every evening while the others set up camp. I must have presented a puzzling spectacle to the hundreds of locals who turned out to stare at us as part of their evening's entertainment.

In eastern Zaire I was sitting like this, on the ground, shorts around my ankles, bum in the washing-up bowl, when a tiny, malnourished boy stepped forward from the crowd and presented me with a handful of marijuana. The ceremonious manner in which he handed it over suggested that he had identified me as the chief, and that it was a small token of his esteem. In exchange for the marijuana I gave him a banana, which he seemed well pleased with. For my part it was the best drugs deal I have ever done.

Unlike many overlanders, smoking the local dope was low on our truck's agenda. Rod was against it for one thing (it was unmanly) - though he wasn't bigoted about it. But eastern Zaire's marijuana is the stuff of legend, and some of us thought we would be silly not to give it a try. So that night, when Rod had gone to sleep under the truck, I rolled the marijuana in a grubby 10 million Zaire banknote, and set light to the end. Including Marcel, the armed guard, there were four partakers perched around the camp fire.

The joint went round only once. After that it was abandoned and we just sat there in the firelight as if we had been turned to stone. Even Marcel refused it a second time. His feeble gesture of refusal suggested awe, fear and utter weariness. I just sat there like a gonk. If someone had asked me who I was, I would not have been able to tell them. My main concern, as I remember, was whether my head was going to fall off.

Eventually I got down on my hands and knees and crawled into the darkness, hoping to find somewhere private to die. About six hours and 18 inches later, I came upon a sleeping bag laid out on the ground. When I tried to climb in, I found myself on top of Rod, who told me, among other things, how much he hated the English.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas