The DLR went past my work. I didn’t realise at first, but it must have been a new line, as it normally terminated at Bank Station. I boarded and travelled along the South Bank towards home. I wasn’t sure which direction it was heading in, so I alighted at a station that was given a number as a name. The rails were at street level and got narrower and closer together. I couldn’t see any more DLR trains.
Renja was using the internet, so I decided to go for a walk around my neighbourhood. I took a few turns and ended up walking into a shop by mistake. Dazed, I asked for a tube map, and they tried to sell me a fancy one for £89. I told them it wasn’t quite what I meant, and I left.
The shop was just off Druid Square, which I had never heard of until now. The square was full of strange market stalls and shops, such as one with a dead cow that had been cut into meat but still retained its shape. There were also druids chanting and people making potions. It looked like it was a theatre set, and even the sky looked fake. I made a note to come back again another day.
I tried to retrace my steps and ended up in a much quieter and more run-down square. There was a large sea lion, and a dog had bounded up to it. The sea lion started viciously attacking the dog, which had in turn reacted equally violently. It looked like a fight to the death, and they kept tumbling closer to me. I sought shelter on a tin roof that overlooked the square. The dog tried to climb a tree to escape. I called the police and told them that the dog was being “savaged”. Some hipsters walked past and I warned them not to go close to the sea lion, but it was gone.
I found myself back at the map shop. The owners had tried to put the expensive map in my backpack. I did something to offend them, and had to run away. I pushed through a metal gate, and promptly took four right turns, and was back at the shop. I had lost the guy who was chasing me, but one of his friends had stayed behind. I ran up a steep hill, taking a bike on the way. It was in top gear but I managed to pedal away, until the man had disappeared behind the brow of the hill.
I watched the staff secure a bungee chord for a jumper, and decided that I now knew how to tie one. Renja volunteered and I got everything ready to go. I wasn’t sure how many times to twist the rope around. There were no fasteners, just knots. She was getting impatient and said that it would be fine, and told me to chill. I wanted to wait for an actual staff member. A queue was forming, and everyone was of the opinion that I had tied the knots correctly.
I missed Renja’s jump, and she missed mine. We went back to our car; there was a large family hanging out on it, so we had to wait for them to leave. A nearby car had free WiFi.
Renja became fidgety and started looking around. She had arranged to meet a local woman. We were in Rwanda, and the woman was a disabled ex-pat from the Netherlands, who had come here to get fresh air and live an easier life. She drove us along a muddy highway, through jungle and past some atmospheric volcanic cones. Her house was in the middle of nowhere, but had a neighbour right next to it. The road outside had a roof. The ex-pat had prepared berry flavoured ice blocks for us and her other guests. The other guests recommended the blueberry ones, and said that the grey ones were awful. Renja had already scooped up all the non-grey ones.
I was walking back home from Limehouse DLR station. It was late at night and there were junkies milling around. One was in a shopping trolley with a needle in hand, and paramedics were taking him away. I noticed a different exit to the station that was on the other side of the road. I followed the people who were getting off the train.
I went up a narrow pedestrian path that climbed a hill. There were fewer people around, and I became lost. I started climbing a much steeper hill, then realised that I didn’t live on a hill, so must be going the wrong way. I leant over a fence to see if I could see where I was, and dropped the cash I had been carrying. It blew down the side of the hill, and I chased after it. It had landed in front of a homeless woman. She gave the notes back, so I decided to reward her for being honest. There were three notes – £20, £10 and £5 and I accidentally gave the £20 note. She told me the story of how she was made homeless, and it was caused by Liverpool University.
I walked towards home with my hands in my pockets, keeping hold of my wallet and phone as there were a lot of dodgy looking people around. Then, the homeless woman reappeared with a friend, and tried to steal my remaining money. I managed to fend them off, and felt angry that I had believed her sob story.
There was a diving cave in an old mine shaft. To dive 100 metres down, Renja and I had to first take a water slide. There was then a rest area and several capsules with collapsible floors. You had to go into them four at a time, and the staff would release a lever and send you down. I waited until everyone else had dropped before trusting it.
100 metres below the surface of the water, there was somehow a dry area with furniture and appliances. It kind of looked like a staff room. Simultaneously, it was full of water, although we didn’t need any diving equipment. We had to go back to the surface slowly, so as to avoid getting the bends. The staff let us go by ourselves, so I didn’t know how slow I had to go. At the surface was the most beautiful coral garden, the best part of the tour.
Our last stop was to one of the villages on an island next to Antarctica. It had a really long Inuit name, but they spoke English there. It was part of Chile but right on the coast of Antarctica, so it was freezing cold. The main street was lined with fancy shops and restaurants, but the rest of the island was very sparse and barren, and had very few houses or people.
I found a place to sleep in a rough hut that had two rooms. One was heated and one was not, and for some reason I chose the cold room to sleep in. It became colder and colder, until I decided to look around outside. I was in a hostel, so I realised I had to pay to stay there. It cost 17,000 pesos.
During the long evening, I saw several animals hunting, including a wolverine. There were warning signs for bears.
Renja had gone off to the local school, and I stayed behind. There was a scratch at the door, and I realised it was a grizzly bear trying to get in. I shut the door and latched it, and had to hold on while the bear tried to get in. After about half an hour, it went away. I was worried about Renja, so headed to the school.
There were dozens of grizzlies in the school grounds. One of them saw me and charged.
I had entered a Britain-themed speech contest. It was titled “Zealandia” but I knew that they meant Britain. I was invited to take a seat at a table where some of the other competitiors would join me. We were all sitting in alphabetical order.
I noticed that Alistair Cook, the English cricket captain, was going to be next to me, therefore would speak just before me. I knew he would do a speech about cricket, which was my idea too, so I had to quickly think of another topic.
Alistair came in right at the last minute, with vague, handwritten notes in illegible blue ink on square sheets of baking paper. He fumbled around for a while, rustling the papers, and started speaking awkwardly about the 2003 Ashes series. He gave up after a few moments, amidst awkward clapping. He had written detailed scoreboards down and quickly flashed them at the judges. I hadn’t noticed, but I had already stood up to start my speech, and waited for the organiser to introduce me.
I stopped and started a few times as the organiser kept interrupting me, then staying quiet, then interrupting again as I tried to speak. I eventually began by saying that I wanted to talk about traveling to remote places in the UK that were seldom visited by tourists.
“Good on you!” encouraged the organiser, as others in the room nodded in agreement. I knew it was going to be alright, so started talking about my travels in Shetland.
A Norwegian Air plane was taking off from the airport. It ascended for a while, then sharply dropped downwards and did a loop-de-loop, managing to avoid the mountains nearby. Passengers were live-tweeting the event. It turned out that all planes had to do the same manoeuvre at this particular airport, and our flight was next.
The plane had floor to ceiling glass windows, and this included the front, so we had a great view of the terrifying take off, and all the cockpit controls. The runway was far too short, and soon we were in the air, then dropping suddenly.
“I can see individual leaves”, I remarked to Renja. It felt way too close, but the pilot was extremely skilled and landed us at a nearby airport moments later, in a tiny town called Wellington in the Zimbabwe highlands. He was the only pilot in the world with the necessary skill to take off from that runway.
We waited around for a few moments amongst school children who had scattered to get out of the way of the plane. The runway doubled as a school playground. Way down below, I could see the bright green meadows of the lowlands.
We taxied along a really technical runway. At one point, we went through a tunnel with deep grooves in the side for the wings to fit. I had to steer for a while; it seemed incredibly difficult but then I noticed the plane was actually steering itself. We stopped at the end of the runway and everyone had to get out again.
A white Zimbabwean woman was selling postcards in the main square. There were only three postcards, and they had been written on already. She asked for me to make an offer. I reached for a 50p piece but accidentally pulled out a $5 note. I fumbled around for the 50p piece, and she gave me one card when I presented it to her.
There was a cottage for rent in the highlands. We decided to make an enquiry.