There were a lot of times when I was travelling I wished I was totally free of humanity; with no relations to worry about, or worry about them worrying about me; but family is good in other ways, and has benefits such as being a base. The way I travelled back in the 1980s, before all the portable and online technology of today, I may not have kept a diary together, and been able to write the book I did.
First Batch of Diary
The arriving in Rome day of my diary, scanned into a couple of posts ago, was the last of 17 pages of what I think was originally a notepad I sent home to myself from Rome; containing my journey hitch-hiking from west Wales via Belgium, France and northern Spain from August 25th to September 16th, 1987.
Here’s a scan of the envelope, with the postage wrong in typical traveller style:
I don’t know what the situation is now for long-term travellers, I guess most just do it online, but back then you usually relied on getting your mail sent to ‘poste restante’ at post offices around the world, providing a post office address that you planned to visit in a couple of months.
This post is dedicated to a fantastic Italian woman from Milan, and a nice one from Reggio Emilia, and the good Italians I’ve met on my visits there and elsewhere, as well as my fellow campers at Camp Nomentano in 1987!
There’s an old saying that goes something like ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’; but I sightsaw it in a day; well, enough for me, although I probably only saw a small amount of what there is to see, and that from a just the surface category.
A Canadian traveller staying at Camp Nomentano reluctantly went sightseeing with me, showing me around, as he’d already done it. It was an amazing day, with lots of stunning sights on a hot sunny day. We also went to see the busking team at their regular slot. I took three photos: of the Colisseum, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the Altare della Patria ([alˈtaːre della ˈpaːtrja]; English: “Altar of the Fatherland”) [Wikipedia], having to now look up the latter.
After an eventful time in northern Spain my last day was a good one socialising with a fellow worker-traveller in Figueres, home of Salvador Dali. The first day’s diary below covers that. I then hitched across the south of France into northern Italy, where the hitching was good, and the Riviera cliffs to beaches scenery even better. I spent a night sharing a room in Nice with another hitcher I shared a lift with, after his suggestion. I briefly stopped in Pisa and Florence, before reaching Rome, told in the second day’s diary below. The whole journey’s told in my memoir, The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller. If you want to see the diary days in-between these two, please request.
I know there are lots of nice places in Belgium (especially for art and history, such as shown in the In Bruges movie), but I was glad to get out of there after my first day on the continent. It had started well, with a lift from Ostend port to the edge of Brussels, but it was raining all the time there, and it was ages before I got a lift. I later pitched my tent in a field, which flooded after more rain! So I was glad to get into France, which had been my initial first destination before being offered the return ticket to Ostend.
I took my first photo in Lille, featured a couple of blog posts ago in the first of this series looking back at my first travel 30 years ago, and also made my first sterling to foreign currency transaction; in the pre-Euro Europe. Here’s the receipt:
I know countries’ borders are only on maps, ground and water, and not in the weather; and was probably due to it being another day rather than country, but it did dry up in France, and Paris greeted me with hot summer sunshine. More of that next time…
My first travel memoir, The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, was published by Chipmunka, and I have since written several more, available on Amazon.
Travel 25 years has become 30, with a trip to the beautiful Baltic last year to complete my 12 years – marathon every 3 years until 50 – ambition in riveting Riga, Latvia, continuing to enchanting Estonia (Parnu and Tallinn) and holistic Helsinki, Finland; articles published on TravelThruHistory and available from the above links. I’ve also been on trips around the U.K., from Abbey Wood in Kent to John O’ Groats on the northern tip of Scotland and the U.K., and hobo hiked around Yorkshire and Cleveland.
Hobo Travelling Trip Down Memory Lane… Coastal Path
In May I recaptured some of the ethos of my first trip by hiking and camping from Scarborough to Withernsea through Hornsea (about 55-60 miles over three days). Some of the secluded beaches were particularly reminiscent of some of the European deserts if I ignored the sea to the side (seeing Hornsea’s Marine Bar in the desert was like a movie mirage!); while being able to dip into the sea and waking up to the rising sun reminded me of times living on the beach. The birdlife on the chalk cliffs and stacks from Bempton to Flamborough Head looked truly world-class.
Last month I did an even longer walk from Helmsley to Scarborough (about 90 miles over four days), seeing some nice dales scenery, especially around Hawnby, and walked down the Cleveland Way coastal path from Saltburn-by-the-Sea; a picturesque coastal town like a bigger version of the more southerly villages of Staithes, Runswick Bay and Robin Hood’s Bay either side of Whitby.
Secluded beaches above Scarborough were a great way to finish the walk on a sunny Sunday, and the town had great food and drink to replenish and refresh (UNESCO site(s) of future after Lake District celebrating award on weekend!?).
Guns N’ Roses Reunion Trip down Memory Lane… Balmy Day
My visit to Abbey Wood campsite, an idyllic green space replete with wild parakeets in the trees, was to see Guns N’ Roses at the Olympic Stadium, London, with Duff and Slash rejoining last year for their current very successful world tour. The gig reminded me of Wembley Stadium in 1991, which was also hot and sunny.
I was just getting to know Guns N’ Roses’s Appetite for Destruction this time 30 years ago, and it provided the main soundtrack to my travels.
I left on August 25th, 1987, and I’ll hopefully complete this site’s backwards chronology working to that date this year in 2017. My first eleven months journey was originally just supposed to be around Europe, but extended to the Middle-East mainly through a desire for more sunshine warmth over the winter; with tourist sites a secondary factor.
It was immortalised in my memoir The Guns N’ Roses Worker-Traveller, published by Chipmunka, realising an ambition I’d had since reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road: to travel, keep a diary and write a book about it.
That fulfilled my writing ambition, but I’ve continued writing for a decade; fulfilling no more ambitions, for there were none; but creating some new concepts, supporting some good causes and improving my writing.
My name is Marc Latham, and I’m still alive. My story is true, and I’ll prove what I can to you…
Gokyo village (4750 metres, 15,583 ft) is basically a few guest houses on the banks of the third Gokyo lake. It was the end destination of the trek, about 100 miles from its start point in Jiri. Towering above the lake is Gokyo Ri (5,357 metres, 17,575 ft), which provides excellent views of Everest.
Trekking into Gokyo
My camera batteries were low, so I only took one photo after reaching Gokyo, so I could take some on Gokyo Ri the next day. That photo of a Tibetan Snowcock follows my description of arriving at Gokyo’s third lake, and the end of the sun for the day:
The third lake was not far away, and it was a delight to see it on the track’s left at about 1pm. I washed my face in the water, and threw a stone in to celebrate. Gokyo Ri towered above the lake to the north. The village was straight ahead, on the eastern edge of the lake.
Some mist started coming off the lake at about 3.30pm, and more cloud drifted down from the north. The sun started setting above Phari Lapche and Chadoten mountains just after 4pm, and disappeared behind thick cloud over the mountains at about 4.30.