About 15 years ago, I was living in NYC and was obsessed with trying to get a permit to visit Assam, India — a newly opened area of India with fascinating sounding tribal people. I kept being told that the area was not issuing permits to solo travelers, so I finally acquiesced and joined a British Tour group that had permits. Now, I have visited England many times and LOVE the people — particularly when they possess that dry, British, Fish-Called-Wanda humor.
However, this whole group of 12 turned out to be like Wanda, but when she was taken out of her bowl! The most deadly boring, nonverbal excuse for Brits that I have ever encountered. And the amazing part was that they were exceedingly well-traveled, just not into speaking. The only one who would say anything more than “another beer please” was the tour leader, who turned out to be half-Australian.
Since I have been accused of having verbal diarrhea more than once, this was not going to be an easy two weeks for me. I looked around for others to talk to, but soon realized that our little group of 12 had the first and only permits to be granted in the whole state. There simply was no one else that could speak English. About Day 4, when I could no longer stand talking to myself, I stood up at breakfast, ching-chinged my glass, and said, “I have an announcement. I am conducting a contest for who can tell the best travel tale. The topic is “My Scariest Travel Story” and I will buy beers all night for the winner.”
I figured that they had all day to come up with something and the beer bribe should really loosen their larynxes. But when we gathered for dinner that night, it turned out that no one had thought of a story. Finally, after much coaxing, Mark the Tour Guide, stood up and said, “Ok, I have a scary story. It happened a few years ago when another tour guide and myself were on vacation in the Amazon.”
Encouragingly, I said, “Oh this should be good — the jungle can be a very frightening place.” He replied, “Oh it was. My friend and I were all by ourselves, hiking deeper and deeper into the wilderness. We had run out of food and water. It was brutally hot. We had no guide, no map or compass. We were totally lost and knew in order to survive we would have to fend for ourselves — calling forth all our Tour Guide training and knowledge. Needless to say, we were petrified.”
Me: breathlessly, “How long were you lost for? Was it a matter of days or weeks???”
Mark hesitated, shook his head in disbelief, and said,” Oh gee — let me think. It had to have been a good two….no, make that three hours!”