On Journey

The young woman was crunched up in the corner seat, head leaning towards the grimy window. Her dark, curly hair covered half of her face. A young boy asleep on her lap, his head cradled on her left arm, legs dangling over hers. She was dozing when she suddenly felt something moving up the inside of her thigh. Her free hand flew down to the object, her head turned and her eyes flew open. The man sitting next to her was grinning. She swatted his hand away from her and glared at him angrily. Shifting the young boy around so that he created some sort of barrier between her and the man. He was completely unabashed and went to put his hand on her knee once again. She slapped it again and told him to stop it through gritted teeth. She daren’t shout as everyone else in the dimly lit carriage was asleep. She threw a glance across at her partner who sat opposite, slumped, eyes shut and completely oblivious of what she was going through. Her young daughter was fast asleep snuggled in to the soft and comfy marshmallow lap of an elderly nun who was extremely overweight.

The woman sighed. This whole trip was turning into a nightmare. The journey from Tunis to Casablanca was much more complicated than they had first thought. On seeing a railway route through the three countries it had seemed like a good idea. Now though, crammed into an eight seat carriage with 9 adults (including three very overweight nuns) and two children, with a man sitting next to her who couldn’t keep his hands to himself she was desperately tired. But every time her eyes closed he would try to grope her. What was it with these Arabic men that gave them the right to touch foreign women in this way? It had been the same in Pakistan some years ago and it made her feel very angry. They didn’t treat their own women in this way, but western females were fair game it appeared. Even women who were obviously in a relationship and mothers!

Whilst she was regretting not carrying a penknife and imaging what she would like to do with it, one of the nuns suddenly began to fit. Her whole body started shaking and her arms flailed out hitting those next to her. Her body slid down onto the floor of the carriage. The Algerian man leapt up and pulled the communication cord. The train braked so quickly that everyone was thrown forward by the motion. The screeching of the brakes whilst the train came to a halt was replaced by clanking noises as everything cooled down. Then silence. The people in the carriage looked at each other. The woman on the floor continued to twitch. There was no room to get to her and see how she was. Minutes went by. The western man in the corner opened one eye and looked around, he groaned in pain, closed his eye and went back to sleep. The little girl woken by the noise began to cry and was soothed back to sleep by her mother. Suddenly there was a tapping on the window. The young woman was startled to see a face pressed against it from outside.  The Algerian moved to open the top part of the window and had a short and furious conversation with the man outside who turned out to be the guard. Because the train was so full it was impossible for him to walk down the corridor to the carriage. It also appeared that they were in the middle of nowhere and would not be able to remove the nun until they reached a bigger town some miles away. The woman looked out into the opaque blackness from where no help was coming.

Throughout the night the train stopped at unlit stations and people got off the train. Fortunately not many got on and gradually the corridors emptied sufficiently for the nun to be taken off at one of the larger towns. Dead or alive it was difficult to tell. She had received no medical attention and had eventually become still. The young woman held hands firmly with the Algerian man for the rest of the night.

Eventually, somewhere around dawn, the train pulled into the station in Oran where it terminated.  The family had to change here for a train to the Moroccan border at Maghnia / Oujda. The woman picked up her rucksack, gathered her children and asked about her partner’s health. The Algerian man shook their hands, still grinning and totally unconcerned by his behaviour on the train and then waved them goodbye.

The family of four found seats in an open carriage around a table. Alone. The exhausted young woman was finally able to close her eyes. For now.

~wander.essence~ | On Journey


home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

It is my birthday today. A significant number though not one of the BIG ones. Seems big enough to me though. So I am going to indulge in a bit of nostalgia today. This photo is from a place I used to live in, a place I used to love and where I spent several years with my then young family, the youngest of which was born just a few miles further along the coast from here – he is older now than I was then.

Muizenberg is my favourite beach in the entire world. I might be slightly biased as it was my home for several years and I lived only a 5 minute walk away from this beautiful white sandy beach with its iconic beach-huts; a favourite beach with surfers with stunning views across False Bay to Cape Point. It was a dream location with the added bonus of seeing whales in the bay during the winter. A sight I shall never forget no matter how old I am.

Square September: Pink

Becky’s September square photo challenge Day 27!  She would like us to share photos which embrace ‘pink’ –  there could be pink in the photo, the subject or photographer could be ‘tickled pink’*, or indeed looking ‘in the pink’*.  A photo that manages to do all three things is the ultimate offering.

tickled pink and totally terrified as these three lions headed towards us in Addo National Park, South Africa

*in the pink’ means in perfect condition, or in good health, and ‘tickled pink’ means delighted.

September Squares | Pink

If you would like to read more about this incredible experience then please take a look at Loads of Ellies

home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

Visiting the African penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town in 2008 we came across this young guy sleeping in his wheelbarrow. Obviously exhausted from his efforts to keep the dunes tidy. Whenever I see this photo it makes me smile and brings back memories of those delightful and comical creatures who have colonised what was once considered to be a prime beach on the peninsula.

I can still recall the long row of parked cars along the roadside in the summer months making it impossible to visit the beach back in the 1970s.

Mmm… now where does that remind me of?

home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

This picture takes me back to the 26 day camping trip I took travelling around southern Africa. Although I lived in South Africa for many years I never had the time, money or opportunity to visit neighbouring countries other than a brief trip to Mozambique and Swaziland in my pre children days. In 2000 I went on this journey of a lifetime recorded as a diary on this blog. If you haven’t read about it then please click on the links below. The picture is of  a Sociable Weaver nest. In the Namib Desert these nests can become so large and heavy that they bring the tree down. They are the largest nest built by any bird and may house over 100 pairs of birds. They sometimes build them on electricity poles causing short circuits in the rainy season and fire in the dry season. One look at it and I remember the dryness and the heat of that region. When the hairs in your nostrils smell as though they are being singed, you know it is hot.

  1. Week One – Cape Town to the Orange River
  2. Week Two – Namibia
  3. Week Three – Christmas in the wet
  4. Week Four – Finding Rhino