There are many great things invented in Britain, and one of them is the rubber band. Stephen Perry, a British inventor, patented it in England on 17th March, 1845.
It therefore came as no surprise that the other people on our Exodus tour group – all English, yet in various occupations and stages of life – bound together quickly, easily and loosely, like different pencils inside a rubber band.
Everyone was there for the right reasons – an appreciation of travel and the desire to explore new places. Despite the very divisive election taking place on 12th December, only four days into the tour, there was practically no discussion of Br-Exodus, or the man who boomeranged Kabul now ruling the country. When people did speak of Blighty, it was only in passing – the town they lived in, the best road to take to work, or the record shop where they’d first listened to Hocus Pocus by the Dutch progressive band Focus.
This was a band of Brits at their best, showing in time honoured Chaucian tradition how regional eccentricities, good-humour and quirky cooperation makes for wholesome travel. And for me, as an expat Brit, it was wonderful to share a fellow country person’s spirit, once treasured, never lost.
From the start, there was competition for who talked the most. Sujan, the tour leader, won that award hands down.
The same for the best driver. Despite Kate’s intention to helm a tuk-tuk, even the bus, Dharme drove us safely to the end.
Without Saman, everyone would have had the wrong bags – and no water.
Nor was there any shortage of jokes, with impromptu comedy from almost everyone. Nelson had a persona and wit to match Eric Morecambe, while his partner, Anita, cleverly numbered, indexed, and filed his world series of Asian elephant shirts. Then there was Simon, who knew all the right buttons to press, and when he wasn’t relaxing in the pool or reading a book, loved to play Nelson along.
We were always well briefed. Sujan gave out maps, notes, and Sinhalese name badges at every opportunity. We were well organised too. Matthew, taking leave from his job at Universal Export, set up a What’s App group to disseminate information. His list of the best restaurants proved essential, while his phone had a gadget capable of analysing an elephant’s retina from a distance of five miles away. We would have the best photos. The best elephants. And we’d avoid the worst of the hotel buffets, the lukewarm curries, and desserts that all tasted the same.
There were more comrades too. Tom and Linda with their Apollo length lenses and professional safari clothing. No bird, however tiny, was going to escape their attention. James and Clare, game for anything, and well stocked with peanut based chocolate bars and marathon desserts. And of course, Susan who despite her gentle nature was probably the most adventurous person of all. No one else dared travel in a tuk-tuk going at the speed of sound to a distant temple, yet she returned as cool as Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, unscathed and unshaken.
If Stephen Perry were alive today, no doubt he would have joined our tour. Who knows what he would have invented in the country he knew as Ceylon? Coconut noise-cancelling headphones? Cinnamon self-masticating facials? Or a bamboo selfie-stick?
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb.