Around The World In 80 Words : 12. Washing

One of the great delights of travelling around the world powered only by eighty word changes to your what3words geolocation code is that one minute you can be contemplating a volcano in far flung Lombok, and the next you can be strolling along a French boulevard contemplating nothing more challenging than a champagne supper. My faithful companion, Lucy the Labradoodle, and I had travelled half way around the world by doing nothing more than changing ///ironing.basket.shirt to ///washing.basket.shirt. We had been gently lowered to earth on the edge of a field near the village of Creney-pres-Troyes in the Champagne wine region of France, and we headed for the centre of the village with a feeling that, if we were not actually home, at least we were within an exploding champagne cork of home.

There was an easy familiarity about the place: we had never been there before and it was hundreds of miles away from our normal stamping grounds of West Yorkshire, but to veterans of the Arctic Circle, the Turkmenistan desert, and the Angolan plains, such as ourselves, it seemed comfortably normal. As we walked along the road, I remarked to my canine companion that we could have been walking through Gomersal or Batley. All such thoughts were rapidly removed from our minds when some blithering idiot, who was clearly driving on the wrong side of the road, nearly run us down.

Creney-pres-Troyes was quiet, indeed it was slightly sleepy, so we pressed on through the village and heading for the nearest town – Troyes. The town itself is about ninety miles south-east of Paris, and parts of it date back to Roman times. During the 12th and 13th centuries champagne fairs were held in the town and these attracted merchants from all over Europe. The British King, Henry V, married Catherine of Valois in the town in 1420. The town centre still has a wonderful collection of half-timbered houses that date from the 16th Century.

It was towards one of these half-timbered buildings that Lucy and I headed to enjoy our promised champagne supper. All this travelling is all very well, but sometimes you need to just sit down and enjoy the finer things of life: a decent steak, a glass of champagne and a bowl of water. Lucy didn’t seem to like my proposed sharing of this supper, and whilst I was distracted looking at the fine old buildings in the town square, she jumped up and gobbled down half my steak.

It should have been Lucy’s turn to choose the next word, but naughty dogs don’t deserve treats, so I decided to choose for her. As I sipped what was left of my champagne, and tried to pull one of her whiskers from the remaining piece of steak, the decision was made. It’s goodbye to France and hello to ///washing. whisker.shirt – wherever that is!

Around The World In Eighty Words : 11. SHIRT

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point? For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – ///tall.logo.select – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Africa, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was on the plains of Angola in Africa (///ironing.basket.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words – shirt.

“It’s called Lombok”, I said to Lucy as we walked through the rice fields of the Central Regency of the Indonesian island of Lombok. “That’s a silly name,” was the only response I got from my dog who was busy sniffing around to check whether any hyenas had followed us from Angola. “Well, no doubt Huddersfield is a silly name to people from these parts.” I continually tried to fight against the xenophobia of my canine companion, but it wasn’t easy, she was a quarter Labrador after all. Our eleventh word change had taken us to the other side of the world and landed us on a volcanic island east of Java. “Wasn’t there a film with a title something like that?” I asked my dog. She didn’t reply, which is all too often the case.

Lombok is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands which form part of the West Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. As if being part of a chain of islands known by the term “lesser” wasn’t enough to give you an inferiority complex, Lombok is generally described as being “next to Bali”, which is a bit like being described as being the unknown brother of the famous whoever. It even capitalises on this reputation when marketing its tourism, describing itself as “The Unspoiled Bali”, which is a bit like Cleethorpes calling itself the “Unspoiled Las Vegas”!

Dog and owner had come to land in the middle of a rice field, a mile or so away from the Pendem highway in south-central Lombok. There was clearly plenty of farming going on in the area, and there was a fair amount of variety, so I made efforts to discover what was cultivated other than rice. “They seem to have become fixated with the letter C,” I said to Lucy, “like parents who call all their children names starting with the same letter.” “There’s coffee, cotton, cinnamon, cocoa, cloves, cassava, corn, coconuts and copra,” I said, reading from the guidebook. “Not much chance of sausages,” said Lucy, mournfully. “Nor beer,” I added with equal dismay.

Having reached the main road, we were trying to decide where to go. To the west there were beaches, to the north there were monumental volcanoes, and to the south and east there were …. cloves, corn, coconuts and copra. “Do you think they will have any cinnamon rolls?” asked Lucy. I ignored her question and continued my efforts to educate her on the wondrous features of all the exotic places we were travelling to. “Lombok changed the world in the thirteenth century,” I said. Lucy yawned. The 1257 Samalas volcanic eruption was perhaps the biggest eruption in recorded history. Its after effects helped trigger a mini ice age with famines and crop failures throughout the world. There is still volcanic activity in the north of the island, with the most recent eruption having taken place in 2016.

“And there are earthquakes,” I continued enthusiastically. In 2018 there were massive earthquakes in these parts, with hundreds of people being killed.” Lucy had stopped yawning and I detected a return of that troubled look she displayed when we heard the hyenas in Angola. Yet again I was forced to question the suitability of my companion for a life of international travel. We decided to head for the nearest city and find a luxurious hotel, so we could forget about our fears. A quick Google search found that the nearest suitable candidate was the Hotel Queen in Praya, and so we headed for that with a song in our hearts and a purposeful stride in our steps.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, we were a tad disappointed, to say the least. As we stood outside, I read Lucy some of the reviews that had been posted online. “Location is very strategic and pleasant,” said one. “The waiter is very friendly,” said another. “So what’s it to be?” I said to Lucy, “do we take advantage of the strategic location and risk the very, very friendly waiter, or do we choose a new word?” Lucy shrugged, as only a dog can. The decision was clearly mine. “Right,” I announced with a degree of conviction I’m not sure I could justify, “Let’s pick a new word and head off somewhere else, somewhere we can find a decent hotel, a quiet but well-stocked bar, and perhaps even a cinnamon whirl.” “And someone to do our washing” added Lucy as she sniffed my socks.

So off we go again. We’re heading for ///washing.basket.shirt. See you there.

Around The World In Eighty Words 10. BASKET

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – ///tall.logo.select – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the middle of the desert ion Turkmenistan (///ironing.wink.quite) at which point I chose the next of our eighty words – basket.

“Can you stop whistling that tune?” If there is one thing worse than a talking dog, it’s a whistling dog. Lucy ignored me and continued with a somewhat tuneless rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. “And as I have already told you, there are no lions around here – I’ve looked it up”. Lucy continued with her whistling – “..In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight”. She was feeling pleased with herself as it had been my choice of word that had propelled us into the Bundas municipality of the Moxico province of Angola. In our quest to go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, we had come to ///ironing.basket.quite which was a kind of scrubby plain with not many people and a lot of zebras and wildebeest.

Angola, sadly, is as famous for its long running civil war – which came to an end in 2002 – as most other things. The country itself, and Moxico province in which we were, are equally famous for one of the most destructive and terrifying legacies of that war – land mines. Someone has calculated that there are still between 10 and 20 million unexploded land mines in situ in this wretched country, a couple for every living citizen. Each day, each week, each month they provide a harrowing reminder that the price of war can be as enduring as the metal caskets that were buried in the fields, along the paths, and by the roads. As Lucy and I walked across the open plain we might have been risking our lives much more than when we flirted with the murder capitals of Honduras, or the deserts of Turkmenistan.

But, Lucy and I were lucky. We inhabit a virtual world – a world in which children maimed by exploding land mines can be conveniently sidestepped, a world in which poverty can be forgotten about, a world in which deforestation is rarely seen. And so we walk on, trying to spot wild animals, or, even better, a decent hotel with rooms for the night. So in this virtual world of ours there  were zebras quietly grazing, wildebeests getting wild over nothing in particular, and the odd hyena casting a curious glance or two in the direction of my travelling companion. I tried to distract her with information.

 If you look this area up on Google, you see it is famous for the Tsessebe, which is a large antelope. We watched one or two pass by but Lucy was unimpressed. “They seem to have far too many “s”’s and “e”’s in their name for their own good, she remarked as she kept a weathered eye on a gathering pack of hyenas.

I delved back into Google and did an image search for Bundas Municipality, Angola, and then quickly wished that I hadn’t! (Don’t try this at home if you are of a nervous disposition!). I managed to clear the search results before Lucy managed to see it. She was more interested in the hyenas. She’d obviously attempted to engage them in canine conversation – saying something or other about her Aunty Miriam having been descended from a hyena – and it hadn’t gone down well. The pack of hyenas seemed to be viewing her more in terms of lunch rather than a visiting celebrity taking part in a dog version of “Who Do You Think You Are”

“Let’s go,” she whispered. “Where to?” I replied. The nearest town of any significance was Lumbala, the administrative centre of Bundas, but in terms of fine hotels, posh bars, and entertaining nightlife, it would come a distant second to Cleethorpes on a wet Tuesday in February. The alternative was to cross the border (only five miles to the east of us) into Zambia and then head north to the town of Zambezi. It didn’t take much thinking about. Lucy started whistling “Zambezi” and we started for the border. The eighty mile walk to the town of Zambezi would have been arduous if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were doing it virtually, and therefore it was virtually over before it had begun. Before you could say “open sesame” to a Tsessebe, we were unpacking our suitcase at the Royal Kutachika Lodge Hotel overlooking the Zambezi River and trying to decide whether to book a day trip to see the Victoria Falls or go Tiger Fishing in the river.

We decided on neither but went to the bar instead for a well-earned drink, but for the first time on our trip around the world I was met with canine discrimination. “Sorry sir, no dogs allowed,” the doorman explained. And so we finished up at  the appropriately named “Poorman’s Restaurant” – who, since 1984 have been “striving to offer satisfactory service to people of all status in life.” If you visit the restaurant now, you might notice that someone has amended the proclamation by adding “… and dogs” at the end of the statement.

As we returned to our hotel room we ticked off another word, another country and another continent on our round the world adventure. “Your turn to choose our next word”, I reminded Lucy. “What do you want to put in your ironing basket? “Shirt!”, I think she replied, although I couldn’t be sure because at that precise moment we heard the call of a hyena in the distance. So, for whatever the reason, that’s where we are off to next – ///ironing.basket.shirt.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 9 IRONING

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – ///tall.logo.select – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia (///sake.wink.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words – ironing.

“You said it!.” “No I didn’t!” “Yes, you did. I distinctly heard you say it”  

Lucy and I had been arguing like this for what seemed like the best part of an afternoon. In truth, there was little else to do, as we were walking through the Karakum Desert in south-east Turkmenistan. 

“You said “Ironing”, I know you did”, I tried to sound authoritative, which is not easy to do when you are in the middle of a desert with a defiant dog and nothing to sustain you other than a quarter of sherbet lemons.

“It was not “ironing”, it was merely the sound of satisfaction at having located that last piece of Chinese dumpling that had been stuck to my tail.” Lucy said that, which is a good thing as you would have reason to worry if it had been me. “And I hate all this sand, it gets right into your paws.” Lucy said that as well. 

Whether we liked it or not – whether we intended it or not – we finished up with a what3words code of ///ironing.wink.quite, and that had placed us in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. It could have been worse, I suppose, another two hundred and fifty miles south and we would have been in Afghanistan with more than an excess of sand to put up with. I’m not sure than the Taliban are quite ready for a talking dog just yet.

Even if we were to avoid Afghanistan to the south, we were still faced with Uzbekistan to the north, or Tajikistan to the east – it is really difficult to avoid a stan in this part of the world – so I had decided to head west, heading further into Turkmenistan.  

“There’s a city called Mary about fifty miles west of here where there is a hotel with a swimming pool, free wifi, and free breakfasts,” I said after consulting the guidebook.

“Does it have a bar?” Lucy had become quite attached to a glass or two of stout of an evening ever since our trip to Dublin 

“No, I don’t think so,” I said, “but they have a whole selection of fruit juices.” At that point Lucy insisted on consulting the guidebook herself – which was a pointless exercise because she was not a good reader. 

“Let’s go to Merv”, she said, “it’s only thirty odd miles away and is the largest city in the world: surely a dog can get a decent pint of Guinness there”.

“No, no, no,”, I said, “it was the largest city in the world 900 years ago, it’s nothing but a series of spectacular ruins these days.” 

And so the argument continued as we made our way over the endless sand dunes. “Mary”, I said. “Merv” she countered. “Mary”, “Merv.” Eventually I said “Hang about there is a village even closer, only about 12 miles away, we could try that.” “What’s it called?”, asked my dog. I checked the map again – “ahh, no, perhaps not – it’s called Perv.” We continued on through the sand, occasionally stopping to have another chorus of “You said ironing / No I didn’t.”

Eventually we decided that there was nothing for it but to abandon the delights of Turkmenistan and move onto a new word and hence a new location. I told Lucy in no uncertain terms that it was my turn to choose a new word and that we would see a return to something like logic in our word choices. “Seeing that we are stuck with “ironing” for a bit” what about having an ironing basket”, I said. So, look out ///ironing.basket.quite, here we come.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 8. QUITE

“Sorry!” I repeated the apology to yet another driver, as I dragged myself, my backpack, and my five year old labradoodle, Lucy, out of the middle of the road. It was difficult to judge from the look on the drivers’ face, whether he was angry that such a strange combination of man, dog, and luggage was blocking his progress down Wilfred Avenue in the Sydney suburb of Campsie, or shocked that they had suddenly appeared from nowhere as if by some form of supernatural transposition. He had disappeared down the street before I had chance to explain to him that we were seeing if we could get around the world in eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, and the simple replacement of the word “change” by the word “quite” had plucked us from a most enjoyable tour of pubs and bars in Dublin, Ohio and landed us on the other side of the world in the middle of a road. “The thing about these what3word location”, I explained to Lucy, “is that their precision is great if you want to deliver a parcel or rescue someone, but potentially hazardous if you are experimenting with the possibilities of virtual travel” Lucy ignored me, she’d picked up an interesting scent and was dragging me down the street in the direction of the main road.

Today Campsie is a busy suburb of the city of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, but just over 100 years ago this area, about seven miles south-west of the city, was still mainly agricultural. It was the coming of the railway – the self-same railway that Lucy and I were now walking alongside – at the end of the nineteenth century that led to a period of growth and development. Beamish Street, the main street that Lucy was now eagerly propelling me towards, has always been one of the busiest streets, being not only the site of the railway station but also endless shops and restaurants. 

I was intrigued to know what was attracting Lucy. I asked her, but she was going through one of her uncommunicative phases in which she pretended to be a dumb creature. As we progressed along Wilfred Avenue and the houses turned into commercial premises, I searched for clues. The “Vibe Health Clinic” (“get fit, get healthy get the vibe”) – no, that won’t be the attraction. Thai Massage, only $49 – hopefully not. My Vitamin World and the Campsie Denture Clinic – surely not. We eventually turned into Beamish Street and the reason for Lucy’s distraction became obvious. Aromas assaulted us without any pretence of restraint. There were Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, Japanese restaurants – restaurants of every category with the possible exception of Australian restaurants. It was sensory heaven for a dog. 

She eventually settled on the Chinese Dumpling Hut and following on from a substantial take-away, she became a little more communicative. “I could live here”, she said. “Forget that, we’ve got another seventy two words to go, and if you insist on eating any more dumplings you’re going to finish up at ///obese.dumpling.dogs, which, it might interest you to know, is in the middle of a lake in Northern Canada”. She returned to her normal “ignore the old fool” mode and made a bee-line for the Golden Territory Seafood Restaurant on the other side of Beamish Street. A determined yank on her leash corrected her trajectory to the VIP Lounge of the Station House Hotel where I enjoyed a reasonable pint and a read of the newspaper. 

It was the newspaper that accelerated our departure rather than the quality of the beer on offer or Lucy’s over-indulgence in Chinese dumplings. The headlines showed a now reasonably familiar map, with many of the places Lucy and I had just visited marked on it. “COVID STREET, CAMPSIE!” the headlines declared, and the story went on to claim that it was the street with one of the worst infection rates in the country.  

It was clearly time to move on and it was Lucy’s turn to choose the next word. She had just found a bit of dumpling that somehow had got stuck to her tail, and was desperately trying to nibble it off. “Come on, let’s have a word”, I said. She was too engrossed in her task and merely let out a kind of pleasurable growling sound as she located the dumpling remains. “Did you say ironing?” I asked in the kind of astonishment that is fitting for any conversation with a dog. “So be it”, I concluded as we set out co-ordinates for ///ironing.wink.quite. See you there.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 7. WINK

“That’s better”, I confessed to Lucy as I allowed an Autumn breeze to dry out the still damp turn-ups of my trousers. They were still wet from the North Sea waves that had pounded the little plank of wood my dog Lucy and I had shared a couple of hundred miles west of Trondheim in the Norwegian Sea. We were travelling around the world in just eighty word changes to our What3Words geolocation code, and ///sake.drink.change had dropped us in the middle of the freezing ocean. A simple change of a word – “drink” for “wink” – had rescued us from our watery confinement and transported us to ….. a car park!

“So, this is Dublin?”, I asked with just a hint of understandable doubt in my voice. It was a very pleasant warm day for October and there were a lot of rather large looking cars in the large looking car park. The perils of the North Sea had caused me to beg Lucy for a return to our previous location – just North of Dublin, Ireland – as it was her turn to choose a new word. “It sure is”, she replied in what was a decent attempt at an Irish accent – well decent if you are a five-year old Labradoodle, that is. “It doesn’t feel like Ireland”, I said. “Now, come on”, she replied, “you never said anything about Ireland. Welcome to Dublin, Ohio in the USA”.  I wasn’t going to object; anything was better than a plank of wood in the middle of the North Sea, and this car park was a step up on anything. 

And to be exact – and the delightful thing about What3Words is that you can be exact down to a three metre square – we weren’t in the actual car park, but on a grassy verge next to the car park. There was what looked like a pleasant park just a few hundred yards to the north west of us and what looked like a fascinating area of shops, bars and hotels a few hundred yards to the south east of us. And just in case you were missing the “real” Dublin, there were harps, and clover leafs and stalls selling Guinness all over the place.

We spent a bit of time just wandering around, looking at the shiny new office buildings, the tidy sports fields and the frighteningly busy freeways. “That organisation”, I explained to Lucy as she sniffed a brick wall with unseemly enthusiasm, “is the 14th highest revenue generating company in the USA”. “And, that, over there, is the headquarters of the largest global library co-operative on the globe” I could tell that my companion was flagging and it was time to go in search of some food and drink, and it appeared that we had landed on our six feet as far as that was concerned. All we had to do was to cross a newly opened footbridge and we were in Dublin DORA!

The DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) lines the banks of the Scioto River and is now linked by a new pedestrian suspension bridge. “It’s the largest single tower S shaped suspension bridge in the world”, I explained to Lucy as we walked it’s 760 foot length. “Indeed”, I added, “it’s the only single tower S shaped suspension bridge in the world”. But I could tell that my dog was getting bored with my constant recital of facts and figures. It was time to hit the bars.

And what a choice we had. We dined at the Avenue Steak Tavern, supped pints at the Dublin Village Tavern, called in at North High Brewing, and ended the night at the Urban Meyer’s Pint House. As we sank a final glass of Fat Head’s Bumble Berry, I had to congratulate Lucy on bringing us to such an oasis of sophisticated booziness. I, personally, didn’t want to leave but we were only 7 words down and there were still another 73 to go. We needed to be on our way, but not quite yet. And so it was decided and the coordinates were set for ///sake.wink.quite. See you there!

Around The World In Eighty Words : 6. DRINK

“I bet you wish you had listened to my question now”. My dog, Lucy, and I were floating on a plank of wood in the northern regions of the North Sea, three hundred or so miles west of Trondheim. A few weeks ago we embarked of a ridiculous challenge to see whether we could go around the world in eighty word changes to our What3Words geolocation code. Simply changing the word “luck” to “drink” had transported us to ///sake.drink.change, which turned out to be in the middle of the freezing ocean. If that wasn’t bad enough, my companion, my dog Lucy, insisted on talking to me, and even worse, she had turned out to be the kind of smart-alec companion nobody wants to share a floating plank with. “OK, do tell me, what was your question?”, I enquired. “Simply this, do What3Word locations cover the seas and oceans as well as land?”, she replied, and then added, “and you’ve no need to be so grumpy”

“I would have thought that the answer to your question was all too obvious, after all we are floating on a plank in the middle of the bloody sea”, I replied, attempting to balance on a plank, with a dog, in a rough sea, miles from even the nearest oil rig, which is by no means easy. “No need to swear”, she retorted in a prissy fashion, “we will just have to try and edit the water locations out in the future. “I wish we could edit this one out. I’d give a lot to be back in nice, dry, interesting, bar infested, hotel bound Dublin right now” “No problem, Lucy declared with a degree of satisfaction that is unbecoming in a dog of dubious pedigree, “we can be there in a wink!” You guessed it, ///sake.wink.change here we come.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 5. CHANGE

“Well, OK, it’s a change”, said Lucy as we walked across another field in another country. I detected an element of sarcasm in her voice – which is not easy to do when you are talking to a dog – which was completely undeserved. “Can you see any frozen lakes?”, I asked. She didn’t seem to want to reply, so I did on her behalf. “No! Can you see any snow covered mountains? No! Can you see a sign saying the nearest pub is a three day walk away? Precisely, no!. It’s a change”

My dog and I had embarked on a challenge to see if we could go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3word geolocation code. So far we had bounced around like a hyperactive pinball in a global machine: simple word changes had so far taken us to the USA, Libya, Honduras, and the frozen lakes of Alaska. Changing the word “anywhere” for “change” had rescued us from an Arctic wilderness and landed us in the northern suburbs of Dublin, Ireland. “There’s a park over the wall, the airport is only a couple of miles down the road, there is a Hilton Hotel within walking distance, and there’s a pub just the other side of this housing estate” I listed these advantages like they were the result of intelligent design rather than pot luck.

“What’s that funny smell?”, Lucy enquired. She’s good with smells. She is a dog, after all. “I’ve no idea”, I said, yanking on her lead as we walked through a somewhat shabby park and entered an even more shabby housing estate. And so we entered Darndale, a community to the north of Dublin City, a place where someone has once written graffiti on a wall “Welcome To Darndale – Twinned With Beirut!”. It turned out that the place had such a reputation for crime, poverty and social division, that a long-running TV documentary series had been made about it – “Darndale, the Edge of Town”.  OK, it was a little rough around the edges, and it had seen more than its fair share of drug crime and murder, but a fortnight ago we had been on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, the murder capital of the world. Darndale was a Kindergarten by comparison.

Who’d have thought, I mused as I waited to buy a souvenir postcard at a shop, that when we embarked on this trip around the world we would finish up comparing levels of violence and anti-social behaviour? What happened to the wonderful world of the Louis Armstrong song? Why aren’t I visiting the Lemonade Springs next to the Big Rock Candy Mountain? I shared my musings with Lucy as we continued our walk down Belcamp Grove towards the Priorswood Road. She just ignored me, which she has a habit of doing when she is in need of food and drink, so I headed for the nearest pub.

So we were sat on the terrace outside the Priorswood Inn with a pint of Guinness, a couple of bowls of chips from Daisy’s Grill, and a bowl of water. We’d played a couple of games of Virtual Bingo, but our luck was out. “Our luck’s out”, I said to Lucy. It’s easier talking to your dog after you’ve had a pint or two of Guinness. “OK, I’ve got a question”, said Lucy. It’s easier hearing your dog talk after you’ve had a pint or two of Guinness. “Drink!”, I said. “Fair enough”, said Lucy, “but I have a feeling that you will wish that you had listened to my question”. And so it was decided: ///sake.drink.change here we come.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 4. SAKE

“For heaven’s sake, it’s not just bad luck, it was a terrible selection”. I was quite pleased with my ability to string together our latest three word geolocation code to make an apposite sentence. Lucy, my dog, was less pleased with the implied criticism, but that was the least of our worries. We had been transported from Honduras, with all its street gangs and violence, to an oasis of …. tundra. We were up in the arctic circle, miles from anywhere, surrounded by frozen lakes and more frozen lakes, with no where to visit other than …. the next frozen lake! “At least nobody is trying to shoot us”, Lucy mumbled in only the way a dog can, but that was scant solace to my increasingly frozen feet. We needed a map, we needed a ski-doo, we needed a warm comforting bear-skin rug, we needed a drink – and we needed them all fast. “Be careful what you wish for”, observed Lucy. She was right, I quickly deleted the bear-skin rug from my  bucket list.

We were about as far north as it is possible to be without going over the top and going back south again. I zoomed the map out until it showed hundreds of miles around the spot we had found ourselves after choosing the What3Words geolocation code ///sake.luck.selection. There was nothing but mountains and frozen lakes. I changed the filter settings to show roads and railways: nothing appeared. I added public buildings, restaurants, shops and undertakers: nothing appeared. I added houses, human beings, dogs, and spiders to the list, and still there was nothing but mountains and frozen lakes. We were in the middle of nowhere.

A little more research and we discovered that a healthy 20 miles walk would take us to the settlement of Selawik where there were a few houses, a wooden shop or two, a post office and a landing strip. Determined to, at least, send someone a picture postcard before getting the first flight out, we set off across the mountains and frozen lakes, heading for the big city. To while away the time, I tried to educate my dog companion. “You are on the bridge”, I said. “No, I’m not”, she replied, “I am walking across a frozen lake”. “You’re being pedantic”, I countered, knowing that there are few things worse than letting a dog get the better of you in an argument. “We are in Beringia, or what used to be Beringia, and is now the Bering Land Bridge National Reserve, it’s where the first Americans crossed the then land bridge from Siberia.

I had to explain to Lucy that we couldn’t retrace the steps of those first Americans as the land bridge sank beneath the Arctic Ocean 11,000 years ago. With no escape to the West possible, we continued to make our way north east, across the frozen lakes. I mean no disrespect to the citizens of Selawik, but if truth be told, it is not the most exciting city in the world. There are a couple of stores, a church, a school, the post office and even more frozen lakes. The good news was that we were able to find a pub as well, the bad news was that it was in Galena, 140 miles to the South. It’s strap line is “The only bar on the Yukon. Good drinks, pizza, music and good times” We agreed leave Selawik, hitch a flight down to Galena, try and find a warm beer, and pick a new word. 

So that is how we found ourselves in the Yukon Inn, Galena, warming our six frozen feet and never wanting to see a frozen lake again in our lives. “What we need is a change:, I said. So that is what we did. ///sake.luck.change here we come.