What’s the statistical chance of bumping into someone you know
when in some far flung land, miles from home?
Tales of a Traveller – Serendipitous Encounters
Slow Boat to Sumatra
We were sailing from Singapore to Sumatra aboard a rubber cargo boat that took just 12 passengers (the number that could fit horizontally on the canvas covered hold to sleep at night) where we met up with two Germans, Hans and Heinz.
It was a small boat for 12 Europeans to be couped up on for 3 days and Heinz was a bundle of energy. He couldn’t sit still. He’d march around the deck inspecting every component to see where it had been made just to keep himself occupied!
Three days later we landed at Palembang and went our separate ways, although knowing both of our final destinations was Bali it was inevitable we’d criss-cross paths as we independently meandered through Java.
Phil and I spent our final few days in Indonesia staying with a Balinese family in a compound, a short walk through a coconut grove on the edge of Kuta. Walking back to our lodgings each evening under palm fronds silhouetted by the full moon, with the sound of iridescent waves breaking on the beach beyond, was a heavenly end to our trip through the islands.
Short Haul to Darwin
At Kuta airport awaiting our flight to Darwin, Hans and Heinz appeared again – remarkably on the very same plane.
Landing in Australia a small group of us decided to pool some dollars and hire a taxi to get into town.
Not Heinz – He was too impatient to wait for a taxi and marched off down the road from the airport, disappearing into the night.
When our little band of travellers gathered the next morning at the employment centre Hans was there – but Heinz was nowhere to be seen –
I was worried he’d got down to the Stuart Highway and not knowing which way to turn for civilisation had unwittingly turned left, taking him off out into the Australian outback (on the road to Alice Springs 1,000 km south) instead of turning right into town?
But the mystery was left unsolved as we turned our attention to earning some dollars to fund our next trip, which was to be overland from Australia back to Europe.
Overland from Australia to Turkey…
Nearly two years later we left Australia for Timor… then Bali… Java… Singapore… Malaysia… Thailand… Burma (now Myanmar)… India… Nepal… Pakistan… Afghanistan… Iran… and then Turkey… where we both started feeling increasing ill – Our pee had turned a coca cola colour, our poo was pale and our skin was turning an increasing shade of yellow – Hepatitis 🙁
As luck would have it my aunt was teaching English in Istanbul. We arrived on her doorstep looking sickly, feeling weak and exhausted.
We spent 3 weeks with her in Istanbul recuperating making short forays out to buy beautiful fresh strawberries from passing street vendors. Sadly, the wonderful Turkish lamb and vegetable dishes on offer had to be left untouched as our stomachs turned at the sight (or even thought) of anything with oil or fat in it.
Slowly but surely we regained our health until we felt strong enough to make the final push across Europe back to England.
And the Pudding Shop
Having bought a Kombi bus in Nepal we wanted to share the fuel costs with some fellow travellers heading west.
We went down to the ‘Pudding Shop’, a known hang-out for passing travellers in Istanbul, to put up a sign on the noticeboard and…
Who should be sitting in there?
Having returned to Europe he had just made a trip through northern Africa and back to Istanbul via Egypt –
We’d both traversed the world for nearly two years and serendipitously ended up in the same city, in the same cafe, at the same time.
We gave him a ride as far as the German border – and said our farewells. We haven’t seen him since… but you never know!
Have you ever met someone you know in an unlikely far-flung place?
Do tell in the comments below 🙂