I didn’t know anything about ethnography when I signed up for this overland trippet all those years ago (for the previous episode click here), but it was a missed opportunity to explore how a group of strangers live together in a mobile unit, in/across unfamiliar spaces with a changing cast of additional characters. Some of whom were quite short-lived.
Like the time Mike Arkala picked up some old guy and his goat soon after we’d crossed into Mali. I don’t know if the guy was hitching or whether Mike-A, in his undentable, Boy’s Own enthusiasm for the overland experience, pulled over and talked him into having a lift. Anyway, five minutes later, we were back on the move with a huge, dark brown goat standing in the narrow aisle between the two rows of seats.
There was a lot of excitement among some people at first about having someone new on board. A real life local. With a goat. (A GOAT???) There was a communication issue so everyone sat there smiling and nodding. Smiling and nodding. And then fake smiling and nodding as goat stink filled the back of the truck. And that goat stank. I’m talking humming.
Being mostly typically British, no one really articulated their feelings about the goat. No one said “Hey, how far do you think this smelly goat is going?” Or “Fuck me, you think Mike-A’ll pick up someone with a camel next?” We all just sat there, for an hour or so, until the goat backed up along the aisle towards the cab and solidly pissed for about five minutes. Those people at that end of the truck learned that goaty-piss-bits work as effectively as a power shower in a small space.
Mike-A, meanwhile, was happily clocking up the miles before the sun finally set for the day.