Inspired by the theme of the Wanderlust Writing Challenge, members of team Wanderlust share their own stories about the kindness of complete strangers they've met during their travels...
It had been the worst of days. We had found ourselves stranded in a remote town in Sumatra where no buses were running as it was a public holiday. The weather was humid and the atmosphere in the town was just as heavy. It took several hours and a rip-off amount of cash to arrange some transport to the next town, a couple of hours drive away.
There, it was pandemonium as hundreds of people were trying to push onto the few crammed buses that came along. As we despaired a polite young man approached us asking where we were from and we bristled, fearing another scam. He explained that he was applying for a job with an American company and would love it if we could look over his CV given that English wasn’t his first language. We decided we had nothing to lose so sat down with him and helped tweak the application.
On completion, he told us to wait a few minutes and then came back for us. He directed us onto a packed bus where two seats were being held for us. On arrival at Medan, the driver surprised us by asking which hotel we wanted and then diverting there. When we tried to pay he waved us away saying our 'friend' had already paid and told him to take care of us. A friend indeed; I hope he got the job.
The 137-mile C2C cycle ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth is one of the UK’s most iconic cycle routes. It’s also not to be underestimated. And, getting a puncture (from repairing a puncture) just a few hours in on a tiny remote Lake District lane is certainly not the best way to begin (particularly when you have set yourself what you later discover is a very unrealistic timeframe for completing the challenge).
Enter a lady and her dog, followed by her husband (in a first responder car) and an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
The man scooped me up, drove me to a cycle shop 20 minutes away and persuaded the owner to fix my tyre for free (I was doing a charity challenge to celebrate being five years’ clear of cancer and to support a friend on the anniversary of her father’s death).
We shared a beautiful moment on the return car journey to the exact spot where we’d left my friend. Our story of struggle compelled him to open up for the first time about his own challenges and, at the end of the trip, he thanked us both for inspiring him to take charge of his life and look for sunshine through the clouds.
The diversion meant that we were late arriving at our first night’s stop. But, thanks to this incredible man, we were greeted by a welcoming committee. Apparently, having looked up our hotel, he had called ahead and asked them to expect (late) two ‘courageous’ women who were doing their bit to change the world. They cooked us dinner, they gave us an in-room breakfast tray so we could leave before breakfast time and their generosity helped us through the following gruelling day.
We had exchanged phone numbers and his message was the first to congratulate us on having completed the challenge (four punctures later). I hope that, one day, I can pay forward his kindness when I come across someone who is stranded a long way from home.
I was lucky enough to trek gorillas through the mist and clouds of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and had the rare privilege of sitting with a large troop for most of an afternoon. It was the adventure of a lifetime and I shot plenty of photos of these gentle primates in their natural habitat.
I carried on travelling through Uganda and Rwanda, dipping a tentative toe into the DR Congo, photographing amazing sights long the way. At some point on the trip disaster struck and I lost my rucksack and with that my camera, hard drives and all my digital memories. I was devastated.
However, word must have spread of my plight for when I eventually got home there was a letter waiting for me, sent to me from a fellow trekker. In it was a single photograph. A photograph that I treasure to this day.
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