You know those moments or experiences - they are not captured by a camera because you are literally gob smacked or not into taking "selfies" with a look of wonder on your face. Maybe there is no camera in your hands and you have a brain freeze, when the last thing on your mind is actually taking a photo. Some fleeting points in time when you are travelling are so captivating that the only memory you have is seared into your mind, never to be forgotten. Then much later after the event, suddenly a sound, a sight or a smell will bring that scene vividly back to you.
It is those fleeting or slowly unfolding scenes that are totally random and so amazing that leave you breathless and enthralled with the world around you. These are some of mine:
Sitting on a train from Turin to Florence in Italy, reading La Stampa the national newspaper, well looking at the pictures anyway, as I can't read Italian. Some kind person had left it on my seat, for me obviously. I had just spent the last couple of days at Salon del Gusto (Slow Food biannual event). I opened the front page and there staring back at me was a half page photograph of me browsing an old Italian cookbook at the festival. The look on my face would have been priceless to the surrounding train passengers and I still have the newspaper hidden away somewhere.
Walking onto the deserted white sand beach at the Similan Islands, Thailand in the wee hours of the morning to be greeted by a million diamonds dancing on the calm water surface in the moonlight. I had happened upon the coral spawning.
Swimming in a water hole near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, South Africa with the wildebeest and zebras in the midday heat, only to then appreciate the fact that maybe I shouldn't be doing it - think parasitic worms! I was caught up in the "Out of Africa" moment.
Literally sitting on the old sloping red terracotta roof tiles of a building in Florence drinking red wine in the middle of the night. I was so high up that you could see into the windows on the top floor of the building opposite. It just so happened to be the boarding rooms for the local Carabinieri who decided to put on a floorshow.
Floating down the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar and seeing the humongous teak logs stacked up on the riverbank logging camps. The people walking beside them looked like ants and the empty swathes of brown soil scarred the lush and pristine teak forests around them. Witnessing the rape and pillage of this incredible area was a sad sight.
Driving through a hill top village in Sri Lanka when market day was happening and graceful groups of sari-clad women were gossiping on sidewalks. It was the shimmering brightly coloured fabrics flowing as they moved, their animated olive complexioned faces stamped with a red bindi on their foreheads that I couldn't take my eyes away from.
Showing a monk how to take a photograph on his camera at night without the flash going off in a tiny village on the Mun River in Surin, northern Thailand. It was during Loy Krathong and the waterway was awash in handmade decorated woven baskets with candles twinkling in the dark. I was the only Westerner in the village and no one spoke English, so it was a matter of hand language. Considering women should never touch a monk and or hand anything to a monk, it was rather a convoluted exercise.
Whilst in Morocco I had the pleasure of sharing a "grand" taxi from Merzouga to Fes with 4 other intrepid male travellers. Yes, 6 souls in an old Mercedes with seats that had no springs and with more broken windows than those that actually worked in the sweltering heat. There was blaring Moroccan music with only 1 speaker working and that happened to be in the eardrum of one of the guys in the back - he ended up putting earplugs in. The pseudo deaf driver chatted animatedly on his mobile whilst dodging huge trucks, goats, donkeys and random sheep meandering along the twisting dusty roadway. It was a kaleidoscope of colours and turbans whizzing past and could only be described as a "Queen of the Desert" moment.
When I first saw Banteay Srei, the "Pink Palace" in Siem Reap, Cambodia, it literally took my breath away. Running from a crocodile in the shallow waters of a remote bay off the top of the Queensland coast and witnessing a Royal Ngaben (funeral) ceremony in Ubud, which culminates in a mammoth black bull becoming a funeral pyre, all remain etched into my mind.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
– Ibn Battuta (a Moroccan scholar who travelled the Medieval world)