They just can’t wait. Barely out of the vehicle and into camp before they start listing the countries they’ve visited, spitting the names out like a ticker tape machine.
One newly arrived guest told me yesterday (within minutes of arrival) that I ‘couldn’t imagine’ the countries he’d spent time in. I was a bit offended when he went on to list Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana amongst others. Far afield for many but beyond my imagination?
I pointed out the various tents that make up the main body of the camp; “There’s the dining tent which also includes a small reference library…”
The guest chuntered on in the background and in every available pause. “I’ve been to the Arctic four times, can you imagine?” [If Zimbabwe is beyond my imagination, it’s unlikely I could comprehend the Arctic.]
“…then to the left of the bookcase there’s the bar – our waiters will be happy to offer you any drinks…”
“…Antarctica by helicopter. I’ve seen more than one hundred polar bears. I’ve been on an icebreaker to see the Emperor penguins…”
“Lunch will be a buffet lunch with fresh salads from our garden.”
“…Madagascar, Reunion, Brazil, Uganda, Rwanda, India, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Tanzania…”
I give up my camp tour, put on my sunglasses and have a gentle snooze whilst the tally continues. As I doze off to the rhythmic listing of possibly every country in Europe, I wonder: what’s the purpose of this domineering bragging? In recognition of my pathetic, relatively untravelled life, should I quietly leave my seat and throw myself under the hooves of a passing buffalo?
Before I’m fully asleep, I recall that we already have in camp an equally tiresome, well-travelled guest. I get animated at the thought of introducing the two of them.
Over lunch, they do not disappoint. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The competition begins when Guest A enquires if it’s B’s first trip to Africa. Oh, such foolish innocence.
At first the names are casually tossed out there; Costa Rica, Russia, China. Breezily countered with Japan, New Zealand, Vietnam.
Poker-faced yet each recognising a worthy opponent the stakes are raised; “I’ll call your Kazakhstan and raise you three islands in Micronesia.”
Voices get frantic, higher-pitched. Benin, Iceland, Burkino Faso. Laos, Ethiopia, Togo. A staggering display of one-upmanship.
As far as I can tell, they’re neck and neck in the challenge to be the Most Travelled Show-Off Arsehole in the World. The tension is tangible. The rest of the guests, sensing some sort of apocalyptic event, sit silently, open-mouthed, cutlery hovering between plate and mouth.
They’ve both been to the Marshall Islands. They’ve both been to Inner Mongolia. They’ve both been to the Galápagos. [It’s obvious they’re both including the accent.] It seems the deadlock can’t be broken.
Then, in a flash of inspiration, Guest A goes all in and asks Guest B which month she went to the Galápagos.
Guest B hesitates. Smelling blood, the audience shift in their seats.
Guest B whispers, “April.”
One of the other guests turns to me eagerly, “Is that bad? Is that bad?”
“AHAAA!” shouts Guest A, throwing down her napkin in triumph, “If you went in April then you won’t have seen the penguins on the shores of Bartolomé!”
Slumped in his chair, Guest B admits this is the case, vainly muttering something about excellent weather for snorkelling but the game is lost.
In the ensuing silence, Guest C pipes up. Clearly carried away on the wave of A’s victory she blurts out, “I went to Paris in December once, it was lovely!”
Unsurprisingly, no-one gives a shit.