Roy and Jean Romsey travels

itravel stories Quirky and amusing travel tales

An enjoyable collection of short travel essays written with a touch of humour and humility by Roy Romsey. A new tale of randomly recalled travel anecdotes, incidents and observations added every ten days. Come to www.itravelstories.blogspot.com  for a mystery tour of the world. Enjoy the journey.

(30) - Horseback across the Andes...

 The six-hour struggle in high seas from the island of Chiloe back to the southern mainland of Chile had been tedious. We arrived in darkness at a small cove. The ferryboat lowered its ramp like a huge yawn, allowing a dozen cars to poured off, trailed by a lone Japanese girl on her small motorcycle, they disappeared into the night. We followed a small group of foot-passengers into the driving rain and joined a huddle of people under a solitary quayside lamp.           A bedraggled teenage girl approached and touted us with an offer of accommodation; we glanced briefly at her wet plastic book of photographs and hurriedly accepted. A waiting van took us to her hospedaja above a family laundry shop,   Read more...

(29) - More Route 66...

Erick, (Pop; 1,012 on a good day) is the kind of place that the world is happy to bypass. We were there with no purpose other than to look for a reason to visit. We learned that Main St, was bisected by the 100th meridian and had been renamed Roger Miller Boulevard after the musician, Let's make music      We also discovered the happy sound of live music drifting from behind the wooden storefront of ‘The Meat Market’. We ventured in and found, a delightful and talented couple of singing bohemian rednecks, Harley and Annabelle Russell. Their cluttered store of musical bric-a-brac was devoid of customers, but that did not stop them from giving us friendship, music, tall tales, music, free beer and yet more music.        They entertained us for two hours and then as we were leaving, a roving CBS TV crew from New York dropped in to film the couple as part of a Route 66 feature.  Read more...

(28) - Route 66...

A cold Chicago wind whipped off Lake Michigan, it reminded us that winter was around the corner. We should be on our way. We eased Betsy our beloved campervan into the stream of traffic and headed down the canyon of skyscrapers toward the setting sun. We were a couple of highway hobos about to ‘Get our kicks on Route 66’.   Jackson Blvd and Michigan Avenue  We had a two month journey of almost 2,500 miles ahead of us, It would take us along a collection of roads and tracks that had been connected together in 1926 to form Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica California - but which has long since been abandoned in favour of modern interstate highways.    We were anxious to discover how much of it still existed; would the diners, motels, gas stations and nostalgia of the 1940s and 50s still be there. We left the suburban maze of Chicago behind us and found the original two-lane byway that wended its way across 300 miles of black fertile plains through small farming and mining townships, each with a tale to tell.   Read more...

(27) - A taste of India...

The world famous Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur, India, sat like a beautiful white marble wedding cake, perfectly mirrored in the still, quiet waters of Lake Pichola, For two nights we had wallowed in Mogul opulence enjoying its faultless service, but it was now time to return to the reality of India and all that it had to offer. The splendour of Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur.      A smoke and grit laden steam train, swayed and trundled its way slowly north, taking us to the bustling city of JAIPUR; famous for being India’s first planned city, for its astronomical observatories and for its nearby Amer Fort.      The old city is by law, painted pink as a sign of welcome and hospitality. At sunset, it glows with the intensity of fire.   Read more...

(26) - In search of Hill Tribes of Thailand...

 Not only have I a liking for cats but I also share their same sense of curiosity. I guess it’s my inquisitive nature that has often landed me in interesting situations and caused me to meet so many fascinating people.      Fortunately, my wife Jean shares the same traits; we thrive on change and relish the unusual. It’s for those reasons that we choose to wander off the beaten track as travellers. In doing so, it often means travelling with the minimal of baggage, on local transport, eating the local diet, and sleeping in whatever shelter is available.      We are often in areas where hotels are seldom found and have to make do with whatever can be found locally. This varies from sleeping on floors of village huts to custom-built bamboo chalets, occasionally rooms are rented in private homes where some of life’s comforts are found.   Read more...

(25) - Japanese Disease...

An innocent motorcycle journey through north-eastern Thailand in search of a remote Hmong hill tribe, had already involved us in a cremation and an overnight stay at a ‘Love Hotel’. What more could happen?
     Before leaving our night of reflected sleep at the multi-mirrored ‘Love chalet’, we ate an exotic breakfast of Thai fruit salad. It included ripe mango, juicy rambutan, and sliced papaya on a bed of sweet sticky rice. All washed down with fresh coconut juice.       We were ready to leave. I gunned the engine of our motorcycle and our Thai hostesses waved goodbye with smiles and a few sideway winks.. Read more...

(24) - Dead Sexy...

We were in Thailand again. The weather was hot and steamy; Bangkok was noisy and oppressive. It was a good time to take a night bus to the north of the country where it would be cooler and quieter.      We whiled away time in the lush tropical gardens around Chiang Rai University. At its library we happened upon a recent paper written by Jon Boyce, an Englishman living among the Hmong hill tribes of northern Thailand.      I wonder if he would welcome a visit from some fellow Brits. I thought. We decided that he would and within twenty-four hours, I had rented a motorcycle, bought a rudimentary map, packed some provisions, and were headed northeast toward the mighty Mekong River that separated Thailand from Laos.  Read more...

(23) - Australia, jobhunting ...

Within days of landing in northern Australia I had found work as a bush-cook; it had been fun and life enhancing, but now it was time to move on. There were new things to see and experiences to have. 'I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list'     With a lightly loaded rucksack and high spirits I set off to hitchhike back to Darwin. Upon arrival, I did what all good Australians do; I went for a beer at the pub.          The bar was a noisy throng of colourful characters in shorts and singlets; those wearing flip-flops were townies, whilst those wearing boots were blokes in from the bush; they were from cattle stations, mining ventures, government survey teams, prospectors and fencers, all in town for a few days break, to pick up supplies or look for new work. They swapped tall stories, enjoyed the golden amber and revelled in the much-needed company of others. ’ Read more...

(22) - G'day Australia - safe at last...

I hate mosquitoes. I hate them with a passion. How can something so small be the cause of so much irritating discomfort?  The earnest 'Bush Cook'      For a few unfortunate people, malaria is the painful consequence of a single mosquito bite. but most people suffer thousands of bites yet never contact malaria. The daily fight and suffering caused by the constant buzz, bites and sleepless nights can send a person up the wall. They make one’s life a misery.      I am not a vengeful person, but I once spent a whole night in Alaska killing mosquitoes with a high-powered, battery operated, zapper bat. It was payback time. Sheer bliss!      Night-time in Darwin, northern Australia, is alive with mosquitos; I and my three compatriots, with whom I had been rescued from the island of Car Nicobar, had just landed by air from Singapore, and we were being eaten alive whilst seeking sheltering in the Darwin Sports Pavilion. Read more...

(21) - Rescued from Car Nicobar Island ...

...continued from stories No 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20   As told in previous excerpts, our attempted voyage in a 23 foot sampan from Bangladesh to Singapore had ended in failure. For all intents and purposes, we were destitute, castaways on the small island of Car Nicobar in the Indian Ocean and therefore totally in the hands of a local Indian Administrator.      Word had been sent of our plight to the district government office based at Port Blair on the Andaman Islands, and from there on to the Indian Government in Delhi, then onto the British foreign office in London and eventually to our parents.      My mother received a short but polite letter from the Foreign Office to say, ‘Your son, and friends, have drifted by boat to the island of Car Nicobar and is without funds. Arrangements are in hand to get him to Calcutta and in the event of repatriation would you be prepared to sign a legal undertaking to pay any costs involved?’ Read more...

(20) - Island Paradise

...continued from Stories Nos 16, 17, 18 and 19   Our attempted voyage from Bangladesh to Singapore in a 23-foot Sampan fishing boat had been a brave but foolhardy venture. We had been a whisker from being wrecked on a wildly churning reef off the coast of Car Nicobar when, out of nowhere, the India patrol launch had appeared and pulled us clear. We were lucky to still be alive.         Once the four of us were on board the Indian naval vessel, we related how we had been lost and without clean water and food for the past eleven days.      They immediately supplied jugs of water and hard tack biscuits; not exactly the wine, steak and gently sautéed potatoes we had dreamed of. However, the hard tack biscuits caused our soft gums to bleed, so they produced plates of cold, but very spicy curry, which burned the open sores of our gums.       As we struggled to eat, the launch made its way through a channel into a small bay, where we were transferred into a rowboat, and had to wade ashore onto a beach of snow-white silky sand edged with towering coconut palms.  Read more...

(19) - Island Disaster

 ...continued on from stories 16,17 and 18, It was on the thirty-third night of setting sail from Chittagong, Bangladesh in a 23-foot open Sampan boat bound for Singapore, that the stars of Life and Death fought for supremacy. We were four inexperienced young sailors, lost at sea and without food for the past eleven days. Not the expected paradise - Photo by Ian Austin      Our last landfall had been a disaster; we had unknowingly beached the boat at high tide and then gone ashore on an unsuccessful scavenge for food. When we returned the tide was out and the boat sat stranded high and dry.      We waited for the next high tide but were unable to fully re-float her before the tide dropped again. It took a full, gut-wrenching and exhausting day of digging a channel and two further high tides before we were re-floated again. Read more...

(18) - Lost at Sea

...continued from Stories No 16 & 17,  The unexpected beaching of our 23-foot Sampan on the small Burmese island of Regon and subsequent friendship with its village community was a blessing in disguise, for we were able to enlist the help of the local villagers to replace a broken kicking strap and repair a sail. Burmese children - by Bob Martin      We were also given a walking tour around their community, and a supply of fresh coconuts, before being assisted to sail out over the surf into open water on our quest to reach Singapore from Bangladesh.      We had cause to venture into shore again a few days later, this time to caulk some minor leaks and repair another torn sail. As we busied ourselves with chores, we were approached by a group of tribal Burmese, whose village was just along the beach. Read more...

(17) - Adrift in Bengal

 ...continued from story No 16,  As explained in the previous episode, the three lads from Manchester and myself were about to steal away from Chittagong in, southeast Bangladesh, under the cover of darkness, to sail in a 23-foot open fishing boat to Singapore.      Despite stocking our Sampan boat with enough provisions for three weeks and having the enthusiasm of youth, we were nevertheless ill prepared; none of us had any experience of sailing a boat.      Our departure was a fiasco! It took two hours of cursing in whispers as we untangled ropes and figured out how to haul up the huge heavy canvas sail in the dead of night, though quite why we did so I'll never know, for there wasn't a breath of wind anywhere. Read more...

(16) - Adrift in Bangladesh

An adventure-packed overland journey through nine countries had brought me to the shipping port of Chittagong; a city that lies tucked away in the southeast corner of Bangladesh close to the Burmese border. I was low on funds and in need of somewhere to sleep. Travelling through Persia      I traipsed the dust filled streets and alleyways of Chittagong until I found cheap accommodation at the Hotel Flushing, so called because it had what was laughingly considered a flush toilet. In fact, it was nothing more than a pair of concrete footprints astride a long open gully into which water from a bucket could be sluiced. However, it was a great improvement upon many of the places I had stayed at in the months since leaving England.      I peeled the rucksack from my aching back and dumped it at the foot of the rope-strung Charpoy bed, then without undressing, I stood under the cold shower and felt the dust, perspiration and worries of the day wash away.  Read more...

(15) - Heart of America ...

Continuation from ‘Homeless in Billings’.  Being ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘Homeless in Billings’ had not featured in our plans when we set out to leisurely cross America by Greyhound bus. However, on arrival at Billings, Montana, we found that two conferences and the Montana State Rodeo had filled all available hotel rooms.       There was therefore no room at the inn for us. And so it was, that on a cold October night, we found ourselves officially ‘Homeless in Billings.’ We could either, sleep on a cold bench at the Greyhound Bus depot, or, ‘go with the flow Joe’ and allow ourselves to be rescued by the ‘Montana Mission for Homeless Women and Children. We chose the latter, and were allocated a warm cot space in the ‘Bozeman Room’ at their Lincoln Inn refuge. (Read full details in previous story, no.14) Experiencing America by Greyhound Bus       It seemed we had hardly closed our eyes, when the shrill sound of a tannoy system just outside our door awoke us:      ‘It’s 6.30 a.m. Please rise, and git yuh rooms cleaned and ready for inspection. Breakfast will be served in forty-five minutes. Check your name on the chore list at the front desk,’ shrilled the tannoy. Read more...

(14) USA - Homeless in Billings

A chill wind blew off the surrounding plains of Montana, sending eddies of paper and debris along the dimly lit streets of Billings, its principal city. For almost two hours, I had scoured the town by telephone and on foot, looking for a hotel or motel, but everywhere was full with attendees for two conferences and the Montana State Rodeo.      I shivered. It was almost midnight; time to admit defeat. I had left Jean looking after our bags at the Greyhound bus depot; she would be wondering what had happened to me.       I turned into a side street to make my way back and spotted a dimly lit sign swinging in the wind. It read ‘Lincoln Hotel’.   Read more...

(13) USA - Battle of Portaloo

It was late afternoon, the sun was low and our stomachs spotted an American diner beckoning to us in the township of Front Royal, Virginia. We were puzzled by the town’s name and asked the waitress during dinner how it came to be so called. She replied: “I graduated high school six years ago and I have forgot all that stuff, but I know there's a lot of history in these parts.” We later discovered that during the Civil War, troops used to parade in front of a large ‘Royal Oak’ tree with the command: "Front! Royal!" Read more...

(12) Prague - By Pushbike

Life is a series of journeys – physically and metaphorically – all just waiting to be made. Every journey starts with a single step  It matters little whether my journeys have been a two-day sail in a 12-foot wooden dinghy, a meander by motor cycle beside the Mekong River or a camel trek through Iran, the question always asked is: why? The answer of course is quite simple: why not? Not really my colour      Some years ago I woke one morning and thought, 'I think I'll buy a bicycle'. The objective was not so much to save the walk to the newspaper shop, but more as a means of making another journey. Read more...

(11) Borneo - Yorkshire Lumberjack

It was almost midday, dense rainforests and the thick humid air of Borneo surrounded us. We had slept the previous night with descendants of headhunters at the village of Nanga Kamalee and were now squatting on a sandbar jutting into the Rajang River. For almost four hours, we had roasted in the tropical sun in the hope of hitching a lift from a passing canoe or other small craft. We needed to return down river to the trading post of Kapit and thence to the coast of Sarawak for our onward journey to mainland Malaysia.  Read more...

(10) Sarawak - Headhunters of Borneo

There is a sense of isolation and oriental intrigue about Sarawak; dense jungle, swampy rain forests humidity and prodigious amounts of rain dissuade tourists from visiting its ex-headhunting Iban and Dyak tribes. There are very few roads, so most transportation for goods and people is by watercraft along its labyrinth of rivers that empty out into the South China Sea. We had landed at the capital of Kuching during a violent monsoonal storm. We needed a few days to acclimatise to the overbearing heat and heavy humidity, so we found lodgings at a local Anglican Mission Read more...

(9) Spain - Buccaneers of Biscay

Continuation from story 8

We were somewhere off the coast of Cherberg, France, facing a cold January storm that was raging in from the Atlantic Ocean
My seventeenth birthday was two days ago and life could not have been more exciting; I was on a 60-foot ex-Cornish motor trawler; it had one main mast with a gaff rigged main sail, used generally to steady the boat rather than propel it.
I was in the company of three strangers; Alan the 28-year-old mate, Peter a 20-year-old adventurer from Australia, and a drunken, foul-tempered skipper who suffered intense migraines from a shrapnel wound to the head. He was a dubious character who became more dubious the more we came to know him. Our task was to deliver the boat to Spain, upon which Peter and I would be given our return fares as payment. Read more...

(8) England - Floranda No 1  

The concept of luxury comes in many forms. For some, it might be a night in a five-star hotel, or a diamond necklace; for others it could be a good harvest or having a regular job. It often depends on the circumstances of the person being asked. I have several notions of what is luxury, one of which could be considered rather odd and perhaps banal. It is, quite simply, to take a daily fifteen-minute break from life and sit somewhere quietly with a cup of coffee, whilst enjoying the flavour of a bar of milk chocolate. The taste of warm coffee blending with the melting sensation of chocolate on the tongue triggers a journey of silent but relaxed reflection on all manner of things. Read more...

(7) Finland - Bath Time II

My sweat-filled eyes focused hazily on the two young naked Finns opposite me; I marveled at how I had come to be in this situation. They had befriended me at Helsinki railway station less than three hours ago as I had gotten off the Moscow train. Nordic Sauna I had asked them the way to the youth hostel and during our conversation was told that they were waiting for their train to take them to their family forest retreat for the weekend. They asked if I would like to join them, as they needed to practise their English. Read more...

(6)  Don't mess with nature.

Driving across the isolated dirt-packed prairie road in South Dakota had been sublime, not a soul had been seen all afternoon. I was alone but not lonely, I had Betsy, my camper van, for company. She was old and fat and comfortable; we had shared many adventures together. Today we were following the Lewis and Clark trail from Astoria to St Louis, a 4,500-mile journey of discovery. Read more...

(5) Thailand - Mekong Swimmer's club

 The mighty Mekong River The world's twelfth longest river, and the seventh longest in Asia, is the mighty Mekong River. It flows for 4,350 kilometres through six countries, starting in China and finishing in Cambodia, and has featured significantly in my life on two occasions. Read more...

(4) Morocco - A Christmas Tale

The problem with having a creative but impulsive traveller for a husband is that it makes for an interesting, but disorderly life. Christmas was just seven days away, and as usual, I still didn't know whether to buy a turkey or pack a bag.

My husband Roy telephoned from his studio to ask if I fancied going to Morocco for Christmas. I immediately had visions of being carried off across the desert by an Arab on horseback. 'Sounds good to me,' I replied excitedly. Read more...

(3) Return to Borneo

To watch a spear thrust through a human cheek and tongue until it emerges through the other cheek is not for the faint-hearted. This strange masochistic Indian Hindu custom is held once a year as a form of penance and intense devotion. Its practice, though banned in India, is still performed in Malaysia and Singapore by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai. Read more...

(2) Keeping warm in Japan

Attempting to go native in Japan was never going to be easy. It had taken a long time to find a local family who not only had a self-contained 'furnished aparto' within their traditional Japanese wooden home but were also prepared to rent it to a Gaijin Sensei – a foreign-devil teacher from ‘En'grand’. Read more...

(1) 'Roland the Rat' in Indonesia

Torrential monsoon rains had pursued us relentlessly for two weeks throughout Java. At Malang, with floodwaters up to our thighs, we waded to the bus station and made haste to the port of Ketapang to catch the ferry boat to Bali; we needed to seek a refuge to dry out. At the picturesque artist colony of Ubud we found a perfect haven at which to rest for a few weeks; it was a well-built bamboo cottage in the garden of a local architect. Read more...