“10 odd things I travel with”

When you spend more time on the road than you do at home, you tend to pack things a little more bizarre than the kitchen sink. For the past 16 years, Mark Eveleigh’s been chasing adventure around the world. Here’s what you’ll find in his backpack…

[words and photograph © Mark Eveleigh]

1/ Tabasco has livened up many a meal from me in rural parts of Latin America or remote African villages where people eat primarily because it is a necessary act – and less for the sensual enjoyment of it. If I am on an expedition where I will be cooking over fires I often take a zip-locked bag of spicy herbs instead to sprinkle on the meat. (Just beware of particularly intensive drug searches at borders). Oh, and I also drop Tabasco in my beer.

2/ I travel with my own barbecue tongs partly because they make life so much easier when you’re cooking on a fire, and partly as constant reminder not to miss an opportunity to fire up a barbecue or spark up a fire when the chance arises. Long evenings spent kicking back around the “bush telly” are one of the best reasons for travelling.

3/ I have to admit that there is something slightly OCD about travelling with a spoon collection. My obsession started off fairly innocently with a US Marine’s spoon that a good Vietnamese friend had given me. I was so proud of this spoon (no, really – it’s genuine!) that pretty soon wise-cracking friends started bringing me amazing spoons from their travels. The collection in my daypack also includes a Laotian spoon made out of a melted-down bomb and one of those Sporks (spoon/fork/knife all in one) that are the envy of the civilized world – and, trust me, quite a bit of the rest of it.

4/ Unless I will be in empty desert (and with only one vehicle) I never leave home without my jungle-hammock. It’s fitted with an integrated mosquito-net but I leave the heavy plastic roof at home and simply buy plastic locally when I set off on a trek. This hammock was given to me when I did a trip with survival expert Ray Mears who designed it himself. Ray is a big bloke and this hammock is big enough easily for two people (done) and perhaps for three (still waiting for a chance to try that though).

5/ I found a portable water heater for making maté in southern Brazil. As hotels do their best to hike room-service charges, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find coffee-making facilities. As a certified caffeine addict I was delighted to find a simple plug in heater that I can drop into water in my steel mug. Bingo – no more pre-dawn departures without caffeine.

6/ My collection of adaptors surpasses even my spoon collection. Just as you can’t hope to please all the people all the time, there’s no such thing as an “all-purpose travel adapter”. Apart from my multi-adapter I have at least five others that I regularly need to use in various countries. My worst-case-scenario fallbacks are a light-socket adaptor – even the world’s worst hotel room has a bulb, right? – and a car cigarette-lighter inverter that has powered me during several month-long assignments in the African bush.

7/ Whenever I go to Guatemala I buy several hundred friendship bracelets. These little woven bracelets have turned out to be the best low-cost give-aways ever. Friends in Africa and Asia were amazed to think that they were made by Quiché villagers in Guatemala – people all over the planet are fascinated by “Parallel Worlds“. Depending where I’m travelling more serious gifts (or “trade goods”) are needed but in some cases I have returned to remote villages years after my first visit to find that whole crowds are still proudly sporting my friendship bracelets.

8/ I should point out quickly that is it not simple vanity that induces me to travel with a disposable shower-cap. These clever little elasticated plastic caps make the best possible shower cover for your camera and cost little (or nothing if you steal them from hotel rooms). Infinitely more useful in my opinion than merely to keep your hair dry in the shower.

9/ My battered old Sigg water-bottle has been my faithful companion through perhaps 30 expeditions. On a practical note metal water bottles are best because on cold mountain nights they can double (wrapped in a shirt) as a hot water bottle. My bottle is so battered by now that it’s embarrassing, but I’d never swap it for a new one since each dent and flaked chip of paint tells a story. There’s even a big ding on the bottom where the zebu pack-bull I bought in Madagascar kicked it when he finally rebelled and decided – like several others before and since – that he’d had enough of travelling with me.

10/ I bought a magic Indonesian scorpion-bite cure from a medicinal healer in Jakarta. He was juggling live scorpions in his bare hands and claimed that he was immune to their sting because he drank tea made from the shavings of little sticks he was selling. To test his confidence in his wares I asked him if I could drink some tea and then hold the scorpions myself, but he obviously figured that killing an orang bule gila (crazy foreigner) would put the kiss of death on business. I bought a couple of sticks anyway and the next time I find a scorpion I’ll let you know how they worked.

Planning your own adventure? Take a look at Mark’s recommended kit list here.

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