And an Invitation
Bilbo Baggins, of Hobbit fame, and I have several things in common. Fortunately for me, it’s not the soles of my feet covered in hairs or a very short squat stature. For a start we both have a particular dichotomised attitude to adventures. When invited to go on an adventure which he later found included accompanying thirteen dwarves on a dragon raid, he was heard to mumble: “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t see what anybody sees in them.”
When my sanity returned, after agreeing to join this Silk Road adventure, I wholeheartedly sympathised with Bilbo. Who would want to leave the security of home and hearth, for uncomfortable beds with the definite possibility of bed bugs, for the dust and dirt of third world towns and villages in post Soviet autocracies and for all those squat toilets that you could smell long before you entered them. Definitely nasty disturbing uncomfortable things, adventures were.
On the other hand Bilbo had inherited part of his grandfather’s personality. Bilbo was the grandson of Old Took, about whom there was something not entirely hobbit-like, for he and other members of the Took clan would once in a while pop off and have adventures, discreetly disappearing, hushed up by the rest of the family.
Somehow I must have inherited a yen for adventure from forebears who had left the other side of the world to travel to unknown shores, inhabited by warring locals or anarchic whalers and sealers. One great grandmother, Jemima by name, travelled out to NZ on her own at the age of 14, to join her mother and newly acquired step father. Another female ancestor, Hannah Singleton, elected, as a free citizen, to accompany to Australia her incarcerated husband, found guilty of stealing 27 yards of calico. Perhaps she took seriously her vows to love, honour etc ‘till death us do part’.
Perhaps that was why I was sticking to the agreement to the do the Silk Road. Where he goes, I go. For one thing I didn’t want to be left at home on my own and for another I was afraid I might miss out on something. For Martin, with his Danish-Viking blood lines, adventuring has always been part of the scheme of things. When I met him in 1968, he had not long returned from travelling overland from London to Bombay, in those days via Kashmir and Afghanistan, and he was planning to disappear off to South America, tackling it from one end to the other. His interest in me sidetracked his attention and that adventure is still to take place.
Our version of Gandalf, who orchestrated Bilbo off to the Lonely Mountain and Smaug the Dragon, was a couple, long-time friends, Maurice and Anne. Martin and Maurice were friends in a Waihi church Bible class and we had kept in contact over the years, sharing dinners and coffees as our paths crossed. Maurice and Anne were into adventures par excellence, driving north to south through Africa in the 1980s, including through Idi Amin’s Uganda, and years later travelling by rail across Russia and Mongolia. They invited us to travel the Silk Road with them.