Traveling from Cape to Cairo was, in many places, a very solitary experience. I would be lying, however, if I said that I was ever completely on my lonesome. Less than a foot high, generally quiet and inedible in Ethiopia and Sudan – I had a partner.
He was a small, pink pig donated (or abducted, depending on your point of view) from some friends and taken along on the journey. Partly for my entertainment and partly to realise his longtime ambition of being the first stuffed animal to backpack the length of the continent. Being a stuffed animal, actually moving himself was something of a troublesome task – which was why I was involved in the project. For much of the early part of the journey, he lived quietly inside one of my shoes, making few demands. But in Kenya, his little fluffy snout would begin surfacing for the occasional photograph. Initially when we shared a room in the Nairobi YMCA together.
As we traveled, so he became my rock. A companion in the quiet times. Excellent company in the fun times. A superb pillow in the night time. Particularly when my pillow looked a little something like this.
Indeed, he frequently gave of his time and softness without asking anything in return except the occasional photograph to send back home. It was a tough journey in places, but not without its lighter moments. Though he was always the first to fall asleep.
We passed through forests and deserts. On ferries and feluccas. Through places where nobody had ever seen a real pig. In Sudan, I was asked if he was a hippopotamus. It was a slight which he took in good humour as he forgivingly smiled at the official who asked.
He was there to the last. In my right trouser pocket as we galloped past the pyramids. Finally arrived. To you piglet, I say a heartfelt word of thanks. As you depart for new adventures of your own, know that you have planted your trotters in places that no other piglet (alive or stuffed) has likely ever been.
[with a nod and a wink to the Pretoria University Debating Union]