Meet the cast of The Red Rucksack

Just the other day I was thinking about all the fun and amazing people I have met on my journies, the cast of The Red Rucksack if you will. Many of these people would have been diagnosed and medicated in my past life. In my current life they were among the most colourful and exciting (yes sometimes weird) people I have met. If you get a mention below and are reading this you can decide which category you fit in to. I started jotting down a short best of list and thought I would share it with you.  I find that despite the landscapes being breathtaking and the customs and cities amazing it is often the people you meet who leave the strongest impression:


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Andy Chapman -The short, powerhouse, singing maniac I met in Nepal. He spends his life at altitude pulling clients up mountains. His choice of song leaves something to be desired but his patience and ability to laugh under duress is commendable.

Gav and Al -An English couple in their early forties whom I climbed with in Nepal. They made the life decision to pass on kids and to spend their time and energy traveling the world, scuba diving and complaining about the wine list. Great people and good fun.

Dowar -The mountain climbing demi-god I met in Nepal. He and his three brothers hold the guinness world record for family Mount Everest summits I believe at over thirty times. His brothers feature on the label of every Everest Lager bottle. He is the most modest and quiet man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is so quiet and unassuming that for the first few days of the climb I thought he was a learner. It is rumored that once he ran off the summit of Cho Oyu with a sick climber on his shoulders, Cho Oyu is 8000 metres high.

Crazy Travel lady -The lady I met in Gokyo who has been traveling continuously for some twenty one years. She said she came into ‘some money’ at a young age and decided to go for a trip. She had some amazing stories to tell over a cup of tea and a yak steak.

Mark -Andrew Millen’s boss in Mongolia who was desperate for me to visit his favorite massage parlor with him. I didn’t. Otherwise he let us have company cars, helped us plan operation desert storm and was the perfect host.

Mongo -our guard and driver in Mongolia -A six foot tall monster who wears army fatigues and drove Andrew and I around. It turns out he had a wicked sense of humour and drove the Hilux around the Gobi like he was competing in the dakar rally.

Tv show host in Dalanzadgad – When she interviewed us for her travel show did she honestly think she would get sensible answers about travel in the Gobi Desert from two drunk Australians. Even she let out a chuckle as Andrew simulated performing oral sex on his pointer finger behind the camera. I fell off my chair laughing.

Shoulder dictionary -The young chap living on the shores of lake titicaca. I stayed with his family for a night. He spent the day happily perched on my shoulder as we walked around the farm reciting the Spanish word for things that I pointed at. A most agreeable way to learn new words.

‘Rio’ -Peru’s answer to ACDC, their most famous band. The lead singer was most interested in kangaroos. It was funny to see the shock on the black t-shirt wearing rocker’s face when I told him we eat kangaroo burgers in Australia.

Nasca Pilots -Sporting aviator sunglasses these guys are straight off the set from ‘top gun’. They flirt shamelessly with the girls and love to try and scare people by throwing their cessnas around under the guise of giving us a good look at the nasca lines.

Sophita and Nazia -Two law students I met in Miraflores. After dragging Sophita out of a fight we went on to become great friends. They enjoyed learning some choice English words and laughing at my bad salsa dancing. Me, I leant some Spanish and simply loved walking into clubs unshaven and wearing daggy t shirts with two stunning Peruvians on my arm.

Crazy cocaine dealer -Man who pounced every time I walked out of the hostel in Lima and offered me all sorts of mind altering substances. Do I look like some sort of bearded, drug taking hippy or something? (rhetorical)

Earthquake man in Pisco -Man who stopped me in the street and said I should not be out at this hour alone in Pisco. We went on to talk about the increasing crime since the devastating earthquake of 2007 and life in general.

Bus attendant -Yes they have bus attendants on long trips. She upgraded me to an executive seat and helped me throughout the night as I enjoyed a 12 hour bus ride suffering explosive gastroenteritis.

Whip Lady -Lady who makes tourists lie on the ground and then whips them with a vengeance in Chivay, all under the guise of a cultural show. She could get an even higher paid job in a dungeon somewhere I am sure.

King -A Malaysian doctor with a brilliant sense of humour and no fear. A formidable combination. He tried to get us into a high security prison in La Paz by saying that he wanted to visit his cousin inside. He went on to wrestle anacondas in the jungle. His talents are wasted in a small consulting room.

Lonesome George -The famous galapagos turtle who is the last of his species. He produces no sperm so will definitely be the last. The kindly park rangers have put two female turtles from a different species in his pen for ‘companionship, no need for birth control. Not so lonesome George.

Jette and Ann -Two hilarious Danish girls I met on the Galapagos. Never have I laughed so consistently for ten days. Jette came along to Bolivia with me, I popped over to visit her in Denmark. We continued stalking each other around the globe and recently got married in an intimate ceremony in the Tasmanian bush (wearing hiking boots).

American salsa guy -A ponytailed American man in his mid fifties who comes to Quito annually to salsa dance with the locals and to get a break from his wife. The way he was talking about his dancing partners it was more than salsa going on.

Lebanese consul in Ecuador – She filled me with camomile tea as she begged me over the flickering candlelight for money to buy her way out of gaol. I spend a night in Quilatoa with her and her family playing Beatles collector edition monopoly. A most agreeable and random night just when I was starting to feel a little lonely.

Dr Ricardo -The insane Chilean psychiatrist who loves both whiskey and the white powder. He enjoys psychoanalyzing everyone in sight, is intensely intelligent but has a few screws loose. Great fun.

Heavy metal midget -The midget Ozzy Osborne clone who persisted in trying to wrestle with me in a shady biker bar in Quito. He even picked up a chair and threatened to bash me (around the knees) with it if I would not wrestle him. I won.

Ando -The gay flight attendant who lived where I did a language home stay. He kept on asking me if I liked to ‘party’. He never worked out how to say platypus properly.

The Nun -The head nun how was unsure whether to let a hairy Australian into her orphanage under the guise of donating clothes. Her and her team look after some 80 abandoned babies. She has the patience of, well, a nun.

Marcus -The loud surfing Australian I climbed Cotopaxi with. He works as a commercial diver, his stories of accidents and close calls made me convinced that initially I chose the right profession.

Elderly Peruvian man on bus -The man who I gave my seat to, only for him to be promptly vomited on by a small child. Without any words we laughed at the beautiful irony of this moment.

Shaman Alberto -The skinny Iowaska drinking shaman who claims it gives him the ability to see into people’s health like an x-ray machine. I think it just gives him a lovely buzz.

Try hard Gangster people -The cocaine snorting, reggae loving gangsters who kept me up all night with their music and wrestling in Guayaquil. Revenge; putting my ringing alarm clock on their windowsill as I had a 5 am shower on my way to an early flight, genius.

The farmer and his wife -The nice farmer and his wife who let me camp near their home whilst trekking the Huayhuash. They caught and shared fresh trout from the nearby river. They were two of the happiest people I know but only own a few sheep, some basic cooking/fishing gear and one set of clothes. I am glad I left before washing day.

Psychotic French walkers -Three dreadlocked and tattooed French people who got caught high in the mountains of Peru without good equipment or food. They had to endure a forced march out. They went on to join in the riots in Huaraz and took some amazing photos which they sold to the media.

David -My ten year old guide who gave me a tour of his town for the price of a chocolate bar. He even showed me his secret fishing place on the promise that I did not tell anyone. I think in my travels he was the most patient with my Spanish. Good kid.

Mark -The psychotic potato truck driver who gave me a lift into Chiquian after busses were stopped by rioting. He loved getting his bald tyre truck sideways around precipitous corners and scaring the absolute hell out of me while all the time mimicking my accent.

Rosweldt -The rock climbing guide in Huaraz who had a very casual approach to belaying. He managed to both eat a museli bar and answer a phone call whilst I was climbing. The rest of the time I climbed he just enjoyed the views.

Justin -A very eccentric, cross eyed English man who studies language. I first saw him singing at the top of his lungs to an audience of Quechua speaking locals in the Chiquan plaza. He has spent ten months in the highlands of Peru learning and documenting Quechuan and it sure showed.

Bus Lady -The well groomed, neat lady who did not bat an eyelid when I fell asleep on her shoulder and proceeded to drool all over her on a long bus ride through Peru

Lindsay -The bar owning anthropologist who loved studying Bolivian people so much that he married one! Drinks like a fish and has some brilliant tall tales about his exploits in the jungle.

Benjamin - The farmer on the isle del sol who let Jette and I camp on his beach to see in the new year. That night we enjoyed a lake titicaca sunset, each others company and lots of red wine.

Australians in La Paz – With white powder still in their nose hairs they would ask questions rapid fire, not wait for a answer, then ask the next question.  They had been traveling for many months and had not seen the outside of a hostel bar.

Fabio and Sammie - These guys come as a pair. They work as paragliding instructors and own a business doing stunts for the movie industry. They do an amazing dance on the wind and are very laid back guys.

Art – an eighty something year old grandfather who decided that learning to paraglide would be fun.  Art drunk almost a bottle of wine each night, joined in the parties with gusto and actively encorouged our aerial paintball idea. The world needs more Arts.

Martin - Belgium tandem paragliding pilot. He agrees wholeheartedly with passengers when they say he is awesome. Wears an inca style vest and never once helped with the washing up.

Gay motorbike riding-paraglider man from Germany with the hash - No real story here, he was just hilarious.

It is these guys, and many, many more who have made my journey so very full of colorful memories. If you have travelled with me and didn’t get a mention, Sorry!!

Get the full story here (click on book):

grey Meet the cast of The Red Rucksack

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Curious? Get the full story here (click on book):

grey Meet the cast of The Red Rucksack


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