Earlier this year I got to cross off a lot of things from my childhood travel bucket list. My mum being a teacher and my dad being a voracious reader influenced me to pick up books at a very young age and read. It just happened that all the books we had at home were based in England and so it was really a dream come true to visit London and Oxford and Bath and … this list could go on so I’ll stop for now. One of my most cherished dreams though was of befriending Nessie and so this summer, I went in search of her. Here is my story in 5 pictures or less.
We decided to camp out because as warm nights usually go, this one was beautiful. The stars stretched infinitely above us like we were actually just in a planetarium – yes, I’m trying to compare the Tanzanian night sky to HD quality video. Sad, I know but you’d have to see it to believe it.
We had a bonfire going where we were roasting strips of meat as was customary and while enjoying our bottles of Serengeti, the topic of local legends came up. And then stories of fairy-tales and magic turn to horror stories.
MK – This isn’t anything like your Mohini/Noorie story from the other week. Our ghost is not a ghost. It’s more like an evil spirit-creature called Popo Bawa that goes around sexually assaulting its victims
Me – Of course, nothing says horror like “Bat Wing“. You sure you aren’t basing your hero on the DC Comic?
MK – Shush, stop interrupting. Legend has it an angry sheikh once summoned a djinni to take vengeance on one of his neighbors. And as you know, djinns are not to be messed with cause they are so clever. This one, like all others, obviously learnt how to dupe his master and escaped.
Me – Obviously. And then it proceeded to make home in a lamp?
MK – Ha. Ha. It wouldn’t be as funny when it comes looking for you.
Me – Not really a problem. All I have to do is keep a look out for bats. Right?
MK – Hilarious, because the Popo Bawa is a very proficient shapeshifter that attacks at night. It enters a house, sodomizes all the family members and then threatens the family that if they don’t tell everyone about it, it would come back whenever the fancy struck it.
Me – Yikes, how do you keep it away?
MK – Apparently, a fresh trail would smell like sulphur. When that happens, the entire family huddles outside by the fire and stays awake all night. Some have said that reading a few lines of the Koran will banquish it the same way holy water does.
Me – You’re then going to tell me about staying inside salt circles and using silver bullets aren’t you?
MK – Popo Bawa has been sighted only near the coast – don’t think salt will have any effect. It’s curious though because the creature only seems to strike during great political unrest. There were reports of it during all the major elections that threatned to get ugly. There are even doctors that are willing to testify that they have treated numerous alleged Popo Bawa victims. They all say they haven’t seen the creature but have seen giant bat wing type shadows fall on them before the attack.
Me – No one’s tried exorcisms? I’ve been threatned a number of times with it cause I’m so “weird”
MK – There are some tribes that place charms at the base of fig trees or sacrifice goats and use its blood to guard their doors. In one village, apparently it possessed a young girl called Fatuma and had a deep man’s voice as it spoke through her and they heard the sound of a car revving on a nearby roof.
Me – WHAT? This is obviously a very new legend. You sure you didn’t just make it up after watching The Dark Knight?
MK – Hmmm, I might have to take you to the mganga (socerer). Evil spawn of the Popo Bawa.
Those of you that followed my journey in Tanzania will probably remember the time when our guide for the day threw us to the sharks for “ snorkeling” purposes. The thrill of that moment soon changed to crippling phobia like it usually does when you’ve had a near-death-experience. So when I went to Tioman Islands in Malaysia, I felt an anxiety attack coming on.
There is a local legend that a Dragon Princess was once on her way to Singapore from China for her wedding. Exhausted by the long journey, she settled down over the South China Sea to rest a while. The sea was so calm and magical. The sun was warm on her back and filled her with so much peace that she decided to stay and turned herself into Tioman Islands.
(Click photos for larger image)
The Islands are beyond stunning – with pristine beaches, the place is literally a paradise island with reefs bordering it on all sides and a rainforest to trek through whenever one was tired of the sea. It wasn’t long before I said meh and rented out Mr. Naruto Uzumaki Coconut’s life jacket. I was there for an adventure and even if I were to be drowned AND eaten by the great whites, I’d die knowing that I didn’t back out from a challenge. I mean, how bad could it be? (By some unfathomable miracle, Murphy’s Law didn’t go into effect even though I was filled with dread the minute the thought came into my head)
The water was so clear that you could see the corals and the fish right from the boat and once you got into the water, the riot of colours that assaulted you was just mesmerizing. Of course I went to pieces the minute I touched the water – even with my life jacket on. My brother let me latch on to his life jacket and then told me stories to distract me from having a full blown panic attack and then slowly eased me into the actual snorkeling. I’m so glad I gave this a try. Snorkeling would make my top 5 list of the most awe-inspiring activities one should undertake as soon as possible and as many times as possible.
Travel Tuesdays is my attempt to get myself to blog regularly. Every Tuesday I will write about an experience I had while on the road, stories I heard while chugging down local beer, local legends that were shared by bonfire and photos of things that took my breath away. If you have stories you want to share as well, feel free to leave me a message so I can feature you.