Book 1, Chapter 20


It's all turned to shit.

Literally... Shit.

On a normal afternoon four days ago I felt a bit weird, just off. So I decided to take a little nap...

From then till now I've been spraying it out both ends.


Four days and four night of a lurching gut, and either staring at the ceiling of our room, or walking to and from the toilet with hurried steps.

My relationship with my farts has degenerated into one of strained distrust.

What a life...

My stomach, despite never having anything in it, is massively distended. I look like one of those malnourished kids with the huge bellies you see on charity ads. Horrendously bloated.

I burp a lot. Three-second-long burps. It tastes like citrus and omelettes. Tangy egg. I'll be fucked if I know why... but it's fucking disgusting.

The timing could be worse, I guess. I’ve got nowhere to be but here.

Ben’s back from round two with Asse, and he’s even paler than before. He’s almost translucent and looks almost crook as I do. He's probably fucked off as much bodyweight as I've shat and vomited from the looks of things...

I reckon I might even look healthier than he does...

Kid needs some vitamin D and a sandwich.

I’m still joining the girls for lunch, but it's like I'm renting the food rather than buying it...


Not that I care; I gotta eat something, and I love spending time with them.

I’m trying to decide whether it’s these lunches that have made me crook, or 'playing chicken' with the local tap water, or just bad luck.

In any case it’s a good chance to train up an iron-gut for the rest of the journey, and learn some more French.

I'm trying to look at the bright side...

It comes out at one of our lunches...

I can't believe it.

Fatima is at university, studying medicine. Fatu the bombshell is betrothed to a guy she’s never met, back at her village in the countryside. I find both to be odd because they’re both too young for that...

"Combee-en des anais ah voo?"

They’re both 25...

I'm 26.

It’s weird, but even now that I know that they're my age, I can't think of them in any other way.

They've become more like sisters.

It's time to call it a day on Dakar.

I've kicked the bug, the credit card has arrived, and there's no reason left to stay. Plus, I’ve been given my marching orders; the Douanes have had enough of me getting extension after extension on the LP, and have given me five days to take my bike out the country. Or else...

Gotta go.

Despite having a tonne of reasons to hate Dakar, I just can’t. It's taken so much, but given back with interest. Like Stockholm Syndrome, I’ve fallen in love with my captor, and I’m sad to leave.

Ben’s not done riding Asse's gravy train just yet, so he decides to stay in Dakar with his sugar mamma, and see how long he can live the traveller’s dream.

I'm happy with that result; the time’s been up on our partnership for a while now.

I reckon I can do it alone...

It’s time to lose the training wheels...

Proof of the pudding is in the leaving.

Even after months of living in each other’s pockets, the goodbye with Ben is pretty unemotional. A shake of the hands and a 'good luck'.

It's the opposite with the girls.

We've only spent a few weeks together - and in different languages at that - and yet I feel a true sadness.

There's a real feeling of severing a connection.

I know that I'll never see them again.

I don't want to do it.

I want to take them all with me.

I'm not sure if I'm making this up in my head. Symptoms of being stuck in one room too long...

I'm packed up. Ready to go. I just need to say goodbye...

Fatu has a breakdown.

I have to hold her till she finally stops crying.

Breaks my fucking heart...

Fatma starts to bawl...

Now everyone's crying...

It feels like a wake.

It’s the worst thing, about all of this; anyone I meet, any connection I make, it's all temporary.

They all have a little expiry date.

I lose five friends, but I go back to an old one.

The Enfield.

We're alone again.

For the first time in Africa...

Oblivious | Luke Gelmi