Wanderlust – Paul Morrison Award

2007 trip report – Selwyn Davidowitz

 Tuesday 2 October

 I flew from Cape Town to London via Windhoek on Namibian Airways and arrived at Gatwick in the early hours of the morning of 3 October 2007.

 Wednesday 3 October

Having received some sound advice from Robin Liston I took the Gatwick Express to Victoria station. At Victoria Station I purchased a three day “as you go card” for the tubes and then took the tube to Earls Court station. From there I walked to Base2stay  which is where I would be staying for the next two nights.

At Base2stay my room was not ready so put my baggage in safekeeping and made my way into Kensington on an exploratory journey. Amazingly there were blue skies and it was wonderfully warm. I stopped in at a coffee shop and sent a text message to Bette to tell her that I was having a cup of coffee and sandwich for ZAR75 (in Cape Town this would have cost ZAR 30) and she responded with a text saying “enjoy and eat slowly” J.  At about 10h00 I made my way into central London and enjoyed exploring Trafalgar Square, the BA London Eye and other parts of London that I remembered from my last visit to the city.

At midday I met up with Kavey and Pete Favelle. We went for an amazing Chinese lunch in Chinatown and spent a wonderful afternoon reminiscing about all that had happened to us since we last met in 2004. I made my way back to Base2stay, checked into the hotel became acquainted with the internet system in the hotel and took a short nap.

In the evening I went back into Central London and met Robin Liston. Since our last meeting in 2004 we reversed roles and Robin took me on a personalized tour of “his London”. All in all it was a grand experience especially as Robin introduced me to parts of London that I have never seen before with such passion that I kept saying to him “you missed your vocation and should have become a tourguide”. We had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant on the banks of the Thames which took us through to 22h30. I returned to Base2Stay to enjoy sleeping in a bed after having spent the previous night in the airplane.

Thursday 4 October

On the morning of the 4th I completed all my email. As I was leaving the hotel I saw a couple walk in and immediately recognized Danut Marin who was also a finalist in the Wanderlust competition. I ran up and introduced myself. It  was a coincidence that in the whole of London we had independently booked into the same hotel. We spoke for a while and then I left the hotel making my way back to the Tate Modern which Robin had shown me to the previous evening. I was really taken by what Robin told me about the museum and wanted to see it in daylight as well as explore it inside. The only way to describe this museum is “fantastic”.

After my visit to the Tate Modern I made my way back to Kensington and stopped in at the Gore Hotel. Lynn Winton, who was unbelievable in helping me with ideas etc for my trip, had arranged for this hotel to provide me with a little annex  in their wonderful pub that I could use to have a tea party for all those who were coming to the Paul Morrison awards evening. I confirmed the booking and then went down to the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) building to acquaint myself with where the awards ceremony would be held that night.

There was a very good exhibition at the RGS about the Bombay Slaves and I spent quite a while walking through the exhibition before making my way back to the Gore Hotel. On my arrival at the Gore Hotel I walked into the pub and found that Mary and Roger Garland were already having a light lunch and enjoying themselves. We had great fun talking about so many things as more and more of my wonderful supporters arrived to join us for tea.  Those who came to the party were

Robin Liston

Lynn and Rob Winton

Eddie and Elaine Whiston

Naomi Greenwood

Pete Summerfield and Gail Harrison

Ally and Sarah Garland

We had so much to talk about in so short a time that I was quite overwhelmed by the whole occasion. At 17h50 I left my friends at the Gore and made my way to the RGS.

On arrival at the RGS I walked into the front door of the building and as I was  about to announce myself when I heard someone calling “Selwyn” behind me. The voice was familiar but for a couple of seconds I could not place it however when I turned around I saw Paul and Marina Williams as well as Terry and Pat Simmons sitting in the foyer. To say that I was taken aback would be the understatement of the year as this foursome of past visitors had come from Cornwall to the awards evening as a surprise for me and believe me it was a wonderful surprise. We spoke for a while and then I was taken to a room where there pre-award drinks were being served and I had my first opportunity to meet people like Lyn Hughes (editor of Wanderlust magazine), Gill Birch  (Who had been my Wanderlust shepherd for the past six months J) , Bill Bryson,  Emma Thompson and Hilary Bradt from Bradt Travel Guides  as well as John Brown who is doing fantastic work in terms of helping those with AIDS in South Africa. I also met and spent some quality time with  Goyotsetseg “Goyo” Radnaabazar and Danut “Dan” Marin. It was an honour to meet the 2006 award winners, KC Bhuwan, Manda Chisanga and Martin Shaw. It was a special privilege to meet a past ward winner and fellow African in Manda. I immediately bonded with him and I know that our paths are definitely going to cross again At one point in the evening Martin Gray came over to Goyo, Dan and myself, wished us good luck and told us that our lives would change from that night onwards. Martin is such a sincere man and his words of encouragement will stay with me for many years. Beside the people mentioned above I met many of Wanderlust’s fantastic staff and numerous other guests.

After the pre drinks party we all moved into the main auditorium of the RGS where I walked into find all my supporters sitting down in one big group and applauding like mad when I walked into the hall. As I was sitting down Andy Gordon came over to me and pointed out Fiona to me in my big support group. Oli Winton also came over to me as he had arrived at the awards evening after work. I also knew that Kavey and Pete Favelle were somewhere in the audience of 600 odd people. The atmosphere in the hall was electric.

There were introductory speeches by Lyn Hughes, Hilary Bradt and Martin Gray. We then saw a fantastic video telling us all about Paul Morrison. Bill Bryson then interviewed KC and Manda. It was during this interview that I learnt about the solar cooker that the U Foundation and Manda were developing for the people of Zambia. This is definitely a project that I am going to want to join as I believe it will make a huge difference to better the lives of so many people.

Then we progressed into the awards part of the evening. Videos were shown about Dan, Goyo and myself before Lyn announced Goyo as the silver award winner and Dan and myself as the joint gold award winners. Both Dan and myself made acceptance speeches which can be seen on You Tube by clicking on http://www.ilovecapetown.com/wanderlust/wanderlust.htm and following the relevant links or else on the Wanderlust website at http://wanderlust.co.uk/about.php?pgid=337

After the awards ceremony I was pleasantly mobbed by my supporters and many other well wishers. Two of these well wishers were Jayesh ‘Jay’ Taylor and Sarah Elton of the U Foundation. In my acceptance of my bursary award I had pledged 1000 Pounds of this award to Goyo’s charitable cause. Jay came over to me after the award and immediately offered to take over this pledge and very generously offered to double it for Goyo. Jay and Sarah made some wonderful suggestions as to how they could help me in particular in improving the lives of the people of Kayamandi. The flow of people coming over to me to congratulate me was never ending and very exciting. I left the auditorium so as to find a quiet place to phone Bette in Cape Town so as to tell her about the result of the evening. She then sent out the great news to all our friends and many of my past visitors as well as all those who supported me in nominating me or the Paul Morrison award

The evening then moved to a venue across the road from the RGS where Wanderlust put on a party second to none for all to enjoy. During the course of this party I was constantly in conversation with so many people whom I had never ever met before and who may well become people I will become friends with in the future. I also had an opportunity to spend time with my supporters who came to the party. Kavey introduced me to Charles and Steffi Swynnerton who I am already adopting as new found  friends as well as in terms of their supporting the education of a child in  Kayamandi. Overall in a period of what was probably 6 hours I think I met so many people who are going to help me make a massive difference to the lives of the people of Kayamandi. I also had a great opportunity to really meet many of the fabulous staff working at Wanderlust. What a great bunch of enthusiastic people who simply live for travel and Wanderlust. To meet these wonderful people was a privilege second to none.

At 00h30 I decided that I had better make my way back to Base2stay. It was only then that I realized that I had not eaten a morsel nor drunk a drop the whole evening even though there was so much wonderful food to enjoy. The excitement of the night had simply taken over and I was pleasantly hungry. I caught a cab back to my hotel, had a snack in my room and went to sleep very happily.

Friday 5 October

I checked out of Base2stay and took my luggage to the Luggage storage on Victoria station. At 11h00 I met up with Lyn Hughes, Goyo. Dan, Dan’s wife and Mandla at the Nomad Store where Goyo, Dan and myself happily spent vouchers that we had won the night before on travel goods.

After our visit to the Nomad Store we moved on to the BBar where we were joined by Jay Tailor, John Brown and Paul from the Nomad store. We had a wonderful lunch and as the afternoon tapered off it was only Lyn, Jay, Madla, Goyo, Danut and his wife left over around the table. It was only then that it sunk in what wonderful and amazing tourguides I had been associating with for the past 3 days. The discussion that took place between all of us (with much of it all being orchestrated by Lyn and Jay) was amazing. We learnt so much from each other in such a short period. There I was sitting with what was truly the crème de la crème in tourguiding sharing views ideas and  so many travel tips. Furthermore an enormous sense of friendship developed between all at the table,so much so that one felt as if the group should simply take over the world and make a better place of it as they were all so accomplished to do this. As a last experience Danut and his wife brought out some cheese and plum brandy from their beloved Rumania and we all shared it with great joy. Thereafter I had to leave the party and make my way to Gatwick so as to catch my flight back to Windhoek and eventually Cape Town where I arrived home at lunchtime on Saturday 6 October

This experience is one that I will never ever forget in my lifetime. I met some of the most wonderful people with whom I shared so much. Superlatives are too difficult to find to describe the whole event other than saying is was absolutely fantastic.

I want to thank all who sent me congratulatory wishes after winning the Gold Award. I t was wonderful to know that there were so many whop were happy with what had been attained.

I also want to thank all who supported me from the beginning of this campaign by sending in your open and honest nominations to Wanderlust. You came from all over the world and opted to lend your support voluntarily. Your words of recommendation had me blushing on many occasions but then to this I might add I was very appreciative of all that you said. Each letter spurred me on to make my tours in the future even better than the past. I thank you all for this.

To all those who came out to support me on the night at the RGS what more can I say other than a BIG BIG THANK YOU. Lynn thanks for helping me with the organization of the party at the Gore and all else that you advised me; Robin thanks for the tourguiding and wonderful evening  we spent together;  Kavey and Pete thanks for simply being Kavey and Pete – real true friends;  Peter and Gail, Naomi, Oli, Rob, Mary, Roger, Ali, Sarah, Eddie, Elaine, Rob, Fiona, and the big surprisers viz Paul, Marina, Pat and Terry,  all I can say is THANK YOU for your continuous support and you perpetual enthusiasm for all that revolves around my country and the people of Kayamandi. There is only one way to describe you all and that is that you are all eternal pillars of strength to me. THANK YOU, THANK YOU

Oli I have an apology to make to you; can you believe it I gave you my camera on the night of the awards without a hard disc in it. Hence you ran out of memory. Real stupidity on my behalf but it was simply because the excitement of the evening took over.

John I look forward to joining you in Hamburg South Africa some time. I was so proud to have met someone like you who as a human being is doing so much for my country and its people.

Jay and Sarah. It was fabulous meeting you. Your enthusiasm to want to help others in the world is infectious. I hope that we have many years of being able to work with each other.

To all at Wanderlust magazine. Thank you all for helping me come to London for the awards evening as well as for making the whole event so wonderful. Gill once again thanks for being my guardian angel with all the do’s and don’t’s  leading up to the awards

Finally and most importantly I have to mention that absolutely none of the above could have happened without the organizational ability, care for her fellow human beings and wonderful wanderlust of Lyn Hughes. What a privilege and an honour it was to meet and share so much with you Lyn. To say that you are a star is an absolute understatement. Furthermore your staff show similar qualities to you mainly because their leader exemplifies these traits. I have already told you privately and publicly that your motivation to create the Paul Morrison award in his honour is an accolade that I believe will become stronger by the year and as the award grows so the name of Paul Morrison will always remain. If I think of the awards evening and I put together how much positive change will come out of a 5 hour event and I then recognize that it all starts with you then what more can I tell you other than “you are making a huge difference to the lives of so many people all over the world. In this regard I cannot wait to show you what we are doing in Kayamandi. Kudos to you for all of the above but moreso for simply being yourself .

Selwyn Davidowitz

Gold award winner Paul Morrison Guide award 2007