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"Smarter Aid, not more Aid!"

I love to go a-wandering

Backpackers in Phnom Penh + Basil George "Wannabe"?*
Please click on the link; switch on your speakers, and sing along!
I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream 
That dances in the sun, 
So joyously it calls to me, 
"Come! Join my happy song!

I wave my hat to all I meet, 
And they wave back to me, 
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet 
From ev'ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing, 
They never rest at home 
But just like me, they love to sing, 
As o'er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering 
Until the day I die! 
Oh, may I always laugh and sing, 
Beneath God's clear blue sky!

Phnom Penh Riverside, New Year’s Eve, 11.45am

I was relaxing as is my custom with a Beer Lao reflecting on just getting a proposal in to the United States Embassy, when my calmness was abruptly interrupted with a “ting- ting”.

It was Darrin or Sharon Henry with another one of their fascinating tweets, one more flashback to their wanderings earlier this year, and this one by chance was from Cambodia. It was a cute capture of a boy spooning some dessert in to his girl-friend’s eager mouth.  Now 11.30 am Phnom Penh is 4.30am Saint Helena.  Is there a time delay or are they up at some unearthly hour, nocturnal tweeting?
Tender Moment?

Their welcome tweet made me reflect.  What a shame we hadn’t applied for a grant from the same fund for Saint Helena, to help preserve its indigenous culture, before it is assaulted after the new airport opens.

Now some of us have already made that point. We believe that if the “Tourism” experiment is to succeed (Plan A), then it needs to be more ambitious to work (Plan B), and there also needs to be a Plan C, if it doesn’t.

Saint Helena's new precipitous airport
Since writing my piece on that, I have subsequently learned that Cape Town is not to be the base for flights between South Africa and Saint Helena.  That seems to be an astonishing decision, given the close ties over hundreds of years.  But then commonsense is seldom a factor in overseas aid and development decision-making.

As I sat there pondering, folks kept passing by. Many of them were backpackers.  Now unless it has escaped me, I do not recall reading about backpackers in Saint Helena’s tourism plan?

Backpackers can get a bad rap.  Unless they are a recycled teenagers like Darrin and Sharon, they are invariably young lads and lasses fresh out-of-school or university making their own way out in to the big wide world, for adventure, before settling down in to conventional work and family-life.  So they do tend to “let their hair down”.  However that is not the full story.

Backpackers are often the first tourists to discover places.  They are happy with whatever they find. They do not demand 5-star service and facilities, the creature comforts of home-from-home. They eat as the locals. Most backpackers budget daily to make their money last.  They may not spend a lot but almost every one of their dollars stays in the local economy, unlike those spent in the big hotel chains.

So there should be a place for them literally on Saint Helena.

For the air-service to be viable, only one thing counts: “bums-on-seats”. Flights must be full. So it would make sense to attract tourists of all categories, not just the elite. And Donny would welcome a bigger crowd. 

Backpackers settle for modest accommodation, even dormitories. Many  can be housed in a fraction of the space, and cost, needed for elite visitors. (See note below.)

So please welcome all wanderers!

If you log in to hear the song, it will ring in your ears all day! Purge with the Wanderer!

A fine view of my native Northumberland on the road from Alnwick to Rothbury over to the Cheviot Hills.  Mind you my wanderings tend to go only as far as the Queen’s Head.

Rothbury is just about my favourite village in our Secret Kingdom, and deservedly so.
Tune in here to see and hear why.

Backpacker Hostels

A good website www.hostelworld.com. These are the minimum facilities although many places offer more, such as "de luxe" rooms. a restaurant bar, etc:

  • Safe and secure
  • Mix of male and female dormitories plus some double rooms, clean, comfortable bedding.
  • Communal bathrooms
  • Communal kitchen/dining space with utensils for basic cooking of snacks
  • “Hanging out” area to lounge, read, surf internet, recover from last night’s late frolics.
* A "Wannabe"?  from the Spice Girls song of that name:  "I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want, So tell me what you want, what you really really want, I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want to want...."


Drifting in moonlight,
the dunes sing their songs.
Wings of old battles
fly all night long.
Cry of the seagulls,
curse of the ghosts;
aches of dead warriors
scar this old coast.

Hover the kestrel,
sing out the lark,
we will be free in our time.
This air is our breath,
this sea is our thirst
and our dreams are sailing home.

Wandering through castles,
their walls are our lungs.
Searching for freedom
in country homes.
Forbears and old cares
blown in the wind;
pull of loved harbours
draws our boats in.

Surge of the salmon
and urge of the sea
leaps in our local blood.
Peal of the bluebells
and ring of bold tunes
reel in all those grey years.

Slopes of the Cheviots,
caress of the waves.
Shipwrecks and driftwood
float in our heads.
Pele-stones and carved bones
hide in these hills,
roots of new stories
in ancient tales.

Dew on our lips
and beer on the breath,
drinking the countryside in.
Bread of the landscape
and wine of this earth,
flows on these river beds.

Drifting in moonlight,
the dunes sing their songs.
Wings of old battles
fly all night long.
Cry of the seagulls,
curse of the ghosts;
aches of dead warriors
scar this old coast.

Hover the kestrel,
sing out the lark,
we will be free in our time.
This air is our breath,
this sea is our thirst
and our dreams are sailing home.



  1. Darrin and Sharon said:

    Hi John, enjoyed your post. Tried 3 times to leave a comment but each time I think I’ve done it I end up back at the start!
    Was trying to let you know we do work unearthly hours as the internet between midnight and 6am is free, so there is a growing culture across the island for people to stay up or get up just to go online. Our internet package costs £101.36 for just 6.5GB of data which as you can imagine we can burn through easily. Going over the allowance is charged at 9p/MB. The month after we returned from our travels we lapsed with monitoring our usage and went over to the cost of more than £80.

    Say hi to Phnom Penh for us, we had an amazing time there and would love to return sometime.

    Happy new year,
    Darrin & Sharon

    BTW, it’s 1.33am now. Even though the window is free it is excruciatingly slow as a lot of people are using it, so what in the UK would take us 20 mins to do, ie a blog post, can easily take 2 and half hours here!

    My reply:
    Now that cost will of course put off many travellers but be under no doubt, it will come down. I was paying US$50 per month until about 4 years ago, and that was a reduction from the kind of rate you are paying now.

    Today I pay about $2 a month and rarely are there any glitches in this....developing country! In fact internet is poorer, slower in parts of Northumberland in the UK. We also have free wi-fi just about everywhere too. It will come, to Saint Helena unless of course SHG does not allow competition and internet freedom!

  2. 15 September 2016 - the Northumbrian vista above I took as me elderly Aunt "Wor Iza" wanted to show me where she wanted her ashes to go. Sadly that is a wish we must now honour and carry out. And by the way, USAID did not approve our proposal. I have to say it seems odd to me that those countries who have histories of decimating their "first peoples" seem reluctant to help us avoid the same fate in Cambodia.