Rory MacLean’s World Worsts
Name Rory MacLean
Who? Award-winning travel writer with a regular column in The Guardian and the Goethe-Institut. His six books include the acclaimed bestsellers Stalin’s Nose and Under the Dragon. Rory has won the Yorkshire Post Best First Work prize and an Arts Council Writers’ Award, was twice shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Prize and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was described by William Dalrymple as “the last literary traveler.” Born in Canada and a resident for many years in the UK, he now lives with his family in Berlin. More at RoryMacLean.com
Countries Visited 87
1. Worst Bus Ride Toronto Transit Commission’s route 33A, which I rode every day to school. The bus was so slow and dependable that it helped drive me away from Canada and out into the wild, unpredictable and ever-surprising wider world.
2. Worst Decision on the Road In rural Burma while researching Under the Dragon, I accepted the offer of a ride into the Shan hills from a warlord. During the journey he drank heavily, shot dozens of tropical birds with an AK-47 and at the end of the day pulled out his pistol and accused me of not respecting him. It was the worst decision because I took along my wife, and so endangered her life. The journey could have gone very, very badly. The decision still haunts me to this day.
3. Worst Flight A Cubana Airlines internal flight with chickens in the overhead compartments and livestock in the aisle. On the final approach to Havana I thought I was going to die (from the smell).
4. Worst Car Rental Once I rented a car in France – I won’t say where – from a total charlatan. He promised me a new model, but gave me an old banger. He said I could collect it at nine in the morning, but didn’t turn up until noon. He assured me there would be no mileage charge, and that too was a lie. So in a desire for some small justice, I disconnected the odometer and drove hundreds of miles without clocking up a single one of them.
5. Worst Souvenir While researching Magic Bus, traveling across Asia along the old hippie trail, I was careful about my diet. I was so relieved to have survived Afghanistan that, when I crossed into Pakistan and stayed with a Canadian friend in Peshawar, I let down my guard… and ate a peanut butter and jam sandwich with accompanying lettuce leaf. I suffered from amoebic dysentery for the following month.
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