I was unusually organised at school, at 17 I signed up to spend 3 months in Madagascar in my Gap Year. It was to be a full year and a half until I actually stepped onto the plane to start my adventure which was to dictate the next 5 years of my life.
I was always interested to travel but until I was 18 had never donned a backpack in my life. My gap year started with a short stint at Tesco before heading off round Europe with 5 mates from school. A whirlwind tour lead me to marvel at 10ft high paintings in the Louver, Bungee jumping in Grenoble, eating as much as you can eat pizza outside the leaning tower of Pisa, spending a day and a half on a boat, raving it up on the island of Ios, buying a McDonalds in Switzerland, eating bockwurst and visiting the zoo in Germany and finishing in Amsterdam before flying home courtesy of Stelios.
I returned home to the harsh reality of finding £5000 to pay for my trip to Madagascar. So I began working night shifts in a stationary warehouse and promotions work in Gatwick airport. It was a hard 7 months work, lots of injections, buying and borrowing equipment, sorting out malaria meds and researching the project before I was off.
I touched down on the dirty tarmac at Antannarivo. On the second day it was my 19th Birthday, spent drinking three horses larger. Next day I spent hanging my head out the window as we drove across the country, ending the day not only dehydrated but sunburnt as well. Not the best way to acclimatise! After a few days spent in Tulear in the South West of the country the group headed out to the dry spiny forests to start a detailed survey of the area. I was to spend the next 8 weeks sleeping on the floor with hairy catapillers, eating beans and rice, catching reptiles with my bare hands and GPSing the unmapped landscape.
My best memory was playing football against the local team. The whole village turned out to watch, we played on a solid mud pitch, the ball was like a ping pong ball and the referee had an AK47 slung round his shoulder!
It was the time of my life and I was hooked. I returned in the knowledge that I wanted to return to Madagascar one day but more so wanted to discover what else was out there? It was to be two years later until I ventured out again this time with Quest Overseas to Bolivia as a volunteer, from their to Peru and Brazil before returning as an intern in the UK office. As an assistant leader with Quest Overseas in 2007 I worked in Tanzania, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana, before heading off to Central America to continue backpacking. After a three month trip on local buses from Mexico City to Panama City and everywhere in between I headed off to work for Quest on an eight month stint in Africa.
Andy Deaville – Africa Operations Manager