Our guide smiles revealing perfect white teeth.
"Hello, my name is Heaven, welcome to Botswana." So that's what heaven looks like: lean blue-black limbs, long neck and a smooth handsome face. He poles our mokoro canoe parting the reeds of the Okavengo delta with a soft swish and calls to the other guides in his melodic voice. I lie against my rucksack and settle into a dream like state. Bright dragon flies dance above the surface catching droplets of water, sunlight blazing through their turquoise and emerald wings. My fingers brush creamy water-lilies as we glide by.
The solemn sound of chanting wakes me. Softly at first it grows louder and louder until it crescendos with drums banging. I part the thin curtains and sunlight streams in. I catch my breath, Darjeeling bathed in a red glow from the early sun, sprawls out down the valley, prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. In the distance, the snow-tipped Himalayas gleam sharp against cobalt skies. The back breaking journey to get here is forgotten. Throwing open the lattice windows, I lean out and breath pure mountain air.
Siesta approaches and the busy streets of Granada empty. I find a quiet plaza and sit with a coffee and sugary churros. Water sprinklers gently saturate the air spreading a soft mist scented with jasmine.
"Senorita, I play for you?" I look up as a young man emerges from the shadows, his guitar slung low against his hip. He smiles at a beautiful girl sitting at the table opposite and, resting his foot on a chair, plays bold tremolo scales and flamenco rhythms. Vivid gypsy colours fill my mind, swirling skirts and stamping feet. Oh to be young again.
Waves of bicycles, trucks and rickshaws flow around me. I'm in Ho Chi Minh City the day before Tet and the crowds are vast. The scent of sweet incense and fried rice mingles with rotting fish and ammonia from the Saigon River. The streets blaze with sunflowers, lanterns glow and dancing dragons shimmy to a throbbing beat. At midnight golden fireworks illuminate the sky. A little girl dressed in Ao Dai embroidered with golden bamboo and peach blossom offers me candied ginger.
"Cam o'n ban," I try. She giggles and hides behind her mother.
Scrambling up a termite mound I watch a mother elephant wade into the Zambezi river, but her family hesitate. She sucks in water and swirls her trunk spraying them. The herd join her but a bull calf remains on the bank. His mother winds her trunk around his body and coaxes him in to join the fun, all the time she strokes and encourages him. As they move away, the mother flaps her ears and turns her gentle eyes towards me. She's not threatening, just acknowledging my presence. They move off silently into the dense Zimbabwean bushveld and disappear.