We were in the middle of South America when disaster struck. I had arrived in Argentina four months ago, met with some friends as we crossed the continent to Chile, and we were now all in Potosí, Bolivia, the highest city in the world.
There were five of us, but one of our number had been nick-named 'Calamity John' as he was incredibly accident-prone. One month previously, when we visited the Northern desert of Chile, he had been spiked with the powerful hallucinogenic drug mescaline as a consequence of being loud and obnoxious on his birthday. Apparently the locals did not like having their quiet oasis town invaded by Gringos.
Now John managed to get salmonella and appendicitis simultaneously and had to have a truly terrifying operation in one of the world's poorest countries. Thankfully he survived, but we now had to rethink our travelling plans as he flew home.
Two of the guys decided to return to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, because many beautiful women live there. My friend James and I were also looking for adventure. We had been following the test series of 2000 between West Indies and South Africa when we realised the final match would be the last performance of the great fast bowler Courtney Walsh, to be played on his home ground in Jamaica. Frantic calls were made. Could we get tickets? We poured through the Lonely Planet books. Was it possible to get from Bolivia to Jamaica in six days?
The tickets were booked for us to pick-up in Kingston and we set off. We first arrived in Cuzco, as probably the only people in the world to go through the airport there without plans to visit the great Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. We then arrived in Lima, Peru, where we boarded a bus headed for Bogotá, Colombia. It had not occurred to me that the journey would take three days and that I should take a wash bag and change of clothes from my backpack which was in the hold of the bus.
The bus drive, winding through awe-inspiring Andean mountains cloaked in thick cloud forest, was punctuated with regular stops by paramilitaries with guns doing passport checks.
The bus then broke down in the Southern foothills of Colombia where many of the drug cartels are. While the South Americans on the bus prayed for Semana Santa, the holy week, we prayed we would not be kidnapped. Luckily we managed to find car hire from Rhino in Colombia to continue our journey. The next stop was Bogotá. The only thing I can say about Colombia's capital is that luckily we were only there briefly to get a connecting flight. Panama proved a welcome respite from our frequent run-ins with fire arms and danger.
Until we reached Jamaica. We were due to collect the tickets from a friend of a friend who lived in a large house in a wealthy area of Kingston. The sight of two scruffy teenagers arriving at her gate obviously caused alarm, because before we knew it a Toyota with blacked-out windows carrying two ex-police officers pulled up and pointed guns at us. They were from a private security company for those who could afford protection in Kingston. As the men got out of the car, we slowly held up our passports "We're here to watch the cricket!"
Their demeanour changed immediately. They got the lady in the house to give us the tickets, (though she still did not come out to say hello), and drove us around till they found a beautiful hotel on a hill where we could stay cheaply. We even had a drink in the hotel bar and a chat about cricket after they had dropped us off.