According to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is the most massively useful thing an intergalactic traveller can carry. In my case it is definitely the towels close cousin, a sarong which I include religiously on my backpacking travels.
I purchased mine – a blue sarong with white fish printed on it – in Bali over 20 years ago and I have never left home since without it. It has huge practical value – at its most basic it has served as my towel or a bed sheet. Carefully folded and knotted, it becomes my daybag. It has occasionally been worn as a dress or skirt. It regularly took on bunk screening duties in Central America and got to lay out with me on hot white sandy beaches. I have not yet used it wet in hand-to-hand combat as advised by the Hitchhiker’s Guide, but you never know.
For those concerned with how much weight this may add to your pack, it is a mere 120g.
Current duties in the heat of the GR65 Camino across France means it is looped through the top of my backpack, over my head or shoulders and the two corners attached to my walking poles, serving as a portable tent to protect me from the relentless sun, whilst still letting in the breeze. I alternately look like a Mexican bandito or Mary Magadelena depending on which angle you catch me from.
Another tip from the Hitchhiker’s Guide is to wrap your towel around your head to avoid the stare of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast. Why, you ask. Well, should you encounter the beast on your wanderings, you have no choice but to accept that death is certain and unavoidable. At this point you should simply “consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far; or if it has not been good, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.”
However the Bugblatter Beast whilst being a ravenous killer, is also mind-boggingly stupid; it believes if you cannot see it, it cannot see you. To avoid being eaten, simply wrap your towel (or sarong) around your head and continue on your way, being careful not to step off any cliff edge making null and void your efforts to escape.
Now I am quite sure this is a fictional character I do not have to worry abouton the GR65, however I have been wandering through some pretty isolated and lonely forests in the Lozère region and every now and then I get a reminder that this is the world of Le Gévaudan.
The story goes there is an animal which roams the woods in these parts. Descriptions from an hysterical public of the time are of a half-wolf half-dog, some described as large as a calf or cow. It had a tall, lean frame capable of taking great strides. A 1987 study of historical records estimated there had been 610 attacks in the late 1700’s, resulting in 500 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. My first encounter with this creature was in the town of Sauges, where the beast had stepped in some white paint and left traces of its huge paw marks wandering through the town centre to the church. Where else would the beast be going?
The next day while walking on my way to St Alban, a monstrous dog trotted by, eyeing me suspiciously and carrying a sheep sized carcass in its mouth… Le Gévaudan? The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast?
I think not, more likely an impostor, but I will be keeping my sarong handy and I advise you to do too.