Dan and I are now in Dar es Salaam. As we wilt under the weight of Dar's oppressive heat, I find myself longing for the cooler plains of Tanzania’s open veld. The few days we spent game driving around the national parks certainly made for a refreshing break from the hectic pace of researching Tanzania's cities and towns. The only downside however was the Tsetse fly. After suffering from their relentless bites while we drove through parts of Mikumi National Park, Dan and I discovered that our best defence against the nasty little blighters was my Bradt travel guidebook to Tanzania. Having found a new use for the guide, Dan and I decided to come with our top ten list for alternative uses for travel guidebooks:
1. A [Tsete] fly swat: Thick and sturdy guidebooks make perfect swats for flies and all sorts of nasty bugs.
2. A self-defence weapon: If you find yourself in a sticky situation throw your guidebook at your assailant. It should hopefully stun them enough for you to make a fast getaway.
3. Emergency personal insulation: Stuck sleeping outside in the cold for the night without a sleeping bag? Don't worry! Simply tear out the pages of your guidebook (preferably pages you no longer need), scrunch them up and stuff them down your top.
4. A pillow (of sorts!): I've used my guidebook as a pillow plenty of times while on long-haul bus and train journeys – it might not make for the most comfortable pillow, but at least your head will have some support.
5. Fuel for starting a fire: The used pages of your guidebook can come in very handy if you are having problems getting your camp fire started. Just be sure not to burn any important pages you might want to refer back to in the future.
6. A conversation starter: (Or as Dan calls this one, a great pick-up tool!) Dying for a little conversation or an introduction to that cute local in the corner of the coffee shop? Then play the lost tourist and use your guidebook to ask for directions. Even if you don't know the local language, hopefully they'll find your bumbling use of the language guide at the back endearing.
7. A conversation blocker: We’ve all been in this situation before with the annoying stranger on the train, plane or bus determined to natter on to you incessantly about the minute details of their last holiday, their family back home or in some cases (and my pet peeve) their latest medical procedure. Simply burry your nose in your book and hopefully they'll eventually get the hint. If not, see suggestion 2.
8. Door jam/stop: If the door to your room refuses to stay open or bathroom door just won't quite close, your guidebook makes the perfect doorstop – especially if it's one of those hefty multi-country guides.
9. Toilet paper: Why is it that there never seems to be enough toilet paper when you really need it? In Romania I once paid for the privilege of being given one tiny square piece of toilet paper when using a public bathroom. It wouldn't have been a problem apart from the fact that I was suffering from a nasty case of traveller's diarrhea at the time. Again, just be sure not to use any important pages otherwise referring to them in the future might be a little...um...sticky?!
10. A sun hat: If you're like me and forgot to pack your hat (in spite of your trusty packing list!), then open the guidebook in the centre and place it Teepee style on your head. Don’t worry about looking foolish. As a khaki-clad foreigner walking around with a rucksack on your back you already stand out!
Have you used your guidebook for a purpose that was not recommended by the publisher? If you have any suggestions to add to our list, we'd love to hear them.