Conga drums the 2008 MUST HAVE

Shanti backpackers march to a different beat 

 

 

 

 

Backpackers have been dated to 3300BC when Otzi the Iceman strapped a quiver of arrows to his back and fatefully set off to find the Austro-Italian border.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They regard themselves as travellers of such a hardcore that you could put a 'Batmans' sticker on them and call them an apple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only will they immerse you with their fantastically boring tales of months spent loom-weaving carpets with a Laotian hill tribe, but will immerse you also with their horrific body odour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 From Mexico to Morocco, free spirited and musically talentless travellers are backpacking to the beat of a different drum.

 

Introducing the conga, this year's must-have for 'Shanti' travellers struggling to differentiate themselves from each other in a world where every road is not only more travelled, but has a Lonely Planet guidebook dedicated to it.

 

The conga drum's arrival on the backpacking scene en masse has long been anticipated, and its failure to grip the imaginations of the world's backpackers had baffled marketplace drum vendors and the proprietors of Ishka stores alike.

 

One theory is that the last two years have seen vast technological leaps forward which have finally freed up room enough for backpackers to carry the cumbersome instrument. CD players and speakers have been superseded by iPods, while the advent of zipoff pants-shorts have minimised the amount of clothing needing to be packed.

 

Meanwhile, outbreaks of bird flu and mad cow have seen the world's home kitchens turn to goat meat as a safer alternative. The subsequent far greater supply of goat hide – an essential part of the conga drum – has meant its global price has plummeted, thus making congas more affordable for notoriously stingy backpacking travellers.

 

A more simple explanation has it that while the previous most popular backpacking instrument, the guitar, required not only knowledge of complex fingerings but also of the Pearl Jam 'Ten' album, the conga drum makes no such demands. It merely requires the use of the palm of the hand – which many shanty backpackers are well acquainted with.

 

Backpackers have been dated to 3300BC when Otzi the Iceman strapped a quiver of arrows to his back and fatefully set off to find the Austro-Italian border. But shanty backpackers are a new phenomenon.

 

Deriving their name from an indian word for 'peace', they regard themselves as travellers of such a hardcore that you could put a 'Batmans' sticker on them and call them an apple.

 

Not only have they guaranteed been to more flea-bitten places in further off countries than you can ever imagine, but they're also assured to have stopped by at every impoverished tribal village along the way, from whom they have learnt the secrets of harvesting guinea pig eggs and of getting by without loo paper or literacy.

 

Sit next to one on a local bus, and not only will they immerse you with their fantastically boring tales of months spent loom-weaving carpets with a Laotian hill tribe, but will immerse you also with their horrific body odour – deodarant being rather hard to come by in the rugged mountains of Laos.

 

Up until now they have been most readily identifiable by their matted hair and chunky jewellery forged from 'Nepalese silver'(read 'tin'), and from wearing more linen clothing than a Mediterranean yacht party. Thanks to the conga they are now much easier to spot – just look for the enormous backpack-sized conga drum borne around their body or nursed between their legs at that ubiquitous beach campfire.

 

Previous shanti traveller must-have items have included Thai fisherman pants, Mexican hammocks, Make Poverty History bracelets, and Beer Lao t-shirts. Books have included Khalil Gebrand's 'The Prophet', 'The Alchemist' and 'The Life of Pi'.

 

Gregory Roberts' best-seller 'Shantaram' was last year awarded a permanent place on the must-have list in recognition of its service to fuelling long-winded pointless debates about 'best travel experience' and 'India', and for encouraging profoundly dull philosophical diatribes in countries where nausea is already too easily induced.