In 2006 I flew to Madras and met up with the seasoned traveller, Cyril, and we went to the Andaman Islands.
When we were leaving the Andamans our ferry was delayed by twelve hours. Knocking around the port in Havelock Island with nothing to do, Cyril suddenly invited me to go to meet one of his friends. He led me to a small run-down tea stall on the beachfront where he and an old man exchanged warm greetings. The man poured us tea, waved our money away, and sat with us for a while. He and Cyril chatted and laughed and it was clear that they shared a connection. The man was quite a character and, looking into his eyes, it was clear (it's hard to explain) that he was a wise and special character. We left after a while, bowing and with smiles on our faces. That incident brought home to me how special a person Cyril was.
Photograph taken by Cyril
You see, they couldn't speak each other's language - neither had a clue what the other was saying. That didn't matter. Cyril had gone down to that tea stall several times a week during our stay because he recognised something in that man that others would never see - an openness, friendliness, a transcendence of culture and language not to mention race, religion, colour; in other words, a kindred spirit. It was something I was to witness with Cyril over and over again on our travels together.
There are so many other memories of Cyril which I will treasure forever. The satisfaction of sharing a cold beer with him at the end of a long, hot and dusty day on the road, the reverence and respect through which he revealed his surprisingly deep spiritual side in visits to temples but, above all, it is the laughs; the so many laughs we had together. Cyril was the best person I have ever travelled with. We never fought or even disagreed, which is quite unusual for friends on the road together for a long time. He befriended so many people with such ease. It is a measure of his personality and character that people he knew for just a short time are mourning his loss - from Canada to Bombay and from Auckland to Aberdeen. I am proud to have had the honour of knowing Cyril. He was my best friend, my brother and one of the greatest people I have ever known.