Thursday, 11 September 2008
Grumpy Old Man Moment
As I meet more and more tour guides, I am getting grumpier and grumpier. Not wanting to publicly tackle (and hence embarrass) them I am letting my frustrations out on you, my poor readers.
And the source of my grumplement? The extravagant claims made by guides for their particular area of interest.
Some years ago I did a tour to central Australia. Amongst other things I was told that wichetty grubs had more protein than a piece of steak (about as silly as saying that a cup holds more water than a bucket), that a particular sap was a stronger glue than anything white man had developed BUT the aborigines would soften it with heat and reuse it (so it is both hard and soft, it seems) and that a particular plant had antiseptic properties far stronger than anything we white folk use. To claims like the last one I like to apply the ‘if that then this’ test. If that was true then it seems odd that the pharmaceutical companies haven’t planted acres of the stuff. They haven’t, so what does that mean?
Why can’t the guides just say ‘Aborigines ate wichetty grubs”, “they used this sap as a glue”, “they used this herb to dress wounds”? All are true and perfectly reasonable. But, no, they have to reach for some sort of extra merit award.
So to Peru.
We have been told that the reeds in Lake Titicaca are a rich source of protein and carbohydrate. So why do they eat fish and potatoes? The reeds are very spongy and the people there do eat the soft bases of them but I suspect they only get dietary fibre from the things and, having tried them, I suspect they were only eaten after a poor days fishing.
We were told that the Inca calendar was so accurate that it only needed ‘tweaking’ every 13,000 years where as our miserable Gregorian thing needs a four yearly service with an extra tweak every other millennium or so. Can’t find any evidence to support this claim.
We were told that people drink a tea made from a particular jungle vine (probably true) and that this concoction was the reason for lower levels of pancreatic cancer among Peruvians (doubtful). As obesity is the major risk factor for pancreatic cancer, could it be that it is the general leanness of the Peruvian population that is responsible for the lower cancer levels and not the tea? I’m guessing, of course.
This is not just a trait of Peruvian guides, it seems to be a universal urge to show that your domain is somehow better than others.
Why do people have to gild the lily when the lily is lovely enough on its own?
Posted by Lee at 07:54