An African tour that begins in Nova Scotia and ends thousands of miles away on the other side of the globe? It may sound unusual - unless you're familiar with the way President Gordon B. Hinckley travels.
"Frequent' describes it in a word; "nonstop" tells the rest of the story in two words.President Hinckley, 87, has visited 41 countries since he became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in March 1995. At least, he thinks that's how many he's visited. He hasn't taken the time to count, he told church members during a Thursday conference in Johannesburg.
His jet and crew, provided for his use by industrialist and LDS official Jon Huntsman, needed rest on the outbound leg from Salt Lake City last week, so an overnight stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was built into the travel itinerary. So, he scheduled a meeting with church members there during the rest stop.
Then the African tour began in earnest Saturday with meetings that day and the next in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Accra, Ghana, followed on Monday; Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday; Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday; Johannesburg on Thursday; Durban and Cape Town, South Africa, were on the schedule for Friday. Time between meetings was often spent in interviews with reporters.
In Ghana Monday, he got out of his car and walked the remaining blocks to his hotel because he didn't want to wait in the traffic. "Gridlock,' he called it later in the day, adding a reference from home: "I-15 everywhere."
Still later Monday he admitted to a Ghanaian national radio show host: "Sometimes I think it is just crazy for someone of my age to be running around the world."
He'd been making remarks about his age all week and finally admitted to the Johannesburg audience Thursday that the itinerary he was pursuing was finally beginning to tire him. The remark probably brought some relief to the entourage of (usually younger) people trying to keep up with him on the tour.
But he was still keeping his pace.
Later Thursday, he told Salt Lake media traveling with him that the hotel restaurant was slow and that they should eat somewhere else if they didn't want to waste the evening.
The mileage on his passport is even more remarkable when you find that he doesn't like to travel.
President Hinckley is the leader of a church with 10 million members around the globe. His aversion to traveling is overridden by his desire to be among church members. "I don't know how else to get there,' he said between meetings. "I'd like, for as long as I have the energy, to do so, to get out among the people of this church. It's been a long time since a president of the church has been able to do so."
He doesn't shy away from the thought that he'll have to slow down sometime. "I feel like the last leaf on the tree with the wind blowing," he said. "At my age, anything can happen, and I know that."
Perhaps he'll give it more thought next month, while he's on his way to Mexico.