Day 305: The Hangover

Day 305: The Hangover

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Mauritius, The Odyssey Expedition

01.11.09:

Urgh. What a stupid idea THAT was. I woke up at 3pm, realising instantly that at 3pm, I’m supposed to be on board the Trochetia for the trip back to Réunion. I rubbed my eyes and headed for the shower, for the first time in my life thankful that it was cold. My body was just as surprised as I was that I was a) still alive and b) in the correct room of the correct hotel. Seriously. A few years ago, my mate Dan Martin and I were as drunk as lords in Morocco and not only did we wake up the next day in the wrong room, we also soon realised that we had waltzed into the wrong hotel. Night staff never see you check-in, do they? Little tip for you there, if you’ve got the guts.

So after saying my fond farewells to the owner of the guesthouse, I made my way through the (merciful, refreshing) rain and grabbed a taxi that was being driven by a rather over-enthusiastic taxi-driver. He talked and talked, but all I could do was grunt and hope he didn’t take the corners too fast. I got to the boat and discovered that the Bureau de Change was closed (it being Sunday) which meant there was absolutely no way of translating yesterday’s winnings back into real money, such as Euros.

Cursing the system, I boarded the old Troch, hopefully for the last time. I managed to survive until about 9pm before I realised that I wouldn’t be getting any sleep if I didn’t relieve my body of at least some of the junk my liver was struggling to process. So I calmly walked to the communal toilet and did the best impression of the little girl from The Exorcist you have ever seen. My head then rotated 360 degrees and I did a weird backwards spider walk to my cabin, hissing at anyone who came near. I slept the sleep of the angels.



Day 306: The Reunion in Réunion

Day 306: The Reunion in Réunion

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reunion, The Odyssey Expedition

02.11.09:

Finally free of the good ship Trochetia (at least for a while) I made my way from La Port to St. Denis and caught the number 6 bus towards Mickael’s place. He picked me up from the bus stop on his little scooter and took me to his house – a nice rambling student-esque digs. He had to go to work so he left me in the sparkling company of Matilde, a rather fetching French girl of the type that actually makes you want to bother to learn French. She’s over here on holiday for a couple of weeks visiting Anne-Sophie, one of Mickael’s flatmates. I was even prepared to put up with her practising on the violin, whilst I stuffed the washing machine with my laundry (including my hat which was now smelling so bad that if you wore it, your face would melt like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark) and took a deep, relieved breath – it had been too long.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty…

TEAM ODYSSEY was rising from their slumbers ready to fight another day. After Cape Verde and Sao Tome, failure was no longer an option. If Dino Deasha and Lorna Brookes couldn’t suss out some way to get me back to Madagascar within the week, then I’d have to slap them on the back of the legs with a ruler. But they had a secret weapon – a magnificent friend of Lorna’s called Thierry KlinKlin. A francophone, it was his job to sweet-talk the angels at CMA-CGM, the French shipping group (and one of the biggest in the world) into allowing a dishevelled scouse traveller hitch a ride on one of their ships.

The world holds its breath…

Meanwhile, back in Réunion…

Mickael returned to the house for lunch and decided to take the afternoon off work and go for a trip to the local waterfall with Anne-Sophie and Matilde. Since I’m physically incapable of saying no, I came along and soon we were high up in the mountains of Réunion enjoying the cool clear waters of the whachamacallit river. Ahh, I said in a recent tweet that I felt like I was on holiday for the first time in ages, and I most certainly do.

Soon we were back at Mickael’s. I emptied the washing machine to find my hat had been well and truly pulverised – the platted band around the upper had somehow unplatted itself and the rest of the hat was a rather sorry soggy mess. And it had shank! I stuck it on the line to dry. I’d deal with it tomorrow.

Then it was time for what began as a dinner party and ended up as a mad French house party (a maison boom?), spread out over two houses (Mickael’s and his brilliantly insane next-door neighbours) involving a bar(?), boules and babes and lashings of rum – we are, after all on a tropical island. Had a cracking time with Pierre, Anais, Lucy, Tony and the gang – they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome if they tried.

You know, I’m beginning to really dig this place.



Day 307: Passportout

Day 307: Passportout

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reunion, The Odyssey Expedition

03.11.09:

TEAM ODYSSEY has a tentative lead – a cargo ship – the DAL Madagascar leaves here on Thursday, perhaps bound for Madagascar. This is of course great news, but with it came the panic that I need to get a visa for Madagascar – perhaps. To be honest, I really don’t know if I actually need to get a visa before I show up, but after Cape Verde, I now like to err on the side of caution.

Mickael accidentally took the door key with him to work so I was trapped in the house until lunchtime. Matilde and I fixed my hat up as best we could, and after a bit of stretching, platting and superglue’ing it was (almost) as good as new. Afterwards, Matilde left to go hiking with the lads from next door and it wasn’t until Mickael got back on his lunch break at 12.30pm that I learned that the Madagascan embassy closed at 1pm.

Mickael ordered me a cab and I hurtled over there. The embassy knocked my application back, saying I need to supply them with proof that I’m going to Madagascar (shurely shum mishtake?) so I would have to return the next day – but doesn’t it take 48hrs to process a visa? Don’t worry, we’ll do it in 24hrs for you.

Fair enough. Now what? Do I buy a ticket for the Trochetia for next week, get the visa and then get a refund? Hmm. Questions, questions, questions. I hot-footed it back over to Mickael’s and hit the net.

After a conflab with TEAM ODYSSEY, I realised that I might be able to get the proof I needed from the shipping agency responsible for the DAL Madagascar tomorrow morning. That made tomorrow a DAY OF ACTION! Lots to do!

Mickael had a hot date tonight, so I had a night in with his housemates Pierre, Anne-Sophie, Anais and Lucy. Being proper French, it mostly revolved around eating, which received no complaint from moi.



Day 308: Vans Across The World

Day 308: Vans Across The World

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reunion, The Odyssey Expedition

04.11.09:

My poor old Vans. Used, abused, stuck to my feet for over 300 days of constant toil and hardship and now imbued with a smell that could only be described as unholy, it was high time to chuck them away and find a new pair. But first I had a job to do. The illustrious Lucy dropped me off at the bus station first thing in the morning and within a few minutes, I was on my way back over to La Port. Upon arrival, I realised that I had no map in order to find the shipping agency, so I breezed into the library and memorised the one they had stuck to the front desk. Thanks, Derren.

At the agency, I met Audrey, a delightful Anglo-French girl who would be the solution to all my woes. Yes indeed, there is a ship called the DAL Madagascar, it’s in port today and it’s going to Madagascar, but it’s going to Mauritius first. A trip back to Mauritius? Fair enough. When does it leave?

Today at 1600.

Oh hell.

Audrey kindly copied out the email correspondence between TEAM ODYSSEY (Lorna, Dino and Thierry) and CMA-CGM, DAL and the shipping agency and I ran out of the door as quickly as I could. Would it be possible to get a visa today? I got to the roundabout where the bus stopped on the way back to St. Denis, 20km away – there was a bus! I ran as fast as I could but the rotter didn’t stop no matter how much I shouted and whistled. What’s with bus drivers? Are they making up for something?

It was hot as hell and I did not find the twenty-minute wait for the next bus very amusing. Nor did I find the traffic jam on the approach to St Denis tickling my funny bones. By the time that I got to the Madagascan embassy, it was already past twelve. I explained the situation to the lady on the front desk, but she didn’t really get what I was blithering about. Luckily for me, the Consul himself was in attendance – and he spoke English. Apparently, it wasn’t utterly necessary for me to get an advance visa for a single trip of less than 30 days – I could get one upon arrival, but since I was here…

Thank you.

Oh, and best of all – it was free! I love Madagascar!!

Within five minutes, I was skipping out the front door, my passport now furnished with a stonking great Madagascan visa. I hopped on the next bus that looked like it was heading towards town (my shoddy GSCE French did manage to teach me something – That the Hotel de Ville wasn’t actually a hotel). As I was walking across town to get the bus back to Mickael’s gaff to pick up my kit, my phone buzzed. It was Audrey from the shipping agents. The DAL Madagascar would not be leaving until tomorrow. I leapt in the air and did a whoop, spun on a sixpence and headed back towards the city centre. Mission: New Shoes.

But first… Ice Cream. Bounty and Melon from Le Castel Glacier. Mmm….

Now. Shoes. Found a pair. Normally (being the penniless tramp that I am) I buy one pair of shoes every couple of years for twenty quid from Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village. So to pay €80 for a pair of clod-hoppers is a little out of my league. This is where the ancient skill of the haggle comes into play. I got ‘em for fifty. Twice what I normally would pay, but still I managed a whopping discount so at least my wallet was (almost) as happy as my feet.

That night at Mickael’s, Matilde and the boys from next door got back from their hike and so (typically) we all enjoyed a great big feast sitting around the table on the back porch. Afterwards, we all headed out to the hilariously named MacEvan’s Bar for a farewell beer. It’s been a great few days here in Ré, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back.

Upon our return, the time had come for the cremation. Yes, it was time to say bon voyage to my old shoes, and what better way to do it than a good old-fashioned funeral pyre? It’s what they would have wanted. I considered a burial at sea, but the resultant environmental damage would have made even Sarah Palin weep.

So I placed the shoes on the little fireplace in the middle of the garden, covered them in lighter fluid and, with a tear in my eye, set fire to the little buggers. I whistled Darth Vader’s funeral theme as X-Wings set off fireworks in the sky. Afterwards, I danced the night away in these massive trees with some Ewoks.



Day 309: The DAL Madagascar

Day 309: The DAL Madagascar

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reunion, The Odyssey Expedition

05.11.09:

The guys from next door came over for a farewell breakfast, which kind of spilled over to a farewell elevenses and then a farewell lunch. In fact, before I left, Mickael had come back from work already. So we posed for some hilarious photos in the back garden before Pierre drove me down to the bus station. What a brilliant, brilliant bunch. You know, if there is one thing I’ve learned this year is that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, people are great. And although it’s the nasty ones that have a tendency to stick in your mind, they’re outnumbered by the good’uns 100 to 1. I’m telling you.

Had a bit of a drama getting to the port – first, I had to wait an age for the next bus, then there was the (typical) traffic jam followed by the massive hike from Le Port to the port itself – and then I went to the wrong gate. Considering the port is about the same size as Glastonbury going to the wrong gate is a little like going to the wrong town. With all my bags, I had no hope of making it for 2pm – the deadline had already passed by fifteen minutes. Thankfully, the Capitanere took pity on me and got the shipping agent to come and pick me up.

Captain Jens-Uwe welcomed me on-board and after a quick panic about the Letter of Indemnity, I was shown my cabin (nice!) and I settled in for the night.

I had made it. I was on my way to Madagascar. But first – we had to drop in on an old friend.

THANK YOU TEAM ODYSSEY!! Thierry, Lorna, Dino – take a bow. It looks like you’re off the hook for a while. Mand and I will take it from here, cheers.



Day 310: Slight Return

Day 310: Slight Return

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Mauritius, The Odyssey Expedition

06.11.09:

So by a bizarre set of coincidences, I find myself back in Mauritius. That’s okay – the last time that I came here, I actually left with a profit. This time, my one true desire was to get to the natural history museum. I just had a few errands to run first – I needed to post something to Dino, Fed-Ex a stack of tapes back to Lonely Planet and unblock my internet and phone banking – something I’ve been trying to do for six months now.

Easy?

Er, no. Okay, so posting that thing to Dino was easy but then after that, ygads! I went to the HSBC (there aren’t any in Africa – I guess ‘The World’s Local Bank (unless you happen to be African)’ doesn’t have the same ring to it) and I found myself hanging on the telephone listening to that crappy HSBC music that hasn’t been changed for over ten years ALL AFTERNOON. After speaking to a row of useless muppets, I finally managed to get through to my local branch in Liverpool and explain the situation. No, I won’t be POPPING into a UK branch of HSBC any time soon, my dear. They told me to phone the fraud ‘hot’ line (not hot enough to make them pick up the damn phone within twenty minutes though, eh?), which I did, and they told me it wasn’t their department and to try the number that I had already tried to start with.

After three hours of this, I was just about ready to throw the phone on the floor and jump up and down on it like Yosemite Sam. I eventually got through to a girl named Tanya and proceeded to tell her EXACTLY what was going to happen. I was going to hand the phone over to the nice lady in the bank (which by this stage had been closed for half an hour) and Tanya was going to give her a fax number to fax a copy of my passport to prove I am who I say I am and so therefore unblock my *&%£$! account BEFORE I get back to Africa.

Tanya agreed this was a good idea, even though it possibly wasn’t on the “here’s what to say to the scum” cards sitting in front of her. After they scanned my passport, I legged it out of the bank towards the Fed-Ex office.

Ah.

Now, when I ask for the address of Fed-Ex, I don’t want to go to the head office. That would be a bit like really wanting a McFlurry and ending up on the 104th floor of McDonald HQ. The lady at reception suggested that I try the post office, which I did, only to find they had stopped taking Fed-Ex parcels SEVEN MINUTES EARLIER.

That’s when I took out the rocket launcher and blew up the road.

Or at least wanted to. I raced over to the waterfront, bumping into Darwin, my friendly barman from the ‘Drink Your Way Around The World’ pub, on the way. I told him I’d pop in for a drink as soon as I sorted this rubbish out. Apparently, there was a Fed-Ex office somewhere in the (rather distasteful) waterfront mall. After asking a bunch of people who had no clue about this fabled Fed-Ex office, I decided it might be a good idea to ask at the Information desk. When the lady smiled and told me that the information desk was also a Fed-Ex collection point, I could have kissed her. I popped the tapes in a box and fired them off to Oz.

It was now past five. I had missed the museum again! Cursing the world and everyone in it, I headed to the ‘Keg and Marlin’ for a swift half. My name wasn’t up on the board yet, but Darwin assured me it would be going up next month. Better bloody had do, or I’ll raise merry hell! A prize to the first Odyssey fan to send me a piccy of it.

By now, there was nowt left to do save head back to the port and clamber back aboard the good old DAL Madagascar. The way I figure it, HSBC owes me a trip to the Mauritian Natural History Museum.

I’m serious.



Day 311: Here Be Pirates

Day 311: Here Be Pirates

November 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Indian Ocean, Madagascar, The Odyssey Expedition

07.11.09:

Polished off the new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol, which is, muh. Nowhere near as good as Angels & Demons or Da Vinci Code, the ‘twist’ was more obvious than if Bruce Willis spent the entirety of ‘Sixth Sense’ wearing a ten gallon hat with “I’m Dead” embroidered on the front in big glowing letters.

And what with that bit where they stand around a severed hand for half an hour chatting about the ceiling? Why aren’t they getting that thing on ice?? And (without giving too much away) what’s with the history lesson at the end? It’s akin to Anakin giving a guided tour of Jedi HQ to a bunch of old grandmothers immediately after his fight with Obi-Wan on the lava planet.

One last thing, and then I’ll hold my peace; If Sato had just taken Langdon’s phone in Chapter 16, it would have been all over by Chapter 17, but no, the hapless reader must plough through a further 117 chapters to get to the rather predicable conclusion. I did like the point he made about the founding fathers being deists, not Christers, I like to hope your average Middle-American is paying attention, but (s)he probably isn’t.

In the mood for a mooch, I headed up to the bridge to see what was happening in DAL Madagascar HQ. We had a change-over of Captains and now we were under the command of a surprisingly sprightly (and wonderfully foul-mouthed) 67 year old German guy called Klaus Gobbel. No, I’m not making that up. While I was up there, I got chatting with the 2nd officer, Yuriy, who was eager to show me the charts of the Indian Ocean. The charts with all this year’s pirate attacks marked on them in pencil.

Oh crappy-la-la.

There were so many I couldn’t believe they had all happened this year, including the most ominous marking – OUR SHIP ATTACKED – dated April 2009. Yep, AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades – the lot. The good old DAL managed to outrun the rotters, Captain Klaus told me that after the stop in Madagascar, they’d be blacking out all the windows “like it’s the £”!%ing war” and gunning it a full speed – 24 knots – in a bid to avoid any future confrontations.

The fact that Prince William and the Royal Navy are wasting their time monkeying about in the Atlantic attempting to stem the flow of gak into the UK (much to Prince Harry’s chagrin, I suspect) when there is this level of piracy going on in some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, just beggar’s belief.

But of course, it’s music piracy that is the greatest threat to civilisation as we know it. Imagine if people were allowed to use streamed copyrighted music on their websites?! That would be The End Of The World As We Know It…



Day 312: Madagascan Surprise

Day 312: Madagascan Surprise

November 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Madagascar, The Odyssey Expedition

08.11.09:

Oops, Guatemala is spelt with an ‘e’ not an ‘a’, so my factette about Madagascar being the only country in the world with 4 ‘a’s in the name seemed almost valid, that is until I woke up this morning in a cold sweat, the name of another country with 4 ‘a’s in it on my quivering lips. I’ll leave it to you to figure that one out.

So, as a pleasant surprise, I’m back in Tamatave, Madagascar – a day earlier than I was led to believe. This is wonderful news. I said my hearty thanks and goodbyes to Chief Mate Richard and Capt Klaus and shuffled off the DAL Madagascar. The wonderful shipping agent, Ricky helpfully gave me a lift to the taxi-brousse area, where a minibus was leaving as soon as it filled. By about 10am, I was on my way back to the brilliantly unpronounceable capital city, Antananarivo.

The sheer beauty of Madagascar is a joy to behold. The road between Tamatave (Taomasina) and Antananarivo is breathtaking – long and winding, yes, but breathtaking nonetheless. Grown men shooting down the road on wooden go-carts and the rich Goblin Green that covers the interior of this magical land. All the little village shacks at the side of the road are made of wood with pitched leaf-thatched roofs. Lovely.

Antananarivo is one unique capital city, I have to say. There’s concrete, yeah, but nowhere near in as biblical proportions as in other African cities – tons of stuff is made of brick, stone and wood, and the style – well, I don’t know how to describe it – it’s like a very tropical version of European early 1900s architecture. I love it. It’s set out on more hills than Rome, which makes for a dramatic vista every time you look out of the window.

Tonight, I arrived just too late to make the bus to Diego Suarez, my ultimate destination in the very north of the country. So I checked into a cheap little place and in the centre and treated myself to a great big pepper steak in a posh restaurant. It cost less than a fiver. I love this place.



Day 313: Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud

Day 313: Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud

November 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Madagascar, The Odyssey Expedition

09.11.09:

Grr. I’m highly aggravated today, it’s probably best if you keep a safe distance. First up, I get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6am. Then I head down to the taxi-brousse area (it takes up a good kilometre of road) and ask around for the next bus to Diego, over 1000km away. I was hoping to leave in the morning and arrive tomorrow afternoon sometime.

So I’m herded to a wooden shack, which apparently has a bus leaving ‘very soon’. I ask when exactly and I’m told eight to half-eight. Great I think, buy a ticket and jump on board.

Now, I’m more than used to the fact that Africans have more hassles with the concept of time than your average citizen of Gallifrey, so I wasn’t too fussed when we left, just as long as we left in the morning. By midday, I was still waiting, and my patience was beginning to fray. I demanded to know what the hell was going on – here’s what was going on, the bus wasn’t leaving until 3pm at the earliest. The goddamn tout had just bare-faced lied to me. I demanded my money back; I’d use a different company, one that doesn’t have so much cheek, eh? And maybe I’ll get a bus with a cigarette lighter socket that WORKS so I can plug my laptop in and write on the road – how do you like those apples?

No.

What do you mean, no? I spat in my best pidgin French.

No refunds.

You have to be kidding me.

I went and got a policeman – he shrugged and said there was nothing he could do. But they lied to me! Sorry dude, you pays your money, you takes your chances. I screamed blue murder at the squinty-eyed git with the foamy mouth corners (rabies, I hope) who took my money and was now looking rather smug. I kicked the damn minibus and got in. By now, it was 1pm – there wasn’t enough time to do anything, it was blazing hot and I had all my bags with me. If I had known that the bus wasn’t going to leave until 3pm, I would have spent the day checking out the sights and sounds of good old Antananarivo.

The bus didn’t actually leave until 7pm.

Now I’m sitting squished in a minibus hurtling through the night air over some of the windiest roads in the world typing this blog and trying to keep calm. The DAL Madagascar, bless it’s great big cotton socks, saved me an entire day, something I have in short supply here on The Odyssey, and I’ve just gone and wasted it. Gah!



Day 314: A Rose By Any Other Name

Day 314: A Rose By Any Other Name

November 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Madagascar, Rants, The Odyssey Expedition

10.11.09:

My word, I’ve awoken in Australia! How’d THAT happen? Oh hang on, no – it’s just Madagascar doing a damn fine impression of my crimson-tinctured second home. So today, the entire day was spent on the road heading towards Diego Suarez. Diego’s real name is Antsiranana, following in the Madagascan tradition of using as many vowels as humanly possible. The government changed the name thirty-four years ago because they wanted something that sounded more Malagasy, but it hasn’t stuck. Everyone – and I mean everyone – still calls it Diego. Hell, it’s a good name and who am I to argue with a bon mot?

A lesson, one would imagine, for the likes of Bombay, who foolishly changed it’s name to Mumbai fifteen years ago. I find the whole concept of changing the names of places fascinating and bewildering, I mean, why bother? In the case of Bombay, they have taken an internationally recognised trademark and re-branded it into something quite obscure and nowhere near as catchy. It’s a bit like Coca-Cola changing its name to ‘Barry’. The actual sound of the word Bombay is great – two nice big booming ‘b’s to get your lips around, forming a pleasant and decisive sound along the lines of bombastic – a great adjective to describe the place – almost as good as Bangkok (the only onomatopoeic city in the world). Mumbai unfortunately is tantalisingly close to mumble, and when spoken aloud often comes out like that.

While the name changes of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai) are just as pointless, I actually find the name Mumbai slightly offensive. ‘Bombay’ was a corruption of the Portuguese for ‘good bay’, fairly innocuous you would think and not something that was causing widespread offence or keeping people awake at night.

The name Mumbai was suggested by Salman Rushie in his excellent book Midnight’s Children (which I implore you to read) back in 1980, and stems from the name of the local god of the fishermen. Hindu god, that is. Not Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian or any of the other plethora of religions to be found in that good city. And herein likes the rub: the decision to change the name was not made in the interests of the city or it’s citizens – it was made in the interests of politicians. Particularly irksome right-wing politicians at that. The ultra-Hinduist party, the BJP (the Indian equivalent of the BNP), was riding high in the 1990s and sought to stamp it’s mark on the world map – and what better way to do it than to change the name of India’s most famous city? From a Boom to a Mumble. Great.

And we see this same process in effect all over the world – Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Peking/Beijing, Burma/Myanmar… pointless name changing seems to be a facet of a particular brand of wingnut politician – look at Zaire – the Democratic Republic of Congo as it was formally and now once again called. My favourite case is that of St. Petersburg sounding ‘too German’ and being changed to Petrograd, then becoming Leningrad and then, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, reverting to St. Petersburg again. Madness.

At least it keeps these pesky cartographers on their toes.

I’d argue there’s a case for changing the name of somewhere called Hitlerville or Pol Pot City, but in somewhere like Durban, which is currently undergoing a systematic re-naming of pretty much every street in the city, I just don’t get it. Attempting to obfuscate our history by using geographic nomenclature is a waste of time and money. So what if St. Petersburg sounds German? So what if Bombay is Portuguese and Chester-le-Street sounds ever so slightly French? Is the American city of brotherly love (Philadelphia) making the sisters jealous?

Let’s face it, ‘Marathon’ stopped being cool the minute they changed the name to ‘Snickers’. Does anyone remember when Coco-Pops tried become the jarring Choco-Krispies? Or The Royal Mail becoming Consignia for all of five seconds? Or Coca-Cola changing it’s recipe in the 1980s… WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? This is not rocket science, it ain’t alchemy; it’s just one simple rule: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There was a suggestion made a few years back that some of the streets of my home town of Liverpool should be changed as many are named after slave traders – that was until a wily chap pointed out that Mr. Penny was indeed a slave trader and therefore, we would have to lose the name of our most famous street – Penny Lane.

Having said all that, I do think that some places in the UK are ‘broke’ and therefore ripe for a re-brand. Hull, Grimsby, Skegness, Bognor Regis, Scunthorpe to name a few – purely for shallow, aesthetic reasons I assure you. But the new names would have to improve on the original (wouldn’t be too difficult) and be not completely idiotic. I’d suggest Kingston (it’s true name anyhoo), Luxby, Mariness, Belle Regis and Mingetown.

There are places in the world that I want to visit just because I love the name: Ouagadougou (pronounced Wagadoogoo), Timbuktu, Galapagos, Azerbaijan, Truth or Consequences, Mount Misery and Lake Disappointment. I love that a mountain range in New Zealand is called The Remarkables. Although I doubt I’ll ever be making a beeline for the town of ‘Shit’ in Iran any time soon. Look it up on Google Earth!

There is a good way of seeing if your shiny new name is an improvement – are people still using the old name years later? Istanbul, New York and Burkina Faso were accepted by the population and I don’t think you’ll see too many buses in Turkey departing for Constantinople these days. I also didn’t meet a single person in West Africa who used the name Upper Volta for Burkina Faso, a name changed ten years after Diego’s.

In the case of Antsiranana, if the name ain’t stuck after all these years, I think it’s time to give up the ghost. Same goes for Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City and Myanmar. I could see them all reverting to their original names in the manner of St. Petersburg or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although why Ghana elected to ditch the delightfully tourist-baiting name of The Gold Coast I’ll never know.

You can tell politicians don’t work in advertising.

Anyways… I’ve developed a cold whilst on the old DAL Madagascar (the air conditioning I wager) so my journey today to Diego was spent blowing my nose in the most outrageous of fashions and then attempting to dispose of the evidence in an environmentally friendly way. It’s the first cold that I’ve had since I started The Odyssey Expedition, and I don’t like it sir, no I don’t like it at all.

The drive north wasn’t quite as spectacular as the journey from Antananarivo to Tamatave, but it still proved a feast for the eyes. Something that I’ve noticed is that as well as having a distinctive Malagasy style of architecture, each area has it’s own regional take on it. More good marks for the fourth largest island in the world.

I arrived in Diego just after 9pm. The place was deader than Dillinger. I checked into the Belle Vue hotel (and indeed it did have a good view) slammed some Ariary down on the desk and bought myself a room for the night.



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