THE ODYSSEY: Review of 2009

I guess now is a good time to look back over what was the year that was, the highs and lows of life on the road. If you can’t be bothered reading my blogs for the whole year (and who could blame you?) here’s 2009: An Earth Odyssey in a nutshell…

January 2009
Ah, January – the whizzbangshebang through South America… for the first two weeks I was on target and on schedule. But then The Caribbean reared it’s ugly head and well and truly stuffed me up for the next couple of months.

Countries Visited: 19
Running Total: 19


February 2009
February was a difficult month – just getting from St Vincent to Mexico required all my skill and dexterity, of which I have neither, which is probably why it took me a month, not the week I expected it to.

Countries Visited: 10
Running Total: 29


March 2009
It’s crazy to think that I spent the first few days of March visiting every country in Central America, and then spent pretty much the rest of the month trying to get to one – Cuba.. Made a HUGE mistake in trying to get there from Key West, should have gone from Cancun in Mexico, would have saved a s— load of time.

Countries Visited: 6
Running Total: 35


April 2009
A fond month of 2009 as I wrapped up warm in Halifax, Nova Scotia before taking a phenomenally fast trip across the Atlantic Ocean to meet up with my friends and family in Liverpool. Managed to get all the way to Greece before the month was out. Nice!

Countries Visited: 28
Running Total: 63


May 2009
The start of my downfall. Within just a few days I had polished off Europe and attempted to take a huge bite out of North Africa, a bite which ended up as a pathetic little nibble. The month ended in start-as-you-mean-to-go-on style with me being knocked back from Mauritania and failing to find any sensible way of getting to Cape Verde.

Countries Visited: 25
Running Total: 88


June 2009
The month from hell. It kicked off with six days in a Cape Verde jail cell and went downhill from there as I found myself trapped in the worst place in the world.

Countries Visited: 1
Running Total: 89


July 2009
Desperate to leave the damned island of Cape Verde, I was eventually rescued by a lovely chap in a sail boat who managed to deliver me safe and sound (despite Poseidon’s protestations) to Dakar in Senegal. Before the month was out I had managed to wing it all the way to Cote D’Ivoire.

Countries Visited: 7
Running Total: 96


August 2009
A good month on the road through West Africa, interrupted by a unexpected sojourn in Libreville waiting (once again) for a cargo boat that just refused to leave.

Countries Visited: 11
Running Total: 107


September 2009
I hadn’t been illegally detained for three months now, so the powers that be organised a surprise incarceration upon my arrival in the capital of Congo.. After I finally escaped I was bogged down attempting to renew my Angolan visa, but once I made it to Namibia, I was FLYING. Well, not really flying… I’m not allowed to.

Countries Visited: 6
Running Total: 113


October 2009
Possibly the most enjoyable month of travel, as I thundered pell-mell throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, fell in love with Madagascar and reached Mauritius in record-fast time.

Countries Visited: 11
Running Total: 124


November 2009
A silly and depressing month spent attempting to return to Africa from Mauritius and failing at every turn. The fact I missed out on visiting Seychelles particularly stung. Not a single new country to add my tally for the whole stinkin’ month.

Countries Visited: 0
Running Total: 124


December 2009
After a slow beginning in stuck in Comoros, December leapt into action when I had just two weeks to get from Dar-es-Salaam to Cairo via Rwanda and Somalia and, against all odds, I pulled it off. I also made it to Cairo.

Countries Visited: 11
Running Total: 133

2010: Odyssey Two

Well…we are pleased to announce that Graham managed – unbelievably – to get from Dar-es-Salaam to Cairo in two weeks, via Rwanda and Burundi (without flying!) and met up with his erstwhile girlfriend Mandy at six minutes past midnight on the first of January 2010 at the Pyramids of Giza where they first met 10 years ago…gripping stuff!

Our Graham is now the official holder of the world record for visiting the most countries in one year without flying. We’re hoping to count 133, but as our figure includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as separate nations, as well as Kosovo, Vatican City and Western Sahara that figure might be revised down a little – we’ll have to see what the Guinness World Records people say.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have gone out of their way to help The Odyssey get to this point – the couchsurfers, the shipping agents, the fellow backpackers, the team in the UK, the drivers (there have been many), the sailors and the helpful locals who have propelled this expedition forwards – all for no money and in their own time. There are too many people to thank to name them all here, so please click on our Heroes page to see them in their technicolor glory.

We would also like to thank Sony for making a camcorder that survived (just!) twelve months on the road as well as Dell for making a laptop that still functions perfectly after being bashed around more than one of Mike Tyson’s ladyfriends.

2010 brings with it a new set of adventures and obstacles for Graham to overcome. He has to negotiate his way around the Middle East and Central Asia, India and China, South East Asia and Oceania as well as returning (somehow) to the ‘skipped’ countries of Algeria, Libya, Seychelles and Eritrea. He has 67 more countries on his list to visit before his journey’s end and after the briefest of pauses in Egypt, he will be cracking on with them as soon as he is able.

What’s more is that the TV show is now all done and dusted. Anything Graham films this year and in the last 67 countries is his, his, his and his. What does that mean for The Odyssey? Well it means you can expect (nay, DEMAND) new videos each week up on YouTube for you to watch. We’ve got a YouTube partnership thing going, so just by watching the new vids you’ll be helping raise funds for WaterAid – and saving children’s lives! So watch them from lots of different IP addresses and send them to all your friends and family! We mean it! REALLY!

Well, it’s been one hell of an adventure so far… America, Europe and Africa are all but done, Asia awaits… everybody said that it was impossible to visit every country without flying, but if nothing else this year, I hope we’ve proved that it CAN be done, it’s just going to take a little longer than a year, that’s all…!

Keep watching it, keep reading it, and most importantly, keeping loving it!

Leo, Graham & Mandy – January 2010

He's Back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Graham’s back in the U.K.!!!

Amidst the trickery of smoke & mirrors, and a rather cleverly laden plot, this time he managed to pull the big one by fooling EVERYONE into thinking that he was Skype-ing from Rome, Italy!

A live Skype event with Graham had been arranged for a gathering of friends in the bar area of the FACT cinema in Liverpool city centre. With only minutes having passed into the start of the event, we began to lose the ability to hear Graham properly via the wireless laptop that the lovely Anna had brought. “Can you hear me?”, came the cry from the ginger one, and before long, his voice was as distant as a distant one from distantville. Just then, a familiar face came bounding into the bar with a beaming smile and a booming voice, “Can you hear me now?!!!”. It was a wonderful moment.

Graham’s back in the U.K. awaiting the issue of some visas from London, and – as always – is making valuable use of his time by promoting The Odyssey as much as possible.

If you can help with promoting the project, and you would like to get in touch, then please do so via the ‘Contact’ page on the link above, or by clicking here – thanks.

Leo.  x

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY!!!!!!!!!

AMAZING!! That’s the only word to describe the fact that Graham has now reached country 150!!! All within 453 days, and all without flying and without private transport. It’s an AMAZING feat! It’s been a rocky road in parts, but ultimately, reaching the one hundred and fifty mark, means that he’s three-quarters of the way back to Mandy. Hooray! Well done, Graham.

Add your comments to this post and join me in congratulating Graham on reaching this marker.

Spread the word about the odyssey amongst your friends, and their friends, and their friends of friends. WaterAid needs all the publicity that it can get, as well as donations – so if you haven’t already donated, please please do so as soon as you can via the website links.

Graham is also a YouTube partner, which means that for EVERY unique click on his videos, money gets donated to WaterAid! Seriously…that ALL there is to it! So spread the word – it’s an easy way to donate.

Congratulations again, Graham! Keep up the good work.

Leo.

The Final Fifty…

So, I have fifty countries left to visit, and then I’m done. I can go home, put my feet up, stuff my face with Anzacs and have a nice hot cup of tea.

But like Sam in the last episode of Quantum Leap, I ain’t going home any time soon – in fact, the leaps are going to get harder. Much harder.

The final fifty include some of the most difficult places on Earth to step foot in. I’ve still got to (somehow) get into Turkmenistan (the North Korea of Central Asia), Eritrea (the North Korea of Africa) and North Korea (the North Korea of… oh). Add to that The Seychelles, Maldives, Taiwan and – gulp! – the Pacific Island states, I’ve really got my work cut out.

So, where next? Well after Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, I’ll be heading into Iran. Now the original plan was to go from there to the Gulf States of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Yemen – taking a boat from Yemen over to Eritrea and back (easy!) then hitching a ride back on the DAL Madagascar from Oman to The Seychelles (finally!).

However…

There is a cruise ship leaving for The Maldives from India in about three weeks time. It will be the last cruise of the season, and taking a cargo ship to/from the Maldives is going to be *breathes in sharply through teeth* tricky to say the least. Now it’s going to be cutting it finer than a sheet of quarks, but if (this is a big IF) I can get my Turkmenistan visa quicker than usual (it usually takes 10-20 days) I might –might- just be able to make it. I’ll need to pick up visas for Pakistan and India while I’m in Iran and thunder down there.

I’ll worry about the Arabian Peninsular, Eritrea and The Seychelles later.

Madness, I know, but this is The Odyssey. Hi!

Here’s a list of the FINAL FIFTY:

1. Tajikistan
2. Turkmenistan
3. Afghanistan
4. Iran
5. Kuwait
6. Bahrain
7. Qatar
8. United Arab Emirates
9. Oman
10. Yemen
11. Eritrea
12. Seychelles
13. India
14. Maldives
15. Sri Lanka
16. Bangladesh
17. Bhutan
18. Nepal
19. Pakistan
20. China
21. Mongolia
22. North Korea
23. South Korea
24. Japan
25. Taiwan
26. Philippines
27. Vietnam
28. Cambodia
29. Thailand
30. Laos
31. Burma
32. Malaysia
33. Singapore
34. Brunei
35. Indonesia
36. East Timor
37. Australia
38. Papua New Guinea
39. Marshall Islands
40. Solomon Islands
41. Micronesia
42. Palau
43. Nauru
44. Tuvalu
45. Fiji
46. Samoa
47. Kiribati
48. Tonga
49. Vanuatu
50. New Zealand

…wish me luck!

IT’S A NEW WORLD RECORD!!!!

GREAT GREAT NEWS!!!! Even though he is only three-quarters of the way through his quest, the good folks at Guinness World Records have just come through with the wonderful news that Graham has already achieved a NEW GUINNESS WORLD RECORD!!

It’s an incredible feat and an amazing journey, and it’s not over yet!

To celebrate his feat, please please donate to WaterAid…and tell your friends to donate – WaterAid need it. You can do so via any of the WaterAid donation links on this website or by clicking on this link.

Congratulations again to Graham…we salute you, sir.

TM

Trapped In Kuwait!

Our favourite ginger man is trapped in Kuwait! Graham is stuck and he needs YOUR help.

My next country is (hopefully) going to be Bahrain, but there is a problem.

The predicament/dilemma I’m in is that I came here thinking that

1. There was a ferry from Kuwait to Bahrain
2. Failing that, uou could get a Saudi transit visa here

Both of these things are sadly not true!!

The boats stopped 2 years ago and you can only get a transit visa if you’re a resident here. The only ways to get to Bahrain are: on a boat down the Gulf, transiting through Saudi or transiting back through Iran. Iran and Saudi – the two hardest visas to get in the world!!

So I’ve applied for a Saudi visa in London (which could take WEEKS to come through!) and while I’m waiting for that I’m actively looking for a boat to take me to Bahrain or Qatar or UAE. Oil tanker/Container Ship/Cargo Ship/Yacht/Speedboat/Dhow/Rubber Dingy – I have no preference as long as it’s buoyant enough to get me there!!

But so far, George Zipp – there seem to be very few container ships that come this far up The Gulf, and oil tankers (of which there are many) are reluctant to take passengers. There’s hundreds of motor yachts here (not a single sail) but everyone I speak to says that these boats just do not go out of Kuwait waters, even though there is a boat show in Bahrain this weekend!

I’ve even asked the local fishermen, which, considering what happened to me in Cape Verde is saying something!

Any help you can give me would be amazing!!

If you can assist, or know anyone that may be able to, please contact Team Odyssey via the ‘contact‘ page on the website – thanks. We’ll be forever in your debt…

Leo.

The Balance of Power…

Well, I don’t know if my predictions for Lost are going to be as spot-on as my predictions for the election result, but if Nick Clegg gets his way with PR, let me hereby predict not just the outcome of this election, but the outcome of the next 100 years worth of elections: The Liberals will win.

They won’t necessary win a majority, but the wonderful thing (for them!) is that they won’t need to – in fact, it would be better if they didn’t.  They will always win because the a Tory/Labour pact is about as likely as the pope doing a breakdance on the bonnet of Hugh Hefner’s pink Cadillac.  So once we set up a system that by it’s very nature will hardly ever foster a 51% majority for any given party, the Libs will have that all-important power of veto… and they will hold it indefinitely.

And we all know how wonderful the disproportionate power of veto is, don’t we?  Look at the domestically impotent Congress of the USA – sorry chumps, but that bloke what lives in the White House can veto ANYTHING you monkeys want to do.  Don’t like it?  Come back to me with a 2/3rds majority. Oh, yeah, sorry – never going to happen is it?  Great.  I mean I could point out the conveyor-belt political changes of somewhere like Italy or Belgium, but I’ve got a better idea – check out the UN.

The five members of the security council can individually Vito Corleone ANYTHING the rest of the UN would like to do.  And so what gets done?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  We have an organization that sits there picking it’s nose whilst MILLIONS of Africans are slaughtered in what can only be described as genocide (except by the UN, of course, which prefers the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ – means they don’t have to do anything!) and you think any international law strengthening the hand of democracy is going to be approved by China…?

To make matters worse, the Liberal Party, NOT YOU, will always chose the Prime Minister. Via a televised debate in the House of Commons? No, don’t be silly – in secret meetings, behind closed doors. You’ve had a taste of what it will be like over the last five days. Enjoying it? Thought not. I don’t like or trust politicians. If I had my way everything they did, said or agreed to in their role as an MP would be recorded Nixon-style. I would like the PM to be the leader of the party with the largest majority (I was led to believe that’s how it should work) but to give the power to decide to ONE MAN – a career politician who leads a party with just over 50 of the 650 seats in Parliament is utterly wrong wrong and wrong again. How anyone who believes in (or claims to understand) democracy can defend this nonsense astounds me.

My advice?  Cleggy, take the deal with the Tories – fair’s fair.  Give Labour a break for the next 5 years (they seem to need it) and be on hand to temper any of the more nutty ambitions of them posh kids in blue.  In turn, give up going on about electoral reform.  Proportional representation is an even bigger big fat boring waste of time and money than ID Cards (which you proclaim to despise as a waste of time and money) and it will, in time, prove to be more self-serving than Jabba The Hutt at a free buffet of gold-bikini-clad slave girls.  If you’re desperate to do something, anything, get through a bill that makes all constituencies the same size. Then go after some more pressing social concern (ie. addressing the fact that we have comprehensively LOST the War on Drugs would be nice) because 10,000,000 Brits are on anti-depressants and I’ll tell you now IT’S NOT BECAUSE OF THE FIRST-PAST-THE-POST SYSTEM.

The British system is imperfect I know, but only because there is no perfect system of democracy, there never has been and there never will be.  Our system seems to work, we’re immensely rich and we’re immensely powerful (seriously and scarily).  We have a free health care system, a welfare state, free schooling – all of which were introduced using the first-past-the-post system of elections.  Bereft of a political model that we can all agree on which is ‘the best’, I’m plumming for the devil I know – one that gives one lot a few years in power followed by the other lot with a nice well hung parliament every thirty years thrown in for good measure.  I’m sure we’re going to see this sentiment written in opt-ed pieces for the next five years, but: if it ain’t broke, don’t waste our time and money trying to fix it.

Record Breakers United!

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of meeting the legend that is Mr. Kashi Samaddar – the current Guinness World Record™ holder for visiting every country of planet Earth in the least amount of time.

Top bloke!!

What makes Kashi’s record even more impressive is that he did it all on an Indian passport – meaning that for some countries he would be faced with the nightmare of having his visa rejected for some lame reason and then having to wait SIX MONTHS before being allowed to even apply for a visa again!

Kashi treated me to an amazing seafood feast at the Far East Restaurant in Dubai and we chatted for a good few hours about our various adventures… you think I’m mad – he’s gone places where angels would fear to tread.

I asked him the questions I always get asked – favourite place (he couldn’t choose), motivation (to encourage world tourism) and how he got to North Korea (flight from Beijing). How did he feel about the possibility of me breaking his record? He was full of praise and encouragement, which was wonderful. I’ve no doubt that if I set this record the person who ultimately breaks it will have read my blogs and sussed out where I went wrong and all power to them!!

It was great to be able to talk to someone who has shared many of the experiences, the dizzying highs and the crushing lows of attempting to do something like this. He understood my drive, my motivation, my single (some might say bloody) minded desire to see this thing through to the bitter end, wherever that may be.

Kashi, like me, has seen something through all his trials and tribulations that not many people see nor understand – the world is an amazing place filled with amazing people. We do not get told this enough. Our governments and the media grow fat on the power of nightmares. Don’t let them make you live in fear, let go of that paranoia and the fear of otherness – we’re all in this together peeps – for better or worse this planet is ours and it’s the only home we will ever know.

It took Kashi six and a half years to visit every country. I’ve already got the Guinness World Record for visiting the most countries in one year without flying, if I finish the final 42 countries this year I will not only pick up the Guinness World Record for visiting every country in the world without flying – but I’ll take Mr. Samaddar’s title of fastest travel to every county in the world using any form of transport – yeah, I’ll have done it faster than people who have flown!!

I might even be able to snag the record for most countries visited in one continuous unbroken journey…!

Four Guinness World Records for the price of one? Nice! But this is no time to become complacent. When I hit the final forty you’ll see just how far I still have to go. My huge thanks to Mr. Samaddar – hats off to you, sir – you’re an inspiration to us all.

Graham Hughes

DUBAI, UAE (158 of 200)

The Final Forty

Only forty more countries to go!!  But as you can no doubt see, I wasn’t joking when I said that the leaps were going to get harder!  This time last year I had been to a whopping 89 countries.  So far this year I’ve been to just 27… and there is no sign that things are going to speed up any time soon.

With the impenetrable African fortress of Eritrea still to visit, not to mention The Seychelles, Maldives, Bhutan, North Korea (if it still exists by the time I get there) and – heaven forefend – the dozen nations of Oceania, I still got a looooooong way to go before I’m safe and warm back in the arms of the woman I love.

But that’s no reason to get despondent.  It took Odysseus ten years to get back to Penelope and it took the current Guinness World Record™ holder, Mr. Kashi Samaddar, six and half years to do what I’m doing.  I’ve only got 28 more countries to visit before I hit Australia and if you add up everywhere I’ve been in my life (on and off The Odyssey) I’ve been to 175 countries… in other words, there are only 25 nations in the world on whose soil I haven’t stood.

If I can get this done before the end of 2010, I’ll be over the moon.  Once I get Eritrea out of the way, things should speed up – SE Asia is my old stomping ground and shouldn’t present too many problems.  But then again, I’m not counting any chickens before they’re hatched – I thought Africa would take no longer than three months(!).

If you want to help me on my way, please talk to the marketing department of your company (or any company for that matter) and see if they fancy sponsoring the rest of my travels.  Seriously – I won’t give up because of African jails, shipping forecasts or visa difficulties, but if I have to sack this all off because I’ve ran out of readies I would have just wasted the last two years of mine and Mandy’s lives on a FAIL of epic proportions.

And we wouldn’t want that now, would we?!