I rose belated and bedraggled from my cabin at some godly hour and headed upstairs to grab some breakiefast. No Full English for me, sir, I’m happy with the Alpen, thanks. Then it struck me: I had agreed to do a talk today about my adventures around the world. Why did I do that? Heaven knows; I guess I’m a rampant self-publicist. Unfortunately, my name was put down as ‘Gareth’ Hughes on the Ship Newsletter. Quite why a guy called Gareth would present a show called ‘Graham’s World’ is a matter for greater minds than mine. I blame Willy, the ship’s Deputy Director of Entertainment; who sounds like a scouser, but do not be misled, he doesn’t come from Liverpool, he comes from Birkenhead. Consequently, like all Birkenheadians, Malaysians and Nigerians he’s a Kopite and maybe the whole ‘Gareth’ thing was sweet revenge for all the ribbing I’ve been giving him all week (what’s the only ship that’s never come to Liverpool etc…).
Winging it (as always) and with no script or powerpoint presentation ready, I headed down to the Connexions Bar at 4pm to natter with the good people on board about my journey to 187 of the world’s countries without flying. I’m led to believe that inspirational speakers get paid a stack of cash for their canny witticisms, but I was happy to do it for shit and giggles. It took me an hour to get through my journey and although I missed a few opportunities for cheap gags along the way, it went down quite well (since when has a lack of preparation slowed me down?) and I capped off the evening’s entertainment by winning the subsequent pub quiz in fine form. Tomorrow we’d hit nation 188, Fiji.
Now let’s talk about the next seven countries. I have a plan, a plan that I’d like to share with you all. Okay, the final six (Micronesia, Palau, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, South Sudan) are beyond the pale for the moment, but that leaves Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Nauru for me to get my teeth into.
I have repeated time and time again how difficult it would be to take cargo ships to these destinations, and I’m not joking. There are literally 3 cargo ships that *might* take me to these places, but if any one of them says no I’m more stuffed than a stuffed toy that’s been overstuffed with Christmas stuffing. The first of the three ships is The Southern Pearl, which runs from Fiji to Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshalls and then back to Fiji. The second is the Southern Lily 2 which runs from Fiji to Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand. The third is the Scarlett Lucy which runs to Nauru from Brisbane, meaning I have to also hitch a ride back to Australia at some point. Make no mistake: NOTHING ELSE goes to Nauru: no cruise ships, no yachts, no desperately misguided whales.
It is therefore with great relief and extra special appreciation that I introduce you to Rowan Moss of Pacific Direct Line: not only has Rowan fixed my passage on board the Southern Pearl, it looks like the Southern Lily 2 is a go AND the Scarlett Lucy will take me when I’m ready. It’s going to be a long hard slog, but the buttock-clenching bit is over, THANK YOU ROWAN! The next 7 countries are laid out before me. If all goes well, I’ll have Nauru knocked off the list before the end of February next year. Dino Deasha, Alex Zelenjak and Lorna Brookes have been instrumental in setting all this up, but it was really Mandy who came through at the end to win the relay on behalf of the Team Odyssey. Like Charlie Sheen when he was mad, we’re WINNING.
This time next year, Rodney… this time next year…