Day M51: Mystery Island

Day M51: Mystery Island

November 27, 2011 by  
Filed under The Odyssey Expedition, Vanuatu


How could one not love a place called Mystery Island? An uninhabited island located in the very south of Vanuatu, this tiny dot of land is believed to be haunted and so living here is taboo. Why is it haunted? Well I guess that’s the mystery of Mystery Island. Although the Ghost of Christmas Past doesn’t stop us tourists stomping all over the place (and it didn’t stop the Yanks building an airstrip that takes up half the island). Again we took to the launches and to step foot in the 187th country of The Odyssey Expedition was a sheer joy. I hung out on the island with my new cruise chums Stef and Crystal and did the usual stuff one does on mysterious islands…

Drink kava out of a coconut shell…

Fend off the local warriors…

Bring out the dancing girls…

Hang out at the Dharma Initiative airport…

And almost get eaten by cannibals…

True story.

Incidentally, if you would like to hire Mystery Island for the day it only costs about $50. Bargain!

Day M52: Port Vila

Day M52: Port Vila

November 28, 2011 by  
Filed under The Odyssey Expedition, Vanuatu


As you all know (since you’re reading this and are therefore as intelligent as you are good looking) Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu. Unlike the other places we’ve been to so far on this cruise, Port Vila has a port so no launches today, we simply pulled up alongside and hit the streets. Being an enterprising (read: tight arsed) chap, I took a walking tour of the capital, a rather pleasant, sleepy kinda place. Before independence, Vanuatu was known as the New Hebrides – a complementary name to New Caledonia (the Roman name for Scotland).

It’s also worth noting that Vanuatu has an awesome flag. Unlike the Seychelles, which hasn’t. Also, people from Vanuatu are not called Vanuatans or Vanuatuvians… they’re called Ni-Vanuatu. Which is a brilliant name which makes them sound like a kick-ass warrior race from Star Trek. Ka-POW! After doffing my hat at the war memorial, I headed over to the museum to imbibe the Ni-Vanuatu culture. Now today we’re not visiting Pentecost Island, but if you’ve got guts of steel you might want to witness (yeah, you need guts of steel just to watch) the annual ground-diving ceremony. It’s like bungee jumping (in fact, it’s were the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club got the idea) but instead of a bungee rope they use a tellingly non-elastic vine and instead of decidedly missing the ground, they tend to hit the damn thing. Oh, and the participants are mostly 10-15 year old boys. Is this the maddest initiation ceremony in the world? Well, there are the bullet-ant-filled leafy mittens of doom in The Amazon…

But given the choice, I’d go for the mittens of doom.

The museum had some classic cuts of Vanuatu culture, but sadly there was no diorama of a missionary getting cooked in a big pot while the natives danced around singing Barbie Girl by Aqua. I’m fairly sure that happened at least once.

Outside it was pretty overcast, it being cyclone season in the South Pacific there is a tendency to rain like it’s Manchester on a sunny day. I opted for a tasty burger at the Waterfront Bar and enjoyed the beats of island life washing over me courtesy of the house band. I checked out the market before saying Ta-Ta to Vanuatu and clambering back on board the ship.

That night on the Pacific Pearl was the most raucous yet. With no island to visit tomorrow, myself and my merry team of miscreants: Stef, Crystal, Kyle, Quagmire (giddidy), Bryson et al caused security no end of headaches, safe in the knowledge that waking up with a cranking hangover tomorrow will not interfere with one’s itinerary. Right, that’s Vanuatu out of the way: Next up, FIJI!!!!!

Day M53: This Is The Odyssey

Day M53: This Is The Odyssey

November 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Fiji, The Odyssey Expedition, Vanuatu


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…