Day 424: Gaddafi’s Sandbox Adventure

28.02.10: Rising at 6am to crack on to the border, it is with tremendous chagrin that I must report the minibus to Ben Guerdane did not leave until just after 8am. But to cheer me up on the way to the ‘Gare Routiere’, a gentlemen who was setting up his market stall at the side of the road came running over to me saying that he knew me. This is a typical ploy in this part of the world (especially Egypt), but no, he did actually recognise me – “you’re the guy who’s been to 142 countries!” he said as he shook my hand. But, er, how….? “You were on television yesterday, on the news, I saw you!” The interview I did for the French news agency last Monday must have got around. Well, that put a spring in my step. I sat waiting for the…

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Day 423: The Lonely Pilgrim

27.02.10: Tunisia is undoubtedly the most accessible Muslim country in the world. Morocco’s borders with Algeria are closed, and there’s a checkpoint every ten minutes through Western Sahara. Egypt requires a visa (humph) and although the Jordanian visa is free for Brits on arrival from Egypt, good luck with trying to near its borders with Saudi or Iraq. Even Turkey’s borders aren’t all open, the Armenian one has been shut to Westerners since forever. Meanwhile, plucky little Tunisia, sandwiched between unhappy giants Libya and Algeria offers a window on the culture of the area that could lead people to believe that it was almost liberal or permissive, which I’m sorry to report it isn’t. Human rights here are a joke, and women (especially western women) are still regarded as nasty little creatures which only exist to torment the otherwise pious and pure minds of the menfolk.…

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Day 422: To Err Is Human

26.02.10: I’ve made some big boo-boos in The Odyssey so far. Going to Cape Verde with a bunch of Senegalese fishermen, for one. Not just taking the DAL Madagscar on its route around the Indian Ocean for another. Of course, turning up in Tunisia without visas for Algeria and Libya last May cost me massively in terms of time and money, but the boos just keep coming. Today, I was planning to head to Algeria for the day, cross the border, tick the place off the list. Easy. But instead, I spent the entire morning fighting with my damn iPod Touch in a vain attempt to get my Lonely Planet pdfs onto the damn thing so I wouldn’t have to take my laptop with me. In the end (and after losing all of my other apps that I had on there), I gave up and e-mailed…

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Day 421: Africa Calling

25.02.10: This infernal continent. If I was following the original plan, I would have picked up my visas in Istanbul and continued on to Central Asia a month ago. But there were two nagging countries, two of the largest in Africa in fact, that had barred my entry, even by an inch. They were Libya and Algeria. I had tried to get into Algeria once before and Libya twice, only to find that they were not to be trifled with. And so it would add an extra month onto The Odyssey and cost me over £1000, but I had to do it their way, and (putting it mildly) neither of them like tourists very much. Why would they? They have OIL! And the oil will last forever and ever and ever and there will never be a day when it runs out. And while the governments…

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Day 420: Lie To Me

24.02.10: I thought I would have a few hours to mooch around Rome in the morning, but I found myself unable to prise my worthless body from my bed until after 10am. By the time I had breakfast and tried (and failed) to find a free wi-fi zone, it was time for me to take the train to Civitavecchia, Rome’s port and the place where the boat to Tunisia left from. Urk. The boat to and from Tunisia was horrifically horrific last time, and this time it was no better. Same boat, same company, same unholy rip-off. For a start, the boat was two hours late boarding, which meant that I was left standing in the car-park like an unsuccessful prostitute for longer than would otherwise be sensible. Once (finally) on board, the horribly familiar interior of the Sorrento loomed into view. I had a 'deck'…

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Day 419: Roman Holiday

23.02.10: At some disastrously early hour, I was roused from my slumber by our rather impertinent arrival in Milan, which necessitated a change of buses. Didn’t get to see too much of the place, but there’s something about just the name of these places – Verona, Genoa, Venice, Napoli that gets my pulse racing… old school, you know? It’s the same thing that affects me exhausted, bladdered and half-awake watching the sun rise after the last night of Glastonbury – a sense of history, that damned feeling of belonging to a world that’s gone that’s nagged me for years now. All these countries I visit, most of them are shiny and new (comparatively), they don’t have the weight of millennia baring down on them, there are no layers to dig down through. Yes, I find the Kingdom of Benin interesting, Manchu Picchu is sweet-as, and you…

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Day 418: Paris When It Drizzles

22.02.10: Woke up at Stan’s gaff at some monstrously early hour, but Stan was good enough to not only make me a cup of tea, but to drive me to the nearest Tube Station. I’ve had mates in London now for years, negating the need to ever stay in a hotel or backpackers. But now I’ve got mates from Buenos Aires to New York City, Nova Scotia to Brazzaville, Pretoria to Iraq, Sierra Leone to Cairo, Reunion to Antigua and Tunis to Melbourne; this is possibly the most exciting thing to come of The Odyssey – I’ve left a trail of mischief from one end of the planet to the other, and I’ve always got somewhere to stay. Hooray for CouchSurfing.org!! I might have gone a few weeks without singing its praises, but by-eck, it’s BLOOMIN’ MARVELLOUS! The plan was simple: Get to Rome. Go to…

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Days 411-417: Groundhog Day

15.02.10-21.02.10: The next week passed in a kind of blur. I don’t think I got anything productive done at all. I didn’t write up my blog nor edit any more YouTube vids, I dropped into a bit of a funk. One that affects me whenever the flow of my adventure is disrupted, either by ships that refuse to leave or by visas that require the most acrobatic of bureaucratic trickery to acquire. But wheels had been set in motion… dangerous wobbly wheels made of poo that threatened to derail The Odyssey entire. Don’t forget – it will only take ONE country out of the 58 I have left to go to ban British Passport holders from entering and that’s it, Game Over – EPIC FAIL – the mission here is to visit EVERY sovereign state. Now a couple of months ago, the lovely nutcase what dictates…

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Day 404-410: Pubs and Publicity

08.02.10-14.02.10: So I was back and I had work to do. I spent Monday morning at my brother Mike’s house writing up a press release and, with his help, getting it out to as many people in the UK media as possible – BBC, ITV, Sky, whoever. By early afternoon the offers of TV stardom (kinda) were flooding in – first North West Tonight, then Granada Reports and then ITN down in London. Yey!! Do people actually get paid to do this kind of stuff? Man, it’s a cinch! The only major problem was that I didn’t have permission off the chaps who own all my footage to allow a few seconds of the 150 hours I filmed last year to be shown on telly. Ah well, what they don’t know can’t hurt ‘em. That night (after drinkies) I kipped at Grethe’s flat in the city…

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Day 403: Home Sweet Home

07.02.10: So with the cat out of the bag in terms of my friends, it was now time to spring the surprise on my family. I got a couple of hours kip at Hugh's gaff (Hugh of ‘Hugh Sings The Odyssey Blues’ fame) and I arrived at my family home on Honeys Green Lane at around 2pm – just in time for Sunday roast. Again, I had set up a ruse of seeing everyone via Skype and with the help of my brother Mike (who I had brought in on the deal) snuck into the house without my parents suspecting a thing. Luckily, my webcam is pretty naff so nobody recognised the background on the Skype video link was the house until I entered the room. In typical Hughes form, my mum burst into tears, my dad was wonderfully nonplussed, my brother Alex was annoyed I…

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