Days 534 & 535: The Sands Of Time

18.06.10-19.06.10: So after a good night’s kip I had a the best part of a day to shake off my hangover.  The bus for Riyadh, the Saudi capital, left at 5pm.  I spent the day shuffling about, wondering why the sun had to be so bright and skimming all the superfluous items out of my bag.  At 3pm I left my coat behind in the The Greens as I departed for the Saudi Arabia Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) bus ‘station’ in Deira, but returning ten minutes later as I had also left my mobile phone.  Which I needed. Damien rolled his eyes. When I finally got to the SAPTCO office they told me to come back in half an hour.  I used this time to go out in the baking heat and check my pores were still working properly.  As my soaking wet t-shirt could no…

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Day 533: Burning Up On Re-Entry

17.06.10: The bus rolled into jolly old Dubai at around six in the morning.  If there is a time of day I dislike more I am yet to meet it.  The Deira district looked as wonderfully shabby and dysfunctional as ever, and I slunk into a little Indian workers café and ordered an omelette and bread breaky washed down with a nice hot cup of chai. At 7.30am, I headed over to the Indian Consulate to get the ball rolling with my Indian visa – the idea being that the time wasted waiting for the damn thing could be constructively used attempting to get to Eritrea from Saudi.  After queuing for over an hour with all my stuff in the hot hot morning air of urban desert Dubai, I got knocked back at the front door by a friendly guard who explained I couldn’t get the…

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Day 532: The Cunning Plan

16.06.10: After again saying my farewells to Luke and Dave, our mate Alasdair gave me a lift to the bus depot. After AGAIN being told the bus to Dubai was full by the grumpy man behind the counter, Alasdair got a little suss. Is there another bus? Oh yeah – the bus company down the road, behind the fish market. D’oh! Why didn’t I ask that yesterday?! And so after heartily shaking Alasdair’s hand and jumping on the (pretty empty) 3pm bus to Dubai I found myself gazing out of the window over the flat barren flatness of Arabia’s empty quarter, full of djinns and demons and things that go bump in the night. As I mulled over the situation in my head and the wonderful suggestions made by contributors to this website (gavinmac and Socleman, take a bow) a cunning plan began to take form…

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Day 531: Less Than Zero

15.06.10: Back in November 2009 when I was trying to sail the 166nm from Diego Suarez in Madagascar to the lower Seychelles islands, the threat of piracy stopped me in my tracks. Now here I am seven months later facing the same problem from the other end. There was no reply from Maersk, not that I was expecting one. It was all a bit too short notice for it to work out. I said my fond farewells to Luke and Dave and planned to take the overnight bus back to Dubai. I had decided to cut my loses and head on to India. Since there was no chance of a ship to The Seychelles, the chances of getting on a ship from the UAE that goes to Eritrea (through the Gulf of Aden) and then turns around and goes to Pakistan and India (even though it…

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Day 530: Somali Piracy: Q&A

14.06.10: Yesterday I discovered that the chances of anybody taking me onboard a ship bound for The Seychelles was about one in a million.  I also found out that another shipping company, Maersk, had a freighter leaving on Tuesday to those infernal islands.  So after spending the day trying to get a message to the right people, I headed over to the Oasis Club for the last time, knowing that if it wasn’t to be I would cut my losses and get the hell out of dodge. The club was packed.  HMS Chatham had just come into port, escorting the container ship Asian Glory back to safety.  The Asian Glory had been captured last January and had been held in the Puntland region of Somalia for almost six months. Eventually after lengthy negotiations the owners shelled out $7,000,000 for the release of the vessel and the…

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Days 522-529: Frankincensed

06.06.10-13.06.10: The mission this week was to clamber on board the MV San Cristobal bound for The Seychelles.  As emails and phone calls went back and forth behind the scenes, I found time to head out into the mountains with Robert, a British businessman who I had met through my dealings down in the port.  He was taking me to see the Frankincense trees and the land he was planning to turn into a Frankincense farm – not just for sweet smelling sap to chuck into your thurible and wobble about before your congregation, but for the essential oil you can collect while the sap dries out.  A handful of experiments have shown that this oil may have an effect on cancer cells.  It just might be the thing we’re looking for – something 100% natural that targets and destroys cancer cells while ignoring healthy cells.…

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Day 521: At World’s End

05.06.10: So everyone was keen on taking me on board the DAL Mauritius except for the owners, and they didn’t give a reason for their decision.  Well, let’s scratch that one down to experience and get to work on the next ship to be visiting The Seychelles – the CMA-CGM ship the MV San Cristobal which is scheduled to leave a week tomorrow. CMA-CGM have been really good to us in the past, helping get me on the DAL Madagascar as well as allowing me on board the MV Turquoise, an absolutely critical passage that allowed me to be reunited with my girlfriend at six minutes past midnight at the Pyramids on the 1st January. Again, they were more than helpful.  I met the shipping agent, Mr. James Joseph and we had a natter about shipping times and things.  The San Cristobal would be departing the…

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Day 520: Yemen Jelly

04.06.10: Bright and early Luke’s mate Dave dropped me at the bus station for the bus to Yemen, but there was trouble in paradise.  Al-Qaeda has a large presence in the rather unstable Gulf State of Yemen and the local banditos have a penchant for kidnapping foreigners. But by all accounts if you take care and avoid certain areas you’ll be okay, I guess it’s similar to Iraq and Afghanistan in that regard.  However, when I reached the border I learnt that the border had just been closed to all Europeans in response to the increase of kidnappings in resent weeks.  I couldn’t pass through Yemen even if I wanted to, and this blew my back-up plan for getting to Eritrea out of the water. After a conversation with the incredibly friendly Omani border guards (who, for just about the first time out of over 150…

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Day 519: Left of Port

03.06.10: One thing that’s great about Salalah is that all of the Port Agents are in the one place, which makes it a little easier to get hold of shipping schedules and contacts.  After a little bit of digging I discovered two things: that no ships stop here en route to Eritrea, but there are plenty of ships going to the Seychelles. Annoyingly, all do a massive four week voyage around the Indian Ocean which encompasses Reunion, Mauritius and Madagascar, places where I have been not just once, but twice before on the Odyssey.  But beggars can’t be Hughes’s and so I have to take whatever I can get – there simply are no other options – the yachting/cruise ship season doesn’t start until October. The most intriguing thing I learnt today was that the DAL Madagascar (the cargo ship I took last year from Reunion…

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Where Do We Go From Here?

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in the Omani town of Salalah trying to find a way to catch a lift on a container ship to The Seychelles.  Three ships, the MV DAL Mauritius, the MV San Cristobal and the MV Maersk Wiesbaden have all come and gone (to The Seychelles) in this time and none could take me on board. On Sunday I visited the captain of the MV San Cristobal onboard his ship.  The coils of razorwire encircling the deck were just a hint of what was to come… in fact, if you really want to see what I’m up against, have a gander on Wikipedia… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_attacked_by_Somali_pirates. The problem is this: The boats plying the shipping lines around here have special anti-piracy insurance.  Part of the policy demands that the ship run with the minimum number of crew possible.  As the captain of…

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