Days 544 & 545: Another Mad Scheme

28.06.10-29.06.10:

I was a little iniquitous last time I left Africa, and for that I am truly sorry. Africa is many things, but it’s definitely not rubbish. Infuriating perhaps, but not crap. Eritrea, or rather Massawa, really warmed the cockles of my heart, and it’s hard to stay mad at an entire continent, even if it did throw you in jail twice. So for the good bits – Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Rwanda, Egypt and Eritrea – Africa I salute you and hereby take back all the nasty things I may have said. Africa – you’re all right. You just need leaders who aren’t more evil than Dr. Evil’s Evil Petting Zoo.

Monday passed as Mondays on cargo ships on the Red Sea often do, without incident or report. I worked hard on my scribblings and watched Brazil kick Chile’s bottoms (a foregone conclusion if ever there was one). On Tuesday 29th June we entered the port of Jeddah and I was left with the gobsmacking notion that I was here, at this very port at this very time on Tuesday 29th December aboard the MV Turquoise, on my way to meet Mandy in Egypt.

Six months to come full circle. Six months to visit just 28 countries. And I’ve got 39 more to go, and I can’t press on to India until I blag myself a multi-entry business visa, and that could take weeks.

The task ahead is not a straight-forward one.

Happily, my phones were now working again, so it was no problem to text a tweet to let Mandy and my mum (who I think were beginning to panic a little) know that I was safe and well. Thinking about it, if I had gotten into Congoesque trouble in Eritrea, I would have been well and truly stuffed as there would have been no way on Earth to tell anyone what had happened to me. Eek!

After thanking the captain and the chief and disembarking, the shipping agent escorted me through Saudi customs (which again were surprisingly cursory), I was stamped back into the country and released back into the wild. It’s worth pointing out that the Saudi government only really started issuing multiple entry business visas a few months ago. Considering I’ve now been in and out of Saudi a passport-bending FIVE times, I simply wouldn’t have been able to do this last year. God knows how I would have got to Dubai and Eritrea would have gone unconquered.

Huge Kudos and thanks to Ahmed from Babood Shipping for helping me get to Eritrea!  You, sir, are a true Odyssey Hero.

Ahmed - The Man, The Legend

Talking of logistics (cos I know you LOVE hearing about them), after I popped in to see Ahmed to say thanks and my bestest chum in the whole world Turki had come to pick me up and drop me off at his house, I got on the internet to hear the news I didn’t want to hear. Maersk have said that they are happy to help with any other ship I need to clamber upon, EXCEPT the ones that operate anywhere near Somalia – they just can’t risk it. The second half of my cunning plan has fallen flat. It’s a NO for the Seychelles.

It’s time to get even more creative…

Okay, so how does this sound… the captain of the MV San Cristobal gave me a lead that so far I haven’t chased up. He said that there is a route from Malaysia to Seychelles. Hmm…

After a little bit of internetic research, I found that yes indeed there are ships that ply that route… taking about 10 days to get there. A lot shorter than the four-week round trip that I’d otherwise have to take if I left from Salalalalalalalalalah.

The cogs in my head started turning…

What if…

What if…

I take a cargo ship to India via Pakistan, then head to Sri Lanka from Cochin, then hop to the Maldives and back, Sri Lanka to Bangladesh, up to Bhutan, border hop, then into Nepal.

Special permission to cross into Tibet from Nepal then the sky train down to Beijing. A border hop to Mongolia, a trip to North Korea and back, then on the ferry to South Korea, Japan and cargo to Taiwan. Taiwan to Vietnam, through Cambodia to Thailand, up to the golden triangle to Laos and Burma, then down through peninsular Malaysia to Singapore, over to Borneo to pass through Brunei, then ferry to Philippines and then… then… start on the Pacific Islands, taking this approximate route: Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomons, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand.

Then, instead of ending in New Zealand as I head originally planned, I take a ship heading for northern Australia, do a hop into Papua New Guinea, then press on to Darwin, get over to East Timor, fight my way up the islands of Indonesia to Sumatra, take the ferry over to Malaysia and grab that cargo ride to The Seychelles, coming in from the Eastern, none-piratey side.

Thinking about it some more, it actually makes a lot more sense to do it that way. This way, I can be sure that there will be yachts to cadge a lift on in the Pacific as unless something goes dreadfully wrong, I could be there by September, and have at least a couple of months before the Cyclone Season begins.

The only sad thing is that there’ll be nobody waiting to congratulate me when I finish in The Seychelles. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

So… last week in Dubai I met a top bloke called Barry who works for CMA-CGM – there are ships leaving every Monday for Pakistan then India. So the only thing to wait for now is my Indian visa. After going almost a week without a decent shower, I was more than happy to crash out at Turki’s for the night – there’s no rush getting to Dubai as there’s no way I’ll be getting on next Monday’s ship.

Turki has just been done over on a business deal and is justifiably upset (I know how he feels) and so we went out for a scrummy Indian meal to cheer him up, but he’s really not himself this week. Which is a shame, as karma dictates that after helping me, the universe should help him. I guess it only works for Earl.

“Graham’s World”: My Very Own TV Show Starts Tuesday!

Okay, Odyssey fans… this is it, the television show documenting my travels is being shown every TUESDAY at on the Nat Geo Adventure Channel, which is available in 40 countries across Asia and South America.  If you can get it, great.  If you can’t, you’re stuck with my YouTube videos until it gets broadcast on the BBC (fingers crossed) early next year!!

The eight episodes of season one cover the first 133 countries of The Odyssey Expedition – my journey from Uruguay to Egypt, starting on 1st January 2009 and finishing on 31st December 2009.

EPISODES:

1. From Argentina to Guyana

2. Caribbean Castaway

3. From Cuba to Tunisia

4. Arrested In Africa

5. African Rough Road

6. Congo Chaos

7. Africa Island Hop

8. Pyramids Or Bust

Hmm... are you following me?

As for the final 67 countries… (including Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea) Lonely Planet TV have just bagged first refusal on the second series… WATCH THIS SPACE!!!

Day 546: Gra’m Crackers

30.06.10:

I got a call of the Mandster saying that her mum’s mate had seen a trailer for my television show on cable TV in Australia. A bit (all right then, a lot) of Googling later, I found out that she was right – it starts next Tuesday. Woo! I also found out they’re calling it ‘Graham’s World’. Boo!

I know it sounds like it, but ‘Graham’s World’ is NOT a documentary about a cracker factory. And for the record, I don’t think this planet is mine. I more than aware that there are almost seven billion other people who share it with me.

Turki. Legend!!!

So, despite my reservations about the title of the show (and the titles of the episodes – ygads!), if you can watch it, please do. It’s not being shown in the UK, but you can catch it in Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and (I think) the US and Canada (let me check that some more).

ANYWAYS, I’m happy that my footage is finally being screened. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch it myself on Tuesday night – hopefully they just show the funny bits.

At around 9pm, Turki and I set off once more into the breach, dear friends, and before you could say Crikey-Turki-you-really-saved-my-bacon-with-this-whole-Eritrea-business I was on an overnight coach heading back to Riyadh.

Turki – THANK YOU!!

Now I’ve been on a lot of overnight buses over the last eighteen months, and, you know what? Priority rules. If the bus isn’t full, seating is not allocated and I’m first on the bus (which I was) then I get to cadge the back seats for myself. OKAY? Well, I had been sitting quietly for five minutes when some utter b—–d came over and sat next to me. Seriously? Are the other twenty-seven EMPTY SEATS freaking you out sir?

But then it gets better: he tries to convince ME to move, so he can have the back seats to himself. I was jovial enough, but I’d be damned if I was going to budge an inch. He said that the back seats were uncomfortable, that the engine made them vibrate and that fumes would come in through the gaps and it would smell.

Oh, right, you want me to move and let you have all the back seats for MY benefit? I swear this guy was just about to win the Odyssey Expedition prize for the most annoying tosspot I’ve met in over 176 countries. And then it got worse. Because the back seats don’t recline, if you don’t lie down across four of them, it’s tremendously uncomfortable.

Here are the seats:

( )( )( )( )( )

And he sat HERE:

( )(x)( )( )( )

ALL FRICKIN’ NIGHT. WITH A TON OF EMPTY SEATS AVAILABLE FOR HIM TO SIT ON!!!

So instead of being able to lie over four seats (and Mr. Complete B—–d over here, you know, take the one by the window) I had an excessively uncomfortable night cramped up on three.

Oh yeah, and he woke me every hour (or whenever my cramp and/or pins and needles had subsided) to ask the frickin’ TIME.

Man, I’ve never wanted to kill someone so much in my life. With the possible exception of Bono.

On the overnighter to Dubai if I bagsy the back seat and somebody else tries to sit there I swear he’s going to be dead before he hits the floor.  Grr……!

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