Day M54: …And So To Fiji

20.11.11: Today was a red-letter day for the Odyssey Expedition. I would step foot on the hallowed turf of the 188th country of The Odyssey Expedition: FIJI. Our port of call was Port Denarau: a rather artificial creation on the west coast of Viti Levu, the biggest island of the 300+ specks of land that make up modern Fiji. The tourist brochure bills it as something of a ‘resort’, the kind of thing that makes me breathe in sharply through my teeth: a golf course, a shopping centre and a Hard Rock Café. Eek. But I have to say I had an absolutely awesome time. Most due to the fact that on the journey to land I got chatting to a fresh-faced young couple, Molly and Angus, from Adelaide who managed to restore my faith in all things Australia. We went to the local shop, I…

Continue Reading Day M54: …And So To Fiji

Day M53: This Is The Odyssey

19.11.11: 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…

Continue Reading Day M53: This Is The Odyssey

Day M52: Port Vila

18.11.11: 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…

Continue Reading Day M52: Port Vila

Day M51: Mystery Island

17.11.11: 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…

Continue Reading Day M51: Mystery Island

Day M50: The Isle of Pines

16.11.11: Our first stop was in the French territory of New Caledonia. After getting my fingers burnt with South Sudan I’ve decided that it’s in my interests to ensure that I pop into any territory that might inconveniently (for me!) become independent in the next few years. With an referendum pencilled in for 2014, I figured I might as well tick New Caledonia off my list now and have my completed record stand for a few extra years should the population take a turn down the rocky road of independence. The Isle of Pines is located in the very south of the country, below the big island (Grand Terre) that makes up most of this sizeable speck of Melanesia. Melanesia encompasses PNG, The Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and (ethnically) Fiji, so by the end of this week I’ll have Melanesia done and dusted. Only took…

Continue Reading Day M50: The Isle of Pines

Days M48-M49: Orientation

14.11.11-15.11.11 The first two days on board the Pacific Pearl we were at sea so I spent them milling about, winning the pub quizzes (ha! Try cheating on your smartphone when the internet is 75c a minute!) and getting to grips with all things cruise-y. The first (and most obvious) thing I noticed was the stunning demographic divide. On a ship of 1,500 souls there must have been less than 30 of us who were young, hilarious and up for dancing the night away. Everybody else adhered to that painful cliché of newly-weds and nearly-deads. There were some families on board, but put it this way: the vast majority of the ship’s compliment of passengers were in bed by midnight. Something else I know I shouldn’t say, but I will: boy there are some big fat fatty fat fats on board. Hey, I’m no Slim Jim…

Continue Reading Days M48-M49: Orientation

Day M47: Hello Sydney!

13.11.11: Sydney, the capital-in-all-but-name of Australia is a marvellous little sprawl that sits to the north of Botany Bay. It also appreciates the importance of people liking to stand in front of things and take a photo. Okay, so the Sydney Opera House is a Danish contraption with the interior design features of a nuclear fallout shelter, but at least you can take a picture of you and yours standing outside the damn thing (and the magnificent Harbour Bridge) and people will instantly know where you are. Melbourne, for all its liveability, has no such boast. One word for you, Benjamin: Landmarks! Mand and I got to Australia’s Mega-City One in good time on the overnight backpacker bus, neither of us sleeping very well. My girlfriend puts up with a lot from me and my stupid idiotic adventures, but on this Sunday morning she was less…

Continue Reading Day M47: Hello Sydney!

Day M46: A Night At The Opera

12.11.11: Did I mention Mandy and I had a music festival to go to? Perhaps I should have, cos we did. With Portishead, Flaming Lips and The National on the billing, it was not something I wanted to miss, even if it meant a frantic dash to Sydney afterwards. With all my things packed up in the morning, we headed over to Matheus’ house and met up with our fellow festival-goers. For reasons I still don’t 100% understand we took a stretched limo to the festival – apparently, between us it was cheaper than getting the bus(!). Yes, I’ve finally become all my worst nightmares of middle-class festival goers skilfully lampooned here by Adam Buxton: But the limo was pretty damn cool, so I’m not complaining. It’s been an AGE since I’ve been to a music festival: which feels weird for me since I normally go…

Continue Reading Day M46: A Night At The Opera

Days M41-M45: All I’m Asking…

07.11.11-11.11.11: This week was mostly taken up with editing old travel videos and putting them online in a kind of filler not just for my YouTube channel but for my life in general. With The Odyssey Expedition back in action, I’ve got to get moving. The worse thing I could do at the moment is to get stuck in Melbourne for another six months. With the help of Dino Deasha in Manchester, Alex Zelenjak in Sydney and, of course, Mandy in Melbourne we’ve been hassling Pacific Forum Line and P&O Cruises all week to get me on some kind of big floaty thing that could take me to Vanuatu, which my website keeps screaming at me is my next – and 187th – country. But with a flurry of unanswered phone calls and unreplyed-to emails we hit something of a funk and I (tellingly) responded appropriately.…

Continue Reading Days M41-M45: All I’m Asking…

Days M38-M40: The Macedonian Wedding

04.11.11-06.11.11: Mand’s mates Damien and Allison were getting married. Allison is a Yank, but Damien’s family hailed from the most ridiculously-named country in the world: “The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia” or FYROM for short. This lousy acronym comes courtesy of the Greeks, who are loathe to allow there to be a country called Macedonia. But now that everybody in Europe (and therefore the world) is less than happy with Greece, it’s a good time for FYROM to officially change its name to Macedonia. If there’s one thing that Macedonians will emphasise it is the fact they are most definitely not Greek. The Macedonians have their own alphabet (one apparently nicked by the Ruskies – or so I’m told) and their own language and their own Alexander The Great. Actually, when it comes down to it, the reason Greece doesn’t want a country called ‘Macedonia’ staring…

Continue Reading Days M38-M40: The Macedonian Wedding