Day M182: North, Miss Tessmacher!

Tue 27.03.12: Crystal had to be up for work at 8am, so that meant I had to be up as well. After dropping me in Fortitude Valley (sounds like an area of Alton Towers) we arranged to meet up at 3pm before the bus left for Townsville. By now I was 95% sure that I’d be hopping on that bus whatever happens today. I slinked my way into a nearby McDonalds to abuse their internet. I had forgotten how painfully slow Aussie internet is. Seriously – it’s faster in Tuvalu. Hell, it’s faster in Nauru. Nevermind, I got to check my emails (I had been so panicky I had got Anna in the UK to check them overnight), but nothing from the ship owners in Germany. I decided to waste some time, so I began to walk from The Valley to the State Library. Had I…

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Day M181: How The South Pacific Was Won

26.03.12: The Pacific, south of the equator line, is now complete. Yes, there were a handful of territories – Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, Pitcairn & Easter Island – that I skipped, but if the purpose of this adventure is to have great stories to tell the grandkids, I need to finish this quest so I can work on spawning future generations of argumentative scouse dingbats to tell the aforementioned great stories to in the first place. Happily, I did get to visit the French territories of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna (both of them!) and the US territory of American Samoa, bringing my ‘territory tally’ up to 9. Here’s a rough map I knocked together of the route I took, including ships and dates. Clicky for biggie. MASSIVE THANKS must go to the cargo kings of the Pacific Ocean - Swire, Neptune, PDL, PIL, Reef and…

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Days M175-180 Ships That Pass In The Night

Tue 20.03.12-Sun 25.03.12: We’ve got a new captain, Captain Bob, originally from North Liverpool. Old guy, smokes like a chimney. I’m three floors down and I can smell it through the air conditioning. For some reason, Captain Bob supports Man United. Well, to be fair he did leave Liverpool when he was five and back in his day Manchester United were about as successful as a rapper with a lisp, so at least you can’t accuse him of being a glory-hunter. With a flurry of activity that seemed almost impolite for somewhere as laid back as the South Pacific, the loading operation finished a day early, on the evening of the 20th. This means that there is a very good chance that I’ll be getting into Brisbane – you guessed it – just BEFORE the Cap Serrat is due to depart. I’ll probably see it in…

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Days M171-174: An Express Elevator to Hell!

Fri 16.03.12 - Mon 19.03.12 We left Nauru at around 7pm, and I was disappointed that customs didn’t come back on board before we set sail. I would have liked a Nauru stamp in my passport, but hey-ho. There’s a number of countries that I haven’t got entry or exit stamps for, including every country in the EU, so it’s not something that keeps me awake at night. As we drew our course west towards the setting sun I looked back over Nauru. There can be no doubt that this country, like so many others in the world, would have been better off if there were no natural resources for The West to plunder. 100 years of high-grade phosphate mining and nothing, NOTHING to show for it... except a ruined interior, periods of man-made drought and tons of scrap metal littering the countryside. This is the…

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Day M170: What Next?

Thu 15.03.12: With any luck and despite the lengthy delays here in Nauru and last week in Kiribati, the Scarlett Lucy should be back in Brisbane by Saturday March 24. Behind the scenes, my girlfriend/PA Mandy has been squirreling away trying to get me on board the Cap Serrat, a Hamburg Sud operated cargo ship that leaves Brissy on March 25. If successful, that ship will get me to Taiwan for April 4, giving me a few days before (hopefully) one of the Mariana Express ships heads off to Micronesia and Palau on April 8. At this stage of the journey, to knock two countries of the list – 33% of what remains – in one boat trip will be immense. There is then a PIL ship that leaves from Hong Kong on a regular basis that could possibly take me to Sri Lanka, via Singapore…

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Day M169: The Smallest Parliament in the World

Wed 14.03.12: Nauru has no natural harbour: its smooth potato-like shape does not offer the world any nooks or crannies to slip your vessel into. So like in Tarawa when some git has bagsied the only parking space, we have to park our craft out to sea. But unlike Tarawa, once you’re clear of the coastal shelf here in Nauru, it’s 300 metres straight down to the sea floor: so we can’t drop anchor. Instead there are set up a few mooring buoys. That’s pronounced ‘boys’, not ‘boo-ees’, America! These float on the surface like people who crossed the Don and have big long metal chains which fix them to the bottom of the ocean. There are two possible mooring positions in Nauru: one is for the phosphate ship that comes in very close to the coastal shelf and then has the phosphate poured into it…

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Day M168: The Bird Man of Nauru

Tue 13.03.12: One of our cranes is broken. This means that yesterday, instead of unloading the 80 containers like we were meant to, we didn’t unload a single one. While the electrician and engineers worked tireless trying to fix the damn thing, I headed back to the island accompanied by the port agent, Chet Tatum (sounds like he should be playing American Football). Chet was good enough to take me on a proper tour of the entire island in his old jalopy. From the port we headed north along the coast road, past abandoned houses and burnt out stores. On the north end of the island, there’s more of a feeling of what Nauru used to be like, the houses here are better maintained and there’s even some gardens. It’s still a far cry from the neat flower-speckled villages of Samoa, but it’s an improvement on…

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Day M167: …And Then There Was SIX!

Mon 12.03.12: It may have taken me the best part of two months to get here from New Zealand, but I’m proud to announce that I AM NOW IN NAURU!!! The Scarlett Lucy arrived on schedule at 6am. I dragged my carcass out of bed around 7 and waited for cargo operations to commence so I could hope a lift to the mainland. Well, I say ‘main’land, but Nauru is unique in the Pacific - the entire country comprises of just one tiny island. All other independent Pacific nations consist of a chain or archipelago. With less than 10,000 inhabitants, Nauru is the smallest member of the UN and has the dubious distinction of being the least-visited nation on Earth – more people visit Somalia – which makes it all the more remarkable that I got here at all. There is no marina in Nauru, no…

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Days M162-166 The Kings of Kiribati

Wed 07.03.12 – Sun 11.03.12: We arrived in Tarawa Atoll, Kiribati on Wednesday morning. Some infernal fishing vessel had stolen the one and only parking speck (don’t you hate it when that happens?) so we were forced to drop anchor in the lagoon and use the two barges to ferry the containers back and forth. This also provided the means for getting ashore (presuming you didn’t want to get wet). But I wanted to get ashore as soon as possible, so I hitched a ride with the customs team who had their own speedboat. Re-familiarising myself with Betio, the port area of Tarawa, didn’t take long: on a coral atoll such as this, there’s really only one road. I mooched around in the old haunts before wandering down to the Captain’s Bar to met (funnily enough) the Captain of the Scarlett Lucy. After a couple of…

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Days M156-161: SolBrew For The Soul

Thu 01.03.12 – Tue 06.03.12: We arrived in Honiara a at 8pm, a little later than expected, and thanks to our proximity to the equator, it was already dark. I headed over to the King Solomon hotel to try and contact my CouchSurf chum Thomas from last time I was here, but my email had no reply and his phone was off or disconnected. There’s a good chance that he’s left The Solomons for green pastures. I had a quick chat with Mandy – she’s trying her best to organise my passage on the Cap Serrat – a Hamburg Sud cargo ship which leaves Brisbane on March 25 bound for Taiwan… arriving just in time for me to (possibly) jump on the Mariana Express Ship that leaves April 8 bound for nations 196 and 197: Micronesia and Palau. This year, if I manage to get to…

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