Day M213: Sing Us A Song

Fri 27.04.12: It’s been seven months since I re-booted The Odyssey Expedition after my enforced sabbatical and I’m pleased to announce that I have now visited EVERY COUNTRY in the PACIFIC OCEAN. Oh yes. That’s the Solomon Islands, Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Nauru, Micronesia and Palau; all without flying. PLUS New Caledonia, Wallis, Futuna, American Samoa, The Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, and they’re not even sovereign states. That’s 19 different islands without flying in just over 30 weeks. Nice! I could not have done this without the assistance of Swire, China Navigation, P&O, PIL, Reef, PDL, Neptune, Princess, Carnival, PAE, Anglo-Eastern, Mariana Express and Hartmann Reederei: I am very much indebted to these companies as well as the captains, officers and crews of the Papuan Chief, Pacific Pearl, Southern Pearl, Southern Lily 2, Sea Princess, Scarlett Lucy, Kota…

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Day M212: The Jolly Jellies of Palau

Thu 26.04.12: WOW. No, seriously, WOW. Talk about saving the best for last. PALAU YOU ROCK MY WORLD!! Straight into my top five countries, methinks. My number one pick in the ‘Tropical Island Paradise’ category. And I should know, I’ve been to a truck load of ’em. I don’t know, you wait ages to visit a Pacific Island nation, and then two come along in as many days. We arrived in the port on the island of Malakal (a short distance from the main island of Koror) at around 10am. The first bit of good news was that the ship would be staying overnight, not leaving at 4pm as originally intended. This meant there was an outside chance of me seeing Jellyfish Lake while I’m here. Jellyfish Lake in the Rock Islands of Palau is a true natural wonder of the world – a lake teeming…

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Day M211: The Island of Stone Money

Wed 25.04.12: YAPPITY YAP! The Federated States of Micronesia is divided into four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap. Funnily enough, Yap is the only state that my spellchecker likes. Each state has its own culture, languages and quirks and each state is made up of many islands, of which one will be the state capital. The state capital of Yap is ‘Yap Proper’ (a name I really like) and that is were we landed the good ship Mell Sembawang this morning, in the town of Colonia. Anyone paying an amazing amount of attention to my quest might recognise that name: Colonia in Uruguay was the very first town I visited as part of The Odyssey Expedition, back on Thursday January 1 2009. Uruguay was nation number 1. The Federated States of Micronesia is nation number 196. Wowsers. You’ve come a long way, baby. I only…

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Day M209: The View From The Bridge

Mon 23.04.12: One of the more interesting things about travelling to every country in the world is it allows you to make comparisons. Sweeping sweeping generalisations aside for one moment, there are certain trends and nuances that are hard to pick up on unless you’ve been to the country in question. Of course what I think of a place is tremendously subjective, but through personal discourse with locals and a healthy obsession with world events, I feel I’m at least a little bit more informed than most – well, I know where the country in question is, what borders it, what colonial powers once stole it and whether it’s a free and fair democracy or not. In any case, it’s handy having some first-hand experience to be able to fit the jigsaw of life on Planet Earth into a some kind of geopolitical context. Today the…

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Day M208: There’s Always One Isn’t There?

Sun 22.04.12 Even though my usual sleep patterns prefer me to stay up all night (preferably partying) and sleep in the morning, today I made a special exception for the not-so-lovely island of Saipan in The Northern Mariana Islands. I dragged my non-cooperative ass out of bed at 6.50am in order to go out and explore the rich delights of an island tactfully described in my Lonely Planet guidebook as ‘in a bit of a sorry state’. But although there’s nothing stopping this plucky plunger into the unknown perusing the likes of Palestine, Paraguay, Panama, Poland, Peru, Philippines and Palau without a visa, I’m forbidden to fanny about on the far-flung fringes of the American Empire. Yes indeedy peeps, sad old Saipan, so desperately in need of the tourist dollar, is locked up like Fort Knox to your average intrepid traveller, so don’t come here: go…

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Days M202-207: The Voyage of the Mell Sembawang

Mon 16.04.12 – Sat 21.04.12 The Mell Sembawang is a wonderful little boat: my cabin is clean, the air-con is working, the food is magnificent (I had steak in pepper sauce yesterday YUM) and the guys on board are a good laugh. We’re making our way to the US territories of The Northern Mariana Islands (formally Islas de los Ladrones (Islands of Thieves) and Guam. On Wednesday we pulled into the Japanese port of Naha on Okinawa island, but as we were there for less than three hours and a shore pass would cost (get this!) $250(!!!!!) I opted to stay on the ship. So most of this week has been spent mooching about, brooding about the loss of my hat and wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life once all this is over. The crew have cleared a space on deck…

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Day M201: Full Steam Ahead!

Sun 15.04.12: There’s a lot of boring technical stuff that I have to keep on top of while bumming around the known universe. Keeping this website updated is one thing, keeping my cameras charged is another. I also need to avoid running out of tapes. Thus far, this expedition has eaten over (get this) 500,000 words, 600 blog entries, 300 hours of video tape, 10TBs worth of disk space and tens of thousands of digital photographs. There’s one person generating all that content, and that person is me. Needless to say, managing it single handed is a bit of a nightmare. But that’s no excuse for running out of tapes. While I was wondering around Taipei on Thursday night I saw a ton of camera shops, all selling the little miniDV cassettes that my antiquated steam-powered Sony A1 uses. It gives a great picture quality though,…

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Day M200: To Curse A Thief

Sat 14.04.12: After the good news from Hartmann, I did what all good backpackers do on Friday nights in strange and foreign lands. I went headed to the pub. A guy staying in the hostel called Nathan gave me a lift to the Brickyard and there I met a bunch of Canadians and Americans with which to celebrate my good news. I woke up this morning, well, this afternoon, in the spare room of a couple I had been drinking with, and after thanking them profusely (and eating their bagels), I headed back to the backpackers to get everything all sorted for tomorrow’s big excursion. Saturday 14 April 2012 was a big day for us scousers, as not only was Everton playing Liverpool at Wembley for the FA Cup Final, the Grand National horse race was also being held at Aintree. Intending to watch both of…

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Day M199: Friday the 13th

Fri 13.04.12: If I was going to stand any chance of getting on this ship, I needed to head down to the southern port city of Kaoshiung, stat. Luckily for me, the Taiwanese have been good enough to actually building a speedy, efficient and, most importantly, INEXPENSIVE way of travelling from one end of the country to the other. ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION BRITAIN, AUSTRALIA AND AMERICA? It’s quite a simple concept that they’ve come up with: they have a ‘railway line’ and what they like to call ‘trains’ run along it. For those of you living in backwards, impoverished nations like Britain, Australia and America, a ‘railway line’ consists of two metal rails which run parallel to each other, separated by blocks of wood or concrete that we like to call ‘sleepers’. A ‘train’, a thing that’s a bit like a coach but can hold…

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Day M198: Palau On My Mind

Thu 12.04.12: If I’m to stand any chance of completing this quest, there are two things that must happen. One is that I am given permission to travel on the Mell Sembawang, a cargo ship out of Taiwan that calls in to both Micronesia and Palau – two of the final six countries I need to visit. The other is that a kind-hearted yachtie takes pity on me and agrees to ferry me up to The Seychelles from Madagascar. For the other countries, there are other options, other routes, other shipping companies, but for these two critical legs of The Odyssey Expedition, I have no other alternatives, no aces up my sleeve, no Plan-B if things go tits-up. It’s Hobson’s choice, and if Hobson says no, then I’m screwed. I had sent an email off to the owners of the Mell Sembawang as soon as I…

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