Day 1,385: The Big Ship Sails On The Ally-Ally-O

Thu 17.10.12: After firing off my blog on Wednesday evening I met with Niall Doherty, a fellow overlander who has been suck in Cochin for the past few weeks trying to get to… you guessed it! Colombo on a cargo ship. Two adventurers cut from the same mould, it was all very predictable that we would get on like a house on fire. We went to the pub, which is pretty much the only pub in Fort Cochin. There we were met by the indomitable Vipin Es, the coolest Indian on the planet, who I met at this very waterhole two years ago when I was trying to do the exact same thing that Niall is trying to do now… get to Colombo on a ship! Vipin brought with him a few mates: Alex, Nate and Isla, and after one two many Kingfishers I was magnificently…

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Day 1,384: Ned Ryerson!!

Wed 16.10.12: I’ve been here before. I’ve done this exact same thing before. Travelling down from Bombay to Cochin on the train. Madness, I know. Do you know how many countries I have left and returned to in the course of this adventure? I added it up once and it came to over over 100. And we’re not just talking obvious places like Britain, France or Australia here, I’ve double-dipped into Mauritius, Tuvalu and Kiribati. Before this adventure is done, I’ll be able to add Mozambique and Uganda to that list. So much for a nice continuous sine wave across the planet! I was up until 4am last night updating my blog, organising my Mozambique visa, replying to emails, thanking those who deserved thanks. I woke up at 7.23am, 7 minutes before my alarm was due to go off. This happens to me a lot and…

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Days 1,380-3: The Beginning of the End

Fri 12.10.12 - Mon 15.10.12: I said thank you and goodbye to Shaun and was at the RCL offices for noon. After more photos with the staff and Sajith, I was put in the company minibus and sent off towards the port. In the Sri Lankan immigration office I tried to act as cool as cucumber, when really I was freaking out inside. The moment the guy stamped my passport out I felt like punching the air and going WOOOOOOOO!!!, but I didn’t think it would go down so well. The immigration guy might think I’m really happy to be leaving Sri Lanka, when in reality I’m just REALLY HAPPY TO BE LEAVING SRI LANKA!! I have to be honest, I didn’t breathe easily until I was not just onboard the Vira Bhum but we were exiting Colombo seaport, following the setting sun west towards my…

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Days 974-984: Conspiracy Nut Cornflakes

01.09.11-11.09.11: I was a kid in the eighties. I grew up with the distinct possibility that at any moment the Russians might take a dislike to the latest Madness single or something and destroy the entire world. Films like Red Dawn and When The Wind Blows didn’t help. My brother Alex and I would waste entire summers digging fallout shelters (which invariably ended up as two foot deep puddles of mud) and learning to fend for ourselves in the field across the road, seeing if we could live off ‘rations’ of sugar and ketchup sachets stolen from Little Chef, you know: just in case. And then one night, suddenly and unexpectedly, the Berlin Wall collapsed. All that fear, all the paranoia and all the neuroses that the Cold War had instilled in my and my parents' generation had gone. The sword of Damocles that had dangled…

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Day 602: Easy Peasy Nepalesy

27.08.10: Duff information can be a real pain in this line of work, but it’s hard to know who you can trust.  Yesterday’s taxi driver was right about getting to the borders of Bangladesh and Bhutan, so when he told me that buses left from the Nepalese border for Kathmandu in the morning and would arrive in the evening, I saw no reason to doubt it. I wasn’t too happy with having to drag my arse out of bed at 6am, but, well – if I meant I could get to Kathmandu before midnight, I was game.  I grabbed by backpack out of the NJP station cloakroom and jumped onto the first shared taxi jeep to the border.  We got there so quickly it didn’t even occur to me that I might have to go back a kilometre to get my passport stamped out of India.…

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Day 601: I Feel My Luck Could Change

26.08.10: Today started with a bit of a disaster when I awoke to find that my new laptop, Sony Jim, that I had cunningly placed between me and the wall the night before, was a lot more delicate than my old laptop, Dell Boy.  The screen had cracked in the night (I must have rolled over against it).  This was not a good start to the day and I was determined to not let it overshadow the rest of today’s shenanigans.  I had two – maybe three – countries to reach before the end of the day and a cracked laptop screen was the least of my worries – I had no visa for any of the countries I wished to visit. The train pulled into New Jalpaguri station in Northern West Bengal at 8am.  After throwing my bag into the station cloakroom and a bit…

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Day 600: Bad Day At Black Rock

25.08.10 SIX HUNDRED DAYS ON THE ROAD!! Do I win a fiver? And so the train pulled into Calcutta’s Howrah train station around 11am.  The plan was to head to the border with Bangladesh, do a quick border hop and then come back in time for tea and a train up towards Bhutan and Nepal. However, my first problem was that (after queuing up a five different booths) the guy in the ticket office told me that the late train that left at 11pm was full.  I would find out later this was a lie, but never mind, I’m getting used to it now.  Therefore the only option was the Darjeeling Mail train which left at 7.35pm.  This meant my trip to Bangladesh was going to be a bit of a race to say the least. Sonu accompanied me across the Hooghly River that runs through…

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Day 599: Chai Chai Chai

24.08.10: Bright and early for the 27 hour train journey to Calcutta and it was indeed sweet to be back on a train again after the horror that is an Indian night bus. I had gone for Air Conditioned class this time, the ticket cost twice as much (something like a tenner) but even though it’s not hot enough at the moment to make AC class strictly necessary, the prospect of a working plug socket next to my seat/berth filled me with glee. The train was, predictably, a monster: at least 35 carriages long, it stretched for over a kilometre.  I made a bunch of friends onboard including a nice Indian kid named Sonu, who not only worked out why my mousepad wasn’t working (110v is not enough!) and was mad keen on helping me get to Bangladesh tomorrow.  I could do with some local assistance,…

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Day 598: Never The Twain

23.08.10: Arrived in the town of Salem at some disgraceful hour of the morning – it wasn’t even light yet.  The bus was an old rust bucket held together with gaffer tape, but I did manage to get a few hours shut-eye.  The bus station, like everything in India, was TEN TIMES everything, so there was possibly 200 buses crammed in there, all tooting their horns like it was Eid in Rusholme.  Which is wasn’t, it was four in the morning and damnit, I’m convinced that Indians drive by means of echolocation, because they seem to think that pressing a button that goes PARP! every two seconds is more important than, I don’t know, TURNING YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON AT NIGHT, or maybe DRIVING ON THE CORRECT SIDE OF THE ROAD.  I’d love to see an episode of Indian Top Gear where they slag off the Bugatti…

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Days 592-597: Now Then, Kerala

17.08.10-22.08.10: Well it was another frustrating (but remarkably pleasant) week in Kochi spent contacting shipping firms, tour companies, even the head of the Sri Lanka tourist board in the UK, but it looks like hopping over the 15 miles from India to Sri Lanka is going to be more difficult than balancing an elephant on your head. While on a unicycle. In a hurricane. The mad thing is that it will probably be easier to take a ship from Malaysia – 1000s of miles away.  It’s like the only way you can get to France from the UK is via America.  But I didn’t waste my time in Kerala, I made a lot of new friends (including three different people all called Anthony) and I got my story published in The Hindu newspaper. On the Wednesday, me and my new chums Anthony, Anthony and Louise (all…

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