Day 669: One Hell of a Halloween

31.10.10: I left the Mariott with a spring in my step.  I had my book back and I had plenty of time to get to the train station, even considering the gridlock nightmare that is driving in Jakarta.  But there was a problem.  Two weeks ago when I was last here in Jakarta, Barclay’s bank, in their infinite wisdom cancelled my debit card (it would seem I’ve been abroad too long).  After much kerfuffle, I managed to get it unblocked and told them in my best Monty Python voice to never do it again. So I need to take out money for the train fare this morning, and what happens?  Seven different ATM machines turn me down.  Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding me.  I get to the station and try to pay on Visa, but (of course) they don’t take Visa because THE ONLY PLACES…

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Days 670-675: I’m on Bali

01.11.10-06.11.10: Many moons ago, when I was a wee nipper running around the playground in shorts annoying the hell out of people (not much has changed, the playground has just got bigger…) we used to have a game of ‘tick’ that involved giving people THE MANGE.  The rules were simple: you ticked somebody, thus giving them THE MANGE, and then they had to tick someone else to get rid of it.  You see, marvellously enough, like something out of an episode of The Outer Limits, the ‘mange’ only infected one person at a time, so by giving your best friend THE MANGE, you were miraculously cured from it. I think it’s the way most African leaders believe HIV works. This game is nothing new, in America they call it Cooties, and, according to Wikipedia: For ages 5 onwards, Cooties are known in Denmark as "fnat," or "pigelus" (literally…

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Days 676-677: BUNGEEEEEEEEE!!

07.11.10-08.11.10: On Sunday I met up with Justin for my bungee jump at AJ’s, but sadly, no AJ.  He was there earlier, but not now. However, we did get him on the phone and he agreed to let me break ALL THE RULES and do a jump with my camera, much to the astonishment of the bungy staff. Hee hee - it's not WHAT you know... First Justin's girlfriend Natalie gaffered my camera to my hand... (If you look in the background of this shot, you'll see a bungy menu that includes one called 'THE FIRE BALL'. Yes - they set you on fire before you jump. Seriously. 'MOTO MADNESS' has you going over on a motorbike. I kid you not.) And then I jumped... Here’s the video of it: As I had my camcorder attached to my hand and my glasses attached to my head with tape,…

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Days 678-682: The Exquisite Clutches of Calypso

09.11.10-13.11.10: By Tuesday afternoon I still hadn’t heard back from Simon about whether or not my laptop could be fixed in Bali.  At this point I was kinda raring get on with the adventure (if things had gone to plan, I’d be in East Timor today), but there was something holding me back: I can’t say really what it was, but it definitely had something to do with the sheer awesomeness of everyone I’ve met here in Bali. For instance, the other day I met up with Neil in a place called KuDeTa, the swankiest bar on the island.  I was just meeting Neil and then we were going on somewhere else – this place was way, way out of my price range (if it’s not a pound a pint I can’t help you). Just as Neil is finished off his bottle of Bintang, a lovely…

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Day 683: The Long Goodbye

14.11.10: It was too early to fathom what was going on, but I seem to have found my way into a taxi and it seems to be heading to the bus station.  These are good signs.  I think I know where I have to go and I think that it takes three hours to get there.  The guy is telling me I can buy a ‘through ticket’ which will include the ferry to the neighbouring island of Lombok as well.  Okay, sure. I woke up on the bus having dreamt that I had just been driven onto the ferry to Lombok.  I looked around.  I had been driven onto the ferry to Lombok.  Excellent.  It would seem I’ve been doing this kind of thing so long I can now do it in my sleep. Goodbye Bali.  Goodbye Neil, Paul, Justin, Simon and all the brilliant, brilliant…

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Day 684: The Slow Fast Boat

15.11.10: The bus drove through the night, arriving in the eastern port town of Sape at 8am, just in time for the ferry to Labuanbajo in Flores.  The helpful tout dude from Maluk yesterday ripped me off good an’ proper.  I paid 150,000 Indonesian Rupiah for a ferry ticket that was worth 40,000.  150,000 is about US$17: enough for three nights accommodation in a Indonesian flea pit hotel.  I may have to return to Maluk and kill him. He also lied about the speed of the boat: this was NO ‘fast boat’, it was slower than a West African internet connection and didn’t get me to Labuanbajo until it was almost dark.  This a merry man did me not make.  I checked into the cheapest joint in town and headed out to find out the times of the ferries leaving Flores for Kupang in West Timor. …

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Day 685: A Bunch of Flores

16.10.10: The next boat that would sensibly get me to the island of Timor is leaving the southern port town of Aimere on Friday morning.  It’ll take me all of Thursday to get there, but hey-ho LET’S GO.  I also found out that the Wednesday ferry from Larantuka may well be a myth.  I had found this all out by about 8am after a bunch of phone calls and frantic arm-waving. My work here done, I went to the Lounge Bar for breakfast and ended up staying there all day, abusing the Wi-Fi, updating my website, researching the South Pacific and working on this damn promo video for series 2 of ‘Graham’s World’.  With over 100 hours of video to sift through, we could be here for some time…  I kind of wish that the first season was good enough to sell the second one, I…

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Day 686: Here Be Dragons

17.11.10: Onboard my boat to see the Komodo Dragons were a couple of mad Italians from Milan called Franco and Frederico.  The two-hour ride from Labuanbajo to the island of Rinca (better than Komodo itself for seeing the dragons) would had been uneventful had the engine not EXPLODED three-quarters of the way there.  The boat owners rushed to fix the blown gasket (ignoring the fact that we were drifting dangerously close to some rocks) as Frederico, Franco and I whistled and hollered at any passing ships that came within earshot.  After about half an hour, a small ferry gave us a tow into Rinca Island’s one and only port. Rinca and Komodo are protected national parks, so there are no backpackers and beach parties here: with good reason – the dragons are not just fascinating species worthy of protection (as are all animals within our increasingly…

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Day 687: There Be Hobbits

18.11.10: One of the things about living out of a backpack is that it’s so easy to forget things.  I’ve probably got about one hundred items with me, ranging from my glasses to my malaria pills to the charger for my electric razor, and first thing in the morning is the worst time for having your brain in gear.  When I think of all the things I’ve lost on this trip (my South America Lonely Planet, my little diaries, my hat) – it’s even more remarkable the things I haven’t lost. Having said that, I do sometimes suffer from lapses in concentration that are, quite frankly, embarrassing.  One such lapse occurred today as the bus charged towards the port town of Aimere (pronounced Eye-Mere-Ay) – I left my infernal Yellow Bible in the little eatery we stopped at to get the usual BLURGH of steamed white…

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Day 688: Executive Class

19.11.10: Last night I stayed in the grottiest pension I think I’ve ever seen.  Aimere is most definitely a one horse town as the only option was a pension down the street which (unlike the one I stayed in) had seen a lick of paint in the last few decades.  Not that that justified paying twice the price. When I was visiting the dragons on Wednesday, I was enjoying a nice cold Coke after all that trekking in the sweltering heat of Komodo national park when I got chatting to an Italian guy called Simon who was (marvellously enough) travelling from Italy to Australia in a Fiat 500.  Just then his travel partner, Chesa, popped up and said I looked a little like that Graham guy off the telly.  Funny that, I said, because... After introductions we realised that we would be taking the same ferry…

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