Day 698: The Ende of All Things

29.11.10: So the ferry pulled into Larantuka port nice and early, around 7am.  Now I just had the small matter of the entirety of Flores to get across.  Cast from your mind any concept of nice straight Roman roads – this is a volcanic jungle baby, and these roads are longer and windier than you would believe.  But, damn what AMAZING scenery.  Vast forests cladding soaring hillsides, valleys of greenest green far below, and when we scoot along the coast the silhouettes of ancient fishing boats rendered by the golden sunbeams glittering in the deep blue waters. Even better, the stereo on my minibus wasn’t working, so I didn’t have to suffer that dreadful Indonesian musak!  I was also lucky to have a sensible driver – one that didn’t fang it around blind corners whilst overtaking a convoy of trucks.  On top of all that, I…

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Day 697: The Game Is Afoot!

28.11.10: Is The Odyssey possible?  It’s been a question that has been bugging me for some time.  Okay, I’ve made it this far, on the surface it looks like I’m doing quite well: with 183 countries in the bag and just 17 left to go, you would think I’d be relaxing in to the final stretch of this mad quest.  But I can’t emphasise this enough: I still have NO idea how on Earth I’m going to get to the twelve Pacific Island states that lay ahead.  They are all thousands of miles from each other and the Pacific, despite the name, is anything but Magellan’s ‘calm sea’: storm surges created off the coast of Russia roll on for days uninterrupted until they create waves in the South Seas that would make short work of that wooden Pirogue that took me to Cape Verde.  A lift…

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Day 696: Yes I Awoke

27.11.10: But only because Dan woke me up.  Groggy and sleep deprived I clambered onto the minibus that would be speeding me back to Kupang.  Bye bye Dili!  The minibus ride to the border was brilliant – there were only two of us onboard so I could sit where I wanted and the seats went all the way back.  I lay down and gazed at the stunning scenery whizzing by: turquoise tinted bays dotted with wooden fishing boats, islands of green rolling hills stretching off into the horizon and fluffy white clouds idly drifting by against a sky of azure blue. The bus wound its way around the narrow S bends and switchbacks and before long we had arrived at the frontier with Indonesia.  After formalities I WAS BACK in West Timor.  Huzzah! As soon as I had Indonesian phone coverage, I texted Edwin to let…

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Day 692: The Moral Landscape

23.11.10: What’s worse than having to get up at 5am for a bus?  The bus turning up at your hotel twenty minutes early!  And then beeping REALLY LOUDLY, waking everybody in the neighbourhood up.  Well, possibly not, the people of Indonesia have such an amazingly high tolerance of noise, you’d swear they must be deaf.  It might be an idea to ship all those whiney tossers who buy houses on the Heathrow flight path or apartments above city centre nightclubs (and then, predictably, moan about the noise) to one of these 17,000 islands and fill Britain’s noisiest homes with Indonesians. Completely unprepared, I sleepily threw all my stuff in my bags like Winona Rider looting a Chinese laundry.  I fell back asleep as soon as I clambered onboard and didn’t really wake up until we reached the border at noon – all I can tell you…

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Day 691: The Authorisation

22.11.10: It was a 9am showdown at the East Timor Consulate in Kupang.  Luckily for me, Simon and Chesa where there, and Chesa, being Indonesian, could explain my predicament to the lady a damn site better than I could.  I had applied for my visa authorisation FOUR WEEKS ago, and heard nothing in reply.  The lady made a phone call and said that the authorisation had been sent last month.  No it hadn’t.  I had flashbacks to when I had to explain to my mum back in 1997 yes it did matter if you spelt the email address incorrectly. The lady said to go and wait for the email confirmation, they would resend it.  So I did.  I went back to Edwin’s joint and twiddled my thumbs, refreshing my email every now and again.  I knew that if I didn’t get the authorisation today, when I…

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Day 690: Oh Dear

21.11.10: Kupang is a little dull.  Here’s a list of my ten favourite place names in the world: Azerbaijan – Sounds like something a magician would say before pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Galapagos – It just sounds lovely. Lovely lovely lovely. Timbuktu, Mali – The name alone sounds like a promise of being miles from anywhere. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – Pronounced ‘Waggadoogoo’ it’s the capital of Burkina Faso, TAKE THE TRAIN!!!!… yes, it’s called the Ouagadougou Choo-Choo. BRILLIANT! Shit, Iran – Exists! Try typing it into Google Earth! Kumbag, Turkey – See above. Wetwang, England – the town of which the late great Richard Whitely was mayor. Lake Disappointment, Australia – Does exactly what it says on the tin. Truth Or Consequences, USA – Awesome.  I wish I had the job of renaming towns.  Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Skegness and Milton Keynes would be…

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Day 689: Kupanged!

20.11.10: A sticky and uncomfortable night on the ferry was compounded by the tuck shop’s (pot noodles and skinny cans of Sprite – it’s the same all over Indonesia) decision to start playing the usual rubbish Indopop at full blast at 5am.  What is that?  In lieu of the call to prayer.  I went over and told them that if they didn’t knock it off, I wouldn’t be buying any more pot noodles. Simon and Chesa were planning to spend the day in one of the villages surrounding Kupang.  I, on the other hand, was tasked with the job of getting my Authorisation letter for East Timor.  My first port of call was the bus company that runs minibuses direct to Dili.  They didn’t seem to care if I had authorisation or not and just wanted to sell me a ticket for tomorrow’s 6am bus. So…

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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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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 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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