Day 1,396: Neptune Strikes Back!

Mon 29.10.12: I knew it. I knew it was unwise to mock Neptune, that most capricious of Olympian Gods. Odysseus’s punishment for a perceived slight is what caused him to take 10 years to get back to his Penelope. All I had to do was to get off the Costa neoRomantica in Diego Suarez, Madagascar and I would almost definitely be in South Sudan in November and home for Christmas. But then I had to be funny, didn’t I? Had to dress up like Neptune, yeah? Pose with his trident, play Gods and Monsters. You smart-assed sceptic, MONKEY MAN WILL MAKE YOU BELIEVE!!! Neptune, Poseidon-self with anger (see what I did there?), did what he always does when he’s pissed and sent an unseasonable storm our way. The ship pitched and rocked and after the Costa Concordia disaster, you can understand the captain’s decision not to…

Continue Reading Day 1,396: Neptune Strikes Back!

Day 317: The Fake Southern Cross

13.11.09: Another night of sleeping on a Madagascan minibus wasn't what I was really after when I came here. I feel like a tool now for not staying on the DAL Madagascar. I would have been in Mayotte, one of the Comoros islands, by now. But hey-ho, now I know. The good thing about Madagascan minibuses is that they always put the tourist on the front passenger seat, so you always get a good view and (more importantly) a safety belt. The bad thing is that there is no escape from the driver's DREADFUL (and LOUD!) taste in music. Being a fully paid-up member of the Music Nazi's Guild, I don't take kindly to being kept up all night by what I can only describe as Rod, Jane and Freddy featuring Alvin and The Chipmunks singing Timmy Mallet's Greatest Hits in Malagasy. Then play it FULL…

Continue Reading Day 317: The Fake Southern Cross

Day 316: One Hell of a U-Turn

12.11.09: Cuba. Cape Verde. Sao Tome and now the Seychelles – why do they have to make it so damn difficult to visit these islands on a boat? The Outer Islands of The Seychelles are just 166 Nautical Miles (or 'naughty miles' as I prefer to call them) north of here. That's one day in a fishing boat or two days in a yacht. I spoke to that Francis guy this morning and he put me on to somebody in Nosy Be (a hilariously named island off the east coast) who owned a catamaran. Theirry, my francophone chum who has come in exceptionally handy over the last few weeks (I wish we had him for the Gabon-Sao Tome jaunt) spoke to this catamaran chap and he confirmed my worst fears – nobody, absolutely nobody sails up to the Seychelles from here anymore. It's just too dangerous…

Continue Reading Day 316: One Hell of a U-Turn

Day 315: A Catatonic State

11.11.09: Wow. When the guidebook says that Diego is sleepy, they weren't kidding. Which is possibly a good thing as my cold has reached its zenith and I feel like some nasty monkey has replaced all the air in my lungs with snot. The last thing that I wanted to be doing was attempting to sweet-talk yachties into taking me to the outer islands of the Seychelles. But I didn't have to. There were a sum total of two yachts in the bay. There were a couple of fishing boats, but that's about it. I spoke to a few people, got Thierry to call up a few French-speakers, but it didn't look promising. It wasn't until the end of the day that I got a message from Thierry saying that he had spoken to a guy named Francis who might be able to help me. I…

Continue Reading Day 315: A Catatonic State

Day 314: A Rose By Any Other Name

10.11.09: My word, I've awoken in Australia! How'd THAT happen? Oh hang on, no - it's just Madagascar doing a damn fine impression of my crimson-tinctured second home. So today, the entire day was spent on the road heading towards Diego Suarez. Diego's real name is Antsiranana, following in the Madagascan tradition of using as many vowels as humanly possible. The government changed the name thirty-four years ago because they wanted something that sounded more Malagasy, but it hasn't stuck. Everyone – and I mean everyone – still calls it Diego. Hell, it's a good name and who am I to argue with a bon mot? A lesson, one would imagine, for the likes of Bombay, who foolishly changed it's name to Mumbai fifteen years ago. I find the whole concept of changing the names of places fascinating and bewildering, I mean, why bother? In the…

Continue Reading Day 314: A Rose By Any Other Name

Day 313: Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud

09.11.09: Grr. I'm highly aggravated today, it's probably best if you keep a safe distance. First up, I get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6am. Then I head down to the taxi-brousse area (it takes up a good kilometre of road) and ask around for the next bus to Diego, over 1000km away. I was hoping to leave in the morning and arrive tomorrow afternoon sometime. So I'm herded to a wooden shack, which apparently has a bus leaving 'very soon'. I ask when exactly and I'm told eight to half-eight. Great I think, buy a ticket and jump on board. Now, I'm more than used to the fact that Africans have more hassles with the concept of time than your average citizen of Gallifrey, so I wasn't too fussed when we left, just as long as we left in the morning. By…

Continue Reading Day 313: Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud

Day 312: Madagascan Surprise

08.11.09: Oops, Guatemala is spelt with an 'e' not an 'a', so my factette about Madagascar being the only country in the world with 4 'a's in the name seemed almost valid, that is until I woke up this morning in a cold sweat, the name of another country with 4 'a's in it on my quivering lips. I'll leave it to you to figure that one out. So, as a pleasant surprise, I'm back in Tamatave, Madagascar – a day earlier than I was led to believe. This is wonderful news. I said my hearty thanks and goodbyes to Chief Mate Richard and Capt Klaus and shuffled off the DAL Madagascar. The wonderful shipping agent, Ricky helpfully gave me a lift to the taxi-brousse area, where a minibus was leaving as soon as it filled. By about 10am, I was on my way back to…

Continue Reading Day 312: Madagascan Surprise

Day 311: Here Be Pirates

07.11.09: Polished off the new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol, which is, muh. Nowhere near as good as Angels & Demons or Da Vinci Code, the 'twist' was more obvious than if Bruce Willis spent the entirety of ‘Sixth Sense’ wearing a ten gallon hat with “I'm Dead” embroidered on the front in big glowing letters. And what with that bit where they stand around a severed hand for half an hour chatting about the ceiling? Why aren't they getting that thing on ice?? And (without giving too much away) what's with the history lesson at the end? It's akin to Anakin giving a guided tour of Jedi HQ to a bunch of old grandmothers immediately after his fight with Obi-Wan on the lava planet. One last thing, and then I'll hold my peace; If Sato had just taken Langdon's phone in Chapter 16, it…

Continue Reading Day 311: Here Be Pirates

Pirates Stop Play!

I feared this might happen. I've torn my way up to the very northern tip of Madagascar – just 166 nautical miles from the outer islands of the Seychelles – and had my worst suspicions confirmed – NO boats go from here to the Seychelles. At all. After last month's kidnapping of Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple sailing from Seychelles to Tanzania, nobody wants to go anywhere near this route – the risk of injury or death is just too great. This is, of course, a tremendous blow to the progress of The Odyssey. But all is not lost! I am going to head back to Africa now on the next cargo ship out of Mahajanga port. In December, there are cruise ships that come down the Red Sea to The Seychelles, it's a very long way around of doing it (and no doubt…

Continue Reading Pirates Stop Play!

Day 302: The Road Ahead

29.10.09: My entire route for The Odyssey is mapped out in my head and has been for years so I never bother looking at the route plan; but just for giggles and as I've just hit 300 days on the road, I had a peek at the Odyssey Itinerary that I drew up for Lonely Planet last year. I had to laugh at my ludicrously over-optimistic plan for getting around The Caribbean (it's been easier getting around the Indian Ocean!) and the allotted six days for getting to Cape Verde and back (try six weeks, baby). But, you know – I had set a month for getting around Europe and I did it in 23 days and that included wasting six days in Tunisia. I also accurately set five days to get to Sao Tome and back – which, to be fair, is how long it…

Continue Reading Day 302: The Road Ahead