Day 1,406: The Lava Meets The Sea

Thu 08.11.12: In many ways, Thursday was (yet another) D-Day for this phase of The Odyssey Expedition. I had a choice to make: I could stick here on Réunion and wait for the PIL ship, but that would mean once I got to Madagascar racing to Antananarivo and back (at least a 15 hour round trip) to pick up my passport with the visa in it for Mozambique. There would be a chance I wouldn’t make it there and back before the ship left port and in any case, it would also mean there would be no chance of getting back to the UK for Christmas. Or I could twist: take the Trochetia ferry tomorrow over to Mauritius and hope that Maersk come through for me. But going to Mauritius would be a big risk. Not only would it mean spending a fortune on the Trochetia…

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Day 1,405: Four More Years

Wed 07.11.12: Rubbing eyes, blinking, stumbling into the light the week began. What the hell am I going to do now? With no second passport, my passage to the African Mainland looked bleak. I could, if I really wanted to, try and get back to the mainland on those crappy African trampers via Madagascar and Comoros. But last time I tried that it was DECEMBER 17 when I finally made it back to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Bear in mind it is *EXACTLY* three years ago since I was last here. I want, no, I *need* to be back home for Christmas. There’s just too much at stake. But there is a Plan C. Don’t worry, wily old Odysseus here never goes anywhere without an entire alphabet worth of plans. Maersk, the Danish shipping company – and the largest in the world – have a…

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Day 1,400: The Wandering Rocks

Fri 02.11.12: Don’t get me wrong, I really love Réunion – it’s fun, the weather is like perpetual spring, the food is great and my French has improved in the last week beyond measure. And I’m doing quite well, all things considered, you know, 200 countries visited, just one to go, I get to live out my Manny Calavera fantasies and say I’ve been on a four-year journey of the soul (the joke being that I’m ginger and therefore have no soul) and one way or another I should be home in a couple of months. But every silver lining has a cloud, and what with Neptune blocking my passage to the island of Madagascar and depositing me on the French Island of Réunion like some latter-day Papillon, I’ve got to figure a cunning way out of this fix. To the instant rescue comes splendid shipping…

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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…

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Day 309: The DAL Madagascar

05.11.09: The guys from next door came over for a farewell breakfast, which kind of spilled over to a farewell elevenses and then a farewell lunch. In fact, before I left, Mickael had come back from work already. So we posed for some hilarious photos in the back garden before Pierre drove me down to the bus station. What a brilliant, brilliant bunch. You know, if there is one thing I've learned this year is that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, people are great. And although it's the nasty ones that have a tendency to stick in your mind, they're outnumbered by the good'uns 100 to 1. I'm telling you. Had a bit of a drama getting to the port – first, I had to wait an age for the next bus, then there was the (typical) traffic jam followed by the massive hike from…

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Day 308: Vans Across The World

04.11.09: My poor old Vans. Used, abused, stuck to my feet for over 300 days of constant toil and hardship and now imbued with a smell that could only be described as unholy, it was high time to chuck them away and find a new pair. But first I had a job to do. The illustrious Lucy dropped me off at the bus station first thing in the morning and within a few minutes, I was on my way back over to La Port. Upon arrival, I realised that I had no map in order to find the shipping agency, so I breezed into the library and memorised the one they had stuck to the front desk. Thanks, Derren. At the agency, I met Audrey, a delightful Anglo-French girl who would be the solution to all my woes. Yes indeed, there is a ship called the…

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Day 307: Passportout

03.11.09: TEAM ODYSSEY has a tentative lead – a cargo ship – the DAL Madagascar leaves here on Thursday, perhaps bound for Madagascar. This is of course great news, but with it came the panic that I need to get a visa for Madagascar – perhaps. To be honest, I really don't know if I actually need to get a visa before I show up, but after Cape Verde, I now like to err on the side of caution. Mickael accidentally took the door key with him to work so I was trapped in the house until lunchtime. Matilde and I fixed my hat up as best we could, and after a bit of stretching, platting and superglue’ing it was (almost) as good as new. Afterwards, Matilde left to go hiking with the lads from next door and it wasn't until Mickael got back on his…

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Day 306: The Reunion in Réunion

02.11.09: Finally free of the good ship Trochetia (at least for a while) I made my way from La Port to St. Denis and caught the number 6 bus towards Mickael's place. He picked me up from the bus stop on his little scooter and took me to his house – a nice rambling student-esque digs. He had to go to work so he left me in the sparkling company of Matilde, a rather fetching French girl of the type that actually makes you want to bother to learn French. She's over here on holiday for a couple of weeks visiting Anne-Sophie, one of Mickael's flatmates. I was even prepared to put up with her practising on the violin, whilst I stuffed the washing machine with my laundry (including my hat which was now smelling so bad that if you wore it, your face would melt…

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Day 303: Et Voila!

30.10.09: The Trochetia is great. It makes me sick every time that I think of the Shissiwani II costing me a comparable sum of money for three nights of hell, sleeping on the floor of a greasy mess of a ship. Best not to think about then eh? Today we got to Réunion - a French island, which was sensible enough not to plumb for independence doing the great independence binge of the latter twentieth century. Don't think that I'm a big imperialist by saying that, it's just that some countries are simply too small and under-resourced to be tenable as independent states – Cape Verde and Sao Tome to name but two. I would also care to suggest that if anybody would like to visit Martinique in the Caribbean swiftly followed by Dominica or St. Kitts then the US Virgin Islands they would possibly agree…

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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…

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