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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Day 1,379: No Surprises, Please

Thu 11.10.12: With confirmation from the owners, charterers, agents, customs, immigration, the international war-crimes tribunal in The Hague and the ghost of Jimmy Stewart, the stage was set for what would be the final leg of The Odyssey Expedition. Sri Lanka to South Sudan, over land and over sea, without flying. However, after last week’s emotional roller-coaster I tried my best to put it out of my head as far as was possible: I didn’t want to get crazy excited that I was set up to finish this adventure JUST IN CASE my hopes and dreams were once again crushed by a Vogon sitting behind a desk who doesn’t like the look of me. But first… Unawatuna beach!! Lovely place, gorgeous clean sand, turquoise waters, great tunes, cheap beer and, most importantly, TURTLES!! This weekend I decided to be a bona fide beach bum. Last weekend in Una…

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Day 1,374: The Last Roll of the Die

Fri 05.10.12: Steam shooting out my ears, I spent the remainder of the afternoon writing passive (aggressive) emails to every shipping company operating out of Sri Lanka pleading (demanding) to be put on the next ship outta Dodge. I’ve never typed so furiously or passionately in my life. I don’t care what I have to do, what I have to pay, just somebody – somewhere – pleeeeeease put me on a ship!! Last weekend in Unawatuna, I met a lovely British couple, Shaun and Debs, who recognised me off the telly and told me that if I was ever in Colombo I was welcome to stay at their gaff. Rather not looking forward to the cramped 2 hour bus journey up to Negombo with all my bags after a day like today, I called to take them up on the offer. Be warned, Graham Hughes: terrible…

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Day 1,371: Icarus, Not Daedalus

Tue 02.10.12 My incredible plan for Sunday night was stay up all night drinking and partying at Chili’s Bar in Unawatuna. Then I was to take first express bus back to Colombo at 6am AS I HAD WORK TO DO!! I had to take my passport, photos, application form, cruise tickets, air-tickets, bank statements, itinerary, inside trouser measurement and father’s maiden name to the Madagascan Consulate in order to get my Madagascan visa (third time lucky!). Then I had to go to the Indian High Commission and ask them (very nicely) if they would be so kind as to give me my visa a little bit quicker. All went surprisingly swimmingly. I got the Madagascan visa there and then. The lady at the Indian High Commission told me to come back in the afternoon. I headed over to the shopping mall’s foodcourt and hooked myself up…

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Day M369: Amelia’s Final Farewell

Sun 30.09.12: "Raggedy Man: Goodbye." So there’s me, on the beach in Unawatuna, watching Doctor Who on my laptop and sobbing LIKE A LITTLE GIRL. It's over. She’s gone, the Doctor’s assistant, Amy Pond, the girl of my dreams. When this expedition is over, I’m going to have a Pond of my own. We will raise a ginger army, travel through time and space AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD. You’ve been warned. So then, a relaxing weekend in Unawatuna, THE beach destination of Sri Lanka. Sat in the shade of the trees outside Happy Banana, yammering away to all and sundry on the internets and trying not to worry too much about the impending DOOM that awaits my attempts to get to India on a ship. But then on Saturday night I get a call from my man Dino in the UK. You want a ship…

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Day M367: Throw Yourself At The Tide

Fri 28.10.12: Shaking off the inevitable hangover, much like a dog shaking itself dry after a paddle in the stream, I headed back over to the visa department of the Indian High Commission. Got all my forms filled out, new photos taken (I lost the ones I got in London somehow – since they require oversized 2” x 2” pics and they cost me £1.75 EACH, this annoyed me no end). Then I headed over to Carl’s place of work to meet Nilan Jayawardana, the General Manager of McLarens Shipping Ltd. After a chat and a cup of tea, we resolved to find a clever way of getting me to India without me having to swim. Only, as always, it’s not up to Nilan, it’s up to the parent company in Taiwan who don’t know me from Adam. But hope springs eternal. There’s ship that leaves…

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Day M365: Now, Voyager…

Wed 26.09.12: And so back to Sri Lanka. Exactly one year TO THE DAY that I rebooted The Odyssey Expedition in Wewak, Papua New Guinea. That was Day 1,000. Now I’m on Day 1,365. I added the ‘M’ prefix in an effort not to scare away new subscribers, but I really need not have bothered: it now takes up more space than a simple ‘1’ would have done. Humph! I flew Kuwait Airlines again, on the return ticket. Kuwait airlines cannot be given a good review by any objective commentator. The TVs don’t work, the babies scream and there’s no bleedin’ alcohol on board to smooth off the edges. Ygads. But, you know, airplanes do get you where you need to go, and FAST! Blimey, in the time it took me on a coach to go from one city in Turkey to another, I flew across…

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Day M302: So Then…

Wed 25.07.12: Another hiatus. I hope you don’t see this as cheating. As I did in Wewak, Papua New Guinea, I will be returning to exactly the spot where I left off before continuing The Odyssey Expedition. This cruise ship in October that will go INDIA > MALDIVES > SEYCHELLES > MADAGASCAR is a damn good plan: the best plan, and the safest. The ships that the Somali pirates go after these days have a) no armed guards and b) a low freeboard. I don’t know if a cruise ship will have armed guards on board, but as for the freeboard (the distance from the sea to the deck), on most cruise ships you’re talking something like 40 metres. Try scaling THAT, Fatbeard!   In the meantime, yes, I’m going home. And although I’m going back for a serious reason, it already sounds like it’s going…

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Day M300: Okay, Time Out!

Mon 23.07.12: There is no chance of me getting on board a cargo ship from Sri Lanka to Maldives. This is a rather unique situation and it’s taken 42 months and 198 countries to get to this point. In all other cases I’ve got permission to sail or there has been an alternative shipping company. But, please, my wonderful Odysseans DO NOT DESPAIR! Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of fate in my last post. I’ve often equated The Odyssey Expedition to a real-life video game: elements of Pokémon (gotta catch ’em all!), Lemmings (avoid the traps, get these poor buggers home) and, more than anything, Monkey Island (I’ve got to get me a ship – by solving puzzles!). My favourite video game of all time (because it’s the best video game of all time) is, of course, Grim Fandango. If you’ve never heard of…

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Day M290: Odysseus Amongst The Sirens

Fri 13.07.12: In Homer’s Odyssey, our wily hero Odysseus had his men tie him to the ship's mast so he could hear the Siren’s song without dashing himself on the rocks. I’m fairly sure that the cruel and capricious Gods of Olympus are cooking up a similar ordeal for me here on the Isle of Serendipity. I meet a lot of people on the road and some are obviously better looking than others. Yes I’ve got a girlfriend, but even so, you can’t help but notice. Call it window shopping, whatever, we all do it, don’t look at me like that. But what’s making my head spin is the way that almost every female tourist I meet (Sri Lankan women being eerily absent from this country’s nightlife) is not just hot, but outrageously take-off-your-shoe-and-bang-it-on-the-table-whilst-howling-at-the-moon-hot. If it was one or two of these magnificent (but ultimately deadly)…

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