Day M282: It’s Not Dark Yet, But It’s Getting There

Thu 05.07.12: The morning after the night before I jumped on the internet to find THE EMAIL. The email I had been waiting for, the email I had been dreading. CMA-CGM writing back to me with a decision. Will The Odyssey Expedition be over in August? Will the last three FINAL FRONTIERS tumble like dominoes? Or will I have to waste more time, more effort and take a completely unsuitable, dangerous and expensive method of getting to Fortress Maldives and Fortress Seychelles?? The news wasn’t good. The email was pleasant enough, but the answer is NO. I will have to waste more time, more effort and take a completely unsuitable, dangerous and expensive method of getting to Fortress Maldives and Fortress Seychelles. So that’s three no’s in a row. With no marinas in this country and a general lack of cruise ships, fishing boats and rubber…

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Days M279-281: That Sinking Feeling

Mon 02.07.12 – Wed 04.07.12: Anita offered me her couch to crash out on, but by couch I mean ‘one of the three bedrooms in her amazing apartment on the 27th floor of the Colombo Hilton’. I’d have happily stayed there all week, but I had a nagging angel on my shoulder telling me to go go go back to the Central Highlands and see Adam’s Peak and ‘Little England’. So Monday morning I said my tatty-byes and jumped the train over to Hatton, as in Derek ‘the c—t’ Hatton. My original intent was to press onto Nuwara Eliya, but I met some backpackers on the train from Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela, all young filmmakers attending film school in Florida. They were all set to scale Adam’s Peak tonight. Adam’s Peak is important to almost all the religions in Sri Lanka, for various reasons, and during…

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Days M277-278: The Ministry of Crab

Sat 30.06.12 – Sun 01.07.12: You know that the dates and the time I’ve spent in Sri Lanka tally pretty much exactly with that of Cape Verde three years ago? I remember giving serious consideration to packing all this in there and then, but my stubbornness and my inability to leave a puzzle half-solved led me to plod on regardless, and I’ve been plodding on ever since. I CAN’T LET CAPE VERDE WIN!!!!!! This morning, rose and shone, looking forward to see the Temple of the Tooth, the sacred place in Kandy where one of Buddhism’s most sacred relic can be found: a tooth of the Buddha himself. Now: there is some debate about this matter, not least because the Portuguese, being the miserable culturally insensitive sods that they were (and you thought the British were bad) took the tooth in the 1500s and burnt it…

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Days M272-276: The Cultural Triangle

Mon 25.06.12 – Fri 29.06.12: And so it came to pass that Monday morning involved waking up with a monster can’t-believe-we-lost-on-penalties-AGAIN!!! hangover and as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I hoped that nobody had taken any photos from the previous night’s drinking games, lest they appear on Facebook and ruin my future political ambitions. On Tuesday, a couple of backpackers – Marcia and Manisha – arrived at Sachal’s B&B. Marcia is a Canadian girl, looks like Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. Manisha is from India but lives in Germany. Sachal, being Sachal, decided that we should all have another big dinner so I let it be known that biriyani and beer was on the cards to anyone foolish enough to turn up. Happily, we got a good turnout, with Marcia, Manisha, Natalie, Luisa, Elena, Marina, Tony, Subarji, a couple of randoms we picked up…

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Days M265-271: The Long and Shorts of It

Mon 18.06.12 – Sun 24.06.12: After returning to Negombo late on Sunday night, things were looking good. The ship leaving this weekend was going to take me to The Maldives, and then I’d be coming back here to Sri Lanka, so the ‘cultural triangle’ stuff could wait until my triumphant return from country number 199 (being The Maldives). On the Wednesday I got a message from my Unawatuna chums asking if I was up for a night out in Colombo. I had fancied going to the Irish pub there for the weekly pub quiz, but when I called up asking about it, the guy who answered the phone had no idea what I was on about. So around 8pm I met with Lily, Olivia, James, Christoph and Jules at the rather posh Galle Face hotel. They had a rather posh all-you-can-eat buffet for the incredible price…

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Days M258-264: Arrack Attack!

Mon 11.06.12 – Sun 17.06.12: After a quiet weekend in Negombo, I found myself in a bit of a rut. I wanted to go and explore the island, but also I didn’t want to leave the free internet/cheap beer convenience of Negombo: especially if I was to have more meetings with shipping-types this week. Sachal, being the hero that he is, invited me down to Galle, a fortress town in the south of the country. He was going down for the day with his business partner to look at a possible site for another hotel. We hopped in the car and sped down there. The first part of the journey – from Negombo to Colombo – was EXCRUCIATINGLY slow and the driving around these parts make Maureen from Driving School seem like Ayrton Senna. The second part, battling through Colombo itself, took up most of the…

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Days M251-257: The Isle of Serendipity

Mon 04.06.12 – Sun 10.06.12:  AT LAST! COUNTRY NUMBER 198! And in the grand tradition of saving the best till last, it is my duty to report that Sri Lanka is officially several shades of AWESOME. After sitting at anchor for a couple of days, the MV Kota Wirawan finally pulled into Colombo port on Monday afternoon. It would be 9pm before I was off and cleared. I said a fond farewell to Captain Heri and the crew and set off to find my CouchSurf host, the enigmatic Sachal Mir, owner of Sachal Mir’s Bed and Breakfast in Negombo, a beach town an hour and a half up the coast from the capital. It was about 11pm when I arrived and if first impressions are anything to go by, I’m going to have a fantastic time here. Sachal greeted me like an old friend and introduced…

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Day M249: Why I’m Not A Republican

Sat 02.06.12: Today marked the start of the 4-day Diamond Jubilee celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year as Head of State of The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and numerous Commonwealth realms. It’s given the British people a couple of days off work, a free concert and injected some much-needed joy into a otherwise perpetually depressed nation. There are some that argue that the royal family is an anachronism, that it’s irrelevant, that it’s out-of-touch. So would I! But then, let’s face it, those adjectives could be used to describe every political institution in the world, not least the United Nations. I’m not swayed by arguments wrung out by Daily Mail-types who believe that to criticise the monarchy is akin to collaborating with The Nazis. Nor am I swayed by arguments wrung out by tub-thumbing Trots screaming off with her head – these are arguments…

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Days M244-248: The War At Sea

Mon 28.05.12 – Fri 01.06.12: There’s a war going on. Did anyone tell you? Bet they didn’t. The UN wouldn’t tell you, because then they may be called upon to do something about it. The IMO (International Maritime Organisation) wouldn’t tell you, because then they’d perhaps feel a tad silly for issuing advice akin to the hilarious ‘Duck and Cover’ leaflets distributed in case of a nuclear strike. Your local retailer won’t tell you, because even if there is now a 20% shipping surcharge slapped onto every product you purchase, they still make the same amount of profit. The insurance companies won’t tell you, because they can now charge a hefty premium on any ships crossing the Indian Ocean. The only ones really losing out are the mariners, the people of an already war-ravaged East African country and YOU. I’m talking, of course, about the Somali…

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