Day M221: Ping Pong King Kong Hong Kong

Sat 05.05.12: It took a few days, but on the evening of Friday 4th May you could see the bright lights of Hong Kong from the bridge of the good ship MV Mell Sembawang. Congestion in the port meant we wouldn’t be coming alongside until the wee small hours of the following morning, but it did mean we would be treated to the most epic thunderstorm I have ever seen which was silently taking place over the city. Where the Mell Sembawang was circling like a plane waiting to land there was no rain, no wind and the sea was eerily still – something that seems to happen quite a lot in The Pacific, hence its name I guess. And when I say this thunderstorm was epic, don’t think I’m exaggerating – this was a storm that could send ecliptics into a fit – strobe-like flashes…

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Days M27-M32: Beyond The Coral Sea

24.10.11-29.10.11: And so I found myself becoming something of a fixture on board the good ship Papuan Chief. Breakfast (which I invariably missed) was served at 8am-9am, Lunch at noon and dinner at 6.30pm. If I wasn’t beavering away at the bar working on a video or a script or a rant, I’d be up on the bridge studying the shipping charts, learning how to use a sextant or just generally getting in the way of things. This week has been all about the drill. We’ve had drills for fire, terrorism, oil spills... the ship’s six month inspection is due in Melbourne and Captain Santos wants all things to be ship-shape and Bristol-fashion. Literally. Seven short blasts followed by a long one means get your arse up to the bridge, Graham. A short, long, short, long, short and long means get to the Emergency Life Rafts…

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Days M20-M24: The Papuan Chief

17.10.11-21.10.11: Monday was spent at sea familiarising myself with the ship. Swire take their safety seriously: I’m not allowed out on deck unless I’m wearing a boiler suit and steel toe-capped boots. After a tour of the vessel (a 1991 Miho-Type freighter, 4 storage bays, 3 cranes, 9000HP, top speed 15.5 knots) I familiarised myself with the onboard bar “Ye Pracktickle Navigatore” and got up to speed with some of the editing and writing I’ve been putting off for months as the south coast of New Britain floated past the window. On the Tuesday we skirted around the coast of New Ireland and arrived on the island of Lihir – home of the biggest goldmine in PNG. It’s a privately-owned port and I’d need a two-day induction to even step foot on dry land. A volcanic island located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the mining…

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Days 985-987: Saddle Up, People!

12.09.11-14.09.11: The time for procrastination is over. Much of this year has been spent – some might say wasted - holding out hope for a yachtie to invite me onboard his vessel and whisk me away into the wild blue yonder for nothing more than the price of a few beers and a barrel of diesel. After being held on tenterhooks for 8 months (repeatedly being told that the yacht in question would be ready to go ‘in a few days’) I gave up that pipedream. I guess the old adage is a good today as it’s always been: if something sounds too good to be true… So I cast my net out wider, appearing on TV here in Australia and on countless radio shows, always throwing in the ‘anyone up for an adventure?’ line (while trying not to sound too desperate, of course). I got…

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What’s In Your Bag, Graham?

I often get asked what's in my bag.  I’ve already done a blog on what (not) to take backpacking, but I didn’t really get into the technical stuff, so here goes: CAMERA: I use an old 2006 Sony HVR-A1(E) HDV camera. It takes mini-DV tapes, which are surprisingly easy to get anywhere on the road. The hand-held successors in this product line were mostly hard-drive cameras, which are fantastic, but in environments where things can go missing, humidity can affect drive heads and stuff is likely to suffer from knocks, tapes are a better idea than hard drives. When I first started I used the top-mounted XLR mic plugged into the hot-shoe on the A1, but after a couple of weeks I ditched it – at arm’s length the A1’s inbuilt mic was just as good and in stereo. I use a cheap Chinese-made 37mm wide-angle lens so…

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Days 715-721: My Papua Visa Hell

16.12.10-22.12.10: You know, when I stepped out of the Vietnamese Consulate back in September I honestly thought that my days of being trapped like a cog in the bureaucratic nightmare that is VISAHELL was over. But then came East Timor, deciding just a few months ago to stop issuing visas for the trickle of western tourists that bother to visit their country overland from Indonesia.  But even after that was all sorted out, like the mythological hydra, more bloody visas were called for, most hilariously for Indonesia as described in my blog entry entitled A Red Background. And now with just 17 countries left to visit and all of them being as far-flung as you can fling a flang, I’m trapped on the border of Papua New Guinea almost having a nervous breakdown brought upon by yet another impenetrable layer of bureaucracy that makes the world…

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How To Travel The World On The Cheap!

I've been stuck on the border with Papua New Guinea for the last few days, so not wanting to waste my time I made this here video for ya! It's set up so that EVERY CLICK results in money going to the charity WaterAid: so why not set up an auto-refresh program, such as this one for Internet Explorer or this one for Firefox, leave it running overnight and give give give without spending a penny!! Enjoy! Share! Comment! Here's the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAbCgr6jJ_0

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Days 713-714: The Floating Menagerie

14.12.10-15.12.10: Crikey! This ship is even worse than the last one. At least on board the last on I had a bed. Here it’s every man for himself, and as I have no intention of spending the next two days sitting guarding a bed. Consequently I have no idea where I’m going to sleep tonight. Of course the floor or the staircase is always an option, although the choice is quite sparse as there are people everywhere! Everywhere!! You look under a bed to find a family of four playing cards, there are people sleeping in cupboards, on shelves, under tables, on top of tables, on chairs, on mats, in cardboard boxes, under the stars and presumably in the lifeboats and up in the crows nest (if the ship had one). You can’t move for people! People!! Everywhere!! Once again I set up camp in a…

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Days 707-712: Fuzzy Logic

08.12.10-13.12.10: The ship came into the sleepy port town of Sorong in West Papua pretty much on time, which made me happy.  At the port I was met by the indomitable Bosco, the local guy who I’d be CouchSurfing with for my brief stay here.  We got as far as his local church before the storm broke and the rain started coming down in buckets.  Staying on the back of his scooter with all my bags wasn’t smart, so we tucked ourselves under the eves of the chapel and waited for the downpour to stop. West Papua (or just ‘Papua’ to give the place its proper name) is the western half of the island of New Guinea (also known – just to confuse matters - as Papua).  New Guinea is the second largest island in the world (brownie points for guessing the first) and is spilt…

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Days 704-706: The Power and The Pelni

05.12.10-07.12.10: Noah had nothing on this. All life is here – spread out all over the floor. Picnics, knick-knacks, porridge, rice and tic-tacs. Families, feuds, filth, food and funny lookin' f---ers. Music, mayhem, toys and rugs and cardboard. Screaming babies and bawling kids and out-of-tune karaoke and phones on speaker phone and noise and noise and noise. The Pelni ferries that ply the water between the major Indonesian islands are a hoot. They are the diametric opposite of a luxury cruise: more akin to a floating refugee camp, thousands of people crammed onboard snuggled into every nook and cranny, complete with the ubiquitous massive bundles of stuff. WHAT’S WITH THE STUFF?? I guess Indonesians and Africans have got this in common: neither would dream of wasting a journey. And if that means an old age pensioner carting a metric ton of rice a thousand miles across…

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