Day 363: First Catch Your Jerk

29.12.09: Today we hit land in fortress Saudi, possibly the most difficult country in the world to pop in for a quick visit. It was a great sunset as we came into dock, and as I stood on the side of the ship filming our arrival it felt as if, just this once, the gods had conspired to make my reunion with Mandy run as smoothly as Africa would ever allow. However, once we pulled into Jeddah port, it was a different story. After watching a movie in the ship's mess, I stood out on deck for a bit watching operations from above. Loads of chaps in hard hats where scurrying about, and the cargo was being unloaded at record pace (remarkable when compared to the slug-slow hi-jinks that goes on in most typical African ports) but then I remembered – I'm not in Africa any…

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Days 361-362: All Aboard!

27.12.09-28.12.09: 3am phone calls are not my favourite form of wake-up call. When I picked up the phone it somehow integrated it into my dream so much that I assumed it to be part of my dream and therefore completely acceptable to ignore. The next call five minutes later was not so easy to dismiss.. It was Abdi-Chakour telling me the ship was leaving early and I had to be on it within the hour or else I'd be swimming to Egypt. Biggidybiggidybong and whoosh, before I had shook the sleep out of my eyes I whisked away from the rathole that was the Sheraton Djibouti and plonked aboard the good ship Turquoise, shown my cabin and promptly dived into the bed and fell asleep faster than you can say Coco-Pops. I simply can't thank those guys from Djibouti's CMA-CGM office enough. They made my year.…

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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 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 305: The Hangover

01.11.09: Urgh. What a stupid idea THAT was. I woke up at 3pm, realising instantly that at 3pm, I'm supposed to be on board the Trochetia for the trip back to Réunion. I rubbed my eyes and headed for the shower, for the first time in my life thankful that it was cold. My body was just as surprised as I was that I was a) still alive and b) in the correct room of the correct hotel. Seriously. A few years ago, my mate Dan Martin and I were as drunk as lords in Morocco and not only did we wake up the next day in the wrong room, we also soon realised that we had waltzed into the wrong hotel. Night staff never see you check-in, do they? Little tip for you there, if you've got the guts. So after saying my fond farewells…

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Day 304: Drink Your Way Around The World

31.10.09: I stepped off the Trochetia and into country 124 feeling marvelously, marvelous about this turn of events. Simply put, I couldn't have done this any faster. Considering that I only left Tanzania on the 20th October – 11 days ago – and considering that I've taken four separate boat journeys as well as a two-day bus journey across Madagascar, things have gone surprisingly well. Until now. Now I have to somehow – somehow – get back to Madagascar, step foot in The Seychelles, (over 1000km away) and then get back to Africa. I have my own plan of how I'm going to achieve these feats, but believe me, it ain't gonna be easy and it is certainly going to take more than 11 days. It's going to take me at least a week to get back to Madagascar, and that's if I'm luckier than Lucky…

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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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Day 301: Welcome To Lemurland

28.10.09: Lemurs are one of my favourite animals on Earth. A primate, cut off from his cousins in Africa and Asia for over fifty million years, they are undoubtedly the cutest little critters one could ever hope to feast one’s eyes on. Drawing on the best bits of cats, gods and monkeys there's a eye-boggling array of different species and breeds – including the famous ring-tailed lemur, the pygmy mouse lemur (the smallest primate in the world) and Richard Dawkin's favourite animal, the dancing sifaka. I had set my heart on seeing some lemurs today, so I rose early and annoyed myself by wasting a good hour looking for Tropical Service, the travel agency that I hoped would sell me a ticket on the Trochetia, the passenger boat (YES, THERE IS ONE!) I was hoping would spirit me away to Mauritius later today. Unfortunately for me,…

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Day 299: It’s A Mad Mad Madagascar

26.10.09: Yesterday passed with the graceful ebb and flow of the waves, and I am slowly coming to appreciate the grandeur to life on the deep blue. I spent most of the day standing with the wind in my face, the sun on my skin and the spray of the brine on my lips. Yeah, I could get used to this, but I seriously doubt that I'll ever have the funds (or the desire) to buy a boat. It's not just that I dislike the inherent queasiness and ever-present smell of petrol fumes on these damn things, it's that, well... after a couple of days it gets, well, boring. The sea is the sea is the sea – it's a trifle dull in all directions. But yesterday, we were cutting through the Indian Ocean and it felt great. It felt like I was finally – finally…

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