Days 676-677: BUNGEEEEEEEEE!!


On Sunday I met up with Justin for my bungee jump at AJ’s, but sadly, no AJ.  He was there earlier, but not now. However, we did get him on the phone and he agreed to let me break ALL THE RULES and do a jump with my camera, much to the astonishment of the bungy staff. Hee hee – it’s not WHAT you know…

First Justin’s girlfriend Natalie gaffered my camera to my hand…

Okay then, Parcel Tape...
(If you look in the background of this shot, you’ll see a bungy menu that includes one called ‘THE FIRE BALL’. Yes – they set you on fire before you jump. Seriously. ‘MOTO MADNESS’ has you going over on a motorbike. I kid you not.)

And then I jumped…


Here’s the video of it:

As I had my camcorder attached to my hand and my glasses attached to my head with tape, I look doubly ridiculous.  This was so I could film a line for the trailer for the second series of the TV show – yes, I still have to convince the Vogons at Nat Geo that it’ll be a good idea to commission another series.  YGADS! Anyone want to commission a TV show for a fiver?

Funnily enough, you can quite clearly hear me swear that I would ‘never’ do a bungee jump again after this jump in New Zealand back in 2002…

…so you can gauge my commitment to the cause of Series 2, even if most of you Brits and Yanks haven’t seen Series 1 yet (hold on, it’s coming!).

Taking of Series 1, that night Justin and I headed around to scouse Paul’s gaff for some beers and telly – specifically, my TV show which was being screened here in Indonesia.  Narcissistic, I know, but I’ve only seen half of the episodes, and I was hoping it was one I hadn’t seen before (it wasn’t, it was the first episode, bah!).

Look Mum, I'm on the Telly!!

After that Paul (who, obviously from being out of The Pool for too long, is a red) wanted to watch Chelsea kick Liverpool’s arse.  Strangely enough, Liverpool won 2-0, but then stranger things have happened – I mean, Stephen Hawking has had, what, three wives?

It was a good night, and the next morning I was up bright and breezy to claim my computer back off Madi and head off on my errands.  First up, I headed over to AJ’s to meet with Justin and a guy from the UK called Simon who Justin reckoned was ‘the guy’ to fix my laptop.  Simon took down the serial number and said he’d give me a call tomorrow.

Justin and I grabbed some breakfast with a Scottish guy called Dennis who was pretty hilarious and (like me) a huge fan of the Viz.  I thought it might be an idea to introduce him the OH SO WRONG joys of K— and the Gang.  Woo haha. Ha. Then we headed back to the Bungy place: AJ was going back to France this afternoon, this would be my last chance to bend his ear…

Thankfully, the man himself appeared soon afterwards and I got to sit down and have a good chat with him.  AJ Hackett is one of the guys who put bungee jumping into the global subconscious – mostly by his audacious (and illegal) jump off the Eiffel Tower back in the eighties.  After over three million jumps (and no fatalities – yet!) his bungee platforms have spread out from his home of New Zealand to Australia, Malaysia, Germany, France, Las Vegas and beyond.  His jump in Macau, China is the highest fixed commercial bungee in the world according to Guinness Book of Records.

AJ HACKETT: This man has terrified more people than Attila The Hun.

Having done hundreds of jumps himself, he’s only had one close call, and that was when he plummeted off a helicopter at the wrong height for his length of cord: he smashed into the sea way, way too fast and did himself a proper mischief: breaking a bunch of bones and leaving him with some pretty nifty scars.

Oh, and ‘bungy’ is the Kiwi spelling, apparently – don’t blame me!!

I snagged myself a great interview for the TV show and afterwards, I put forward my proposition: a 400ft AJ Hackett bungy jump in Liverpool – with my Anna as His Girl Friday to run the show.  AJ’s eyes lit up on seeing where I had in mind.  He had been looking for a suitable site in the UK for years, but never found anywhere…

So yes, my funky little city, if bungee comes to Liverpool, you know who to thank 😉

I said my thanks and my farewells and headed off to the nearby Benoa port and marina to scope out another way of getting to Timor – nah – all the ferries leave from Padangbai a good few hours up the coast of Bali, and you have to island-hop your way there: via Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores.  Well, at least I’d get to see a bit more of jolly old Indonesia AND WHATEVER COULD BE WRONG WITH THAT?

In fact, Indonesia has really really grown on me during this trip.  I have to confess, when I was here a few years ago, I didn’t really warm to the place.  I was on my own (as per usual) Bali just rained every day and compared with Thailand the beaches are blurgh (I’m not a surfer I guess), Java was dull and overcast, the memories I have of Sumatra involved copious amounts of mud and rather large and scary spiders and the LOCAL FOOD here is so damn awful it makes me *SHUDDER* just to think about it.


This time, with friends old and new, good cheer, hilarious escapades and copious amounts of alcoholic lubrication, I have had an utter utter blast: and I’m only a week into this little layover.  However, the local food is still so lousy it makes me cry – if you like luke warm steamed rice and cold fish heads (no, seriously) then Indonesia will be your culinary delight.  Then again, if you honestly like luke warm steamed rice and cold fish heads you’re a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. I think the food here is what goes on in the head of a rabid Anglophobe French food critic when he lies back and thinks of England.

Other countries where the local food is AWFUL include:

  1. All of the Caribbean except Jamaica
  2. Most of Africa
  3. Poland
  4. Russia
  5. The vast majority of The Middle East (with the notable exceptions of Lebanon and Turkey).
  6. Wales.

But naff nosh aside, all I can say is this: don’t think for a SECOND that I’m not having the time of my life doing this adventure.  Yes, there are lows: not seeing Mandy for a year, being chucked in jail in The Congo for no good reason, losing my hat, the depressing lack of w00t from the TV show, the crazy bus drivers, the deadly air-conditioning etc. but compared with the highs, the fun, the excitement, the randomness, the sheer joy of having a clear and defined mission to do and a blast to be had, I really cannot complain: ordinary life just doesn’t compare.

Justin picked me up from the port and together with his girlfriend Natalie (she who sellotaped my glasses to my head yesterday), we headed out to find THE LOST CROCODILES OF BALI!!

What what?  Yes, any naturalists amongst you will swear that there are no native crocs on Bali, and you’d be right.  But these snappers aren’t locals.  In the 1990s a Balinese theme park was opened – a mini Alton Towers – with Balinese sculptures, a music hall, an artificial volcano(!) and a rollercoaster or two.  Unfortunately, ten years ago the owner went bankrupt (or done a runner) and the bank left the theme park to go to rack and ruin.  It has since been slowly – and magnificently – taken back by the jungle: a lost city which will hopefully bamboozle and confound future archaeologists… they made their sculptures out of concrete?

Ruins, sir, ruins...

But there was the question of what to do with the crocodiles that had been shipped in and put in a crocodile pit for the thrill and amusement of the discerning public (knowing the Balinese, a daily live goat feeding show wouldn’t be out of the question).  Well, this being Indonesia, the answer was simple: they just left them there to die.

But die they did not; fed for years by kindly locals throwing roadkill into the pit (and turning to cannibalism when the locals forgot about them), we felt it was high time to give these poor reptilian castaways a break.  So we bought them some KFC.

Now in pretty much every country in the world (apart from the UK) you can choose between two types of KFC coating: original and spicy.  I’m quite partial to original myself, but I was quite interested in seeing what these starving crocs preferred.  So with a bucket of the Colonel’s finest (and some local cooked chicken as a control) Justin, Natalie and I joined forces to conduct an essencial scientific experiment – original or spicy – what will the crocs prefer?

Kentucky Fried Crocs...

Sadly, our expedition came to nowt.  The crocs had been saved and taken to the zoo a few months ago (presumably as a result of the same magazine article that peaked our interest) and so I was left with a croc-less pit, a bucketful of fried chicken and egg all over my face.  Well, at least the chicken didn’t go to waste 😉

Days 678-682: The Exquisite Clutches of Calypso


By Tuesday afternoon I still hadn’t heard back from Simon about whether or not my laptop could be fixed in Bali.  At this point I was kinda raring get on with the adventure (if things had gone to plan, I’d be in East Timor today), but there was something holding me back: I can’t say really what it was, but it definitely had something to do with the sheer awesomeness of everyone I’ve met here in Bali.

For instance, the other day I met up with Neil in a place called KuDeTa, the swankiest bar on the island.  I was just meeting Neil and then we were going on somewhere else – this place was way, way out of my price range (if it’s not a pound a pint I can’t help you). Just as Neil is finished off his bottle of Bintang, a lovely Japanese girl comes over to us, asks me if my name is Graham (which it is), explains that she’s the DJ here and says she’d really like to buy me a drink.

“That would be amazing”, I said, going bright red.

“Does this happen to you a lot?” asks Neil.

“Not really, but it seems to be happening a lot in Bali.”

So what if my laptop wasn’t fixed yet?  I was having a great time.  Although I have to say that Neil was a real trooper for putting up with me (and my mess) for so long.  I hoped to remedy this by having a new screen fitted tomorrow so I could be out of here on Thursday.

But, as I said, I was in no great hurry.  It looks like after my amazing 11 country romp through October, November would yield just one new nation, and that’s if I was lucky.  My visa authorisation for East Timor STILL hadn’t come through.  This was getting ridiculous.  I had visions of me waiting like a noob on the border for two weeks while they got their shit together.  Anytime before Christmas, lads, thanks

Simon called me in the evening to say that there was no chance of getting the laptop repaired.

I’d have to buy a new one.

However, all new small laptops do not come with a firewire port and I don’t have any other means of backing up my video tapes.


Well, if the blogs are to continue I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet.  And so that’s what I did.  On the Wednesday I met up with Simon and we spent the ENTIRE DAY (seriously!) looking for a new laptop.  It wasn’t like there was a lot of choice, it was more to do with the eternal gridlock that typifies Denpasar, the capital of Bali.  In the end I opted for a little HP which, at less than 180 quid new, was a better deal than getting my other laptop fixed would have been in China.

I haggled and haggled, but the price wouldn’t go any lower.  Done.

Simon the utterly ace chap that he is, took my new lappy to fix it up with the latest bits and bobs – he would return it tomorrow (Thursday).  Fair enough – I’d leave for East Timor on Friday morning.

HOWEVER, my new Bali friends Paul and Justin had other ideas: tomorrow night there was a beach party at an exclusive resort – free booze and free food – and I was on the guest list.  Hip-Hip Hooray!  After missing out on the Ko Pha Ngan Full Moon party, I was well up for a piss-up on the sand, and so my departure date got pushed back to Saturday.  Sorry, Neil!!

By the time I rucked up at the party, everyone was already utterly wasted: they had started drinking at 4pm and by now it was dark.  I tried my best to play catch up, but I didn’t stand a chance: before I could fully enjoy the ruinous effects of Bacchus’ finest I was told that the free bar had come to an end.  Bah!

Oh well, I nursed my last free bottle of Bintang on the beach watching the dark tide roll in.  I chatted to a Russian girl who was there but I had to leave the conversation as I was suffering from a giggle fit brought on by just how amazingly miserable this Russian chick was.  I don’t remember her exact words, but they were something along the lines of,

“I hate this place… it’s all beaches and sunsets and parties… I wish I was in Moscow.”

Now we all get homesick, sure, but c’mon – this girl had just been tanked up for free in the swankiest resort in the whole of Indonesia.  I guess what they say is true: there is no misery quite like Russian misery.  That’s probably why I found it so hard to keep a straight face.  Sorry, whatever your name was, I guess I may have come across as a tad insensitive.  Poor girl, having to go to parties all the time in a tropical paradise and drink free booze…

The resort, I have to say, was quite exquisite: like something out of the brochures of other people’s holidays: luxury apartments overlooking a cliff, a funicular to take you down to an exclusive beach and an ‘infinity pool’ (a swimming pool which continuously pours a thin film of water over a ledge, creating the illusion that the pool has no wall on the far side) that catches the sunset each night like some kind of toothless yokel catching the moon in a bucket.


There was a large stylised ‘K’ drawn in the sand and lit with candles.  It looked really cool from the top of the cliff.  It looked even cooler after I rearranged the candles into a large comedy knob.  I hope the honeymooning couples who had paid $1000 a night for a room overlooking the beach thought it was as funny as I did.

As I had caused enough trouble in paradise, Paul and I sped off back to Seminyak for a few more beers.  However, considering how utterly plastered he and his mate were, it was a little like herding cats.  We managed (just) to get something to eat from a burger kiosk and, well after that it all gets a little sketchy.  I woke up in Neil’s the next day: FRIDAY… DAY OF ACTION!!

By 6pm on the Friday, I had got a good 5% of the things done that I wanted to get done before I left.  That was the point at which Neil asked if I fancied coming out for a swift half.  When I returned at dawn the next day it registered that I wouldn’t be leaving until Sunday.  BUT ALL WAS NOT LOST!  Last night I met a bloke called Tim who might be able to help me get to Palau next month from Sorong in West Papua.  Yes yes there are some who may cock a snook at my partiality for socialising during this adventure, but a friendly chat over a cold frothy one has gained me (amongset other things) my passages to Cuba, my visa for Saudi and my escape from Dubai.

This journey is not about what you know, because unless you’ve already been there recently, ‘what you know’ is taken from the Lonely Planet or internet travel forums, and is, nine times out of ten, wrong.  Maybe I should have had a scout to go on ahead and facilitate my course for me, then again, maybe I should have had two jeeps following me a la Ewan MacGregor and a helicopter on standby in case of emergencies.

But no folks, your hapless adventurer here has been flying solo without a support crew, safety harness or parachute (or landing gear for that matter) for the best part of two years now.  Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t.  But one thing is for sure: I’m going to wiggle out of the alluring siren-like clutches of Bali and GET ON WITH THE SHOW.

Keeping this in mind, I resolved to stay in on Saturday night, ensure that everything was ship-shape and Bristol fashion.  Amazingly, I kept my promise to myself.

Neil had gone out to some kind of dinner party (I only get invited to chimp’s tea parties) and left me in the house on my own.  As I gathered my stuff together, a storm broke and the tropical rain began to cascade down in large spherical blobs.  I changed into my swimming shorts and plunged into Neil’s swimming pool.  There are few things in life that are better than ending a hot sticky day by nightswimming and feeling the cool refreshing rain on your face whilst emulating Andy’s victory pose from The Shawshank Redemption.

I have to get out of here.  Calypso has me firmly in her clutches.  I need to break free and continue my journey home to Ithaca.  I leave in the morning NO MATTER WHAT.

Day 683: The Long Goodbye


It was too early to fathom what was going on, but I seem to have found my way into a taxi and it seems to be heading to the bus station.  These are good signs.  I think I know where I have to go and I think that it takes three hours to get there.  The guy is telling me I can buy a ‘through ticket’ which will include the ferry to the neighbouring island of Lombok as well.  Okay, sure.

I woke up on the bus having dreamt that I had just been driven onto the ferry to Lombok.  I looked around.  I had been driven onto the ferry to Lombok.  Excellent.  It would seem I’ve been doing this kind of thing so long I can now do it in my sleep.

Goodbye Bali.  Goodbye Neil, Paul, Justin, Simon and all the brilliant, brilliant people I’ve met over the last couple of weeks.  I can see why people find it hard to leave Bali, I did.

Arriving in Lombok, I wanted to get taken to the other side of the island, popped on another ferry and taken to the island of Sumbawa.  Luckily, that’s what the bus driver also wanted to do and I was happy to let him.  So another short ferry trip and I was in Maluk on the western tip of Sumbawa wanting to go east.  There was a bus leaving in less than an hour that was going where I wanted it to go.  This was like shooting fish in a barrel.

What’s more, the helpful tout dude offered me a through ticket for the ‘fast boat’ to Labaunbajo, Flores – the place from where I can get another ferry to Indonesian West Timor (East Timor hopefully being country 183 of The Odyssey Expedition).  I settled into my seat on the bus as it sped off into the night.  Tomorrow I would be in THE LAND OF THE HOBBITS.  No, really.

Day 684: The Slow Fast Boat


The bus drove through the night, arriving in the eastern port town of Sape at 8am, just in time for the ferry to Labuanbajo in Flores.  The helpful tout dude from Maluk yesterday ripped me off good an’ proper.  I paid 150,000 Indonesian Rupiah for a ferry ticket that was worth 40,000.  150,000 is about US$17: enough for three nights accommodation in a Indonesian flea pit hotel.  I may have to return to Maluk and kill him.

He also lied about the speed of the boat: this was NO ‘fast boat’, it was slower than a West African internet connection and didn’t get me to Labuanbajo until it was almost dark.  This a merry man did me not make.  I checked into the cheapest joint in town and headed out to find out the times of the ferries leaving Flores for Kupang in West Timor.  Easier said than done.  According to the Lonely Planet there was a boat leaving Larantuka on Wednesday which sounded good, but nobody could give me confirmation and Larantuka is one the far, far east of the long skinny island of Flores – two days drive from here.  It was doubtful I could make it in time without spending a ridiculous amount ($200!!) on a taxi.  Like in Splash.


Unfortunately for me there was no confirmation, timetable, inkling nor educated guess on offer with regards to if, when and where the next ferry to Timor would be leaving FROM ANYWHERE ON THE ISLAND.  I would have to visit the port first thing in the morning and see if they could help me.

I settled in for the night in a great little bar called The Lounge which (if I had arrived earlier) would have been a great place to watch the sun set.

Day 685: A Bunch of Flores


The next boat that would sensibly get me to the island of Timor is leaving the southern port town of Aimere on Friday morning.  It’ll take me all of Thursday to get there, but hey-ho LET’S GO.  I also found out that the Wednesday ferry from Larantuka may well be a myth.  I had found this all out by about 8am after a bunch of phone calls and frantic arm-waving.

My work here done, I went to the Lounge Bar for breakfast and ended up staying there all day, abusing the Wi-Fi, updating my website, researching the South Pacific and working on this damn promo video for series 2 of ‘Graham’s World’.  With over 100 hours of video to sift through, we could be here for some time…  I kind of wish that the first season was good enough to sell the second one, I think that the problem is that this year things have gone spectacularly wrong, but not in a particularly sensational way – ie. me getting chucked in a jail cell in Africa.  You’ll notice (if you’ve seen the show), my utterly successful jaunt around Europe (45 countries in three weeks) was reduced to a one-minute montage.

You see, since Michael Palin shat his pants on the dhow to India, it’s all been about the hardship hasn’t it?  You sick little puppies.

Anyway, if you live in the UK you could really help my cause by writing to the Head of Program Acquisition at the BBC (try [email protected] ) and asking her when “Graham’s World aka Lonely Planet’s The Odyssey” will be shown on British TV – the imdb link is  Say you saw an episode on holiday in the Middle East, India, SE Asia or South America on Nat Geo Adventure.  And don’t the BBC own Lonely Planet anyway?  Yeah, say that too.

Okay, stop nodding and GO DO IT.

Go on.

C’mon, I’m not going to write anything more until you do it.

















I’m serious.

















Okay, thanks!

Now yesterday (all my troubles seemed so far away) on the way to Flores from the island of Sumbawa I passed two islands: Rinca and Komodo.  And you know what’s on Komodo don’t you?  DRAGONS!  Komodo Dragons, to be precise – the world’s largest monitor lizard (and the world’s largest venomous creature).  I booked myself on a trip to go and see ’em tomorrow.