Days 501-507: What Happened, Happened

16.05.10-22.05.10:

500 days on the road and a good 200 of them have been wasted waiting for either visas or boats.  In situations like this you can’t help but acquiesce and go with the flow.  The other plans you could have gone for – maybe a new visa for Iran would have been quicker (and cheaper) – will only serve to taunt you.  I’ve made my bed and one way or another I’ll have to lie in it.  The maddening thing is that I know once I reach the UAE and Oman I’m going to be stuck there, perhaps for a comparable time, waiting for a way to get to Eritrea.

On Thursday this week my dad returned to London for a third time.  The visa was ready.  We looked into getting my Eritrea and Indian visas, but they would both take too long to come through, so we looked at just getting the passport back to me asap.  As Friday and Saturday are the weekend here, sending it DHL would not get here until Sunday.  That being the case I roped in the magnificent Stan Standryt into helping me get the passport back the next day.

How do you do that Graham?  Well, you do what Bono did when he forget his stupid hat – put it on a plane.  Only I’d be using a scheduled service – not a charter job BECAUSE I’M NOT A SMUG MULTI-MILLIONAIRE TAX-DODGING CREEP. Sorry – Bono.  Hate him.  Can’t help it.  So ANYWAYS… Stan picked the passport up off my dad went all the way to Heathrow.  BA were happy to put it on tonight’s flight – that was until they discovered it was a passport.  Can’t send passports – use DHL.

I understand why courier services are reluctant to take passports – they could lead to all kinds of trouble.  But this wasn’t a stack of dubious passports on their way to Nigeria – this was a single passport that would be picked up by the guy whose passport it was.  After wasting £47 in taxis getting shunted from pillar to post around the Heathrow site, Stan was forced to give up and send it DHL the next day anyway.  BA – you just posted another massive loss.  I was willing to pay you twice the cost of an average easyjet flight (for a person) just to put a document on your damn aeroplane.

You fools.  Your airline is made of poo and FAIL!

Well, one way or another this was my final weekend in Kuwait.  I have been here for SIX WEEKS waiting for this damn stamp in my passport.  On Friday I was desperate for a party, so I met up with a cute CSer from South Africa called Janine.  On discovering she was being put up by her company all expenses paid in the five-star Marriot Courtyard Hotel, I suggested we invade the buffet.  Yes I have no shame and nothing cheers me up more than turning up to a posh do in my scuffs looking like I’ve just stumbled out of a particularly gritty western onto the dancefloor of the Ritz.

Later, Ruban got everyone around the pool at Jannie’s place for some final soft drinks and Pringles.  Awesomely enough, there was another party happening down the road later on.  We crashed it with aplomb and – joy of joys – they had a cooler filled with REAL ice-cold beer!!

So so happy!  We shimmy shake-shaked the night away with our chums from the four corners of the planet.  If nothing else, Kuwait is one hell of a melting pot.  And you want to know something cool?  I had been to everybody’s country (with the notable exception of the Philippines – why didn’t I hit that gaff in ’02, I’ll never know).

No worries – I’ll remedy that soon enough…

Day 515: Encounter at Farpoint

30.05.10:

UAE: The big task of the day was getting my bumper to bumper passport back to the UK so I can get a new one – if you’re keeping up, it’ll be my fourth. Mission accomplished (thank you DHL, you’re THIS much better than British Airways) I arranged to meet up with a certain Mr. Kashi Samaddar. Yep, the bloke whose Guinness World Record™ I’m attempting to beat.

It took him six and a half years to visit every country in the world. Me? I’m up to country 158 out of 200 and it’s only been 17 months.

(Although I am STILL firmly convinced it could be done in a year… if only I had a yacht…!)

Oh yeah, and I’m not flying…! Sometimes I fail to see how monumental the task I’ve set myself really is – I mean, what other world record can you set whilst still going to the pub?! But here I am, only 42 countries left to go. I just need a boost in terms of funding and I’ll be laughing.

Talking of funding, crikey I’m down to my brass tacks now. Like a Hollywood blockbuster that’s over schedule and over budget, the good ship Odyssey is in desperate need of an injection of cash.

This being the case, if any of you reading this knows a company that wants me to big them up in return for some readies (marketing is tax deductable chaps!) I’m happy to endorse anything (much in the manner of Krusty the Klown) for a fiver. Incidentally, the companies I’ve relied on most (and who haven’t let me down) to travel to these 158 countries have been Visa, Dell, HSBC, Sony, Vodafone, Vans, Levis, Coca-Cola and Lowe Alpine. Just saying…

Kashi’s colleague, Sanjeep, came to pick me up from Damien’s flat and I was driven to the Far East Seafood Restaurant in one of the swankier hotels in town. There I met up with the legend himself – Mr. Samaddar – the first guy in the history of the world to visit every country on an Indian passport. And I think I’ve had visa traumas…

You can read more about our meeting on my special featured blog entry.