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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Days 624-629: How Do We Solve A Problem Like Korea?

DAY 624: DISMEMBERMENT 16.09.10: So I disembarked (hilariously described on the ferry’s website as ‘dismemberment’)... ...onto the native soil of country number 169, South Korea – a place at pains to remind you that it’s the only divided country in the world.  Which it is.  If you ignore Cyprus/Northern Cyprus. And Ireland/Northern Ireland. And Israel/Palestine. And North Sudan/South Sudan. And Somalia/Somaliland. And China/Taiwan. And Pakistan/Bangladesh. And Mongolia/Inner Mongolia. And Macedonia/Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And Georgia/South Ossetia/Abkhazia. And Azerbaijan/Nagorno-Karabakh. And… But pedantry aside, North and South Korea have been officially at war for over fifty years now (there was only a ceasefire, not a peace treaty) and now we have a crazy situation in which the southern half of the country is one of the richest and most progressive in the world, while the northern half is a basketcase and something akin to George Orwell’s 1984,…

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Day 465: Breakfast Of Champions

10.04.10: In what has to be the most touching thing that’s happened to me in the last 16 months of traversing the globe, last night on the bus from Shiraz, the little old lady (she must have been in her nineties) sitting in front of me who didn’t speak a word of English, turned around and offered me her phone, gesturing for me to listen to it. I put the phone to my ear and the voice on the other end introduced himself as Hossein. He explained that he was an English teacher in Khorramshahr and that I was sitting behind his grandmother. “She’s concerned that the bus is going to get into Khorramshahr very early – at 5am, and that you’re not going to have any breakfast. She wants you to come to her home so she can make you something to eat. Would that…

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Day 130: Deal or No Deal?

10.05.09: So I missed the ferry back with Laura, I had shelled out for a cabin and everything. Having a relaxing night on the boat before saying our farewells over an ice cream in Sicily would have been perfect. But the world is not a perfect place and Africa is not my friend - it doesn't want me here, I can tell. I met Raouf that morning, and we went for something to eat (not such a great idea, I was hungover to hell). There he pulled out a letter, written in Arabic, with only the words ‘visa' and ‘BBC' in Roman font. It had a stamp at the bottom and all looked quite official. But when Raouf wouldn't let me film it, that ol' spidey-sense turned into full on alarm bells. Something wasn't right. We then walked around the town to where the louages leave…

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Day 129: Close But No Cigar

09.05.09: Again we were up at the crack, I said my farewells to Laura and shoved her on a Louage back up to Tunis (or at least I thought I did). I got a Taxi to the Libyan border, and in a damn near carbon copy of what happened yesterday, the Tunisian border guards turned me back. Leo - the Webmaster - doesn't like me swearing on my blogs, but you can probably hazard a guess at the string of expletives that I launched at the desert. But they said I could get a visa from Sfax, a city halfway back to Tunis, and that the embassy was open today. I made a beeline, passing up my change to go and visit Tatouine (oh yes it exists!) and the Star Wars film sets. Bah! Upon arrival in Sfax, I headed to the Libyan embassy, which was…

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Day 128: Interdit!

08.05.09: Laura and I hauled ourselves out of bed as early as we could and jumped a taxi for the short ride to the Algerian border. Now, if this was anything like the border into Panama, Ukraine or Belarus, it would be possible to get through the first set of border guards (the ‘home nation' if you will) and talk to the second set (the country you wish to enter) and by doing so step foot over the border, which invariably runs half-way between the two. That's not the case in Tunisia, though, as I was about to discover... We arrived at the border around 7am. Laura stayed in the cab (best not filming stuff on borders - gets you into trouble!) and I went to speak to the guard - would he let me pass to go and speak to the Algerian guards? Would he…

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