Day M212: The Jolly Jellies of Palau

Thu 26.04.12: WOW. No, seriously, WOW. Talk about saving the best for last. PALAU YOU ROCK MY WORLD!! Straight into my top five countries, methinks. My number one pick in the ‘Tropical Island Paradise’ category. And I should know, I’ve been to a truck load of ’em. I don’t know, you wait ages to visit a Pacific Island nation, and then two come along in as many days. We arrived in the port on the island of Malakal (a short distance from the main island of Koror) at around 10am. The first bit of good news was that the ship would be staying overnight, not leaving at 4pm as originally intended. This meant there was an outside chance of me seeing Jellyfish Lake while I’m here. Jellyfish Lake in the Rock Islands of Palau is a true natural wonder of the world – a lake teeming…

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Day M26: The Wake-Up Call

23.10.11: Thomas woke me up some time after ten to tell me that he was going out with Patti for a bit. I dragged myself out of bed and marvelled at how wonderful the world is when one goes CouchSurfing, stumbled into the shower and held on for dear life – as far as my sense of equilibrium was concerned, I was still at sea. Downing half a keg of beer last night probably didn’t help. I was still shaking the cobwebs out of my pickled brain when Tom and Patti returned looking irritatingly fresh-faced and wholesome. I was feeling lower than a rat that ratted on his pals and that steady tide of nausea that accompanies an epic hangover was starting to kick in. Fresh air was what I needed, but first, the internet! I hadn’t managed to get online since I accidentally broke Stan’s…

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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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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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Days 701-703: Raiders Of The Lost Hat

02.12.10-04.12.10: At 3am the bus stopped so we could get something to eat.  Obeying my circadian rhythms, I stayed on the bus and slept.  At 5am we boarded the ship to the island of Lombok.  Again, I didn’t get off the bus (although everybody else did).  We hit Lombok by 7am and got to the main town of Mataram by nine.  John and the Canadians, Mike and Josh, were told that the bus wouldn’t be continuing on to Bali until 1pm. I was told that the ticket would be 150,000 Rupiah, which would bring my grand Labuanbajo-to-Denpasar total to 305,000 – just 10,000 (one dollar) short of what the other guys paid. But that seemed a little too much for me, and I didn’t fancy hanging around the Mataram bus station for hours on end, so I jumped a motorbike taxi to the port of Lembar. …

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Day 690: Oh Dear

21.11.10: Kupang is a little dull.  Here’s a list of my ten favourite place names in the world: Azerbaijan – Sounds like something a magician would say before pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Galapagos – It just sounds lovely. Lovely lovely lovely. Timbuktu, Mali – The name alone sounds like a promise of being miles from anywhere. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – Pronounced ‘Waggadoogoo’ it’s the capital of Burkina Faso, TAKE THE TRAIN!!!!… yes, it’s called the Ouagadougou Choo-Choo. BRILLIANT! Shit, Iran – Exists! Try typing it into Google Earth! Kumbag, Turkey – See above. Wetwang, England – the town of which the late great Richard Whitely was mayor. Lake Disappointment, Australia – Does exactly what it says on the tin. Truth Or Consequences, USA – Awesome.  I wish I had the job of renaming towns.  Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Skegness and Milton Keynes would be…

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Day 599: Chai Chai Chai

24.08.10: Bright and early for the 27 hour train journey to Calcutta and it was indeed sweet to be back on a train again after the horror that is an Indian night bus. I had gone for Air Conditioned class this time, the ticket cost twice as much (something like a tenner) but even though it’s not hot enough at the moment to make AC class strictly necessary, the prospect of a working plug socket next to my seat/berth filled me with glee. The train was, predictably, a monster: at least 35 carriages long, it stretched for over a kilometre.  I made a bunch of friends onboard including a nice Indian kid named Sonu, who not only worked out why my mousepad wasn’t working (110v is not enough!) and was mad keen on helping me get to Bangladesh tomorrow.  I could do with some local assistance,…

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Day 598: Never The Twain

23.08.10: Arrived in the town of Salem at some disgraceful hour of the morning – it wasn’t even light yet.  The bus was an old rust bucket held together with gaffer tape, but I did manage to get a few hours shut-eye.  The bus station, like everything in India, was TEN TIMES everything, so there was possibly 200 buses crammed in there, all tooting their horns like it was Eid in Rusholme.  Which is wasn’t, it was four in the morning and damnit, I’m convinced that Indians drive by means of echolocation, because they seem to think that pressing a button that goes PARP! every two seconds is more important than, I don’t know, TURNING YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON AT NIGHT, or maybe DRIVING ON THE CORRECT SIDE OF THE ROAD.  I’d love to see an episode of Indian Top Gear where they slag off the Bugatti…

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Days 592-597: Now Then, Kerala

17.08.10-22.08.10: Well it was another frustrating (but remarkably pleasant) week in Kochi spent contacting shipping firms, tour companies, even the head of the Sri Lanka tourist board in the UK, but it looks like hopping over the 15 miles from India to Sri Lanka is going to be more difficult than balancing an elephant on your head. While on a unicycle. In a hurricane. The mad thing is that it will probably be easier to take a ship from Malaysia – 1000s of miles away.  It’s like the only way you can get to France from the UK is via America.  But I didn’t waste my time in Kerala, I made a lot of new friends (including three different people all called Anthony) and I got my story published in The Hindu newspaper. On the Wednesday, me and my new chums Anthony, Anthony and Louise (all…

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Days 585-592: The Boat Race

09.08.10-16.08.10: “I always like going south – it feels like walking downhill” – Treebeard India, being the awkward bugger that she is, flips the usual northern charm/southern coldness idiom on it’s head and gives us a country in which, in no uncertain terms, lures wayfarers down south to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and then refuses to give them back.  After the frantic, pestering, unrelenting hustle and bustle of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi, the soothing backwaters of India’s most laidback state are more welcoming than a home-cooked meal and a cuddle on the sofa. It’s tidy too - for India! All of Monday was spent on the train heading down south, not much to report except that the train was remarkably cheap (less than a tenner), it was comfortable and (most importantly) fun.  One of the joys of Indian trains are the chai…

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