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 the ocean, then so be it.

The trip from Java to West Papua was a good one for me. I spent most of the time in the little café on the 5th level. My laptop plugged in for power, no chance of internet and only intermittent phone reception meant that I could plough on with cutting together a couple of promo videos from the 100+ hours of footage that I’ve got from this year.

Here’s one of them:

I can’t release much more footage as it will jeopardise the already dicey chances of there being a second series of the TV show: I’ve got no choice but to work with Lonely Planet again, not that that’s a problem – they’re nice guys, but the strength of the Australian dollar most certainly is. When I first visited Oz back in 2002 it was 2.7 Aussie Dollars to the Pound. Now it’s 1.5. Eek!! The upshot of which is that TV/Film/Music production in the Down Under is now prohibitively expensive for anybody who might be paying for said production in, say, US Dollars, British Pounds or Euros…

Or in other words, I need the Australian economy to crash in order to secure series two of the TV show. Anybody know any corrupt currency traders happy to plunge 20,000,000 cork-hatted people into odious debt??

Sitting in the ship café had other advantages as well: coffee on tap, nasi goreng (egg fried rice – Indonesia’s only alternative to, erm, rice) and a bunch of friendly guys chatting with me. I made friends with the staff and had a laugh teasing these two kids (surprisingly good English, by the way) for shouting ‘meeeeeeeister’ at me all day.

Indonesian Kids
"Meeeeeeeeeeeister"

A brief stopover in the city Makassar on the island of Sulawesi (Celebes in old money) gave me a chance to stop in a brand new Dutch bakery that had opened just the day before. Tasty treats galore… and possibly the first and only bit of Dutchiness I’ve seen in the whole of Indonesia – odd considering these 17,000 islands had been a Dutch colony for so long.

Graham Hughes in Makassar
I is here

Was a bit miffed on the second and third nights when I found my bunk had been nicked by some old guy who refused to get out of it. My bunk was just one of over two hundred on the fifth floor, although there were many more on the floors above and below: there was easily over a thousand people on board this ship and I can only imagine that Pelni are laughing all the way to the bank.  I found an empty bunk and took it for myself.

I had left Java on the Sunday, we had got into Makassar on the Monday and it was in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning when we finally arrived in Sorong. There I would be attempting to score a ride to the very southern islands of the Pacific island nation of Palau, just 220 nautical miles due north of here.

Just like the old chestnut ‘I’m going to visit every country in the world without flying’, this would be easier said than done.

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.

Bosco
The Mighty Bosco

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 straight down the middle between West Papua (which is part of Indonesia) and the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.

Incidentally, ‘Papua’ means ‘Fuzzy Haired’.  As ‘Barbados’ means ‘Bearded Ones’, I’m thinking Everton’s Marouane Fellaini should grow a beard so I can call him ‘Papua Barbados’.

Which is SUCH an awesome pornstar name.

Tangent, sorry… anyway, West Papua was not part of Indonesia when it first got independence, it was only a couple of decades later that the Dutch relinquished the colony it had held since 1660.  This didn’t stop Indonesia’s dubious claim to West Papua in 1969 which nobody in the international community had the balls to argue against – a trick that would be employed again a few years later in East Timor.

The fact that the biggest gold mine IN THE WORLD is situated in West Papua I’m sure had no baring whatsoever on Jakarta’s decision to annex the territory.  The mad thing is that ethnically, religiously, socially and spiritually, the people of the island of New Guinea have about as much in common with the people of Java as a pensioner in Sierra Leone has with a Japanese schoolgirl.

One of the main bones of contention is (AS ALWAYS!) religion.  West Papua is, no matter what Jakarta would have you believe, overwhelmingly Christian, animist or secular.  Pigs are worshipped here for Christ’s sake.  Consequently, the locals here are not to big on the whole pig ban thing that Islam so idiotically stole from the Jews.

I’m not one for second guessing the divine creator of the universe (since I fairly sure the crazy f—er doesn’t even exist) but why would he make a perfectly tasty animal and then declare it  unfit for human consumption?  Why not – you know – make it less tasty??

Sorry, tangent.  Stick to the point, Graham.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, West Papua.  Annexed by Indonesia.  West Papuans.  Generally unhappy about it.  That’s all you need to know for now.

So the rain poured down and Bosco and I chatted about my mission here in Sorong – to find a boat that would take me to the Palau islands. As far as far-flung destinations are concerned, the Palau islands are pretty much the outliers of the Pacific Nations on the far, far left of the map.

I had a few contacts given to me in Bali to pursue.  However, some of them were away, others were at sea and others just didn’t answer the phone.  My only hope was a lovely girl called Ina, who was a friend of a friend of Bali Neil.  I’d be meeting with her as soon as this bloody rain stopped.

However, the rain had no intention of stopping and it was the next day before Bosco and I met Ina.  She said the chances of me finding anybody prepared to take me, and more importantly, anyone willing to take me for a song, were slim – but she would see what she could do.

Hanging around Sorong for a few days made me appreciate the amount of STUFF that people had carted here from Java – this place isn’t cheap.  As always when there is a whopping big gold mine / oil reserve / diamond mine and little else, prices shoot through the roof.  I was very lucky that Bosco took me under his wing – the cheapest hotel here would have set me back at least $15 a night – way over my budget.

So I had a decision to make – should I stay or should I go?

Of course, there is a Plan B (there’s always a Plan B): My new Odyssey manager Damian (yay!) has found an owner of a magic yacht happy to take me to all the Pacific Island nations I need to go to (as long as we can source sponsorship money to pay for food, water, fuel etc,) but Palau, being way out west, isn’t on the table – yet.

So I’m waiting to hear back from Ina about a clever way of travelling the 220 miles north to the Palau island of Tobi (Coordinates: 3.0048785, 131.1715768) or to hear back from the yacht owner giving the thumbs up to adding Palau onto our itinerary.  Either way, I’m not going anywhere for the next few days.

Ina
That's Ina on the left. She's lovely.

There’s not much in the way of roads on the island of New Guinea, so if you want to get around, your best bet is to buy a ticket for one of the many ferry boats that skip along the coast.  The next ship heading to Jayapura, the nearest town to the border with Papua New Guinea, leaves on Saturday.

I waited until Saturday, and Bosco was kind enough to keep me.  We really made the most of it though, Bosco taking me to a very West Papuan carol concert.  The half-naked painted people dancing about was great, but as soon as the actors playing missionaries turned up re-enact the introduction of the locals to Mr. Jesus, Bosco and I made our excuses and left to go the pub.

The next day was Saturday.  I still hadn’t heard if it was possible to change the magic yacht’s itinerary and Ina, working tirelessly, had been touting my wares to the local yachties and fishermen, but sadly nobody was very much interested.  I could have jumped on the ferry out of there, but there was another one leaving on Monday so I decided to give Sorong the benefit of doubt and grace it with my precense for another couple of nights.

So you don’t think I’m being idle with my time I shot this video about travelling on the cheap:

Do you like it?  I know it’s a bit rough and ready (and some of the things I say are painfully obvious), but it’s a good idea for me to shoot stuff like this that doesn’t tread on anybody’s toes as far as the second series of the TV show is concerned.  Talking of the TV show, the first series of ‘Graham’s World’ is on here in Indonesia and on Sunday night Bosco and I set off on his scooter on a mad odyssey around Sorong looking for somewhere that had IndoSat so I could watch one of the episodes that I hadn’t seen yet.

However, our quest was in vain.  Everything here closes at 10pm at the best of times, and the few places that were still open and had a telly used cable and didn’t have Nat Geo Adventure.  Bah!  Oh well, back to basecamp.

While I had a hoot hanging out with Bosco, Sorong is about as attractive as an old man’s sock suspenders.  It’s a town made entirely from concrete and has all the aesthetic charm of a wet cardboard box.  Filled with offal.  Night life is non-existent and the beer is –jeepers!–  expensive.  So when the news came through from Damian that the magic yacht would indeed take me to Palau in the new year, I bought a ticket on the first boat outta there.  Badabing, Badaboom.

I thanked Ina profusely for all her hard work and treated Bosco to dinner.  The ferry to Jayapura was supposed to leave at 10pm, so Bosco and I headed over to the pub for a swift-half before saying goodbye, but the ship was delayed so we ended up down the road at the general store/liquor shop downing a mixture of beer, whiskey and local alcoholic grape juice.  By the time the boat was ready to leave it was 1am and we where both smashed out of our heads.

Graham Hughes drunk again
Drinkies!!

Bosco’s mate gave me a lift back down to the port, I didn’t fancy waiting in the waiting room so I sneaked through a hole in the fence onto the quayside.   Consequently I was first on the ferry when it arrived.  I raced to find an empty bunk (the ferry was coming from Sulawesi so it was already pretty full) jumped on the first one I found, my backpack as a pillow, clutching my camera bag and my laptop bag as though my life depended on it.  I passed out before whosever bed it was got back from the toilet.

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 café on board. Don’t be thinking Starbucks here, we’re talking a cockroach infested room with two rows of MDF tables and some plastic chairs, some of which aren’t even broken. But with a extension cable kindly provided by the owners of the café (I think these guys pay for their patch on board) and a couple of cups of java, I managed to crack on with work for the website and plotting out (literally) where on Earth to go next.

Graham on the Pelni
Me and the guys from the ship's cafe.

It’s nearly Christmas and I’m quite unhappy about the fact that I’ll be spending Christmas and New Year on my own in Papua New Guinea. I was hoping to be finished with this crazy adventure months ago… at this rate by the time I hit The Seychelles, South Sudan will have become the 54th (official) state of Africa. Bugger!

The second night onboard the floating menagerie left me in a bit of a pickle: my bed had been snapped up by some young whippersnapper and I really didn’t fancy a night on the greasy dirty floor. On all the other ships I’ve been on I’ve had a designated bed, but not this time: it was first-come first-served. Yeah, you do have to bagsy your own bed. The café closed at 10pm and I started walking the decks with all my bags looking for somewhere to rest my weary bones.

Eventually I found myself at the bar on board. Well, I don’t know what you call a bar that only sells soft-drinks (Indonesia is Islamic, don’t forget (it’s easy to do – they seem to forget all the time)), but I ordered an overpriced Coke and plonked myself down on a bar stool. And then they told me they were closing too.

I asked (very politely) if I could possibly, possibly sleep in the bar for the night – stretched out along a nice soft bench seat in the corner of the room. There was a bit of a discussion amongst the staff and eventually they took pity on me (I was the only Bule on board!) and let me kip in the closed bar.

If only it was a real one!!!

Brilliant guys, thanks!! The second night I was confronted with a similar dilemma, but – shock horror – the bar was closed before I got there! Out of options, I headed back to my café.

Any chance I can sleep on the floor? I asked, again very politely. I had spent so much money in the café over the last two days I guess they thought I had earned my place amongst the staff. I was allowed to put three chairs together to make a bed and as the other guys got their foam mattresses out from the back room to sleep on the floor and the tables, I snoozed my way to the land of nod – we would be arriving in Jayapura in the wee small hours of Thursday morning.

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

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 of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil look streamlined and sensible.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THESE DAMN PLACES?  I’m not a criminal, I’m not a terrorist, I’m not a international superspy.  Are they really doing that well that they can afford to turn back tourists??  PAPUA NEW GUINEA, in the short time I was in Jayapura I met SIX people who gave up trying to get into your country.  I’m not bigging myself up, I’m just a wannabe TV presenter on just one of Rupert Murdock’s myriad cable channels.  But one of the guys you shooed away was a millionaire.

I’ll say that again, just in case ANYONE from Papua New Guinea is reading this.

YOUR COUNTRY, WHOSE PER CAPITA GDP IS LESS THAN THE GAZA STRIP’S, TOLD A MILLIONAIRE THAT THEY DID NOT WANT HIS CUSTOM.

Are you guys INSANE?  Like, really really insane??

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Let’s start at the beginning.  Stepping off the Pelni ferry at 4am on Thursday 16th December was a little like trying to get out of the front row of an Oasis gig just as the band is about to start but loaded down with backpacks and teetering on a watery precipice.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  It was all I could do to prevent myself falling into the breathtakingly polluted water of Jayapura’s port.

Groggy, sleepy and unhappy I began to trudge towards the few hotels listed in the Lonely Planet.  The few CouchSurfers here had buggered off for the Christmas hols and so the choice was either hotel or a notel.  The first place I tried was full.

So was the second.

And the third.

And the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.

After TWO AND A HALF HOURS of trudging around with my backpack and my bags, I finally found somewhere for the night, but at $22 for a single room, I could feel my already stretched budget kicking me in the balls.  But I justified it to myself because I could have a couple of hours kip this morning, so I was effectively getting two nights for the price of one.

It wasn’t much of a justification, but at least there was air conditioning, a hot shower, a western-style toilet and a TV (that I didn’t use).  I fell asleep and woke up a couple of hours later, gathered my ‘visa kit’ and raced off to the Papuan New Guinea Consulate for when it opened at 10am.

Now it says in the Lonely Planet that you can get a PNG visa at the Consulate in Jayapura the next day, or if you ask really nicely, the same day.

HA!

Good one, LP.  Did you actually get a visa at this consulate, or did you just go in and ask them how long they take?  Because I can tell you it’s much MUCH more of a headache than that.

I filled out the form enquiring after my collar size and father’s maiden name only to be told that I couldn’t make a visa application without a valid airline ticket out of the country.

Oh, right…

TOP TIP for developing nation: If a western tourist ludicrously outstays his or her visa and you can’t afford to deport them, just sentence them to five years in jail.  THEIR OWN COUNTRY will soon pay for their repatriation!!

Anyway, twattily enough, I also had to write another daft letter explaining why I wanted to go to Papua New Guinea.

The temptation to write TO RAPE AND STEAL AND DESTROY was almost overwhelming, but I managed to stifle that baser instinct.  So I went to the internet place over the road, bought a ticket from Port Moresby to Brisbane, wrote a silly letter and returned… to be told to come back after 1pm.

Fine.

So I waited outside in the baking heat of northern New Guinea, within a skerrick’s pube of the equator, sweating and fuming.  If only I’d know this would just be the beginning of my VISAHELL, I probably would have gone off to shoot liquid crack into my eyeballs.  But instead I waited patiently (and sweatily) and at 1pm I walked in and handed over my papers, tickets, photocopies, photos and application forms only to be told I needed to get a photocopy of my Indonesian visa.

Wha?  Uh?  Bu…?

FINE.

I stormed off down the road, got page 23 of my passport photocopied in a roadside shack and returned within the half-hour.

Thanks.  Will it be ready tomorrow.

The lady said she would try.

Okay. Great.

I jumped onboard the next ‘bemo’ (minibus) back to town.  Happy days.

I found a place just up the road from my hotel that had free internet but where the coffee was TWO POUNDS a cup  (blimey! – so much for travelling on the cheap!) and managed to pad two coffees out to last me the whole day.  The coffee place closed at 10pm and I retired to my hotel.  Things were going well – at this rate I should be in Papua New Guinea by the weekend.

Ha.

Ha.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

No.

The next day I checked out of my hotel and hop, skipped and jumped down to the Consulate, five miles away.

Here’s a video recreation of my conversation with the woman on the front desk.

I stepped outside and emitted a silent scream.  Looks like I’ll be in hideously expensive (well, let’s just say ‘hideous’) town of Jayapura for the weekend.  If this visa isn’t ready by Monday morning, I am quite frankly going to have a bit of a meltdown.  After scoping out the competition (and finding them all full for the weekend) I checked back into my hotel only to be told that the only rooms they now had left were ‘luxury’ rooms.

I stepped outside and emitted a very LOUD scream.

So the weekend slobbered by with me attempting to minimise my expenses as much as possible.  I generally hung out in the café with internet and actually managed to stretch the purchase of one coffee cover a mammoth twelve hour internet binge in which I managed to download this video off my good chum Leo and convert it for YouTube:

No mean feat at 56 kbits a sec I tell you!

So what do you want to know about Jayapura?  Well it’s a wild west town on the far eastern edge of Indonesia.  It’s unattractive, unremarkable and, well, about as much fun as sticking broken glass up your nostrils.

But here’s something to make you laugh.  Or cry,  I dunno.  In the middle of the town there is a excruciatingly tasteless concrete statue of an Indonesian soldier standing with a flag and gun – and this soldier is being held up on a pedestal by obviously Papuan natives.  Anyone who has seen the latest Harry Potter film might spot the similarities with the ‘Magic Is Might’ statue ordered by a certain He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Indonesia Puts Papua In Its Place
Indonesia Puts Papua In Its Place

Anyway, before I knew what was what it was Monday.  The weekend was over (not that Jayapura has much in the way of ‘weekends’ but hey-ho.  So I hailed a bemo and headed off to the PNG consulate for the fourth time.

Here’s a video recreation of my conversation with the woman on the front desk.

I returned THREE TIMES that day.  The first time she told me to come back at 1.  The second time she told me to come back at 4.  The last time she told me that it wasn’t ready, but would DEFINITELY be ready for tomorrow.

It’s not just the inconvenience here, it’s the fact that Jayapura is ugly, smelly and EXPENSIVE.  I returned to my hotel sweaty, hot, exhausted (the consulate is five miles away) and ready to kill, kill and kill again.  Luckily for me I ran into a couple of Bules in the same position.  One was a South African surf/wave detective (yes!) called Harald, and the other was a top chap from Hawaii called Mike.  Harald and Mike are travelling the world in pursuit of the perfect wave.  It’s all very cool indeed.

Harald and Mike
Harald and Mike. Surf Detectives!

So we had a few drinkies together.  They were going to try and get visas for PNG but decided (based on what they had been told by fellow Bules) that they were going to skip their trip to Papua New Guinea BECAUSE IT WAS TOO DIFFICULT TO GET A VISA.  You hear that, PNG??  So they were going to stay in Indonesia instead AND SPEND ALL THEIR MONEY IN INDONESIA INSTEAD.  Yeah – go for it, guys, PNG obviously has bigger fish to fry.

The next day I (again) packed all my things together and checked out of my hotel.  I travelled over to the PNG consulate and… hey! Guess What…?

So that’s a no then is it?  A NO.  EVEN THOUGH YOU TEXTED ME THIS MORNING SAYING THAT MY VISA WAS READY AND I COULD COME PICK IT UP.

Noooooooooooo

If somebody had handed me a tank of petrol and a match at this point I would have not been responsible for my actions.

So I returned to my hotel as quickly as I could an – would you Adam n’ Eve it – the damn place was FULL.  Utterly utterly full.

That was it, I thought.  Death must reign down from above.  While I know it’s not Indonesia’s fault per se, I must regretfully report that I’m really starting to despise Indonesia.  While India will always be home to the most irritating people in the world, Indonesia (appropriate name) comes a very close second.  As I walk down the street there is an excruciating meeeeee-ster every few seconds.  If I ignore it, it will continue meeeeeee-ster!  MEEEEEEEEE-STER!!!  MEEEEEEEEEE-STER!!!!!!!   MEEEEEEEEEEEE-STER!!!!!!!!!!!, but if I turn I know I’ll get the old howareyou? followed by the usual, predictable peel of howling laughter that leaves you wondering whether you remembered to put on your trousers this morning.

No, I don’t want to shake your hand wizened old man – mainly because I was having a slash the other day and I saw the man next to me SCOOP PISSY WATER OUT OF THE URINAL WITH HIS HAND and ‘wash’ his dick with it.  As with many developing nations, germ theory and basic hygiene are undiscovered countries here – people do all kinds of disgusting crap with their hands and then expect me to shake on it.  Ha!  No!  Bugger off.

And for heaven’s sake: maybe, like one day, I might, you know, want to go 24 hours without eating luke-warm white rice with a GODDAMN COLD FISHHEAD ON TOP.  I saw a sign for Pizza Hut yesterday.  I got very excited about it and all day I was fantasising about getting a nice HOT pepperoni pizza… Actual Bread! Melty Cheese! Spicy Sausage!!

I walked back to my hotel and asked the girl on reception to order me a pizza.  Then I found out that Jayapura does not have a Pizza Hut.  It’s in another town, 15km away.

Okay: is there anywhere in this large sprawling town where I can get… chips? No. Steak? No. Pasta? No. Potatoes? No. A Sarnie? No. A Sausage? No. Mexican? No. Indian? No. Thai? No. Malaysian? No. Chinese… come on, there MUST be a Chinese place…? No. A kebab?

What’s a kebab?

DEAR GOD PLEASE HELP ME.

There are a hundred food stalls and shops here in Jayapura, and EVERY SINGLE ONE just sells white steamed rice and fish-heads.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.  In the Middle East I get it, IT’S A DESERT: a lump of gritty meat wrapped in sandy bread is the best you can hope for.  But in Indonesia you could throw a stick into the ground and it would grow into a tree.  These were THE SPICE ISLANDS for heaven’s sake.  What’s with the monoculture?  What’s with the little plastic packets of ‘spicy sauce’ I get with my rice and fish heads??  Maybe Indonesia isn’t such an appropriate name – if there’s one thing I’ll always forgive India all her sins for, it’s the corkin’ nosh.  Here you’re best bringing a packed lunch – those fish heads have been sitting in that hot, sweaty, fly-infested window for hours… or maybe days…

And is anything open after 9pm?  I know going to bed early is the Asian disease (and quite possibly why there are so many Asians in the first place) but please, I just want a bottle of water.  Or maybe a pack of Handie Andies.

And are sidewalks without massive deadly holes in them too much to ask?  Do Indonesian town planners sit around with diagrams and schematics working out the optimum way to turn a simple task like walking down the street into a live-action version of Super Mario Brothers?  And does all this litter bother anybody but me?  On the boat to see the Komodo Dragons last month there was so much crap in the water I was convinced that a ship hauling rubbish to the dump had recently sunk – it brought to mind the trash-compactor scene from Star Wars: oh no, all in a day’s work for this dianoga-friendly UNESCO World Heritage site.  Illegal logging?  That’s no problem – just give me a bung and I’ll look the other way… after all, there’s plenty more virgin rain forest where that came from.

AND WHAT is with this whole thing of making it impossible to see out of the windows of minibuses?  How the hell am I supposed to know when to get out?  Now I understand some people (drug-dealers mostly) don’t want people seeing into their vehicle, but purposefully making only 10% of your windscreen see-through is just f—ing NUTS.  Is it to stop tall people stealing your minibus?

And no, I DON’T SMOKE.  But thanks for walking all the way over here so you can sit right next to me in this big empty room and blow smoke in my face.  And, since you’re here, why not crane your neck over so you can read what I’m typing?  Go ahead, I find it easier to write with a goddamn audience.  Yes, I prefer friendly people to the cold indifference of Eastern Europeans, but c’mon, this is just… irritating.  Really, really irritating.  Like that noise they make in Dumb and Dumber.

AND YES your music is shite it keeps me up all night.  Well, it would do if I wasn’t such a heavy sleeper.  And no, I don’t want it amplified so loud that it shakes the poo out of my bottom.  There’s a passive-aggressive notion from middle-class dinner tables that western (well, UK, US and Jamaican) music is somehow inferior to what we like to condescendingly describe as ‘World Music’.  To that I say PFFFFFFFFT.  Local music is AWFUL pretty much everywhere: in Latin America the best you can hope for is Me Gustas Tu, in Africa everyone is too busy listening to African-American homosexual jingle-pop (or R&B as it’s also known), continental Europe is all um-pah-pah, accordions, the Spinal-Tap of Death Metal or 80s pop that would have seemed dated in the 80s, the Middle East just sounds like Tarzan falling down a very deep well, India is some shrieking harridan singing through her nose whilst wobbling about behind a pillar, SE Asia is even more obsessed with Celine Dion and Bryan Adams than even the Middle East (the more I travel, the more I become convinced that heterosexuality is the one that’s ‘not natural’) and Indonesia?  Jesus wept.  Possibly because people kept playing Indonesian music at him.

Oh Graham, you big meanie… you’re such a music nazi.  Yes, yes I am and this music ist not gut!  From a population of 250 million with its thousands of islands, hundreds of languages and mosaic of cultures, I expect at least one song that makes me tap my foot instead of sticking my fingers in my ears and going LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA.

In short, Indonesia: you irritate the crap out of me, you don’t wash your hands, your cuisine is as dull and your music is poo.  And too loud.  It’s not me, darling, it’s you.  You’re too plain Jane, the spice has gone out of our relationship and I would rather spend my time with other countries – ones that like to stay up late and dance until the break of dawn.  Let’s get divorced so I never have to see you again, but I can look back on my time spent with you with fondness as my memories of your bloody awful cooking fade with time.  Welcome to Dumpsville, Population: You.

BUT WAIT…!  What’s this?

Indonesia?

Indonesia… come back!!

I didn’t mean it!  I was just – you know – venting!

Yes, I will forgive a country of pretty much anything if it manages to send my tastebuds on a spine-tingling roller-coaster ride of texture, flavour and outright  yumminess.  And tonight, Indonesia you have surpassed yourself.

Maybe the fact that I had to eat crap for two months was a conspiracy to make me lower my standards, lower my defences before… WHAM!!!

The tastiest dish I have EVER EVER eaten.

A little bit of backstory: after getting kicked out of my hotel, I headed over to the hotel that Mike and Harald were staying at and tried to check in there, but (lords-a-lordy) it was also full.  Harald and Mike, being the top blokes that they are, agreed to let me sleep on their floor and the hotel kindly supplied me with a mattress.

So once I was settled in, Mike and Harald had some good news… unlike me they wouldn’t be spending a lonely Christmas in this shithole, they had just scored the last couple of seats on the last plane out of here on Thursday morning.  Lucky buggers.

Mike was (understandably) ecstatic at this news and wanted nothing more than some decent tucker to celebrate, so we headed towards the seafood shacks laid out along the road beside the harbour.  But not just to any seafood shack, we went to THE seafood shack.  Possibly the finest seafood shack in South East Asia.

The Fish Place
The Duta Cafe, Jayapura. Remember that name.

THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!  For just six quid each, we got a deliciousfreshly-caught blue grenadier cooked to perfection of the barbie:

Fishy Fishy
I’m gonna eat you little fishy!

We also got a plateful of delicious deep-fried king prawns:

Harald and The Seafood
Harald and The Seafood

But that was a mere trifle compared to the gastronomic perfection that was to come.  I ordered fresh calamari out of the cooler box and Harald, being fluent in Indonesian (and an able fisherman himself) was able to explain exactly what we wanted.  And what we wanted was heaven on a plate.  And that’s exactly what we got.

Yummy Yummy Yummy
Yummy Yummy Yummy

She may not look like much kid, but she’s got it where it counts.

Lightly tempura’d calamari, served up with long-cut stir-fried veggies in a sweet and sour sauce.  Man, my mouth is watering just thinking of it. Usually calamari can be a bit chewy – this stuff was so fresh it literally melted in your mouth.

Eat me!
Eat me!

YUM!

YUMYUMYUM!!

So yes, Indonesia, you have won me over.  Unlike the BLOODY PAPUA NEW GUINEA which well and truly HASN’T.  That night I stayed up drinking with the other Bules staying at our hotel, all of whom were waiting for visas.  This guy, Quentin, was from France and had been waiting TWO WEEKS for a visa.

Quentin
Quentin damns PNG to HELL!!

Please be aware that at this point it was the wee small hours of Wednesday morning: Christmas day is NEXT SATURDAY.

If we didn’t get our visas for PNG today, we’d be stuck in Jayapura until 2011.

And all the wonderful calamari in the world wouldn’t make it worth staying.  I wanted out.  I wanted to reach my 51st country before the year’s end – and, more than that, I wanted to USE the damn plane ticket to Australia they made me buy.

I wanted to see Mandy again.  It’s been too long.

So after a few hours kip, Quentin and I descended on the FRIKKIN’ PNG Consulate for the twentieth time.  And this time we were not leaving until we got our visas.  I had been told yesterday that my visa was ready and IN MY PASSPORT.  Arriving at 10am, we were told to wait.

Why?

The visa is in my passport!  Give me the damn thing!!

Sorry…

What?  Why?

It needs to be signed.

By who?

By the man who signs the visas.

And is this man in work today?

No.

And is this man coming into work today?

I don’t know.

ARE YOU ON CRACK?

No… Sorry…

Okay, give me my passport now, I’ll sign it myself and take my chances.

No… Sorry…

I have never wanted to beat another human being to death with their own shoes before, but this bloody woman was seriously moments away from joining the choir invisible.  I told her I wasn’t leaving without my visa and she put up the ‘closed’ sign and tottered off.

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

If they had just told me in the first place that it would take a week to put a bloody stamp in my bloody passport it wouldn’t be so bad.  If they hadn’t made me come back TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN THE SWELTERING HEAT with false promises that my visa was ready it wouldn’t be so bad.  If they where rushed off their feet and had thousands of applications to get through, it still wouldn’t be acceptable, but it wouldn’t be so bad.

But we are talking here about a stamp in a passport and a couple of lines of writing.  Even if you were an illiterate slug it would only take a minute to do.  And it wasn’t as though there was a queue of Bules waiting outside every morning – and Indonesians don’t need visas for Papua New Guinea.  They probably had about ten visa applications to process A WEEK.  If that.  Well, me and Quentin waited.  And waited.

The first few hours were painful.  It was hot, it was sweaty and I’m sure my hair was beginning to fall out. At 1pm they wanted to close for lunch so we go chucked out, but we were back again at 2pm sharp.  My bloody mindedness was now thinking along the lines of ‘if I create a bloody nuisance of myself, they’ll give me the visa just to get shut of me’.

Well, it wasn’t the most elegant of plans, but (eventually) it worked.  But not early enough for me to be able to get to PNG today.  The last taxis apparently left at 1pm.  It was 3.30pm before I got my visa.  Another exasperated Bule, a German guy called Jan, came into the consulate and got his visa at the same time – he, like me, had been waiting a week.

Quentin, on the other hand, who had been waiting for TWO WEEKS for his visa, came away empty handed.  Unbelievable.  Utterly unbelievable.

Oh, and our ordeal didn’t end there.  Jan and I headed over to the immigration office in Jayapura to get stamped out of the country when we were hit with the most baffling piece of red-tape in the history of dick-headed bureaucracy.  If you got a visa on entry to Indonesia, you aren’t allowed to leave via Jayapura.  As Jayapura is the ONLY border post between PNG and Indonesia, this somewhat leaves your options limited.

Luckily for me, I had gone through the frigmarole of getting a ‘proper’ visa for Indonesia in East Timor (as they weren’t being issued on the border).  Jan wasn’t as lucky.  Of course, the c—s at immigration would be willing to accommodate his predicament (for a $60 ‘fee’), the alternative being for him to FLY BACK TO JAKARTA.

Seriously.

SERIOUSLY.

This is just quite mind-boggling and a new one on me – an international border that you cannot LEAVE a country from without the correct ENTRY visa.  How f—-ing stupid do you want to be?

Oh, Indonesia, you had me for a moment with that sublime calamari, but you’ve just blown all that good will.  Sickeningly corrupt and loaded with ill-gotten blood money, you can go to hell, Indonesia.  You SUCK!  And, while you’re at it, get the hell out of West Papua.  It’s not yours and you’re only there for the gold.  The profits from which go on WHAT EXACTLY?  Health care?  Schools?  Roads?!

 

Ha.  HA!  HAHAHAHAHA!!  Don’t make me laugh!

They go straight into the back packets of the slimy politicians that live on an island a thousand miles away, literally and metaphorically. Bluuuuuurgh to the lot of ya!!

Happily, Mike and Harald weren’t leaving Jayapura until the morning, so they (being top chaps) again allowed me to kip on their floor.  Thanks, guys!!

Tomorrow there will be nothing to stop me getting into Papua New Guinea.  I booked a taxi to the border.  It will be the Eve of Christmas Eve.  Looks like I’ll be spending another Christmas without the girl I love.  PNG is not a happy place and while I’m quite happy to risk my safety doing this crazy stuff, I’m not willing to put Mandy in that situation, so I’ve told her not to fly to me this time around.

Days 974-984: Conspiracy Nut Cornflakes

01.09.11-11.09.11:

I was a kid in the eighties. I grew up with the distinct possibility that at any moment the Russians might take a dislike to the latest Madness single or something and destroy the entire world. Films like Red Dawn and When The Wind Blows didn’t help. My brother Alex and I would waste entire summers digging fallout shelters (which invariably ended up as two foot deep puddles of mud) and learning to fend for ourselves in the field across the road, seeing if we could live off ‘rations’ of sugar and ketchup sachets stolen from Little Chef, you know: just in case.

And then one night, suddenly and unexpectedly, the Berlin Wall collapsed. All that fear, all the paranoia and all the neuroses that the Cold War had instilled in my and my parents’ generation had gone. The sword of Damocles that had dangled menacingly above my head throughout my formative years vanished. Whoosh, kaput, hooray.

Soon afterwards I turned 11 years old. The nineties had begun. From then until the age of 22 I lived life free of that horrible feeling, the feeling that everything and everyone I know and love might be taken away at any time with the push of a button. The feeling that somebody who I don’t know, who doesn’t know me, might well murder me and my family for no other reason than madness, utter madness.

All I needed to be is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Life rarely gives many certainties, except death and taxes, but as the IRA dwindled away, the possibility of me being senselessly blown to Smithereens by a faceless menace seemed to diminish as the years went on.

From November 1989 to September 2001, things got better and better. The more I learned about history and politics the more I became convinced that, in the words of Bill and Ted, the best place to be is here… and the best time to be is now.

Compared with the adolescence of anyone born before 1900 (why are all 14 of my siblings dead?), anyone during WWI (why are all my friends dead?), anyone during WWII (why are all my people dead?), any one of the Baby Boomers (why is every living thing on the planet dead?) or any of the Generation X-ers (imagine being a teenager in the eighties – ack! The humanity!).

Compared to that lot, my (MTV) generation had it made: great music, great films, great video games, satellite TV, the INTERNET… we were still some distance from World Peace Day, but for me, getting drunk and annoying girls in Liverpool, everything was peachy.

And then 19 psychos, armed only with airline tickets and box cutters, changed the world.

Like millions of others, I had stood on the roof of the World Trade Centre before it was destroyed. But unlike millions of others, I was in Ahmedabad just days before the 2002 massacre. When I visited Bali later that same year, I spent every night in the Sari Club. A few months later it was gone. As was the Casa de España in Casablanca, a place that me and my friend Dan frequented on our trip to that city.

I had been to the wrong places, just not at the wrong time.

I travel a lot, it’s statistically highly likely that stuff like this is going to happen, but what really bothered me was that same creeping dread I experienced as a child – the faceless horror that could take everything from me – was returning… and then the bombings in Madrid and London brought it home that, like in the 1980s, nowhere was safe.

Anybody who has been following my progress over the last couple of years can imagine my response to that feeling. I, like the good people of NY who swept the streets after 9/11 and the noble Londoners who continued taking the tube to work after 7/7, refuse to be terrorised. I refuse to retreat back into childhood, start jumping at shadows or freaking out every time I see an Arab with a backpack. In a battle of wills between me and Osama Bin Laden, you know what? I won. He and his group of murderous idiots and psychopathic zealots didn’t stop me travelling the world. They didn’t even stop me visiting Afghanistan.

But there are people out there who are suitably terrorised and freaked out. For the last ten years they’ve been fighting a losing battle against the forces of reason, attempting to push a square peg into a round hole, getting the hammer out because the pieces of the jigsaw don’t fit. Like the mother watching her son in the parade and wondering why everybody else is marching out of step with her Johnny, they suffer from tunnel vision, only see what they want to see and ignore all the evidence to the contrary.

They are the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

I find them an annoyance, but not a particularly dangerous one: unlike climate change conspiracy theorists who are doing real-world damage to my only planet. So I’ve not really talked about the 9/11 ‘truthers’ or their crazy notions on my blog. I didn’t really want to give their lunatic views a public airing, not least because they’ve got the entire internet to write up their crackpot theories (mysterious how nobody stops them eh?) and I can’t be bothered vetting all the abusive comments I would (not doubt) receive.

But sometimes people bring the fight to you, and you know I’m more than happy to defend my corner.

So, grab your popcorn and adjust your reading specs, here we go…

On the 25th August 2011, “Joe” wrote:

For the most part you’re spot on, but how do you deny the 9/11 truthers? Buildings don’t pancake unless they are demolished with explosives, building 7 didn’t get hit but it dropped perfectly into it’s own footprint. There was NO plane in the pentagon or on the ground in the Virginia field. You do understand the first law of thermodynamics right? Planes don’t vanish on impact. America went to Afghanistan within a month, no trial, no discussion, nothing. Since when does anyone KNOW who committed a crime with no ACTUAL evidence. The invasion of Iraq was completely based on lies, and no one denies it. We have been fighting a boogie man for over 10 years now, for what?? Do you really believe this al-queda (which is a known CIA asset, as well as bin Laden) outfit is so powerful that EVERY rich and powerful nation on earth can’t stop them in a DECADE! It only took four years to stop Hitler! We find bin laden, the very REASON we have blown trillions of dollars and ended hundreds of thousands of lives, and we KILL him without questioning him!!? Then show NO proof and within a day throw him into the FUCKING ocean!! What kind of protocol is that!? I think you are a very smart and experienced person, so how could you possibly believe any of this? You admit that the powers that be lie all the time in your blogs, so why would you believe any of this crap when it’s so blatantly obvious?

To which I replied:

I “deny” the 9/11 truthers for the same reason I “deny” mother goose: because it’s absolute hogwash!!

The world is run by inept, ignorant and barely-qualified politicians… NOT moustache-twiddling James Bond-villain-esque criminal masterminds. Then again, I don’t know which proposition is scarier…!

Which stirred up the hornet’s nest.  Joe wrote:

So you think a ballsy gang of ubermuslims are the real supervillians? outwitting the world, always a step ahead of the intelligence agencies, able to run a commercial airliner into the pentagon (the most heavily fortified building on earth with the capability of shooting rockets out of the sky) and make it vanish upon impact. These James Bomb esque baddies are so well organized they don’t even need banks or money (the CIA is capable of freezing anyone on earth’s assets, something they have done to many a dictator and despot) , they must communicate telepathically as well (considering the coalition of the willing basically has a monopoly on transmitted communication and has been intercepting com since pre WW2) and i guess they have a clone army of super soldiers considering they have withstood the 200,000+ man strong force of America Inc and her lapdogs and mercenaries (the most expensive, powerful, and technologically advanced fighting force in the history of mankind) for over 10 years.

that makes more sense to you than some VERY powerful men who control the oil industry, the banks, the military industrial complex, and world business wanting to grab more power?

Oh bugger it, methinks, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  He might yet be sane…  So I replied:

  1. Since I don’t live in the Marvel comic universe, I don’t believe in supervillians. The very concept is as laughable as Dr. Evil’s sharks “with frikkin laser beams on their heads!”.
  2. ‘Always’ one step ahead? Once was enough my friend, once. 9/11 was a pretty low-fi operation.
  3. The Pentagon can shoot rockets out of the sky? Really?! I thought they retired Reagan’s Star Wars project. But still, rockets and planes are two rather different things (rockets, being packed with explosives, tend to blow up when you hit them, planes don’t).
  4. Magic! The plane vanished did it? Where you there? Did you sift through the debris? Are you an air-crash investigator? And where, pray tell, are the people who were on board? Would you mind explaining to me (or even better – their families) where they are? I’m sure they’d like to know…!
  5. The CIA can freeze anybody’s assets can they? That’s news to the bankers in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Nigeria. I better tell them.
  6. If the Americans have the monopoly on communication, why on Earth did they invent the internet? Shot themselves in the foot there, methinks. You better watch what you say on this site, ‘they’ might come and get ya! Like ‘they’ came for the makers of ‘Loose Change’. Oh, hang on… no, no ‘they’ didn’t. Silly ‘they’. Missed a trick there, like not being able to assassinate Castro… when he was in a coma(!).
  7. Not sure what you’re getting at with the ‘clone army’ malarkey, but if you’re talking about Al Qaeda, well, they’re not exactly Darth Sidious are they? Last time they tried to blow up something in the UK, they ended up getting their car bomb towed and setting themselves on fire. As for the Afghans, they’ve been kicking the arse of empires since 1841. They even chopped off Sean Connery’s head, which is more than Blofeld ever did.
  8. Yes, there ARE some very powerful men out there. The remarkable thing is that they are ALL utterly rubbish at keeping all the horrible things they do a secret… but they are incredibly good at getting away with it. Why? Well, I don’t know, Joe… maybe it’s because people are too busy wasting their time pursuing mad conspiracies that make no sense. We have NO EVIDENCE that 9/11 was an inside job other than hearsay and conjecture… don’t forget: we’d only need ONE piece of concrete evidence to bring a court case against Bush and his cronies, one whistleblower, one disgruntled employee, one payslip, one receipt, one unambiguous photo, one little piece of CCTV footage…

One little thing to bring down the entire Republican party, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin… and oh what a joy that would be. Sadly, that one little thing doesn’t exist. There’s nothing, even after 10 years. Not a dicky bird. This is the same government that couldn’t even get away with stealing a few bits of paper from the Watergate hotel. And while people’s attention is focussed on this garbage, the REAL conspirators get away with in BROAD DAYLIGHT!!

Honestly: you can look their activities up on Wikipedia and everything!

Some homework for ya:

  1. Union Carbide. Bhopal. Investigate.
  2. Find out where the $60,000,000,000+ worth of Iraqi ‘rebuilding’ contracts went. The Iraqis would love to know.
  3. Coca-Cola. Colombia. Murders. Nasty. Get them to pay compensation to the widows.
  4. Find out why on Earth some ex-Nazi rocket engineers were paid by tobacco companies in the 70s to manufacture doubt in the popular imagination that smoking leads to lung cancer (Hint: they did such a good job, their arguments are STILL being used to cast doubt on the otherwise irrefutable science of climate change).
  5. BHP Biliton, War in Zaire (DR Congo), copper prices. TELL PEOPLE!
  6. Find out Who Killed The Electric Car. Hate them forever.
  7. What links Agent Orange with the American farming industry?
  8.  So when did Donald Rumsfeld exactly leave the board of Halliburton, it being a blatant conflict of interest, of course…
  9. Which American politician (and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, bizarrely enough) flew out of Jakarta mere days before Indonesia invaded East Timor?
  10. Talking of East Timor, what was it that Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer said when people were being massacred on the streets and Jose Ramos-Horta pleaded for help?
  11. Find out how ONE MAN reduced the value of the British pound by 25% IN A DAY.
  12. Give me a rough estimate of how much money the Nigerian government has stolen (by its own admission) from its own people since 1967.
  13. Find out who gave Ethiopia the bombers to destroy Massawa in Eritrea… and why.
  14. Tell me some of the high-jinks the Portuguese got up to before leaving Mozambique.
  15. Exactly how much of Italy’s media is owned by its Prime Minister?

That’ll do for a start. I have more.

I thought that would be the end of it, but then I haven’t been frequenting too many conspiracy forums recently… I kinda forgot that you can’t reason people out of a position they haven’t reasoned themselves into.  Joe wrote:

  1. You must believe in supervillians if you think a rag tag gang of afghans with a budget of about 1/100000th that of the US and her allies is capable of holding the whole damn world hostage
  2. Not once, 5 times that day (supposedly) and then for 10 straight years. Do you really believe a few arabs with box cutters could really subdue 5 airplanes? the 100s of people on those planes sat aside and just let that happen? Come on, you can’t even get into a cockpit on a commercial plane, never would’ve happened
  3. I didn’t say from space, but of course america and especially the pentagon itself has anti missile defense systems. A plane is much larger and moves much slower than a missile, therefore they shouldn’t have had any problem whatsoever taking that plane down well before it maneuvered (while flying over Washington, DC) to street level and crashed into a relatively short building. a basically impossible feat
  4. Do yourself a favor by looking at a photo of the perfectly round hole in the pentagon and the “wreckage” that was in the field. Then type “plane crash” into google photo to see what an actual plane crash looks like. I don’t have to be an aircrash investigator, the only qualification you need is sight to know that there ISN’T a plane in the pentagon or on that field. As for the families, they were probably killed, just like the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis.
  5. Yes, the CIA def can freeze assets. They recently froze syrian president Assads’, Gaddafi’s, gbagbo’s (ivory coast), mubaraks, Saddams, the list goes on. They do it whenever they want to. There is no telling what their real agenda is or what kinds of backroom deals they make with various world leaders but there is no doubt that if they deem it necessary they can and will
  6. I know you’ve been to Egypt, Turkey, and China, three places (among many) that have restricted the internet (in Egypt’s case completely shut it down, which fueled the revolution). The internet isn’t exactly the free speech untouchable force it’s played up as. Governments shut down websites all the time.
  7. I mentioned the clone army because only an infinite clone army would have the manpower to force a 10+ year war with the entire G20. We aren’t fighting Afghanistan by the way, they are actually our “ally” in this endeavor, our “enemy” is some faceless ghost army of terrorists that can be everywhere at once and have endless supply lines the world over
  8. There is an absolute MOUNTAIN of evidence. 1000s of structural engineers, physicists, first responders, eyewitnesses, military insiders, computer simulations, the entire history of steel buildings (never has a steel building fallen because of fire, NEVER), common sense (why did building 7 fall? why no planes? why would the building fall perfectly into it’s footprint? (something ONLY possible with a controlled demolition) who had the most to gain? (Dick Cheney (as you must know) was the CEO of Halliburton the day before he swore into office. Of course i don’t have to tell you Halliburtons role in all this is. You’ve seen loose change, you know about the pipelines across afganistans and how the taliban didn’t want to play ball, i know you understand the abhorrent greed of mankind and the insatiable drive for more, more power, more money, more oil, more control. Why wouldn’t these top tier assholes want to consolidate all the power they could?

I think you have a bit of a fairy tale idea of real world justice. The 9/11 commission posted it’s results within a month, accepted no independent investigations, and closed the folder forever. Why wasn’t anyone at BP charged with a crime after the gulf of mexico spill that killed 11 people and still ravages the south coast of America? Why wasn’t bin laden brought to the Hague or DC and put on trial for his crimes? why wasn’t a single banker indicted after the 2008 economic collapse after it became common knowledge that they were engaged in a plethora of illegal business practices (in fact they were rewarded to the tune of trillions of dollars of no interest loans)? Why? because the system is rigged to favor the elite, by the elite. If you don’t believe the elite are looking out for themselves then you must be delusional. Would you help you’re family out if they were in trouble? Do you take care of your friends if you can?

Your list of atrocities only proves my point, those in power will ALWAYS take advantage of that power and do whatever they can to keep it. Morals be damned. Just look at the entire history of mankind, its a running theme. To say that the corporate/banking elite are all just a bunch of idiots, bumbling around with theie combined trillions of dollars, tripping over their own feet, is patently ridiculous. Politicians? Yea, for the most part they probably are pretty dumb, but those guys aren’t making real decisions, they are lackeys, henchmen, PR spokemen, actors (Ronald Reagan was literally an actor before he became president).

Every year the top echelon of elites meets as a group called the Bilderbergs, (as you may know), behind closed doors, with no media coverage. What do you think they are talking about? How they can make the world a better place? If so, they are doing a pretty shit job at it

Well, I really couldn’t be bothered refuting each point separately, so I thought I’d just target the most nonsensical part of the whole silly conspiracy theory: the idea that not a single person who was involved in this cover-up would say anything to anyone, even after ten years.  So I wrote:

STOP STOP STOP. PLEASE. THINK about it. Just THINK.

If 9/11 was an inside job… how many people would have to be in one it? Give me a rough figure. 1,000? 10,000? 100,000? These people would have to ALL be utterly amoral psychopaths whose motive was what… power? The iron law of oligarchy states that powerful people don’t share power… so then money? Okay… let’s say money. There’s a lot of them, but lets say they just escaped en masse from Arkham Asylum.

Now if ONE of these people talks the whole thing is shot to shit, and everybody goes to jail… for the rest of their lives. We’re not talking corrupt bankers here, or Bono cooking the books so he pays no income tax, we’re talking the wilful murder of 3,000 AMERICAN CIVILIANS. This is death penalty level crime we’re talking about.

Now work out how much it would cost to keep every single one of those people quiet for 10 years. How much would it cost to keep YOU quiet about the biggest conspiracy the world has ever seen? $1,000,000? Damn you’re cheap! There are businessmen and politicians involved in this who earn that amount A DAY. So how much do you pay them? $1,000,000,000? Sound fair? Let’s say they demand a cool billion every year. Let’s say there are 1,000 of them in on it (a modest figure, I’m sure you’ll agree, given the scale of this thing)… that’s a TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR for TEN YEARS just to keep people quiet… because any one of them could AT ANY TIME grow a conscience (or need more money) and blow the whistle.

TEN TRILLION DOLLARS… for WHAT? So they could invade IRAQ? Even though Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11? Even though the combined worth of Iraq comes to… wait for it… $117 BILLION a year… hang on, what about Afghanistan?? Well (being one of the poorest countries in the world AND HAVING NO OIL) it’s worth a good $14 BILLION a year, so shall we call it $130 BILLION all up…

…and we’re spending $1,000 BILLION a year on BRIBES??

That’s the conservative figure… how much does it cost to keep Wikileaks quiet? I’d love to know.

IT. MAKES. NO. SENSE. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You can’t grasp how ridiculous the ‘truthers’ proposition sounds to somebody who has a degree in Poltics and Modern History and has travelled as extensively as I have. You might as well be arguing that the world is flat or that an eclipse is a dragon eating the sun. IF there is ANY truth in what the ‘truthers’ claim, why doesn’t one of the more wealthy ‘truthers’ make a civil case against the US government? Anyone with a bit of wonga can do it. But they don’t, do they? Why is that Joe?

Maybe because it would require REAL EVIDENCE and a ACTUAL MOTIVE for the US govt to be behind it… and, as yet, NOBODY has provided me (or any of the millions like yourself who obsess over 9/11) with either.

It may make you sleep easier at night to believe that you live in a universe in which everything happens for a logical reason, but that doesn’t make it the case. The 9/11 hijackers had the motive, the opportunity and the ruthlessness to go through with one of the most spectacular terrorist attacks the world has ever seen – and hopefully will ever see. All they needed was a few flying lessons, nineteen plane tickets and some box cutters. Scary eh? Tough. That’s the way the world is: shit happens… it doesn’t necessarily follow that the shit was put there by the Men In Black to enslave humanity and feed us to the space lizards.

As I tried to get across in my last reply, there are REAL messed-up things that politicians, governments, corporations and businessmen have done and are still getting away with. As I travel, I meet people who want to talk about how every major event or every famous person’s death is a conspiracy (JFK! Diana! Elvis! Evolution! The Moon Landings! Climate Change!), but very few who want to talk about what the Sudanese government has done in Darfur in the full view of an indifferent and apathetic world.

Hell, maybe you and the 9/11 ‘truthers’ are part of a conspiracy to distract people from talking about what’s REALLY going on…

Go on, it’s the space lizards, isn’t it?

I KNEW IT!!!!!!!

To which Joe wrote:

Well Graham, I guess there’s just no convincing you. Usually i dont bother trying to convince anyone because i figure if you believe the “official” story then your just a believe what your told kind of person. I think your stuck on the disbelief that people would be evil or careless enough to do it, but just look at your list of “real” atrocities. Every single day people in power take horrible advantage of people, genocides are very real, slavery is very real, the oil industry really has decimated the Nigerian Delta, the Fed Reserve really did give (print out of thin air) over 1 trillion dollars to the same banks that wrecked the worlds economy. These aren’t even denied and no one does anything. How much convincing do you think it takes to get a soldier to fire bullets into a crowd of protesters in Syria? Mindless people do what they are told, against their own beliefs and morals, every single day, every day of history even. They don’t have to be “paid off” they just want to maintain their status quo, get their paycheck, not ruffle any feathers. As an independent person (remember that i also took a 2+ year epic journey around the globe) you dont get it, but most people want to be part of a “gang”, be told what to do and do whatever it takes to fit into it. Also i think your stuck on “it’s the government”. The real powers that be are the international bankers and corporations, that are above any one countries jurisdiction. If you think those assholes have ANY morals whatsoever then your just lying to yourself.

If you think killing 2000 Americans is some major line that had to be crossed, consider the fact that over 6000 have died in the wars so far. 3 times more have died than the original attack. How about the 100,000s of Iraqis and Afghanis (innocent bystanders many of them) that have died. Nothing is “better” in either country in 10 years. What the hell are we doing there? Obviously nothing good. (Even you admit 60 billion dollars of the “rebuilding” money vanished) It’s all a farce. But i will just stop, because if you can’t see the nose on your face then who am i to show you a mirror. No offence.

So i’ll just leave it be at this point. I highly recommend you do some more research, all of the answers are out there, very easy to find if you want to

There’s a point at which your eyes are rolling so far to the back of your head there’s a good chance you might detach your retinas.  I was rapidly approaching this point.  With the ad hominem attack of  me being a “believe what you’re told” type of person ringing in my ears, it was no more Mr. Nice Badger…

At the end of the day, I’m asking you to provide me with solid evidence and you’re asking me – in true conspiracy theorist-style – to take your word for it based on no evidence whatsoever other than opinion, conjecture and idle speculation.

And then you sign off with ‘the answers are out there’ like its an episode of the X-Files, yeah…. so’s Russell’s Celestial Teapot, but I’m not going to waste my life looking for it.

Sorry my friend, but as Christopher Hitchens quite rightly points out, claims that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

And that’s where this conversation (which, quite frankly, I tire of having) ends.

But Joe didn’t want to leave it at that.  Funnily enough, he found it hard (impossible, maybe?) to explain the exact mechanisms for keeping all those people quiet, and herded me instead to watch a bunch of 37 second YouTube clips: essentially adverts for the 9/11 truther’s “product”.  Which seems to be… bullshit.  Joe wrote:

I assumed that you were capable of doing your own research (and would trust what you found more wholly) but if you want some actual evidence then I can provide you that.

The top 40 reasons http://911truth.org/article.php?story=20041221155307646

Here is a recently released video with the backing of 1500 architects and engineers about WTC7 that proves it was a controlled demolition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z6LMGXDZnI

more thermite evidence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezIU6ZxYU3A

the pentagon? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcWT2lQszEE&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmP2Vy8K0i0&feature=related

The planes had no windows
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRC4lCQuBmcfeature=related
and apparently weren’t in the air
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2QAh0rBrew&NR=1

Senior Officials, Government employees, People who were on the 9/11 commission don’t believe it

Just go through all of the info on
http://www.911proof.com/
http://www.911truth.org/

It seems like you made up your mind a long time ago about this issue, maybe there are some new bits of information that you are unaware of.

The reality is the history of mankind reads as one endless power struggle between the elites. Ghengis Kahn rode across the Central Asian steppe slashing and burning his way to Europe? Alexander the Great convinced his country to march into Turkey and lay siege to its cities on the way to Egypt and India. The Caesars murdered everyday during their reign, as did the Goths, the Ottamans, the Moors, the Franks, the Germans (did Hitler have to pay off all of the Germans to be convinced the extermination of the Jews was ok?) the Brits, all of Western Europe raped, murdered, and stole their way through the Americas, and today corporations and governments economically pillage the world (I’m sure you’ve heard about all of the help the IMF and the World Bank has brought to the developing world). Why? Because its the very nature of mankind, it’s how it’s always been, and most likely always will be.

That’s got to be the non sequitur to end all non sequiturs.  I couldn’t resist. I wrote:

Jesus Christ: The planes had no windows! They weren’t even in the air!

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, gimme a break!

As you keep re-iterating time and time and time and time again, your argument boils down to this:

a) governments did bad things in the past (go on about ancient Rome)

b) governments continue to do bad things today (go on about American foreign policy)

Therefore… (drum roll please)

c) the US govt masterminded the 9/11 attacks

What? Eh? Hang on… erm? WHAT? You even sign off with “its the very nature of mankind” as if that’s going to convince me that it’s why no journalist IN THE WORLD fancies winning themselves the Pulitzer Prize by exposing the BIGGEST CONSPIRACY THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!! Wooowowowowoooo!

You might as well say:

a) pirates did bad things in the past (go on about Blackbeard etc)

b) pirates continue to do bad things today (go on about Somalia)

Therefore… (drum roll please)

c) pirates cause global warming!!!

You’re so immersed in this fantastical world that makes Battlefield Earth seem logical and you just can’t see how utterly bonkers it all sounds.

And you send me links (WordPress don’t likey too many linkys – maybe they’re in on it toooooooo!) to websites stacked full of (again) biased opinion, conjecture (it COULDN’T have happened that way… I don’t think!), hearsay (this guy, right, he’s an engineer and even HE SAID IT – explain THAT, Poindexter!) and a really annoying habit of ignoring any evidence that doesn’t fit the conspiracy theorist narrative.

The ‘forty reasons’ link is hilarious! Thanks for that! Here’s an example of how utterly invalid the points are…

6) Did cell phones work at 30,000 feet in 2001? Maybe not, but the PHONES IN THE BACKS OF THE CHAIRS DID.

38) “Al-CIA-da?”
The longstanding relationship between US intelligence networks and radical Islamists, including the network surrounding Osama Bin Ladin.
 Oh look, they’re talking about the CIA assistance to the Afghan Muhajideen in the 1980s – BEFORE BIN LADEN EVEN ARRIVED IN THE COUNTRY. Hey, Stalin was our ALLY in WWII, and then the Cold War happens… ha ha, look at the stoopid sheeple believing in the Cold War!! Tsk! It was all smoke and mirrors!

In short, IT IS NOT EVIDENCE – none of it is. It would NEVER STAND UP IN A COURT OF LAW, it would NEVER BE PUBLISHED IN A PEER-REVIEWED SCIENTIFIC PAPER.

The best you can hope for is the National Inquirer and a few paranoid, tinfoil-hat wearing fruit-loops on the internet who BY GOD I never want on my jury… unless I’m guilty of cause ;-)

Again you’ve failed to adequately explain a motive (they’re just EVIL! They don’t need a motive!), where all the money went, why there’s no paper trail, why they didn’t just “make” AT LEAST ONE of the hijackers Iraqi or how on earth the US govt keeps this under wraps when you and I both know that two people can only keep a secret when one of them is dead.

Not ONE of the intercepted 9/11 pager messages published on Wikileaks said “Phase One Complete. Plan for invasion of landlocked resource-poor Central Asian basketcase on schedule!” Maybe the governmentals use that telepathy what they learnt from them Aliens in Roswell, eh?!!

:-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

The arguments you use are exactly the same as climate change deniers and the young Earth creationists. I can sit a climate change denier down with a Nobel-prize winning scientist who can show them all the evidence in the world that climate change is real, man made, happening right now and something we should be damn worried about – and it STILL won’t change their mind. I can take a young-Earth creationist to the Natural History Museum and show them fossils from millions of years ago and they’ll STILL think the world is 6,000 years old.

Like them, NOTHING I or ANYBODY can say or do will persuade you otherwise.

However, you could persuade me: all I’m asking for… is evidence.

Why can’t I persuade these people? Because that’s what you and they WANT to believe. Climate Change is scary. Evolution is demeaning. Better to just stick your fingers in your ears and go lalalalalalalalalalalalalala.

9/11 truthers like yourself are exactly the same mindset. You WANT to live in a dystopian world in which rich Western governments oversee the wholesale slaughter of 3,000 civilians LIVE ON TELEVISION and get away with it. So long as you get to feel like you’ve got the magic powers, the vision, the intellectual vigour to know what’s really going on, and you can badger people online and in the pub with the old “everything you know is wrong!” fallacy. And WHY do you find the “9/11 was the govt” theory so appealing? Well, according to psychologists, because it’s what you would do.

Yep, conspiracy theorists seem to score higher on Machiavellian mindset tests than people like me. But it’s not like I don’t have any Machiavellian thoughts (we all do), it’s that I’m humble enough to know there would be absolutely NO WAY I could get away with it. The sad thing is, conspiracy theorists are the ones who think they could get away with it, an arrogant inflation of their own (and by extention, others) abilities to pull off the most horrifying acts of violence and walk away scot-free.

From your own comments on this site, you appear not to think much of humanity: you talk about human nature being essentially evil and you say (perhaps sarcastically, who knows?) that 2000 Americans “is a drop in the bucket”. (I’ll assume you mean ocean… it could be a small bucket).

These are the opinions of a psychopath. And while you subconsciously project your murderous desires onto a terrorist attack like 9/11: the REALLY scary thing is you consciously believe that you could get away with it, therefore it follows (in your mind) that the government could.

That’s worrisome. You should really get some help with that.

—————————————————————————————————————-

You started this discussion by asking me how I can ‘deny’ the 9/11 conspiracy nuts. Maybe I should explain.

I don’t have a religious/spiritual/faith bone in my body. I really don’t. That’s not to say I am a nihilist, I most definitely am not. I just find it incredibly difficult (more like impossible) to believe anything I’m told unless it passes a quick and easy mental test:

1) Does it sound plausible?

2) Is there any solid, unbiased evidence to support the proposition?

Needless to say, for me, the 9/11 truthers fall at the first hurdle. It sounds as plausible as Elvis working in a KFC on the moon. As for the second extremely reasonable question, the evidence is painfully flimsy, all based on bad science and conjecture… and almost comically biased.

But I think everybody runs through that same mental test, and you know what? For some people it must sound plausible, for some people the evidence presented on hysterical websites is all the evidence they need: hell, it fits their bleak, paranoid world-view that we’re all cogs in a vast machine – a vast machine that wants to sell us Coca-Cola or something.

But my brain will never be wired that way… I dunno… possibly because I’m not a psychopath?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The 9/11 wingnuts don’t even have ordinaryevidence, even after a decade of obsessing over every last element of that dreadful day in September. All they got is a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

You’ve had your say and I’ve allowed you to post your utterly bonkers links which users of this site may click on if they wish. Unless you have something new to add to this conversation – (and I’m talking something that could win you a Pulitzer), I won’t be approving your next reply.

You see, I have the power to approve people’s replies on this site, since I pay for it and maintain it myself.  I can also edit people’s replies.  And then Joe surprised everybody by writing:

You know, after reading your solid rebuttal I do admit it DOES all sound a bit silly. Maybe I’m just a little naive, you know, and the habit of stuff like ‘Loose Change’ to ignore the inconvenient facts, cherry-pick evidence that suits its (for-profit) agenda and take quotes out of context is really starting to make me question my entire opinion on the matter.

The ‘Machiavellian mindset’ thing you posted was very interesting, and I have to admit I do have a tenancy to think the worst of people and that everyone has a price. I guess I am a little paranoid and yeah, you’re right, I kinda wanted the government to have masterminded 9/11 – I don’t know why, possibly because it would confirm all the bad things I think about everybody who isn’t me.

I’m also concerned by something I noticed while surfing conspiracist websites… a definite anti-Semitic tone, one that has a tenancy to deny the holocaust (or say it ‘was no big deal’) and claim that a shadowy cabal of Jews are responsible for all of the world’s ills. It’s very similar to the rumours that led to the Pogroms in Russia and then the Holocaust itself, and that worries me, especially as my great-grandfather died fighting the Nazis and I’d hate to belittle his sacrifice by supporting the beliefs of right-wing fascists and racists – the very people he gave his life fighting against.

I found this brilliant article on the cracked.com website: http://www.cracked.com/article_15740_was-911-inside-job.html Cracked is pretty funny, but it really helped me to see things as they really are, rather than how I would want them to be.

Anyway, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for setting me straight, I’ll try in future to have a little bit more trust in the inherent goodness of humanity (after all – we’ve made it this far haven’t we?) and a little less time badgering people to believe in stuff that is — I admit — pretty far-fetched. I’ve been reading up on some of those issues you mentioned in a previous reply and I honestly believe that my time would be better spent spreading the word about stuff we SHOULD be getting angry about, and — more importantly — bad things that are happening right this moment that together we CAN do something about.

Take care and safe travels,
Joe.

PS. I did warn ya! ;-)

Oh, okay then… I wrote that last one myself.  Joe’s real last reply was (predictably) more links to YouTube videos and websites that gnash their teeth and holler about global conspiracies, with (as always) nothing but conjecture, cherry-picked evidence and the conceit of the paranoid mind to back them up.

But before I go, I just want to ask you something.

Q: What links Nazis, holocaust deniers, Soviet apparatchiks, climate change deniers, corrupt policeman, tin-pot dictatorships and 9/11 ‘truthers’?

A: A determined and concerted effort to take things out of context to fit their twisted world-view. 

Winston’s job in 1984 was an editor of history: he would physically black out facts in books and newspapers that were in contradiction to Big Brother’s narrative (one that, in the context of the novel, changed with political expediency).

It’s easy to do: I’m a professional video editor, I know what you mischief you can make with a clever snip here and there… you can change the true meaning or intent of just about anything.  Imagine Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal taken in isolation from all of his other clearly satirical works: it would be the ravings of a madman – a homicidal, cannibalistic madman.

If the only song you knew by John Lennon was Happiness is a Warm Gun  you would probably never guess that he was an avowed peace activist and that the song is either clearly ironic or a sexual (and possibly narcotic) metaphor.  As far as I’m aware people shooting real stuff with real guns didn’t make John Lennon happy – in fact it made him dead.

If all you knew of Nelson Mandela was that he was sent to jail for attempting to blow up a train, and the context of apartheid South Africa was missing from your narrative, you’d possibly be wondering why he was ever let out of his cell.  You’d crap your pants when you found out he was made President.

If the only clip of Star Wars Episode I you had seen was Darth Maul pulling out his double-ended lightsaber, you might be fooled into thinking Episode I was actually a good film.  It wasn’t.  Watch this re-edit of The Shining that makes the scariest movie of all time look like a heart-warming comedy.  Clue: it’s not that difficult.

In short, context is everything.  But for your local conspiracy-theorist (and the list of their fellow nasty badgers above), context is something to be suppressed, an irritation to be edited away – and there seem to be enough willing Winstons in the world happy to go along with it.  Maybe the government attached a rat to their faces once.

Conspiracy-theorists want you to ignore all the evidence to the contrary and fixate on a select line that fits their pre-conceived narrative – and so we find ourselves at the mercy of the tyranny of soundbites.  If you look at what the Nazis did with Nietzsche’s works, you’ll see how pernicious this practice is.  Watch out for it.

In any conspiracy rebuttal piece or video, you will notice a very different tactic: they invariably fail to show you the full video, the full interview, the full set of photographs – making it impossible to take the material out of context.  For every one photograph that the conspiracy nuts hold up as some sort of talisman of all truth and logic, the rebuttalists are more than happy to upload twenty that show what actually happened from all different angles.

This is important – it shows the conspiracy theorists for the deluded hypocrites they most certainly are.  They accuse the government (or whoever) of ‘covering up the truth’ and then proceed to use the exact same tactics that a ministry of propaganda would use in order to get its nefarious message across.

We all need to draw a line in our minds between what is true and what we wish were true.  Otherwise that line can become blurred; hence the number of people who go on X-Factor firmly believing that they can sing when even the deaf can see they cannot.  In order to draw another person into your wish-fulfilling delusions, they need to share the same desire for it to be the case: so you’re probably not going to get very far with me.

I hold a fairly strong belief (backed by evidence, of course) that conspiracy theorists are all of a particular mindset.  One that is generally paranoid, border-line psychopathic and Machiavellian to a greater extent than the general population.  If nothing else travelling to over 180 countries around the world has re-affirmed that not everybody is out to get me – most people are inherently good, law-abiding citizens who will go out of their way to help a straggly wayfarer in distress.

And until some Earth-shattering revelation is made by Wikileaks, the BBC, the Independent newspaper or two renegade journalists working for the Washington Post, I will never seriously entertain the mere possibility that those people brutally murdered on September 11 2001 were killed for any other reason than nineteen paranoid, psychopathic and Machiavellian bastards bought their golden tickets to the ancient and hollow lie that is the Elysian Fields with the blood of 2,977 innocent lives.

Conspiracy Nut Cornflakes David Icke
And David Icke says…….

The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy.

– H. L. Mencken, 1936