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.  It cost 25,000 and the ferry to Padangbai in Bali was 31,000.  So if I could get the bus from Padangbai to Denpasar for less than 100,000 I would be quids in.  In the event, I haggled the driver down to 40,000 for a grand Labuan-to-Denpasar total of 251,000 – a good 100,000 less than I was quoted for a through-ticket.  100,000 can get you four big Bintang beers, two nights in a pension, two pizzas or six and a half nasi gorengs.

Happy days!

I’m currently on the ferry to Bali.  The sea is a lot rougher than it was yesterday, but nothing compared to the North Sea.  I’m sitting on the back pew of a line of bench seats with my laptop plugged into the tuck shop power socket.  It’s cheap and it’s cheerful – costing just over two quid for a three hour boat ride.  Neil’s away in Singapore today, but he’s left a house key for me to pick up from his mate Cilian.  Good stuff.  Let’s go HATI HATI…!

Later…

I arrived in Denpasar in good time and grabbed a taxi to central Seminyak.  I got in touch with Neil’s mate and he said he’d be at the pub at 9pm.  This gave me a few hours to upload all these blogs that have been coming thick and fast over the last few days (I’m sad that ‘Oh Dear’ has been pushed off the front page: it’s well worth reading!).

So I met with Cilian and got the keys and had a good natter over a couple of beers. Cilian (and his brother Cuanna) work with Neil doing superyacht supplies – not just for Indonesia, but for nine other destinations as well, including Sri Lanka, Maldives and Seychelles (this may come in handy later on in the mission!!).  But what’s particularly cool is their involvement in a wonderful little charity called YACHT AID.

“You own a yacht?! What do you need aid for??” I hear you cry.  No – the aid isn’t for the yachties; what it is is a global distribution network that delivers school books and equipment to some of the most under-privileged kids in the world.  The thinking is this: if a yacht is going to a far-flung destination anyway, don’t waste the journey! as my dad always says to me whenever he spots me going upstairs without some knickknack or other.  So the boat captains get to give a little back to the communities that they visit.  Which is nice.  And with very low overheads and zero transport costs, it means that a very large proportion of the money raises goes straight into buying stuff for the people who really need it.

Unlike anything that Bono is involved with (lucky most of us are not rich enough to ‘give’ to his cloud-cuckoo-land schemes).

Anyway, it’s a worthy charity and if you sail, it’s one that is definitely worth getting involved with.  You can learn more about Yacht Aid by clicking here.

And now that I’ve got you in a charitable mood (and since Christmas is around the corner…!) if you can give a little money (or, even better, a lot) to my chosen charity, WaterAid, I’ll love you forever.

So I got to Neil’s just after midnight.  As luck would have it, Neil was just arriving back from Singapore on a business trip, so we caught up over a nice cold Bintang.  And the hat?  Neil suggested I wait until tomorrow to be reunited with my travel buddy.

The next day I was up early and hitting the streets.  Sixteen hours of videotape and three hard-drives that I didn’t want to lose in PNG called for a trip to the post office.  I also needed to stock up on my travel essentials – deodorant (wow did I STINK yesterday!), wetwipes, new belt etc.  I was hoping to go surfing with Justin as I’ve never surfed before and although I quite detest the culture, I do have a strict guiding principle that I should try everything in life at least once.  In the end, a disaster in work meant that Justin couldn’t make it, so instead I went and checked out what was happening in a nearby Hindu Temple – it was full of people dressed in white and sporting turbans.  Apparently, today was a big ceremony of renewal and later on there would be some kind of shindig in a graveyard.  Sounded groovy.  But my own personal renewal – the hat replacement ceremony – was fast approaching.

Neil told me to meet him at the Harry Juku bar at 7pm and after a bit of an adventure on the back of a motorbike (whose driver had no clue where Harry Juku’s was) I arrived to find Skye, the hostess with the mostess, wearing my new hat.  Skye is the Aussie manager of the bar who is so good-looking that she reduces my power of speech to baby-like gurgles (something I pointed out a couple of weeks ago to a chap called Russell – who then turned out to be her boyfriend – D’OH!).  She was happy to hand it over though – an investiture that should come with the line ‘you lost today kid – doesn’t mean you have to like it’.  And onto my ginger bonce descended HatSix, the latest incarnation of the Kangaroo-skin akubra that’s been keeping me jolly and wise for the last eight years of my life.

Raiders of the Lost Hat
Raiders of the Lost Hat

My hats are a bit like James Bond – they may be played by different hats, but they are always the same hat.  In which case, this hat is squidgy-faced scouser Daniel Craig, and, being a six, will no doubt conjure up a leggy blonde woman who nobody else can see wobbling around in a red dress and high heels looking not quite as sexy as Boomer (who doesn’t even have to try).

Bali
That’s Skye on the left… Jennifer Connelly anyone?

So, hat on head, I joined forces with Skye, Russell and their mates and hit the town – Neil doesn’t like the Kuta area, which is fair enough – he lives here!  First up we went to a little pub (whose name sadly escapes me) which offered double vodka RedBulls for just 15,000 Rupiah (a quid) and after that closed we went to a place called Eikon which seems to have replaced the Sari Club (I was here just before the 2002 bombing) as the place in Kuta to be.  It’s a charmless little affair and happily we didn’t stay too long – a few doors down is M Bar Go where outside I met Natalie (Justin’s girlfriend and she of the crocodile KFC expedition) and inside I met up with the man himself – Justin, who, being the bar manager, was more than happy to sling a few free beers my way.

It would be 4am before I got back to Neil’s.  I was thinking of doing a dawn surf, but I was a) too tired and b) far too drunk.  Although those two factors may have improved my balance – who knows?

No Hat
No Hat = Sad Graham
Hat
Hat = Happy Graham

Major, MAJOR thanks to Neil, Vic Market and, most of all, my delightful girlfriend Mandy for sorting the new hat out. Double points to Mandy considering she hates the hat and EVERYTHING IT STANDS FOR!!

I was up the next day at seven (I’ll sleep when I’m dead) and busy getting all my remaining stuff together.  I planned to get to the bus station early, but in the event, Neil and I went out for brunch and I didn’t end up leaving until 2pm.  The journey time to Surabaya (the port town on Java from where I’ll hopefully be getting the ferry to West Papua tomorrow) was twelve hours and, as I didn’t fancy turning up at two in the morning, I killed a few hours in an internet café catching up on the latest nonsense from the rest of the world.

On this very topic, I have something to say: England not getting the World Cup was gutting, fair enough (but the BBC was right to expose the corruption that goes on in Fifa) – but my outrage is focussed on the fact that QATAR is going to be hosting the games in 2022.  WHAT. THE. HELL…?

!!===WARNING! RANT APPROACHING===!!

Let me make this quite clear – Qatar is a boring little shithole in the middle of a scorching hot desert.  It’s a nasty wahhabist dictatorship where the guy in charge got there much in the manner of Kind Hearts and Coronets – BY KILLING ALL HIS RIVALS.  And it’s all well and good for Bahrain to host the Formula One GP, as the people who go to watch these races are generally well-to-do and probably own a yacht, but footy is a game that is supposed – supposed – to be the game of the working class – ie. accessible to all.  Qatar is one of the most expensive countries in the world.

And yeah, good luck with your Russian visas for 2018 – don’t forget to check in with the KGB every time you burp, fart or whistle unless you want to be deported.  But free and fair democracies aren’t good for bribery and corruption, and so I guess its fair enough that the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Tournaments will be held in ruthlessly oppressive, backwards-looking oil-rich oligarchies.

The adverts for Qatar 2022 appeared on every single ad break during the World Cup (I was in the middle east at the time) and grew ever more tedious by the second.  I must have seen the same frickin’ ad over one hundred times: and one thing that struck me was the lack of women being represented.  There are little girls running around looking happy at the lifetime of meekness and servitude that awaits them, but the only women you see have their back to the camera and have black sheets draped over their entire bodies, lest they peak my uncontrollable lust.

 

This is understandable since women don’t really like football, do they?  Best they just dress in black and stay at home, a veiled breeding machine for when you’ve had your fill of Filipino whores, eh?

Oh and don’t give me the feint praise of Qatar being a more progressive state than the others in the area.  The relationship between parasitic wasps and the caterpillars in which they lay their eggs is more progressive than Saudi Arabia SO IT’S NOT SAYING MUCH.

But that’s not what REALLY sticks in my craw.  What’s making steam shoot out of my ears is the reckless, wanton and Machiavellian disregard for the global environment.

Yeah, as per usual, it’s up yours Pale Blue Dot, we have $$$ to make.

The tournament will be held at the height of summer in a country where the thermometer often tops fifty degrees and humidity stands at 90% on a good day.  And so what are they going to do to prevent the players – and fans – keeling over from heat exhaustion?  They’re going to install air conditioning!  IN 100,000 SEATER STADIA.  IN THE DESERT.

This is Turkmenbashi levels of insanity.  Yes, he wanted to build an Ice Place in the desert in Turkmenistan, but AT LEAST HE ONLY WANTED ONE OF THEM, NOT EIGHT.

It’s a good we’ve got that Climate Change thing NIPPED IN THE BUD EH?  Isn’t that right England…? I believe you’re currently toiling under the coldest start to December since the Ice Age.  Well, I’m sure it’s a cyclical thing and the oil companies will be vindicated against what those mean nasty scientists have been politely saying since the 1960s.  Next they’ll be telling us smoking leads to cancer!  Ha!  Imagine THAT Christopher Hitchens*!  What do you have to say on the matter, Bill Hicks?  Madness, I know, Patrick Swayze.

So, thanks to Fifa, the amount of fossil fuel burnt over the four weeks of the tournament JUST KEEPING THE STADIA COOL will be more than the ENTIRE CARBON OUTPUT of the FIFTY FOUR Nations of Africa for ONE YEAR. A micro-state of less than one million inhabitants producing more pollutants in a month than one BILLION people spread out over an entire continent can muster in twelve.

Oh, and one last thing…  UNLESS YOU’RE LUDICROUSLY RICH, THERE WILL BE NO BOOZE FOR YOU!!  Ha!  Good luck with that Fifa, you stupid miserable contemptible – (and easily bribed) – morons.

Phew!  Had to get that off my chest.

So at 6pm I boarded the bus back to Java, over a month since I left.  I’ll be heading to the Pelni shipping offices in the morning – I hope they’re open on Sundays – and by Wednesday I should be in Sorong, West Papua.  I can’t get phone coverage at sea, but I’ll try to update my Twitter feed when we stop a Makassar in Sulawesi on the way.  Wish me luck!!

*After watching the Paxman interview with a resigned-to-die Christopher Hitchens this week (which almost had me in tears, by the way), the most poignant moment was when Paxman asked if Hitch had any regrets about not leading a more healthy life.  Hitch replied yes, but not for himself: for his family that he would be unjustly leaving behind years (if not decades) before his time.

 

If that doesn’t make you want to buckle up, fly straight and PACK IN THE FAGS, there really is no hope for you.  This isn’t a rehearsal you know.  This is all there is.