Day 366: That Was The Decade That Was… A Bit Crap, Actually


Welcome, friends, to our newest, shiniest decade in years. And, might I say, good riddance to the old one, the rotten turnip that it was.

The decade in which being clever was a bigger faux pas than turning up at a Jewish wedding decked out in full Nazi regalia. The decade in which people BRAGGED, yes, BRAGGED about how stupid they were – and, what’s even worse, made a skip load of money doing it. The decade in which it was deemed sensible to believe in anything as long as one other nutter on the internet agreed with you. At the first point in human history when all the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the ages are available to everyone, everywhere at the touch of a button – a great leap forward in a world where knowledge is supposed to be power – we find ourselves mired in crap from the stone age about mystical vibrations, ghosts and magic. You might find this current trend towards conspiracy theories and woo! slightly incongruous, but there it is… baffling and utterly, utterly frustrating. It makes me want to puke.

Was it the worst decade ever? Nah, nowhere near as dark as the 1910s or the 1940s, but yeah it was pretty bad. It started with a damp fart as the poor old Queen lit a torch with ‘British Gas’ emblazoned all over it and it went downhill from there. From September 11th to the Boxing Day Tsunami to the Credit Crunch, the last ten years have been several shades of awful. Russell Brand, Pete Doherty, Amy Whitehouse (amongst others) did their level best to make me want to vomit up my own legs in disgust.

Big Brother proved that all you needed to do to make a fortune was to have no discernible talent and the X-Factor showed us just how little discernible talent many people have. The decade that gave us Heat magazine, ‘showbiz’ news shoehorning itself into real current affairs programming and a manic obsession with celebrity bordering on chasing them through the park wearing night-vision goggles. The decade that allowed a bumpkin like George W. Bush run the most powerful nation on Earth (and run it into the ground!). The decade that saw our human rights curtailed because of terrorists whose M.O. is… to curtail human rights. And the decade in which we lost Douglas Adams, John Peel, Tony Wilson, Richard Harris and Arthur C. Clarke. Humph.

Musically, after a slow start (Travis and Stereophonics, urgh) we had a high in the mid-noughties with the likes of Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Futureheads, Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, We Are Scientists and Guillemots rucking up and showing the kids how to have fun. Although while it’s not illegal to tout gig tickets, the chances of your average 14-year old being able to afford to see his or her favourite band is slim to none. Thanks a lot, eBay.

Cinematically, the noughties were dreadful. Apart from a few bright shiny stars (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for one) all we had to chose from were a procession of terrible Star Wars films, painfully bad Matrix films, naff Harry Potter clones and a disgraceful number of comic-book adaptations. No Pulp Fiction, no Shawshank, no Being John Malkovich, no Fight Club… Quentin Tarantino disappointed us all with his lackluster Kill Bill movies and his utterly cack Death Proof before finishing off the decade with the meh-fest that was Inglorious Basterds. Martin Scorscese finally won an Oscar, not for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or Goodfellas, but for a mediocre adaptation of Infernal Affairs that could have been shot by Tony Scott whilst recovering from a particularly rampant hangover.

Indeed, the sheer cacophony of cack that was spewed forth by the likes of Brett ‘I’ll do it!’ Ratner, Michael ‘Boom!’ Bay and McG (his name alone makes me want to punch him) was an insult to the English-speaking world. The Coens finally fumbled the ball with Intolerable Cruelty and the desperately pointless remake of the Ladykillers (although No Country was a cracking return to form) and Harrison ‘can do no wrong’ Ford didn’t have a single quality film in ten years. And in possibly the low point in the decade, the job of adapting the first part of His Dark Materials was given to the guy who co-directed American Pie. I kid you not.

But there was a redeeming feature of the noughties (and it certainly wasn’t its moniker) – American television. Wow. Like, seriously, wow. Let me just prostrate myself on the altar of America’s golden age of the goggle box: E.R., Friends and Buffy laid the groundwork, but it was the likes of Lost, Six Feet Under, The West Wing, The Sopranos, The Wire, House, 24, Deadwood, Mad Men, Weeds, Carnivale, Heroes, Curb Your Enthusiasm, My Name Is Earl, Family Guy, Futurama, Prison Break and Battlestar Galactica that smacked the ball out of the stadium.

If you didn’t sob rivers in the closing scenes of Six Feet Under, scream at the telly as Tony Soprano blinked out of our lives, lose control of your lower jaw when the island disappeared in Lost or squirt beer out of your nose when Peter Griffin ended up sleeping with Bill Clinton you should go see a doctor – I think you might well be dead.

And yes, credit where credit is due – I personally have one thing to thank the noughties for: Ten years ago, I would have had difficulty entering the following countries: Colombia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Congo, DR Congo, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and East Timor. But although war is by no means over, many individual wars are. I can now travel though nearly every country on the planet in complete safety, although I have to admit Eritrea is giving me a bit of a headache.

I don’t think anyone is going to look back on the opening decade of the 21st century as a glorious age, from Bush stealing the presidency in Florida to our scientifically illiterate representatives stealing our futures in Copenhagen, but that is the past. Obama is now president of the US, Gordon Brown will be out on his ear come May and Big Brother has been axed. The future’s bright my friends – welcome to 2010.

After a lazy morning and a delightful lunch I wrapped up my television contract with some hilariously terrible taglines (I had real trouble saying them with a straight face) outside Cairo coach station. Mand and I said our goodbyes to Matt the cameraman and soon we were on our way to Hurghada. In typically Egyptian fashion, they handed out food on the coach (as they do on many coaches from DR Congo to El Salvador) but unlike every other coach I have ever taken, failed to inform us that we would have to pay for the food once we arrived at our destination. Ha!

It was a bit late to visit Lorna when we got to Hurghada, so we elected to check into our hotel (urgh, I hate hotels, but they sometimes have their uses), grab a bite to eat and settle down for an early night. The weird thing was that it really didn’t feel like a year since I last saw the Mandster – it felt as if I saw her last week. Last year did not fly by for me by any means, but I guess it was such a surreal experience that my brain has decided it was all a fanciful dream and twisted my temporal perception accordingly. I don’t want to have another year of this though, I better get this nonsense finished quick smart – but first I’m going to have a week off. Odyssey Two starts Sunday January 10th 2010.

Day 367: Brookes Was Here


To say that our hotel in Hurghada was a bit lousy would probably do insult to lousy hotels. My general dislike for large-scale tourist hotels was not helped by the unhelpful staff, the twin room we were lumbered with or the remarkably bad breakfasts they doled out, much in the manner of an African prison… and I should know! But we made the most of it, fighting our way through the throng of German and Russian holiday makers and out into the bright light of Hurghada.

I was in Hurghada about ten years ago, and I found it a dusty, unfinished mess of litter and concrete and I’m sorry to say nothing has changed. One of the first Red Sea holiday destinations, insensitive planning and an unbridled frenzy of concrete tat means that of all Egypts cities, it is possibly the most unattractive. Plus it’s got no groovy pyramids, temples, obelisks or statues to check out. If you like your Scuba diving, then it’s a haven, but otherwise it’s a great place to haul up in your hotel room, build a little fort and watch 24 on your laptop.

The reason we’re here is because that most marvellous lady, Lorna Brookes, is holidaying here a little down the coast. Aside from wishing to thank her for all her help this year (many of my shipping jaunts would have been impossible without her persistence) she also had a bunch of stuff from the UK that I would need to continue on this stupid mission – a new leather jacket (thanks Mum!) to replace the one the police stole off me in Cape Verde, a shiny new Lonely Planet for the Middle East and a brand new stock of Doxycycline pills to ward off any malarious plagues of mozzies.

So we grabbed a taxi and headed up to Lorna’s resort. Blimey – it was like Fort Knox. We were told to wait at the gate for a car to come and pick us up and once in reception they did their best to get us to leave as soon as possible. I can see why – it was an all-expenses-paid type of place with a private beach and free drinks. They wouldn’t want riff-raff like the Hughes/Newland duo turning up and cadging a bunch of whiskeys without permission. Luckily for us, Lorna was there to turn a threat into an opportunity (something she is marvellously equipped to do. She explained to the staff the nature of my quest, they had words with the manager and before long we were given free passes to indulge in a spot of lunch and enjoy a couple of drinks on the house.

Yey for Lorna!

The hotel complex was actually quite attractive – they had done their best to ape the Arabian-Nights style of architecture in a way that, while not authentic, wasn’t particularly offensive either. Lorna was staying with a mate of hers from London, Shelly, who was a hoot, and we took turns babysitting Lorna’s baby daughter Matilda, who had a habit of zooming off in any direction she was facing, much in the manner of a turbo-charged Big Trax.

We spent the afternoon chilling out on the beach and taking full advantage of the free booze. That evening Mand and I chucked some Egyptian pounds at the staff so we could stay for din-dins and after musing over just how far we have come we scuttled back to our dowdy hotel (after a few more drinks in the Peanuts Bar) and, for the first time in this whole daffy adventure, I felt as if I was on holiday.

Days 368-371: The Whirling Dervishes


So Mand and I had a few days kicking around Hurghada. Our hotel had been pre-booked up until the Tuesday night, so we thought we might as well make the most of it. We didn’t do much (there ain’t much to do!) but we managed to keep ourselves occupied. God it’s nice to be back in the arms of the one I love.

I don’t want to get too mushy about all this, but I seriously appreciate just how bloody marvellous Mandy has been all year putting up with all of this. It’s one thing disappearing off into the wild blue yonder for twelve months, but when you leave behind the one you love, it really makes the whole thing that much more of an ordeal – for both of us. When I was locked up in Cape Verde and the Congo, it wasn’t what I was going through that really hacked me off, it was that I knew Mandy would be thousands of miles away worrying her pants off.

Having just one week together seemed unfair, a trick of some capricious god teasing us with what could have been. If all had gone according to plan, I’d be home in Australia by now, putting my feet up and stuffing my face with Anzac biscuits and Arnott’s Pizza Shapes. If I had more money (or if I had played my cards right last year), Mandy could be travelling with me. But as it is, I’m skint, Mand has to work every hour god sends to pay her rent and after this week, I won’t be seeing her for a very long time – hopefully not a year though, that would be too much to do again. Fortune and glory, eh?! At least Indy could afford to have Marion tag along.

On the Tuesday, we bought coach tickets to get back to Cairo the following morning and our last evening in Hurghada was spent nattering to a girl named Rosa in the Peanuts Bar. Wednesday, bright and early, we were bussing our way back to Cairo, Mand seriously not appreciating my lethargic attitude toward bus timetables. I didn’t miss a single connection for the entire year of 2009 and I wasn’t excessively fussed about getting up mega-early just to hang around for half an hour in a bus station that looked as though it had only been half-built by half-blind lunatics before a bomb hit it.

But by the time we arrived in Cairo, we were friends again and we checked back into the wonderfully friendly Sara Inn, the place we had spent New Year after we returned from the Pyramids. After checking in, we were torn between seeing the Sufi Dancing show or going to see Sherlock Holmes. There was a French lady called Dominique who overheard our conversation and told us that she wanted to go and see the Sufi show too.

Sufi Dancing is better known as the Whirling Dervishes in the West, it’s a form of dance which involves a bunch of guys hammering the hell out of various musical instruments, getting faster and faster and more frantic every minute as your dancer spins himself around and around, multi-coloured robes flowing until he looks like a spinning top. Sufi has its roots in Islamic (or rather Arab) mysticism – so it’s kinda like what Kabbalah is to Judaism (only less of a fad for drug-addled celebrity goons). It was invented as a way of communing with god, and is therefore frowned upon in certain Arabic countries, but not in Egypt where the show is put on a few times a week for free by the government. We ended up going to see the Sufi dancing with Dominique. Sherlock would have to wait.

Dominique was hilarious. It was if she had dropped in from another planet, had only 24 hours to learn everything about the world but had unfortunately landed in the middle of a bunch of extremely stoned hippies talking what can only be described as the biggest load of crap since Otto the Giant dropped his trousers and single-arsedly suffocated an entire Welsh village.

From guardian angels to memory crystals in water to the world ending in 2012, there wasn’t a scrap of an urban legend that this woman didn’t believe and believe whole-heartedly. She had done her stint in an Indian ashram, thought astrology was more accurate than an atomic clock and could no doubt find water on the moon with a couple of metal sticks. It was kind of a shame that I didn’t have more time with her – I would have bought some tat from a junk shop, stuck it together with sellotape, made up some nonsense about laylines and reiki and pocketed five hundred quid for my troubles. There’s one born every minute, I guess…

The Sufi dancing was held at a venue near Cairo’s biggest market, so Mand and I went for a mooch before the performance. Night-time was a good time to go – the touts and hasslers were exhausted from spending the day annoying the pants off everybody who had the misfortune to walk past, so we had the run of the market at our own pace and in our own time. We found a wonderful little shop that sold hand-bound notebooks – no hard-sell, no perfume/carpet/cuppa tea – the books even had price stickers, so we didn’t even have to play the massively un-entertaining game in which you’re quoted 500 Egyptian Pounds, you get it for 100 pounds after a ton of haggling and then you go to another shop and they tell you that whatever it is, is worth 10 pounds. Fun!

We bought a journal for Dino (he should write in the entry for 1st January “Graham & Mandy meet at 00:06 at KFC by the Pyramids, thanks to me”) and then scooted off to watch the Sufi show, which I’ve got to admit was pretty damn awesome. How these guys don’t wobble off the stage like a drunken badger I’ll never know. Afterwards, Dominique, Mand and I went for a coffee in a sheesha bar – the owner trying to dupe us for a ton of cash. After an hour-and-a-half of quality entertainment for gratis, it just reminded me how frustrating my second-favourite country in the world can be – if you don’t keep your wits about you at all time, you’ll soon lose your shirt.

Day 372: It Belongs In A Museum


Thursday started with a very early morning trip to the Sudanese Embassy – I missed out Sudan and Eritrea on the way up here, so Sudan was next on my list (Eritrea will have to wait, all of its land borders are currently closed). There, I was told to come back at 10, which I did (Mandy slept in, the lazy bugger) only to find they meant the 10th of January. It was closed until Sunday. A bit annoying, but no big deal – so long as I could get a visa on Sunday – Sudanese visas can take up to six weeks in Ethiopia.

So I roused the Mandster and we headed over to the greatest/worst museum in the world – the Egyptian museum in Cairo.

It’s the greatest because it’s stuffed to the gills with more Egypticana than you could ever want. It’s the worst because, oh my god, the place is a TIP. You know the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark? That’s the Egyptian museum, except the crates are open. Stuff lays about higgledy-piggledy, jumping from one dynasty to another with reckless abandon, the labels (if you’re luck enough to find one) are the same ones that were typed out 107 years ago on a typewriter when the museum first opened. Many of the artefacts haven’t moved in all that time – this museum belongs in a museum.

Hilariously, the most important artefact in the whole damn warehouse is unlabelled and if you didn’t know where to look you’d miss it – it’s in glass box number 16 and it’s looks like a small shield. On one side is Narmer, the first Pharaoh (discounting the Scorpion King, no, really, he existed) wearing the crown of Upper (Southern) Egypt and on the other side it’s Narmer again, this time wearing the crown of Lower (Northern) Egypt. It’s possibly the oldest thing in this most antique of lands – you’d think they’d make a bit more of a fanfare about it.

Not so funny was the Tutankhamen room. I get a bit ratty with how people refer to King Tut as an ‘insignificant’ king – he deserves a bit more respect than that, after all, he did bring the country back from the brink of civil war following his nutty predecessor’s pronouncement that there was only one god (fancy that!).

You know that between King Tut and Ramses II (he of Abu Simbel and plagues-of-Egypt fame) there was only about 150 years? Long enough for a cult faithful to this one-god malarkey to emerge? Long enough for it to start causing trouble and be banished into the east? Hmm…

The mind boggles.

Anyway, whether or not you fancy debating the significance of Tut as a Pharaoh, there is NO debating the HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! that is his funerary treasure. The most priceless heap of riches in the goddamn world. And the state of the room they are kept in? Dear god. Not only is the bright bleaching sunlight allowed to flop itself all over the place like an uninvited fatty, the windows out to Cairo, that most sprawling and polluted of cities, are wide open. The dust in the corners of the room sits an inch thick and the walls, which I suppose were at one time white, now resemble the colour of crème brûlée.

No climate control, no double-glazed bullet-proof glass, no attempt to stop people taking piccies with a flash (except a guard who sits idly by muttering ‘no photo’ every time one goes off). And they want the Rosetta Stone back? Are they nuts? They’d probably dump it in a bin in the darkened corner of the basement. Madness.

I once asked my brother Mike why he had never visited Egypt, interested as he is in history of the place. His reason? He had seen a programme years ago in which an Egyptian woman was attempting to ‘restore’ an ancient artefact. A small crack became a bigger crack, which became an even bigger crack and before the ordeal was over, she had pretty much destroyed the damn thing. It would have been better off had she not even bothered picking it up. I can see his point – some of the ‘restored’ pieces here are just appalling – a broken statue is better off being held together with wirework than with cement which shifts and cracks. The grubby hands of countless generations of tourists have left their mark on nearly everything that is not kept behind glass – is velvet rope selling at a premium these days?

Luckily, a new museum is being built as we speak – it’s scheduled to open in the far-flung year of 2009. Oh, hang on…

This would be Mandy’s and my last night together for another good few months, so we thought we’d spend it doing what we both like doing best – going to the cinema. With me being a Sherlock Holmes nut (well, actually just a nut, period) and the Sufi dancing taking up our previous night’s shenanigan-ing, we decided to take in the new Sherlock Holmes movie. It was bloody marvellous. If you’ve read the books you’ll know that Holmes is more Dr. House than Basil Rathbone and his brain is just one of his many facets, the others being his interest in amateur boxing, his addiction to cocaine and his love of chemical experimentation.

Watson is finally elevated from the bumbling assistant for-the-sake-of-exposition to his rightful role as Sundance to Holmes’ Butch. And although I detest Jude Law (who has an annoying habit of cropping up in films I actually quite like) the whole thing was a delight from beginning to end – especially for any old farts (such as I) who can remember watching Young Sherlock Holmes at the cinema as a child.

Only, yeah, this is Egypt, so we had a big scrum getting into the cinema (even though the seats were allocated) and people talked loudly and answered their mobiles all through the film. And the sound was awful – THX this was not – making a mockery of a stack of anti-piracy campaigns. Afterwards, we took a midnight stroll back to our hotel, Cairo being the safe-as-houses city that it is… you know, Mandy and I have been together since 2002, you would think that she would have got used to my extraordinarily good sense of direction by now, but when our hotel came into focus she was still bamboozled. Have faith, my dear, I did make it all the way from Uruguay to Egypt by myself.

Day 373: Goodbyeee


It was a restless night – I had to upload the last of my 2009 tapes to my computer so Mand could drop them off in Lonely Planet HQ next week. Uploading tapes to my computer is not a fun job – it means setting your alarm every hour to get up and change the tape. Mandy slept through it all, but when the 6am snooze went off, it was time to get up-up – I wanted to finally get inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

I’ve been to the Giza Pyramids a bunch of times – but as only 150 people per morning are allowed in the big one, I’ve never made it inside. But this time would be different. If we left now, we could make it for 7am, be first in the queue for Pyramid tickets and Bob’s-Your-Uncle, Fanny’s-Your-Aunt and Who-Killed-Cousin-Monty?

I woke Mandy up, but she just went back to sleep. Sod it – the pyramids aren’t going anywhere. I’ll spend our last morning together in bed with the woman I love. Mand would be hopping the 19:15 plane home later today. Well the day went far too fast, we filmed some stuff for the new YouTube videos and grabbed a bite to eat, nothing too heavy, but by half-four it was time to get in the taxi and head off to the airport.

Cairo airport doesn’t let you into the check-in desks before you go through security, so we sat outside until the queue died down and then said our goodbyes. Would it have been better not to have seen Mandy until I finished this whole trip? No – I don’t think so, this was shore leave, a chance to live a few normal days before I clamber back on Rocinante and continue this impossible quest. It was a chance to re-fuel the batteries, take stock of just how far I’ve come and gaze fervently at how far I have still to go. A chance for me to see, if only for a few short days, what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for the difficulties of traversing The Caribbean and Africa cropping up and ruining all my grand plans.

I miss her already and it’s only been an hour since I kissed her goodbye. There’s an added vibrancy to our relationship that comes from the many partings and reunions that are the natural consequence of a long-distance relationship such as ours. That vibrancy comes from one salient fact – although we often live apart, we are never that far away. Mobile phones, the Internet and Skype have seen to that.

I returned to the Sara Hotel, watched an episode of 24 and fell asleep. So long, Amanda my love. I’ll go to the pyramids in the morning.

Day 724: Mandy’s Pressie from PNG

Xmas Day 2010:

After a couple of hours kip I was up an’ at ’em, ready to TAKE ON THE WORLD!!! My only problem was that I had spend the few remaining dollars I had on beer last night (you WOULD NOT BELIEVE how expensive Australia has suddenly just become: we’re talking a UK fiver for HALF a pint… seriously!!).

I scraped together what I had and hoped it would be enough for a taxi to the airport. I would be taking the 11.30am flight from Cairns to Melbourne. I didn’t quite have enough to pay the full fare, but my lovely taxi driver (from my fav Indian state of Kerala) let me off a couple of dollars – hell, it was Christmas day and I did spend the entire journey telling him how cool I thought his hometown was!

So in the airport I changed my left over PNG dollars (which I was planning to keep for when I went back, but when readies are short…) into Aussie dollars.  They’re both made of that weird plasticy material.  So are the new Bangladesh Taka, incidentally.  I’m a luddite when it comes to money – I like the paper stuff, it feels more real.  Although to have a paper note worth less than a fiver is just bloomin’ stupid.  As such, some of the money I’ve collected on my travels is breathtakingly filthy.

With my ill-gotten gains I bought a copy of Australian Empire Magazine (half the size and twice the price) and while I waited for the boarding queue to die down I indulged my baser instincts with a real Christmas treat – a Burger King Whopper Meal.

Yum yum!

Happy to have a window seat, and even happier that nobody sat next to me (three seats just for my fat ass! Yey!) the plane journey passed in a sleepy haze – a haze in which the contrast levels of my life had just been turned up a notch.  Or maybe that was the bright midsummer sunshine streaming through the window.

The plane touched down in Melbourne at 4pm.  While the other passengers were fannying about waiting for their luggage, I went outside and bought a bus ticket to the city centre.  I then went to the carousel, picked up my backpack, laughed at the massive queue which had just formed for bus tickets and jumped on the waiting bus which promptly departed leaving my fellow travellers behind.  Experience baby, that’s what I’m talking about YEAH!!

The bus slid into Spencer Street Station in just twenty minutes (take THAT, Heathrow!) and there was a little bit of a worry caused by the fact that Mandy was not in Melbourne today, but in her home town of Ballarat, a 112 kilometres to the north-west.  Would I have the money to get the train, or would I have to hitch-hike.

As if to prove that, if not Poseidon, then at least Santa was fighting my corner, I was told by a wonderfully cheery Aussie lady that all the trains across the state of Victoria were free today (it being Christmas an’ all).


Australia, you ROCK!!

So I boarded the 5pm train to Ballarat: with any luck I’d be back in Mandy’s loving arms before 7.

The Train To Ballarat
The Train To Ballarat

I arrived at the lovely old station of Ballarat at 6.30pm.  Brilliantly enough, Mandy and her sister Tam had spent the afternoon at their auntie’s place, and I arrived JUST AS they were jumping in their separate cars and heading back to their mum’s.  So Tam, her husband Ian and their three month old son William came to pick me up from the station: shh… not a word to Mandy…

It was great to see them again and to meet little William, the newest edition to our clan.  Mandy drove back to her mum’s in her own car and didn’t suspect a thing.  Around the corner from the house, I got Tam to stop the car and she and Ian to bundle me into the boot (the trunk) and covered me in towels and blankets: all wrapped up for the surprise.

When Tam arrived at her mum’s place, she went to get Mandy.  “Your Christmas present has arrived from PNG” she told her.  Mandy wasn’t interested – she was too busy trying to get me on Skype(!)  Tam practically had to drag her out to the car.  And then…


Days 725-762: What’s Happening, G…?


Well, I was hoping to be back on the road by now, but as anyone who’s been watching the news in the last couple of weeks will tell you, this is not the best time to be mooching around the South Pacific IN A BOAT. Monster storms like Cyclone Yasi here would make short work of an aircraft carrier, never mind a Sloop John B.

So I’ve been spending my time wisely, I’ve been working on the book of my adventures, I’ve got myself an agent (finally!!) and a manager (finally finally!!). I’ve been in contact with fellow adventurers Tim Cope and Steve Crombie (who, interestingly enough, is one day older than me… must have been some solar activity around that time) and they’re really helped me out with getting my s— together.

I’ve had a couple of meeting with Lonely Planet and yes series two of Graham’s World will be made (one way or another). If it all goes completely pear-shaped I’ll edit the damn thing myself and stick it on YouTube for you all to watch for free.

The final 16 has become the final 17 as we welcome a cheeky bit of South Sudan into the League of Sovereign States. Good job, Juba!! I hear the vote was 99.57% for the split with the mad, corrupt, authoritarian north. If you think about it, it’ll make a much more satisfying ending to all this Odyssey madness, don’t you think? Also means I get to ‘do’ northern Kenya AGAIN! Back on top o’ that truck! Huzzah!

It’s been great to catch up with my friends and family here in Australia, which is (I guess) my second home. I been able to have as many baths as I like, stuff my face with Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with the ice-cold semi-skimmed milk dribbling down my chin, consume my bodyweight in Anzac Biscuits and Arnott’s Shapes and sleep in a proper bed for more than a few days at a time.

It had a great opportunity to do some tedious (but necessary) improvements to the website, such as getting the blogs in chronological order, correcting the dates and adding pictures and music into the mix.  Woo!!

But, best of all, I’ve been able to reforge the tight bond between me and my girlfriend Mandy. Not many relationships could weather the storm of being separated for so long, but what we’ve got here is special. Damn special. And not special like a special bus going to a special school neither.

Me and the Mandster
Me and the Mandster, Boxing Day 2010

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who took me in or bought me a pint over the course of 2010, keep in touch and I’m sure I’ll see you again before long.

At the moment I’m beavering away on a kick-ass Chapter One of my book in order to secure an advance, which I can then spend finishing this crazy journey (I did mention I was skint didn’t I?). I’m not looking for megabucks!!

From October 2009 to today, I’ve been to over 60 countries – from Madagascar to Australia via Kyrgyzstan – and spent just £7,241. That’s it – about 450 quid a month, and most of that went on visas. If you knocked Libya, Saudi and Central Asia out of the equation, the costs would have been a lot less.

Just to put that into context, a train season ticket for 16 months worth of travel from Peterborough to London (that’s just 77 miles BTW) would set you back a whopping £8,309.

I know what I’d rather spend my money on…! 😉

Keep on Truckin’