Day M6: As I Went Down In The River To Lae

03.10.11: In the morning Mums Singin was good enough to pick me up from Katherine’s flat for a quick tour of the museum that she curated before I left for Lae. I said my goodbyes to Katherine, awesome CouchSurf host that she was, and promised that I’d be back here one day – a promise I fully intend to honour. The Madang Museum was a quaint little affair with some awesome cultural artefacts housed within. Damn these PNG guys can carve some awesome stuff. Mums gave me a guided tour and (unlike your average tourist) I was allowed to take photos and film as we went around.  Hence: After the museum, Mums gave me a lift to the bus ‘station’ (a piece of wasteland opposite the main market) and I boarded a PMV to Lae – the city from whence I intend on hitching a ride…

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Day 425: Passing My Sell-By Date

01.03.10: You know those moments when you realise you’ve made a MASSIVE mistake and your stomach drops away? Like when you text someone that the text message was about, or you find you missed two pages of the exam as they were stuck together, or discover that she’s actually a ladyboy? I had one of those moments yesterday. When I was stamped into Libya, I flicked excitedly through my passport only to discover the awful truth – my visa for Algeria expired that day, 28th February, yesterday. I have never had a visa where the validity period lasted less than a month before – this one lasted just two and a half weeks. It never even occurred to me to look. I slapped my forehead like a Keystone Cop and muttered that this was another fine mess I’ve got me into. WHY DIDN’T I GO TO…

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Day 424: Gaddafi’s Sandbox Adventure

28.02.10: Rising at 6am to crack on to the border, it is with tremendous chagrin that I must report the minibus to Ben Guerdane did not leave until just after 8am. But to cheer me up on the way to the ‘Gare Routiere’, a gentlemen who was setting up his market stall at the side of the road came running over to me saying that he knew me. This is a typical ploy in this part of the world (especially Egypt), but no, he did actually recognise me – “you’re the guy who’s been to 142 countries!” he said as he shook my hand. But, er, how….? “You were on television yesterday, on the news, I saw you!” The interview I did for the French news agency last Monday must have got around. Well, that put a spring in my step. I sat waiting for the…

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Day 396: The Slow Boat to Cyprus

31.01.10: It was one of those mornings upon which it's far too cold, gravity seems to conspire against you and the snooze alarm makes it far, far too tempting... all too easy... to fall... back zzzzzzzzzzzz. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEP BEEP BE BEEP!! Groan. Okay okay! I'm getting up! After a decent shower, I headed out to get the daily fast ferry to Cyprus, Nation 142 on my list. Suddenly stuck by a crisis of confidence – the boat didn't leave from Silifke itself, it left from the nearby town of Tasucu. How nearby? Well, I had absolutely no idea, did I? So instead of doing the sensible thing and taking the bus, I did the stupid thing and took a taxi. In the event, it was only ten minutes down the road, but in my not-quite-wiped-the-sleep-from-my-eyes state, I forgot to remember the golden rule: all…

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Day 395: The Silopi Slope

30.01.10: I had checked in to a local hotel in Silopi, sharing a room with a few other guys to get the price down to $10 (which was pretty extortionate if I stopped to think about it). I worried that I had mucked up the time difference between Iraq and Turkey and would find that my bus to Silifke had left half an hour ago, but that didn't entice me to rush and I squeezed every last bit of sleep out of the situation that Chronos would allow. The bus station was just across the road. I wanted a seat on the 8pm bus to Silifke, the town from which I could get the boat to Cyprus and therefore tick off that last remaining country on my list of European Nations. However, the bus was sold out and so I found myself hanging around for a…

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Day 391: The Invasion of Iraq

26.01.10: I blame Lonely Planet. The nearest town to the border of Iraq according to my guide book is a place called Sirnak, the real closest town is called Silopi. If I had known this in advance, I could have got off my bus in Silopi instead of foolishly staying on it until Sirnak. This meant I had to backtrack somewhat. Yesterday when I asked for a ticket to Sirnak, a Turkish man said to me “why do you want to go there? It's very dangerous... [gestures firing a machine gun] Best you go to Cappadocia.” Cappadocia's fairy-chimney charms aside, this remark annoyed me more than scared me – it's no secret that the Turks aren't particularly enamoured with the Kurdish people that live in the border regions of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Irritating buggers who have their own fancy language and customs – how dare…

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Day 381: You Can’t Be Siwa-ous

16.01.10: This time last year, I had visited every country in South America. This year, I've been to one new country, Sudan. Pathetic! Well, I was soon to make amends... within a few hours, I would hopefully be hot-footing it into Libya and I'd be able to tick country number 135 off my list. I arrived in Siwa at about 6am and headed straight over to the Yousef hostel to meet Mana, the guy that the guys in Aswan put me onto. He offered me a room so that I could get a couple of hours shut-eye, and after my less-than-marvellous night's sleep on the coach over here, I was all too happy to say yes. It wasn't until after I had got up and had a shower that he told me that the room was gratis. What a legend! I tried to give him ten…

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Day 356: The Special Bus

22.12.09: Groan. T.I.A. strikes again! The bus we're on is equipped to ferry disabled schoolchildren around in Japan. It is not in any way shape or form designed to survive the horror that is an African highway. With a ground clearance of (let's say) two inches, we bumped, scraped and scratched our way along the road at a respectable five kilometres an hour, dripping oil, water and brake fluid, busting our exhaust, losing fair chunks of metal as we plodded along. We were supposed to get to the border at around 7pm that night. But by 9am we were still at least 24 hours away and going nowhere fast. After losing a couple of hours while the oil leak was plugged (with bubblegum no doubt) we were told that it would take us two hours to get to the next town. It took eight. You see…

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Day 317: The Fake Southern Cross

13.11.09: Another night of sleeping on a Madagascan minibus wasn't what I was really after when I came here. I feel like a tool now for not staying on the DAL Madagascar. I would have been in Mayotte, one of the Comoros islands, by now. But hey-ho, now I know. The good thing about Madagascan minibuses is that they always put the tourist on the front passenger seat, so you always get a good view and (more importantly) a safety belt. The bad thing is that there is no escape from the driver's DREADFUL (and LOUD!) taste in music. Being a fully paid-up member of the Music Nazi's Guild, I don't take kindly to being kept up all night by what I can only describe as Rod, Jane and Freddy featuring Alvin and The Chipmunks singing Timmy Mallet's Greatest Hits in Malagasy. Then play it FULL…

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Day 314: A Rose By Any Other Name

10.11.09: My word, I've awoken in Australia! How'd THAT happen? Oh hang on, no - it's just Madagascar doing a damn fine impression of my crimson-tinctured second home. So today, the entire day was spent on the road heading towards Diego Suarez. Diego's real name is Antsiranana, following in the Madagascan tradition of using as many vowels as humanly possible. The government changed the name thirty-four years ago because they wanted something that sounded more Malagasy, but it hasn't stuck. Everyone – and I mean everyone – still calls it Diego. Hell, it's a good name and who am I to argue with a bon mot? A lesson, one would imagine, for the likes of Bombay, who foolishly changed it's name to Mumbai fifteen years ago. I find the whole concept of changing the names of places fascinating and bewildering, I mean, why bother? In the…

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