Record Breakers United!

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of meeting the legend that is Mr. Kashi Samaddar – the current Guinness World Record™ holder for visiting every country of planet Earth in the least amount of time.

Top bloke!!

What makes Kashi’s record even more impressive is that he did it all on an Indian passport – meaning that for some countries he would be faced with the nightmare of having his visa rejected for some lame reason and then having to wait SIX MONTHS before being allowed to even apply for a visa again!

Kashi treated me to an amazing seafood feast at the Far East Restaurant in Dubai and we chatted for a good few hours about our various adventures… you think I’m mad – he’s gone places where angels would fear to tread.

I asked him the questions I always get asked – favourite place (he couldn’t choose), motivation (to encourage world tourism) and how he got to North Korea (flight from Beijing). How did he feel about the possibility of me breaking his record? He was full of praise and encouragement, which was wonderful. I’ve no doubt that if I set this record the person who ultimately breaks it will have read my blogs and sussed out where I went wrong and all power to them!!

It was great to be able to talk to someone who has shared many of the experiences, the dizzying highs and the crushing lows of attempting to do something like this. He understood my drive, my motivation, my single (some might say bloody) minded desire to see this thing through to the bitter end, wherever that may be.

Kashi, like me, has seen something through all his trials and tribulations that not many people see nor understand – the world is an amazing place filled with amazing people. We do not get told this enough. Our governments and the media grow fat on the power of nightmares. Don’t let them make you live in fear, let go of that paranoia and the fear of otherness – we’re all in this together peeps – for better or worse this planet is ours and it’s the only home we will ever know.

It took Kashi six and a half years to visit every country. I’ve already got the Guinness World Record for visiting the most countries in one year without flying, if I finish the final 42 countries this year I will not only pick up the Guinness World Record for visiting every country in the world without flying – but I’ll take Mr. Samaddar’s title of fastest travel to every county in the world using any form of transport – yeah, I’ll have done it faster than people who have flown!!

I might even be able to snag the record for most countries visited in one continuous unbroken journey…!

Four Guinness World Records for the price of one? Nice! But this is no time to become complacent. When I hit the final forty you’ll see just how far I still have to go. My huge thanks to Mr. Samaddar – hats off to you, sir – you’re an inspiration to us all.

Graham Hughes

DUBAI, UAE (158 of 200)

Days 887-932: A Heavy Wait

06.06.11-21.07.11:

 

“What’s going on with this boat, Graham?”  I must have heard that question over a hundred times in the last few months.  Before today I was unable to give a clear and concise answer – the situation was completely out of my hands.  Delays enforced by paperwork and red-tape meant that every time I thought I had a real, tangible “I’ll be leaving by date x” to tell people, I’d end up looking no end of a fool by still being here in Melbourne watching that very date whoosh by.

 

Of course, my first preference – to spend the bulk of 2011 by hopping from one Pacific Island to another, living off fish and coconut milk and entertaining you all with my tales of leaky canoes and rusty banana boats facing down tempests that would make The Perfect Storm look like a drizzly afternoon in Wales – would require more funds than I currently have access to… and it’s not like I’m going to get an advance for the second series of Graham’s World any time soon.

 

I could, if being honest, have made more of an effort to find a sea-faring philanthropist who was sitting on his or her yacht moored on the east coast of Australia just waiting for his or her next big adventure.  But instead I chose to put all my chips on black – to focus my intentions on the one best offer I’ve had – a catamaran that will take me back to Wewak in Papua New Guinea and then on to each and every country in Oceania.  

 

A boat that would be provided for three months, a 17,500km journey, free of charge, with one of the most knowledgeable catamaran captains in the Southern Hemisphere at the helm.  I would be joined on this voyage by an independent camerawoman who works for National Geographic, a guy who works for a TV network in The States and Steve Crombie, the presenter of Nat Geo Adventure’s ‘Natural Born Traveller’ and the ‘Lost on…’ series.

 

A boat that sounded too good to be true.

 

But that also sounded too good to miss.  This could well be my only way of completing this journey – a journey I started over 30 months ago.  So I chose to wait until I received a definite YES or NO before I put in motion Plan F.

 

Today, after waiting by the phone for the past 200 days, I finally got a final, concrete, be-all-and-end-all answer…

 

And the answer is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO.

 

Now I could give up at this point.  I could chuck in my chips and bugger off home, go to sleep and pray to wake in some better time.  But that would be letting you down, it would be letting me down.  And if the past two and a half years have proven anything, I hope it’s that I ain’t a quitter.

 

So next week I’ll be heading up to Sydney to go on national television to put out a plea to find a yacht captain willing to answer the call of adventure.  I mean, if a mad German cannibal can find somebody on the internet who actually wants to be eaten, surely I can find somebody who wants to go on a swash-buckling record-breaking voyage around the Pacific Ocean.

 

MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY.
SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD,
LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS,
CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL.
HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.

 

 – advert (supposedly) placed by Shackleton before one of his expeditions.

 

 

AUSSIE SKIPPER REQ’D: FOR HIGH ADVENTURE

THE ODYSSEY EXPEDITION

Hi, my name is Graham Hughes. I’m a British adventurer, TV presenter and a Guinness World Record holder.  You can read more about me on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Hughes

I’m currently in the midst of a rather epic challenge – one that I hope you might be interested in joining me in: I’m trying to step foot in every country in the world, and attempting to do so without flying.  I’m doing this to raise funds and awareness for the international charity WaterAid.

I work with Lonely PlanetNational Geographic and BBC Worldwide. The first series of my self-filmed TV show, Graham’s World, is currently showing on the Nat Geo Adventure channel (Foxtel) and I was the star guest on Channel Nine’s Today Show last Saturday.  You can watch the interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeaR_RW7Zu4

Over the last two years, I’ve managed to visit an incredible 184 countries around the world, from Uruguay to Iceland, South Africa to Turkmenistan; on my own, on a shoestring and without flying.  With only 17 more countries to visit, I’m now setting my sights on the Pacific Ocean nations of Oceania.

BUSINESS IN GREAT WATERS

I’m looking for somebody – it could be you, a friend, a colleague or your mum – who owns their own sailing ship and is looking for an epic adventure on the high seas.  While I’m happy to pay for food, drink and fuel, but this would not be a commercial enterprise – I’m seeking somebody who wants to do this for fun, a bit of fame, to raise money for the charity WaterAid… and claim their very own Guinness World Record: THE FASTEST SEA JOURNEY TO EVERY COUNTRY IN OCEANIA.

From Australia, one amazing journey will take us to Papua New Guinea, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand… and back to Australia.

FORTUNE AND GLORY

Of course, this would be no small undertaking.  We are talking here of a journey of over 10,000 nautical miles.  It won’t be easy, but then Guinness World Records never are!

I travel solo, I don’t have a film crew or any bulky equipment.  I have extensive sailing experience on the open sea, having been first mate on international voyages in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.  I’m aware that for many boat owners, their vessel is their home and I’m more than happy to meet any prospective skippers in person before they reach a decision.

I’m not looking for anything fancy, fast, luxurious or even particularly comfortable, the only requirements I’ve got are that the ship be sea-worthy, insured and fitted with an international distress beacon in case of emergency.

I’m also open to the possibility of doing a smaller leg of the journey, sayAustraliato PNG to Palau and back. (Although they’d be no world record for you in that!)

I’m ready to leave as soon as possible from anywhere in Australia.  Would YOU be interested in stepping up to the mantle?  Prove to your family and friends that your boat is more than an expensive toy: show them that it’s an expression of freedom and adventure, feel the call of the ocean, leave all you troubles behind and join me on the voyage of a lifetime… fortune and glory await!

I anxiously await your call.

Graham Hughes
Sydney, Australia
10 Aug 2011

Days 985-987: Saddle Up, People!

12.09.11-14.09.11:

The time for procrastination is over. Much of this year has been spent – some might say wasted – holding out hope for a yachtie to invite me onboard his vessel and whisk me away into the wild blue yonder for nothing more than the price of a few beers and a barrel of diesel. After being held on tenterhooks for 8 months (repeatedly being told that the yacht in question would be ready to go ‘in a few days’) I gave up that pipedream. I guess the old adage is a good today as it’s always been: if something sounds too good to be true…

So I cast my net out wider, appearing on TV here in Australia and on countless radio shows, always throwing in the ‘anyone up for an adventure?’ line (while trying not to sound too desperate, of course). I got a few backpackers wanting to join me, and a couple of delightful offers of dinner(!), but no red-blooded mariners quietly waiting on their sailboat willing to take a ginger landlubber like me for a high adventure on the high seas.

But now it’s too late: even if I found a willing skipper and a boat called “Unsinkable II” today, cyclone season kicks off in November and good luck getting insurance to be bobbing up and down on the silver seas when that happens. No… I’ve got to come up with another way of getting around the Pacific, in other words: I have to revert to Plan A. Cargo ships.

“Why didn’t you just do that in the first place YOU IDIOT?” I hear you cry. Well, given the choice between visiting all the Pacific Islands in a few months at no great cost or visiting them over the course of six months at great cost, it was always going to be the former.  Plus, look… I’ve been living with my girlfriend here in Melbourne and there aren’t too many relationships that could survive not seeing each other for two years – I’m not making excuses, I just wanted to take the path of least resistance, especially if that meant I could hang out here a while longer.

But now the time has come to GET REAL: the only way I’m going to get this journey finished is on board freighter ships, and one way or another I’ve GOT to get back on the horse.

The ticking clock never stopped. It’s not just my own personal drive to get this thing finished, it’s practicalities like my Aussie visa runs out on Sept 22, so I’ve got to make like a tree and get out of here. So, not being one to stand on ceremony, I’m heading back to Papua New Guinea next week. I’ll have to head over to Wewak and then make my way to Lae and then try my best to get on one of the ships that goes to The Solomon Island and beyond: either to Fiji, New Zealand or Australia.

Lorna, Mandy and I are busy talking to shipping companies and valiantly attempting to side-step the whole “we don’t take passengers” malarkey to get me passage. But the good news for you lot is that my bag is packed, I’ve got a stack of miniDV tapes in my jocks and I’m raring to go.

PNG to Oz
The Pacific Part 1: PNG to Oz - via The Solomons (Clicky for Biggie)

Day M221: Ping Pong King Kong Hong Kong

Sat 05.05.12:

It took a few days, but on the evening of Friday 4th May you could see the bright lights of Hong Kong from the bridge of the good ship MV Mell Sembawang. Congestion in the port meant we wouldn’t be coming alongside until the wee small hours of the following morning, but it did mean we would be treated to the most epic thunderstorm I have ever seen which was silently taking place over the city. Where the Mell Sembawang was circling like a plane waiting to land there was no rain, no wind and the sea was eerily still – something that seems to happen quite a lot in The Pacific, hence its name I guess.

And when I say this thunderstorm was epic, don’t think I’m exaggerating – this was a storm that could send ecliptics into a fit – strobe-like flashes were going off every second across a vast swathe of the sky. It was like an early 90s rave only far less depressing. I stayed up until way past my bedtime, but eventually I realised I couldn’t waste any more tape filming lightning for a Hammer Horror movie that I’m never going to make.

The next morning I said goodbye to Kenny, Arka, Captain Dagaman and the crew of the MV Mell Sembawang and wandered out onto the arena of scurrilous land-lubbers known as Hong Kong.

There’s no customs at the port so I just walked out, which seemed a bit odd. You know how much of a pain it is at the airport when they search your bags? Honestly, it’s more disquieting when they don’t search your bags – you start thinking well, if they aren’t checking me, who else aren’t they checking?! But I still needed an entry stamp as the lack of one can cause a real arse-ache when you want to leave.

So I decided to walk to the nearest train station. Hong Kong, like many modern cities, isn’t built with me in mind. It’s built around the needs and desires of cars. Which is probably why Ford Prefect thought cars were our dominant form of life when he first arrived on Earth. Now one thing you learn very quickly when you get to Hong Kong a) you are going to sweat like you’ve never swot before and b) being a pedestrian is the most foolhardy and frustrating experience you can imagine. After following the train line in the hope of a station for over an hour, over underpasses and under fly-overs, clambering over barriers like some crap (but infinitely more dangerous) version of The Krypton Factor, I gave up and decided to get a cab instead. But in this concrete jungle all the cabs were either full or just didn’t bother stopping, no matter how destitute I looked.

Eventually one stopped. I asked him to take me to Central Hong Kong Island. Bit of geography for you if you’ve never been to Hong Kong. Hong Kong, like Singapore, is an island. However, unlike Singapore, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region also incorporates the Kowloon Peninsular to the north. So you’ve kinda got the ‘mainland’ and the ‘island’. The port was on the ‘mainland’, I wanted to go to the ‘island’. I don’t know why I’m apostrophising those words, they’re absolutely valid.

But first I needed some Mad Moolah. Some Robert DeNiro. Some Wodger Wabbit. Some Baron Greenbacks. Some Johnny Cash. I told the driver and he took me to the nearest ATM – at the train station I was trying and failing to walk to. Ahh, this’ll do, I says. So onto Hong Kong’s rather excellent (and CHEAP!) underground system and under Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Central. But again it was Machines 1 Human 0 as I was forced to walk about 7 parsecs out of my way in order to get to the Government Pier building. I wished for the first time since I was a child that I had been born with wheels.

Eventually I made it to Government Pier and I went up to the 7th floor where the guy behind the counter looked a bit surprised to see me. He reckoned I was supposed to be chaperoned by the ship’s agent. I pointed out to him that the last two hours of my life would have been much more pleasant if he had done. Oh well, no problem, just give me my entry stamp so I can boogie on out of here. A couple of days ago I asked my mum to buy a cheap but fully refundable flight out of Hong Kong – I’ve done this a few times on the journey as you never know if they might ask for your ‘exit strategy’. But he wasn’t interested. I even tried to force the print-out into his hands – look! I’m leaving! Let me down the metaphorical gangplank! He didn’t give it a second glance. It was just Biff Baff Boom and I was stamped in for a whopping six months. NICE. Hear that America? SIX MONTHS!! For FREE!!!! Go stick your ‘visa waver’ bollocks up ya bum.

Next things next, and I had to meet with the sterling chap who had agreed to take me under his wingdings for the next few days. On this occasion, it was a guy called Michael from America. Works for Bloomburg by day, a stand-up comedian by night. We met at the Western Market, a fine old brick building from the 1800s, a metal roof held up by cast-iron beams. Was in constant use until 1988, then defunct for a while, then lovingly brought back to life, presumably by Griff Rhys Jones. People used to sell fish here. Now people get married here. Could you imagine in 100 years time people getting married in ‘that wonderful old Asda supermarket’? No. Neither can anyone. Because everything we as humans build these days is shit. But then you know that because you live in the world.

Michael had a surprise for me – a receipt from the post office for MY NEW HAT! My delightful (and extremely patient) Mandy had bought me a new one and sent it over to Hong Kong while I was on the Mell Sembawang. So we popped over to the nearby mail depot and picked it up. SMART!

After dropping my stuff off at Michael’s gaff, we headed out, accompanied by Michael’s other CouchSurfer (cos one just ain’t enough!) for some lunch. It being my first time in China for 18 months, we thought we’d treat ourselves to some Japanese sushi. We travelled the length of north Hong Kong island on the fabulous skinny little double-decker trams that are – seriously – over 100 years old. Costing only 23 pence (30 cents) for a trip of any distance, these wooden-sided trolley-cars are the most cost effective public transport in the world (being crammed into the back of a pick-up truck in West Africa with a bunch of dead goats is not what I’d call ‘cost effective’!).

After lunch, I scooted off to the nearby library to write to some more shipping firms to beg them to allow me on their ships going to Sri Lanka. Afterwards, Michael and I met up before heading out to Wan Chai – the go-go girl capital of Hong Kong – to visit Stuart Jackets, the owner of the Queen Victoria Pub. Stuart had kindly invited me along and – let this be a warning to you all – if you invite me over to your place I have a very bad reputation for turning up.

Stuart was an absolute legend. Not only did he supply Michael and I with free booze all night, he contacted his mate in the shipping industry and on Monday I have a meeting with him at his office. Who said nothing great was ever achieved down the pub, eh?

Thanks Stuart! A banner link for The Queen Vic will be added soon!!

That night, since it was my first time back in China for so long, I had lasagne for dinner. In a British pub.

Day 1,885: The Last Post

Fri 28.02.14:

It’s taken over a YEAR of deliberation, but it’s official: Guinness World Records have sent me notification that I am, without a shadow of a doubt, the first person to visit every country in the world without flying.

From Day One I billed The Odyssey Expedition as a “Guinness World Record breaking adventure” and now all my hopes and dreams, everything I strived, fought and pushed for for over 5 years has been validated. I have it.

Guinness World Records have FINALLY granted me my very own, unique, never-been-seen-before World Record Certificate. And here it is:

Guinness World Record Certificate
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

 

So certificate in hand I headed down to the Pier Head in Liverpool, gathered my family and friends and filmed this – the final shot of The Odyssey Expedition. Here it is, 5 years in the making….

 

Well I did it. I F—ING WELL DID IT!!! That’s it. The Odyssey Expedition is (well and truly) complete!

Now it’s time to tune your internets into my new adventure: JINJA ISLAND!!!

I’ll see you there 🙂