Day 1,371: Icarus, Not Daedalus

Tue 02.10.12 My incredible plan for Sunday night was stay up all night drinking and partying at Chili’s Bar in Unawatuna. Then I was to take first express bus back to Colombo at 6am AS I HAD WORK TO DO!! I had to take my passport, photos, application form, cruise tickets, air-tickets, bank statements, itinerary, inside trouser measurement and father’s maiden name to the Madagascan Consulate in order to get my Madagascan visa (third time lucky!). Then I had to go to the Indian High Commission and ask them (very nicely) if they would be so kind as to give me my visa a little bit quicker. All went surprisingly swimmingly. I got the Madagascan visa there and then. The lady at the Indian High Commission told me to come back in the afternoon. I headed over to the shopping mall’s foodcourt and hooked myself up…

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Day M181: How The South Pacific Was Won

26.03.12: The Pacific, south of the equator line, is now complete. Yes, there were a handful of territories – Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, Pitcairn & Easter Island – that I skipped, but if the purpose of this adventure is to have great stories to tell the grandkids, I need to finish this quest so I can work on spawning future generations of argumentative scouse dingbats to tell the aforementioned great stories to in the first place. Happily, I did get to visit the French territories of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna (both of them!) and the US territory of American Samoa, bringing my ‘territory tally’ up to 9. Here’s a rough map I knocked together of the route I took, including ships and dates. Clicky for biggie. MASSIVE THANKS must go to the cargo kings of the Pacific Ocean - Swire, Neptune, PDL, PIL, Reef and…

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Days M7-M13: The Lae Delay

04.10.11-10.10.11: Well I haven’t gone anywhere but by jingo it’s been a fun week here in sunny old Lae. Ah, it’s not as bad as everyone makes out: the town may be ugly as sin but the guys here at Steamship (Swire) Shipping have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome. Alex here has taken me under his wing and over the last few days I’ve been treated much better than a hapless ginger wayfarer could possibly deserve. There’s only two drinking pits worth mentioning here in Lae -- The Yacht Club and the Golf Club -- and as Swire owns a speedboat at the marina and Alex is the el capitaine of the Nice Walk Ruined, the SP lager was flowing free. Although both places do have a completely irrational anti-hat policy. Grr... During the day, I’ve been at the Steamships offices…

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Days 988-989: WOO HOO!!!

15.09.11-16.09.11: I’ve just heard back from Martin at China Navigation (the subsidiary of Swire Shipping involved with PNG) and the good news is that there is a ship willing and able to take me from Lae in Papua New Guinea to Honiara in The Solomon Islands and back to Australia so I can FINALLY officially tick this great big silly continent off my list. The ship is called the Papuan Chief (cool name eh?) and it’ll be departing Lae around the 10th of October. Major thanks to Swire Shipping, China Navigation, Ray and Sebastian in PNG, Paul in Melbourne, Ross in Sydney and Martin in Singapore as well as kudos and kisses for Lorna and Mandy who helped out with the deal. Lorna especially so: she’s in the UK and the time difference meant she either had to stay up very late or get up very early in…

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Days 585-592: The Boat Race

09.08.10-16.08.10: “I always like going south – it feels like walking downhill” – Treebeard India, being the awkward bugger that she is, flips the usual northern charm/southern coldness idiom on it’s head and gives us a country in which, in no uncertain terms, lures wayfarers down south to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and then refuses to give them back.  After the frantic, pestering, unrelenting hustle and bustle of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi, the soothing backwaters of India’s most laidback state are more welcoming than a home-cooked meal and a cuddle on the sofa. It’s tidy too - for India! All of Monday was spent on the train heading down south, not much to report except that the train was remarkably cheap (less than a tenner), it was comfortable and (most importantly) fun.  One of the joys of Indian trains are the chai…

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Day 583: Flashback

07.08.10: So it was a cloudy, overcast day on which I returned to India after an absence of eight years. Not much has changed since then, but then I didn’t really expect it to: India is India is India and will be until the end of the world. A frustrating, intoxicating, bewildering blend of noise and nonsense with a few increasingly perplexed cows thrown in for good measure. But I can’t help liking the place, possibly more than India likes me. I said my goodbyes to the captain and the crew of the CMA-CGM Jade (a few times, as it transpired) and just six and a half hours after we arrived I was finally allowed to leave the ship with a couple of the crew who were leaving for Burma after a good ten months at sea. Customs took its time, and my bags were sealed…

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Days 578-582: A Passage To India

02.08.10-06.08.10: Monday morning bright and early, the wonderful Pamela drove me to the Bur Dubai area of town and I headed over to the CMA-CGM offices to meet Barry Dinnadge, the fine chap I had met over a game of pool in Rock Bottom all those weeks ago.  As luck would have it, he’s the CMA-CGM agent who was responsible for chucking my ass on the CMA-CGM Jade. After a cup of tea and a natter, I headed out for my last two errands of Dubai – post my tapes and old Dell Boy back to the UK and buy myself a spare battery for Sony Jim here.  Tasks done, I waved goodbye to the old place (whose culture stretches back decades) and was whisked, courtesy of Mr. Dinnadge, over to Jebel Ali port for boarding.  Of course The Odyssey wouldn’t be The Odyssey without some…

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Day 542: (Finally) Out Of Africa

27.06.10: We were supposed to cast off at 8am, or is that knitting? Might be getting my lingo muddled. Either way, the cargo operation wasn’t completed until the afternoon. The thought of setting out again into town and finding a working internet connection did cross my mind, but after yesterday’s three hour marathon fail, I had little intention of repeating the feat in the blazing sunshine with no way of knowing what time the ship will actually leave. The engines kicked into life at about 4pm, but it wasn’t until about 45 minutes later that I realised we had actually left port – that’s how smooth the sea is around here, shielded by the Dhalek Islands. A more pressing concern was the loss of our television signal. The England v Germany was to start in 15 minutes. The crew tried their best to adjust the clapped…

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Days 539 & 540: Back In The Red

23.06.10-24.06.10: We had to be at Baaboud Shipping for 7.30am, and, once again, Turki took time away from the office to take me there.  The level of hospitality and sheer generosity I’ve received from Turki has really knocked me for six.  I owe this guy BIG.  Like many other Odyssey Heroes I really have no idea how I can possibly repay him short of declaring a Wookiee Life-Debt.  The only thing I can do is spread the love and do everything in my power to help my fellow wayfarers along the way after I finish this adventure.  And you can hold me to that. We presented Ahmed with his dates and he responded with a pot of authentic Sudanese green bean coffee.  The ship would be leaving this afternoon and we had to be at the port for 10am.  Ahmed gave Turki the phone number of…

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Day 538: The Old Jeddah Mind Trick

22.06.10: Turki had tried in vain all yesterday to get in touch with Baaboud Shipping and arrange a meeting with Ahmed.  But this morning we had better luck.  By 9.01am we had a meeting arranged.  Turki donned his traditional Saudi garp (to enhance his already consummate Jedi skills) and by 10am we were in Ahmed Ibn-Ishaq’s office drinking green coffee and talking ships to Eritrea. After Turki introduced me and explained that we had been told to come here by Abdullah, I explained my mission.  Turki then smoothly fought my corner in Arabic, I can’t tell you how important the power of introduction is to The Odyssey: whenever I just ruck up and tell people what I’m doing they generally a) don’t believe me or b) think I’m a nut.  It’s kinda embarrassing.  Once that obstacle is out of the way, it makes things SO much…

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