Days 715-721: My Papua Visa Hell

16.12.10-22.12.10: You know, when I stepped out of the Vietnamese Consulate back in September I honestly thought that my days of being trapped like a cog in the bureaucratic nightmare that is VISAHELL was over. But then came East Timor, deciding just a few months ago to stop issuing visas for the trickle of western tourists that bother to visit their country overland from Indonesia.  But even after that was all sorted out, like the mythological hydra, more bloody visas were called for, most hilariously for Indonesia as described in my blog entry entitled A Red Background. And now with just 17 countries left to visit and all of them being as far-flung as you can fling a flang, I’m trapped on the border of Papua New Guinea almost having a nervous breakdown brought upon by yet another impenetrable layer of bureaucracy that makes the world…

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How To Travel The World On The Cheap!

I've been stuck on the border with Papua New Guinea for the last few days, so not wanting to waste my time I made this here video for ya! It's set up so that EVERY CLICK results in money going to the charity WaterAid: so why not set up an auto-refresh program, such as this one for Internet Explorer or this one for Firefox, leave it running overnight and give give give without spending a penny!! Enjoy! Share! Comment! Here's the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAbCgr6jJ_0

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THE ODYSSEY WORLD VISA GUIDE

One of the things that holds back many people from travelling is the prospect of wasting time and effort attempting to get into countries that would quite prefer it if you didn't bother.  However, it is a false presumption.  In more than 150 countries worldwide you can turn up without shelling out $$$ for an invitation first. So here’s a comprehensive list of the visa requirements for British Passport Holders for every country in the world, although it may come in useful for other nationalities as well. I’ve split the world into four main categories: No Visa Required, Visa On Arrival, Prior Visa Required and Letter of Invitation (LOI) Required. No Visa Required: You beauties!! Note the (very) high prevalence of prosperous, confident and democratic countries in this list. Visa on Arrival: Not quite as good as no visa at all, but much, much less hassle than: Prior…

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Days 713-714: The Floating Menagerie

14.12.10-15.12.10: Crikey! This ship is even worse than the last one. At least on board the last on I had a bed. Here it’s every man for himself, and as I have no intention of spending the next two days sitting guarding a bed. Consequently I have no idea where I’m going to sleep tonight. Of course the floor or the staircase is always an option, although the choice is quite sparse as there are people everywhere! Everywhere!! You look under a bed to find a family of four playing cards, there are people sleeping in cupboards, on shelves, under tables, on top of tables, on chairs, on mats, in cardboard boxes, under the stars and presumably in the lifeboats and up in the crows nest (if the ship had one). You can’t move for people! People!! Everywhere!! Once again I set up camp in a…

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Days 707-712: Fuzzy Logic

08.12.10-13.12.10: The ship came into the sleepy port town of Sorong in West Papua pretty much on time, which made me happy.  At the port I was met by the indomitable Bosco, the local guy who I’d be CouchSurfing with for my brief stay here.  We got as far as his local church before the storm broke and the rain started coming down in buckets.  Staying on the back of his scooter with all my bags wasn’t smart, so we tucked ourselves under the eves of the chapel and waited for the downpour to stop. West Papua (or just ‘Papua’ to give the place its proper name) is the western half of the island of New Guinea (also known – just to confuse matters - as Papua).  New Guinea is the second largest island in the world (brownie points for guessing the first) and is spilt…

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Days 704-706: The Power and The Pelni

05.12.10-07.12.10: Noah had nothing on this. All life is here – spread out all over the floor. Picnics, knick-knacks, porridge, rice and tic-tacs. Families, feuds, filth, food and funny lookin' f---ers. Music, mayhem, toys and rugs and cardboard. Screaming babies and bawling kids and out-of-tune karaoke and phones on speaker phone and noise and noise and noise. The Pelni ferries that ply the water between the major Indonesian islands are a hoot. They are the diametric opposite of a luxury cruise: more akin to a floating refugee camp, thousands of people crammed onboard snuggled into every nook and cranny, complete with the ubiquitous massive bundles of stuff. WHAT’S WITH THE STUFF?? I guess Indonesians and Africans have got this in common: neither would dream of wasting a journey. And if that means an old age pensioner carting a metric ton of rice a thousand miles across…

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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. …

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Day 700: The Shape of Things To Come

01.12.10: Seven HUNDRED days on the road!! Bloomin' eck. The boat to Sumbawa didn’t leave until 10am, so I kicked myself for not having a lie-in and a coffee.  Onboard I met a girl called Charlie.  She’s from Bristol and is a health-care professional, working and travelling all over the world.  We swapped stories of the crazy stuff that happens on the road and soon the conversation turned to Papua New Guinea - my next-but-one destination. Be careful. Seriously.  Be careful. I didn’t like where this conversation was going, but forewarned is forearmed, so here goes...  Charlie had lived in PNG for a few months.  Being a wishy-washy liberal (as all good backpackers are) she hated to use this term, but the word she used was ‘savage’. Images ran through my head of me spending Christmas day in a big cooking pot while scantily-clad men with…

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Day 699: The Ruteng Clan

30.11.10: After dragging myself out of bed at 6.30am, I wasn’t too chuffed when I was told that the minibus to the next waypoint, Ruteng, didn’t leave until 8am.  But no sooner had I settled down under a bamboo bivouac at the side of the road to drink coffee with the locals (the coffee in Flores and Timor has an amazing spicy taste to it) than the bus driver started tooting his horn. The bus was already full and therefore what was the point of hanging around? I wish bus companies in the UK could be as damn sensible.  By 7.30am we were whizzing past Ende’s city limits and back into the jungle.  Timetables be damned!! I could wax lyrical about the drive, but suffice to say that it was incredible and a whole lot of fun.  I just wished I was driving.  Damn, I miss…

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Day 698: The Ende of All Things

29.11.10: So the ferry pulled into Larantuka port nice and early, around 7am.  Now I just had the small matter of the entirety of Flores to get across.  Cast from your mind any concept of nice straight Roman roads – this is a volcanic jungle baby, and these roads are longer and windier than you would believe.  But, damn what AMAZING scenery.  Vast forests cladding soaring hillsides, valleys of greenest green far below, and when we scoot along the coast the silhouettes of ancient fishing boats rendered by the golden sunbeams glittering in the deep blue waters. Even better, the stereo on my minibus wasn’t working, so I didn’t have to suffer that dreadful Indonesian musak!  I was also lucky to have a sensible driver – one that didn’t fang it around blind corners whilst overtaking a convoy of trucks.  On top of all that, I…

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