I gave up all hope of a schedule months ago. When people ask me (and they do) when I think I’ll be finished I just shrug and change the subject. If I can get to India by May I will be one happy ginger galavanter, but I’ve got a long way to go until then, and Eritrea and The Seychelles still hang over this whole challenge like a sword of Damocles. I tell you what though, when I was getting the knock back from the border with Algeria three weeks ago, if you had told me that I’d be here in Kazahkstan today, I’d have given you a big kiss. Even if you thought Apple made good computers and everything.
As all good Lost fans know, time seems to have a way of ‘course correcting’ and The Odyssey is not immune to this. Imagine if I had got to Libya on 21st February as I had originally intended and not had the disaster with my Algerian visa… I would have been in Istanbul for the subsequent Friday night, but I still would have presumably had to wait until the following Thursday to pick up my Iranian visa, left Thursday night, done everything the same and got to Azerbaijan one week earlier… in short it would have made NO difference – I would have just been stuck in (lovely, but expensive) Baku for an extra week… the boat goes every 10 days remember? Ahh, it all works out in the wash.
So today I got up as bright and eager as I can these days. Honestly, sometimes I feel like my body is mounting a mutiny against me – since the UK I’ve been completely KNACKERED every morning without fail. I’m not moving fast enough to blame jet-lag, I just seem to have lost the ability to spring out of bed in the morning. My snooze alarm is my new best friend. I didn’t bother with a shower (it was skank), slung my bags on my shoulders and went in search of a way out out of this berg. In fact, where the hell am I? Oh yeah, a little place called Aktau. A pleasant sea-side town, if your idea of pleasant is Chernobyl. It was purpose-built by the Soviets to get at the oil in the Caspian Sea, it’s a bazzilion miles from anywhere, the beach is yucky, all the drinking water is desalinated (and hopefully destalinated) and the buildings are concrete nightmares.
But plucky old Aktau has one saving grace – The Guns and Roses bar! Oh yeah baby WOO!! Well, if it actually played G n’ R instead of 80s female power ballads and the beer wasn’t $5 it would have been AWESOME. I found out the train for the next town left at 7.30pm (it takes 10 hours to get there!) and sorted out my train tickets to Uzbekistan. This time tomorrow I will hopefully be in nation 149. Hopefully. After a stroll around the town (and a nice chat with a couple of teenage girls who both looked liked they had stumbled off the side of a Flaming Lips gig – one was dressed as a horse, the other as bunny rabbit, don’t ask) I decided it wasn’t for me and set up camp in the G&R (not to be confused with G n’ R, which is a completely separate copyrighted entity). The barman, Adam, was from Antalaya in Turkey and let me while away the afternoon using the free Wi-Fi to chat to Mandy (in Australia), Lindsey (in China) and Anna (in Liverpool) all at the same time through the wonders of Skype.
At 6pm it was time to head to the train station. I’m a bit anxious about this. Journalism is banned in Uzbekistan, and while I’m by no means a professional journalist (I c’ant rite 4 toffie), I’m loaded down with stuff (camera, laptop, tapes) that might make it look like I’m a journo when I’m not. The penalty is deportation ON A PLANE. This would be an utter disaster for The Odyssey. I’m worried that they might take my tapes away from me – I wanted to post them back to the UK today, but the post office is closed (it’s a public holiday here too). Well, if it happens it happens, there’s nothing I can do about it.
It may be a relic of the Soviet era, but the train is great – I’ve got a table to write up my blog upon, I’ve been given free cups of tea by the other passengers (and a ton of food I couldn’t eat even if I was hungry) and everybody’s been wonderfully friendly. We’re currently ploughing through the desert, (I presume – it’s dark and I can’t see a damn thing out of the window) my only concern is where I’m going to sleep. People more on the ball than me seem to have bagsied all the beds and I’ve found myself sitting on what could be a bed if it didn’t have two other people sitting on it too. It’s half past midnight and I have to be up at 4am.
SWORD OF ALMONDS, GIVE ME SLEEP BEYOND SLEEP!!
DID YOU KNOW? Once at a festival I rewatched the previous night’s G n’ R gig on the little screen of my video camera with none other than Kim Deal from the Pixies (and Breeders).