Day 688: Executive Class


Last night I stayed in the grottiest pension I think I’ve ever seen.  Aimere is most definitely a one horse town as the only option was a pension down the street which (unlike the one I stayed in) had seen a lick of paint in the last few decades.  Not that that justified paying twice the price.

When I was visiting the dragons on Wednesday, I was enjoying a nice cold Coke after all that trekking in the sweltering heat of Komodo national park when I got chatting to an Italian guy called Simon who was (marvellously enough) travelling from Italy to Australia in a Fiat 500.  Just then his travel partner, Chesa, popped up and said I looked a little like that Graham guy off the telly.  Funny that, I said, because…

After introductions we realised that we would be taking the same ferry over to Timor and would probably be in Dili at the same time next week.  Emails were exchanged and now here in Aimere we met up again: they were actually staying in the same pension (not that there was really any choice).  Their car is hilarious: just enough room for two front seats and backpacks.

So they didn’t make it all the way overland, they (and their car) had to be flown from Nepal to Thailand.  Like the Oz bus, it seems that if you wanna overland it from John O’ Groats to Hobart in your Reliant Robin, you’re going to come unstuck when it comes to crossing China.  Wouldn’t be such a problem if Burma wasn’t such a basketcase, but as it is there is no option but to fly.  Of course, if you’re doing the trip by public transport it’s very possible indeed: well, at least until you get to Dili – something I’ll talk about more when I get there.

Funnily enough, Chesa and Simon, like me, couldn’t believe how good Iran was.  A note to the people of Iran: you rock!  A note to the government of Iran: you suck!

So we all clambered onboard the good ship to Kupang.  I pretended to be with Chesa and Simon so I could get on before the braying masses (nobody thought to ask how on Earth I would have fitted in the car).  I had paid $2 more for ‘executive class’ and I was bursting to see what this would mean.  In the end, it just meant more comfortable seats, but still no air conditioning and the ship was pretty unclean.

What was good though is that the executive class was pretty empty so I could (happily) lay across several seats instead of attempting to sleep sitting upright with my chin pressed against my chest.  Which is pretty dangerous, you know – it can cut off your air supply – that’s how come so many people died in the Moscow Theatre Siege.  True story.

As Chesa and Simon caught up with their blogs (they’re just getting around to blogging about Pakistan!  And you think my blogs are a bit late!!) I mooched around the ship: at the back of executive class was normal class, which I’m so glad I didn’t go for as everyone what perched on hard moulded plastic seats – the type you get in the doctor’s waiting room and the type that it’s pretty much impossible to sleep lying across without risking serious back injury (I know this from painful experience after attempting to sleep on the Grimaldi ferry from Tunisia to Italy last March).  Downstairs in the cargo hold was the hilariously named ‘zero class’, which featured entire families lying on cardboard rollmats between the cars and goods and bananas and rice and cockroaches.  I had flashbacks to last year’s nightmare trip on the Shissiwani from Dar Es Salaam to Comoros and ran back upstairs.

We left Aimere bang on schedule, but we wouldn’t be getting to Kupang in Indonesian West Timor until tomorrow.  I did some working out: if you include the few boating excursions I’ve been on during this expedition, this was my 100th boat trip: from tiny wooden canoes to massive cruise ships and pretty much everything in between.  Not bad for someone who gets woozy just thinking about the ocean.

That night I spent a good few hours sitting on the port wing of the bridge chatting to Simon about our various adventures around the world.

Ah, wanderlust: the overwhelming feeling that you should probably be somewhere else.

It that same wanderlust that led our ancestors out of Africa 50,000 years ago to as far a field as China, Australia, the Americas and Wales.  It was the desire to see over the edge of the known world that propelled the likes of Columbus, Magellan and Cook to seek out strange new lands and it was that same desire to transgress every boundary – natural or otherwise that fuelled Gagarin’s and Armstrong’s rockets into the stratosphere.

Well that and some rocket fuel, I guess.

Can’t help it, mate – gotta travel.  What are you waiting for?

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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