Days 1,062-1,065: The Chief’s Hairdo


7am on Monday morning, I was just about mustering up the energy to drag myself out of the bed when my mobile rang. It was Lopeti, the port agent from Neptune Shipping. The ship was delayed so I didn’t need to come down the docks until 2pm. After staying up until half three last night getting my blogs uploaded, I was so relieved for the extra lie-in I would have happily danced a jig, if it didn’t mean getting out of bed. So I turned over and went back to sleep. I eventually got up around 10am. Sandy had left for work hours ago. I made myself a massive cup of tea and started getting my things together. At noon came a second phone call from Lopeti: the ship wouldn’t be leaving until tomorrow.

Leaving that afternoon is one thing, having to ask the lovely Sandy for yet another night’s free room and board is a little too cheeky, even for my liking. So I called Sandy, explained the situation, offered to take her out for dinner and swore that no matter what I would be out of her hair tomorrow morning at seven.

Sandy, bless her, took it all in her stride and said I was welcome for one more night. I made good on my promise of dinner and we dined on some yummy chow at the new Chinese restaurant next to McDonald’s. I set my alarm for 6.45. My bags were packed and I was all ready to rock n’ roll.

By 8am the next morning I was at the Neptune Shipping office on George Street, where I was told that the ship wouldn’t be leaving until tonight. No worries: I’ll ‘check in’ now and hang about until we’re ready to go. Lopeti took me in the Neptune minibus over to the ship yard and I finally got to clamber on board the Southern Pearl. I met with Captain Don (originally from Scotland, now a Kiwi), Chief Engineer Max and various other officers and crew. After lunch, the captain suggested that I go ashore for a bit, as we probably wouldn’t be leaving until midnight. So I went and got a haircut.

In Fiji it is taboo to touch the chief’s hair. Before the missionaries turned up and made everything all boring and civilised, it was customary for the chief to have the biggest hairdo in the tribe. There are stories of men with hair that spanned five metres. Nobody was allowed to have a bigger ’do than the chief, under pain of death. Back in the 1800s a rather silly missionary touched a chief’s head and was summarily eaten. The message is simple: hands off the ’fro, Delilah.

Funnily enough, my hair was becoming increasingly chief-like, in that it probably needed a trim. It’s not that I’m morally adverse to having my hair cut, I just worry that the barber might go temporarily insane and cut off way too much hair, thus diminishing both my superpowers and my trademark tramp-like appearance.

Which is exactly what happened.

After put my glasses back on and I saw the carnage wrought on my noggin’ by the barbarian with the snip-snips, I can see why even today, hairdressers in Fiji are not allowed to touch the chief’s hairdo. It seems the word ‘trim’ has no Fijian equivalent. Either that or it means ‘destroy’. And now instead of a valiant adventurer I look like a rather distressed coconut.

I took to the Bad Dog Café to drown my sorrows. Unfortunately, happy hour didn’t end (for me) at 6pm and after a call from Peter, the watchman on board the ship telling me that the ship would now not be leaving until tomorrow (or even – those dreaded words – “tomorrow after tomorrow”) the demon drink held sway over my actions and I’m not proud to say that for a second night this week I have no idea how I got home: this time to my cabin onboard the Southern Pearl.

Although it is a rather marvellous feeling that it must take a phenomenal amount of alcohol to knock out my internal homing beacon.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling muchly worse for wear. I looked at the stupid coconut in the mirror and decided if he went to my school I’d probably pick on him too. Somewhat relieved that the ship still hadn’t left, (my sea legs had been replaced by wibbly-wobbly jelly legs) I was more than happy to lay in my bunk and watch episodes of The Pacific, which is like Band of Brothers only (sadly) nowhere near as good. I’d like to spend sometime figuring out exactly why it wasn’t as good, but I have the feeling it’s because the main characters were about as loveable as pubic lice. A bit like Star Wars Episode I.

Talking of pubic lice, I’ve also been indulging in The West Wing, which I never watched on its original run, and about a series and a half into it I now know why. I would honestly prefer a night on the tiles with George W. Bush’s staff than President Bartlett’s. Sam, CJ, Josh and that cretin Toby: they’re all so wholesome, mealy-mouthed, lovey-dovey, oh-so-earnest and painfully smug they make me wish Jack Bauer would pay them a visit. And kill them all.

Every time I see that pathetic excuse of a man Toby make his stupid mopey puppy-dog face and those stupid mumbly puppy-dog noises, all sorts of violent ways and means of despatching him off to Tartarus spring to mind. The only character I like is Bartlett himself, but the poor guy is surrounded by the worst kind of dicks. No wonder the Democrats never won an election in real-life when this saccharine-sweet mulch was being shown on TV. Hey America! Look what total dicks these Democrats are! Do you want your country run by men who can make a decision or mumbly puppy-dog eyed morons who look like they’re about to bust into tears at any given moment?

I am fairly convinced that Aaron Sorkin is on the Republican payroll. I shudder to think what Toby’s reaction to September 11th is going to be: unless they replace his character with Droopy Dog for the rest of the series I don’t see how it’s possible for him to get even more mopey.

And the godawful music at the end? What the hell is that? Murder She Wrote? In short, The West Wing: it’s like Friends except not funny and every character is Ross.

And now back to The Odyssey…

The subsequent ship I intend to take – The Southern Lily 2 (in order to progress to Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand) – departs after Christmas, so I’m not really pressed for time when it comes to the departure of The Southern Pearl: so long as it returns to Suva before December 25th, I should (hopefully) be laughing. Peter’s estimation of ‘tomorrow after tomorrow’ was actually quite accurate: we left Suva around midday on Thursday 1st December. If I had known we were going to hang around for so long I would have taken in more of the island of Viti Levu, but no worries: I’ll do it when I get back.

The route we’re taking goes to Wallis and Futuna (both French territories) then Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, then Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, then Majuro, the capital of The Marshall Islands, and then back to Fiji. In other words: three birds, one stone, The Southern Pearl YOU ROCK MY WORLD!

But the ship is a little heavy at the moment, so we’re actually going to Funafuti first, to drop off some containers and reduce the draught, whatever that means. Only then will we double back to Wallis and Futuna, both of which have shallow ports. We don’t want to be scraping along the bottom of the ocean now do we? Then we’ll head back to Funafuti to retrieve the containers and go about our way. Doing this will add another day or so onto the trip, but like I say, so long as we are back for Christmas, I couldn’t care less. I’ve got food, drink, Kava, good company and over 1000 miles of open ocean ahead of me. When this voyage is over I’ll have just 10 countries left to visit. I really can’t thank Pacific Direct and Neptune enough. We’re getting there, my loyal Odysseans, we’re getting there!!

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.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. segacs

    You *gasp!* don’t like the West Wing? Shock! Horror!
    (The Ross Geller comparison was kinda funny, though.)

    1. Graham

      I’m going to stick with it… it may yet grow on me…

      1. segacs

        The first two seasons were the best, mind you. If you don’t love it by then, you probably won’t. (And the less said about the post-Sorkin cringe-worthy Seasons 5 and 6, the better.)

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