I had arranged to meet with Captain Paneer of PIL, the shipping company responsible for my crucial forays to Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Taiwan. I wanted to thank him and the company for being so incredibly generous and helping me to over half of my final 17 countries. And so I headed over to the PIL offices in the business district of Singapore clutching a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label. About 45 minutes later I walked out with a spring in my step. Captain Paneer had offered me a spot on a ship going to Sri Lanka. A few more days in Singapore and I’d be on my way. It was a huge weight off my mind. Country 198 effectively in the bag, I turned my attention to countries 199, 200 and 201.
My current plan for The Maldives is to pound the streets of Colombo until I find a small independent cargo operation that runs over to Male’, the capital of Maldives and back. By the way, that hanging apostrophe isn’t a typo, it really is spelt Male’. After The Maldives I’d just have to find a way of getting to The Seychelles.
A few months ago, Odyssey fan Jason Budzinski from the US brought a CMA-CGM shipping route to my attention. Every other week it goes from Sri Lanka to The Seychelles and then to Mombasa in Kenya. This would be perfect, but as it goes right through the middle of the High Risk Pirate Zone, I’m not expecting they’ll let me onboard. But back at PIL, Captain Paneer told me something interesting: I’ve been saying all this time that I would invalidate the anti-piracy insurance of any cargo ship I took through the Red Zone. This simply isn’t true. So long as I sign a witnessed Letter of Indemnity, there will be no effect on the insurance. This gave me hope. If I can get on this CMA-CGM ship I could honestly be back in the UK before the end of JULY.
In the afternoon I met with Desmond Aw, one of the top blokes from Mariana Shipping who helped me onboard the Mell Sembawang, the ship that allowed me to tick Micronesia and Palau off the list. Again, I brought a gift – no good deed should go unrewarded. Afterwards I went to the main post office in Eunos to pick up one of my old hard-drives that Mandy had sent over for me. I back up all my video tapes as I go, and now, thanks to the Powers That Be releasing me from any obligations to them, it’s time for me to stitch together a rough cut of series 2, episode 1 of Graham’s World (don’t worry – I’m changing the title!). Hurrah!
It was after 9pm before I returned to Kuni’s place and it seemed we were having a party! A new CouchSurfer, Nate from the USA, had turned up, and Kuni’s CS mates had popped around. Christoph and Nate were preparing din-dins. Some of Kuni’s friends were even more well-travelled than him: one had been to 170 countries. I think between every person in the room there wasn’t a single country in the world that at least two of us hadn’t sullied with our presence.
After the party, Nate and I embarked on the task of getting the dishes done. We were almost finished when we noticed a pool of water forming beneath our feet. A pool that soon became a flood. After getting the night security guy up to turn the water off, we did what we could to mop up the mess. Kuni took it all with good grace, and since I had only got a few hours sleep last night, once we were sure the leak had stopped, I crashed out.