Day 1,201: Full Steam Ahead!

Sun 15.04.12:

There’s a lot of boring technical stuff that I have to keep on top of while bumming around the known universe. Keeping this website updated is one thing, keeping my cameras charged is another. I also need to avoid running out of tapes. Thus far, this expedition has eaten over (get this) 500,000 words, 600 blog entries, 300 hours of video tape, 10TBs worth of disk space and tens of thousands of digital photographs. There’s one person generating all that content, and that person is me. Needless to say, managing it single handed is a bit of a nightmare.

But that’s no excuse for running out of tapes. While I was wondering around Taipei on Thursday night I saw a ton of camera shops, all selling the little miniDV cassettes that my antiquated steam-powered Sony A1 uses. It gives a great picture quality though, so I’m nay grumblin’. At the time I was trying to find a hostel before my legs fell off, so you can forgive me for not stopping and browsing.

So today, still reeling from the loss of my hat, my job was to find some tapes to last me the three-week voyage to Micronesia and back. Easier said than done. First of all, I walked to this giant department store that looked like the building they used at the end of Ghostbusters only built in the 1980s and therefore rubbish. I went up about 17 escalators, through the perfume department, womenswear, kidswear, menswear, OAP wear, evening wear, LGBT wear, emo wear, gangster wear, chav wear, serial killer wear, highland fling wear, clown wear, lumberjack wear, international space station wear… eventually I made it to the AV department, which mostly consisted of kettles. With only one tiny counter for digital cameras, I wasn’t getting my hopes up, but, come on, if I can buy a pack of 5 miniDV tapes in some dusty border rown in the Casamance region of Senegal, surely – SURELY – I could get a tape from a department store in Taiwan’s second biggest city?

Well yes, I could get a tape. And by that I mean A tape, as in singular. I bought it in case my main quarry ie. more than one tape was to allude me. And allude me it did. I was hoping to get all the funny photographs of me being shaved on the Kota Juta up online today, but no, instead I walked around for over 3 hours trying – in vain – to find a single damn camera shop.

Taiwan has the same retail mentality as China, India, the Middle East and Africa – you can never find a single shop, you can only find an entire area of shops selling exactly the same thing. It’s as if one guy sets up his novelty trombone shop and then the next day there’s a shop selling exactly the same novelty trombones next door. In a week, the entire road is selling the same novelty trombones as the first guy. Within a month, every shop in an entire city block is now selling novelty trombones.

This is a bit weird for us in the UK, a place where you set up a Bargain Booze ten doors down from a Spar and you can expect death threats and bricks through the window, but it’s the way that the vast majority of the retail sector of the world operates. Which means if you’re the wrong side of town to little cameraville, you don’t stand a chance of finding a minDV tape. This was a day when staying with a local family would have been a damn good idea.

Arriving back in the hostel at around 5.30pm, I was glad to hear that one of the guys that was staying there had put out an SOS on the Kaohsiung ex-pat forum requesting my hat back. Sadly, however, nobody had owned up to it, so the curse remains. By 6pm I was at the Mariana Express office, slightly south of where I was staying, and there I met David Tsai, the head of operations. We set off for the port and I got to watch the Mell Sembawang come in: the ship that would take me to not only Micronesia and Palau, but also Okinawa in Japan, Saipan in The Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Davao and General Santos in The Philippines and Hong Kong.

After this leg of the expedition, I will have just FOUR countries left to visit. BRING IT ON PEOPLE, BRING IT ON!!!

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.