And so back to Sri Lanka. Exactly one year TO THE DAY that I rebooted The Odyssey Expedition in Wewak, Papua New Guinea. That was Day 1,000. Now I’m on Day 1,365. I added the ‘M’ prefix in an effort not to scare away new subscribers, but I really need not have bothered: it now takes up more space than a simple ‘1’ would have done. Humph!
I flew Kuwait Airlines again, on the return ticket. Kuwait airlines cannot be given a good review by any objective commentator. The TVs don’t work, the babies scream and there’s no bleedin’ alcohol on board to smooth off the edges. Ygads. But, you know, airplanes do get you where you need to go, and FAST! Blimey, in the time it took me on a coach to go from one city in Turkey to another, I flew across five and a half time zones. The mad thing is that even though my principles are dead against air travel for all the pollution it causes, the ‘chemtrails’ of planes are actually responsible for keeping the temperature of the planet artificially low. Yes it sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s the way our climate rolls. In the days after 9/11, the average temperature of the US, where all air traffic was grounded, increased by 2°. TWO DEGREES!! Man, that’s some crazy heat-tide death that our planes are fending off. A bit like the sulphur (before the clean air acts) that kept us unnaturally cool from the industrial revolution to the 1960s. This is all true. As is global warming. I’m only interested in facts, and (I’ll say again), if you don’t understand that global warming is a FACT (and a very scary one that urgently needs address by, um, someone… somewhere…), can you PLEASE stop reading this blog. You don’t deserve entertainment. You don’t deserve to have things to read. To be quite frank, you don’t deserve oxygen. And if you have kids you’re even worse. You’re worse than the Archbishop of Canterbury standing on a stage next to the chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, and going on about what great mates you are AND KNOWING THAT IF YOU’RE RIGHT ABOUT YOUR PARTICULAR SPACE WIZARD AND WHAT HE WANTS that your so-called ‘mate’ WILL BE TORTURED. For eternity. Which, as I keep stressing, is a metric f—- ton of time. Cognitive
Dissidence DISSONANCE (cheers Dino!) they call it, the ability some humans have to hold two completely conflicting concepts in their head at the same time…
Tangents, Graham… stick to the story.
So I have the Costa Cruise to country #199: Maldives, and country #200: Seychelles. In the bag. Sorted. It leaves Cochin on October 18. BUT… I still need to get to India. Easier said than done. So, first things first, no rest for the wicked, I got into Colombo airport at 4am, dropped my stuff off at Sachal’s gaff in Negombo and took the two hour bus journey to Colombo city. Sachal’s away in Pakistan at the moment, which is a crying shame. I went for a quick morning meeting with the representative of my old friends CMA-CGM here in Sri Lanka. They have a ship leaving on October 16 for Cochin. Needless to say, this would be cutting it mighty fine considering Colombo port is well known for its delays. The MV Kota Wiriwan, the ship I originally came here on, was delayed for three days, so this would be my very last ditch option… that’s assuming they agree to take me.
Then it was off to the Madagascan consulate to start the visa process rolling. I’ll be getting off the Costa Cruise in Madagascar and then taking a PIL cargo ship (I hope!) to mainland Africa for country #201: South Sudan. Unfortunately, I fell at the first hurdle… they wanted three month’s worth of bank statements. I should point out that the last TWO Madagascan visas I got only required a photo and were free. Now you have to pay and jump through a series of hoops that wouldn’t look out of place at Crufts. Cursing my luck, and knowing that the mini-calculator thing that allows me to access my bank accounts online was hidden away back in my backpack two hours north of here, I elected to try again another day. Next it was to the Indian High Commission, to make damn sure that they would actually let me in their damn country with this damn visa, you know: the one I just shelled out over $100 for in London.
And the answer is………
You see, India is quite possibly the most paranoid country in the world. You think the USA is bad for irrational fear and jumping at shadows, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. India is the only country in the world that you cannot enter on a ship even with a valid visa. Yep, even though it says ‘ALL PORTS’ on the visa application forms, let me tell you THIS IS A LIE. They mean ‘all AIR ports’. Maybe. Who knows? It’s India! Urgh.
So what to do, what to do? I may have had a bit of a mini-breakdown in the High Commission, prompting a measured amount of sympathy which lead me to a meeting with the visa department attaché. He wanted to see the documents pertaining to the ship I was planning to take to India. I explained to him that I couldn’t tell him which ship I was taking to India until I had specific permission from the High Commission to enter India on a ship because nobody will offer me a place until I get this specific permission (Catch-22). Then, either out of pity or just wanting to get the scruffy ginge out of his office, he told me that he would sort it out for me. All I’d have to do would be to apply again FOR A WHOLE NEW VISA (at a cost of £30) and – oh my giddy aunt, does this never end – they’re going to invalidate my London one EVEN THOUGH IT’S STILL VALID UNTIL MARCH 2013.
The visa department had just closed for the day, so I left, went to the nearby foodcourt, got on the internet and tried phoning OEL Shipping. No response. I got on Twitter and typed “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGH!!!!”
And then I thought, f— this s—, I’m off down the pub.
It was the best move I had made all day. I was ace-ing the weekly quiz until the sports round, where my dismally dismal knowledge of the world of world sport came to bite me on the ass. Ten pictures of famous teams: from AFL to NFL to footy to Canadian Ice Hockey. I didn’t have a bleedin’ clue. I got one out of ten. If I had got seven I would have won the quiz – playing just me on my own is splendidly arrogant, but it isn’t always a good strategy for world domination.
But what is always a good idea is going to the pub, since, once again, I met somebody who is well positioned to help me get to India. This is the way the world works, wonderfully enough. You can send as many emails and make as many phone calls as you like, but nine times out of ten, the guy you need to speak to is in the pub. So, my advice: when the going gets tough, go the pub. Carl from New Jersey (capital: Trenton!) works for an Oil and Gas company who have a shipping division, the head of which is Carl’s good friend. They have ships going to Colombo to Tuticorin and Mumbai. I was about to leave and get the bus back to Negombo when Carl offered me his couch for the night on the proviso that we continue drinking until the wee small hours. Which is exactly what we did.
We’re getting there, slowly but surely, we’re getting there…