Rubbing eyes, blinking, stumbling into the light the week began. What the hell am I going to do now? With no second passport, my passage to the African Mainland looked bleak. I could, if I really wanted to, try and get back to the mainland on those crappy African trampers via Madagascar and Comoros. But last time I tried that it was DECEMBER 17 when I finally made it back to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Bear in mind it is *EXACTLY* three years ago since I was last here. I want, no, I *need* to be back home for Christmas. There’s just too much at stake.
But there is a Plan C. Don’t worry, wily old Odysseus here never goes anywhere without an entire alphabet worth of plans. Maersk, the Danish shipping company – and the largest in the world – have a shipping line that runs from Mauritius to South Africa once a week. What’s more, if I can get on next Sunday’s (the 11st) ship, I could be back in Aff on the following Wednesday. Unlike the basketcases, South Africa requires no visa bullshit to enter the country, so I don’t have to worry about all that crap: although it means that my visas for both Madagascar and Mozambique were a HUGE waste of time and money (sorry mum, sorry Lindsey!).
I had sent emails out to all and sundry, stuff along the lines of “C’mon pleeeeeease, it’s the last bit of the journey!”, but as yet had no response.
I went to sleep on Monday night feeling like the world was pressing down on my shoulders, making my head spin and my fingers numb. Hundreds of ships go to Africa from here. Hundreds! And it’s not in the pirate zone… why is this proving so difficult? AND WHY DID DHL HAVE TO LOSE MY BLEEDIN’ PASSPORT??!
I was woken at half-midnight by my Mum calling on Skype. DHL had found the passport. It was in Madagascar. It just hadn’t been scanned upon arrival.
A million times over, PHEW.
My mum sounded frazzled. My dad was recuperating well after his triple heart bypass and would hopefully be sent home the next day. The ability of the human body to repair itself is nothing short of stunning and I’m very glad to have inherited my father’s hardly-ever-get-ill genes. His don’t-really-get-hangovers genes I probably could have done without (as my beer belly can no doubt attest).
SPEAKING of beer-bellies, can I just point out that the whole concept of beer swelling your gizzards is utter hogwash. And I can prove it. Since I returned to Sri Lanka I’ve been making a concerted effort to just drink beer (no cola) and avoid eating anything whenever possible (and not too uncomfortable). I call it the Graham Hughes Beer Diet. And it works. Lost half a stone in a month, that’s 7 pounds or just over 3 kilos. Easy. Don’t know what everyone’s moaning about. Well, it was either this, the heroin diet or the anaemic dysentery diet. If there’s a cheat code for life, then I’m all over it like white on rice.
Muttering something about having to climb a mountain the next day, I said goodbye to my mum and fell back asleep.
My insanely accurate internal alarm clock woke me up at 4am. The day before I had agreed to accompany the French girls up La Grand Bernare, a volcanic ridge that rises to the second highest point in Réunion, a good 2900 metres above sea level. They wanted to be at the top before the afternoon clouds rolled in, which would mean setting off at 5am as it takes an hour to drive to base camp and it’s a good four hours to reach the summit. Réunion is a very large little island.
The four French girls, sensibly, wore hiking boots. I, on the other hand, don’t own any hiking boots. As a matter of fact, I don’t own any shoes whatsoever aside from my trainers that wouldn’t look out of place being sprayed with disinfectant at the local bowling alley. Not great for climbing mountains. We arrived at Maido, the beginning of the trail, just before 6am. The girls hardly spoke a word of English, so I had no idea what I was in for. To be honest, with the proper equipment, it would have been nothing more than a slightly strenuous stroll, but when the path is made up entire of random jaggedly rocks which helpfully cut holes in the soles of your shoes, and every time you stub your toe it feels like you might as well not be wearing shoes at all, it soon becomes a living hell. But, you know, in for a penny in for a pound and in the end I reached the summit… about half an hour after the infernal clouds had rolled in, thus making my triumph summitting summit of a damp squib. Oh well, at least I got a photo at the top.
The path back down was nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment as my shoes (patched up in Sri Lanka) fell apart at the seams on the stony ground, but I refused to give up (a fitting allegory for this entire expedition eh?). By 1.30pm, Anlou and I were back down at the car and I was downing my first can of coke in two months like a (fat) man possessed. The five of us then went to a café for some lunch before returning to Lucie’s gaff. One of the nice things about being time shifted forwards by 4 hours is that your afternoon is everybody else’s morning. I texted my cousin Christian in Denmark to ask if he could give Maersk a call and find out if they got last week’s email. Turns out the guy I wrote to is no longer there. So the email got forwarded to Michael Storsgaard, who has always been very helpful towards The Odyssey Expedition in the past.
That night was the night of the US Election. Under normal operating conditions, I would be watching it with my friend Jonny Reynolds, with whom I watched the 2000, 2004 and 2008 vote. Jonny and I ran for Student Union positions together back in the day, and he’s now the MP for Stalybridge. I once told an American that I have stayed up to watch every Presidential Election since 1992. He asked me, in all earnestness, why I was so interested in who wins the Presidency of the United States. This is one of those things that a good proportion of Americans, bless their cotton socks, just do NOT understand. They can whinge and whine about their massive farming subsidies, having to, you know, pay tax, being given free health care AGAINST THEIR WILL, not being able to keep slaves anymore… but that’s all domestic. When we talk international politics, who leads the United States is of critical and almost mind-blowing importance. Thanks to the economic policies of that gobshite Bush, THE WORLD IS IN RECESSION. Tens of millions of people all over the developed world are now unemployed. Thanks to his foreign policy of ‘invade first, ask questions later’, The Middle East has become even more destabilised than it already was and HUNDREDS of British troops are now six feet under after giving their lives fighting two unpopular and unwinnable wars.
So, yeah, I watch the US Presidential election, because it affects me, you and everyone we know. If Romney wins, he wants to make abortion ILLEGAL and he wants to repeal the regulations put in place to stop the banks, financial institutions and Wall Street behaving like unrestricted coke-hoovering clowns that have proved adept at trashing the economies of entire continents. Romney wants to stop the poor and needy getting the free health care provided by Obama’s health reforms (how VERY Christian of him) and wants to invade Iran at the first opportunity. Unless you’ve had your head in a bucket of cowshit for the last fifty years, NONE OF THESE ARE GOOD THINGS. In fact, they are all the opposite of good, they are all quite blatantly evil. Bleedin’ Christers. I guess you actually have to believe in the devil in order to work for him eh?
So there’s me, on my Billy Lonesome in Lucie’s lounge watching the rolling coverage of the election on the BBC website (Frenchies don’t really go in for what’s going on in the outside world). I knew I wouldn’t hear the final result until 8am, but that’s okay, it’s not like I had climbed a mountain earlier in the day. I was accompanied for a while by Casey via the wonder that is Skype, but even she flaked out by about 2am her time. So that just left me and my twitter account. But hey, you do whatcha gotta do, right?
Anyway, to cut a long story short, OBAMA WON!!!
Which is super, great, magnificent, awesome and, well, THANK —- FOR THAT!!
I’m sure I heard a collective sigh of relief from around the world at 4am GMT when the Ohio result came in and World War III was narrowly averted.
Well, at least the invasion of Iran. For now.
So, four more years of the best president America has pretty much ever had. He was handed a poison chalice from his bunkum numbskull of a predecessor, but damn did he drink it down never losing eye contact, wipe his chin, burp and scream “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!!!!!!” while imitating the facial expression of Samuel L Jackson doing the Haka.
GOOD ON YA, BARACK!!!
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Worth mentioning is that not only did Barack Obama win, and not only did the Democrats increased their lead in the Senate and decreased the Republican lead in the House, but marriage equality passed in three states (the first time it’s won at the ballot), an anti-marriage equality amendment was rejected in another, marijuana was legalized in two states, and Puerto Rico voted for statehood. A good night all around I’d say.
Absolutely absolutely!! Ahh… civilisation at last! I much more hopeful for this term than the last, Obama had his hands tied and a lot of crap to sort out then, but now… now he can go hell-for-leather. I hope he makes the most of it.
PS. I’m sure those extra 7 or 8 electoral college votes from Puerto Rico will come in handy for the next election 😉
AMERICAN SAMOA FOR STATEHOOD!!
Climbing a mountain with French girls who don’t speak English, well done Hughes!
Wait, we can’t own slaves?
Graham, i’ve been following you journey since (almost) the very beginning. I’m really happy for you that it seems to be winding down. What’s the word on the videos? I miss being able to see them.
Cheers from the U.S.of ‘Merka
your journey, no you journey. man, i need to get more sleep. either that or i need to learn to proofread.
Samuel L. Jackson doing the Haka? haha! I wonder if the All Blacks would be intimidated by this, or just laugh.