Days 1,062-1,065: The Chief’s Hairdo

28.11.11-01.12.11: 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…

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Days 1,060-1,061: The Super Sevens

26.11.11-27.11.11: I was rather expecting the old Southern Pearl to be leaving today, but its ETA in Suva has been pushed back by a day so it wouldn’t be leaving until Monday... at the earliest. Ah well, thinks I, so long as Sandy doesn’t object to the strange hairy man from the other side of the world staying a couple more nights... On Saturday night, Sandy and I headed back over to Peter and Ann’s for round two of my Kava Initiation ceremony. Losana from last night was there (laughing at my drunk n’ disorderly behaviour the night before) along with a few others who had popped around for Kava and the Super Sevens Rugby, in which Fiji was doing remarkably well. So remarkably well that they went on to beat New Zealand and take the first round of the international tournament: and deservedly so –…

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Days 1,058-1,059: A Coconut Full of Kava

24.11.11-25.11.11: Kava is the tipple around these parts. Like beer and wine in Europe, it’s the one strand of commonality that runs through this disparate set of islands. Brewed (that’s probably not the right word) from the mulched up root of a tree, it looks a lot like muddy water and tastes like cold nettle soup, with some mud thrown in for good measure. I had a blast of it in Vanuatu and found it somewhat lacking in the taste department, although it did make my mouth go numb, which I suppose is a blessing if you’re intent on having a second helping. It’s served in a half coconut shell (or the skull of your enemy in less prissy times) and passed around from person to person with a CLAP before you drink and a CLAP CLAP afterwards. For years Kava was tapu (taboo) for woman…

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Days 1,055-1,057: The Longpigs

21.11.11-23.11.11: You know the theme song for the TV series Red Dwarf makes no frikkin’ sense at all? Have you ever stopped to consider why? It’s because the composer, Howard Goodall, originally intended to write different lyrics for each episode, as he did for Blackadder II. A passing remark in the first episode ‘The End’ alludes to Lister’s wish to live in Fiji: hence fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun. Obviously Goodall has spent a week in Suva in cyclone season. Not that Fiji’s capital city isn’t fun, but overcast skies and incessant rain mean the ‘sun’ part probably doesn’t warrant saying three times in a row. The good ship Pacific Pearl drew into Suva port on Monday morning. The second most expensive ferry ride of The Odyssey Expedition (after the ill-fated trip to Cape Verde) was over. 1,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean…

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Day 1,054: …And So To Fiji

20.11.11: Today was a red-letter day for the Odyssey Expedition. I would step foot on the hallowed turf of the 188th country of The Odyssey Expedition: FIJI. Our port of call was Port Denarau: a rather artificial creation on the west coast of Viti Levu, the biggest island of the 300+ specks of land that make up modern Fiji. The tourist brochure bills it as something of a ‘resort’, the kind of thing that makes me breathe in sharply through my teeth: a golf course, a shopping centre and a Hard Rock Café. Eek. But I have to say I had an absolutely awesome time. Most due to the fact that on the journey to land I got chatting to a fresh-faced young couple, Molly and Angus, from Adelaide who managed to restore my faith in all things Australia. We went to the local shop, I…

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Day 1,053: This Is The Odyssey

19.11.11: I rose belated and bedraggled from my cabin at some godly hour and headed upstairs to grab some breakiefast. No Full English for me, sir, I’m happy with the Alpen, thanks. Then it struck me: I had agreed to do a talk today about my adventures around the world. Why did I do that? Heaven knows; I guess I’m a rampant self-publicist. Unfortunately, my name was put down as ‘Gareth’ Hughes on the Ship Newsletter. Quite why a guy called Gareth would present a show called ‘Graham’s World’ is a matter for greater minds than mine. I blame Willy, the ship’s Deputy Director of Entertainment; who sounds like a scouser, but do not be misled, he doesn’t come from Liverpool, he comes from Birkenhead. Consequently, like all Birkenheadians, Malaysians and Nigerians he’s a Kopite and maybe the whole ‘Gareth’ thing was sweet revenge for all…

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Day 1,052: Port Vila

18.11.11: As you all know (since you’re reading this and are therefore as intelligent as you are good looking) Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu. Unlike the other places we’ve been to so far on this cruise, Port Vila has a port so no launches today, we simply pulled up alongside and hit the streets. Being an enterprising (read: tight arsed) chap, I took a walking tour of the capital, a rather pleasant, sleepy kinda place. Before independence, Vanuatu was known as the New Hebrides – a complementary name to New Caledonia (the Roman name for Scotland). It’s also worth noting that Vanuatu has an awesome flag. Unlike the Seychelles, which hasn’t. Also, people from Vanuatu are not called Vanuatans or Vanuatuvians... they’re called Ni-Vanuatu. Which is a brilliant name which makes them sound like a kick-ass warrior race from Star Trek. Ka-POW! After doffing…

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Day 1,051: Mystery Island

17.11.11: How could one not love a place called Mystery Island? An uninhabited island located in the very south of Vanuatu, this tiny dot of land is believed to be haunted and so living here is taboo. Why is it haunted? Well I guess that's the mystery of Mystery Island. Although the Ghost of Christmas Past doesn’t stop us tourists stomping all over the place (and it didn’t stop the Yanks building an airstrip that takes up half the island). Again we took to the launches and to step foot in the 187th country of The Odyssey Expedition was a sheer joy. I hung out on the island with my new cruise chums Stef and Crystal and did the usual stuff one does on mysterious islands... Drink kava out of a coconut shell... Fend off the local warriors... Bring out the dancing girls... Hang out at…

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Day 1,050: The Isle of Pines

16.11.11: Our first stop was in the French territory of New Caledonia. After getting my fingers burnt with South Sudan I’ve decided that it’s in my interests to ensure that I pop into any territory that might inconveniently (for me!) become independent in the next few years. With an referendum pencilled in for 2014, I figured I might as well tick New Caledonia off my list now and have my completed record stand for a few extra years should the population take a turn down the rocky road of independence. The Isle of Pines is located in the very south of the country, below the big island (Grand Terre) that makes up most of this sizeable speck of Melanesia. Melanesia encompasses PNG, The Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and (ethnically) Fiji, so by the end of this week I’ll have Melanesia done and dusted. Only took…

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Days 1,048-1,049: Orientation

14.11.11-15.11.11 The first two days on board the Pacific Pearl we were at sea so I spent them milling about, winning the pub quizzes (ha! Try cheating on your smartphone when the internet is 75c a minute!) and getting to grips with all things cruise-y. The first (and most obvious) thing I noticed was the stunning demographic divide. On a ship of 1,500 souls there must have been less than 30 of us who were young, hilarious and up for dancing the night away. Everybody else adhered to that painful cliché of newly-weds and nearly-deads. There were some families on board, but put it this way: the vast majority of the ship’s compliment of passengers were in bed by midnight. Something else I know I shouldn’t say, but I will: boy there are some big fat fatty fat fats on board. Hey, I’m no Slim Jim…

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