Day 398: Branson’s Pickle

02.02.10: Dragged my carcass off Zafer's couch a few minutes after seven, said my thank yous and goodbyes and soon enough I was down at the port clambering onto the fast ferry back to Turkey. And twist my nipples and call me Frank what a fast ferry it was. While the Calypso had taken a good eleven hours to cross the sea to Cyprus, the fast ferry took under two hours to get back. If only these hydrofoil things existed elsewhere... I could have been to Crap Verde and back within a day! The return leg from Mauritius would have taken a six days, not six weeks! The Caribbean?! Oh, if only...! Excuse me, Mr Branson, once you've quite finished fleecing the British commuter of every penny to travel on your disgustingly over-priced train 'services' (you know, the ones that actively punish the spontaneous and bereaved…

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Day 397: Calypso’s Isle

01.02.10: When they say slow boat, they mean it! It was 11am before we reached port in Girne in the northern half of Cyprus. Northern half? What, like in St. Martin/Sint Maarten? Well, kind of, but in a much less hilarious fashion... Warning – history lesson alert!! You can skip this bit if you like... Back in the mists of time, Cyprus was ruled by a succession of all the usual suspects in the area – Assyria, then Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome and eventually the Byzantines... that was up until Richard The Lionheart turned up like a great big flowery nonce and gave the island to his 'friend' Guy de Lusignan. That was good for Cyprus for a while, having a 'guy' in charge who was good with colours helped with the aesthetics no end and before long, Cyprus was enjoying a golden age. That golden…

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Day 396: The Slow Boat to Cyprus

31.01.10: It was one of those mornings upon which it's far too cold, gravity seems to conspire against you and the snooze alarm makes it far, far too tempting... all too easy... to fall... back zzzzzzzzzzzz. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEP BEEP BE BEEP!! Groan. Okay okay! I'm getting up! After a decent shower, I headed out to get the daily fast ferry to Cyprus, Nation 142 on my list. Suddenly stuck by a crisis of confidence – the boat didn't leave from Silifke itself, it left from the nearby town of Tasucu. How nearby? Well, I had absolutely no idea, did I? So instead of doing the sensible thing and taking the bus, I did the stupid thing and took a taxi. In the event, it was only ten minutes down the road, but in my not-quite-wiped-the-sleep-from-my-eyes state, I forgot to remember the golden rule: all…

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Day 395: The Silopi Slope

30.01.10: I had checked in to a local hotel in Silopi, sharing a room with a few other guys to get the price down to $10 (which was pretty extortionate if I stopped to think about it). I worried that I had mucked up the time difference between Iraq and Turkey and would find that my bus to Silifke had left half an hour ago, but that didn't entice me to rush and I squeezed every last bit of sleep out of the situation that Chronos would allow. The bus station was just across the road. I wanted a seat on the 8pm bus to Silifke, the town from which I could get the boat to Cyprus and therefore tick off that last remaining country on my list of European Nations. However, the bus was sold out and so I found myself hanging around for a…

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Day 394: Chav and Chav-Nots

29.01.10: You know what though – all these dangerous places I've been to, I haven't seen one gang of horrible teenage lads hanging around on a street corner with their hoods up threatening passers-by for no better reason than they're too stupid to think of anything else to do. (Plus nobody stops them.) When I lived in Orrell Park in Liverpool, I wouldn't let them interfere with my wish to go to the shops at night, but even I had to admit that their presence made me much more anxious (in terms of fearing of injury or death) than my time in Lagos, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Iraq put together. So next time somebody tells you not to go to such-and-such dangerous place, might I suggest you take them by the arm and go for a stroll to your go see your friendly neighbourhood scallies hanging…

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Day 393: The Morning After

28.01.10: </object I woke up in the morning wearing all my clothes, with hardly any recollection of the night before and Mike Tyson's pet tiger in the room with me. After returning the tiger to Mr. Tyson, I tried to find out from Felia what the hell happened last night. I won't go into details, but I'm quite astounded that my new friends didn't stuff me in a taxi to Mosul wearing a sandwich board that read “I'm American & Mohammed Sucks”. Sam popped around later and Londa came home for a bit of sheesha for lunch. It was nice to know that everyone feeling just as seedy as me. I didn't think I should head off just yet, my body would have protested too much, and what's an extra day in the grand scheme of things? Londa's landlord would be coming around for an inspection…

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Day 392: Drunk… with an AK-47

27.01.10: Londa hails from a place called Colorado in a little out-of-the-way country called America not far from Comoros, Sao Tome and Djibouti. She's been living in Iraq now for more than six months and seems to quite like the place. I guess it makes a change from fast food, big fat fatty fat fats and weird ball games that nobody else in the world plays. She's working in the school here in German Village, as (seemingly) are most of the people who live in these apartments. Funnily enough, I'm not Londa's only CouchSurfer; she's also hosting a lovely girl from Amsterdam named Felia, who is interviewing ethnic Kurds for a ‘Uni’ project. Today, I went out for a walk around the town, got my beard trimmed and stuffed my face with kebab (the only food seemingly available round these parts). If I can just make…

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Day 391: The Invasion of Iraq

26.01.10: I blame Lonely Planet. The nearest town to the border of Iraq according to my guide book is a place called Sirnak, the real closest town is called Silopi. If I had known this in advance, I could have got off my bus in Silopi instead of foolishly staying on it until Sirnak. This meant I had to backtrack somewhat. Yesterday when I asked for a ticket to Sirnak, a Turkish man said to me “why do you want to go there? It's very dangerous... [gestures firing a machine gun] Best you go to Cappadocia.” Cappadocia's fairy-chimney charms aside, this remark annoyed me more than scared me – it's no secret that the Turks aren't particularly enamoured with the Kurdish people that live in the border regions of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Irritating buggers who have their own fancy language and customs – how dare…

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Day 390: The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

25.01.10: It was the wee small hours when we pulled into Aleppo in the top left corner of Syria. Not one to stand on ceremony and after last night's jiggery-pokery I couldn't get out of the place fast enough and soon I was over the border and doing a little victory dance in my 140th country of this damn fool idealistic crusade. Although I hear 'crusade' isn't too much of a buzz word around these parts. So I found myself in Antakya, Turkey. In times long past, it was known as Antioch, which observant members of my congregation will remember from the 1st epistle of St. Graham (Chapman). Talking of Holy Grails, Antakya is not far from Iskenderun, which used to be known as Alexandretta. Those who have been studying the history of archaeology (well, watched the Indiana Jones movies) will know that Alexandretta is where…

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Day 389: A Blizzard In Beirut

24.01.10: Before you could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, I was on the coach heading to the Lebanese border. Again, Lebanon has a bit of a bad rap when it comes to popular opinion. I'm of the age when an untidy bedroom would be described as 'looking like Beirut'. It's a sad (and yet achingly familiar) tale of three peaceful religions sporadically showing the world just how peaceful they are by brutally murdering each other. Lebanon's civil war raged for over a decade, and Israel is more than happy to test out its swanky new rockets and helicopter gunships every now and again at the first sign of trouble. Lebanon therefore finds itself between a rock and a hard place, which makes it all the more remarkable that it still manages to be an attractive and inviting place to visit. It's like a hardened guerilla fighter who can also…

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