Every story has a beginning, and The Odyssey Expedition is no exception. Although I breezed through South America in a two weeks, getting to all the Caribbean Islands without flying took the best part of two months. It was tough going and I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of the following people.
YOU ARE MY HEROES.
Carlos was my camera op who travelled with me for the first three days of The Odyssey, through Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. A real top bloke – I wouldn’t have got my missing GPS tracker back if it wasn’t for him.
I met Mario and his mum when I was crossing the border into Venezuela. They helped me get on a bus even though it was sold out and they even went so far as to take me in for the night, feed me yummy food and let me play Guitar Hero. Good on ya, Mario!
This sprightly 81-year-old Venezuelan kept me entertained on the bus all the way to the border with Brazil with his stories of finding gold in them thar hills. What a dude.
Cedric and Bevaun from Gulf Shipping sorted me out with passage on the MV Miriam, took me through customs and even took me to the best take-away joint in Guyana to fill up on pepper pot and rice for my long sea journey to Trinidad. Huzzah!
The Captain, MV Miriam
This is the guy who said YES when he was asked if he would take a big ginger tramp from Guyana to Trinidad on his large container ship. He let me come up on the bridge and have a good mooch around the boat. Respect!
The Cook, MV Miriam
This guy was top. Always befriend the cook (left) on board a ship! Not only did he insist on me devouring as much of that yummy pork in nutty soy sauce as possible, he wizarded up a barbecue on the deck out of thin air when the ship’s power
Roberto & Jose, MV Miriam
What a bunch of A1 dudes. Not content with giving me free passage to Trinidad, they also plied me full of much-needed alcohol and delicious Filipino food.
Annette Callander (right), Trinidad
My saviour in Trinidad. She sorted me out with a yacht to take me up to Grenada. We also watched President Obama being sworn in together while stuffing our faces with delicious roti!
Linda, John and Ted, The September Song
Linda, John and Ted were the incredibly lovely people who sailed me from Trinidad to Grenada onboard the sailboat September Song. They gain extra kudos for not keel-hauling me for throwing up the whole way there!
Kim, St Vincent
Kim and her husband Earl managed to sort me passage on board the Melinda II over to Barbados and St. Lucia – and she let me have my own apartment at the Paradise Beach Hotel for a cut rate!
Rochelle, St Vincent
Rochelle worked for the shipping company in Kingstown and she was instrumental in convincing Captain Ainsley Adams to take me to Barbados (against his will, I might add!). ROCHELLE, YOU ROCK!
Martin and Fabio, Martinique
The guys I met on the ferry to Martinique – after I solved Martin’s Rubik’s Cube, not only did they buy me dinner, they let me sneak into their hotel and sleep on the floor! Tee hee.
Seamus, St Kitts
Seamus (left) took me under his wing and out on snorkeling trip before we watched the English cricket team doing a little practice run for an up-coming test. He was also the guy who put me in touch with…
Wayne, St Kitts
Wayne was the guy who looked after me in St. Kitts. He saved me from my naff (but expensive) accommodation, let me kip at his place AND sorted me out on the Vagrant to Antigua… the coolest and friendliest guy I met in The Caribbean, he’s responsible for St. Kitts being my favourite Caribbean island.
Captain Grant, The Vagrant
The skipper of the mighty Vagrant, Captain Grant delivered me from St. Kitts and sailed me to Antigua. He is a walking advert for the great tradition of good old-fashioned Canadian hospitality.
Thanks to the wonders of couchsurfing, Christal let me stay at her place when I was stuck on Antigua. Together with her mum and dad, she also helped get me get on the radio, into the newspaper and off to St. Martin. Result!
Christal’s Mum and Dad, Antigua
Christal’s dad’s house was where I stayed in Antigua. His generosity and ninja-like cooking skills made the experience a pleasure. Her mum drove me about town when Christal and I were looking for shipping agents. Top, top folks!
This wonderful lady was a friend of Christal’s who let me crash at her place on my last night in Antigua when I was stuck on the wrong side of the island having missed the last bus home.
Kerri and Andrew, The Mariposa
This wonderful Pom/Kiwi couple really did rescue me from Antigua (I could have been there weeks!) and whisked me away to St. Martin on their beautiful sail boat. True Odyssey heroes!
Sarah, The US Virgin Islands
I met the wonderful Sarah when she was working behind the counter at the Beans, Bytes and Websites cafe. She looked after me, fed me roti and let me crash at her place on St. Thomas. Legend!
Rosa, The Costa Fortuna
Here’s the lovely Rosa from the Costa Fortuna, the cruise ship I managed hitch a ride on (thanks to the hard work of Lorna Brookes). She’s representing the staff of the Costa Fortuna who were all complete Odyssey heroes. They looked after me so well, even let me to go up to the bridge to watch the ship depart – something that no civilian had been allowed to do since September 11th.
Mehrdad, Dominican Republic
The COOLEST Iranian sushi chef in the world. One of the friendliest guys I have ever met, he let me CouchSurf at his place in Puerta Plata and took me to meet all his crazy wonderful friends and even had me doing karaoke.
Ken and Esperanza, Dominican Republic
Ken was my CouchSurf host in Santa Domingo, the capital of The Dominican Republic. Together with TJ, he hooked me up with the guys at DR1.com. Esperanza’s from Colombia and typifies the epic cool that is the Viva Latino!
TJ, Dominican Republic
TJ was Ken’s flatmate Santo Domingo. He introduced me to the wonderful guys at DR1.com, and helped Ken show me around the place.
Lu, Dominican Republic
Together with Robert, it was Lu that allowed me to abuse the DR1 office for three days to look for boats. He also generously donated his Granola (that’s Harvest Crunch to us Brits) to The Odyssey Expedition. What a top top guy.
Roman, Dominican Republic
Roman was the guy who found me on the internet, sussed out where I was and got in contact to see if he could help. And help he did. After meeting me at the DR1.com offices, he supplied me with a list of every single cargo ship going in and out of the Dom Rep for the next couple of weeks. LEGEND!!
The Crew, MV Linge Trader
These were the guys who looked after me on the container ship that took me from Dominican Republic to Mexico via Haiti and Jamaica. The guy on the left is Alexander, the second mate. Originally from Odessa in Ukraine, he stuck up for me when the captain wanted to chuck me off his ship in Kingston. Thanks, Alex!! By the way, that’s not a novelty hat, it’s a coat hanging on the wall behind him.
Jay and Jay, MV Linge Trader
Jay on the right was the cook on board the Linge Trader, the ship that took me from The Dominican Republic to Haiti to Jamaica to Mexico. He supplied me with more food than I could possibly eat. Jay on the left was one of the crewmembers. He supplied me with more DVDs than I could possibly watch.
Jorge, El Salvador
Oo eck, here comes trouble! I met Jorge in the Irish Pub in the Salvador City on the eve of my 30th birthday. It was his insistence that let me going to the Sushi restaurant and then getting ludicrously drunk on the beach and screaming at the Pacific.
Memo, El Salvador
Memo (middle, white top) was a top mate of Jorge’s. He’s the one who drove me to the beach and then drove me back to town in order to catch my bus at 2am. In the end, we went to the wrong bus station and then got pulled by the police. After much shenanigans and hilarity, he somehow managed to get me on another bus to Costa Rica that left at 3am.
Sofia, El Salvador to Costa Rica
Spending the day on your own sat on a bus in a foreign country is not the best way to see in your thirtieth birthday, lucky for me then that I had this lovely Argentinian girl sitting next to me all day. She even gave me a little cake with a candle on top.
When I say that somebody is a dude, I mean it in a Big Lebowski The Dude Abides kinda way. So when I say that Wallander is a dude, you know what I mean. We met on the bus to Livingstone in Guatemala and he gave me somewhere to stay for the night and arranged my trip over to Belize and back. A hero in all senses of the word.
John Curryman, The Bahamas
This guy hangs out in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. He dresses like a nutter and dances for money. This is what I plan to do when I am old and mad. HE IS MY HERO.
Midge, The Conch Republic
Tom and Midge from the Mariposa retreat were my CouchSurf hosts in the Florida Keys. They gave me a roof over my head, cooked me yummy food, had fascinating things to say and helped me sort out a way of getting to Cuba. She was instrumental in making the Keys my new favourite part of the US.
Admiral Finbar, The Conch Republic
This is Admiral Finbar of the HMS Wolf, the flagship of the Conch Republic. For seceding from the United States, declaring war on America and attacking the coast-guard with water balloons and stale Cuban bread… SIR, I salute you. You are my hero.
Captain Seth, The Conch Republic
Seth was a friend of Admiral Finbar. He introduced me to the crazy natives of The Conch and ensured I had somewhere to crash for the night after the fun and frolics of St. Patrick’s Day in Key West.
Mike, The Conch Republic
This is Mike Bellows, the Author of the Definitive Guide to Getting To Cuba, Legally and Illegally. I managed to contact Mike through the wonderful staff at Harpoon Harry’s. He was the one who put me in touch with Captain Johnny.
Captain Johnny, Cuba
Captain Johnny was the guy who helped me get to Cuba when the US government had rejected my application to go and trade with the enemy. We spent almost a week together on his mighty boat, battling storms, the gulf stream and my general ignorance when it comes to sailing. But we made it and now I have exciting and swashbuckling tales to tell my kids about blockade running and Cuban hospitality.
Monica and I met in the spring of 2002 while I was backpacking around South-East Asia on my way to meet my destiny with the Mandster in Oz. We bonded over Happy Pizza in Cambodia and the pizza was so happy it made us happy too. We then spent the remainer of the evening in the Angkor What? pub giggling like schoolchildren in a sex-ed class. Monica arranged the roof over my head in New York and we went to a midnight burlesque show. Result!
I met Patrica from Germany at the backpackers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We hung out for a few days, attended a gig in somebody’s house, mooched around the streets of Halifax and re-enacted the Second World War with snowballs. Of course, being the plucky underdog, I won on behalf of Brits everywhere.
Like Patricia, Seppe also hails from Germania, but like me he is an ultimate globe-trotter and a chap who gets around the world on cargo ships… sound familiar? I met him at the Halifax backpackers and we hung out together for the week I was there. Last I heared he had just cross the Caspian sea from Aktau to Baku in Azerbaijan… the reverse journey of what I did in March 2010. I guess our paths will cross again. (Update Sept 2016… they did!)
James was my CouchSurf host in Halifax. A cooler dude you could never hope to meet. He religiously attends the Burning Man festival every year, he’s the CouchSurf ambassador for the whole of Nova Scotia, he took me out on the town, he fed me delicious lobster, we watched Lost together and he inadvertently introduced me (via his son) to the wonderful world of Zero Punctuation.
At last! A face to go with the name. This wonderful lady was responsible for convincing Eimskip to let me onboard the MV Reykjafoss in order to cross the Atlantic without flying. She is just one of many people who have helped me behind the scenes and I thank and salute her. Thank You.
Captain Magnusson, The MV Dettifoss
The good Captain of the Dettifoss, the cargo ship that Eimskip arranged for me to take from Iceland to Rotterdam. He warmly welcomed me on board, made me coffee and gave me a tour of Thorhavn in the Faroe Islands.
Chivas Regal, The MV Reykjafoss
Chivas, on the left, was the cook on the Reykjafoss, the ship that the good people at Eimskip arranged for me to take over to Iceland. Not only a fantastic chef, he earns extra kudos points for being kidnapped for a month by Somali pirates in 2007 and being able to laugh about his experiences. Oh yeah, and his dad NAMED HIM AFTER A BRAND OF WHISKY – RESPECT!!!
The Crew, The MV Reykjafoss
The Crew of the MV Reykjafoss were a total joy. True noble sea-farers, they were a force to be reckoned with and indulged my curiosity by giving me the run of the ship, letting me go up to the bridge and allowing me to check out the engine rooms.