Saturday, 29 November 2008


This has to have been the biggest culture shocks I have ever experienced. It is difficult to find the words to describe to you how it feels to leave a calm relaxed “island time” culture at sunrise, only to arrive in what feels like total chaos by nightfall. The shacks lined up on the shore line, all made from corrugated tin & looking like they are seconds from collapsing into the water. The endless sound of honking from mopeds zooming past & the bemo’s (little mini van style buses/taxis) beeping at every pedestrian they pass. The filthy water full of rubbish; plastic bottles & nappies are common place but we certainly didn’t expect to see a fan, a desk & CD’s bobbing about!

Vanimo, PNG & Jayapura, Indonesia separated by a boarder crossing & only 30 miles of land just couldn’t be any more different. They maybe be close in distance but their cultures, living conditions & religious beliefs are a million miles apart. The Western world has had a huge influence on Jayapura with KFC, Dunkin Donuts, air conditioned supermarkets & wireless internet but when you see the children playing in huge banks of rubbish on the sides of the river & swimming in the disgusting water I can’t help but think that the Western influence is a bad thing & the people in the Pacific with their dugout canoes & leaf houses are better off in so many ways.

It took a few days to recover from the shock, during which time I’ll admit I wanted to turn the boat 180 degrees & sail back to the Pacific Islands. I was comfortable with the people in Melanesia & Polynesia. I could communicate with them, share a joke, knew how to get around on land & knew what the weird looking vegetables at the market were! Indonesia was a whole new ball game. It didn’t help that during our final day in PNG I was eaten alive by sand flies & completely covered in bites therefore feeling uncomfortable & miserable. I was doped up on antihistamines, unable to leave the boat as I couldn’t stand to have any clothes against my body. So while Bobby was tearing about the city trying to deal with the bureaucratic systems this country likes to put in place, I was busy watching episodes of 24. It took poor Bobby days to just compete the check in process. Filling the boat had to be done under the cover of darkness as its illegal to fill cans of diesel at the petrol station – just as well we had the police on our side & happy to help us! We certainly couldn’t have done it without them.

Memories that will stay with me forever:
The sound of chanting coming from the mosques. Admittedly it wasn’t highly appreciated at 4:30am but in the evening when the sun has gone down, Bobby & I sat in the cockpit sharing a beer, enjoying the cool breeze & soaking up the Islamic equivalent to the Christians hymns. I daydream, wondering what my time in Indonesia holds for me.
Walking along the street & everyone shouting “Hello Mister” – they haven’t quite worked out the word Mrs! Male of female you are going to be called Mister! Young boys shouting “I love you Mister” just doesn’t quite sound right! ; )
Sitting down in a roadside tent (you could only loosely call it a restaurant!) to eat the best food I have tasted for a long time & for the high dollar price of £2! If the Pacific Islanders could just get their culinary skills on the same level they would have it all! I’m afraid the bland starch taro dishes just don’t cut it!
I’m embarrassed to admit we rushed to KFC & then to Dunkin Donuts & oh it tasted so very very good. No item of fast food has passed our lips since February so it was allowed!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Pacific Ocean - a love hate relationship

The journey across the Pacific Ocean has finally come to an end as we enter new waters & turn our backs on the Pacific. I can't quite believe I've done it! I left Panama City a totally novice sailor onboard a sail boat where everything was totally foreign to me & I arrive here in Sarong, Indonesia a different person. I have achieved something that I could never even have dreamed of; I have crossed the entire length of the Pacific Ocean in a sailboat (including a detour to NZ). It's not very British to blow my own trumpet but I hope I have permission to do so. You have followed me though the highs & supported me through the lows, you know what a feat it's been. I hope the stories from the Pacific have kept you entertained. My parents followed on maps stuck to the kitchen wall & it's given Fiona something to read on her train commute. I pity the people of Brockham village who upon visiting my Nan will have been made to read every word of this website at least twice! ; ) Nan, you are a total inspiration to all your grandchildren. At 93 years of age you have traveled to more places on this earth than most, impressive especially when you consider it's only recently that air travel has become the norm. Only now I'm off the beaten track you can't say "Well my dear when I was there in 19……"!
This hasn't been the easiest thing I have achieved. I'll never forget the pain, tears & shear terror I felt, but they are out numbered (just about!) by the times I've been in total awe from the natural beauty of this ocean & her residents. As I sat under the stars completing my final night shift in the Pacific Ocean I reflected on the good, the bad & the so very very ugly. There is little I would change. It's been one hell of an experience.

It's not all over yet there are still the waters of Indonesia to complete so its back to work (yep its not all sitting on sandy beaches!) for me!

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