The Adventures of a Part Time Professional Gypsy (and her ginormous teddy thing)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some Epic Title... [The End of My World]

TEN…. NINE…. EIGHT… Thoughts are racing around my head like a giant disorganized herd of pregnant water buffalo playing ice hockey with sharpened samurai swords: Are we actually ready? What have we forgotten? Will we have enough food and water and basic supplies? Will the back ally stitching on our three reefs of broken sail hold the 5800 miles home?

It's amazing the work that goes into taking down a main sail

It's even more amazing how you can finally fold it small enough to fit in a dingy...

SEVEN…. SIX… Asia is incredible…. I miss land… and there’s so many many epic people about, so much good food to eat and too many good surfs to be had… so many places I haven’t yet been…. So much more to see… SO much more to lick… and I’m back where I started 11 month ago (And it’s been a flipping exceptionally incredible 11 months)… Australia’s so close I could almost swim there… it’s not too late to abandon ship and turn in the wrong direction again…

My beautiful home.... S/V Fiddler

FIVE… FOUR…I haven’t been home for two years, what happens if people have changed too much? Or worse; what if they haven’t changed at all? Will people even recognize me? Apart from my Nigerian skin tan, am I even still an African? 

THREE… TWO… There are so many people I meant to talk to, so much I had to say [I talk a lot]. How many more birthdays will I miss? How many more people will get married? And engaged? And born? And intoxicated? And knighted? What major events will be happening around the world in the next month? Maybe the world ends and we get left behind....

This picture has absolutely no relevance to this blog

ONE: It’s the very end. Six months of direction change, hitching, boat work and island hopping has finally bought us to the ocean crossing. In the next 24 hours, we‘ll have done our final supply shopping, stamped out of Indonesia and we’ll be raising anchor and launching into the unknowns of the Indian Ocean. Our world is about to shrink to the confounds of the ship and the marine life that surfaces. And the stars. That’s all we’ll have until Reunion. There’ll be no popping in to grab some fresh bread and chilli. No skyping mum a quick “I love you”. No facebook (oh! The horrors!). No doctors (hopefully we won’t need them). No sneaking in a non-vegetarian meal on the sly. No human interaction apart from the crew (luckily they’re a really nice bunch).

And while I’m so terrified that I couldn’t bring myself to sleep last night, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing with my life right now. I know we’ll be okay. Coming back to the boat last night after 3 whole days (“tiga hari” because my Indonesian’s almost practically fluentish) of land, I felt like I was coming home. And I know that for the rest of the world life will go on as normal as we blip up and down on the vortexy abyss of ocean. But know that you’ll be severely missed dear human, and if you get a chance, spare us a thought, a wish and a prayer. I’ll post out the infrequent message in a bottle…. And then see you on the other side. See you in Africa.   


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do you Speak Lion?

Us human types are always on the run. As an African, I learned to run before I could walk - it's the only way to dodge the lions and hippos and the tokalosh.

And then you get older and you learn how to run away from the wooden spoon [after you've taught a toddler to pee in your sibling's dustbin on a daily basis (unfortunately I was the sibling with the dustbin)]. You learn to run to the smart kid who always does the homework while running away from the teacher who knows you have not. You learn to run away from bullies. From darkness. From dodgy looking people. From hijackers. From big spiders. From the tax man. From commitment.  

Us human folk run away from our fears. And as a result, some people learn to run very far and very fast. Some don’t ever stop running. But they don’t normally run to anything in particular. Except maybe the bar (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I’m writing this at a bar and it’s quite a lovely place really and it has free wifi and a beach and human life and everything)

I like to think that everyone suffers from stupid irrational fears. I enjoy pretending to be hardcore, but underneath my goofy smile lies a terrified bundle of nervations ready to implode.

My fear of a boring life has kept me running circles round the globe for years. It’s also birthed new fears: sharks, dragons, plane crashes, human traffickers, sinking ships and Australians.

My fear of tomatoes has terrified me the most and led me to Le Tomatino in Spain where my every bodily orifice lay coated red for months to follow and has temporarily led me to be a vegetarianist. I’m proud to say that only a few days ago I willingly added tomato to my burrito. I’m practically cured.  

Granted some people claim to run for fun. But this is a lie because A) running just isn’t that fun and B) they're actually just running away from unfitness and unwanted body fat. There's always something chasing us.

Instead of running, what would happen if we just sat down and learned to speak lion?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Lick a Dragon

I’ve spent a good portion of my grown-up life chasing mythical creatures: mermaids, unicorns, leprechauns, “the one”, and now a new sort of quest has evoked me – the dragon hunt.

Because my flying academy came to a very abrupt end when I was caught jumping off a two story wall (age 8), I still can’t fly. This makes getting around a whole lot harder than it ought to be. But life at sea is a close second.

It took a good few days of sailing to get into the dragony waters. And in an attempt to psych myself up for the chase, whilst on a 4am night watch, my ipod fell to the depths of the ocean half way through ‘The final countdown”. I really hope the mermen below have good taste in music.
Our beautiful anchorage in Rindja island
Rindja (or Rinca or Rincha) island was as mysterious as we’d hoped; a desolate island mass teeming with deer, wild horses and macaque. We took on a friendly guide A) because we had to and B) Because a man with a big stick to fight off dragons is better than no man with a big stick to fight off dragons.

The quest continued.

One. Two. Six. A cluster lay sprawled out in the shade. Almost lifeless – like statutes. The magical dragons were as big as I’d imagined – their piercing stares shot shudders down my spine.

Fortunately, they didn’t move much. They stood up only to defecate, and then they’d lie back down after a few lashes of their long forked tongues. Komodo dragons do not shoot fire. This was a disappointment.

We ventured deeper into the island.

Solitary dragons lay hidden in bushes [and the young in trees] guarding their nests and digesting their bellies. They eat but once a month, but when they do eat [monkeys/ buffalo/ horses/ humans] they eat everything – fur and bones included. It probably explains their hairy poo.

Licking hairy dragon poo - apparently it will take up to a month to see if this  action has done any permanent damage to my being

Komodos may appear to be the laziest creatures on earth (after the people in the world's tax and traffic offices), but they run at 18 km/ hour and often just administer a single bite to their prey. They then follow the victim for up to two weeks until death by infection consumes. What a horrible way to go.

[At least it' a pretty place to die]

For two days we explored the island, marveling at the violent landscape and marvelous wildlife. For two days we kept our heartbeats up - hoping not to fall victim (or lunch). For two days I tried to find the courage to lick a dragon. And then finally…

[Photoshop is a powerful tool!]

I lived.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Equatorial Escapades : Homeish at Last

The purple seas swarmed rigorously about me as I tried in desperation to locate south and; more importantly, the captain. Clearly the breathing of fresh Southern hemisphere air was too much for him to handle, and, only a few feet before the equator, he’d hurled himself mercilessly over the railings and into the ocean depths. In an attempt to save the sharks his indigestion, I’d leapt overboard too.

The swells were bigger than they’d looked from the deck, but there, in the distance glistened what could only be his beardfulness (or I suppose, a very large, hairy fish). Eventually Fiddler returned to rescue us – but Kirk’s craziness had contaminated all the crew and now everyone wanted to swim the equator, so we about shipped and crossed the line again; his time doing it the same way we came into the world (lucky none of us drifted far out to sea – if we did happen to be rescued by a passing vessel, it would have taken a lot of explaining and I don’t speak Indonisian, Malay, or Chinese - yet).

With the northern hemispherian crew making their first entry into my world, it’s almost understandable that they should think wearing underwear on the outside appropriate. They seemed to think everything would be wrong way up in the South. So much they have to learn; in the South the air is sweeter and the beer is crispier, people smile wider; the world is just about as it should be.

Equitorial pancakes
other equatoriaal pancakes
It’s been a long run too – all the way around Sabah (Borneo) to Brunei, and then back East - around the tip and 928.8 Nautical miles (164.5 hours of sailing; 29 vomits) later, we entered Indonesia. We stopped off to pick up Memo, our newest crew member, and to explore remote islands and jelly fish lakes and the unfathomable beauties of the ocean depths before carrying on South for the equator. 

Jelly fish lake, Kakaban - squirming about with billions of stingless jelly fishies - one of the happiest experiences of my life 
Tarakan, our first port of entry into Indonesia
Why I am the only one licking a customs official, I don't know
Some of the many many many smiling Indonesians

 The North didn’t let us go easily either. First the pulleys that held our dingy up gave in and we almost had what would have been a very unfortunate loss. Then our main sail ripped and we lost the first two reefs leaving us with only half a sail. To add to the trauma of our final day as northerners, the toilet paper took a dive in the sink – oh, the distress! 
The near loss of the dingy
The ripping of the sail
The remaining half...
 The past week’s added another 645+ miles to our journey and thrown us soley to the mercies of the ocean. We ran out of bread - we learned to make our own. We ran out of fruit – we resorted to scurvy stopping vitamin C tablets and popcorn (yes, it’s a fruit). We ran out of contact with the outside world – we learned to survive without Wikipedia, facebook and all other human interactions.

It’s a very simple life out here – a life of freedom and subsistence.. Sunshine and storms. Winds in every wrong direction and sometimes none at all (at which point you drift in the currents, normally backwards). 

The windi meter on a very very long backwards sailing night
 We’ve just arrived in Makassar (Sulawesi) to restock supplies and extend visas. Soon I’ll be attempting my first steps back onto solid land – there’ll be real humans again – I wonder if I remember how to pretend to be civalised? (Wow, I can’t even remember how to spell the word). The thing that scares me the most however is the land sickness. Ten days at sea – my longest stretch yet - and this is just the prelude to the one month ocean crossing that lies ahead.

It’s good to be back in the home hemisphere and homeward bound at last.