Nauru: a lonely mountain in the Pacific Ocean

Day 2,248 since October 10th 2013: 191 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).  

You NEED to know all of this!

pano

Nauru has been in the media plenty but hardly for anything which represents the world’s smallest island nation. It is the world’s second least visited country and Westerners named it ‘Pleasant Island’ in 1798 some 3,000 years after the first people arrived.

It is a funny thing about westerners. I guess Europeans in particular. Just showing up and naming things. It has been done a lot throughout the past five hundred years and I’m even guilty myself as I’ve tried to name several islands: “Thor Island”. I have so much to tell you about my time in Nauru. It has been amazing and as always that points directly towards the people I’ve met. However I would like to start this entry by explaining how huge an achievement it is that we have reached Nauru without flying. Or just reaching Nauru at all! Nauru is the second least visited country in the world, behind Yemen, and only sees about 200 tourists a year so tourism is barely existent. It is furthermore a country for which most people need to have a visa before they arrive. And not just that…it’s a slightly difficult visa. Not really difficult but you can’t just fill in a form, hand over a passport photo and pay a fee. You are required to 1) fill out the application form which is seven pages long, 2) forward a passport copy, 3) share travel tickets/itinerary for your stay, 4) share a hotel booking, and 5) supply a document to prove current employment/occupation. If your application is approved then you will receive details for the payment of AUD 50 (USD 34). And once payment has been made you will get an e-visa (pdf file).

TCP cabin

This process caused several problems for me as I’m not flying and could not be sure which ship would bring me, when we would arrive and when we would leave again. Furthermore Nauru has developed a caution in relation to journalists, bloggers or anyone else who might be able to share information about Nauru. The Saga has tens of thousands of followers across social media and a weekly blog. As you know I’m not in the habit of looking for negative news. Within the Saga I aim at spreading positive stories in order to counter the negatives which we so often see in the media. I have a friend who has been to Nauru twice. The last time he applied for a visa it took him twelve weeks to get it!! That would also be problematic for me as Neptune Pacific Line in 2019 is the only company which has a containership that regularly calls Nauru. And their good ship ‘Capitaine Quiros’ calls Nauru about once a month. So how could I possibly apply for that visa without raising suspicion? Nauru is among travellers notoriously shy when it comes to journalist. I am neither a journalist nor a reporter. However I might be placed in that category and denied a visa or charged AUD 8,000 (USD 5,470) for a journalist visa. So all in all Nauru is hard to reach without flying and the visa is somewhat tricky. Nauru was the last “hard to visit” country of the Saga.

map

There is nothing in the above which is news to me. I have known all of it since early 2019 and I approached Nauru’s Director of Immigration, Mr. Rajeev Keerthiyil, already in May 2019. He was from the very beginning friendly, helpful and responsive. This was a good start. However with all the interviews the Saga is featured in, the ever growing social media and the attention which comes with nearing a remarkable goal, I am always worried about how immigration for certain countries might react. I have deliberately not blogged or created social media post about such matters when approaching “difficult countries” because you never know who might be reading or how quickly a door can shut. I travel the world with good intentions and have a pretty clean track record from the past six years. Nevertheless I do understand how my profile could generate suspicion. I was advised not to tell Nauru Immigration about my social media and simply informed that I was a member of the Danish Traveller’s Club (DBK), that reaching countries can get a bit competitive and that I was aiming at reaching as many countries as possible without flying.

Singapore

Singapore: Maersk, PIL, Swire/CNCo, DS Norden & Blue Water Shipping :)

When it comes to reaching Nauru without flying a few things came into play. Nauru receives oil products once in a while so there must be tankers going to and from the isolated island nation. They famously also export phosphate so there must be ships which arrive to carry the mineral away. Sailboats and cruise ships do not frequent Nauru so that was not a viable option. It had to be Neptune Pacific Line! It would be the most elegant solution. I already knew that back in June 2019 when I had meetings with Maersk, PIL, Swire/CNCo, SeaLand, DS Norden and Blue Water Shipping in Singapore. What people fail to understand, and I have perhaps not communicated it well, is that it is HARD to come onboard a containership as a passenger. There is basically no reason why a ship would invite a passenger onboard apart from if they have made a business out of it. They have nothing to win from it and in worst case they have much to lose. Besides that, it is also extra work for a shipping company to deal with the administrative load of bringing a passenger onboard. It is much easier to say no than it is to say yes. It is even easier not to reply at all. So even I, having been onboard twenty-three containerships, struggle with getting permission at times. This far into the Saga it is less of a problem for me to get onboard a containership and particularly if it belongs to a company that already knows me. However Neptune Pacific Line had never heard about me or the Saga. And transporting passengers is not their business. So I was having the hardest time getting their attention.

Pacific plan

Not high-tech...but it does the trick. This leg of the Pacific was nonnegotiable. And only Neptune Pacific Line could offer the service.

Looking back I cannot say for sure what changed. But on September 27th 2019 I received an email which in large would make Once Upon A Saga a likely future success. It was from Mr Rolf Rasmussen, Managing Director of Neptune Pacific Group. Rolf offered the companies assistance in reaching Nauru and any countries beyond. Absolutely phenomenal!! I know that both Maersk and Swire had been active in trying to establishing contact. But ultimately I think it was our friends at Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC) that made the difference. They have been a keen supporter since we first met in Cyprus back in 2017. In any case as you might gather by now: this has been a team effort! In fact a lot more people and companies have been involved but let’s get on with the story. In a collaboration with Neptune Pacific Line, Mr Ian McIntosh-Oakley – Marine Manager, issued an introduction letter and guarantee from Neptune Pacific Line to Nauru’s Director of Immigration. While in Solomon Islands I was able to compile all the required documentation and forward it in an application for the visa. And just a few days later Mr. Rajeev Keerthiyil forwarded me the payment details. It turned out to be tough making the payment from Honiara, Solomon. The first bank I tried couldn’t make foreign transfers. The second bank couldn’t do it if I didn’t have an account. The local exchange office also couldn’t do it. The ships agent, Sullivans Shipping, finally ended up taking my money and asking the agent in Nauru to make the payment. And a bit of bureaucrazy later I had a receipt I could send Nauru Immigration and very soon after that I received my e-visa. We were set to go!!

ship sunset

In short: I boarded the good ship “Capitaine Quiros”, we sailed north-east to Kiribati, then we continued south-west to Nauru and after eight days onboard we finally reached Nauru. You can read all about that in LAST WEEK’S BLOG :)

Nauru up

Nauru...all of it ;)

Nauru is a really interesting and very fascinating country to me. The entire country is just one island and the ring road which follows the coast is a mere 19 km (12 mi) long. The population is about 15,000 people who belong to twelve tribes. You belong to the tribe of your mother and it does not change throughout your life. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, which is exposed at low tide and dotted with pinnacles. The presence of the reef has prevented the establishment of a seaport, although channels in the reef allow small boats access to the island. Beyond the reef it gets incredibly deep really fast! It simply drops 4,300 (14,107 ft) into the abyss!! This is where my “Nauru is the peak of a mountain” idea comes into play. There is nothing else around Nauru apart from water. Its nearest neighbor is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometers (186 mi) to the east. A seamount is a mountain which rises from the ocean floor and does not reach the surface. People have already been living on Nauru for more than 3,000 years. The seamount would have been pushed upwards by geological activity. However not before a lot of coral began to grow on top to a thickness of 500m (1,640 feet). I’ve heard about a rapport from 2012 which supposedly documented that Nauru’s phosphate deposits did not actually form from the droppings of seabirds. Instead the valuable phosphate should have formed from marine life getting caught on top of the island as it raised up from the ocean. Possibly the report suggests that this happened several times with the island going above and below the surface multiple times. I have not been able to find this report.

church

Protestant church, Nauru.

graveyard

Graveyard, Nauru.

Nauru is a Christian country and I have been able to find several sources on the internet from creationists referencing the biblical flood and that earth is only 4,500 years old. Therefore stating that the more popular theory for the origins of the phosphate did not have time to form. Let’s get one thing straight: earth is older than 4,500 years. We have buildings that are older than that which should settle the debate. Earth is also not flat. Trust me on that one. I’ve been to 191 countries without flying. The more popular theory for the formation of phosphate deposits on Nauru stem from guano (excrement of seabirds). The theory is that for a very long time, long before humans reached the island, Nauru was home to colonies of seabirds. And they would over time excrete a layer of guano two meters (six foot) thick across much of the island. No matter the origins we can establish that phosphate was first discovered on Nauru in 1900 and that colonial exploits of the reserves began in 1906. The first shipment was exported in 1907. Long before that when the first Europeans arrived in 1798 nobody cared about phosphate. They cared about fresh water which they could supply themselves with in what became known as ‘Pleasant Island’. Today when you mention Nauru half the crowd says “Never heard about it” while the other half starts speaking about refugees. But people have as mentioned lived here for more than 3,000 years. And how the heck did the first people ever stumble upon such a tiny island in such a vast sea?

phosphate old

Old phosphate mine. The coral pinnacles are even older.

Would you look at that! We have already covered so much and I still have much to tell you. Nauru 19, rare mineral finds, a ride with the police, walking around a country, free coconuts, a Japanese WWII prison, hostile dogs, friendly people, raw fish, aqua farming, misconceptions, incredible beauty, the lack of Red Cross and probably a lot more. Let’s start with the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” and cargo operations in Nauru. As mentioned earlier Nauru lacks a seaport. What happens instead of having the ship dock at a port is that the ship is moored to several buoys which are strategically anchored just beyond the reef. “Capitaine Quiros” has its own cranes for offloading containers. Nauru Port supplies three barges which each fit one twenty foot container. Once the ship is moored down the ships engine is turned off. The crane starts operating and a barge comes along side. A container is lifted off the ship and loaded into the barge, which then transports it to the small port where another crane lifts it up onto land. Meanwhile another barge has been loaded and is on its way to the port as the third barge awaits the ships crane.

Nauru coast

Here you can nearly see half of Nauru.

Nauru arr

Being moored to the buoy's. The barges act as tugboats.

If only it was that simple. Nauru provides little shelter from the elements and swell is a hugely delaying factor for offloading cargo. Swell is movement across the surface of the ocean. It is when the ocean goes up and down. A wave is when the surface of the water breaks. Most days since we arrived to Nauru have been beautiful with blue skies and a beautiful surface across the blue ocean. But it does not take a lot of swell to make a ship roll from side to side. The same goes for the barges. And that rolling can make it impossible or even dangerous to operate the crane. It is a painfully slow process. Nauru is famous for this among shipping companies. Offloading is said to take eleven days on average. The same cargo operation would have taken one day in Tarawa (Kiribati) or Honiara (Solomon Islands). We knew this long before we arrived. So I always expected I would have plenty of time in Nauru. The Chinese are however currently building a seaport so all of this might change. In the process there are rumors that the Chinese have dug up large opals or other precious stones from the corals where they are constructing the port. Some say they found a huge opal and others say they have found several and shipped them all to China. Rumors so far…apparently there is a photo somewhere on Facebook but I have been unable to locate it.

Sea dark

The ocean may look calm but the swell might be 0.5-1 meter (1.6-3 feet) in this photo. And that can be enough to postpone cargo operations.

We reached Nauru on November 28th. That was a Thursday. But due to swell we could not begin cargo operations. The agent and immigration came onboard. Actually eleven officials came onboard and had a meal. I was called down from my cabin for facial identification. The Captain holds all the passports from everyone onboard. I said hello to the immigration officer, he looked at my passport and said okay. That was it. According to new regulations from Nauru Port the ship cannot stay moored to the buoys during the night. Instead we have to head back out to sea where we turn off the engine and drift for the night. We drifted as far as 27 kts (50km/30mi) that night. The next day we headed back to Nauru and were ready for the pilot to come onboard at 08:00am. However due to too much swell we had to wait and drift some more. The day passed with no cargo operations. That was last Friday. Last Saturday when we again arrived ready at 08:00am we were moored to the buoys and cargo operations commenced. This became the first day I set foot on Nauru soil. I travelled from “Capitaine Quiros” to shore onboard a barge along with the pilot. A great guy from Tonga who used to be a captain. He pointed me in the direction of a place where I could get a simcard. I got recognized at the Digicell store by one of the employees. From YouTube of all places :) I had a small walk around, took a few photos and sat down at a café where I got last week’s blog online for all of you. Then I returned to the ship just before they left. Due to poor conditions they had stopped cargo operations early. They are supposed to continue until 6pm. The next day was Sunday and I stayed onboard. I wasn’t sick but I was really low on energy for some reason.

Barge

Using a barge to taxi me to the shore.

Digicell

Maxine (left) recognized me on my first day in Nauru :)

Airplane

Nauru sometimes has 2-3 flights a day and nobody sleeps on the runway. But it used to be different in the past.

laptop

Getting last weeks blog ready for you. This one took about ten hours.

Monday December 2nd became my first real day in Nauru. I went for a solid walk clockwise around the ring road. I had to stop myself after 5km (3mi) as I had already walked a quarter around the island. And I was planning on walking all the way around the following day. At the Digicell store I had been warned about street dogs. Nauru has no snakes, spiders, malaria or dengue to worry about. However the dogs can get fierce. I had a meal at Capelle before I turned around. Capelle is like a “city centre” with a supermarket and a few shops. Everything in Nauru is rather small and humble. People seemed reserved to me. Friendly but reserved. A dog came up to me while I had my lunch by the beach. It seemed friendly and I scratched it behind the ear. Later on, on my way back I decided to hike up to Command Ridge which is the highest point on Nauru. It measures a whopping 71m (233ft). So I turned left off the ring road up to a small neighbourhood. It looked quite nice. It consisted of some white prefab blocs and I initially figured it would be the home of some Chinese or Australian expats, which there are plenty of in Nauru. However it turned out to be a refugee camp.

Nauru 191

beach sign

santa

Capelle, Nauru. They are not holding back regarding Xmas ;)

Nauru is relentlessly hot! It is “only” 31 C (87F) and the humidity is at 67%. However we are about a marathon distance south of the equator and close to the Sun. I have experienced far higher temperatures in other countries. In fact around most of the Middle East. However Nauru feels warmer. Blue skies and very little wind. Planet Earth bulges around the equator due to its rotation. The bulges measures 42.72 km (26.5 mi). Because of that bulge the peak of our planets highest mountain (Mt Everest) is not as far from the center of earth as the peak of the much lower Mt Chimborazo in Ecuador. And because of that bulge Command Ridge in Nauru is in fact “higher” that every mountain in the European Alps. Not really though. But Command Ridge is certainly further from the center of earth than all of them including the peak of Mont Blanc. Anyway, when looking across the ocean one does not realize that Nauru is a mountain top. However if one could imagine that the ocean drained then the view would be just 500m (1,640ft) shy of that from Mont Blanc.

beach

Not your typical "top of a mountain" ;)

mystic path

Magical and mystical environment. Full of adventure and wonder. Old phosphate mines and coral pinnacles.

Beyond the refugee camp I met a security guard who helped me on my way to the path which leads to Command Ridge. It was the most mystical and adventurous path! The landscape was like out of a fairy tale. I did not know it yet but I was walking among overgrown phosphate mines which had been depleted long ago. After some time three your girls came marching towards me. Two with music in their ears and the third without. I asked what it was but they did not know: “I just come here to exercise. They had black garbage bags under their training clothes enabling them to sweat even more.

Command Ridge

The view from the top of Nauru: Command Ridge.

I finally made it to where I though the path was to Command Ridge. However I needed some help from a security guard to find the trail entrance. “It is a bit rough that trail” he said. It definitely was! Pretty much completely overgrown. I had already been suggested another and easier route – but longer according to my map. The kind security guard confirmed that there were no snakes or spiders to be cautious about: “but be aware of ants” he said. I followed the path as well as possible but it just ran out and I was left in front of some pretty dense bush. I figured that if the Japanese soldiers could make it back in the 40s then so could I! The phone rang. It was Aria. He is the ships agent in Nauru. Aria and I had agreed to meet on top of Command Ridge and he was already there. I had to be nearby. A few minutes later I was shaking hands with Aria with twigs and leaves all over me. But I made it.

Aria

Aria is a great guy! He showed me around the island. Here we are at Buada Lagoon which is a fresh water lagoon in Nauru. Long ago the locals worked out how to develop aquaculture by bringing fish from the ocean and farming them in freshwater. It is unclear how long ago that practice began but it mostly ended in 1961.

Phos plant old

An old Phosphate processing plant. For the past 100 years phosphate mining has been a huge part of Nauru's history.

solar panel

This Solar Project was funded by the UAE Pacific Partnership Fund and was inaugurated in 2016. The guardsman was super kind and immidiately let me in to take photos.

Phosphate new

An active phosphate mine. It is not true that "Nauru is a donut" and that the center has been dug out. However a hundred years of mining has definately teraformed Nauru.

coconut

I had not seen any coconuts for sale in Nauru but plenty on the trees. I asked Aria who said "around here, if you want a coconut, then you just take one". We found a tree so low that I could touch the coconuts from the ground. I twisted one off and Aria opened it for me :)

I headed back to the ship that night in preparation for my walk all the way around the country the next day. And the next morning I got up and was excited about walking around an entire country. There aren’t many countries where you can easily do such a thing. I decided to walk counter clockwise. Buddhists would approve of that as it is auspicious. I’m not Buddhist but I like the idea always to choose left given the choice of left versus right. It was super-hot! The distance did not bother me at all but the heat was something else! And the sun was strong!! I had received a bit of a sunburn from the day before but this time I had put on a thick layer of sunblock. Good thing too because the sun was constantly above me. I would have preferred to start such a hike at 05:00 or 06:00am but I couldn’t get off the ship until 09:00am and as such I began at 09:30am.

beach pano coral

It was a great hike around Nauru!! People were so friendly. Smiling and waving. It was gorgeous following the coastline which was dotted with small Japanese bunkers from WWII. The coral reef and the pinnacles were something else!! I’ve never seen anything like it.

bunker colour

Coconut fish

Most amazing dish! Coconut fish and lime!! (raw tuna and rice). Naruan sushi ;)

MC airport

The ring road follows along the runway. If you take a right oposite the terminal then you end up ON THE RUNWAY! :)

All together I filmed 86 short clips from the walk which I hope to put together into a video. At one point seven dogs came charging at me which immediately had me I fight mode!! I had brought a walking stick as per the local’s advice and lifted it above my head while I in Danish shouted: “YOU WILL NOT WIN THIS BATTLE!!!” (I wonder where the heck that came from?) The dogs stopped, barked for a while and then discontinued their attack as I walked off. They are well into Australian Rugby on Nauru and there are about eight teams that compete fiercely against each other. The teams mark their part of the island with the team colours. I feel that I understand Nauru pretty well. As a child I grew up in a village with 1,200 people and if you broke a window you could be sure that everyone knew it was you. Everyone knew everyone and everyone stuck their noses into each other’s business. There is a sense of safety and security in everyone knowing everyone.

Walk finish

A bit red after the hike ("Capitaine Quiros" in the back).

The hike came to an end when I reached a full circle. I had walked 21.5km (13.4mi) in less than six hours. I had stopped many times on my way to take photos, talk to people or sit in the shade and drink some water. There is so much more to Nauru than what meets the eye. It is a lovely, safe and beautiful island nation as far as I am concerned. Perhaps some mistakes have been made in the past but there is no country in the world which is perfect and it is poor form to be a guest in a foreign nation and point towards that which one does not like. Maybe it is about time that someone shows all the good which Nauru has to offer?

Henri

In finnish Nauru means 'laughter' :)

That night I had made preparations to sleep on the island. A friendly fellow named Squire had contacted me on facebook long ago and told me that I was welcome to stay at his home. Squire is a Nauruan living in Melbourne, Australia. I called Aria (ships agent) who drove me to Squires house (because frankly I was done walking for the day). At the house we met Squires sister who let me in, showed me my room and handed me a towel. Perfect. Aria left and before I knew it I was talking to one of the other guests. A tall blond gentleman from Finland named Henri. Henri was six countries from becoming the tenth person in Finland to reach every country in the world. So we had something to talk about. Good guy. Squire is one of nineteen Nauruan’s whom are known as Nauru19. It is very political and began 4-5 years ago. From what I understand there was a peaceful demonstration from the opposition which got completely out of hand and turned violent. Nineteen of them ended up losing all their rights: they cannot leave the country, they are not permitted to work, they have no legal representation at court etc. For a brief moment there was a window to leave Nauru between the old and the new government and Squire saw his chance to seek asylum in Australia. I am not at all taking sides. What I find interesting within all of this is that everyone knows everyone. They grew up together, some were former colleagues or classmates and they can’t avoid meeting each other on the street. Nauru is really not like anywhere else.

Squire

A photo of Squire in his house.

That night I enjoyed being on the island. A nearby graveyard had been lit up with candles. At this point I was already pretty well-known across the island. Squire and a few others had been sharing my posts on facebook and the account had received hundreds of new followers. The next day I calculated that about a third of Nauru’s population had joined the Saga. It has been absolutely heart-warming.

Nauru Media

Three beautiful ladies from Nauru Media.

The next day Aria had arranged for me to meet with Nauru Media which is the countries only media house. Three lovely ladies showed up to ask me what the Saga was about, where I have been so far and what I thought about Nauru. I really think that people are wrong when they say Nauru can be seen within a day. It is true that you can drive around the island in thirty minutes or less. However the more I learn about Nauru the more I want to stay and explore. There is plenty of interesting stuff to see and do. And a lot of the locals are good for a talk and have interesting stories to share.

Darkey

Visiting the caves with Darkey.

Drew Binsky and I have known each other for quite a few years now. We finally met in Bangkok earlier this year. Drew is currently traveling around Africa trying to visit all of those countries. He will probably finish visiting every country before I do. Back when I was preparing for Nauru, Drew put me in touch with Matthew who has over the years hosted several people who are trying to reach every country. Trying to reach every country is regrettably on the agenda of many whom come to Nauru. Matthew turned out to be another “Nauru19’er”. He was in court on this day and the session was running late. Matthew and I had agreed to meet for a glass of sweet ice tea. While I waited I ran into Darkey who is Squires dad and offered to show me the Moqua Well and Moqua Caves. I had been reading about them but had no idea where they were apart from near the airport. Many locals still refer to this underground lake as a well because it was Nauru’s main drinking source during WWII. It was a short drive from the courthouse to the well. Darkey is pretty cool. He used to be a seaman but that was many years ago. He told me that he used to frequent the cave with his friends thirty years ago to sit and enjoy a cold beer. He is sixty years old now and had not been to the cave for thirty years. It was interesting listening to his stories. He told me that if I got into the water and swam deeper inside then I would enter a huge cave. Darkey also said that some believe that the cave connects to the centre of the island. I imagine the cave would have been sacred to the locals many years ago.

Matthew

At Capelle with Matthew. Ross DK is the Saga's only financial partner and a leader within geothermal energy in Denmark. I've taken a photo with this banner in every country so far. Personally I have also funded a huge part of the Saga and many of the Saga's followers/supporters have also offered generous donations. Thank you all! :)

Matthew came out of court and we went back to his place to have the promised ice tea. He had a guest from Malaysia named Guna. I also met his lovely wife and their cute little granddaughter who was hardly old enough to stand by herself but had no problem climbing all over me. Guna, Matthew and I decided to head out for lunch and drove to Capelle where I had a sandwich, Mathew had some chicken and Guna went to have a look around. Afterwards we got back in the car and drove all the way around the island. My second round. Guna expressed that he was interested in renting a bicycle. I then remembered that Henri, the Finnish traveller, told me he was out walking in the evening when a shop owner offered Henri to take a bicycle for free. That is Nauru for you. Henri, Guna and I were probably the only three tourists in Nauru so people knew we were there. So we turned around and drove to Squires house to see if Henri was there. Henri was there and was pretty red having cycled around the island. He offered to bring the cycle back to the shop owner and show us who he was. Long story short: everybody knows everybody. We ended up at a house where a very fit guy named Diamo Baguga greeted Henri, took the bike back and offered it to Guna…for free. Guna expressed that he was happy to pay but Diamo wasn’t interested in money. He just wanted to be friendly. It was a pretty nice bike. Matthew later told me that Diamo is (or was) the world champion in deadlift.

Stevedoor

A stewedore approching the good ship with an empty container. He will attach the chains from the crane. The barge can fit one container at a time.

Those were some amazing first days in Nauru. So much kindness, so much hospitality, a lot of smiles and waves. I returned to the ship that night and once cargo operations ended for the day we headed back out to sea for the night.

Ship sunset calm

The next day, yesterday, I was hell-bent on finding some Japanese canons which I had seen on my map but not located when I was at Command Ridge. They were supposed to be nearby. I made a stop at the post office to drop a few postcards off. A guy in Croatia had asked if I could send a card to their Nauru group in Croatia. He transferred some money to me for the trouble. I then made my way toward the canons near Command Ridge but stopped when I met a couple of guys at an intersection. We began talking. Suddenly they offered me a bottle of water. That is Nauru for you. Lots of kindness. It turned out the Japanese WWII prison was close by so I went and had a look. Erie place to be on my own. Afterward I hiked up to the first canon which was quite a sight! On my way back down my foot got caught and I went forward down a two meter (six foot) drop. In mid-air I tried to save myself from landing on my face and twisted my left knee. Ouch! I broke my walking stick bot no bones. I got a few cuts, scrapped some skin off here and there and slightly damaged my shoe. I should have been more careful.

JP gun

In the early 40s the Japanese sat in the heat and waited for the American's to arrive. And they came!

With my newly acquired injury I figured the other canon probably looked similar to the one I had already seen and began to make my way back down. My knee wasn’t too bad but there was less support on that leg and I was a bit uncomfortable in the knees outer positions. As I left the trail and reached the road I ran into Officer Rory who has been a part of the police force for twenty-seven years. I had never met him before but he recognized me from facebook. A lot of that had been going on lately. Rory offered me a ride and I wasn’t slow to accept. As we got back down to the ring road he said “let’s go once around and I’ll drop you off where you need to go”. So I managed to make a third lap of Nauru. Good guy Rory. He knew everyone I had met so it was easy to have a conversation.

Police Rory

Even the police is pleasant! :)

Before heading back to the ship I took a photo for the Red Cross. Nauru has no armed forces. They also have no Red Cross. The movement began in 1863 and has since spread across to 191 UN countries around the world. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and aims to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. The UN counts 193 countries + 2 observer states (Palestine and Vatican). The two countries without movement presence are Oman and Nauru. HOWEVER! When I was in Oman last year I found that the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) was there supporting the humanitarian efforts in neighbouring Yemen. And I am a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross and currently in Nauru. So I figure that this is possibly the first time in history where the movement is represented in every country in the world at the same time! Furthermore, of the two observatory states you’ll find the Palestinian Red Crescent (I have a great story from visiting them) actively at work. The Vatican is therefore the only one singled out. However the Italian Red Cross (Croce Rossa) could quickly send a volunteer into the Vatican and voila!! The movement would for a brief moment be in every country in the world at the same time.

RC

Red Cross history which nobody seems to care about :)

I had an idea for Nauru! They should have an International Marathon!! Two laps around the country! The world’s smallest island nation. A tough and unique race under the sun near the equator. Arrange for a few cruise ships to act as hotels just off the reef. Offer some of those coconuts. Limit the entry. It would be a pretty amazing marathon if you ask me :)

sunset

Yeah, so we are now at the end of this entry. It was a long one - huh? Well done making it this far. The kindness in Nauru towards me has really seen no end. I have received a great deal of invitations and offers which I had to turn down due to the working hours of the cargo operation. Nauru: you are forever a friend of the Saga. Stand tall and make the right decisions. I have no doubt that you will once again be known around the world as ‘Pleasant Island’.

Nokia map

 

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga needs funding. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - feeling rather accomplished. 
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 2Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 3Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 4Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 5SM LinkedIn
Add a comment

“Capitaine Quiros” – passenger no. 1 (reaching Kiribati and Nauru)

Day 2,242 since October 10th 2013: 191 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).  

Heading deeper into the Pacific

pano

Life. Box. Chocolate? Mr. Gump’s mother was on to something. Within 24 hours everything changed and the Saga was suddenly heading towards Kiribati and not Nauru. The good ship “Capitaine Quiros” became the 23rd container vessel to gracefully carry the Saga forward. Here is a day by day account following last week’s entry on leaving the Solomon Islands.

Day ONE onboard – Nov. 20th 2019

For a long time I had been waiting to board the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” from Honiara in Solomon Islands to the small but very interesting Pacific island nation of Nauru. So on November 19th when the good ship arrived, I was packed and ready to come onboard. However that same evening I received an email from which I learned that the ship would be calling Tarawa in Kiribati as its next port and not Nauru. In addition there was no mention of Nauru at all. If Nauru had been dropped from the schedule then that could be a real problem. Now what? Would we not be going to Nauru or would the ship go to Nauru later? And how would this affect the visa I had acquired? The Nauruan visa is hard to come by and even harder when you do not fly. It would expire on December 14th. Was there enough time? After speaking to Lawrence from Sullivan Shipping (the ships agent) I learned that the ship had been rerouted to Tarawa but would afterwards continue to Nauru. Now it was just a question of time – but I should be fine? A powerful thunderstorm was tearing the sky apart outside. Lawrence told me to meet him at his office the following day (Nov. 20th) at 08:00am.

1 eyes

So on this day I got up before 07:00am, did thirty-one push-ups, had a shower, got dressed, made a cup of tea and had some breakfast. I was still at Jenny’s home and she was bringing me downtown on her way to work. The night before I had been working late on rescheduling meetings in Fiji and getting the Red Cross in Kiribati notified about my sudden arrival a few days later. I also downloaded various information about Kiribati (which is pronounced “Kiribas”), downloaded a map of Tarawa and scheduled social media for the upcoming days. Jenny and I said farewell at her office. We hugged and walked our separate ways. Five minutes later I was sitting in Lawrence’s office waiting for him to arrive.

2 cabin

After Lawrence showed up it did not take long before I was escorted inside the port which was just on the other side of the road. And minutes later I was onboard being greeted welcome by the 3rd officer. Around 09:00am I had settled inside the “Owners Cabin” and soon thereafter I was given a familiarization of the ship. I briefly met with immigration in the ships office, they stamped my passport and I had my first meeting with the ship’s Captain, which was ultra-brief as we were about to leave. That meant that I would soon be out of reach and loose reception on my phone!! So I returned to my cabin and got my affairs in order while we began to put Honiara behind us. At lunch I had more time to get acquainted with Captain Evgeny Zemtsov, who is from Saint Petersburg in Russia, and informed that it would take about five days to reach Kiribati where we were scheduled to stay for a day. Then another three days to reach Nauru where cargo operations were likely to take at least nine days. And then another six days to reach Fiji. The Captain was calculating an ETA for Fiji around December 15th. That meant the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” would be my home for the next twenty-five days! It also meant that all going well this ship and its crew would be the first to bring the Saga to three new countries!!

 

Day TWO onboard – Nov. 21st 2019

I woke up when my alarm went off at 07:10am. We were already at deep sea. I took thirty-two push-ups and headed down to the officers mess room for my breakfast. Afterwards I headed back to my cabin on C deck and honesty didn’t have much to do. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands in the last few countries so I’ve had time to organize well and get to the bottom of much of what I usually do onboard ships for the first few days. The Saga has changed tremendously lately and the workload has dropped. I’m far from the days where I was working beyond one hundred hours a week. Furthermore I was offline onboard this ship. The ship has WIFI but it is not an open network. I could probably have gained access but I preferred being offline. Disconnected from the world.

3 couch

Relaxing in my cabin...

As the sun rose so did the temperature onboard. You cannot get closer to the sun on our planet’s surface than around the equator. Air-condition becomes precious onboard but there was an issue with the compressor and the crew was reconditioning the air-conditioning. Several hours passed as we learned to appreciate what we normally take for granted. Out in the open ocean we were twenty-three men sitting on top of a powerful MAN B&W engine pushing us forward at around nine kts (16.7kph/10mph). Speed at sea is measured in knots which is abbreviated kts (nautical miles per hour). In the afternoon the air-conditioning was working again. The hours went by as I mostly did nothing: watched a few series, organized some files, watched a movie, discarded outdated paperwork, had a shower, read in my book…

 

Day THREE onboard – Nov. 22nd 2019

It rained all day. I can’t help wonder about what the point might be of having rain at sea? I understand that water evaporates out of the sea and is carried inland by clouds so that it can rain over land and keep our world lush and green. After all, plants need water so that makes sense. But why would it rain at sea? Well…this day it did. We were also moving about a great deal: up and down, from side to side, forwards and backwards. You get used to it. It can even be a bit fun. Like a rollercoaster. I decided to empty out my large North Face basecamp duffel bag to get a complete overview over what I’m carrying. Just in case I might have something I didn’t need any more and wasn’t aware of. The only surprise was some liquorish tablets which had fallen out of their box months ago and had now liquefied into a sticky brown substance. This substance had melted into several items so I needed to give it all a good wash.

4 hall

C deck. My cabin is to the left at the end of the hall.

 

Day FOUR onboard – Nov. 23rd 2019

I was checking out which movies I have on my hard disk drive when I came across “Blade Runner” from 1997. Classic! Three minutes into the movie a text appears on the screen: LOS ANGELES, NOVEMBER 2019. Wow? The first Blade Runner movie takes place this year and this month! And that was about how exciting the day got. I slept most of the day. The weather was a lot better. Apparently the weather we were experiencing the day before had built up over Papua New Guinea and moved east right behind us. We only caught the edge of it.

5 lifeboat

 

Day FIVE onboard – Nov. 24th 2019

At 03:16am we crossed the equator and entered the northern hemisphere. That is my home hemisphere. It is the part of our globe where I was born and raised. I was well into my twenties before I paid my first visit to the southern hemisphere. This particular crossing however became the twelfth time we have crossed the equatorial line within the Saga. And we have more to come. Looking at the crew list all on board belong to the northern hemisphere. Captain Zemtsov is Russian and so was the Chief Engineer and the 2nd engineer. The Chief Officer was our only Romanian onboard, I was the only Dane and everyone else were Filipino. Together we counted twenty-four souls and five days in I had been shown nothing but kindness. I had even encountered a bit of surprise. One evening as I was making myself a cup of tea I met a crewmember who obviously did not know I was onboard. He was staring bewildered at me. I smiled and says good evening at which end I also said: “are you surprised to se me?” He nodded and said yes.

6 CSM

There are basically three entities involved with a ship like this: the Owners, the Operators and the Charterers. For some ships all three are the same. For the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” the setup was as follows:

Owners:               Neptune Pacific Line (NPL)

Operators:          Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM)

Charterers:         Neptune Pacific Line (NPL)

That basically means that the ship belongs to NPL who in this case also are responsible for the cargo and which ports to call, while the entire crew is contracted by CSM. It was Ian and Rolf at NPL who were kind enough to assist the Saga and provide me with access onboard. NPL’s ship is in fact the only containership which calls Nauru! There used to be two companies but now it is down to NPL. Obviously I am outmost grateful to Ian and Rolf for making this a reality. It might have been impossible to reach Nauru by any other means. If Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM) sounds familiar to you then it may be because they have also helped the Saga in the past. The good ship “Cape Moss”, which in 2016 brought us from Madagascar to the Seychelles, was owned and operated by CSM and chartered by Maersk. A slight difference was however that back then “Cape Moss” was operated by CSM in Cyprus while “Capitaine Quiros” is operated by CSM in Singapore. Oh well: one big happy family I guess.

7 drift

This evening we stopped the engine twenty-seven nautical miles from Tarawa, Kiribati. Our rendezvous with the pilot was set for the next morning at 06:00am. We had 4,000m (13,000ft) of water below us and the weather was clear and calm.

 

Day SIX onboard – Nov. 25th 2019

The pilot was on board at 06:02am. We were alongside at Tarawa, tied up and had the engine off at 07:28am. The ship was officially in Kiribati. Tarawa is one of the nation’s 33 islands and the entire Island of Tarawa is considered the capital. For some reason they pronounce “ti” as “s” so the correct pronunciation of Kiribati is “Kiribas”. It took a little time before the authorities had completed the health check and stamped my passport. I was off the ship and took my first picture at 08:57am. Would we be here for more than 24 hrs or would I need to return to Kiribati again? Time would tell. At 09:24am I had reached Kiribati Red Cross Society (KRCS) who had not seen the arrival notices but welcomed me regardless. I was soon seated across from Secretary General Depweh Kanono. There was a power outage and it was hot.

8 kiri RC

Depweh has been with the Red Cross since 2016 and came from a position at government. He told me that he would be leaving the country the following day and fly to Geneva in Switzerland which is a three day journey from Kiribati. In Geneva he would attend his first Red Cross General Assembly along with representatives from the other 190 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. KRCS formed out of the British Red Cross when Kiribati gained independence in 1979. They are well known for first aid activities and provide first aid training for preschool teachers which is a requirement by law. They are also well known for promoting blood donation but their activities do not stop there. Kiribati is prone to a variety of disasters. Harsh winds on and off generate waves which causes flooding across the flat nation. Rainfall is not regular and causes drought from time to time and for various reasons Kiribati is no stranger to outbreaks of various diseases. All activities which fall under the category of Disaster Management which is common part of the movements work. KRCS is also active within Red Cross Youth, Community Dissemination and Resource Mobilisation but it was the Solid Waste Management which caught my attention. Kiribati has a problem with garbage. Over 90% of the 130,000 strong population lives on the Gilbert Islands and around 50% are living on Tarawa alone. Everyone generates waste – what to do with it? Also some minds need to be turned as common practices in small remote communities in terms of waste management (or the lack thereof) can become a problem in more densely populated areas. And it has. The KRCS helps in spreading information about bacteria, health, good practice, recycling and storage of waste. This is done in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment. Looking across the table at Depweh and having met a handful of the staff I couldn’t help feel like this National Society was far more like family than an organisation. But maybe it was just my imagination. At times I find it hard to imagine a world without the Red Cross.

9 kiri Canon

Tarawa Atoll and other Gilbert islands were invaded by the Japanese in December 1941 and liberated by the Americans two years later in November 1943 in the Battle of Tarawa. Stuff like this still plays witness to the bloodshed.

After our meeting Bweenata Arakua who is the Human Resource Manager offered to show me around on Tarawa. She organized a car for us and after some “island time efficiency” we were on our way. In between I had said farewell to Depweh and managed to purchase a simcard from hell. But I didn’t know that yet and the saleswoman was kind and helpful. In fact…the entire island was kind and helpful which I would soon learn. At 12:53pm we were on our way and made our first stop at a derelict Japanese bunker and canon from WWII. Tarawa Atoll and others Gilbert Islands were invaded by the Japanese in December 1941 and liberated by the Americans two years later in November 1943 in the Battle of Tarawa. History has set its mark on the nation even though the events took place 76 years ago.

10 kiri Mix

11 kiri Map

Chart of Tarawa Atoll. See how narrow the Island is.

As far as I’m concerned Kiribati is a spitting image of paradise although I must admit that there was a fair bit of litter. I had a vivid dream years ago long before the Saga took off. I was in a warm climate standing on white sand in knee deep turquoise waters far into the ocean. There were several idyllic wooden houses on poles in the vicinity. It was essentially a shallow “water world”. Had the land sunken? I still see the images from that dream as clear as anything around me. Was it just a dream or was it more? Who knows? Kiribati is susceptible to experience a rise in sea level due to global warming and such a rise in the water level of the sea will cause contamination of fresh water with salt water making it unsuitable for drinking. To counter the very real risk of the entire country disappearing beneath the waves within the next fifty years, Kiribati has bought land from Fiji where they can start growing crops and possibly relocate people.

12 kiri Mirror

Just cruising baby! If you'd like a "SAGA phone cover" like mine then just visit the OUAS-shop. Bob has done a great job setting it up! :) 

Bweenata was a great guide. She is a grandmother and made sure I ticked everything off my list. Kabunare Tiemti (pronounced “Sems” due to the “ti”) was our driver. They showed me historical WWII sites, parliament, Red Cross relief containers, the airport, several schools, various government buildings and South Tarawa from one end to the other. Tarawa is a looooooong narrow island, or string of islands I should say. For the most part you can see water on both sides of the island without having to be cross-eyed. It looks amazing! But I guess it would be very hard to hide from the ocean once those harsh winds blow. We had a local lunch which consisted of some rice, fish, coconut, breadfruit, pepper and fish eggs in a plastic bag. They use the Australian Dollar as their currency and a bag cost AUD 2.50 (USD 1.70). I treated the three of us and also bought myself some sort of coconut fruit juice which had been poured into a recycled plastic water bottle. We ate with our hands and it tasted really good. The fish had been smoked which for a moment sent me back to my childhood when my grandfather was smoking fish near the sea. At 5:15pm I was back on board the ship and had basically managed to do everything I needed to do: Red Cross meeting, took “arrival photo”, took the “Ross banner photo”, spotted a Maersk container, took a photo of “The Eyes of Kiribati”, gave a souvenir from Solomon Islands, bought a souvenir for Nauru, took 91 photos, created multiple GPS data points and managed the “sunset photo”. I did much more but these are the project relate “must do’s”.

13 kiri Sunset

That night I was biting my nails wondering if we would be leaving before or after the project required 24 hours? If we left before then I would need to return which would costs time. If we left having spent more than 24 hours then I would be able to list Kiribati as “done”. A shame in a traveller’s point of view as Kiribati seemed to be both formidable and interesting. However a huge win for the project as it could cut a lot of time of when I got to go home. I wouldn’t know until the next day. Nobody could say. It all depended on the cargo operations. I went to bed around 02:00am having scheduled and organized as much social media as possible with my hellish SIM card on what appeared to be a 2g connection.

 

Day SEVEN onboard – Nov. 26th 2019

I woke up with the alarm at 07:00am, dropped to the floor and took twenty-six push-ups. Then I got dressed and headed down for breakfast. It looked like they were wrapping up the cargo operations which indicated that we were getting ready to depart. So close and yet so far. If we could just make it to 09:00am then I would undeniably be on the safe side with the 24 hours. Why are the 24 hours so important you may ask? Well why is anything in life important I would reply. You need a certain grade to pass your examination. You need to cover a certain distance to accomplish a marathon. You need to be a certain height to board that ride. You need to be a certain age to vote. All of these limits were made up. Such limits form the world we live in and make society manageable and easier to comprehend. The Saga has three cardinal rules: absolutely no flying, no return home until the end and a minimum of 24 hours in each country. There is no slacking off. It is that or nothing. It may not seem important to you today…but it will be in the future.

14 Lunch

Food on board is great! The chef really knows what he is doing!

Tarawa is quite far to the west among Kiribati’s 33 islands. Kiribati is in a sense huge. Not in land area but the islands extend about 2,100 km (1,300 mi) from north to south and 3,900 km (2,400 mi) from west to east near the international dateline. As such this country is the first to see the sunrise every day and the first to experience New Year. I would have liked to see some of the other islands and I would have loved to experience the sun on a new day before anyone else on earth. But during this particular morning I was worried that we wouldn’t stay for the full 24 hours and I was furthermore going out of my mind over the insanely unstable internet!! I ended up wasting two hours not getting something done which normally would have taken 20 seconds. My mood approved as the ship remained along side. The pilot was onboard 08:12am but the gangway was not removed until 09:03am and it was 09:12am before we were free of the last line. Talk about cutting it close!! Now how much time I spent in Kiribati is subject to debate. Someone might debate that I was in Kiribati the moment we left international waters in which case we clocked much more than 24 hours. However I’d argue that no one can claim we spent less than 24 hours based on taking my first photo on land at 08:57am and lifting the gangway at 09:03am the following day. Some people will care – most people won’t.

15 kiri Leaving

Leaving Tarawa. Farewell Kiribati.

As we headed into sea I asked the captain if I could buy some internet onboard the ship. 50mb costs USD 10 which is pretty steep but one needs to consider that it is a satellite connection at sea – and how amazing is that. When you’ve been living on a USD 20/day budget for more than six years then it becomes a part of who you are. However I needed peace of mind and bought the internet. Minutes later I was done online and the routine onboard continued. ETA Nauru was set for November 28th at 07:00am with the pilot boarding at 08:00am.

 

Day EIGHT onboard – Nov. 27th 2019

Some days are meant for nothing at all. After breakfast I watched a few episodes of West World and went back to sleep. I skipped lunch. Around 4pm we crossed the equatorial line back into the Southern Hemisphere again. That makes thirteen crossings within the Saga. Eight on land and five at sea. I miss my fiancée. Sometimes I look at my bed and imagine her lying there sleeping. I guess I miss her more when I’m offline and communication is cut. I’ve been fed up with creating social media posts for a while. Thankfully I’m not doing any now that I’m offline so that is a bonus. Social media has become a large part of the Saga. It is where most friends, fans, followers and family get their updates. It’s where I spend hours upon hours of my time. I had a closer look at the plan for reaching the final thirteen countries…we may even be revisiting Kiribati once more after Marshall Islands unless we manage a direct connection on our way to Fiji next year (we will be visiting Fiji twice within this project). It would be fun to see Kiribati again although it is no longer required.

16 Bed

By bed on board.

 

Day NINE onboard – Nov. 28th 2019

“Island time” is as strict as the favoured dress code around this part of the world. From our first four pacific island nations I have gathered that the dress code is western style tropical clothes: short trousers and light shirts. I got to see more of that on this day as a rather large delegation of more than ten Nauruan officials came onboard to do official stuff but certainly also to score a meal and look around. That is actually a cultural element however let’s face it: if you are living in a small isolated country, that consists of a single island, which you can drive around in thirty minutes or less, then getting to come on board any large ship is great entertainment and spices up the routines. As you may have gathered already we reached Nauru on this day but I did not leave the ship. For various reasons, which I will get to in another entry, it is not possible for a ship as large as ours to come along side and most ships must stay at sea, while cargo is offloaded onto barges, which ferry the cargo inland. And that operation in itself becomes complicated do to strong winds and swell. So we did not begin cargo operations on this day. In the afternoon we turned the engine off and drifted into the night… Cargo operations were set to begin the following day at 08:00am.

17 Nauru

This is Nauru. All of it. The smallest country in the Pacific.

 

Day TEN onboard – Nov. 29th 2019

For many years I have been releasing the Friday Blogs on Fridays. It kind of makes sense – doesn’t it? Well this Friday it was not possible because I remained at sea. The ship was standing by at the mooring station at 08:00am but the swell was deemed too great for cargo operations and we were advised to stand by until 1:00pm. Speed at sea is measured in knots which is abbreviated kts. We turned the engine off and drifted again. Under the conditions we drifted away from Nauru at 2.7 kts (nautical miles per hour (5 kph / 3 mph)). During the night we had managed to drift 27 kts (50km/30mi). As the weather did not improve during the morning we were told that there would be no cargo operations on this day and that we would try again the following day: Saturday. As such when this day ended we had been off the coast of Nauru for two days already. A funny feeling being onboard a ship looking across the ocean at a country I can see but not touch. Not off limits due to authorities, conflict or bureaucrazy; but due to weather.

18 blue

Some of you know that I have struggled with some mild depression over the years. This is a very demanding and at times incredibly stressful project to manage. And there has been no escape from it for more than six years. Picture yourself building a card house. Setting up the first two cards is done carelessly and should they happen to fall over then it is a rather small loss. However placing the top cards is a completely different case. Having reached 190 countries we are currently in the process of “building the top of a large and complicated card house” so to say. It demands a great deal of focus, coordination and collaboration. I am happy to share with you that I have never felt sad while onboard one of these vessels. The good ship “Capitaine Quiros” has become the 23rd container ship to carry the Saga forward. The crew on board have been just marvelous! Hardworking and disciplined men in a routine of: responsibilities, meals, rest and recreation. One day can easily be mistaken for the next. However there has often and again been enough time for many of them to offer me an act of kindness, a friendly smile or an interesting conversation. I am utmost grateful to Captain Zemtsov, his brave men on board and to Neptune Pacific Line for taking part in this historical journey.

19 final

I will have much more to share with you over the course of the next two weeks as I expect to be attached to this vessel until December 15th…at least…

 

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - feeling rather accomplished. 
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 2Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 3Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 4Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 5SM LinkedIn
Add a comment

No seriously folks: THIS TIME we are leaving Solomon Islands (bat-shit and broken phones)

Day 2,234 since October 10th 2013: 189 countries (maybe 190?) out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).  

Making good of extra time

pano

The tricky part about doing something which has never been done before is having to make your own way. While writing this we (you and I) are still in Honiara although by the time you read this I should be at sea. This is not the Saga’s first delay. Oh no – far from it. Reaching every country in the world is a complicated business (click here to read last weeks entry).

Grass is green, the sky is blue and ships get delayed. There are roughly a billion reasons how a ship could get delayed. A few of the more common ones are weather, crane breakdowns, port strikes and congestion at the port. Nonetheless a delay of a few extra days in Honiara was not a big problem for me as I was fortunate to have been hosted by the lovely Jenny from the British Virgin Islands (BVI). They say that when life gives you lemons, then make lemonade (or throw them at someone (but try to make lemonade first)). You remember Jenny – right? She is the country manager for Swire Shipping which is represented by Tradco Shipping in Solomon Islands. And Swire Shipping is a part of the China Navigation Company, which was founded by the Swire Group…simple – I know. And Swire Shipping owns 60% of Tradco Shipping who were the agents of the ship I arrived on three weeks ago. Anyway..Jenny made sure I knew that I was more than welcome to stay at her place and meanwhile the tourism board of Solomon Islands (Tourism Solomons) was reaching out to hear if we could do something together. Also I was trying to meet up with Wayne again, whom I had briefly met the week before…so now I had time for all of that.

passport

Drying my passport. This will make sense later...

How complicated is the Saga? It is incredibly complicated!! “If a door shuts then another opens”. Sure…but where the heck is that door and how long will it take to find it? My fiancée and I were just talking about how the Saga continues to be prolonged and why. It is certainly not because I do not want things to move forward. While back in Kuwait I had time to make a video for all of you which I uploaded to YouTube. It is about the ten countries we have spent the longest amount of time within during the Saga – and why. The winner was a whopping 102 days! The “why” of it all is quite defining for this project as it is never because I wanted to stay. You can watch the video HERE. But let’s get back to what a few days of delay can mean for the Saga. Quite recently I found myself in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) being hosted by Craig and his wife Theresa. From the luxury of their hospitality I was waiting for the good ship “Shengking” which was delayed by about a week due to the Typhoon which made headlines when it hit parts of Japan last month. The vessel which will take the Saga from Solomon Islands to Nauru is the good ship “Capitaine Quiros”. These ships operate somewhat like city buses on a specific route. As such “Capitaine Quiros” goes round and round between the same ports and a round-trip takes about a month. So if you miss this particular “bus” then you better have patience.

newspaper1

In a kind write-up by Ian M. Kaukui the Saga featured in the Solomon Star.

I missed “Capitaine Quiros” by about a week giving me three weeks in Solomon Islands. However if “Shengking” had not been delayed by the Typhoon then I might have been onboard “Capitaine Quiros” a month ago. And that is just one example from the past six years of how and why this project keeps dragging out. If you can control stuff like typhoons then give me a call.

chocolate

A country which makes chocolate must be good!!! ;)

Moving on…let’s talk a bit about personal connections because this is interesting and fun to me.  Let’s take it all the way back to Madagascar in 2016 when I walked into a Maersk office looking for a ship and met Jaouad. That meeting became essential for where we are today. Because Jaouad introduced me to Khadeeja at Maersk in Mauritius and from there the ball kept on rolling (my phone has more than 300 Maersk contacts). Let’s fast forward to 2019 when I met Craig from Maersk in Papua New Guinea (PNG). I had been introduced to Craig by Ole who works for Maersk in Singapore. Craig brought me to a function in Port Moresby (PNG) where I met Grant (Swire), Rob (Swire), Dean (Deugro), Adam (Deugro) and a few days later Craig introduced me to Dane (South African) at Inchcape. I know this is getting complicated but stay with me. Back in Singapore Ole and a few others at Maersk suggested that I should talk to Swire Shipping (China Navigation Company) and to Pacific International Lines regarding the Pacific Ocean. Maersk introduced me to both. So while in Singapore I also met Rasmus (Swire), James (Swire) and Paramesh (Swire) who email introduced me to Alistair (Swire) in Port Moresby (PNG). Stick with me – we are almost there! Alistair email introduced me to Jenny. While in Honiara I recently found accommodation at Island Breeze AirBNB which is run by Lo (Brazil) and Manuel (Germany). And the final bit of information is that Jenny used to work in Port Moresby (PNG).

SolTuna

Oh Chilli Tuna from SolTuna! I will miss you!! :)

So when I finally met Jenny, who wasn’t in Solomon Islands when I arrived and met her team at Tradco, she generously invited me to come and stay in a guest room at her home in Honiara. And when we began talking it became apparent that we knew a lot of the same people. Because Jenny knows all the Swire people (Rob, Grant, Alistair, Rasmus, James and Paramesh). But from her time working in Port Moresby (PNG) she also knows Dean and Adam from Deugro, Dane from Inchcape and Craig from Maersk. And just from living in Honiara she happens to be friends with Lo and Manuel from the AirBNB. So that means that I met at least nine people that jenny knows even before I met Jenny :) Now – if you have been following the blog for the past two months then you would have heard all of those names before. And believe me I could expand far beyond the connections I have just mentioned here. The essence is as always that we did not bring the Saga this far by our lonesome. The Saga is and has always been a people project and it is carried forward by the tens of thousands of hands which it has crossed paths with since October 10th 2013. Reaching every country in the world is unbelievably complicated no matter how you do it and nobody has ever done it alone.

Jenny

Thank you Jenny!!! You've been brilliant!!! :)

lodge

View from Parangiju Inland Mountain Lodge.

On Saturday November 16th I had a great adventure!! Tourism Solomons had reached out to hear if they could help me experience something I had still not done: visit a local village, see some sights from Second World War or perhaps go on a hike. I am very fond of hiking so that became my choice. Now I don’t know if the following is true but the way I remember it is that they completely undersold the level of the adventure which was to come. While I do remember being told to bring water, a head torch and some shoes which could withstand waking through water…I really don’t remember anyone saying that I would be neck deep in water? But let me tell you this up front: it was a BRILLIANT day.

hike max

Max leads us into the water. The first of a trillion crossings!!!

Johannah and Andrew from Tourism Solomons picked me up at 07:00am and off we went. Probably within an hour we had reached Parangiju Inland Mountain Lodge. The lodge is a common starting point for those who trek to Tenaru waterfalls, which I hear is really something too. However the bat cave which we were aiming for is the less wandered path which sat just fine with me. Along the way we had picked up Max was to be our guide. Andrew parked the car 2 km (1.5 mi) from the lodge where a small bridge was crossing the Tenavatu River. And then we all followed Max into the water and across to the other side. A minute later we had to cross the river again. A while later we crossed again, and again, and again. Sometimes knee deep, sometimes more shallow and at times above my knees. Keep in mind that I have long legs and measure 193 cm (6’4’).

salomon

My Salomons in Solomon: socks: sense support / pants: wayfarer / shoes: X ultra 3. They stood the test!! ;)

Johannah is Australian and from Melbourne. I haven’t met many people from Melbourne since I reached East-Timor (Timor Leste), Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. In this part of the world there are plenty of Australians but they all seem to be from Brisbane. Johannah just moved to Solomon Islands six weeks earlier. Andrew is native and had been working for Tourism Solomons for three years already. Before that he was a taxi driver. Max was a native too and wore his military t-shirt and sunglasses with a lot of swagger. The landscape around us was phenomenally beautiful. The sound of the shallow river cut though the voice of the forest. I wonder what the dense forest would have said about the past if given the chance.

snake

Can you find Max?

I am no stranger to hiking. I have been an outdoors kind of guy all my life and consider myself to be on an advanced level when it comes to skill. However on this trek I dropped my water bottle twice and tripped and fell three times. I guess having wet shoes, socks and pants did not make it easier stepping from one rock to the next. It was challenging, beautiful and amazing all at once. At one point Max stopped, looked back at me and calmly said “snake”. I looked around and saw nothing but plants. Max told me to come a little forward and then I suddenly saw the little fellow a few arms lengths from me, on a tree log with its tongue out. It fell into the landscape when it was still. It was quietly making its way in the forest next to the river and so were we. I asked Max if it was venomous and he replied “somehow”. Good to know. In any case nature usually doesn’t mess with you as long as you don’t mess with nature. The beautiful creature snaked away as we continued up river.

waterfall1

The waterfall and bat cave appears.

A great waterfall finally appeared ahead of Max. It was a rather tall waterfall cut between the mountain walls which on both sides guided us forward. We stopped for a moment to take a few photos and Andrew went straight for a shower underneath. I actually thought we were going to continue above the waterfall as I had not noticed that the large dark void on the waterfalls right side was in fact the entrance to a cave. An equal amount of water to what was coming from the waterfall was also coming from the cave. We soon ventured forward into the cave.

Andrew waterfall Solomon Islands 2019

Andrew taking a shower provided by mother nature.

When I saw Max in water so deep that he had to swim I took the double sealed plastic bag out of my pocket, opened it and slipped my phone into it. It was already containing my passport which I out of habit carry nearly everywhere. The others were leaving stuff behind as we would be returning the same way. In hindsight I should have done the same. I was soon in water reaching my chest. As we made our way into the cave the screeching sound from bats became more apparent. Max told us to point or torches towards the ceiling of the cave which was high above us. Thousands of bats were flying about. As we continued moving upstream in the water which again had become shallow, we made our way across rocks covered in bat-shit. On and off I also felt “heavy drops” land on my hat. Thankfully I wear a hat!! ;)

cave1

Looking back towards the entrance where I just entered. Bats above. Getting wetter. 

Free advice: when you look up while in a bat-cave then keep your mouth shut. I don’t remember Batman coming out of his cave covered in bat droppings? Ah Hollywood…you tricked me again. The cave was in fact a tunnel and as we neared the exit I saw something I could capture on camera because it was too dark. But it was an extraordinary sight!! The exit of the cave, while large, was smaller than the entrance. And by the sheer force of nature a huge fallen tree had been pushed inside the cave where it formed a natural bridge for us to walk upon. The truck of the tree was equal to the size of a 4WD. There was something otherworldly about exiting a wet and dark bat cave while walking towards the light, balancing upon a massive, black tree trunk. As we reached the roots of the tree which kept the trunk in place by the opening, we climbed down until we once more were back in the water. And after another minute walking upstream we found ourselves bathing in the sun and in a turquoise pool of water below a small waterfall surrounded by the lush green which they call Solomon Islands. By then my phone was drenched as was my passport. But somehow it was worth it. We made our way back down the way we came and that was the story of a memorable half day hike before I left.

exit cave

Andrew exiting the cave after walking across the huge log (not the one you can see) and climbing down back into the water. My last photo of the day. One of my favorites.

waterfall2

The problem with spending a lot of time within any one country is that you become personally attached. For some that means that they need to get out and that it cannot go fast enough. For others it means that they want to stay. For me it means I need to leave behind a lot which I have come to care about. On a quick side note: do you know how Solomon Islands got its name? More than 400 years ago, when Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira first arrived, he believed he had found the source of King Solomon’s wealth, and consequently named the islands “The Islands of Solomon”. Now you know. This country is one of deeply rooted history, culture and traditions. Family is important and at times rivalry runs deep. Solomon Islands saw some civil unrest towards the turn of the millennium but that is in the past today. However a past which people remember. It recently came to my attention that the ramped chewing of betel nut is a relatively new development. I sort of just though it was a part of the culture…and in some ways it is. Perhaps just 25 years ago the chewing of betel nut was for special occasions only and it was not possible to buy betel nut on the street. Betel nut was something which was gifted to someone between friends, family or allies. Some would say between “wantoks”. A wantok is essentially people from the same language group. If you think about it that was a lot more intimate in the past when people lived in small isolated groups speaking local languages. But it is derived from the English “one talk” and with over a billion people speaking English it is a heck of a group. Anyway – some 25 years ago it changed and people are just chewing those nuts day in and day out. They mix it up with lime and leaves to create a chemical effect which makes it more potent. People always find a way – hey?

Betel Nut

Betel nut shells and someones "juice" (spit). Careful Honiara or you might be nicknamed "the red city" someday.  

Alright, let’s close this entry. I had an additional meet-up with the Solomon Red Cross Society where I hung out with the hard working volunteers for a few hours and shared stories. On that note did you know that the saying “touch wood” or “knock on wood” isn’t a thing in the Solomons? In most of the world it is an act which is supposed to ward off bad luck but here in the Solomons they have never heard about it. I’ve only come across a few countries, mostly Asian, which have not incorporated that saying. When I mentioned that it’s along the line of not crossing the road if a black cat crosses your path, one of the volunteers mentioned that if a snake quickly crosses your path then it is bad luck. I guess we are all the same and different at the same time. Shu from Zimbabwe, who is now from New Zealand but living in Solomon, works for the Red Cross and arranged for the meet up. Volunteers are ready to do anything and when I met them they were putting together sanitary kits in the workshop. They were busy sewing washable sanitary pads which they neatly fit into a small fabric bag along with a bar of soap.

RC

Shu took a lot of photos of the volunteers and I :) Volunteers are the backbone of the movement.

And I finally got my chance to meet-up with Wayne again. We tried hard and were supposed to meet a few days earlier but since my phone was wet and not working he couldn’t call me and ended up waited at a parking lot for nothing. Sorry again Wayne! However a few days later we succeeded in sitting down for dinner at Coral Sea Resort & Casino. A rather posh place in comparison to the surrounding landscape. Wayne is sort of from Papua New Guinea but also sort of from Melbourne in Australia. In any case he has for years been working in Solomon Islands as the CEO of Sullivans (Solomon Islands) Limited, Sullivans Shipping Limited, and Nambawan Meat Limited. Quite a mouthful. Wayne is definitely an extraordinary man and has lived a full life. He is a very open and trusting man and told me many things from his life which will have me thinking for a long time. However nothing which I will share with you. At the end of the night he dropped me off at Jenny’s place where I wrote all of this for you.

phones

Because my phone got wet I've lost some functions like using a sim card or using the home button on my iPhone. So the sim card now fluctuates between my sturdy Nokia 1100 and the WIFI dongle. Johannah tipped me off on using the AssistiveTouch function on the iphone so I'm now about 70% operational on it.

As mentioned I should be onboard the good ship “Capitaine Quiros” by now and possibly quite close to country number 190: Nauru. A special little country which I am very curious to meet and learn more about. The ship belongs to Neptune Pacific Line’s fleet and I have been writing with them for a while. Particularly with Ian and Rolf who have been super helpful. I look forward to meeting them when the Saga reaches Australia next year. In Honiara the ships agent is Sullivans Shipping. Hence I met Wayne earlier on. But the man on the ground has been Lawrence who has been pushing all the paperwork around. Thank you one and all. I’ve got no idea what will happen the next three weeks or more. I’m unlikely to have access to internet while onboard. The good ship will get us to Nauru where I also may or may not have internet? And sometime during the beginning to mid-December we should be reaching Fiji as country number 191 without flying. But let’s see how it all plays out. Stay safe out there people and always keep on keeping on ;)

cont ship

P.S: as I was about to head towards the ship and embark, I was notified that the ship would no longer go straight to Nauru as scheduled. It will go to Kiribati first which was intended as the Saga’s country number 197. From there it is scheduled to reach Nauru followed by Fiji (I think). So it was more true than what I knew when I wrote. “I’ve got no idea what will happen the next three weeks or more.” Welcome to the unpredictability of the Saga: every country without flying.

 

If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - ready for the next adventures. 
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 

Thor emblem

Once Upon A Saga

Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 2Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 3Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 4Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 5SM LinkedIn
Add a comment

More Articles ...

Once Upon a Saga
Made by Kameli