We can (almost) go to Palau by ship now (from Hong Kong)
Day 2,955 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
While we wait
There has been some great development this week and I once again find myself in a position where it is hard to get around to thank everyone involved. There are just so many who have played a role. Well, lets take a look at some of them.
Last week’s entry: Blah, blah, blah (from Hong Kong)
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Palau is on island time which generally slows things down. I don’t know that for a fact because I have never been there, however I would be surprised if it wasn’t the case as I have been so many other places already. I also wrote that it would be possible to find impressive efficiency within Palau. And last Wednesday I heard from the very kind Alyssa Slaiman who represents the Legal Council of the Office of the President within the Republic of Palau. I received a signed letter signed by Director Sherilynn Madraisau who represents the Ministry of Health and Human Services. The letter specified that I was welcome to visit Palau, traveling by sea, if I met a set of COVID-19 requirements. And they were all reasonable. So now we are all set to enter Palau! There’s just one little thing left to solve: Palau is 2,734km (1,699mi) from Hong Kong and there is a lot of water in between. Fortunately, I received an email from Captain Asif Siddique who is the Manning Manager at Pacific International Lines (PIL) in Singapore. Captain Siddique is currently waiting for their Palau Agent to revert with confirmation that I can enter Palau by sea. Interestingly PIL’s Palau Agent has been in copy of two emails already which both had the letter from Director Sherilynn Madraisau attached. So, we are dealing with a bit of bureaucracy. I have kindly requested Alyssa Slaiman of the Presidents Legal Council to get in touch with the Palau Agent so that the Palau Agent can report to PIL in Singapore that I am permitted to disembark the vessel in Palau. Once Captain Siddique has that confirmation from the Palau Agent, he will move on to confirm with the agents of the ports PIL’s ship will call on route to Palau (Kaohsiung, Guam, Saipan and Yap). If that all falls into place then I would need to follow formalities to board a PIL vessel and travel the two weeks it takes to cover the distance. I would then quarantine in Palau for ten days. And four days after my quarantine ends the next PIL vessel would arrive to Koror in Palau, with next stop after that being Hong Kong. Easy as that! One country closer to home. Simple – right ;)
My calfs are still sore. And it was four days ago!!!
Well – apart from all the help I am receiving from Palau’s Government and PIL’s headquarters I also have Roel in Palau to thank. He has been doing a lot of legwork in support of the Saga and has played a key role in getting us this far into the paper trail. Roel is Dutch and the Netherlands was our country no. 3. back in 2013. We did a revisit of the Netherlands in 2016 after completing the African continent and returning to Europe for a while. And now we have been in Hong Kong for more than 20% of the entirety of this project. Fortunately, Hong Kong is a great place to be. At least for most things. Hong Kong doesn’t exactly offer a lot of options for land crossings. There’s only Mainland China and I think the land border is still closed. Although there might be an option to cross if I quarantined in China. I don’t know. I haven’t looked in that direction for a while. I like China and had a good time visiting but I don’t see how going to China would help us reached the final nine island nations in the Pacific? While I have praised Hong Kong for a multitude of things there is one aspect which has grown to become a disadvantage: the mandatory hotel quarantine. Minimum two weeks and in some cases three. Without the quarantine I am sure I would have had a lot of visitors come to see and support me in Hong Kong. But spending the first two weeks of a vacation in a hotel, paying some USD 1,600 or more for a room, is a really strong deterrent. Ultra-Wifey has five weeks holiday she needs to spend before the turn of the year. So, guess what? It may be time to shave again ;) Even with the success and support from Palau it could be weeks before things fall into place with PIL. What would you do?
Anita in the foreground setting up the Seamen's Church online kiosk for the Christmas Bazar.
The very same Wednesday as I received the signed letter from Palau, I also received a message from my friend Anita. Anita is a powerhouse of a woman and a real inspiration when it comes to getting stuff done. She manages her calendar with great expertise and almost arrives on time when we meet up ;) Well, Anita forwarded me a screenshot from the Hong Kong vaccine booking website. Apparently, Hong Kong was about to administer booster shots the following day. For a while it had been announced that senior citizens would have the option but Anita tipped me off that priority groups could also sign up.
Captain Morten Busch waving from the good ship "Nordborg Maersk". I can usually go onboard but his ship had been marked "dangerous" by the port security. Probably because they had a crew change ten days before and a couple of weeks need to pass.
Thanks to my “temporary” job at the Danish Seamen’s Church (it has nearly been a year now so I don’t know how temporary it is anymore), I service seafarers at the port, which makes me a priority for the 3rd vaccine. Now, it is not lost on me that the vaccine distribution globally has been a disaster and that it’s unsympathetic for healthy people like me, who have already had two jabs, to get a third when so many people have not received their first. And I would much rather see a more even distribution of vaccines across the world. But I am not in charge of where the vaccines end up and Hong Kong has its fair share. It would be silly not to take advantage, especially as I got my second dose more than six months ago and my profession is to travel.
Waiting a few minutes at the sports centre before I was called to get my jab.
I booked a time slot and got vaccinated the very next day. Literally within hours of the first people in Hong Kong. Thanks Anita. And thanks to the scientists and organizers who made it possible. I showed up for my appointment at 11:30am yesterday (Thursday) and was met with the sight of A LOT of senior citizens who were snaking up and down a long line which continued around the corner. Normally you would think it would cost several hours to move through such a line – but this is Hong Kong. And Hong Kong is mighty impressive with such things. The line moved swift and it did not take long before I was inside the sports centre handing over my ID card. I was processed with efficiency and soon I was seated next to the person administrating the jab. The person made a final check before pushing the syringe into my left upper arm, administrating the dose, pulling the needle out and covering the small puncture with a small round bandage. I was done! Wow!! I barely had time to snap a photo which explains the “deer caught in the headlights” expression. I wanted a “smiley” expression to promote happiness and how painless it was. You’ll just have to trust me. After a 15-minute wait at the sports centre I stopped for sushi and had a lot to eat. My theory is that the stronger the body is the less you might feel any side effects. And powering up with healthy food helps with that. Also taking in a lot of fluids. I didn’t feel any side effects at all. Come to think about it I have never felt side effects from the many vaccines I’ve received over the years.
THAT WAS FAST!!
Hiking with the headless nutcases: Jesper, Poul, Thomas and Kenneth.
Yesterday (Thursday) I also met up with most of the nutcases. Jakob couldn’t make it which was a shame because I prefer when we are all there. NUTCASES…ASSEMBLE! There’s a little MCU joke for you. My week has been quite full. And for a long while people have been pulling on me in every direction: “can you please do this”, “help me with that”, “you need to fill out this”, “what is that?” I feel mentally and physically exhausted and hope that this weekend will fix some of that. I haven’t scheduled much for the weekend. We will however be celebrating Jakob who has entered the top three within ‘Business Person of the Year’ in Greater China. An event organized by The Danish Chamber of Commerce (which Anita is the chair(wo)man of). An occasion to dress up and celebrate a friend. As Anita said: “it matters not if he wins first place or not – he is a winner to all of us”. Indeed, he is.
Okay, this entry is growing long enough and I’ve got stuff to do. So, let’s recap on a few of the fun things I had a chance to do this week.
Left to right: Olivia, Doug, Corinna, Poul, Jesper, and Henrik.
Sailing with “Capt.” Henrik, this week became my second time onboard the “Wine Knot”. And it has been a pleasure both times. The first time I was introduced and invited by my friend Jesper. This time Poul joined as well (the nutcases are slowly taking over). Corinna was back onboard as well. We met the first time I was invited to join and she has a background of competitive parachuting together with Henrik. Let that sink in for a while. Poul’s lovely wife Amy joined us too. There is no woman in Hong Kong I owe more than her after I got sick and threw up in the back of her Maserati! Yeah – you would think that story was laid to rest as it was already long ago. But my “good” friend Thomas keeps bringing it up every time we meet ;) In addition to Henrik, Jesper, Poul, Corinna and I, we were also joined by Doug and Olivia. A great crew for the day. We left Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and headed towards Cape D’Aguilar, passing Castle Rock on our way to Po Toi which is the southern most island in Hong Kong. And also, the closest I have been to Palau for a long while. It was a great day! And we all sat down together for some perfect seafood on Po Toi before heading back towards the sunset.
Lunch on Po Toi.
Returning to the city just before sunset.
Hiking with Poul. Flashing my ocean plastic sunglasses.
The day before the boat trip Poul and I returned to the Hong Kong Trail which snakes back and forth across Hong Kong Island. We intended to beat Poul’s best time across the distance but the trail didn’t let us through that day. Does a mountain decide if we get to reach the peak? Does an ocean decide if we get to cross it? I don’t know. But sometimes nature trails simply get the better of us. I’ve had good and bad days out there. While it was a very beautiful and clear day the sun was absolutely brutal. And after about 30km (19mi) of going up and down the mountainsides we decided to head down and leave the attempt for another day. Good hustle though.
Such a beautiful day!
It's a long hike to the end...
Poul invited me to join the Danish Chamber of Commerce’s Horse Racing Event at the Happy Valley Race Course. It was supposed to take place weeks ago but was postponed due to poor weather conditions. Horse racing is a huge deal in Hong Kong and tons of money changes hands during the weekly events. There’s a race course in Shatin and one in Happy Valley. The one in Happy Valley races every Wednesday and in Shatin it's during weekends. The race courses have been closed for spectators throughout most of the pandemic. But the races kept going because: money! It was nice to experience a race again. The last time was in Lebanon and I managed to win a bit of money back then. Enough to cover a few days within the budget. Back in Lebanon spectators could smoke shisha and drink tea while betting. And it was a very old historical racecourse. Hong Kong was a quite different setting. The Happy Valley racecourse is historic too but has been modernized. It was originally opened 176 years ago. I bet on several races without knowing what to look for at all. My friend Michael suggested I should bet on the jockeys with the coolest jackets? Anita said to bet on the horses with the widest butt? We were a bunch of people who didn’t know what we were doing but we had a good time and some left with quite a lot of money. I suspect that most lost. There were ten races in total and Poul and I stayed until the 7th race ended. That race had a horse named “Nordic Warrior”! I guess a lot of us bet on that one. You can do a variety of bets. After a while I would try to pick a winner along with a horse, I thought would make top three. In the 7th race I picked ‘Nordic Warrior” as my “place” (top three) and it came in third ensuring that I returned home, after all expenses had been covered, with a whopping HKD 60 (USD 7.70) in my pocket!! I’m a genius! Feel free to ask me on advice regarding horses ;)
Lots of good people in Hong Kong. Here are some: Jessi, Anita and Margith.
COME ON "NORDIC WARRIOR"!!!
That’s all folks. Keep in mind that there is nobody in the world who wants to see this project over and done with more than me. However, I want to see it completed successfully and I’m still willing to fight for that. We are eight years in and I am thinly worn. Let’s get me home so that I can sleep for a month.
If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - "Nordic Warrior" ;)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga