Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Yet another life started

What a lucky bastard I am. Shortly after I arrived in Amsterdam my cousin Mark moved to the Dutch Antilles until the end of the year and very generously insisted on my housesitting skills for the duration.

One of my friends put me in touch with a temping agency where I was able to work a bit.. and meet Asha... well, do I need say more. After a bit of soulsearching, internet googling, some miserable job interviews and jugling of priorities I now have three part-time jobs to tie me over until I get a 'real' job; groupguide with www.poldersport.nl, bookshop assistent at the www.ako.nl and behind a bar at night on partyship www.OceanDiva.nl.

The ´real´ job will put me back into the www.hva.nl schoolbenches for a day or so each week starting in August. I will become a teacher of economics. After that, who knows.

More importantly, after years of drought, I am able to freely and without limits lavish myself on movies, the library, my new museum year pass, live jazz music and assorted bars and concerts, TV docus and an internet www.chess.com subscription with endless tactical training problems to be solved..

This will be my last post on this blog as I shall not be travelling nor traversing much of much in the near future. My traversing and thoughts will be for my new life in and around amsterdam as a teacher in training, friends and family as well as Asha, new girlfriend by surprise.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Pacific to Amsterdam

Writing from the house of my parents in Enkhuizen, Netherlands, my pacific journey has come to an end. All good and wonderful without any negatives.

With a stop-over in Guam I arrived in Amsterdam via Manilla. One day in Guam was a bizar experience.

First of all I had to undergo an interrogation by the US immigration as Guam is one of their protectorates. And as they could not imagine someone sailing from the americas to pacific and then entering Guam by air from Pohnpei, I had to explain 4 different times how, why and where I had come from. Coming from Europe via Mexico to the Pacific was seen as an impossibility.... why not via US of A? Why do we not have a record of this? Well... why should you....

Of course the island must be beautiful but what time I had I spent sleeping after a nightflight and walking around the city. Friendly people but an abomination. A mix between Torremolinos, Cancun and Miami. The bus is called shopping bus and drives from shopping mall to mall.. only stopping at the 1000 room hotels that overlook the bay and dominate the beach. Not one independent beachbar, restaurant or the like is left on a small strip of free sand from hotels to waterline. All bars, restaurants and of course shops have parkinglots and the airco set tot 15 degrees. Prices are very high, even in comparison to the USA, but no so to the japanese, chinese and taiwanese tourists. Besides shopping the main activity seems to be stripclubs and massages as there are parlours on every streetcorner.

Anwways, after an uneventful flight to Manilla, and an incredible flight across asia (China, Mongolia, former Soviet Union to Europe) I am now back in Enkhuizen. KLM really outdid themselves and the flight was full-service! My windowseat allowed for constant vistas across endless spans of dessert, steppe and mountains to the sagrin of the other passengers who mostly wanted to sleep while the plane was catching up with the smouldering sunset for almost the entire 12 hours of flight.

Home sweet home and back to the stark reality of... ohoh.. the bankbalance, work, where to live, what to wear in cold weather and what to do inside...

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Manta Ray alley

The last leg to Pohnpei was pretty rough, tempers are fraying a touch as well now we are getting to the end of the journey. Luckily we were given special permission by the village chief to stop over at one of the outer islands to break up the 4 day trip. Typing this message, many experiences are passing me by and not always in the right order, mixed up names, islands, dates, etc.. It is definitely time to go home.

A bizar incident marked our first night after arrival on Pohnpei, when a guy jumped from a car and started to jump up and down in front of us, challenging us to fight. He went for Cedric and after I distracted him, He started running after me.. oeps, well, I have enough of that sort of braindead dross, so stood my ground and made him go away. Sort of funny, Cedric got into a fight the first night we met in Puerto Vallarta before our journey started.

Apart from that.. as always we meet nice people, but here we also find ourselves on a lush island with much variety of flowers, plants, vegetables and trees. The magnificent Nan Madol ruins are a city build in the lagoon water by a 1000 year empire of local kings. Very impressive, but they were sort of brutal to the local populace. Lots of mythology.. a lost city underwater, just in front of the reef. Death within days for those foreigners (some germans who took skeletons and a japanese who dove the hidden city the wrong day) who came to excavate and steel stones and bones from the royal graves. You should only dive the sank city after having thrown a stone from a specific tree island and having received the goodwill sign from the ocean.. two sharks that show up shortly after to greet and meet.. If not, than try again the next day..

Manta Ray allay did not show live up to its reputation. Instead we dove 3 days and got a hung anker on the coral that was almost impossible to get off the rocks. We had to set a 2nd anker, dive to release the first and struggled to then get the 2nd anker out.

One more weekend and then onward to Guam.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Home sweet home

Shortly I shall be making my way back to Amsterdam.. It has been wonderful and exiting but it time to go home and yet again start a new adventure. Keep me posted if you hear of a job, I am up for pretty much everything.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Foto Frenzy!!!

With June and Andre. Everybody here is so shy it takes a while before they even talk. Let alone having a picture taken! Local customs don't really make it any easier with strict rules on behavior and especially the interaction between woman and man.

After another great fish, rice and coconut dinner (each plate served in a separate dish wash bowl to make sure we eat enough. The guests eat first with one host and grandmother if she likes, then the man, than the woman and finally the kids. Here we stayed overnight in the hammocks.

The cats are called ' poes', just like in Dutch.

Making the outrigger canoe is a communal task. A continuous supply of toddy, an alcoholic drink collected daily in bottles hanging in every other palm tree to collect the sap from cut palm fronts (leaves), is made available to the boat builders for the labors.

The drink only turns alcoholic by way of fermentation if you leave a little sap in the bottle the day before. Without this the sap makes for a nice cup of sweet tea. A substitute for water which is in short supply everywhere.

The new canoe on its maiden voyage. A packed lunch is hanging of the outrig.

Another great sunset with flat sea.

The local fishcatch is admired, commented on and then distributed to the various village communities by the lady in the picture. She keeps a tight ship and detailed administration to ensure fairness.

The villages are organised by Maneaba. Or central hall. An roofed and elevated central plaza where each community meets. Each community is organised around extended family, church denomination for other purposes such as school, government e.d.

A night out..

Another fish and rice meal. There are many types of fish and many ways to to cook fish... but fish remains fish and the lack of vegetables is beginning to tell. Halleluja for the coconut. It provides cooking oil, strained sap from coconutflesh for raw fish, rasped coconut flesh, refreshing coconut sap for drinking from the still green coconut and rasped soft coconut flesh from the same green coconut. Of course the drieed out coconut shell provides fibre for compost or starts a fire for cooking any of the above...

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tuvalu to Kiribati

Some excellent sailing interspersed by gritty visits to the atol islands of Tuvalu. As we go further west and descent -or ascent (north) more accurately- we are having to get used to the Micronesian way after months of having enjoyed the Polynesian hospitality with welcoming smiles. Instead a raising of the eyebrow is our welcome and a silence awaits our first words. In the end we still find ourselves at the table with enough to eat for a week and the pacific friendly faces of course.

In Vaitupu the local policeman who enquired after our papers subsequently invited us to his home every day of our stay there after and we feasted on the local specialities mostly fish and taro prepared in many different ways mostly with coconut in one way or other.

Nanunia is another paradise island on the way to Kiribati where we had to stay outside an enormous lagoon because the blasted entrance was not deep and wide enough for the Thira. All around the island the coralbarrier dropped straight down to hunderds of meters so we ended up ankered right in front of the lagoon entrance with 2 to 3 knots of current on each tide.

The evening was a little bizar as Andre had received an invitation to dinner for all of us from a 13 year-old girl named June. After having watched a group of man build an outrigger canoa while drinking 'grog' -fermented coconutleave sap- we spent the whole evening being entertained by June without even seeing the adults. A touch of bizar especially as we were fetted with an increcible array of food.

Monday, 8 December 2008


After 6 days of sailing with full night watch Tuvalu is not exactly what I imagined it would be, so far... As we were leaving Fiji rather late in the season and after the weather window that provides save passage... we were on the look out for dead calms followed by sudden squals and rapidly forming gales that may turn into tropical storms or worse. In the end we did get a lot of rain but we had a good passage.

Of course nothing really happens on these night watches... but then there is always the one time.. On the last morning night watch -from 3 to 7am- I was neatly tucked away in my sleeping bag and wearing nothing but my sarong for comfort and using my miners headlamp to read 'sex with cannibals in the Pacific' a sarcastic satire tale by a Maarten Troost on two years of living on an atol in the north pacific, when suddenly the wind increased to the point where I had to take the helm from the autopilot.. while holding up my sarong of course. Now the rain started wipping down as well and Cedric emerged from his cabin to an ever-increasing squall wind. Next I had to get up in front to reef the main sail for which I was not exactly dressed appropriately. To the considerable chagrin of the capitan and my embarrassment I had to go inside to get some shorts on. Oh well... win some loose some..

Going through the reefs to enter the lagoon is a nerve wrecking experience every time and it seems to be getting worse as we progress.. we the GPS map off target by anywhere from 20 to 100 meters.. the GPS positioning of the ship not always accurate with the level of complexity increasing and the number of buoy diminish with each reef passage towards the North Pacific.

Tuvalu is an atoll with too many people and animals and very little atoll -or living space-. Water is everywhere you look but it is not the drinkable kind. Pretty dreary to be honest. The people do not even raise an eyelid when they see us, no welcoming smiles nor shouts of bula. Answering a simple question seems to require an extraordinairy amount of energy resulting in single word and grunt response with minimal armgestures. Sure is different from the Polynesians we have met so far in the South Pacific. Hopefully not indicative for the next and remainder of Melanesian islands to be visited for the next 4 months.