or dangerous ferries, AND DIFFICULT AIRLINES
Although I always bang on about doing everything spontaneously and ‘on the hoof’ sometimes it has led to my down fall, or at least changing plans in a heart stopping, teeth gritting last minute. It’s bad for stress but also what to expect from time to time when travelling alone. You’ll get used to it for even though I’m warning you my old birds, You probably won’t listen, have forgotten or have ignored my advice.
Either way sometimes you just can’t bloody avoid some cockups with planes especially and boats to a lesser degree. Your casual purchases of boat tickets won’t include vital information of how seaworthy the vessel is, and your cheapo airline will happily take your money for a one way ticket to a new country without telling you that you’ll need proof of onward travel before you board the plane. (This is known as POOT. It’s the devil in disguise and has tripped me twice at the last moment when the gate opens to board the plane the computer, and boarding bitch says no. So here you go with your boats and planes.
Boats and Ferries and Private Crossings and Journeys.
All of us remember fondly, travelling around the Greek islands with just a tote bag and the wind in your hair. Getting the tickets was mad and haphazard but it all sorted itself magically at the last moment and off you would go in one of their sturdy metal ferries feeling no fear. Well think again when island hopping in other parts of the world where the weather changes suddenly and the sailors on your bamboo craft give not a shit about your safety. This giving out of safety jackets is a mere nod at the requirements of that country.
Sadly with the small more primitive ones you obviously have just the one ticket class or indeed mode of transport to the nest land mass. You have no choice apart from living on the island you’re on for the rest of your life. This is known as the ‘you’re screwed’ and now you must ‘risk your life’ syndrome. This happened to me on various occasions but I think the most memorable was that of the trip from Cebu to Panglao in the Philippines. It was a truly sickening and unavoidable experience.
From my journal:
And next we were bundled onto a small boat with a pulley rope and were hauled out to the ferry like passengers on a lifeboat going TO the Titanic to certain death. The waves now were huge in this mercurial weather.
When we arrived to the much higher boat you had to time it perfectly with the swell of these now VERY LARGE WAVES. I wanted to go early in the queue so as not to be the saddo last in line who just couldn’t get on without serious injury. There was a very real danger of being crushed between the boats and it was very tricky to time it right on the first time attempt. I did out of fear and horror. Boom I threw myself on the deck without their bloody “One, two, threeeee”which was confusing everyone as it was just slightly off timing wise, maybe to allow for peoples delay in responding. I personally crawled to a clearly safer position and finally got to my feet to stagger shakily to a good seat and have a prime view of all the panicked techniques of the remaining tourists of all ages being hauled aboard by the now impatient crew. Most of them were not unscathedby the ordeal I noted while gulping down a San Miguel Lite with trembling hands. Tears were spilled, accusations made and holidays ruined. The last man kept trying and failing until they just manhandled him aboard.
Ibiza and its Special Boat Departure Tradition
In the old days when I lived in Barcelona we used to go to my dads house in the old town of Ibiza for long weekends and mini breaks. Although flying was available I used to love to get the boat. Now this was for one romantic notion, being seen off. The excitement at the port as a boat was arriving or departing from Barcelona or one of the other Balearic islands was tangible. What a buzz. Throngs milled about if they were waiting and as soon as the boat came in sight the crowd would overwhelmingly surge a little further forward shouting out a great “Hooray” and chattering excitedly. The welcome was always huge and terribly emotional.
Departing though was a fabulous event. It was the tradition of the toilet rolls.
The idea was to buy coloured rather coarse bog rolls (thinking about it were they specially made for these occasions which I’m sure were done across Spain) and take them on board with you. Then holding one end search through the crowd and throw them to your tearful family and or mates. They had to catch them and unwind them as the boat left and the last one attached to boat had kinda won and proven their love link was stronger or some such malarkey. This though was a beautiful sight, The green, blue, yellow and pink ribbons coiling down as they were thrown and crossing over one another fluttering in the sun with the slightly anxious faces of those above on the two decks behind the bronze handrails. The shouting up of last messages and the ever fidgeting of people who were clutching their toilet rolls to their chests as they manoeuvred into better positions where they were less likely to tangle with others.
As the boat sounded its first departure horn blast and the ropes were taken off the bollards there would be a big “Oooooooooh” from the crowd, and children would cover their ears, and old wrinkly women in black would start crying holding pristine white laced handkerchiefs to their eyes wet with tears. As goodbyes go, this was one of the best I can remember. Indeed it became a bit of a sport as people turned up for mates they normally wouldn’t have bothered with just for the fanfare and the drinks after, a sort of wake.
When the last toilet roll had snapped and the “Ahhhhhhh” from the last of the crowd had tailed off, everyone would go for an absinthe, or a coffee, or a carafe of wine mulling over how successful it had been as if it were a wedding or some such similar grand occasion.
I don’t remember much about the actual boat ride just the tickets were bought at the dock and you had two classes, but only the bar was memorable and a lurching around on deck before going to your berth. It was all about those darn toilet rolls, whichever ticket you bought. Indeed your cabin was irrelevant as you were always too pissed to remember. There might have been a deck class thinking about it but it probably doesn’t matter now will all the bloody bollacky health and safety.
Footnote: Having reasearched this I can see that the streamer idea has been a thing of the past, hence these photos. I’ve reasearched as much as possible and the toilet rolls are nowhere to be found so I think it is safe to say that this was an Ibizenco foible. What a shame this no longer happens as they were very clearly recycled toilet paper……
Snatching a Private Boat Ticket.
Obviously it’s the best way. You demand a boat without tourists in a very selfish way and get a vessel where the captain bows to all of your demands (well not all). In Luxor I always just ran down to the Nile and bartered for the best price for the standard motor boat that you see traversing all the time. I once had the guy take me to a good fishing patch (more for him to catch his dinner realistically) and I caught two tiny fish there. We then went to the other bank and I swam while he continued fishing. It was great and although you don’t actually get a ticket you book the boat for half or full day. I did this another time with a picnic and sat watching the ibises and other birds on an island mud flat in the centre of that huge river we then went over to a village where I rented a horse and went round the villages and topped it up with a canter along the nearby beach. This is a good way to do what you want for as long as you want and always is cheaper and better than buying tickets at the hotel or from a tout. Just be brave. This also goes for when you want to go snorkelling and don’t want to end up with a group and get kicked in the head by idiots who cram in too close.
With all the boat stuff you must be ready to haggle if it’s not a more formal situation where you won’t be able to cunningly get your own wicked way.
Cruises, Not Done Them…… for Old Codgers not Old Birds.
Cruises I have not been on but I’m sure other people have and could tell you all about, but I always consider them for an older crowd! Anyone want to add something exciting about cruises on old Nile boats only having a handful of passengers please feel free to share so I can add it here, but nothing about those huge ghastly things, simply not welcome here as it’s not really travelling in my book!
If you’re a nervous flier like me, you will know that this is a huge consideration from the get go. The time of the flight, number of connections, airline and type of plane has to be scrutinised and pondered. So one doesn’t need some bonkers small print screwing with your life after having carefully chosen your ticket. (A plane I was on from Thessaloniki to Athens, nearly crashed in my modelling days, so I have a right to bite into the back of the seat in front of me and scream at every little bit of turbulence)
Obviously a section that seems self evident. First class is good and Economy is is cramped, and anything between has various levels of goodness. You pay for what it says on the label and that’s that. Only it’s not.
Bucket Tickets. Cheap Airlines.
Charter flights can have some really excellent deals especially the new Asian cheapos and brand new planes These can be basic but immaculate and brand spanking new, and others old, staff demoralised and surly, shabby and scary. Ironically all are the same price, however you will have a totally different experience. I generally stick with one that I like and join their regular fliers club. This is also something to do with buses, when you find a goodun stick with it like glue.
Alert: You will have these ghastly days while travelling you can’t avoid them. That’s why my continual mantra is always fly in the morning. Any delays at night are catastrophic for your onward travel plans. Also flying at night means it’s dodgier when you arrive for getting a cab. It all leads to many complications and errors.Also check out my POOEY POOT post that will explain that you need to have it in a lot of countries. I also got caught out in South America it cost me a fortune as I ended up throwing the ongoing ticket to Bolivia as my plans had changed so dramatically. You can go on line and there are companies that can sort this for you at a fraction of the cost with a ticket that is proof but not real (my German friend told me about that and many people swear by it but I’m old school and that would make me feel uneasy) So, if you don’t want to do that you should invest in a cheapo throwaway flight. Also flying at night means it’s dodgier when you arrive for getting a cab. The whole day was a mess and I can never relax during the day if I’m flying late I’m too anxious so it makes no sense to pretend I will enjoy a ‘nice lunch and a siesta’ before travelling. It would and does make me hysterical.
Tiny Planes and Airports.
This darling airport in Colombia was amazing. My dinky plane was a joy but we were running a little late so I was panicking while en route to Medillin via Bogota, so the captain sent me a little hand written letter via the air stewardess trying to accomodate me. It was so touching and personal if a little worrying that he had written it while flying. If you’re nice you’ll get a high return on the price of your ticket. It always works on these smaller airlines.
Having explained about POOT I won’t bore you with that again bar a small passage from the post:
Excerpt from my diary: “Getting to the gate to check in they asked me for my ongoing ticket which obviously I didn’t, I always wing it and I never before had been told I need a proof of leaving the country before I fucking get there! This bitch was out to get me. I looked around panicking I was one of the last at the gate. She told me I needed to have proof of outward travel (POOT.) That I would have to buy a ticket before boarding and show it to her so she could put it into her computer which until then was saying no.
Circular conversation with the woman at the gate:
‘But I don’t fucking know where I’ll be going, I don’t travel this way I wander freely. I book as I’m going along. I am a FREE SPIRIT” I whined, now even disgusted by myself, to the now decidedly frosty bitch from hell.
‘You’ll have to book one now or you can’t board the plane’ She snapped.
‘Well I don’t even have an idea of where to go. You tell me where I should go?’ I said genuinely blank as where to go.
‘Kota Kinabalu is lovely you’ll like it there but you’ll have to hurry the plane will leave soon’ She said, and seeing that people had started to give me sympathetic looks tried to smile and pretend to have any empathy for the human race.
Out came my IPad and with bloodshot eyes and shaking hands i managed to get the airport WiFi and book a ticket from Manila to Borneo’s beautiful KK. The bitch looked impressed she never thought I could do it in time or at all. I triumphantly showed her the booking, put away my credit card and my trusty IPad, and staggered off to board the plane. Bangkok had been a foolish idea.”