I’ve just escaped from 24 hours of horror at sea and am festering in Makassar airport on the island of Sulawesi in dire need of a few buckets of disinfectant and a long sleep. I feel like Bruce Wayne having just escaped from the prison inside the bottomless well.
I once travelled overnight on a cargo ship from Nassau to Eleuthera in the Bahamas, accompanied by my best friend, a full moon, a few bottles of Kalik beer and a fridge freezer being delivered to Ricky Martin, so maybe my memories of cargo trip travel are slightly rose tinted. Not even the most psychedelic of tints could do anything for the last 24 hours though.
The ship looked mildly foreboding as it entered harbour at Labuan Bajo last night, and the hoards of people getting ready to swarm on board were maybe a sign that the journey might not be plain sailing.
But the unbelievably cramped conditions, squalid passenger areas, toilets literally overflowing onto the deck, rivers of bin juice and piles of flying rubbish were truly uncharted territory. It was a ship destined for the gates of hell straining under the load of a thousand sinners.
It’s grainy, but this is literally a crowd of people sleeping on top of one another, piled up like pancakes:
I eventually found a couple of square feet on the top deck in which to curl up and attempt sleep – the stench below deck was unbearable – but had to contend with a pot noodle dropped on my head, a steady shower of cigarette butts from all angles, an inescapable downpoor of rain at 4am and generally being used as a footrest / step / side table / football throughout.
I’m officially pulling out of all long haul travel for the rest of my time here. Am at the airport booking flights like they’re going out of fashion.
P.S. Special thanks to the following for getting me through the last 24 hours large and in charge:
CNN Profiles podcast / Anderson Cooper 360 podcast / Richard Bacon Radio Five podcast / Best of Nick Grimshaw Radio One podcast (feat. Emily Ann Sonnet) / Today Show Radio Four podcast / Silvio Pacini – various mixes / Jamie Jones Paradise Closing party mix / Damian Lazarus Sound of the Mayan Spirit Day Zero mix / Richy Ahmed 145 Clarence Road mix / assorted K-Pop / my spirit