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April 28, 2005

Time to start shouting

I hope no one from Darwin is reading this because Lourdes and I can't WAIT to get out of here. Yesterday was a particularly trying one. Right now our final preparations before leaving, hopefully still the 6th May, are dependent on others. The problem is that many of these people have about as much sense of urgency as a block of wood.

The day started bad with a call to the company responsible for sending us new deep cycle batteries for Moksha. They'd completely dropped the ball, forgotten about the order, and the batteries, urgently needed to test the electronics, will now be here the middle of next week, just 2-days before d-day.

Next up was someone here from the Dinah Beach Yacht Club who was supposed to be sharing a car loan for the day. We'd planned out the day to make maximum use of the vehicle - ferrying heavy gear around, collecting gear from shops a long way away etc. The car never showed, so it was riding around on the bike like a lunatic all day instead.

Then Perkins Shipping, who had promised a good deal on shipping the kayaks back up to Dili, presented me with a stinker of a bill - a thousand dollars - with no offer of a discount. This instantly reduced my budget for the remainder of the expedition to Singapore by a quarter.

I also found out by email that UNESCO Jakarta still haven't sent a crucial letter (promised a week ago) for our Indonesian visas.

It's sad when it comes to this, but sometimes being nice just doesn't cut it, and the time comes to start shouting.


I REALLY hope we'll have some more positive updates being posted soon!

Posted at 7:02 AM

April 23, 2005

Red Tape Aussie Style

So I was thinking that the worst red-tape we're going to come against is in Indonesia, but it seems the Aussies are pretty hot in this department too. Our beautiful Current Designs kayaks are, at the time of writing, sitting in a wharehouse just a few hundred metres from where we are located with Moksha at the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association. But the Customs Division here in Darwin won't let us work on them before re-exporting them out to Dili in East Timor.

There's a grey area in the guidelines that states that if we were to have the kayaks in our possession when we entered into Australia we would be allowed temporary access to work on them. If they'd wanted to help out, Customs could have interpreted the guidelines in such a manner as to allow us temporary access. But when the big cheese upstairs at the Customs House initially said no, it remained no, even after being explained the nature of the what the boats were to be used for (i.e. they wouldn't be sold here in Oz). Even a customs agent called up the cheese on our behalf and tried to reason with him, but there was no budging.

At least in Indonesia we'd be able to hand over $100 as a 'donation to the one-legged customs veterans fund', and get ahold of our kayaks.

So what does this mean? Well, without being able to see the kayaks properly and work on them we'll have to guess the materials we'll need to fit them out in Dili, which I've been told doesn't carry much in the way of hardware needed for a 2,600 mile expedition by kayak. We can make an educated guess as to what these materials will be, and how much to take up there in Moksha, but there will inevitably be things we can't foresee. And chances are it will be something incredibly small and annoying - common as mud anywhere else in the world but nowhere to be found in Dili - like a piece of string.

Posted at 8:02 AM

April 20, 2005

Trip to Jakarta

So the trip to Jakarta was, I believe, a great success. Ms. Hasnah Gasim, the National Coordinator for the Commission to UNESCO put aside the whole day to help plan our schools' visits throughout the archipelago and arrange the paperwork for our all-important visas. We also laid plans to put the funds raised for Tsunami relief victims towards the building of a youth recreation centre for the children of Banda Aceh, who currently have nowhere to go for after school recreation and further education activities. More about this program in another post. Suffice to say I think this will be a great use of the funds, as Ms. Gasim said herself, 'We need to rebuild the buildings, but we also need to rebuild the people'.


The 2-days spend in Jakarta also allowed me a tiny insight into this incredible country that we're about to launch into with the next leg of Expedition 360. I was able to get a small feel for the psyche of these people: very formal, potentially suspicious of outsiders (they have had colonial outside forces in the form of the Dutch and Portugese meddling in their affairs for many centuries) but behind the facade very friendly and willing to help if you smile first! So I'm glad I remembered to take my long trousers, posh shirt and black shoes. My mum would have been proud!


Even the plane ride from Darwin to Kupang and up the island chain to Bali and finally to Jakarta allowed me a bird's eye view of the terrain we'll be encountering; the changing vegetation from semi-arid Nusa Tenggara on the eastern side, to the island of Komodo with it's flesh-eating dragons, the volcanoes and lush vegetation of Lombok and eastern Java and the polluted, overcrowded bustling city of Jakarta that is home to over 20 million.

After meeting with Ms. Gasim I had an opportunity to walk a little around the streets, taking in as much as I could in the little time I had. Let me say that, having been to several central American cities I have witnessed a certain level of poverty amongst people. But they did not prepare me for Jakarta. I was shocked. The stench from raw sewage running through the streets, the pollution, the confusion, traffic congestion and the constant, overwhelming heat and noise. And every person I made eye contact with had the same void-like expression that you see in people who have had a seriously hard life. A face chiseled by the constant struggle of the poverty cycle and just surviving from one day to the next.


So it was a wake up call from me, having lived in relative comfort in Colorado the past 3-years. The really horrifying thing (for me at least) is that in 2005, when we have the technology and know-how to move resources around the planet so easily and efficiently (as least in comparison to just a century ago), that we still have a few people in one corner with alot, and loads of people in the other corner with basically nothing.

There are some of you that will say that I'm naive and that global and regional economics just doesn't work like that. And I do understand that that's the way it is because of modern polical and free-market economic forces. But the fundamental fact remains that in these modern times, with the resources available to us, that we can't cover the most BASIC needs of every person on the planet leads me to realise that as a species we're still not very intelligent at all.

On a lighter note, a big congratulations to the classes posting work to the educational section. I read your comments posted to the maths and science blogs - excellent stuff!

Posted at 8:39 AM | Comments (1)

April 17, 2005

Immigration Obstacle Course

The bureaucratic can of worms of obtaining our entry visas to Indonesia has brought me to Jakarta for a couple of days. Tomorrow I meet with the head of UNESCO Indonesia's Associated Schools Program network, Ms. Hasnah Gasim, to nail down the schools we'll be visiting along the island chain. We'll also discuss our intention to spend $10,000 USD of aid money raised for tsunami relief for the possible rebuilding of a school in the Bandah Aceh area of Northern Sumatra.


It's a vital trip. After a couple of meetings with the Indonesian Vice Consulate in Darwin it became increasingly apparent that UNESCO acting as our sponsor and dealing with immigration on our behalf here in Jakarta would be the only way we could do something as ambitious as kayak the island chain as intended. Basically, as far as I can tell, no one has every got permission before. An Australian tried a few years ago without the proper clearance and didn't get very far before being turfed out.

One problem is that kayaks don't fit into any existing catagory that the immigation folks recognize. So another stop tomorrow will be at the office of another government organization (the name of which I can't even pronounce)to get a letter saying that we can't get a letter saying we have clearance to cruise in Indonesian waters like a regular yacht would need. How bizarre is that!

This could be the hardest bit of the whole expedition...

Posted at 1:15 PM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2005

Update from Lourdes

Well, I guess I'll share a bit about who I am!

Usually I'm always up for some kind of crazy adventure even if its in my own backyard. I have certain friends that when we get together we dress up in hilarious outfits (wigs included) and go out on the town or just stayhome and entertain ourselves. Dancing is a big part of my life, must be my Cuban background. I was blessed with incredible parents who support WHATEVER happens to be up my sleeve.

The travel bug and I are amazing friends, which brings me to Australia to accompany Jason and Moksha to Timor. The challenges will be there thats for sure, it what form I dont know. Thats exciting. Anyways, I must go now but will keep in touch.


Posted at 11:56 AM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2005

Stevie’s blog: Dinah Beach Yacht Club, Darwin.

Organising an expedition is not dissimilar to running a small company. It requires a lot of office work – telephoning, ordering parts, meetings and administration. The putting together of the adventure and getting to the start line, as we’ve often said, is a bigger battle than the trip itself. The goods news is that we have office facilities – table, chair, phone, the Internet, tools, etc – but these are spread over an area of several square miles. Within Moksha’s boat yard space we have only a makeshift table made of abandoned wood pallets, two deck chairs and an electric cable powering a light bulb and a fan. All the surviving equipment is scattered around on the concrete floor, and we have erected a staggeringly haphazard arrangement of tarpaulins, supporting poles and cordage to offer a degree of shade and shelter from torrential downpours. Imagine if you will, trying to organise your own complex affairs from under a sheet of plastic in a parking lot.


Bouts of uncontrollable laughter seem to be our best (or perhaps our only) answer to the rain and the chaos at times, followed by a few bottles of Cooper’s Sparkling Ale.

I’ll try to keep my main item of news short and sweet: I won’t be accompanying Jason on the crossing to Timor. Our dear friend Lourdes, from California, will be taking my place. Since Jason decided not to renovate and repaint Moksha until she gets shipped on to Singapore, there’s not much work to be done on her, only cleaning, testing safety gear and electrics and loading supplies, I’ll be doing that for the next week and then taking off to visit friends on the NSW Coast and to fulfil a lifelong wish to see Tasmania.


Lourdes has been a keen supporter and friend of the expedition since we met her in Monterey, CA in 1997. She has long been promised a pedal voyage, and this next 2-week trip might conceivably be Moksha’s last outing. I hope it will be a fantastic experience for her. She is a lovely woman and I’m sure you’ll get to know her well over the coming months. As for me, well the truth is I acted rather selfishly in staking my claim on this (potentially) final Moksha trip – it was kind of my “last dance” with the old girl. I was looking forward to the simplicity and solitude of the Big Blue, having worked so hard for 5 years to write my book – Pedalling To Hawaii. So I’ve decided to give Lourdes her long-awaited taste of Moksha and to seek my own, much needed solitude in the company of my friend and teacher Zen Master Hogen in the delightful surroundings of the Funky Forest retreat community near Byron Bay.

Sorry for the confusion, but it seems the right thing to do for us all. The adventure continues...


Posted at 2:04 AM

April 10, 2005

One and a half feet forward, one back

The list of equipment that was stolen continues to grow. To date it amounts to about $8,000 US: the main EPIRB (a device for sending out a distress signal via satellite if we get into a life-threatening situation at sea), a video camcorder, lifejacket, VHF radio/UHF radios, solar panels, water maker, rucksack, bike gear...and I'm sure the list will grow. Some of this we can get away with (we have some other EPIRB's on loan from McMurdo for example), but I probably need to replace around $2,000 worth, a major dent out of the budget. So after getting the $15,000 together to make this next leg happen, including all the kind donations and pledges, then losing $10K in equipment, it feels like one and a half steps forward, one back.

Our new premises is slowly coming together. We have tarps covering most of our small square of concrete, allowing some respite from the dreadful heat. Then my friend James Walker turned up today with some chairs and...oh bliss beyond bliss...an old fridge. We're almost living in comparative luxury now compared to 48 hrs ago! But it's all quite exposed....we have camcorders and computers lying about under the tarps barely sheltered in the event of a storm. It's not the most ideal staging post for a major leg like this.


On the upside Lourdes arrived yesterday (sorry - don't have a photo of her yet - will do the next time we post). It's great to see her - looking forward immensely to sharing the great adventure to Sinapore with her. And she's a real trooper - jumping in with all 4 x feet to help out with cleaning Moksha and the remaining gear (that hasn't been pilfered).

Tomorrow (Monday) is a majorly important day; a second visit to the Indonesian Consulate to clarify a key question about our visas, and then battling with Australian customs on our kayaks; right now they are refusing to allow us temporary access to them to fit them out before re-export to Timor. Bureaucracy....aaaagh!!! If it's this bad in Australia, I'd hate to think what it's going to be like in Indonesia...

Posted at 11:41 AM

April 7, 2005

A mountain to climb

This morning we up-sticksd (is that a word?) from relative luxury of Frogs Hollow backpackers. Home is now a 25x15ft concrete pad in the Dinah Beach Yacht Club boat parking area for both the pedal boat and ourselves. Its all a little disorientating theincredible heat, having all our bags sitting out in the sun with no respite from the blazing sun. Its pretty basic stuff. The morning was spent rigging up a tarp just to create the simplest of shelter from sun and rain.

This evening we bumped into a couple of tradesman Les and Dave who kindly offered to help push Moksha the two miles from her current storage in the lead shed on Ft. Hill Wharf back to the yacht club. Then the real work begins. Although structurally sound, as far as we can initially tell, shes in a terrible state. The three weeks we have to get her ship-shape again seem all too few.

Much of the gear and the equipment that was stored on two pallets beside Moksha in the storage have been ransacked and the expensive equipment stolen. Its my own fault for being away for so long. Its hard to know without getting into the back of the boat tomorrow (where the rest of the gear is stored) how much of a set-back this is.

Every leg of the expedition is like a mountain to climb, and right now were at the bottom looking up at the objective arriving in Singapore and it seems so very far away! Never have we had so little a support base in any of the staging points the expedition has been in around the world. The simplest things like shelter are turning out to be BIG deals right now. Its actually quite overwhelming what all has to accomplished.

One silver lining is our new neighbour a Scot named Andy. Already he has proved himself to be a star, helping us scrounge the odd piece of timber to create a shelter. Hes perfectly cylindrical, with a limbering gait and caustic whit to boot. This morning when I asking him how long hed been in Australia he told me 36. Well, youve kept your accent pretty well, I remarked. Och aye he replies, Too tight to even give thataway.

If you knew the Scots youd know what he meant.

Posted at 1:08 PM

April 6, 2005

Steve Returns!

Stevie's blog: arrived into Darwin in the ungodly hours of this morning after a 30 hour journey from Devon, England, jumped off the plane and straight into the murky deep-end of Expedition 360.It's amazing how quickly even the most bizarre circumstances become normality, because I already feel quite at home here, hustling on a shoestring in the tropics. Jason greeted me at the airport (it's been almost six years since I last saw him and Moksha vanish into the blue horizon, watching from an escort vessel 200 miles off the coast of Hawaii) on a $10 bike fresh the pawn shop and we made our way back to a local hostelry for a good catch-up and to plan strategy for this next leg - pedalling Moksha 600 miles to Timor, Indonesia. For my part, strategy is too grand a term for the immediate needs of transportation (I trumped Jason with a deluxe $30 bike this pm) and footwear - a disintegrating pair of sandals fished from a stinking pile of expo360 gear that (thanks to some local dingoes, winos, or vandals,hard to tell which) we found scattered along the dirt floor of a disused warehouse near the wharf. Moksha is also there, under an upsettingly thick layer of dust and cobwebs, looking like a relic unearthed in 3030 AD, a thousand years after the Apocalypse.

We now have about 3 weeks to restore her to her former,ocean-going dignity, resupply and pedal onward to the next continent - Asia. The enormity of the challenge is slowly filtering into my jetlagged brain. As of now we are homeless (again!), relying (again!!) on the goodwill of local people to make it happen, but I'm left with the familiar, intoxicating thrill of knowing that it WILL, in its own surprising way, all come together in the end. It's good to be back.


Posted at 11:38 PM

April 3, 2005

Off to Darwin with 100 koala bears

My time here in Cairns is rapidly coming to a close. This evening I fly to Darwin to start readying pedal boat Moksha and the kayaks for the next leg proper.

Norlia laid on a magnificent fairwell dinner last night and I got to meet some last minute people who I regret not having met earlier. One lady from Sulawesi in Indonesia gave me some local tips about traveling through the region, including taking a couple of hundred or so miniature koala bears as gifts for the village chiefs.

The whole croc ordeal was aired quite a bit also. To see the Cairns post front page article go to -



Posted at 10:20 PM | Comments (1)