I had made reservations on a cargo freighter leaving Singapore to Perth, Australia on December 12th, which would get me in around December 21st. It shocks me that there is so little traffic between Southeast Asia and Australia, at least in terms of ships that will take passengers. That ship was the only freighter going between the busiest port in the world, Singapore, and a well-developed, first world economy, Australia, for a period of about three months. Fortunately, I reserved my space on it about a month ago and I was ready and set to go.
Then I got an email from the travel agent I have used to book all my ships about a week ago. It seems that while I was traveling in Russia by train, and out of internet communication for the most part, that I needed to fill out some forms and send them back to him for my ship. As I’d already given my credit card info and booked with them before (so they had all my contact information and such from the previous forms), I didn’t think there was an absolute rush on me filling out these same papers again. Nor did my agent tell me there was a time crunch in place.
Well, you guessed it, I lost my reservation. The shipping company booked my cabin out from under me, though I was to blame for not getting them their paperwork back quickly enough. My travel agent is buying me wine in New Zealand when I get there, so I’m not going to blame him for anything at this point!
This was a serious problem. I had done enough research to know that it was going to be incredibly difficult for me to find a way to Australia, once I lost this boat. I emailed a bunch of people that I thought might be able to help. A guy I’d met last year in Nicaragua is a big sailor and is going to be in Bali in November and immediately sent out a bunch of emails to other sailors he knew that might be going my way. He also send me some links of websites where you can sign up to help crew sailboats going between places (methinks I might have another year or two in me, sailing around, stopping places and sailing some more — those sites are great). Another now-very-good friend of mine that spent a lot of time in Indonesia over the last year talked to me about transport in between those islands — as I was thinking of going to the end of Indonesia and just trying to hitchhike a boat to Australia. And so on and so on. In short, I exhausted every possible avenue I could think of. For a few days, I was thinking I might have to give up on the “no-flying” rule I’d set for the trip.
It was a slightly depressing week on a couple of fronts.
Then I caught a break yesterday. I got an email from another travel agent about a freighter going from Hong Kong to Brisbane. The price was incredibly high, but I contacted the other travel agent I’d worked with and he got me a slightly better deal (though I gotta tell you — planes are a hell of a lot cheaper than boats). The ship leaves earlier than the other one was going to also — now I’m leaving Hong Kong around December 3rd. I’ll get to Australia around December 13th, so at least I won’t now be celebrating my birthday at sea.
Though its just my 42nd. Non-prime. Who cares?
It has also altered my plans for the next month. Originally, my route was going to be to go through SE Asia on a fairly straight line, down to the tip of that area, Singapore, then catch the boat there. Now, I’m going to have to hurry just a bit more, since I’ve lost about 10 days. And I have to backtrack back through China to get to Hong Kong (thank GOD I got a double entry China visa now — got it to possible hop over to Japan and do Mount Fuji — now its totally necessary, so that I can go back through China to Hong Kong). I’m going to get down to Vietnam in a couple days. Go down the entire length of Vietnam. Then over to Cambodia to see the Killing Fields and Angkor Wat. Then to Thailand and some diving and beach time and back up to Laos and south China and catch the boat. More a circle than a straight line. I hate backtracking, but no way to avoid it this time.
I can’t believe I managed to find another boat to Australia. Did I mention how lucky I am? Lucky in almost every aspect of life.
Postscript — ended up being some interesting people on these two cargo freighters.