I. SOS Island

Soooooo… wanna know how I won me an island?

(NB: these blog entries are set to display in chronological order)

The Return of the Ging

Graham Hughes : September 18, 2013 7:25 pm : SOS Island

Phew! It’s been a while, and for that I’m sorry. It’s been a rather, erm, peculiar year for me.

I dunno – maybe I expected something at the end of my monumental journey to every country in the world, maybe I thought I could take my foot off the throttle for a few months and let somebody else do the hard work, but that hasn’t been the case. If you want something in this life it’s up to you, no matter what you’ve achieved.

Yes people want you to answer their questions, appear on their TV shows or speak at their US$4,000-a-ticket event, but they’ll be damned if they’re going to pay you for it (or even pay your expenses cough splutter TEDActive cough).

And so I found myself the only person to have visited every country in the world without flying, flat broke, living with my parents (at the grand old age of 34, that’s how cool I am!) and slowly losing the will to travel, inspire and entertain… instead I contemplated giving up and becoming a teacher, because you know, money.

But then a competition that was being advertised on my YouTube vid One Second | Every Nation came along and I thought sod it: I wanna go to Puerto Rico.

So I filled out the form like this:

BUblVNSCYAA0LDt

Although in my mind it was more like this:

And within a few hours I had a reply from the production company asking me to fill out a long-form application and supply them with a video explaining just how frikkin’ AWESOME I am.

The application video looked like this:

The rest, as they say, is history. Although I’m the oldest (and quite possibly fattest) of all the 16 contestants, I’m going to Puerto Rico, because fuck it I’m me and I deserve a holiday. If I pass Survival Boot Camp with Suvivorman Les Stroud, I’m going to have two weeks living on a desert island with seven other lucky so-and-sos, documenting my daily struggle for survival (and hilarity) on a Samsung Galaxy 4 Zoom and a Samsung NX camera.

Although I had been told I was a finalist a few days ago, today was the big announcement on the Samsung SOS-Island.com site. I realised it was time to get off my arse and get my website back up and running – something I’ve been putting off for too long!!

In the morning I headed over to see my old webmaster Leo Skelly, who was instrumental in setting up theodysseyexpedition.com and we got cracking on firing up this site. That’s when I came up with the idea of riffing the “Say My Name” scene from Breaking Bad, so this afternoon I met up with Ste Webster and Tom Lox, two Liverpool filmmakers and headed over to New Brighton. I beat Ste in the Liverpool 48 hour film challenge back in 2006 and he’s just about managed to forgive me.

I know you just watched it a couple of minutes ago, but it’s worth a second watch:

Spurred on by this brilliant collaborative effort, we headed over to Tabac to meet with another couple of Liverpool filmmakers – Adam and Owen, the Tomfoolery Boys. I also beat them in the 2006 48 hour film challenge and since they had a much better film than me, I don’t think they’ll ever forgive me. And so the inaugural meeting of the Wizards Club was brought to order. Individually we’re all shit-hot film-makers. Together… we might just change the world.

Watch this space. And this video again.

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Sad News From An Ancient Land

Graham Hughes : September 19, 2013 10:36 am : SOS Island

Once again, it was round to Leo Skelly’s gaff at 9am for a jolly day of website creation. Leo is great at coding and I’m good at layout, so we muddled something together which must have somehow worked, because you’re reading this now!

I also received some terrible news from my friend Kendra in Egypt. A few days ago she posted a news article on her Facebook feed about a Frenchman who had been arrested in Cairo for breaking curfew. He was beaten to death in the jail cell by his fellow inmates. We worked out today that the victim was Eric, the crazy Frenchman we went out drinking with back in January 2010.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/18/egypt-frenchman-dies-syria-morsi

Poor Eric. He must have been terrified. I was just writing about him the other day as well, for an article on interesting people I met on the road. Kendra still lives in Cairo. I’m now thinking it’s high-time she gets the hell out there. Egypt is not the place it once was.

Graham Hughes and Eric Lang in happier times.

This awful event brings into stark relief how during the lowest points of The Odyssey Expedition, I was damn lucky to get out alive.

At this rate I’ll have Week 201 in the can around 2713AD.

The website had to be up and running at the end of today because I’m going to New York at the weekend. Calm down, it’s not a jolly – I’m being interviewed on CBS This Morning next week. But what’s going to be BRILLIANT is that I get to see my old muckas Monica and Oscar and meet Cesar Kuriyama, a fellow TEDster who made this jolly video:

Which led me to make this video:

Which went totally bird flu over the summer and (at time of writing) is posed to hit 900,000 views – and is the reason I was interviewed on BBC News… and Japanese TV…

AND the reason CBS is flying me to New York! I reckon I owe Cesar a drink, don’t you?!!

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The Big Smoke

Graham Hughes : September 20, 2013 11:37 pm : SOS Island

Yesterday was a long day and didn’t end until around 2am. Today started at 5am as I was booked on the 6am Megabus down to London… I have a plane to catch!!!

I’m still in the process of proving I went to every country in the world to Guinness and rather than take my edited videos, they want a copy of ALL my unedited vids to trawl through… that’s over 375 hours of footage, almost 7Tb of data.

Fair enough, but I can’t be sending that through the post now, can I? So I acquired a cheap 500Gb passport drive from Amazon and before I left I set up Any Video Converter (highly recommended!) to convert all 350+ hours of .avi video to much smaller .mp4 files – it should be done by the time I get back from the States.

I’m not flying out until 5pm tomorrow, but being chock full of precaution in these matters, I elected to get down to London a day early, you know, just in case. Like in case the M6 was closed between junctions 11 and 12 or something.

Which it was.

I arrived at Victoria Coach Station at 2.30pm after a journey of eight and a half hours. It wasn’t even one of the buses with wifi and power sockets, damnit!

After a quick trip to Shepherd’s Bush for important meeting (more on that in another entry) I ambled back to Victoria to meet with my old friends Danny and Penny and their friend Hayley for a drink at the amusingly-named Balls Brothers Bar.

Afterwards, I was treated to a meal at Mango Tree, a swanky Thai restaurant near Buckingham Palace. Hayley works for the British embassy in Nairobi in Kenya – a place that would be a fixture on the news all this week for all the wrong reasons. After a few after-dinner drinks in Wimbledon and a few after-drink whiskies back at Danny and Penny’s gaff, I collapsed onto their couch and dreamt of missing my flight to New York.

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New York, New York

Graham Hughes : September 21, 2013 6:02 pm : SOS Island

I had to be at the airport for 3pm, which meant I had to leave Wimbledon at 2pm. Danny and I grabbed a Subway and a coffee for lunch, and after saying my tatty-byes I jumped on the Tube and sped off into the distance.

Heathrow airport didn’t put up too much of a fight, although flying still feels a bit like cheating for some reason. Happily, Delta airlines still doles out complimentary beer and so my journey to New York generally involved eating peanuts, drinking Heineken and watching Iron Man 3 (okay), Pixar’s Brave (better) and an episode of Dexter (silly).

Arriving at JFK around 8pm local time, I was greeted at the airport, for the first time in my life, by a guy holding a sign with my name on it. Well, almost – he’d missed the second ‘h’ in Hughes. But it’s the thought that counts. Yes indeedy, your humble narrator here got Lincoln’d all the way to Manhattan, courtesy of CBS.

My driver was a proper old-school New Yorker – half Italian, half Irish and a great babbling, ranting, philosophising introduction to the wonderful world that is the Big Apple. His humour, pacing and gravelly NY drawl reminded me a bit of Doug Stanhope as in “I’m Doug Stanhope… and that’s why I drink.” As we raced through Queens and Brooklyn we talked world politics, the evolving face of NYC and where on the planet you could find the hottest women (he was going on holiday and had the choice between Colombia and Senegal – it was a tough call).

Flying? Chauffeur driven limousine? Ack, before you go accusing me of being a big sell-out, don’t worry – I’d still be sleeping on the couch. The couch in question would be Monica’s, my friendly Chilean backpacker that I met in Cambodia back in 2002. I crashed at hers last time I was in New York on a night that looked something like this:

I arrived at Monica’s in East Greenwich Village around 9.30pm and realised that although I had the building number I didn’t have her apartment number – a schoolboy error that could be quickly rectified by a quick tinkle on the ol’ jellybone.

But there was no answer. In fact, Monica’s phone went straight to voicemail – it wasn’t even on. I knew she’d sent me her full address on Facebook, so it was off to the nearest free wi-fi place that didn’t require a US phone number to log-on. Ah, at least it wasn’t raining.

Actually, it was raining.

Drat. I got the apartment number and returned to the building. I hit the buzzer. No response. So… Monica was either a) out or b) the buzzer wasn’t working. Somebody entered the building so I ducked in behind them and clambered up to the 5th floor. I knocked on Monica’s door. No response. I assumed she was out.

Having been up since 9am UK time and considering it was now pushing 10.30pm Eastern Time (five hours behind the UK), I was understandably ka-nackered, but with the rain lashing down I couldn’t very well sleep in a dumpster, could I?

I’d get wet.

So I returned to the Moonbeam 24 hour Café on the corner of 5th and 2nd (whatever that means) and sent out an SOS to all of my New York chums. I also looked up youth hostels in Manhattan – the few that cropped up on Google were very far away and ludicrously expensive.

Oh come on, Mon! Where are you?

After a fruitless hour I decided to give Monica another go. I walked round and rang the buzzer, holding it down in crazed desperation, comeoncomeoncomeoncomeoncomeonnnnnn…

Nothing.

She had either forgot I was coming and gone upstate for the weekend, or she had been involved in some kind of terrible accident. At least the latter would have been forgivable.

Or maybe – just maybe, she had thought I was coming next weekend, had gone to bed at 8pm, had turned her phone off and was an incredibly heavy sleeper.

I returned to Moonbeam.

DING! A text arrived. IS THAT YOU BUZZING?

Me: YES!

Monica: Sorry I thought you were coming next weekend! I went to sleep at 8pm and I’m an incredibly heavy sleeper. Come back!

For the love of……………..

Stomp stomp stomp (I should at this point mention that Monica lives on the 5th floor and there’s no lift – I’m glad I packed light).

I’ve never been gladder to plonk myself down on a couch. Monica’s boyfriend, Justin, was still in bed (possibly asleep) but after her all-consuming power-nap Monica herself was wide awake.

And it was Saturday night.

In New York.

Bar?

Bar.

We didn’t get back until 3am.

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The High Line

Graham Hughes : September 29, 2013 2:41 pm : SOS Island

Bright and early and what a glorious blue sky. I had two missions today, both suggested by Brits abroad: one (courtesy of Matt Lumby) was to visit The High Line and the other (courtesy of Danny Alexander) was to go see the USS Intrepid.

I walked through Greenwich Village, imbibing the sights and sounds and all the crap that travel memoirists are supposed to bang on about. New York is pretty much the place it is in all the movies and needs little in the way of introduction. Everyone you meet is from another corner of the world, which is great for me – I can say I’ve been there.

Although one day I’ll meet somebody from Greenland or Pitcairn Island and the wheels will come off my parade.

But until that day, I’ll still be the (Travel) King of New York.

Here’s a video I made of the High Line:

Good stuff, eh?

After that, I headed north, grabbed a greasy hotdog and clambered aboard the USS Intrepid, a MASSIVE aircraft carrier what looks like this:

The USS Intrepid
The USS Intrepid. Being Intrepid.

Oh yes. AND there’s space shuttle and a ruddy great Concorde on board. How could I say no?

Concorde Warplane The Growler Fighters on the deck
 

Impressive kit, no doubt. Although the BEST bit was this model of the ship itself…

Model of the USS Intrepid

Look closer…

Lego USS Intrepid Planes Lego USS Intrepid People
 

There must be a billion dollars’ worth of hardware in this museum, but as always it’s Lego that gets the Charlie Sheen certified EPIC WIN.

At 6pm everybody was turfed out of the USS Intrepid so it could get some sleep. I walked to Times Square because why the hell not. Oo! It’s being pedestrianised. The usual massive TV screens advertising Coca-Cola and Glee were present and correct, damn I’d like to be here for New Year to watch the ball drop.

Back to Monica’s on the subway (more on that tomorrow), a quick freshen up and then it was a short taxi ride to The Marcel Restaurant at the Gramercy Hotel for a meal with Nicole, my contact at CBS. Considering Mr. Colombia Broadcasting System was picking up the tab, the cheeky Scouser in me fancied the $72 sea-bass, but I refrained from going all out, instead opting for the roast suckling pig. Two slap-up feasts over one weekend in London and New York? Damn my karma level is going to be in the red after this…

Nicole, an avid traveller herself, was interested in picking my brains over where to go, what to do, how to stay safe and whether Couch-Surfing is a good Idea (the answer: yes it is). I need a job where I get paid to sit on top of a mountain in Nepal and dispense travel wisdom like some backpacking Yoda. Any takers?

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The Multi-Coloured Noodles of Doom

Graham Hughes : September 29, 2013 3:26 pm : SOS Island

Today I went on a SECRET MISSION that I can’t tell anybody about or else I’d have to kill them.

It has something to do with this picture, but I can’t say what 😀

Shh!!!

Although I can’t tell you what I got up to today, I can tell you that involved a LOT of scooting around on the New York Subway system.

When I was here back in the summer of 1999 (to watch a film that shall remain nameless), the NY subway was great – okay it was a little tatty, but hell, it was only $1 a trip and it ran all night!

In your FACE, London Underground!!

How things have changed.

A one-day travelcard for the Tube is around £7.50. You cannot buy a one-day travelcard for the New York Subway. You just have to pay $2,50. For each and every trip. And so over the course of a day I ended up spending $15 on the goddamn train. A 7 day pass is only $30. Not cool, New York.

Next, there is the issue of cleanliness. You think the Tube is grubby? Think again – those white tiles positively sparkle when compared with the dark sooty mess that is the New York Subway. When the garish orange and cream décor of the Tashkent underground system is showing you up, it’s time to buy a new tuxedo, New York, if you take my meaning.

But these are minor quibbles when compared to the most outrageous part of the New York subway: the map.

WTF NYC??
Mummy, make the bad man go away.

Oh dear. I’ve only shown you a small portion of the map, lest your brain explode from the horror, the horror. Here’s the full nightmare in all its noodly glory, health warnings attached.

“True beauty is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

And we can take away so much of this thing, I’m having trouble thinking where to start.

Okay – how about WHY ARE THERE STREETS ON THE MAP? Okay, the location of Goldhawk Street in London might not be obvious, but 14th Street in New York….? Just hazarding a guess here… is it by any chance north of 13th Street and south of 15th street???

Yes. Yes it is.

But… erm, how many stations called “14th Street” are there…? At least three, maybe four. They can’t all be the same station, can they. No? Oh. Right. NOTHING CONFUSING ABOUT THAT THEN.

And think “2nd Avenue” station will be anywhere near “3rd Avenue” station? Think again noobs – they’re miles away.

Next up, what’s with having all the boroughs on every map? Yes it’s very good of you to include Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island on there, but I’m a tourist, I’m staying in Manhattan. How about a map just… and I’m gonna push the boat out here… FOR MANHATTAN? I say this on the basis that 99.9% of tourists that come to New York do NOT stay in Queens, Eddie Murphy in Coming To America notwithstanding.

Okay, now so (in my imagination) we have a map that has arrows coming out of the top, middle and bottom of Manhattan telling you what borough the line goes to and the name of the terminal station. We’ll have another map to pick it up from there, yeah? Next up WHAT IS WITH THE NOODLES??

Noodles! Noodles! As far as the eye can see...
Noodles! Noodles! As far as the eye can see…

DEATH DEATH DEATH TO THE NOODLES!!!

THIS is how you do an Underground map:

Clear, precise, classic
Clear, precise, classic.

STRAIGHT GODDAMN LINES, YEAH?? Harry Beck, take a bow.

Yes I’m aware that the distance from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is like 100 metres and the distance between Angel and Old Street is 50 light years BUT I DON’T CARE. Yes Mornington Crescent on the wrong side, Bank and Monument should probably be one station and why are there two Edgeware Roads?

BUT IT WORKS.

I can glance – GLANCE – at this map and suss out how to get from Gants Hill to Brixton. Central, Victoria, change at Oxford Circus.

Make a note of the time and then look at the NY Subway Map. Work out how to get from Colombia University to 2nd Street.

GO.

If you did it in less than 30 seconds, you cheated.

In short the NY subway map is a massive FAIL. I cannot, CANNOT believe that in a city of advertisers, TV people, designers, artists and marketing gurus nobody has set aside an afternoon to come up with something better.

Aaaaaanyway…..

I mentioned last week that I would be meeting with Cesar Kuriyama while in New York and after my jaunt around the city I did just that, in McSorley’s, the oldest Irish Bar in the city (that’s still going). Cesar is the guy who did this:

And that inspired me to do this:

As we drank too many light and dark beers (every round you get half a pint of each, it’s tradition, I think…) we talked movies, filmmaking, TED, travel and doing what you want to do in life rather than what people expect of you.

Around midnight, my old uni mate Oscar (also a filmmaker) rucked up, two hours late, naughty boy. Cesar cut off and Osc and I kept the British end up by heading off to another bar where he could drink something other than beer.

This is a short film Oscar made and it’s lovely. You should watch it.

We rolled back into Oscar’s gaff around 2am and I crashed out on the couch. I had to up for my appearance on national television in 4 hours…

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Samsung SOS Island | Help make me a winner!!!

Graham Hughes : September 29, 2013 4:22 pm : SOS Island

So that’s New York out of the way, time to get ready for the next thing: SAMSUNG’S SOS ISLAND!! So here’s the deal: 16 contestants are flown out to Fajardo in Puerto Rico for five days of survival ‘Boot Camp’ with TV’s “Survivorman” Les Stroud.

Only 8 of us will make the cut to go to SOS Island itself, a mystery island off the coast of Puerto Rico where will be sleeping rough and foraging for food for two weeks.

At the end of the two weeks, a winner will be announced… a winner who will then go for an island adventure worth $100,000. If I win, I’ll be hiring a private island off the coast of Belize, setting up a solar-powered sat-link and pulling a real-life Robinson Crusoe for a year.

IF YOU’D LIKE TO SEE THAT HAPPEN I’ve got to impress Les with my survival skills! But also I need YOUR help!!!

There will be a LIVE WORLDWIDE BROADCAST from our training camp every day this week at 7.30pm GMT – that’s 3.30pm in New York, 8.30pm in London and 5.30am in Sydney (don’t worry Oz, you can watch it later). You can watch it by clicking below.

Samsung SOS Island
Click Here for ADVENTURE!!!

Also, I need you to follow me on Twitter: @EveryCountry, on YouTube at youtube.com/thatgingerscouser and on Instagram at instagram.com/grahamdavidhughes.

It kicks off on MONDAY 30 SEPTEMBER. Be there.

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CBS This Morning

Graham Hughes : September 29, 2013 6:15 pm : SOS Island

With consummate (freakish?) professionalism, I awoke 30 seconds before my alarm went off at 6.30am. After a quick shower and change of clothes, I made my blood sacrifices to Bacchus, jumped in the waiting limo and sped off towards the CBS Broadcast Centre. I was met at the door and taken up to the newsfloor. Now this is more like it! A nice big studio for me to run about. The warehouse-y interiors looked a bit like my old office in Liverpool. I was a bit disappointed to discover that the brickwork wasn’t real, but this is television, folks! IT’S ALL MADE OF MAGIC.

Nicole joined me in the Green Room, as did Gayle King (Oprah’s bessie mate) and fellow guest Chris Jones, a journo for Esquire Magazine who was here to talk about a piece he had just published detailing the events on Air Force One in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.

I asked Chris what he thought of conspiracy theorists – he told me that he had purposefully not talked about the assassination itself in his article as he couldn’t cope with the tsunami of emails from every whackjob in the country that would no doubt ensue.

Chris actually recognised me from my One Second | Every Nation video, which is both cool and remarkable – three cheers for YouTube!!

Graham Hughes, Gayle King and Chris Jones on CBS This Morning

The interview went really well! You can watch it here:

I was chuffed with meeting Charlie Rose – veteran anchor-man and star of this week’s (penultimate) episode of Breaking Bad.

After the interview I said my farewells to Charlie, Gayle and Nicole before heading off to Esquire Magazine HQ for an impromptu Q&A with Chris, which with any luck will be on the Esquire website sometime soon.

So! I’ve done what I came for. I headed back to Oscar’s and we grabbed lunch together. I was being picked up at 4:30pm to be taken to the airport, but first I wanted to see the UN building – or, more specifically, the flags outside. (I’m a bit of a flag aficionado.)

But I forgot that it’s the week of the UN general assembly, so getting anywhere near the UN building was nigh-on impossible. Does the US have to pay for all this security? Or does Nauru chip in? We should be told!

A huge, inflexible and monolithic structure, yesterday.
A huge, inflexible and monolithic structure, yesterday.

So I headed back to Oscar’s, tail between my legs, to pick up my trusty backpack (this trip marked the swansong of my trusty Lowe Alpine Pax 25) and was whisked away in a CBS limousine to JFK. Before I knew it, I was hurtling through the air on my way back to dear old Blighty.

It's cloudy, it must be home.
It’s cloudy, it must be home.

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Graham Hughes : October 2, 2013 9:55 pm : SOS Island

Sun 29 Sep ’13:

Landed at San Juan International late on Saturday night – joined on the flight from JFK by Mert, one of the other SOS Island challengers. Mert’s a photographer from Turkey and I hope he is one of the 8 that make it to the island.

We were picked up from the airport in a minibus along with some of the other contestants and taken to Fajardo, a town one hour to the east of San Juan.

Sunday was spent getting to know the other contestants – Murad from Jordan, Veronica from Italy, Rosa from Texas, Brittany from LA, Robin from Sweden, Chris from LA, Kalyn from Canada, Liron from Israel, Tom from Perth, Alex from Moscow, Tan from Sydney, Natalie from Brighton, Jo from South Africa, Karen from Boston and the aforementioned Mert from Istanbul.

Samsung SOS Island Boot Camp with Les Stroud
Let the games commence!!

Later, we were given our equipment – a brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom and a Samsung NX camera each and we were given a tutorial by Todd, Samsung’s representative here.

In the evening we were treated to a meal together. Most of us then got an eaAnd rly night, ready for tomorrow: the first day of SOS Island Boot Camp with Les Stroud…

 

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SOS Island Boot Camp Day 1: SHELTER

Graham Hughes : October 3, 2013 6:57 am : SOS Island

Day One started a bit like this:

 

And then went all this:

 

Then this happened:

 

And then we went LIVE TO THE WORLD:

 

And this is what happened afterwards.

 

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SOS Island Boot Camp Day 2: WATER

Graham Hughes : October 3, 2013 7:21 am : SOS Island

So then. We built a decent shelter yesterday but Les thought it was too big. But then he’s probably never woken to find himself BAKED in a black tent at the Roskilde festival at 7.30am. Shelter from the rain? Yes, bring it! But warmth – oh come on, it’s the Caribbean. If Samsung hadn’t put me in a hotel I’d be sleeping on the beach every night. Like I did in Sri Lanka. And Thailand. And the US Virgin Islands. And Australia. And Dubai. And Ibiza. And… well, you get the picture.

Today’s a new day, and this is how it started…

 

And then I heard a rumour…

 

And then we got into position (parched!)…

 

And tried to forecast the weather:

 

Before the show started, which you can watch here (WARNING: It’s very Graham heavy… like my mic is turned WAY up!):

 

But we didn’t get a critique of our sill-making tomfoolery, since we ran out of time. Did Team Three(dom) do a good job? Who knows. Although I will dispense this bit of GREAT advice:

Before going on a week-long Survival Boot Camp with Les Stroud, watch all the episodes of Suvivorman.

 

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SOS Island Boot Camp Day 3: FIRE

Graham Hughes : October 3, 2013 7:42 am : SOS Island

Sort of getting into the hang of things now, although everything is exhausting and hot and sweaty and hard. But, come on, this is survival-lite: we stay in an air-conditioned hotel every night… Just you wait till we get on that island… no air-con, biting insects, foraging for food… that’ll sort the men from the boys.

In the morning, we have to be ready to go at 8:45am, and once we get on set, the morning is spent doing technical things, like getting mic’d up:

 

And then we play our own stand-ins for the rehearsals:

 

And pray for NO RAIN!!!

 

Yes, we are in the HEIGHT of hurricane season here in the Caribbean, but no problems so far…! So then the show gets underway. 16 of us, all mic’d, all doing pretty physical tasks in a hot, sweaty, humid environment… all doing our level best not to swear.

 

I have to admit, I was massively impressed by Les’s ability to make a fire with a fire-bow in less than two minutes:

 

And then even more impressed by Tan’s fire-starting skillz that led our team to boily water victory:

  

And thanks to Liron for this amazing pic, taken on my Samsung NX.

Let's hear it for SURVIVAL!!!
SOS Island Team 3(dom) With Survivorman Les Stroud

So then it was back to the hotel. Only I decided to head out into the Puerto Rican jungle to prepare for tomorrow’s lesson in survival from Les Stroud. Which I’m pretty sure will involve stuff like this…

 

You should watch that last one. It’s funny.

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SOS Island Boot Camp Day 4: FOOD

Graham Hughes : October 4, 2013 7:32 am : SOS Island

With shelter, water and fire done, today’s task was obviously going to be FOOD!!

I shot this vid last night as a bit of a trailer:

And then I helped Alex, Tom, Robin and Veronica shoot this trailer for SOS Island in general:

This morning I decided to do an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit and that went a little nuts: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1nnd7q/ive_been_to_every_country_in_the_world_now_im/

So with a zillion questions to respond to, I spent the whole day with my head down beavering away on my laptop. Around 11:30am I managed to shoot this:

Yep. No food today! Glad I had a big breakfast. This was the scene on the beach around 3pm:

And then half an hour later today’s show began:

I think we did really well. Afterwards, we got this nice little pep talk from Les (EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE!):

And I shot this as a bit of a trailer for what’s going to happen tomorrow:

YES THEY’RE GOING TO ANNOUNCE WHICH 8 OF THE 16 ARE GOING TO SOS ISLAND ITSELF!!!

No use getting stressed! After shower and dinner, Jo and I decided to write a song together, which we performed with Natalie:

Before you say it, yes it’s nice to see me finally emerge from the closet ya funny fecker you!

And before bed, we teamed up with Alex, Tom, Robin, Veronica, Liron and Murad to film the obligatory SOS-Island Harlem Shake video:

Then I answered a bunch more questions on Reddit, and posted this at 2:30am. I think I better go to sleep. Big day tomorrow… if I don’t make it to the island I’m going to be proper gutted.

Go #TeamGraham!!!

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SOS Island Boot Camp Day 5: D-DAY

Graham Hughes : October 5, 2013 3:09 pm : SOS Island

Of the 16 people to do boot camp, only 8 will make it to SOS Island itself. Today’s the day we find out who made the cut. Those who get through will go and live on an island for two weeks with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their Samsung Galaxy S4 zooms and Samsung NXs. Those who fail to make the cut fly home tomorrow.

After miserably failing to make the cut for the top 50 of the Jauntaroo “Chief World Explorer” gig earlier this week, I was understandably nervous.

I was in the top 100, I made this great little video and everything:

And, well, how do I put this delicately…? I’VE BEEN TO EVERY COUNTRY FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!!!!!

But, nope, they didn’t want me. Damn you Jauntaroo, damn you all to hell.

So, yeah, anything could happen – possibly for all the wrong reasons.

The tension built throughout the day, and was not improved by today’s pre-shoot rehearsal which involved us all being “eliminated” and learning how to walk off the set graciously and without muttering swear words under our breaths.

And then, before I knew it, the show kicked off.

This is what happened immediately afterwards:

And this is my reaction to the news:

Right, that’s it. I’m off to have a drink with Les. See you Monday 🙂

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SOS Island | Day 1 | Not Penny’s Boat

Graham Hughes : October 8, 2013 2:46 pm : SOS Island

SO THIS IS IT. SOS Island.

My last night in the air-conditioned hotel I went to bed early for the first time this week. This is my final video from ‘civilisation’:

We were stripped of everything but a change of clothes, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom and a Samsung NX Camera. Later in the day we arrived on the island, the location of which is a closely guarded secret. The good news is that it’s beautiful. The bad news is that we have NOTHING. Not even a knife, lighter or toothbrush between the 8 of us.

This was the scene seconds after we arrived on the island, waiting for the go-ahead to start the live broadcast:

And then we walked on ‘set’ for the first time:

Once the broadcast was over, the crew left the island SO FAST YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE.

It was like they had cakes in the oven or something.

Or maybe they just really wanted to get back to their air-conditioned homes and hotel rooms before the biting insects descended at dusk.

So first up, we built our shelters OUT OF NOTHING. Happily I had arranged beforehand to team up with Mert – you’ll see why that was a good move if you watch the above video. We found some short strings left by production, and Mert and I fixed the apex with out belts.

Then Liron, Mert and I got working on a FIRE! You know, scare some of the insects away!!

No lighter, no flint… crikey.

We tried with a fire-bow for AGES, but without a knife, we just couldn’t make it work.

Then Mert had an idea. Batteries.

I had a spare battery for my big light. I bit through a USB cable, striped the ends, wired it to the battery and made it spark over a cotton-and tissue tuft (the cotton came from one of Brittney’s tampons – this is survival baby, you do what you gotta do!).

And before we knew it, WE HAD FIRE!!!

Kudos to Liron and Mert for this, it really was a team effort.

Then I thought I’d bust my way into a coconut, just to see if I could.

A good start for #TeamGraham!

So now it’s UP TO YOU. Please head over to www.sos-island.com, register and VOTE FOR ME. I’m up against people with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF FOLLOWERS – I need ALL the help I can get. Once registered, you can vote EVERY DAY – moreso if you complete the (fairly easy) online games. So please, click below and help your favourite ginger travelling monkey win a Monkey Island of his very own.

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SOS Island | Day 2 | The Others

Graham Hughes : October 10, 2013 1:57 pm : SOS Island

Our first night on the island. I felt sorry for the others as Mert and I had a couple of tarps to keep us warm (and dry!). I ended up staying up until 2am with Karen – this was her first night of camping, like ever! Brave girl!!

Breakfast:

Post-Breakfast:

We spent all day today doing challenges, so I couldn’t film much and there was no live show, but I did manage to squeeze a bit of video recording into my day.

Exploring:

This is for real:

By the end of the day, I was starving. Everyone was shattered and I think by 9pm everyone was fast asleep in our little shelters. If you can’t beat them…..

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SOS Island | Day 3 | The Food Drop

Graham Hughes : October 13, 2013 6:42 pm : SOS Island

After spending all of Tuesday filming challenges, everybody was (understandably) exhausted. Luckily, today we had no challenges.

The morning was spent filming the ‘aftermath’ chats in which we talk to the camera about how we felt we did in the challenges and then in the afternoon we shot the second live show from the island.

I think I’m clever doing all these little vids of me breaking into coconuts without a knife, starting a fire without a flint, but sometimes I quite literally bite off more than I can chew…

OUCH.

It’s funny, so little of this show is staged. We’re in our camp, they mic us up and bring the stuff to us. Andrea turns up, does her stuff (no autocue BTW, I think she does an amazing job – imagine hosting an hour long show live from the jungle in 40 degree heat while getting bitten to death by insects) and we do ours. The only thing we’re told beforehand is where they want us to stand.

Andrea tweeted to say that if today had been a challenge day, I would have won, which was nice!

After the show, I tucked into my food like a man possessed. It’s easy to take things like food and water for granted until they are taken away.

And so to bed! Well, the issue was rather forced by the whole torrential-downpour-affair that went on pretty much immediately after filming had stopped.

Happily, mine (and Mert’s) shelter kept us bone dry… not something I can say for the others, I’m afraid, but then I’ve been putting up tents in my sleep since I was a kid – some of the contestants here have never even been camping before – eek!!!

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SOS Island | Day 4 | The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp

Graham Hughes : October 14, 2013 1:48 am : SOS Island

Good morning!

Yesterday we got some decent food (which I cooked magnificently)! Woo!!

We also got these…

And this…

So life on SOS Island just got a little easier.

Exhausting day today… no live broadcast so we had two challenges set up, but only got to take part in one of them as the first one over-ran into lunch and in the afternoon Jo hurt her ankle running. I’m not allowed to divulge too much about these challenges as they will be broadcast over the next few weeks once we have left the island, but suffice to say they are very physically demanding and take place in the hottest time of day.

So the fact that we’ve now all been given tarps for our shelters and the production crew have been turning a blind eye to us pilfering any food they leave out is fair enough – in a real survival situation I would be SLEEPING IN THE SHADE at noon in the tropics, not running around sweating my bright red face off like some half-crazed latter-day Colonel Blimp.

I’d be getting up early to improve my shelter, find food and set traps – not to block shots and do interviews.

We only get one hour of daylight at the end of each day, and that is when I either strip to my boxers and dive into the sea (you know how much I hate doing that, right? – Well that’s how sweaty I am at the end of the day) or quickly run about helping people with their shelters, or grabbing cans of soda or helping reset the wi-fi, whatever.

I want to be out filming stuff about the island, but it is nigh on impossible before the sky collapses into night. I’m so glad of my video light – not only do I use it as a torch, it also comes in handy as a video light:

Tonight I’ll sleep on the art department’s hammock by the small generator beneath the starry starry sky. It’s all good.

1 Comment »

SOS Island | Day 5 | The Smoke Monster

Graham Hughes : October 14, 2013 1:27 pm : SOS Island

So the crew know we’ve been stealing food and drink – mostly because not everyone is as sneaky as Mert and I… they keep leaving their discarded Coke cans around the campsite. Murmurs amongst the production staff about removing certain creature comforts lead me to make this video…

Funny that this theme carried into the live broadcast:

After the live show I dunked my head into the ocean and once it got dark I lit a fire so that Jo could play her guitar and we could all sit around and generate a bit of good ol’ campfire spirit. But apparently, the smoke (from the palm fronds I was burning) “smelt bad” so I filled my dry bag up with sand from the beach and used it to put the fire out. I then returned to my hammock away from camp. Now I know how John Locke felt – am I the only one who actually wants to be on this damn island?!!

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SOS Island | Days 6 & 7 | The Hatch

Graham Hughes : October 14, 2013 5:51 pm : SOS Island

When I was asked on the application form for SOS Island which 3 things I would bring to a desert island, I wrote “a machete, my girlfriend and a hammock for two”.

Well, I got my knife (not quite a machete, but it’ll do), and there’s a hammock…

Now I just need Samsung to fly my girlfriend over and I’m staying here.

Just because it’s the weekend doesn’t mean there is any rest for the wicked. Saturday started with a challenge that ended up splurging all over lunch, and then the afternoon was spent catching up on aftermath interviews about the challenges… so no early finish.

The crew left around 5pm and we had about an hour to dismantle our old shelters and put up our brand spanking new tents. Exciting stuff for us castaways! I put up our tent and helped fix Karen and Jo’s (with help from our minder Javier and his toolkit – the tent had a manufacturing fault), and filmed this on the beach:

After nightfall I made another fire, using no palm fronds this time. Jo joined me and we sang some songs. Everybody else stayed in their tents. Like, really? Okay. Whatever. After Jo went to bed I went off on my own and took some pics of the stars on my Samsung NX camera. Like this one:

Samsung NX Stars
Starry Starry Night

Nice new tents aren’t very survival. That night I slept on the hammock. Lovely lovely hammock.

Sunday was supposed to be our day off – no challenges, no live show and – even better – we got our first cooked breakfast and lunch!

But we still had work to do. We had to pose for a promotional photoshoot for Samsung. The girls were given make-up (they look weird with make-up) and the boys were given beard-trimmers (not that any of us used them I don’t think).

But MY GOD DID IT RAIN!!!

With the weather like this I had no choice but to sleep in the tent with Mert (our shelters have been dismantled), but no sooner had I rung my socks out than the owner of the island came over to tell us that Javier’s rescue boat had been blown onto the beach by the storm and we had to drag it back into the water.

So back into my soaking wet Vans and back to the beach with Liron, Chris and Mert. It took about 20 minutes to push the boat back into the water. With the rain lashing down there was no chance of a fire tonight. I chatted on my laptop with my girlfriend before crashing for my first early-(ish) night around 10pm. Tomorrow we have a challenge AND a live show…

WATCH SOS ISLAND LIVE MON – WED – FRI @ 1530EST / 2030BST / 2130CET: CLICK HERE

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SOS Island | Days 8 & 9 | Ben Gunn’s Cheese

Graham Hughes : October 30, 2013 5:59 pm : SOS Island

By our second Monday on the island it was really beginning to feel like home. I was in my element, running around, causing trouble, attempting to win challenge coconuts. This week pretty much all of the challenges involved water and when it came to Monday’s live show, half of us were (understandably) exhausted…

Yes I made a robot costume.

Tuesday saw us shoot two more challenge episodes, and also saw us shoot a promo for the news networks in the States.

[The link used to be here, but it kept autoplaying no matter how much I fiddled with the code, so I’ve been forced to delete it. Please don’t do that, news networks. It’s dead annoying.]

4 Comments »

SOS Island | Day 10 | Lord of the Flies

Graham Hughes : October 31, 2013 11:29 pm : SOS Island

I’m loving this island! Slept on my hammock again last night – I seem to be sleeping better than the others. Or maybe they’re all just incredibly focused on maxing out their social media presence…

So! Day 10 on the island!! This morning we had a challenge (one of the final 4!) and then this afternoon we all lined up on the beach for our penultimate live show.

I love that I’m uploading this stuff from an island in the Caribbean while appearing live on the internets!! Samsung you know the way to a ginger travelling monkey’s heart!

After the show we were given a ton of grub in tin cans to devour. I made a fire and Jo and I ate some canned Chilli Con Carne and sweetcorn… LOVELY!!

Dunno what was with the others. Maybe they weren’t hungry.

4 Comments »

SOS Island | Day 11 | Last Night

Graham Hughes : October 31, 2013 11:38 pm : SOS Island

We were originally supposed to leave the island on Saturday, but due to our director Craig falling ill, the plan changed…

So this was to be our last night on the island! Today we’d be cramming two challenges into one day, no rest for the wicked!! Although I was sad that we’d be leaving a day early, everyone else was ecstatic to hear the news, as you can see in the following video:

It being our last night, we were invited to attend a fire on the beach and roasted marshmellows with Carolina, the owner of the island. Javier, our minder (“the ninth SOS-Islander”) and our medic were also there and most of the group came. Mmm… marshmellows!! A VERY content Graham slept soundly on his hammock that night.

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SOS Island | Day 12 | Exodus

Graham Hughes : November 7, 2013 3:44 pm : SOS Island

Our final day of SOS Island!!! Here’s a quick tour of our tent (I only slept in it once – hammocks all the way baby):

Our final challenge was filmed this morning, and the result of it could swing the winner of this whole thing. Watch out for it when it goes out at the end of November!!! Here we are about to go live being told to grab our stuff… WE ARE LEAVING!!!!!

And here’s the live show… they gave us beer and everything!!!

Here’s the footage I got on the way back – featuring a surprise appearance from an old friend!!!

Bear in mind, those shots of Chango were shot freehand, with my Samsung S4 Galaxy Zoom, zoomed in AND ON A BOAT. If that’s not a massive ad for Samsung’s latest cameraphone, I don’t know what is!!!!

We headed back the hotel and everyone crashed out. Completely out of character, I know, but since everybody else went straight to bed, so did I. After 12 days on a desert island, little food, no air-con, a bucket shower and sleeping in a hammock, I was exhausted.

ONLY JOKING!!!!!!!!!

I headed straight for the bar!!! There I met with the production crew, Tom the crazy hair guy from Boot Camp (he chose to stay in Puerto Rico) and Maria Alexandra, my Puerto Rican travel buddy who followed The Odyssey Expedition from day 1.

Maria was still in the running for the Jauntaroo Chief World Explorer job (same one I didn’t make the final 50 of… SCREW YOU, JAUNTAROO!!!) so, desperately trying to sound sober, we shot this video:

Watching that back, crikey we was drunk! Sorry Mum!!!!

Anyway so Maria didn’t make the top 5 +++SCREW YOU EVEN MORE JAUNTAROO!!!+++ and neither did Chris, who was also in the running.

Hey, Jauntaroo, great way to make every travel blogger in the world hate your guts!! Just to remind you, THIS was the video I shot in my attempt to get into the top 50:

And it wasn’t good enough.

BUT FORGET THAT, I CAN STILL WIN SOS ISLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like, really.

But not without YOUR support!!

So join #TeamGraham and head over to sos-island.com/voting and VOTE VOTE VOTE!!

We stayed out drinking till the wee small hours. The next day I was so exhausted and hungover that I stayed in bed all day.

ONLY JOKING!!!!

I went kayaking with Jo.

3 Comments »

Last Week

Graham Hughes : November 26, 2013 12:48 am : SOS Island

So this is it. Crunch time.

This week I will find out if…

a) AJ Hackett will be building a bungee jump in Liverpool next year.

b) Guinness World Records are happy to verify my little jaunt to every country in the world without flying (you know, the one that took me four years).

c) I win SOS Island.

EVERYTHING is up in the air here. I have no idea what Guinness are going to say, and even though I’m ahead on votes at this moment in time on the SOS website, it’s a percentage game and challenge wins must be taken into account. Nothing, nothing NOTHING is set in stone.

So this Saturday night I could be celebrating.

Or commiserating.

I’m not feeling helpless, though… I’m voting every day at sos-island.com/voting and I’m encouraging everybody I know and love to do the same. I’m currently getting around 1,500 votes a day, which is amazing – I just hope it’s enough.

So, to you. We have three days left. Voting closes at midnight GMT on Thursday.

You can vote once a day from every email address you own and you can play the mini-game for extra votes (hint: ignore the birds, just go for the animals and the snakes with knots in them, go for headshots and don’t miss… build up your combo and you can get 90,000 fairly easily, which will multiply your vote by 5. Please note that playing the game again and again does not result in extra votes!!!)

This last month has been a crazy roller-coaster… and don’t worry, I’ve been playing the game like crazy too!!

Not long to go now……

We will speak again at the end of the week. Whatever happens, I’ll be in the pub 🙂

3 Comments »

SOS Island – I won!!!

Graham Hughes : December 20, 2013 12:29 am : SOS Island

THANKS TO: Leo in Liverpool, LagMonster in Denmark, Segacs and Janet in Canada, Kendra and the Mohammeds in Egypt, Alex and Mandy in Oz, Dan in East Timor, Sachal in Sri Lanka, Maria in Puerto Rico, Rhonda in Virginia, Monica in New York, Chris & Debbie in Hong Kong, Mike in Ireland, Kerri in New Zealand, Odyssey stalwarts Dino, Lorna, gavinmac and Matt Lumby, Helen and Viv in Manchester, Chessie, Lindsey, Dan, Sally, Vicki, Matt, Matt and Matt in London, Stan, Helen, Si and Lol in Brum, Brian, Laura Soraya, Anna, Bootle Lass, Ste Webster, Tom Lox, Andrew Ab, Lucy and Tim, Adam and Owen, Mum & Dad, brothers Alex and Mike, my nephews Alan, James and Matthew and my girlfriend Casey………………………

(To name a few!)

Graham Hughes, Winner of Samsung's SOS Island CompetitionTHANK YOU ALL.

See you on Jinja Island, 2014. Be there.

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