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Dadum…Dadum..Dadum Dadum Dadum (Jaws theme) The Final Day is Upon Us!

Classroom Presentation

The final morning arrived with me awake at 5.54am, this was becoming a trend, found coffee and worked on my classroom presentation while I waited for the lads to arise. My presentation was from Project Aware and focused on the main forms of ocean pollution. I was super excited when I saw this, as my degree was Environmental Education and this was right up my alley.

Finally the troops arose and we headed off for the center. I decided to go first and get it over with, realised I was shaking when I attempted to write on the board… This could be an interesting presentation. However, I got through it, thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did everyone else in the class, all the boys said it was great and we even had an awesome discussion on pollution and clean-ups and changing habits with Examiner Colin putting his 2 cents in. I asked him about becoming involved in Project Aware and he gave an email stating that they would be lucky to have me!! Well that’s a great compliment!

Then scoring time…. 4.7 out of 5. Colin actually stated that I deserved more, that the presentation was excellent but still gave me 4.7, oh well sounds good to me!

All the boys did great presentations from Wreck Diving, to RDP work. But the best statement out of all of us was by Drey who was doing a presentation on Peak Performance Buoyancy. Coming from the Bronx he has a certain way about him, and his personality shined through with this:

Dudes! PPB is like Jedi mind tricks man! You just THINK NEUTRAL…. and you areeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

He had the course, the equipment, everything sold to all of us even if we had it already, even the examiner wanted to sign up. Brilliant job mate!!!

Two Skills Down…. 1 to Go!

All too soon the final test arrived, we geared up and headed to the boat, leaving our Course Director on the dock waving nervously at us. We got all sorted with our kit and then chatted among ourselves about the skills we had to perform. Each of us had 2 skills and then we had to complete Rescue skill number 7 (rescue of an unconscious non-breathing diver at the surface).

My skills were CESA (my nemesis returns) and Bowline. Not too bad in the long run but still not my favorites.
Once the group was together and Examiner Colin had arrived we went through our briefings, as I got into mine the boat started moving and I did a bit of a samba as I finished off. As the others went through theirs I accidentally happened to catch a glance of the marking slate, big mistake, even if they hold it in front of your face don’t look, because I convinced myself that I had screwed up somehow and the pent up stress started reaching a boiling point. I held it together and kitted up preparing for the GIANT stride off the boat which was about 3 times my height. I think if my nerves had been calmer I might not have been able to jump because I would have realised just how high it was, only after I surfaced and motioned “O.K.” did I see the true height of the jump.

We hung out in the water waiting for Examiner Colin to finish his other groups briefings and to get his gear on. Finally it was on like Donkey Kong… or something like that. Drey was first and got through no prob, then Jet, again no prob. Then it was my turn…

My vision narrowed, possibly even caused my eyes to cross, I began concentrating on breathing, all I had was 3 skills to get through and I would pass… Why did it seem like I was climbing Mt. Everest. In the briefing I had stated that we would start the CESA from the surface but since the others had gone first we were already underwater, so I wrote on the slate that we would begin from there.

As I mentioned before in the skill circuit section of the confined water, a CESA is a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. As an instructor I have to make sure I am within contact of the diver, make sure they don’t hold the line, that they emit a continuous “ahhhhhhh” sound and don’t take breaths, otherwise they need to repeat it. Due to my statue Neil and I had decided the best position was for me to be in front with my left hand holding the line and the bcd and my right gently touching the regulator to feel for vibrations. This was perfect except for the fact that I had limited range of vision vs being able to see from fingertips to fin-tips.

I got the first “student” to the surface and didn’t see any problems the examiner might have given him, but as we got back to the bottom I began doubting myself. The second “student” actively pulled on the line, so I caught him holding it, and had him repeat the skill. But right as I was about to start the second one, a cloud passed my vision, my weights I was wearing on my calves to help keep my feet down loosened and I motioned to the examiner that there was an issue. When he wrote on his slate “What is Wrong”… I managed to take a breath, clear my vision and write back “all good”, F*&k it I was just going to get through it.

My next skill was the bowline. Since it was a skill that would be in the Advanced course it is encouraged to have 2 or more students tie it at the same time. Of course trying to focus on 2 at the same time when your nerves are on edge is not very easy. When the second student had an issue I had him wait and focused on the first who had just finished tying the knot. The way he pulled it made it look strange but still correct, however, the examiner came and looked at it, which made me look at it again and convinced myself it was wrong. So I motioned to everyone else if they were ok and had him do it again. He really struggled this time, after 3 tries I took the rope and showed him, then he did it perfectly. I then moved on, continuously checking on everyone and caught all mistakes that were made.

Moving to the end of the line, I kind of felt like I wanted to throw up, I was pretty darn certain I had screwed up and would have to return to repeat this section in 3weeks on the next exam date. Of course I happened to be the first in line so all the other kept having me do the skills, liftbag, hover, alternate air, while the rest of them just relaxed at the end of the line… I was wrecked by the time we surfaced.

Rescue Exercise 7

The final test was here, although I was still convinced I had failed the underwater section. We waited as 2 of us paired up at a time rescuer and victim, then the victim would become the rescuer. When it was my turn to be the victim my rescuer almost drowned me, pushing me down and letting water in the mask, I think I may have started trying to make a little fountain through the top of the mask. He was also so focused on keeping my airway open that he almost broke my neck… but at least I would have bee saved!

Then it was my turn to rescue! Our Examiner this time was another course director from Koh Tao named Bob and the very amusing Rescue 7 went something like this:

Kathy: Diver diver are you ok
tap on shoulder and flip him over…
Bob: just push him under
Kathy: His buoyancy, my buoyancy, his weight belt, my weight belt, his mask, my mask..
Bob: oh look what a cute little white mask
Jet: it bends too
Bob: oh how cute it is squishy a little squishy mask….
(this was the background conversation for the rest of the rescue)

At least it helped me relax a little.

And the Results Are???????

Back on the boat we had to wait for Examiner Colin to finish with his other group, I pretty much was at a constant point of needing to through up or cry or both. Then as the boat headed back to dock we did our debriefings, then we had to wait for the second group to do theirs.

Finally our group started getting results. Neil was on the boat and looked anxiously at me, I made the “I don’t know, maybe problem” signal and just looked really worried. Then it was my turn, I felt like I was about to receive a death sentence or be told I was not worthy…

Colin: alright Kathy let’s start with skill 2, the bowline
(Oh shite that’s not good, means I failed skill 1, why does he want to start with skill 2…)
Colin: you did a good job and managed the group, maybe move on to another diver if one takes to long and return to him but overall good job.
Kathy: mmmhmmm
Colin: Now skill 1, the CESA, did you notice anything with the first diver.
Kathy: No but he told me later he held the line
Colin: Yes he did, could you see him from fin tip to fingertip.
Kathy: No not really with my height I tried to make sure I had hold of him and to check the regulator.
Colin: OK next time I think it is better if you hold the line behind you with the left and the bcd with the right and just watch the bubbles, if he takes a breath the bubbles stop. He was just using the line as a guide so we will say missed problem. Now you were trying to tell me something underwater, what was going on.
Kathy: Yes sorry got nervous because I had a feeling the first student had done something wrong and then my calf weight came loose, but I sorted it out and could continue.
Colin: ok good, well then the scores are for the CESA 4.0 and the Bowline 4.4, any questions?
Kathy: ummmm am I an instructor then???
Colin: well I have to do some paperwork and such first…. but yes!!

At that point I realised I must have been holding my breath the whole time, I just wanted to hug him, I stood up and almost fell down, I started crying like a baby. Neil who had started filming was wondering if this was bad news and if he should stop filming, no one including myself, was sure if I was crying or laughing or both. When Neil asked how I felt I just said “I want to through up!”

I have never felt so much emotion rush through me at one time, and the single thought through my mind was “I am finally cool!!!”

Enjoy the following video showing my journey:

A huge thanks goes to:
*Ron and the team at Eugene Skin Divers who got me hooked on diving in the first place
*Ricardo who encouraged me to do my Divemaster here on Koh Phangan
*Monique Richards for first suggesting this crazy idea.
*Neil Richards of Scuba Futures for training me and putting up with so much, you are truly the finest instructor I have ever met and hope I can live up to your legend!
*To http://haadyaodivers.com/en/index.php for being so great to work with before and now after the IDC
*Jet and Drey for being great friends and Course Director Dave for all his help.
*Lulu, Thomas, Marius, Davey and everyone else at the shop who helped out
*The great group of guys who made up our group during the IE from Easy Divers, Koh Tao

And especially to my parents who supported me completely as I pursued another crazy idea and fulfilled a lifelong dream… now let’s teach those Guppies to Dive!!!

I Passed!!!!

I Passed!!!!

Examiner Colin!

Examiner Colin!

Newest members of the Pro Team PADI

Newest members of the Pro Team PADI

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand

 

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Dom Dom Dom…… DAY 1 of THE INSTRUCTOR EXAM!!!! (read in voice of Darthvader)

Off To Koh Tao

Our valiant course directors, Neil and Dave, had hoped that with 3 enthusiastic Instructor Candidates we would have enough for the PADI examiners to come to Koh Phangan… However with Koh Tao leading the pack with lofty 37 candidates we all met up at the pier and headed off for some rather nerve racking adventures…

Waiting for the Ferry

Waiting for the Ferry

Turned out to be a wonderful day to relax on the one and a half hour ferry ride, with our fearless Course Directors hobnobbing with the PADI examiners in the air conditioned section of the boat. Jet, Drey and I tried to make conversation without unintentionally leaking in course material… which was rather difficult as it pretty much consumed most of our minds.

As we neared Koh Tao we were greeted by a rather ominous looking cloud.. could this be a sign of what was to come??

Heading to Buddha View

It always seems to be that no matter which side of the ferry you sit on they always seem to unload on the opposite side and you have to squeeze through the aisles, other tourists and locals trying to push in front, until you eventually emerge at a slightly unsteady looking gangplank that leads to the outside. However, we made it out, made it to the taxi and were off to the resort we were booked into, Buddha View. With 4 boys and me, it meant they shared 2 rooms.. and the cost… while the little princess got her own room (YAY!) and the full cost (Bugger!!). Ultimately I was thankful for my own room though so it all worked out.

We got settled in, grabbed some lunch, apparently when you order a sandwich of any variety at the resort restaurant you get precisely 7 fries… we tested this theory over the next few days and it came to 7 fries every time… I ordered my own plate of fries and got 14… there must be a trend. That evening was just time for dinner with copious amounts of Thai food all shared and, at least for me, an early night!

THEORY AND STANDARDS… be afraid be very afraid

The next morning dawned with me awake at 5.45am…again! I wondered around, grabbed a coffee at 7-11 and waited for the others to arise. Today was the dreaded theory and standards exams, approximately 3 hours of brain numbing physics, math, physiology and PADI standards (luckily that section was open book).

We arrived at the center, just a short walk from the resort and got settled into our seats. There were 3 PADI examiners and they gave us a brief intro, all the while with slide in the background reading:

WELCOME TO YOUR EXAM…RELAX!! A bit of an oxymoron if you tell me.

During the whole intro they would randomly as k questions like “who loves to dive?” “who wants to be an instructor?” “Who is awake?”.. most of us were too nervous to even blink let alone answer enthusiastically so we just sat wide eyed in the horror that awaited us. Eventually with a bit more joking and teasing more and more began to participate and on the question “who knows how to clean a mask?”, I finally tentatively put up my hand….

“You there what’s your name?” I think my eyes glazed over and I stopped breathing….
“Umm Kathy”
“Correct, now show us how”
I proceeded to do a half decent explanation of mask clearing with hands shaking, my tongue numb and my brain short circuiting…
“Excellent, moving on”

I believe I heard a little yelp of “YES!” from behind me in the form of Neil, who I believe nearly wet himself when the examiner pointed at me.

And then it was time to start…

I had Theory first, and it took me about 45 minutes to complete it, nervously I got up and realised I was the first one to finish, I handed in my exam and the Examiner asked “Are you finished?”, my reply was along the lines of “I think so” as I glanced around at everyone else still feverishly working through it… After a 5 minute break I dove back in, this time the open book Standards Exam. You would think open book would make it easier, but no it just seemed more confusing. After about an hour or so I finally completed it and walked to the front for my scores…

Examiner Colin: Well on your theory you got 96%, you missed one question in every one of your sections.
Examiner Rob: In your Standards you got 98%, you also missed one question.
We all looked at each other and they said together: At least you are consistent!

Woohoo passed!!!! Feeling light headed, slightly nauseous and giddy at the same time I exited the classroom. Neil was nervously waiting at the resort and met me half way like a proud parent!

Calling a good friend to tell her the results

Calling a good friend to tell her the results

Jet and Drey followed shortly afterwards but not before giving their Course Director Dave a few more grey hairs!!! They too had passed with little trouble.

Confined Water Session

The next hurdle to jump was the confined water session at one of the local pools. We each had a skill to teach and 5 skills to show. I had Mask Removal, replace and clear. One of the easier ones in theory. As a dive instructor when teaching courses there is always at least a day or 2 in the pool teaching the students the basics, you have to be able to be clear and concise, praising the student for something they did right (this can be difficult to think of sometimes) and reminding them of things to improve on. You also have to be a very very careful to follow the standards exactly, such as skills that have to be in shallow water, my skill being one of them.

With 3 groups of 6 candidates all squeezed into the pool it was very easy to think that we would just stick to our one spot and ignore the depth, thank heavens for one of the guys in our group who mentioned his having to be in shallow water, as it had not even crossed my mind, being so focused on the skill itself.

When my turn came about I moved the “students” into shallow water and had my back to the deep water, I went over the briefing stating the skill, the importance of the skill, signals and then a review of the skill. I just bought a new slap strap (the comfortable cover that goes over the plastic mask strap) and as I showed the removal aspect the mask slipped off with my movement, not what I intended. I am pretty certain my heart stopped or at least missed a few beats, but I just kept going. During the actual underwater part where I demonstrate and then have the students copy, the examiner is behind me telling the students to do a problem. I caught both problems all though was a little slow on one of them. At the surface I congratulated them stated what a good job they did, “I like the way you both looked up when clearing”, reminded them of issues, “but I did notice that one of your had your mask upside down, remember to always find the nose piece with your thumb so you have it the right way, great job guys excellent!”.

SCORE TIME: Fearing my mishap with the mask coming off during the briefing might effect my score, I moved nervously over to Colin the Examiner. A score of 3.4 is required with top marks being a 5.

Colin: Great job Kathy, nice briefing, clear and concise, excellent you scored a 5!!!!
Me: really???? I mean thank you

Glancing over to Neil who looked like he was trying to send me mental instructions and seemingly leaning as far forward as he could, I tried to casually hold up 5 fingers, he returned the sign with the expression of “really 5????”, “yup 5!!”. Now all I had to do was survive the 5 skills in a row.

Skill Circuit

There are around 27 skills every Divemaster and Instructor should know, from skin diving to mask clearing to hovering, and of those we get 5 picked at random that are done at the instructor exam. Our 5 included:
CESA (nemesis #1)
Mask Remove Replace and Clear
Hover (nemesis #2 – I checked if I turned upside down it was fine as long as I hovered)
Regulator Recovery
Alternate Air Stationary

The first one was the CESA, when you are low or out of air it is an option for surfacing when you are less than 9meters/29 feet from the surface and your buddy is too far away. You need to swim, elevating your arms and inflator hose while emitting a continuous “ahhhhhhhh” sound. It is one I have had problems with because I always forget to become neutrally buoyant before beginning the swim. This time round, I did great, only problem was that, at the start, Colin (floating at the surface in water that was fairly murky), pointed at Jet and I and then pointed to the other side of the pool. I thought this meant move to that side, so I merrily started swimming. I can only imagine what Colin thought, he got my attention and motioned the CESA signal, I swam back very quickly mumbling sorry into my regulator only to see Jet in the midst of preparing his CESA. OOPS!!!

Everything else went fine and I completed all the skills. Then came the scores…. unbelievably I got all 5’s!!!! Maybe Neil did get it all through to me afterall… There was hope for me yet!

 A great team to work with!!

A great team to work with!!

Tomorrow loomed with a classroom presentation and 3 skills in open water…. so close and yet so far!!!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Week 1 of Instructor Training

Prep Work

My second day on the island Neil got me sorted with a moped, possibly grew a few more grey hairs as we watched my little legs stick out as stabilizers every time I turned a corner, am much better at it now. Then he sat me down and gave me a test and some knowledge reviews… ahhhhhh the physics, the math, the physiology, the dreaded RDP table (used to figure out Nitrogen concentration and surface intervals between dives)…. The next 5 days involved around 2 practice tests every day, review and teaching on the balcony in the morning, one day we spent almost 5 hours just going through all the sections and this was just the prep work.
balcony study

The Interview:

(Dramatic Theme Music) Let the PADI Instructor Training Begin

July 1st 2015 Neil I drove down to the main shop of Haad Yao Divers, to officially begin my course. We started off with an exam to see my progress and I pretty much aced it!!! Yeah Baby!!!! There was hope for me yet. The next week consisted of early morning breakfast and coffee sessions followed by hours in the classroom, pool sessions and open water. Due to a storm system approaching we decided to do the ocean dives the first week.
**

Very 1st Dive

One bright morning Neil decided it was time to do my first ocean dive in close to a year and a half, perhaps even practice some rescue skills. We drove to Haad Yao beach unloaded the kit, got sorted and started walking to the water line…just shy of the water I suddenly realised I had my watch on:

Me: oh shite I still have my watch on!
Neil: is it waterproof?
Me: it’s $20 from Walmart
Neil: that would be a no! Let’s leave it at reception

walk back up the beach, give my watch to reception and walk back down, at about waist deep I suddenly realise why I feel so comfortable:

Me: oh shite I am still wearing my pants!
Neil: oh good lord!!!

(he may have considered dropping his gear and running for the hills at that point… either way I will never live it down, but it was a way more comfortable dive than usual – the next morning I bought some swim shorts)

Also on this dive we realised that I have floaty ankles, a common occurrence with women… I also think we realised that this was not going to be a normal Instructor Course for Neil but rather along the lines of Adaptive teaching…. what had he got himself into???

Classroom Sessions

We spent hours in the classroom going over the standards and the theory and doing classroom presentations. Around 2.30pm we started a new tradition, Ice Cream Break!
icecream break
In fact we were spending so much time together we started to look alike.

Gimme a Break, Gimme a Break, Break me off a piece of that kitkat bar!!!

Gimme a Break, Gimme a Break, Break me off a piece of that kitkat bar!!!

Approximately 20 minutes of concentration later the giggles would start. This is where the classroom session turned into a minion video:

Although, in his defense, Neil never farted his revenge (at least not that I knew of), he did however have a series of goofy hats.

Neil's Revenge.

Neil’s Revenge.

Ocean Dives

Due to a storm system threatening the peace of the island the next week, Neil decided to do my ocean dives in the first week. We chose Chaloklum beach as there was no coral to walk across just a short surface swim…. of 1km / 0.62miles, there may have been a lot of swearing during the swim out. At least my ankle injury was getting strengthened.

.

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Chaloklum Dive Site.

Chaloklum Dive Site.

A few different people came out to help:

.Lulu and Thomas (Divemaster Trainees)

.Lulu and Thomas (Divemaster Trainees)

Dave (Course Director) Jet and Drey (Fellow IDC students).

Dave (Course Director) Jet and Drey (Fellow IDC students).

Emergency First Responder INSTRUCTOR Course

At the end of the first week, Alan from Dive Inn joined us for the EFR Instructor course. Shits and giggles can not explain how much fun and silliness we had…

Poor Neil has a BooBoo

Poor Neil has a BooBoo

The Whole Family

The Whole Family

Alan getting way into the course

Alan getting way into the course

Icecream Break

Icecream Break

And everyday we went to a great restaurant called Big Mountain for lunch

Lunch Time

Lunch Time

Week 1 ended and a pile of laundry awaited me for the day off, not to mention homework….

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Why Not Become a Scuba Instructor….

Cruise Ship vs Dive Instructor

about 6 months ago, Monique, a good friend and dive instructor tossed a thought out to me, why not return to Koh Phangan Island, where I did my Divemaster, and become a dive instructor… Her husband, another good friend, was studying to be a course director and would be my instructor….

The conversation in my head went something like this:
Me – Cruise Ship hostess vs Scuba Dive Instructor…. mmmm
Rational Side – WTF you are 37, you have a good gig with the cruise ship, save and then settle at home with a real job!
ADHD Side – been there done that with the cruise ship, onto the next adventure
Rational Side – what are you thinking
ADHD Side – something new something exciting …. D I V I N G T H A I L A N D
Rational Side – well it is always good to have multiple skills, and the cruise ship is a good backup
ADHD Side – come on Rational you know what you want
Rational Side – ok the deal is we pretend to consider this for at least a month, don’t want people thinking we just jump into decisions at a moment’s notice! Also we work as a Divemaster first for a month or two before taking the Instructor Development Course (IDC) need to get your skills sharpened!
ADHD Side – Deal sold, we are off see the wizard the wonderful wizard of Thailand!!!

So there it was, I had convinced myself, at age 37, to fly to Thailand and pursue a dream I had never even let myself consider – To become a PADI Scuba Instructor
For months on the ship I dreamed of Koh Phangan and diving, it had been almost 2 years since any serious diving which made me nervous. My time there before was amazing doing my PADI divemaster, the food, the friends, the freedom of riding a motorbike/vespa and of course living in a tropical paradise.
WHAT AM I THINKING!!!!

Adventure is Out There

Finally end of contract arrived, my month and a half vacation at home ended, all packed and ready to go I set off on a jet plane. In the initial planning stages I had decided to visit my friend in Slovenia and then a couple of nights in Venice… of course this meant literally nearly flying all the way around the world just to get to Koh Phangan… but it was worth it. While in Slovenia I got a message from Neil, my soon to be amazing patient, very very patient instructor from Scuba Futures and Haad Yao Divers, informed that an IDC course would be starting on July 1st (about 5 days after my arrival). I think I nearly choked on my coffee. The email back and forth went something like this:

Me – but but but
Neil – you will do fine
Me – but but the math, the physics, the the the
Neil – you will be fine
Me – but I need to get my skills up to par I need time to remember the dive sites…
Neil – you will be fine
Me – BUT THE PHYSICS AND MATH!!!!
Neil – you will be fine, the theory can be taught, the diving will be remembered, being an instructor is about personality and, well, you have plenty of that…
Me – but will I really be fine??
Neil – yes you will be fine

Thank heavens Neil is supremely calm and patient because this course was going to be a mental and emotional roller coaster for me, with numerous giggle fits!

Island Welcome

The heat and humidity of Bangkok nearly took my breath away, I had forgotten what it was like. Of course I got the taxi that had no idea where the hostel was and then I left my favorite light jacket in the taxi and then discovered my room was on the 3rd floor and no elevator. Always a good start. But got myself sorted, lugged my bag upstairs, stood under a cold shower for about 20 minutes, found a sim card and texted Neil with my arrival. I took the 6am bus, which worked out perfectly because I couldn’t sleep and was awake by 4am, giving me time for another cold shower and final sorting then a long 8 hour bus trip and 2 hour ferry ride. The weather had been perfect and just as the ferry pulled into Koh Phangan the heavens opened and welcomed me back with a good solid drenching. Neil was their with his side car to pick me up, we briefly considered I take a taxi but finally said “screw it” I was wet already, the ride home just meant I didn’t need a shower anytime soon. We pulled up to my little bungalow and it felt like home almost immediately.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

We popped into the Crow Bar just down the road and said hi to a few old friends then Monique helped me stumble to a little place to grab some food. I took it home managed maybe 2 bites and passed out. What a welcome back!!! Tomorrow the studying would begin, bring on the physics!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Castles, Caverns and Coastlines….. Oh My!

Castle in a Cavern

Of course go figure, I final trip was heading to the seaside and after spectacularly hot clear weather, it rained as we left the house… Murphy’s Law!

Slovenia is famous for castles and caves, you can even combine the two and visit Predjama Castle, which was built inside a cave, creating an awesome vision!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was built in the 13th century and moved into legend when it became the Seat of Knight Erazem Lueger in the 15th century. Erazem was a renowned robber baron, rumored to be a lot like Robin Hood. After killing the leader of the Imperial Army for offending the honor of his deceased friend, he was besieged in the castle for a year and a day. He could have held out longer except for the betrayal of servant. The only place that was impregnable was the outhouse, perched atop the castle and off to the side. At the appropriate time the servant signaled that he was… occupied…. and a single connon blast killed Erazem.

stunning castle!

stunning castle!

The caves near the castle are much more expensive and very touristy, but Predjama was perfect, so cool in fact that you didn’t even need to pay to go inside.

This is What Bilbo Felt Like

On the way to our next set of caves, Škocjan caves, the rain really started pounding down, and while turning a corner the windscreen wiper on the right side broke… we pulled over and I managed to dislodge it. Luckily Kaja’s side was clear, since she was driving.
wiper down, wiper down!!

Finally we made it to the caves and lined up for tickets. We must have waited close to 20minutes and were right at the window at 12pm, the time the next tour was starting. The guy asked us which tour we wanted and explained some things and right as we were about to pay it was like the clock in his head just tolled noon and he stopped looking at us or talking to us. All of the rest in the line were so confused. A few minutes later he looked at us as if we had just walked up to the window… we purchased tickets for the 1pm tour. At least that gave us time to eat a little snack!

The caves were phenomenal unfortunately no photos were allowed. It is a Unesco world heritage site and contains one of the worlds largest underground river systems. There was one area with an immense cavern and a lighted path that just seemed to disappear into nothingness, then a bridge to cross over a 45m / 147feet drop where I had the distinct urge to grab a stick and yell out:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!
(Lord of the Rings reference)

skocjan-cave
courtesty of http://www.tourismontheedge.com/

At the end we decided to grab the funicular to the top, of course it meant an immense climb first but thank the heavens for funiculars when we finally got to it. Loved every minute of this cavern adventure.

I Can See The Sea

Finally it was off to the ocean with the grey clouds following our progress. The plan had been for me to go diving the next morning, but it was looking decidedly dubious. We visited the dive center in Portoroz and then off to the tip and the town of Piran. Just beautiful, we were both knackered by this time, had been a long and eventful trip, so we just relaxed in the square and drank something. Finally we made it to the hostel in Izola and dumped our bags, the very top room with 4 flights of stairs and no elevator.

drink break.

drink break.

Panoramic of Piran

Dinner Fit for A Queen

For dinner we visited the home/restaurant of one of Kaja’s friends. He creates the most amazing dishes, all organic, all natural, and all very very unique. His home provides a unique setting up in the hills surrounding the coast and a chance to visit the garden filled with fresh herbs, fruit and honey bees.

It was 7 courses, all exquisite. Words can not begin to describe all the varieties he made. Here are a few of them…
Course 1 we shall have a cold dish of marinated zucchini over herb goat cheese with asparagus puree and herb pesto

Course 2 we shall have a cold taco style with celery root puree with marjoram and dried egg yolk shavings

This next one was amazing!!!!
Next we have a fermented ricotta with slow roasted tomatoes basil leaves and shavings of black summer truffle.

And finally baked apple with walnuts glazed in homemade honey

So if you find yourself wandering around the coastline of Slovenia, near Koper, thinking of good food, check out Domačija Butul

It’s A Small World After all

When he learnt I was moving to Thailand to do my scuba instructor course he said his friend who stayed there was also a scuba diver and worked in Thailand in winter, in summer he worked at his shop, Nemo Divers in Slovenia. We joked how funny it would be if he worked on the same island, Koh Phangan, that I was heading to.

When he arrived not only did he work on Koh Phangan during winter but he worked at Haad Yao Divers, the dive school I was going to be working with. Just crazy how small the world really is.
Boyan and me

Wind and Waves

Unfortunately in the morning the wind was too strong creating waves, so the dive had to be cancelled, oh well. We decided to wander around and just enjoy the seaside anyway. We opted to visit the local salt pans and do some birding. They were incredible and I got really excited when I spotted some herons and an oystercatcher. Bought a little bag of salt to take with me to the island, a little treat.

Salt Pans

Salt Pans

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Great Trip with a great friend

Great Trip with a great friend

A great trip even if the dive never happened.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

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