RSS

Tag Archives: sail rock

WHALE SHARK!!!!

When a Great Dive Becomes AMAZING!!

For me every dive is good, some are great and then there are the amazing dives. It doesn’t have to be that the visibility is astounding, or we see something huge, some of my amazing dives involve seeing my favorite nudibranch or a small octopus. But, if truth be told, there is at least one creature in the oceans that guarantees me a truly incredible and amazing dive, and that is a Whale Shark, the largest fish in the sea.

Sometimes however, it is not easy to get a guest as excited as we are at the prospect of seeing one, seeing their faces turn to utter horror at the words “shark” and “largest”. In fact some instructors have begun altering it to Whale Fish in order to calm the nerves of those who do not know what to expect. But one thing is for sure, no matter who you are, no matter where you are from or how many dives you have had or even how many times you might have seen one of these incredible creatures…. you will be wow’ed!

There are truly no words to explain it when you first see this behemoth of a fish glide right past you. Sometimes it can be mere inches away but you are completely unawares, only to turn and gasp at it’s sheer presence.

Whale shark at Sail Rock

Whale shark at Sail Rock

Past Experiences

I have had the opportunity to dive with whale sharks on multiple occasions thanks to my time diving here in Thailand. But there are 2 occasions that truly stand out.

#1 During my time training as a divemaster I had to return with one guest who had sucked his air faster than his companion, so while the instructor continued with her I began the ascent with him. It was a rare occasion where the visibility meant you could barely see 1meter / 3feet. I gingerly followed along Sail Rock knowing that the boats were “parked” above the chimney which started at 6m/18ft, so I followed the rock at this level keeping the guest close at hand. Suddenly a vertical thermocline created a 2m/6ft, swathe of crystal clear water, rather disorientating to enter after concentrating so hard on finding the chimney. At the precise time I entered from my side, a ginormous, vacuum cleaner type mouth, emerged from the other side. It took me a few milli-seconds to realise it was a whale shark and not something out of a sci-fi horror flick, and quickly hugged the rock in order not to touch it, indicating the guest should do the same. I swear we had to suck in our guts in order for it to get passed, it was that close. At the end of the dive we were the only ones to have seen it, a truly unbelievable experience… it’s not everyday you very nearly french kiss a whale shark.

silhouettes...

silhouettes…

#2 This was the dive that made me realise I might want to pursue becoming an instructor. It was my final dive after completing my Divemaster before leaving the island. We had a group of 6 Spanish and one of them was terribly nervous having quit barely 10min into the first dive. We decided on the 2nd dive that I would remain with her at a shallow depth while the instructor would take the other 5. We remained at barely 6m/18ft for the beginning of the dive until I heard the tell tale banging of tanks indicating something cool, another diver gave the “whale shark” signal and pointed the direction. It was the 4m/12ft, juvenile that had been around the boats for a week or so. Somehow, I just knew where it was heading and began slowly manoeuvring my diver closer and a little deeper till we got to a small pinnacle about 9m/27ft deep. Within seconds of us getting into position the whale shark changed direction and swam directly over us, enjoying the feel of our bubbles on it’s belly. It was so close we could have touched it (which of course we were careful not). After that I could not get her out of the water, she wanted to see everything, experience everything, and near the end even attempted to chase down the whale shark to get closer. She was so happy and excited at the end of the dive attributing the entire phenomenal experience to me… it made me feel fantastic and realise that showing people the undersea world might just be something I wanted to do permanently…

This wasn't our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

This wasn’t our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

Most Recent Encounter

It was nearing the end of September and whale sharks had only been sighted once or twice near Sail Rock, but we knew they were in the area. Most of dives up until this day had been Discover Scubas or courses, not giving me the luxury of diving for fun and being able to look around or carry my gopro. On this day I had an advanced fun diver, so not only was it going to be a fun dive but she did not require tons of attention but instead preferred just a guide.

News of the whale shark quickly spread and we all got in the water excited at the prospect of seeing it. It lived upto it’s reputation and swam above us for half of the first dive at about 14m/ 45ft.

On the second dive we descended over East Pinnacle, a pinnacle that sits just a few kicks from Sail Rock at approximately 17m/55ft below the surface. We dropped down and started exploring, the only divers at the time. Glancing at something over my shoulder I saw the whale shark suddenly emerge from behind us, he swam around us and descended. We were so excited and when other divers approached I was thrilled to give them the whale shark symbol and, as if on cue, he appeared again circling us and in general making our day.

Selfie with a whale shark.

Selfie with a whale shark.

They are truly phenomenal creatures, the largest I have ever had the honor of swimming near was a juvenile of maybe 5m/16ft, I can’t even begin to imagine an adult of 10m/32ft….

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Diving into Open Water

The PADI Open Water Course

For most people delving into the world of diving, doing the PADI Open Water course is the first step. For those with less time or more nerves there is also the Scuba Diver course, shorter and certifies to a shallower depth with more restrictions.

The Open Water course takes 3-4 days and will ultimately certify you to dive to 18m / 60ft with a buddy/fellow diver. It is a great course that introduces the students to all the basic skills in an easy succession to ensure the students comfort.

Playing Favorites

I must admit, so far I do have a couple of favorites and it just so happens they were 2 Open Water students. Shon and Mike are a pair of friends from completely different backgrounds and yet most likely brothers in a previous life. Shon, from Israel, met Mike, an engineer at a diamond mine in Arctic Canada, yup you heard right… while traveling in Japan and planned to meet up again in Thailand and do their dive course.

Shon contacted me through couchsurfing and asked many questions concerning class size, cost, where to stay etc.. he was considering Koh Tao as it was cheaper but ultimately liked the idea of having a small private class with me. So it was decided I would host and teach them, great fun would ensue. Shon arrived the day of the Full Moon party and was a hoot, ensuring he not only bought a couple of rolls of toilet paper (amazing how expensive that can get with couchsurfers) but also winning my heart with a reeses peanut butter cup! He headed off to the party and arrived back to pass out in the morning. Meanwhile Mike (who I had assumed was Japanese as all I knew was that they had met in Japan) was flying in from Arctic Canada, after numerous flights and a ferry to the island most people would be exhausted, Mike on the other hand walked from Tong Sala to Chaloklum!!! I repeat walked!!!! Probably a good hour or more with a number of hills. Shon met him and brought him over and let’s just say he wasn’t Japanese, too funny, what a pair.

Mike, Shon and me, please ignore laundry in background

Mike, Shon and me, please ignore laundry in background

Nerves

Probably the one thing that can ruin a course is when the student’s nerves get the better of them, when the “what ifs!!” emerge. While Mike was completely chilled (at least he appeared to be) and taking all the videos in stride with a few questions, Shon’s nerves began to show. Completely understandable considering he was learning in his second language and needed certain words translated. But the moment he said “I have one problem, I can’t breathe through my mouth”…. the headmistress in me came out, the only way to stop the nerves was to make it clear that he had nothing to fear and if he still had these fears after the pool session, then we could discuss them… especially since the whole premise of scuba is to breathe through your mouth. That calmed his nerves dramatically.

This is an important skill to learn as an instructor, some students will need hand holding and tender words, others need a good stern demeanor and an aura of confidence. You just have to know which one and how much to dial it up or down.

Pool Sessions

For the PADI Open Water course there is a required set of 5 sessions in the pool, these can be done all together or over two days. We started in the morning and ended up finishing 5 hours later, very prune like, but happy to have completed all of them.

Once I had them prepare their equipment enough times they could do it blindfolded, it was time to breathe underwater. I knew both of them were nervous so we first just breathed through the regulator above the water, then just the face in the water and finally down on our knees. For me being on my knees in the shallow end gave me a good 5 inches of water above, for them they had to bend over and hunch up… the joys of being tall. As soon as we went under I could see the light bulbs begin to glow and the excitement begin to grow. We whizzed through the skills and the boys were amazing!! A lot of laughs were had.

Wolverine??

Now while Shon was the charismatic, fun loving socialite, Mike was.. well from Arctic Canada with a certain Wolverine quality about him. During one session of diving Shon and I surfaced after completing a skill, to see Mike at the steps, chin on hand… I nearly passed both of them right there and then, they just looked like scuba divers!

At the pier

At the pier

Open Water

Finally completing copious videos and quizzes and finals, it came time to take them into the deep and so we headed off to Sail Rock. Once again they amazed me, even with their nerves they kept calm and completed all the skills with flying colors. All the time they called me Master Sensei, awesome guys to hang out with.

Ready to go!!

Ready to go!!

Dive 1 was the hardest, nerves and distracting fish proved hurdles they luckily got over.

Dive 2 was much better, they flowed through the skills and seemed more confident.

Dive buds!

Dive buds!

Dive 3 on the second day, proved a slight hitch with full mask removal, but once again they overcame their nerves and carried on, even with a bit of a current.

Dive 4 proved to be the one where the veil lifted, the nerves dropped away and much fun was had. Most of the other dive boats had left and it felt like it was just us at Sail Rock, the boys conserved their air well, we got down to 18m with no problems equalising like the first 3 dives. Truly spectacular.

.

.


Neil of Scuba Futures with Shon, Mike and 2 other students

So Proud!!

I felt very proud to announce that they had successfully passed their course and were now PADI divers. I hope to meet up with them again in the future and just head out for a fun dive, no skills or tests required!!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0971.

Thanks boys for being such amazing students!

Great Students

Great Students

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

1st Course: Scuba Diver

After assisting other instructors or completing a final dive of a course, I was finally given the opportunity to teach a course from the start, on my own!!! I was to teach 2 students the Scuba Diver course.

What is Scuba Diver

Scuba Diver is the first level of certification, it is usually for those on limited time, only takes two days, or funds, or who feel too nervous to complete the full four day Open Water course. Essentially a fantastic beginner introductory course which gives the student a certification and allows them to continue diving without having to pay for a Discover Scuba Class, something that could become expensive over time. While Open Water allows divers to dive to 18meters/ 60feet, with a buddy, Scuba Diver allows students a more conservative depth of 12meters/ 40feet and always under the supervision of a professional be it a Divemaster or an Instructor.

However, it is important to note that many divers complete Scuba Diver and love it so much that they decide to immediately upgrade to Open Water.

Like Susanna and Filippo, on the right, who upgraded soon after taking their Scuba Diver

Go With the Flow

The night before I reread my literature, compared my slates, made notes and consulted my Course Director for advice on the best flow of the class. Since you only have 2 days and the second day is filled with dives in the ocean, you need to be able to complete all of the 3 pool sessions and at least the first knowledge review. Technically you can complete the last 2 knowledge reviews on the boat, but its always better to have that day dedicated to fun in the ocean.

After contemplating the meaning of life and the wise words of my Course Director I decided on the following:

DAY 1
~Complete videos 1-3
~Encourage students to do the knowledge reviews during the videos
~Discuss chapter 1 and correct it’s knowledge review
~Complete quiz 1

Break

~Pool session 1-3

Break

~If time allows complete last 2 knowledge reviews and quizzes

DAY 2
~Ocean Dives!!!!
~Final Paperwork

My Students

Of course all the planning in the world is at the complete mercy of your students, if they understand the concepts, if they exhibit fear of getting water in their mask, if they discover breathing through their mouth vs nose just impossible… so many things could effect the flow…

Luckily, Murphy was on my side of the law for once. My 2 students were from Germany, 14 and 15yrs old (Therefore a Junior Certification), but their English was perfect, they were enthusiastic and we just flew through the material. They showed no fear in the skills completing them on the first try (the joy of being young, still fearless). They showed initiative and questioned possible issues with equipment, be it the snorkel that wouldn’t stay or a hose that leaked a little.

We breezed through the 3 pool sessions and even had time to finish all the knowledge reviews and quizzes with the kids scoring 85-100% on them. Love it when they get the info!!!

Open Water

The day before the ocean had been quite lake like in it’s behaviour, flat and gorgeous!!! Today however, the wind had started up and turned the water surrounding the rock into the Sail Rock Rollercoaster. The kids showed no fear, as usual, and were super psyched to get in. We giant strided, which they did perfectly, and made our way to await our turn for one of the descent lines, riding each roller of a wave. Eventually it was time and we started down the line. At about 2.7meters, the lad showed the symbol for a problem and pointed to the nose piece of his mask, possibly an equalization issue. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with his mask but made sure to proceed slowly until he felt comfortable.

We had to do the skills at 6meters and the line did not go quite deep enough, so we shifted against the current to another line, again the kids did great. We managed all the skills with no problem, however, the problem with the mask did not go away. We kept shifting up the ladder to see if whatever was bothering him abated, we proceeded like this: up a meter, all good, down a meter, problem, up a meter, all good, down half a meter, problem. Eventually I decided to just let them get the feel and stay on the line, the lass was loving every minute of it and pointing everything out. The final skill was to release the SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). First the lad, retrieved it, then the lass. At the surface he explained that he had pain in his jaw. I realised he most likely had a cavity, usually a rare occurrence to get a “squeeze” from a cavity, but here we were. We decided on the second dive to take it extra slowly and if necessary swim at a shallower depth.

Getting back on the boat turned out to be quite the amusing mission, hanging onto a line, collecting their fins then having them board one at a time as the boat bounced and bobbed in the waves. Just as I climbed aboard the latest swell abated and was “almost” calm. Murphy at it again.

The second dive was much more successful, we got down to depth slowly and no cavity squeeze, completed outr skills which involved an out of air, alternate air, skill to the surface. He was so chuffed that he hadn’t had a problem so we excitedly headed down nice and slowly. At 2.7meters, PAIN! Bummer! We hung out and waited with him going up and down the line trying to work the squeeze out. Eventually we were able to swim around a bit and the kids did great, great positioning and buoyancy, all an instructor could dream of.

Back on dry land we completed the paperwork and I handed them their log books with their first dives! They were thrilled and will most likely move up in the ranks of scuba diving in the future!

20150820_150459
Congrats to my two amazing Junior Scuba Diver students

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Week 2 of Instructor Training

Pool Sessions

View from one of the pools

View from one of the pools

The copious amounts of book work continued however this time it was intermingled with pool sessions. Over and over again I practiced teaching students a certain skill and perfecting my own technique. Again because of shortness it meant creating techniques that would work for me and also work for students.

"teaching" Lulu and Neil.

“teaching” Lulu and Neil.

These included weight belt removal:
Normal: unclip weight belt and pass behind your back to the right side, clutch to chest then pass it back and reclip.
Problem: with my gear on my arms are too short to reach behind my back!
Alternative 1: kneel on left knee and pull weight belt over right knee, then return and reclip.
Problem: I have floaty feet and my right knee did not want to stay down and stable….
Alternative 2: lean forward, unclip and pull belt to right side and lean back, then nudge belt over right hip and sort of roll it on, clipping it as you lean forward again.
Problem: solved

Weight belt removal

Weight belt removal

Hover:
Normal: become neutrally buoyant and hover in a stationary position using your breath to control your level, you can hold your fins and look zen like or simply hang midwater.
Problem: my floaty feet mean I am unstable with each ankle attempting to go in a different direction.
Alternative 1: hold knees
Problem: upside down
Alternative 2: hold fins and attempt zen like position
Problem: upside down
Alternative 3: leave legs straight
Problem: legs start going in different directions again
Alternative 4: F*&k it, hold fins and just hover upside down and continue teaching
Problem: we all start laughing….

and so it continued with Neil realising with every skill that adaptions were needed, the good thing that I will know how to help divers with similar issues.

Regulator Recovery Skill

We had numerous other folks from divers to divemasters to other instructors all helping with the training. Really a great crew from Haad Yao divers and super supportive.

I was pretty saturated every day from hours in the pool followed by classroom and homework, but it seemed to all be getting through to me… slowly but surely.

Pool Session Brain Fart

It happens to all of us, the nerves just take over. On one pool session I was briefing how to hover with oral BCD inflation (using your breath to fill the bcd rather than pressing the button to automatically inflate). I briefed it all correctly, positioned everyone and prepared to give the demo. Hovers made me so nervous (see above) that I demo’d the auto inflate vs the oral inflate and didn’t realise it until Neil (my student) came and promptly began the skill with oral inflate. I believe i cursed in multiple languages through my regulator but continued seemingly unphased. At the debrief this would have been a 1 and therefore a fail, Neil said the only thing that may have saved me was the fact that I didn’t freak out when I realised my idiotic mistake… oops, at least now I am super aware when it comes to which version of the hover I am doing.

Being Scored.

Being Scored.

Working Together

Being the only student was great for personal tutoring, although I think I drove Neil back to drink! But it was also hard because you had no one to compare your level with, no matter how often Neil said I was doing great, I never felt good enough and was very hard on myself. as it so happened, there were 2 other instructor candidates doing their course with Dave at Sail Rock Divers, so we joined forces for an ocean dive and then a final mock exam pool session. A great way to meet others and see where your level truly was.

Instructor Candidates Jet, Kathy and Drey

Instructor Candidates Jet, Kathy and Drey

Final Ocean Dive

Neil decided to squeeze in one more dive at Chaloklum bay, Lulu a Divemaster candidate had to practice a lift bag and I needed to review a few more skills. However that day was one of THOSE days, where everything seems to go wrong.
– Our plan to dive right from Haad Yao, therefore requiring no driving, was thwarted by the weather.
– We called close to 7 people hoping someone was near Chaloklum bay to check the conditions there, finally someone could tell us it looked ok.
– I was exhausted and just couldn’t seem to get it together with my preparations, not to mention I had navigation, another arch enemy along with the hover.
– The visibility was almost non existent and we lost the line in an attempt to do the compass work
– Neil got a sinus squeeze during an attempt to find the weight belt and lift it for Lulu

The only victory was our search for the weight belt which had almost got lost in about a foot of muck at the bottom, I just saw a piece of the belt sticking out and we were able to bring it to the surface…. What a day!

And So The End is Near….

All too soon the teaching and studying came to an end as the Instructor Exam suddenly appeared and it was time to head off to Koh Tao for the 2 day long exam….. just breathe in and out in and out!!!!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Island Life… visa runs and final scuba days

Koh Samui Visa Run

Thailand visas are not as easy to get as other countries. Most places I have visited give you a 90 day visa upon entry. Thailand, however will only give you 30 days, unless you apply for a 60 day tourist visa at an embassy out of the country. I had got mine in Seoul, Korea, originally applying for a 90 day education visa. Unfortunately, the letter from the dive school was from my email and it needed to be an original, so I got a 60 day one instead. This meant that I would be 10 days overdue when I flew out, the fine is around 500 baht a day. In comparison I could spend about 2000 baht to get a 1 month extension at the immigration office one island away on Koh Samui. Or take the overnight bus to the border of Malaysia and get a 15 day extension with a possibility of a month. Both cost about the same, but Koh Samui took about half the time.

Taking the 7am ferry meant I was awake before 6am on the road. It was barely light and I arrived to fill up just as the gas station opened. There was little hassle getting on the ferry and it turned out I met 2 of my French neighbors also going for a visa extension.

Early Morning Ferry Ride

Early Morning Ferry Ride

A bunch of us shared a taxi and joined the large group already waiting at the office, which hadn’t even opened yet.
Koh Samui visa run (5)

As soon as the doors barely cracked and the forms were handed out a mad rush ensued. Everyone desperately trying to fill out the forms and give the cash and hand it in hoping they would be done before the last ferry. The estimated pick up time was 20min after the ferry left… this did not look good. Luckily one of the ladies told me to come back in an hour and see if things were ready.
Koh Samui visa run (4)

I popped over to a cafe and ordered some breakfast, another visa runner asked to join me and we ended up chatting about her yoga training and how we both got here. Then we explored the area a little and finally returned. We were in luck and our passports had just been put in the pile. Woohoo! Then it was a mad dash to return to the port as the ferry was due to leave in 30min.

All in all another crazy travel experience. Something I will get lots of practice with when I return.

I am not sure what this means, but I know where to go if I am ever involved in transitional crime...

I am not sure what this means, but I know where to go if I am ever involved in transitional crime…

Final Days of Diving

They say “all good things must end”, and unfortunately my time diving in the tropical waters of Thailand were rapidly coming to the end. I got to assist all the instructors and divemasters at the shop and a number of the freelance guys as well. Marc, Divemaster from Belgium, required someone to play a guest in a video a friend was shooting as a Christmas message to family back home and I got the supreme honor. It was quite awesome as I got a copy and could show it off to my friends and family. It also meant I sat and criticised my swimming techniques, but at least I know what I need to work on now.

On one dive Instructor Ricardo had me brief and lead the dive. The visibility was beyond crap, barely able to see our hands. As we swam along I would stop periodically and have to wait until all 4 divers were almost right on top of me to be sure I hadn’t lost anyone. I had been a little under the weather before the dive and had felt a bit of vertigo so only hoped I wouldn’t get turned around in the muck. As we circled one pinnacle I turned to count and as I turned back and continued round the rock, I just hoped the vertigo hadn’t thrown me off track and leading us in endless circles around the pinnacle instead of the main rock… let’s just say we can laugh about it now… oops! When low visibility and vertigo let you down! On the second dive we had a diver with issues so I ended up taking him back to the ship and Ricardo led the dive through what can only be called pea soup.

All too soon my last dive day arrived. I most likely could have dove the following day as well but after 6 days straight of diving and still packing to go I knew this would be my last, I only hoped it would be good. Boy was I not let down!! The 3 whale sharks, who had been there for 3 days were still in the area. The smallest one continued to loop from the rock to the boats and back, seemingly fascinated by all these strange sea creatures. Ricardo had a group of 6 Spaniards and our new instructor from Holland had an open water. It was decided that I would swim in the water column between the two groups and therefore be ready if anyone needed me. As it turned out one of Ricardo’s found she had issues with breathing and became a little panicked. I took her back and she seemed very upset, luckily a snorkel session with the inquisitive what shark perked her up and I suggested the she swim with me, we would take our time and only go as deep as she was comfortable.

We descended very slowly to about 6m, she held onto my arm as we swam along and I would give her the “ok” sign every so often and wait for her response of “ok” in return. After about 10min we heard the signal from Marc and he indicated that a whale shark was in the area. I realised it was the smaller one and for some reason I just knew where he was going to head towards. I slowly manuevered her towards a smaller pinnacle a little away from the main rock and we reached 9m. As we got in position the whale shark did exactly what I hoped for, he turned and swam right for us passing above our heads with just inches to spare. We could have put our hands up and touched him (but this is strictly forbidden). It was dream like and I still get chills when I think about that encounter. Afterwards it became apparent that my diver was thoroughly enjoying herself and there was no way she wanted to get out of the water. We reached the point on the rock that would be our spot to surface and spent a good 15min just looking at what we could find on the rock. I showed her fish, and anemones, and chrsitmas tree worms (her favorite). After the dive and on the way home all I heard was a torrent of Spanish interspersed with “KATHY” and “Whale Shark”… It made my day if not my entire time on the island to have a diver enjoy a dive so much. It also made me realise how much I enjoy this job and maybe just maybe this is something I could see myself doing in the future….

This wasn't our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

This wasn’t our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Hula Hoops, Dive Burps and a Frog’s Leg…

Friends and Hula Hoops

Ari and James returned to Chaloklum to look into doing the DSD, Discover Scuba Diving, course. James was concerned that wounds inflicted during an accident involving falling off a roof and sliding down between 2 buildings might limit his chances or risk the attraction of a shark or two. Luckily the wounds had healed enough not to cause an issue. When asked how it happened he had absolutely no idea, we decided it must have been due to a stray monkey flinging coconuts and nothing to do with alcohol…

James in the banana hammock...

James in the banana hammock…

Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The monsoon had arrived, and I know I had said this before, but, at least for this week, it looked like it was back. After some discussion where we feared the weather might be horrific the following day, they both decided against doing the course. We joked that that meant the weather would be glorious…which of course it was.

We decided to grab some drinks and wait for Cucina Italiana to open for some hand made pasta. Ari and James started with wine and I opted for a variety of pineapple drinks (non alcoholic as I was still feeling under the weather). Then we discovered the hula hoops…

Ari was a natural!

Ari was a natural!

I surprised myself

I surprised myself

James realised how his lack of hips made it nigh impossible

James realised how his lack of hips made it nigh impossible

Dinner was delicious and then it was time to say farewell. I truly wanted to stay longer but I felt horrendous and had to dive in the morning. I wished this mystery illness that only inflicted me at night would disappear, more water that’s what I needed.

I am not sure when or even if I will ever see these two fabulous souls again, I hope we stay in touch and will miss them on all future adventures. Here’s to the next reunion guys, love ya tons!!

Dive Burps???

On days we go to Sail Rock we do two dives. The first one usually goes without incident and then we surface for an hour lunch. However, on the second dive I have discovered that, for some obscure reason, I often burp, and lunch doesn’t taste so good the second time around. I had even started perfecting the preventative actions required for if the second serving of lunch attempted to become more than a burp. When I did my first course it was drilled into us never to throw up into the regulator, it would be a B*#@h to clean. therefore I was ready and prepared:
~Create a seal with my tongue
~Remove regulator
~And feed the fish.
So far I hadn’t needed to use these skills, but you never knew when they may come in handy.

On this day I was helping Gem with her DSD. I practiced the float line and again made it too loose, but was definitely improving. As we descended on DIVE 1, I realised I was feeling a premature burp coming on. I didn’t even have anything other than some tea for breakfast. For the entire duration of BOTH dives it was like I was breathing burping gas. At one point Gem got hiccups, so here I was burping every few seconds and then she would hiccup. It was almost too funny to explain. As we neared the end of the 2nd dive, my skills were called into action as an almighty burp had me feeding the fishes, but only a little and no one saw, except a group of rabbit fish and a butterfly fish…

The final burp seemed to have knocked most of it out of me and just as well, as Gem had me practice the frog kick (meant to be for upper level divers to create a more stream line energy efficient kick). I had to practice by circling the DSD who was hanging onto the float line for our 3min safety stop at 5m. I would do a lap and look at Gem, who would shake her head. I would repeat the lap with the same result. After 3mins I had only succeeded in doing it correctly for half a lap. More practice was needed.

French Birthday, Frogs Beware!

One of my French neighbors, Philippe, was having a birthday party and had invited me and the rest of the French Quarter (of the 7 houses in the row, 4 were French). I stopped by 7-11 and picked up some drinks and wrapped up my last ferrero roche choc for him. There must have been close to 20 people and the food provided was phenomenal. I could not believe all the options and varieties, from Thai, to Western to French… very French. I had noticed a decided lack of frog sounds that night and when the plate of steaming garlic frog legs was put in front of me, I realised why…then threw up a little in my mouth. I have never had the desire or thought to eat a frog’s leg, I am not sure why as I know they are perfectly good forms of protein… but they LOOK like frog legs, I have the same feeling if the foot is still on the chicken leg… But we all know about peer pressure!
IMG_6312

It was great party and if it hadn’t been for my gurgling stomach and headache (hopefully not from the previous food item) I would have stayed much longer:

Pile o' crabs

Pile o’ crabs

Michael, he is French too

Michael, he is French too

Francky, he is French too

Francky, he is French too

Cesar (Brazil) and the birthday boy Philippe

Cesar (Brazil) and the birthday boy Philippe

French Parties and Frog's Legs will do this to a person!

French Parties and Frog’s Legs will do this to a person!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Popcorn, Farewells and Reunions

Popcorn

For days I had a craving for popcorn, but all I had been able to find were packets of microwave popcorn. There were 2 problems with this, 1 – they little packets were a bit expensive and 2 – I didn’t have a microwave. Many conversations were had over drinks about how to use microwave popcorn without a microwave, but, even if it worked, it didn’t lower the price any. Most folks were certain I could find unpopped popcorn kernels at one of the stores in Tong Sala. But up until yesterday, when the boys had taken me on my mammmoth driving adventure, I had not been able to drive that far.

Luckily 2 days before one of my French neighbors was heading there for a shopping trip and offered to look for some for me. I found it on my doorstep when the boys and I returned from our adventures. Woohoo, it was like a bag of gold and I couldn’t wait to pop some up. I decided to experiment the next day when the boys were off exploring and I had the day off to study.

That day, we all went for our usual breakfast at the French bakery so the boys could drool at the bakery girl. 2 of my French neighbors were there and were also drooling over the girl, leaving the boys muttering under their breath. Ahhh yes all rather bemusing for me to watch while having a cappucino. After, the guys headed off and I started studying, after an hour or so I decided it was time for….POPCORN!! I found a pot, that was reasonably stable on my little burner, poured in some oil and got it going.
Thailand (150)

Then I added the popcorn and waited expectantly. The first pop was like music to my ears and I enthusiastically shook the pot. Placing it back down at a slight angle however, proved to be an almost fatal mistake. The unpredictable flames of my little burner lapped around the side of the pot and into the oil setting it alight. Luckily I kept my wits about me, barely, and covered it. The flames went out and in true popcorn addict style, I simply turned the flames down and kept a popping. I didn’t mind the occasional black piece of charcoal 🙂
Thailand (151)

The popcorn was delicious, although my salt was strange. I realised a little later that it was actually a shaker of msg type stuff that looked like salt, oops! But hey you do what you can and I was just thrilled to have my little snack back, perfect while reclining in a hammock and studying my Divemaster book.

Final Dinner

The boys returned in time for dinner and we went to have their last smorgesboard of yummy Thai food at our local. They were positively depressed at having to leave the island, and the food (I think more so for the food). They kept hatching plans to pack the old couple up and take them back to Austria along with Bakery girl.
Thailand (157)

Even Bobby the restaurant dog was sad to see them go.

Even Bobby the restaurant dog was sad to see them go.

We ended the evening with a double dose of Banana Balls in Chocolate Sauce. Yummy!!!

Farewells

In the morning Willy and Daniel got all packed up and we headed out for their final breakfast at the French Bakery. It was almost sad watching them watching Bakery girl… Poor chaps!

Then it was off to Tong Sala. I wanted to try and drive there by myself but that meant I had to take one of the bags. I got as far as the gas station and decided I just felt too unsteady, so handed bag and bike over to Daniel and took the smaller bag and got on behind Willy. One last ride together. We made it to Tong Sala and they returned their bike and retrieved their passports, leaving it with the shop is required for rental. We found the ferry and after a sad farewell and promises to stay in touch I bid them farewell. I was really sad to see them go, 2 of the best couchsurfers I have had.

What adventures we had!!

Looney Farm Reunion

For those of you who have followed my blog you would remember my fun times on what was dubbed the Looney Farm. That was almost a year and a half ago, amazing how time flies. Ari and James, my two fellow inmates at the farm, and I had stayed in touch and ironically enough, realised a reunion was imminent on Koh Phangan. What are the chances!! It was so good to see them and we immediately fell back into our looney ways. First stop was introducing them to Banana Balls in Chocolate sauce, a must for any of my visitors.
Thailand (162)

Poppy Day

John, the divemaster from England, was having a Poppy Day/Remembrance Day at the Gemini Bar that evening and we all decided to go. Anyone who grew up in a Commonwealth country is familiar with Poppy Day. It is the day of Remembrance for all the soldiers who died while fighting for freedom in all wars that have or are going on. Donations for veterans are given in exchange for a paper Poppy flower, and time is taken to reflect. John had seen his time in the service and lost more than one friend, making this ceremony very touching and more than one tear fall. I shall never understand war, but I shall never forget the brave men and women who have fought in them!

John leading Poppy Day Ceremony

John leading Poppy Day Ceremony

Thailand - poppy day

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learning to Ride…Uphill!

Phaeng Waterfalls

Well today was the day I was going to drive out of Chaloklum town and down the highway to the main city of Tong Sala. This is only about a 15min drive, turns out it was 23min for me, but that is about 12min longer than I driven thus far. But before the drive, a good breakfast was needed, and the boys had discovered the French bakery, and the cute Thai girl there. So for 100baht ($3.50 US) we got a croissant (chocolate filled for me), a large roll (both freshly baked), a salad, an omelette and a coffee. Once we were all done, we each mounted our steeds, placed our cheesy looking helmets on our heads and headed off with me in the lead at a scary 40km/hr (25miles/hr).

Road to Tong Sala

Road to Tong Sala

I had never actually got the speedometer passed that number yet. They felt it was better that I set the pace, which I did, gripping the handle bars of Lucy Liu, my little purple scooter, so hard that when we did stop I had to peel my fingers off. But I reached 50km/hr at one point, which I was awfully proud of. When I told the others at the shop of course they nearly snorted their tea in laughter. Oh well, at least I was proud of the speed (and so was my mum). The boys were great and stayed behind me, occasionally zipping past to get me used to being overtaken over and over again.

Just before the road takes a sharp turn to the right and into Tong Sala there is a dirt road that leads to the left. Somewhere off this dirt road is a set of waterfalls that we hoped to explore. It took some finding but eventually we came across the entrance. The amusing thing was that every time we stopped to ask directions the locals knew what we wanted before we asked and would point us on our way. The little park was quite impressive, there was an environmental center, and an office for the parks and wildlife people, some cafes and places to get drinks. The best was this one sign though…
IMG_2019

Heading along the little path that was very well maintained we went in search of the waterfalls. It was monsoon season so we expected to see something impressive. Of course, the last rain had been over a week ago resulting in something more along the lines of a watertrickle than a waterfall. But it was still beautiful to explore.

Willy and I looking for the waterfall

Willy and I looking for the waterfall


Daniel and I

Daniel and I

I decided to try come back after the monsoon season had actually produced some rain to see the full force of the waterfalls as the photos on the sign boards showed.

Boat Races

When we reached Tong Sala it was super busy due to the week long boat races, apparently a pretty big yearly event. The boys wanted to get their ferry and train tickets sorted for Bangkok first so we headed to the ferry terminal, where they quite promptly started flirting with the lovely Thai girl behind the counter. Don’t get me wrong, this was all in fun and it was a total hoot as they both acted the part of flirting and she acted right along giggling. Tom Donnelly, an Irish Expat / transport volunteer, who had lived in the islands for over 10yrs came over to help, with the tickets…not the flirting. Although he did tell them what time her shift ended and when she needed to take the ferry back to Koh Tao. Boys, they are all the same no matter what their age.

The boys had wanted a ferry and train, but Tom recommended the ferry and VIP bus, as it was cheaper and he felt much more comfortable. The boys were thrilled at the price of 650baht ($22US). Not too bad really for a 2.5hr ferry ride, followed by a 10hr bus ride with reclining seats.

Then it was time for the boat races, we walked to a tented area and found some seats that we could drag to the front and enjoy a great view. In truth it was all rather confusing as everything was in Thai and you only knew a race was on when everyone started yelling and clapping and dancing. There were numerous groups of Thai’s all in seriously impressive Hawaiin style shirts in amazing array of colors, apparently they were the boat teams and their supporters. There was also food where ever you looked and drinks…lots of drinks!

Willy and Daniel enjoying the races.

Willy and Daniel enjoying the races.

Daniel had a mighty fine camera and I hijacked it to take some pics.
IMG_2038
IMG_2034

The kids piled in...

The kids piled in…


... and the kids piled out

… and the kids piled out

Now I think I need to get one, absolutely love it, as soon as I win the lottery. After taking a few I turned around to see the boys had been adopted by a group of Thai mamas, I should restate that, a group of very inebriated and happy Thai mamas. They had given them a bowl of papaya salad, usually so hot that it would melt your insides on the way in…and out, and were handing them something to drink in a bamboo type container. Returning, I was immediately adopted into the group and handed the bamboo container. Ummmmmm… why the hell not! It was surprisingly good and as soon as I had recovered from what felt like a mule kick, I indicated as much. This was met with great enthusiasm and I wasn’t allowed to return it until I had another swig. Thankfully they took it back after that cause I think one more and I would have started seeing double. It was a homemade liquor that had a punch 10x that of vodka but with a pleasantly mild honey taste that lingered.
IMG_2048

Throughout the morning and early afternoon we lingered watching the races and enjoying the atmosphere, constantly trying to time the appropriate enthusiastic reactions with that of the people around us. Not easy I can tell you, as we had no idea what was going on. One minute a race would start, took us forever to even figure out where they were racing, and there would be music and fireworks and everyone would go running out and clap and sing and dance… but the next race there might only be one or two mama’s running and clapping down at the shore. Rather amusing, I guess some teams just draw a bigger crowd. Sometimes the crowd would go wild and no matter how we looked we could see no race, we had to assume that it must be warm up practice for the crowd to get them in the mood. All through the day our newly adopted Thai Mama’s kept insisting we eat, that it was free, just go help ourselves. But trying to be polite Westerners we declined…until we got hungry. It turned out it was almost impolite to decline the food, they were so thrilled to see us eat. I was trying to spoon soup like stuff over some rice on my plate when a boy came up holding a bowl, I filled it assuming it was for him. Then he gave it to me with the look of “bloody idiot westerner doesn’t she know soup goes in a bowl not a plate”. Oh dear. But he was also the dishwasher, or collector as he came up to us a little later and picked up all the plates, this time with the look every younger child who is made to do the menial clean up for parents.

The very spicy papaya salad

The very spicy papaya salad

By the end of the morning, the boys had been told to return in one year and they would be part of the Mama’s team, I, on the other hand, was just background apparently. It was an absolutely brilliant morning but we had big plans to find an out of the way beach the boys had heard about, and a road that many had warned us about.

Cute pup watching the races

Cute pup watching the races

The Road To Tong Nai Pan

Feeling ridiculously proud of myself for having driven the almost straight highway from Chaloklum to Tong Sala, we headed off towards Baan Tai, a little up the East coast from Tong Sala. We enjoyed the ride and stopped at a few different spots to see what was around.

We also stopped off at Phangan Divers, as I recognized some of the instructors sitting in the front. They were very bemused that I had managed to drive this far, as it appears my driving abilities were a bit of giggle to most everyone. But it was good to see them and see where the store was. Back on the road, we headed off looking for a road that led off to the left…into the jungle. Finally finding it, Willy consulted his iphone to see where we were and where we were going. I must admit that feature is one that I would love to have, and does make the iphone seem tempting.

To begin with all seemed dandy, the road was relatively well paved and only had minor curves that I was able to pretty much walk the bike around. But then it started to go up, at first this was ok, I mean I can handle uphill right? However, at some point, most likely the point of no return, I realised that it was so steep that stopping might result in me flipping backwards and rolling back down. I leaned forward in a terrified attempt to balance the bike (don’t think I was in any danger of flipping but gravity sure tried to convince me). Putting all effort, gritting my teeth and gripping the handles so hard that I lost feeling in my fingers, I started…relax isn’t the right word…let’s just say go with it. With painful clarity I remember seeing that the road not only began a rather enthusiastic set of curves that would put Marilyn Monroe to shame, but it also started to disintegrate on my side causing me to have to try and swerve..ish to the center of a blind corner all the while praying that no one was speeding downhill. Cause I am pretty certain this road was great fun for everyone on the island, and created the opportunity to drive like a demon, except me and my barely 1 month of riding experience.

Me and Willy

Me and Willy


Note the gradient

Note the gradient

After what felt like hours going up this slope the boys pulled into a little cafe and waited for me. I think it was barely 10min we had been driving, but I am going with hours. Taking a swig of water, me not so secretly wishing it was a different clear liquid, Willy consulted the iphone app. We were half way! Up the hill, but barely a quarter way to the beach. They gave em the option to turn back and tried to sound encouraging saying they could return tomorrow and I shouldn’t feel any pressure, all the while giving me those big kitty eyes that Puss in Boots pulls off in Shrek. As much as my fear of this drive was on the verge of spilling over, I decided the only way to conquer a fear is to ride uphill some more. 1min down the road I pulled off and said “I am riding with Willy”. In front of us the, already 70% gradient road seemed to take a 25% increase and disappear into a sharp right. Yup, am parking right here! Luckily there was a lady in a shack nearby and she said I could leave the bike there.

Willy was an excellent driver and very considerate the whole way, making sure that I was completely comfortable as I crushed at least 2 ribs, possibly more. Round the corner of the bend the paved road disappeared and became something I would more likely refer to as thin islands of soil between rain runoff channels. However, it soon became a challenge to hit all the holes and go “ahhhhhhhhhh”, which resulted in Willy and I breaking into hysterical laughter at the fact that we sounded like we were driving over a cattle grate or something due ot the vibration. We passed some stunning landscapes, the interior of the island was lush with jungle. Unfortunately, sections of it was lush with date palms and deforestation, that was not so stunning.
IMG_2085

Out of nowhere we came across a section of gorgeously paved road, as smooth as a baby’s bottom (at least as far as asphalt goes), and trust me after being able to giggle at the how the vibration made us sound the past 20min, this was heaven. In the middle of this seemingly random piece of road there was an all mighty round about, that split in 3 directions. Better than many I had seen in developed countries. Not sure whether to go left or right we stopped for directions and were directed right. At the same time we saw another couple on a bike looking about as lost as us. We yelled out and they said they were looking for the beach. So following us, we now had an international convoy in search of the beach. If this had involved crossing a body of water, or if Di Caprio walked past, I might have felt like I was in a movie or something.

The road continued and just as suddenly as it appeared it promptly disappeared. Literally stopped and turned back into the channel riddled dirt road from before. How very odd! We continued until we reached what appeared to be a cliff, in my opinion. In truth it was the road but instead of going uphill at an 85% grade, it went down instead, and so did much of the recent rain taking the road with it. Willy, the ever present optimist, was game. Daniel, being of sounder mind, reminded him that they had tried something similar before, and going down was one thing, but essentially having to carry the bike back up was another. The Spanish contigent and I sided with Daniel. So back on the bikes we headed off to try the last of the 3 roads that split off from the ginormous round about statue. Again the road continued for a ways and then, it too, stopped and became dirt. I honestly think that road could be an argument for aliens, I mean who else would have plopped a perfectly good road in the absolute middle of no where???

The Beach, I See The Beach

After an agonizing, yet strangely amusing, 1hr+ journey, we saw the beach…and it was glorious to behold. Mainly because I knew I could get off this bike and get feeling back into my butt cheeks and knees.

In truth I had to hand it to both Daniel and Willy, Tong Nai Pan was worth it. It is probably one of the few beaches that does actually look like it’s postcard photo. The bay was calm and water warm, the sand was white and the sun was bright. Willy and Daniel attempted some snorkeling and then, to the bemusement of the Spaniards and I, started acting out some play or show or something. I love those 2, always good for a laugh.

Unfortunately, it was already 4pm and with the sun going down at about 6pm, we couldn’t spend too long, unless we planned to spend the night. Looking at the prices of the drinks… there was no way in heck that we could afford a bungalow, and sleeping on the beach in this ritzy neighborhood might be frowned upon. Taking some time to just enjoy the view and the beauty we finally mounted our steeds and headed back.
IMG_2089

The Ride Down

Driving back to where we had left my bike, was actually enjoyable and I don’t think I did any more damage to Willy’s ribs. Maybe a few finger shaped bruises but nothing too serious. Getting my bike and thanking the lady profusely we headed back.

Now the one good thing about going up is that gravity prevents you from going too fast. However, going down means gravity has the opposite effect. So riding my brakes all the way and losing feeling in my fingers once again, I attempted to slowly inch my way down. Even with the brake almost full on, I was still going about 40km/hr. Heaven knows how fast I would have gone if the brake had failed. The boys of course zoomed past, having the time of their life. Even stopping to chat with a mahut and his elephant.
IMG_2081

At some point the road appeared to level, and I was thinking, thank god I made it and I did it without too much trouble. Then I turned the curve and saw that I was only half way. Eventually though, with much self encouragement, and focus, I made it to the end, and without stopping continued towards home. I could not believe I had done that, and I also do not believe I could have done it without Willy and Daniel. Without your encouragement, I don’t think I ever would have got over my fear, and never would have discovered Tong Nai Pan. However, next time, I am taking the canoe!

Dinner Trends

Finally arriving home just as night was falling we went and had dinner at the local again. The boys absolutely loved their food, we also got a beer to celebrate the crazy adventure that the day had brought. For desert we rode to the other side of town, 2min away, and I introduced them to deep fried banana balls in chocolate sauce.
Thailand (159)
A trend was started!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Avoiding Decompression…

Waking up at 6am every morning due to the glorious sun shining through my window is one of the best things ever. The boys were still asleep and I tiptoed out of the bungalow so as not to wake them…especially Willy all wrapped up in the hammock like silkworm in it’s cocoon.
Thailand (149)

Assisting the French

Today the shop had 3 French students doing their Open Water Course and their first ocean dives. In cases where we have students with a language that is not covered by the instructors at the shop we hire in a freelancer. I think being a freelance dive instructor would be a great way to have a dive career, especially if you have another skill that can be used to fill in the financial gaps between dive jobs. Shops call you in and you can either decline or accept without the pressure to take it as it is your place of employment. But again, you must either be in high demand, have another skill or be financially independent otherwise you could go through long stretches of ramen dinners.

Richie, our freelance French instructor, had me help him with his dives today. As soon as we reached Sail Rock he sent me in first to go set the float line. I had done this once before and was still mastering the strangely difficult task of getting it tight enough. If it is too loose then it could get caught up on the coral or tangle with another line, if it is too tight and waves develop it could be yanked off taking the chunk of rock with it and causing damage. Swimming out to the rock and dropping down at the appropriate spot I just hoped that I would drop down where some of the tie lines were. CORE SEA, a local non profit studying the coral and working to protect it, had set these nifty loops at certain intervals around Sail Rock. Of course there are always the days where the current forces you onto the less frequented side resulting in a difficult search for a spot to tie the line. Luckily, this was not one of those days and I managed to find a tie line and tie it up. Of course, even though I had battled to pull it as tight as I could with the surge constantly pulling it from my hands, I discovered it was still too loose. Luckily it was ok for the students to complete their skills and when we dropped down I was able to quickly retie it tighter.

I was buddied with the 3rd member of the trio and he was a dream student. Completely natural in the water and no issues what so ever. If I didn’t know better I would have thought he dove before, but he swore he this was his first time… I bet you that’s what they all say 😉 . The other 2 however, were not as dreamy. In fact just after we dropped down, less than 5 minutes after Richie had explicitly said not to touch anything, one them got my attention and pointed to his hand. I saw around 5 small puncture wounds trailing blood in what appeared to be a sea urchin inflicted wound, as if he had tried to pick one up.. on the surface we discovered that is precisely what he had tried to do. I guess he didn’t realise they are just as prickly below the surface as they are above!

Prickly, definitely prickly!

Prickly, definitely prickly!

On the up side the dive was pretty good. There were tons of large groupers everywhere and we saw 3 scorpion fish, the most I had ever seen in one dive. The students all seemed happy when they came out and enthusiastic for the next dive.

Scorpion Fish (courtesy of Michael Devlin DiveMaster)

Scorpion Fish (courtesy of Michael Devlin DiveMaster)

As I clambered aboard, Marc told me that he needed me to dive with his group on the next one as the male half of his couple had “sucked” his air. This means that he had breathed too heavily and depleted his air much faster than expected, in fact he was down to the limit after barely 20min. With only Marc as a guide he could not send the guy to the surface alone nor could he leave the wife to dive alone. So he had been forced to return after a very short dive. Most dives last at least 40min.

Avoiding Decompression

Marc planned to drop back down within 20min, which would give me around a 40min surface interval instead of the usual hour. In these circumstances you have to keep an eye on your computer to watch your time for DCS (Decompression Sickness). Most computers will tell you how many minutes you can remain at a certain depth before the risk of DCS, and as long as you move to a shallower depth and be sure to surface before these numbers are too low then you should be fine.

I ended up having almost an hour but to be safe I dove a few meters above them and thoroughly enjoyed just hanging out…literally. 30min into the dive Marc signaled to me that the husband was down to 50bar, the minimum preferred amount of air to surface with a 3min safety stop at 5m. Acting as calm and professional as I could, this was the first time I was taking a diver back to the surface alone, I guided him back the way we had come hoping I would surface at the right spot. We hung out at the 5m mark, all the time keeping my eye on a rope I hoped to heck was our boat and not a Burmese fishing vessel on the other side of the rock. When our 5min were up we surfaced and, just as I had expected…., there was the boat (thank the heavens!)

All in all a great day and I liked the feeling of the responsibility of taking the diver to the surface and tying the float line.

Introducing the Local to the Surfers

Back home I studied my dive books and waited for Willy and Daniel my two couchsurfers to return from their escapades around the island. After a few hours I went to fill Lucy Liu bike with gas, the farthest I had gone on my bike. A full 5min away from home. When they weren’t home by 6pm and I was famished I popped down to my local and got some of my favorites.

Reclining in the hammock, reading and killing mosquitoes while periodically watching a great episode of gecko tv on my wall, they arrived, it was barely 7.30pm and they felt bad I had waited. But it was all good and I took them over where they bought me a beer and told me about their day while eating. Both of them are huge foodies and could not believe how good the food was. They planned to come back the next day, Willy with his notebook to take down how to cook all the delicious dishes.

Willy and Daniel

Willy and Daniel

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and planning our adventures for the following day. At the boys encouragement to improve my driving, I had decided to take the day off and attempt to drive all the way to Tong Sala, a full 20min. Mmmm this could prove a make it or break it moment in my bike driving career…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Diving and Nets….

Diving With Marc

Finally, after a 5 day self-imposed exile from diving to get myself healthy, I signed up to dive again. It appeared as if arriving on a humid tropical island, followed by immediately starting my Divemaster training, still suffering jet lag and diving for 5-6 days in a row after a year of not diving, had taken it’s toll on me. Not to mention that after living in Eugene, Oregon, I had not seen the sun in years, we get it occasionally for a few months over what is supposed to be summer. Don’t get me wrong it’s beautiful there, but I always miss the tropical sun and beach like where I grew up in South Africa. But now I was prepared, I planned to make sure I drank enough water on the boat, that I stayed out of the sun as much as possible, and that I ate properly. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the basics and then you suffer greatly.

I was paired with Marc, Divemaster of over 3yrs, he had a pair of open water divers doing a fun dive and a friend of the owner who was joining us. Bic, a Thai Graphic Designer, had been diving many times, but he was not certified, so I went along as his buddy.

Netted!

The weather was glorious as usual, although the visibility was not the best. I was thrilled to be back in the water, 5 days is way too long!

Me Descending The Line

Me Descending The Line

We saw a number of bull sharks and on the second dive we had one, around 3m, come really close to inspect us, from the angle I was at it almost looked as if Marc was going to tickle it’s nose when he reached out to dissuade it from coming closer. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t reach any appendage out when a shark is nearby.

It might not be a Bull Shark, but it is a great pic of a "deadly" Rabbit Fish (feel free to insert Monty Python Jokes Here)

It might not be a Bull Shark, but it is a great pic of a “deadly” Rabbit Fish (feel free to insert Monty Python Jokes Here)

I had told Bic to stay close to me and well, he did just that, staying VERY close. It was all rather amusing, but he was a perfectly capable diver and it was a great day to dive.

Bic and Me

Bic and Me

The sad thing was seeing another fishing net that had been caught on the rocks and left there by local fisherman. Since Sail Rock is not a preserve, fishing is allowed and we fear that at night there are some rather intoxicated fishermen who misjudge locations and end up snagging rocks and pinnacles. Without the ability or drive to try remove them they simply cut the rope and drop the entire thing below the surface, trapping fish and causing untold damage.

Net

Net


Net on other side

Net on other side

In fact, it is believed that such an event a few months back, that had covered most of the rock below the surface, trapped thousands of fish and had taken the efforts of divers from both Koh Phangan and Koh Tao to remove, had attracted the now ever-present bull sharks back to Sail Rock. They arrived 3 days after the net had been removed and had not been seen in the area in over 7yrs… The only bonus being that it was almost a certainty to see them, hanging out in the murk layer of around 18m. So far there had been no incidents, and we all planned to keep it that way. Considering Bull Sharks (known as Zambezi’s in South Africa) are listed as the 2nd to 3rd most dangerous shark (depending on sources and just how big that Tiger Shark is that is gunning for the higher spot) in the world, let’s hope these are friendly??!??.

By the time we left the net was still there. But plans were in the works to organise a “Rock Rescue” Party to remove it. For the time being divers were cutting holes in the net to release fish trapped beneath it. It might seem easy to just cut and remove it, but trust me, it’s a lot more complicated and is just safer to organise a net recovery.

You Know You’re a Local When…

For dinner I decided to pop down the road to my local place. I really love their food there and the couple who run it are awesome. Also it is open air so you can enjoy the breeze. Tonight’s dinner was my usual favorite of Cashew Nut Chicken (sometimes with more cashews than chicken), the total was 70baht. Unfortunately I realised I only had 40baht on me, having forgotten to fill my wallet. But the owner was not stressed and said “just pay rest next time”. He had no fear that I would return… Yup I am a local..ish!

Diving With Gem

The next day I was paired with Gem, the Thai instructor. She had a couple of DSD’s (Discover Scuba – first time divers) and needed me to come along to set the float line and be there if needed.

It has also become my task to do the boat briefing, something I rather enjoy and am rather good at. It all came about when Marc said, “you like to talk! Up you get and do the boat briefing”. I have even had some other shop instructors on the boat comment how well I did. And it is true, I do like to talk…

The first dive went off fairly well, my float line was a little loose but as we descended I went down to tighten it. The 2 DSD’s completed their skills without too much trouble and were actually very comfortable in the water. Other than a bit of current the dive was very pleasant. Unfortunately, the net was still draped over the rock.

One of the weirdest sensations when surfacing is when you are suddenly faced with about 5 times as many boats at the rock compared to when you descended. It’s a little disconcerting as you try wrap your head around which boat is yours. On this particular day we descended the 1st dive with 2 boats, when we surfaced after 45min there were over 10!! Most of them were boats from Koh Tao island, they usually get there a little after us as it takes almost 2hrs to get to the rock, vs our 45min from Koh Phangan. The reason for so many is that divers had rallied to remove the net, and all the shops that didn’t have clients and even some that did had organised to remove it.

They did a great job too, ’cause when we descended for the 2nd dive they had all but removed the entire thing, and it was a very large section of net. However, there was one little piece being carried off by a crab, Gem spent a good 10min having a tug of war with it and finally won. You could almost hear it grumble off and see the frown (if crabs frown). A great day of diving and returning knowing the net had been removed made everyone breathe a sigh of relief.

Meeting Strangers

At my local place for dinner, indulging in my 2nd favorite dish of garlic pepper pork and rice, I met a girl from the US who had just arrived on the island and was planning on studying yoga here and in India. We chatted a lot about travel and she asked me a lot of questions about traveling by myself and where I had been. She seemed amazed that I had been, seen, and explored so many places alone… the strange thing is, it just feels normal to me, or maybe I just don’t know any other way to travel through life! One thing I know, is that one of my favorite parts of travel is getting to meet new and interesting people, especially those just starting out on the road and willing to learn.

Couchsurfers…round 2

Back at home I passed out utterly exhausted, setting my alarm for 8pm as there was a farewell for Kla, Thai divemaster, who was moving to Phuket for the next dive season. I also had 2 couchsurfers arriving at some point, but ferry delays and mishaps had pushed their time later and later. At one point they felt so bad they offered to find a place near the ferry terminal. I told them not to worry as I would be up any way at the Omega bar for the farewell.

Being the Schmidt I am, I arrived on time which meant no one else was really there yet. But Kla was and was practicing his guitar. So I grabbed a drink and hung out with the few there. At 9pm a text came through that my cs’ers had reached the ferry and were taxi bound. Saying farewell to Kla, I jumped on my bike and putted back towards home, stopping at the dive shop, the designated meeting point. When the taxi pulled up I had them follow me to my road and then had the boys jump out and walk the last few yards.

Willy was from Italy and Daniel from Austria, but they bothed lived in the same town in Austria and worked in the similar field of music and movies. I could tell they were going to be great fun to have around, super chill and always up for a laugh. The local was closed so I whipped up some of my favorite green curry ramen for them and what ever fruit I had left. Then Willy passed out in the hammock, Daniel on a few cushions on the floor and me in bed.

Green Curry Ramen!!!

Green Curry Ramen!!!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: