|Final Statistics: Alex & Maz||Total distance: 93,550km|
|Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ||Now settled in Sydney, Australia|
|Final Statistics: Martin||Total distance: 79,698km|
|Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia||Now settled in Bristol, UK|
Island of the Open Water diver
Thailand, Country 19, Diary entry 8-16th June 2006, Total distance in Thailand (first pass!): 4099 KM, (second pass!): 3005 KM, (Total): 7104 KM
So there we were on the beach looking into the moon light deep blue sea, with only the wind whispering through the trees breaking the musical silence. A truly special moment, I looked down the beach expecting to see a sun bleached girl, wearing a white bikini calling my name. Instead I saw a long haired towns shouting, "get a move on, we've got to find camp". We were at the ferry point for Koh Tao, one of the famous tourist havens for the soft backpacker, cocaine dealer and wanna be Padi shark diver. This is the first time in ages that the team were going to be right in the social mixer, living in hostels and bar ridden streets. We were all looking forward to some R&R but had little in the way of expectations to the quiet quaintness of visiting a beach Island.
After a ridiculous nights sleep in +30 degrees, dripping humidity, in an insect ridden tent, we rose early to greet the convoy of buses carting Bandana Dave and his hard mates across to party central. We had to leave Tinfish for a few days on the coast, and sad to say you can almost see tears in the Towns' eyes as they have to leave their baby. Any of you who know these guys, will know they have no meaning of packing light. Everybody else had one bag and a cheesy pair of sun glasses, we marched on with one bag, 2 armoured cases and a rucksack for good measure EACH!! The boat dropped by inches as soon as we hit the deck, clearly too many pies.
We arrived on the island to be greeted with what must have been the entire populous trying to sell us taxi rides, oh and of course a Padi dive course. Once we had fought are way through the crowd, we looked around to see one of the main docks in Koh Tao in its splendour. What we found was a line of battered shops selling all imaginable tourist tat and drink. That said, there was a relaxed vibe and a slow pace which is what we were all looking for.
Alex had sorted the diving and hotel though his constant surfing of internet gay chat rooms, so we had no real idea as to what we might get when we arrived. We were told Black Tip had a resort in one of the bays but wondered just how built up it would be. After weight lifting the kit on, we jumped into our taxi chariots and headed out into the wilderness. As we drove out of town, it was amazing to see the difference in scenery. The Island of Koh Tao is very small, with a few flood damaged roads linking it together. The taxi drove over the main hill in which you can see the lush blue sea and sandy coast line. A real surprise and a real treat, which we were not expecting. We arrived at the Black Tip resort which is a collection of wooden houses among the beach front coconut farms. Somebody has really thought about this place, with its simple style and eco gardens. It was exactly what the team had been hoping for; peace, sea and sun.
After a little scout around it did not take long for us to find the beach and the bar. The sun was beating down, which had been an unfamiliar site. The sea was calling so off we all went masks and fins to see the underwater plant life. No real surprise, with a large amount of the coral being damaged, but amazingly there were still a large number of colourful tropical fish. After the 10th time of swallowing salt water through my snorkel I decided to head back to shore and my intriguing book, the knight templar, gearing up for another debate on religion and the madness of its followers. When I ever I think about this I always think back to a great car sticker I saw. Most people have the Born again fish, not this guy he had a huge black and white sticker stuck in his back window, saying ‘God save me from your followers’.
The pace had been set, chill, chill and more chilling, we lazed for the rest of the day to rejoin later for head to head in what has to be the best and most competitive board game ever - Carcassone. After 3 hours of silent world domination and every other guest wondering who these nerds are, we stuck into another great Thai meal. The food in the resort was on the whole pretty good, but we often felt it need complimenting, so we added small portions of the melted English stilton we had sweating in our bags.
We went down to the office to find out about diving the next day, to be greeted with a classic bemused look. We don’t know what the main consensus was, which was a good helpful response, instead we were told to come down at 7 in the morning to see if there is room on the boat. The chance of getting the sleeping yeti Towns out of his pit at 7 in the morning, on whim is nil, so by default we opted for a beach day.
In true Alex style the laptops were in full swing, to the point of making the resort path lights dim when he cranked her up. So we sat around working on pictures and diary’s for hours, trying to catch up and keep our wanting public happy. This was pretty much the routine for most our time on Koh Tao. It was funny the looks we received, but I suppose there are not that many people who take laptops to the beach and spend all day working on them. The Germans looked at us as if we were mad.
The next day we got up early to go diving. Arrived at the centre to find only Alex's name was on the list, along with two other names Sue and Andrea. After a quick check with the organiser, Sue and Andrea were supposed to be me and Maz, so we bagged up our dive kit and jumped on the dive boat. First stop Chumporn Pinnacle. Chumporn Pinnacle is a series of under water pinnacles grouped closely together. The pinnacles start at about 14 meters below the surface and drops down to about 36 meters. The tops of the pinnacles were completely covered by a field of anemones under which we found crabs and moray eels hiding. Chumporn is also home to many Grey Reef Sharks and a Bull Shark, but thankfully we didn't see the Bull shark! At the south end of the site we'd been told about shoaling Barracuda which we got a glimpse of a couple, but the viz wasn't great at the end so it was difficult to see. It has been a while since I'd been diving and I seemed to drink my air like it was the last pint of beer I was ever gonna get to taste. We decided to finish the dive.
(Maz's version) We were getting to the end of the dive when Max, who had been darting around the reef like a ferret on speed the whole dive, came up to me and showed me his gauge which signalled he had just over 0 bar left of air! He then promptly swam back down to the bottom of the shot line and pulled himself up arm over arm as the tank's 'hour glass' shape was taking effect from the last breaths he drew from it - whilst we looked on mesmerised. Alex and I then laughed SO much that our masks flooded and we were still in floods of tears as we got to the surface to see Max already dekitted and sitting on the deck wondering why he was twitching!!! He seemed bemused when we said he seemed to have a rather rapid ascent.
The next dive I decided not to do, but Maz and Alex went in to get wet. Not as nice as Chumporn Pinnacle, as a lot of the coral has died, but still life to find swimming about.
I proceed to spend hours writing out another business plan for another crazy idea I had and bored Alex and Maz for another few hours (read that as days - Maz). I rather think they should count themselves lucky, not only are they having the honourable pleasure of travelling with me for these weeks but they get a whole new education on a wide variety of topics from property investment to NLP training courses. It does seem sometimes that they might not agree or want such information, by the laughs, the ‘shut ups’ and the walking aways.
Maz & Alex did another 2 days diving over our time in Koh Tao, I decided that my diving days were probably over and it would be best for me to stay dry. The next day started with South West Pinnacle consisting of about seven underwater pinnacles. Starting at just 5 meters the tops of the pinnacles are covered with a carpet of anemones in brilliant greens, pinks and blues, with a cavalcade of pink anemone fish. The second dive of the day took them to a reef just off Koh Tao itself. A day relaxing on laptops in between the dives they then ventured to Shark Island. Sloping gently from the surface down to 24m, passing some very nice soft coral. They found white eyed moray eels, porcupine and puffer fish, and an enormous variety of reef fish in the shallow coral garden.
On a couple of occasions we wandered across the island into the town areas, it was here you could see how 99% of travellers spend their days. Breakfast, Beach, Bar and bed, and not always in that order. We all thought that it’d nice to be part of the scene for a small while but have got used to being remote and on our own. We heard from Martin, that he was coming back onto the island, to reconnect with his diving ‘Friend’. This brought about a whole new topic of speculation, as Martin must be really keen to cross oceans for them, even, and its hard to say, maybe they were in love.
Unfortunately as we were on the other side of the island we never managed to meet up with Martin, as he wasn’t keen on a repeat ‘near death’ experience trying to get over the partial mud roads. A shame as, one wanted to meet the mystery diver and secondly I should really thank him for putting up with me for so many weeks.
As the days lazed on it was clear the team was rubbish at doing nothing, and that the constant pressure of diary, pictures and web stuff plays heavily on the minds of Maz and Alex. They are so proud of the web site and pictures that they work their arses off to the point of irritation sometimes on keeping up to date. It was like having nagging parents pestering about had I finished the diary yet. The truth is the end result is well worth it and a true measure of the journey. In years to come the web site will be a great reminder of this awesome adventure.
On one of the last nights, we and any willing soles were invited to the resort owners new Indian restaurant opening. I jumped up at the chance of another curry, but I could see of the timid faces of Alex and Maz, that the memories of there Indian chunder challenge were still with them. The deal was a 100bht per person for as much as you could eat. This seems like a great idea, unfortunately so to did the entire backpacker population on the island. Once the hundred strong queue had gone, all that seemed to be left was the Mint sauce, rice and chapattis. Not what we were totally looking for, but the tasters we got were great. Shalini, the restaurant is going to be a big hit. It was back to a liquid diet for the evening.
Time had come for us to leave this paradise, and head back to Tinfish. After loading the mules with our kit and jumping onto the ferry we headed to the mainland. I, like Alex and Maz had reservations about the Islands with its tourist reputation, but in truth we had a relaxed fun time there. It had more culture than expected and a relaxed non threatening vibe very similar to Luang Prabang in Laos.
A HUGE thank you goes to Shalini and Ko Dam from Black Tip for giving us a relaxing break from the road, some lovely diving but mostly for the very generous donation of 10,000 baht (140ukp) for CARE. It was great meeting you guys and I'm sure one day Maz and Alex will return to get wet again.
We landed, and proceeded to spend the next 2 hours reorganising the truck. You can only imagine how small the amount of space left in the back seat. Cosy is one way to describe the feeling, so Maz jumped in the back with one laptop and Alex in the Front with the other, which by default left me driving across Thailand to the west coast to meet up with CARE projects and Tsunami victims.
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|Comment from Ash & Helen Laukam|
|Hey Maz, Alex. We are in the departure lounge (business class courtesy of airmiles!!!!) It was really great to meet you and to hear all about your adventures. We are hoping that we win the raffle so we can really christen our wetsuits! Love the website and love the pictures. We will be eager to monitor you progress from hereon in. The very best of luck.|
Ash & Helen
|08 Aug 2006 @ 12:30:07|
|Comment from Lara Silverstein (Blann)|
|Amazing pictures of Nemo and blue friend! Absolutely fantastic! No wonder you love diving so much. As Max said, the website is brilliant and its still great to be following you. You've been going a full year now! love Lara|
|23 Aug 2006 @ 15:32:42|