An early start as we wanted to get an early bus to Bangkok, knowing full well that it could take forever to travel the 445km. An easy walk to the bus station with the usual TukTuk drivers asking us if we wanted to go to the historical park. I feel that the big rucksacks and walking towards the bus station might have been a give away that we didn’t really want to go to the historical site!! Arriving at the bus station, we waited by bay 2 for our bus to arrive. Stood up with everyone else (except 2 tourists) as they played the Kings anthem before boarding the bus. Slightly nicer than the one we caught the other day, we settled into our seats and played a game of monopoly before watching a couple of episodes of Games of Thrones. Stopped after about 4 hours for a lunch stop. Found out that we got a free meal with our bus ticket so we picked out a chicken Thai green curry and tucked in… It was enjoyable until I found a caterpillar in my lunch! Suddenly my appetite vanished and I just ate the free biscuits that we got on the bus. Arriving at the bus station around 4pm we slowly wandered through the streets towards our hostel. Was nice to stretch our legs after sitting for so long on the bus for so long although we were dripping sweat within 5 minutes of leaving the air conditioned haven of the bus terminal. Walked past the world’s largest outdoor market, dodging people constantly as we tried to walk around the outside and as they were weaving in and out of the aisles. Arrived at our hostel and got upgraded to a smaller room. We had originally booked a bed in a 10 person dorm where all the beds were doubles. Apparently, the other 8 people were from one family so they offered to move us into the 8 bed single bed dorm which suited us just fine! The beds were almost like the capsule beds you see in photos from Japan, all next to each other separated by a piece of plywood. Did some research about our crossing into Cambodia tomorrow, slightly scared by all the horror stories that are on the internet about being scammed and aggressive visa runners. Feeling a bit freaked out, we headed up to the TV room to watch a film and have a cup of tea. An irritating DVD that was scratched so we couldn’t watch the last 20 minutes of the film ‘Mr Right’, although the storyline was predictable enough to guess what was going to happen.
Headed out to have dinner although this area didn’t seem to have much except expensive western food outlets such as KFC. Eventually found a little street cafe in a backstreet where we ordered blindly from the menu with the help of an ex-pat who could speak Thai. Ended up with a soup, a type of curry and a salty egg papaya salad. Sounds strange but it was actually really nice. Treated ourselves to an ice cream before heading back to the hostel to watch another film before snuggling down into our capsules for the night.
Sunday 18th September 2016
Up before even the crew, I had the upper deck to myself and the sea air filled me with life. Katherine was slowly waking up while I sipped a coffee and watched the clouds change from a steely grey to a magnolia white. The usual brekkie of toast, cereal and fruit shared between the pair of us was no longer a solitary affair with others now knowing of our secret dining area. Still, we were finished, changed and ready for our dive well before the crew were ready for us or the other passengers had begun to function.
With the weather being a bit against us on this trip we were asked if it would be OK to dive where we were moored. An exploratory dive in uncharted waters… A MASSIVE YES from myself with a big of skepticism on Katherine’s part. But, once I had assured her of what depth the instruments in the wheel house had been reading coming in to the bay, something the crew was surprised I had noticed, we were revved up and psyched for a dive along an area of coastline in what we later discovered to be Stonehaven Bay.
Backward rolls in to the water in perfect harmony, we descended with corals and fish all around us and we struggled to find a passage through the rock formations to a navigable dive route. The branching corals were massive. They were so big as to be described as underwater Christmas trees, hiding juvenile batfish and hogfish in their frameworks. A much healthier ecosystem and dive site it was clear that no one comes to this place for diving. Unsuitable as a DSD area and predominantly exposed to the elements we did hear a bunch of dolphins and only whales once. Something that I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog was the sheer volume and frequency of humpback whale calls throughout the dive. Every intake of breath was a mini orchestra of song and it was missed only slightly on this dive. The flora and fauna however did make up for it quite dramatically.
Finding a mask to go with the snorkel I found yesterday, the only other sign of human impact was a massive lot of fishing line. Bex did a brilliant job of tracing it back through the area, untangling it from coral and collecting what must have been an entire spool of really tough line that had fallen off the back of a boat. It would never have been needed or used so close to the shore and yet it would do unspeakable damage to the corals and trap dozens of turtles before finally being buried or covered in coral and algae growth to become visible to wildlife.
Back on a more stable boat Katherine turned in to a 4yr old at a water theme park. The slide was set up, the pool noodles were littered on both the deck and sea and there were people whizzing about on the paddle boards. It was like a puppy eager to try and jump up its first steps and I’m not really sure I had any say whatsoever in letting her off. Up and down the slide, apparently she was told she used it more in the time she got back from the dive than anyone else did all morning. So we had slide, a cannon ball from the plank and a momentous occasion on the paddle board standing up and paddling a bit, to the applause and amusement of the entire ship while I took photos of our little hitchhiker. With quick showers all around and the crew stowing away everything that could budge an inch we were on our way home. With the bribe of hot dogs for brunch snack, beds were stripped and clothes packed. For some reason in section C everyone decided to put their bags on our bed and not strip the beds. So while everyone else on the both was huddled in the galley put of the wind and sea spray, section C were cuddled up in bed and the two of us were forced to sit on the floor with our stuffed pillow cases of linen for some comfort. On the way back, I was ‘roped’ in by the crew to help dock the yacht…Back in port and a few goodbyes to various people and crew we collected our bags from the agency and continued to our hostel in Airlie Beach. It was nice to have the room completely empty on arrival as we needed to repack and organise bags for laundry and generally sorting ourselves out again. Down to Woolies for some food we ended up with a late lunch / early dinner. Kat put away dried clothes while I had the tedious affair of trying to upload some blog photos that are piling up. We tried to watch Zoolander 2 on the netbook, but with neither of us in the mood for that type of humour so we called it a night.
Saturday 6th August 2016