Koh Tao – day 381

Neither of us slept very well. Not sure what Jayne’s excuse was but I had episodes of ‘Dexter’ running around in my head, with scenes of me as the protagonist. Not very relaxing or necessary for getting a good nights sleep! Also, I did that frustrating ridiculous time counting of ‘if I go to sleep now, I’ll get 5 hours sleep; if I go to sleep now, I’ll get 4 hours sleep’. The last time I checked the phone it was 2.24am so when the alarm went off at 5.30, it was practically punched back on to snooze mode!

Groggily, we got up and dressed. Started making our way through the deserted streets of the main port, a ghost town that is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle that will magically appear with the arrival of the first boat of the day. Got about half way to the dive centre when Jayne realised she had left her dive computer at the hut. She ran back to get it whilst I meandered through the concrete back alleys to get to the dive shop. Jayne mentioned in yesterday’s blog that we chose this dive centre as it was one that wasn’t going to make me do a scuba review as I couldn’t prove the date of my last dive (apparently, date stamped photos don’t count!). Having forgotten to bring my c-card with me yesterday, I was surprised that no one asked to see it today – in fact, it was never mentioned and they treated me like an instructor (which I’m not!). Jayne arrived and we were given gear. Not entirely sure why the kidney dump valves had been cut off all the BCD’s but when it was obvious that the second valve (out of three) wasn’t working, I requested a new BCD. The dive master looked a little bit shocked that I requested a new jacket but went off to get me a new one. Kit in our bags, we were all piled into a truck with a group of open water students and made our way back to the port where our accommodation is… Typical!

On the boat, we put together our gear, only to find out that my inflator hose was broken. So, I’m now on my third BCD of the day and it’s not even 8am – probably should have seen this as a sign to come. Jayne swapped her regs as there was a sizeable cut in the protective tubing and we sorted out our weights as the boat rocked heavily from side to side. So much in fact that at least two people were chucking up over the sides. Just what you want when you are about to jump in the water – a vomit mine field. The guy diving with us seemed cockishly confident, naming all the places he had ever been diving and it turns out that our lovely Californian guide has been a dive master for only 5 days at this point so was incredibly nervous about diving with Jayne and I. A quick dive briefing and we were stride entering from the back of the boat that was still pretending it was an extra in ‘The Perfect Storm’. 
img_2663img_2664Our Israeli friend jumped in the water with no mask on and no reg in his mouth. Descending down, I did worry about the dive site we had come to. The description of pinnacles and loads of marine life were non existent as we swam over white sand with the occasional clump of sea weed. Clearly, we had descended in the wrong place and it took us about 5 minutes to find ‘the White Rocks’. A great dive site for beginners as it clearly had lots to see at not very deep depths. In fact, I think our maximum depth for that dive was 17.8m. A very bizarre dive profile as our guide kept taking us up and down over the reefs rather than around (I’m going to blame the fact that my ears now hurt on this rather than the fact I probably shouldn’t have been diving in the first place…). Loads of nudibranch and a couple of clown fish families were interspersed with Christmas tree fans and blue spotted sting rays. We even found a juvenile moray eel that was proving how aggressive he was by trying to eat my underwater camera. Newbie DM didn’t bother checking our air consumption until 26 minutes into the dive (FYI, when I did my DM training, I checked people’s air every 2 minutes – like an OCD freak!!).img_2667img_2687img_2693img_2696img_2706img_2713img_2717img_2725A nice 45 minutes dive, just a small amble around with some nice coral and fish. It was fun. Getting back on the boat, however, was not! Holding on to the ladder as the boat swung up and down was the most intense upper arm work out I’ve ever done, made even harder by the ladder snapping as I dragged myself out of the water. Fortunately, the rope was holding the two pieces of metal together but no one seemed overly worried about it when I reported it. Swapping our tanks over, Israeli guy decided he didn’t want to do a second dive, stating that he was too tired (aka too hungover – his one dive buddy didn’t even wake up to join us today). 

Found out during our dive briefing that our second dive of the morning was the wreck with a maximum depth of 30m. For those of you who don’t know about diving, in simple terms, the rule is always do your deepest dive first. So we definitely didn’t understand why, after a surface interval of 30 minutes, we were being told to suit up again. In fact, we refused. Told our DM that it was too soon and we wouldn’t be able to spend much time at the wreck, she agreed but I’m not sure she completely understood. Turns out, she is doing her open water to PADI pro here on Koh Tao, has only been diving since September, has only ever dived with this dive centre and has learnt some seriously bad habits!! Convinced her to extend our surface interval to an hour, the crew members didn’t look particularly happy as the open waters got in and we waited.

The second dive was short, predictably, at 26 minutes. The wreck wasn’t very interesting and the constant beeping from Jayne and the DM’s dive computers warning them about the imminent danger of going into deco was a bit off putting. In fact, Jayne had to show our guide her computer to say that we had to start ascending. I have a nasty feeling that she would have let us stay down there as long as our air allowed… I have an even worse feeling that she has done that in the past.img_2729img_2735img_2745img_2753Back at the surface, she seemed a bit too giggly about the deco thing and didn’t seem to take the whole thing seriously so we decided no more diving with them! The dodgy equipment, the lack of checking my c-card, the poor dive planning and the disregard for considering the computer deco function was just a bit too much. Felt bad because our DM is clearly enthusiastic about what she does but it scares me that soon she will be an instructor. Or maybe I’m just pissed off that I never got to complete my pro diving qualifications because of my crappy ears. Back at the dive shop, we tried to pull our guide to one side to have a quiet word but she was whisked away before we had a chance – maybe the more experience instructors knew what we were going to say. Paying for our dives, we headed back to the main port to grab some lunch before heading back to our hut for a shower. Used coconut oil on our hair to make it soft after the sea salt abuse, so watched an episode of ‘Dexter’ as it soaked in. A lazy afternoon of reading, playing games, watching films and snoozing filled our time before we headed out for dinner. Found a little cafe next to the beach that played a film if your ordered food. As the only diners, we enjoyed Masaman curry and fried rice with fruit smoothies whilst we watched ‘The Draft’. Surprisingly more enjoyable that I was expecting, the film passed away the evening until bed.

Saturday 22nd October 2016

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Koh Tao – day 380

There’s nothing wrong with having noodles for breakfast. A little unimaginative, granted, but there’s no harm in enjoying the fine Thai cuisine as much as possible. But, something clearly thought I was relaxing and too happy – so Kat suggested I get my hair cut. I know that the mop of hair has become difficult to maintain, with variable environmental conditions and varying qualities of products available throughout the trip , we have affectionately referred to the mess as ‘Bob’. Bob needed to go, or at least try and get some control back and by mid morning I was waiting in a hairdressers. Reclining in a torture chair to wash my hair (they seemed adamant that it needed a wash before a cut, it was so dry and brittle), they clearly weren’t used to taller visitors. The same was said of the chair in front of the mirror. I’m not sure the chair could go down any further and yet it felt that my stylist was stretching up to my head even when I was slouching. Torture finished, I had only lost a few centimetres of my mane and sun-bleached blonde hair.Katherine got a quick snip too. I’m not sure that her cut warranted the 200baht they charged her, compared to the girl before us, but maybe they had used so much product in my hair it worked out fair. Around the corner, on the upper road of the main town, we found a shop that sold everything from seeds to sunglasses, baby powder to boat propellers. It was a wacky shop and we found some stuff for snacks and breakfast for the next few days, plus a big water.

Walking the tourist strip, we enquired about some scuba diving. One place was only prepared to take Katherine on a Scuba Review basis and charge an extortionate fee for the privilege. That was a bit of a kick in the teeth, but maybe they at least had some standards and rules. Iwas seeing far too many dive centres on one little island and my alarm bells were warning me to be careful. We did settle on a company. I won’t mention a name as I’ve written this blog after the day of diving and it shan’t be polite.

Diving sorted, we chilled on the beach for a few hours. Reading books, doing puzzles and letting the waves crash against the sand. It was bliss. I tried to adjust my numb bum to a more comfortable position on the log and I should have stayed where I was. I had been blocking an ant hole and now that I had given them some space to manoeuvre, they attacked with ferocity. Legs, lower back and left hand were dotted with ants injecting minute capsules of formic acid. Being anti bites and stings, my skin crawled and I had a beautiful patchwork of red ‘join the dots’ on my body. I could no longer sit still, so in sympathy (I think there was an ulterior motive) we had a Milo milkshake at the nearest cafe. Mums bathed in the shallows with their naked babes, unaware of the deadly jellyfish in the area. Tourists were setting up GoPros for non-existent sunsets and locals were either mooring up boats for the day or already splashing about in the water to chill after a long day. The atmosphere of the beach was fabulous and it was relaxing to take it all in (even if I was fidgety). img_2662
Even though we needed to be up early for diving the next morning, we enjoyed the last three episodes of Quantico on the iPad before getting some sleep. Not sure how we feel about it as a series. The main character isn’t the lovable sort you expect of a series and there were so many questions left unanswered that it made us question it negatively rather than in a conspiracy way. The tangible love stories throughout were ridiculous and yet the jumping between chronological events was well put together and the script had so much promise. I personally think there could have been another few episodes to the first season to wrap things up in a nicer bow and still leave clues to the next season. Hopefully it’s not going to be another program like ‘Prison Break’ that string it along after it should have finished.

Friday 21st October 2016

Travelling & Koh Tao – day 379

Up, showered and dressed, we started pulling stuff together and into packing cubes. We stopped when we got the signal that breakfast was ready. We were going to miss the owners, the resort, our strip of au natural beach and the sound of the waves. Katherine finished the packing and I did a bit of a spring clean on the beach. I didn’t want the plastics washing back out to sea at the next tide or for a large pile ending up on the bungalow steps when it got in to full monsoon season. A quick zip around filling up only one plastic bag and I must have got about a dozen cigarette lighters and thrice that in bottle caps. I think the scorn from a princess at the posh resort next to us was a bit much – rubbish that everyone throws at the side of the road, in to the stream or sea will eventually end up in a pile like this, and because of the extortionate price tag on her room, the hotel can afford cleaners to take it over to other sections of the beach. I felt good for doing only a small bit, but she had annoyed me. Grrr!img_2660Another free ride in to town, we arrived well before our ferry was due to depart. Thus, we exchanged our travel agency docket for our stickers and ferry tickets. Plenty of time for Pad Thai noodles from a little stand in the ferry terminal grounds. Queued up in a well organised system and found seats out of the way with the air conditioning keeping the cabin a bit cooler than outside. Screams from some lads outside kept annoying people as it was a bit like crying ‘wolf’, everyone thinking that something had happened, but that it was only them messing about on the stern. We arrived and joined the throngs of people milling down the jetty to get out in to the town. Katherine and a few others were misfortunate to be stuck behind some girls that couldn’t even lift their backpacks, let alone get it on themselves. We eventually met at the end of the walkway and proceeded to walk in the direction of our resort. Another case of wrong location on the part of Booking.com, the owner of Happy Bungalow wasn’t impressed that this issue still hadn’t been fixed and hundreds of tourists want to walk through his establishment to find a non-existent resort. We did find our place (he knew exactly where it was) and settled in to a cosy little hut.We went for a walk across the beach. We’ve never been anywhere before that had so many dive centres in such a small area. Everyone was trying to undercut someone else on a particular package. It was astounding that there was a steady stream of dive boats passing off shore and students sitting around hotel pools and wading in/out of the beach. We might have to look in to some diving. For now, we walked the beach, enjoyed some crisps and electrolyte drinks on a rock and dodged the minefield of jellies hiding in the sand next to the clear plastic bags.We didn’t know where to eat. Everywhere seemed to be doing the same type of food, with varying degrees of success. Some places were jointed, while others were a ghost town. Plus, the further we got away from the tourists and main beach, the cheaper it got. So, we tried a small place near the garage and resort, as you’ve guessed it, that had some locals eating there – always a good sign. Fed and watered and more tired than expected from the heat, we called it a night and watched the iPad for a bit before trying to sleep on the bed donated by the Flinstones.Thursday 20th October 2016