Monday, January 16, 2006

Island Exploration

I finished my diving course yesterday, and am now a PADI certified open water diver. It was a brilliant morning of diving. I began to get slightly more in control of my buoyancy, so could enjoy all the fish and views a lot more. I can't really say much more about it, other than to encourage anyone who's never done it before to try. It is fabulous. I am so seriously tempted to do the advanced course. But I know that although it seems like i have a really long holiday, time is slipping by and there is much more that I want to see.

April, one of the people on the course, is staying on to do advanced though. Sadly last night she and her Catalan boyfriend David broke up and today went their separate ways through Thailand. But despite that David brought out a delicious bottle of Catalan white wine that he'd brought all the way from Barcelona and shared it with the group to celebrate completing the course. The celebrations continued late last night as me and the two Germans on the course finally got to take full advantage of the wonderful bars lining the beach now that we didn't have to dive the following day.

There are some lovely bars here - they put rugs out on the sand with really comfy cushions and have candles in the sand and fire jugglers on the beach. After some relaxing cocktails and seriously strong jugs of Beer Chang we danced to some ultra-cheesy techno, then paddled home under the (almost) full moon.

This morning was a bit of a struggle - getting out of bed, making decisions about where to go. In the end I decided to spend an extra day on the island because I've seen nothing but one beach and the ocean floor. I unlocked my bike after four days on un-use, and set off along the one concrete single track road, which quickly turned up into the hills, and became a super-steep, gullied, windy track surfaced with an inch or so of sand and dust. It was lethal. When I could cycle I could barely go faster than 6mph incase I hit a puddle of sand and fell off, or came round a corner to a steep hill unable to stop, and fell off. And when I was cycling I was sweating like mad. And even pushing up and down the worst was a real struggle. But at the end of each section of tortorous track I would come to a beautiful quiet beach lined with palms rising up into the jungle, dotted with huge limestone boulders, the sea as calm as a lake. The miles of struggle would be forgotten as I took of my shoes and t-shirt and walked into the 28 degree water, then swam among the shoals of beautiful tropical fish above the coral. It really was a magical day.

At one cafe conveniently located at a hillside viewpoint I got chatting to a couple from Inverkeithing (just across the Forth Road Bridge). They were really friendly and interesting - she's a photographer and had come here to learn underwater photography, he does care work and has just moved up from London. It was good to talk to people who know about Buckfast. They were watching Trainspotting in the same restuarant as me the other night (all the restuarants show films in the evening - it's very relaxing after a hard day's diving). I bumped into them at a beach later in the day by chance, and we're meeting up soon for a few drinks.

I also bumped into a German couple that I spent an evening with about five or six days ago at the Youth Hostel - that was very strange. I passed them on their moped, and for some reason recognising them gave me a real shiver. I kindof assumed that in a place like this you see someone, and they're gone - a very ephemeral connection. But actually people seem to drift in the same sort of direction. A lot of people I've met start off heading south like me from Bangkok to these islands, then back north to Chiang Mai.

I'm leaving the island tomorrow for the mainland, then the following day I'll cycle coast to coast (rather easier than this time last year in the states!) to Krabi for some rock climbing.

The only other thing that's new is a rather dreadful haircut. But it was worth the three pounds just for the amazing head massage that I got at the same time. And it's better than getting a haircut when I get home and having a daft tanline across my forehead. My T-shirt and shorts tan looks ridiculous enough already!

Oh, and also, I've gone deaf in my left ear after the diving, but the folk at the dive shop say that's pretty normal and it should be back to normal in a couple of days. But it makes conversation really quite difficult, and doesn't help my balance cycling on the crazy tracks!

Bye for now,


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