Posts Tagged ‘diving’

Isla de Pascua

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

I didn’t know much about Easter Island before going there – it’s one of the few Pacific Islands I could get to on my round-the-world ticket and it has those carved stone heads. To be honest I don’t know much more about it after four days there – the stone heads are called Moai, there are fewer of them than you might imagine and the bases they stand on are called Ahu. Only a handful of the sites marked on the tourist maps with little Moai symbols actually have standing, and therefore photogenic, examples. Those you’ve probably seen photos of are at the Rana Raraku quarry where they were hewn from the rock. Almost all of the surviving Moai are found there. The symbols on the map actually signify an archaeological site, typically a jumble of stones half buried in the grass. You need a pretty good imagination to see them as the archaeologists have described them.

It’s a one-town island. Hanga Roa has the airport, a collection of souvenir shops, some tiny “supermarkets”, several car hire places, loads of restaurants and lots of tourist accommodation. It also has two diving centres. They both use speedboats to get to the dive sites, taking upto about eight divers at a time for a single dive before returning to shore. Both provide full equipment. I did a couple of dives with Orca Diving.

The first dive was at Moto Nui. The water was cold compared with Koh Tao – 20 degrees Celsius instead of 30 degrees. Ten degrees might not sound much but it makes a big difference. Even with a full 5mm wetsuit and hood I was shivering within about five minutes and sucked through my air like it was going out of fashion. But it was worth it. The water was an incredible blue and the visibility was amazing at 60+ metres. There weren’t many fish. I saw puffers, trumpet fish, long nose butterflies and several really colourful moray eels. There were lots of corals too. The second dive was at The Pyramid at Te Peu. Again the visibility was incredible, the water was cold and there were similar numbers and varieties of fish. I had planned to do five dives to get a discounted rate but decided two was enough given the water temperature. It felt strange being a paying customer and not being one of the staff, lugging equipment around and looking after the punters.

For the rest of my time on the island I hired a bicycle and explored. Outside of Hanga Roa there are just two surfaced roads and a handful of dirt roads. The dirt roads are pretty bumpy in places. I cycled and walked about 90km over three days and saw most of the island. It was a nice place to spend a few days. There are some photos in my Easter Island set at Flickr.

Randoms in Bangkok

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It’s my last day in “Asia” and it’s raining in Bangkok – hard. The weather is changing in Koh Tao too. The wind is up, the water temperature is down. Monsoon shouldn’t arrive until November but it’s not as nice as it was two months ago. Seems like a good time to move on. Actually it seemed like a good time to move on about two seconds after arriving here last night, getting mobbed by taxi drivers and hotel touts before even getting off the bus.

Why are the Bangkok taxi drivers so useless? Around Sukhumvit Soi 38 last night I stopped two and asked to go to Khao San Road (about 11 miles and 30-60 minutes). It was raining hard last night too. “Ooooh, too far” said one, “Long way” said the other. “And you get paid for it” replied I. “No, raining, too far”. Useless muppets. Third time lucky.

Why don’t they understand maps? And why if they don’t know where somewhere is do they say they do? An extension of that Asian face-saving refusing to admit you don’t know something mentality, I guess.

It’s an internet/admin day. I don’t know how often I’ll get internet access in China or how reliable it will be. I’ll be moving around a lot and often on overnight trains. I’m couchsurfing in Beijing but I’ll make sure I have a plan B. I was supposed to be sleeping on a friend’s couch last night and that didn’t work out as planned! At least Bangkok is slightly familiar now; Beijing will be a complete unknown. I’m looking forward to it.

One of my couchsurfing hosts in Beijing is a dancer, although not a tanguera. There’s a possibility of a milonga on Tuesday night. Hurrah!

If you’re considering buying an Android smart phone don’t buy a Star A9000. The dual-SIM feature works well. Everything else about the phone is crap. Probably the result of an underpowered processor. Mine is in bits after flying across the room and hitting the wall at high speed. More collateral damage/expense associated with dive master training. Well, the alarm had just failed to go off on the first day I was supposed to be leading customers. Luckily I still got to the boat (just) in time. Not having a mobile phone is a pain. I’ll see what they’ve got in the duty free shops at Bangkok and Hong Kong airports tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll skip the dual-SIM capability this time. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good Android phone?

Zero to dive master

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

On Monday I completed my Dive Control Specialist (it’s so much easier just to say Dive Master) course. All the paperwork went in on Tuesday and yesterday I got the “Hello Mr Dive Professional” email from SSI. My certification card arrived this morning. Hurrah!

When I arrived here two months ago I had never dived and had no idea it would be so addictive. It probably helped that Koh Tao is a really nice place to be. It’s not perfect though. Here’s a short list of some of the best and worst aspects of the island.

Best

  • Pretty scenery – places like Mango Bay are just beautiful. It was the turquoise water, white sand, bungalows, palm trees and jungle backdrop that persuaded me to extend my stay here and do more diving.
  • Pretty scenery – I’m a bloke; if girls walk down the beach in their bikinis I’m going to look.
  • Diving on the Sattakut wreck the day after it was moved and seeing a turtle there.
  • One particular dive on Chumphon pinnacle; I’ve never seen such variety and abundance of fish.
  • One night dive. Chasing the barracuda around as they chased and chomped on their prey.
  • Great people – my new diving friends.
  • Fried chicken and cashew nuts at Mint Kitchen.

Worst

  • Motorbikes, mopeds and quadbikes. And the idiots who ride them. Especially the really noisy ones.
  • Dogs. Running around everywhere, barking.
  • Noisy drunken oafs blundering around.

The pros easily outweigh the cons.

I’ve got one final full day trip to Sail Rock tomorrow; one last chance to see a whale shark before I leave. Fingers crossed.