Archive for the ‘snorkeling’ Category

Farewell Perhentians and Sunlight Divers

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf will travel once again! I have lived in Moonlight Chalets on Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil for two months and ten days, but tomorrow morning I head out to Taman Negara. The boat leaves the island at eight, and my bus from Kuala Besut to Taman Negara leaves at ten, and if we keep to the schedule I’ll arrive around four pm. That means that most of my birthday will be spent travelling, but that is only fitting. πŸ™‚ I haven’t decided how long I’ll be staying in Taman Negara, but I’d like to do a proper jungle trek, so possibly a week. After that I head out to Kuala Lumpur.

As for the the snorkel test, I survived, although my rib came out the other end a little worse for wear… The first thing we had to do was get dressed up in clothes that were supplied by the instructors. We then had a quiz about obscure diving knowledge, where for every question not answered, or answered wrong, we’d have a shot of monkey juice. (Orang Utan, a local fortified wine) Then came some charades where the three of us were miming different fish, and competing against everyone else, with the punishment for us if the others guessed it first being another shot of the monkey. This was followed by an obstacle course on the beach, and finally the snorkelling itself. The mix was evil, but Rich spared us his home brew, so we all survived. The rib, which I’ve kept bruising when it’s just about healed, bruised up in the end of the obstacle course, where we had to wrestle our way past the instructors to get to the finish line… πŸ˜›

I love the island, and the crew here, so I’ll be back!

Mr. Noddeland, Divemaster

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

So. I have finished my Divemaster training. Paperwork is the only thing separating me from a certification, but there is still one unofficial test to come: The snorkel test… For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, I’ll give a brief description.

There are variations over a theme, with quizzes, obstacle courses, competitions and various embarrassing performances, but the central feature of a snorkel test is the snorkel. (of course) With a large audience in a bar on the beach, the budding Divemaster (read: victim) has to put on a mask and snorkel. The snorkel has a funnel attached to the top, and the victim has to drink whatever comes through the snorkel. The “drink” depends on the experiences of the instructors and divemaster friends organizing the event, i.e. how horrible was the concoctions poured down their own throats when they were going through this rite of passage. Some places I know it is pure alcohol, other places it’s just pure evil… Beer, soup, wine, milk, liquor, HP sauce,Β  syrup, etc. Since the victim is wearing a mask, he cannot breathe through his nose, and with the evil mix being rushed through the snorkel by the weight of what’s in the big funnel, the only to options are to swallow, or spit out the snorkel.

Tonight we are three Divemaster Trainees going through this at the same time, Emma from Sweden, Jukka from Finland and myself. I know that Richard, an assistant instructor, has been brewing some crap on his balcony, made from coconuts, watermelons, sugar and yeast, so I suspect that will feature strongly in the snorkels tonight, probably along with both beer and the infamous Monkey Juice, which is the nickname the local Orang Utan brew has received from the foreigners here.

On a more sober note, I am happy to be done, but a little sad to be leaving soon. I’ve made some good friends here on Pulau Perhentian Kecil, and I’m quite sure I’ll be returning in the future. I might stay around here for a couple of weeks still, in order to get to celebrate my birthday with friends instead of strangers. πŸ™‚ I am also 17 dives short of 100, so I might try to get my 100th dive in on my birthday. πŸ˜‰

19 July – My first dive as assistant

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Time flies. It’s been a week since I last wrote already, and I haven’t done any diving before today. I’ve spent most of my time reading, coughing and making gurgling sounds from my lungs, except one day when I spent most of the day in bed, with short trips out to the little boys’ room. There’s a bit of a flu going around, or at the very least something that gives a bad cough and stomach trouble. I was first, and since then at least four of the others have had the same thing. The good thing is that I got a bit of a head start studying for my exams, the bad thing was that I didn’t get to do any diving with Helena before she headed out on the last leg of her adventure.

I’ve been getting to know the other people here as well. It’s a bit of a Nordic outpost here. The Sunlight divemasters, dm trainees and instructors are two Finns, two Swedes and a Dane, plus a couple that I think are Australian, a Brit and two Malays. I might have forgotten someone, but you get the picture…

I had my first full day on “duty” yesterday, and passed my three first exams. Most of it is pretty basic diving stuff, then there’s some physics and chemistry that was mostly just repetition from IB Chem and Phys, but the chapter on physiology in diving is a bit tougher on the old noodle. It’s been a couple of years since I last did any studying, but I still have the advantage of an academic’s skill in reading for exams.

Today I assisted on a dive for the first time. Shamse, one of the Malay instructors, took out three Chinese on a Discover Scuba Diving course, which means a very short introduction to safety and equipment, followed by a confined water dive. Two of the participants had never even snorkeled before, and one of them didn’t speak a word of English… Needless to say, I was pretty busy trying to keep them together while Sham was trying to get them to do some basic skills, but I had fun nontheless. I ended my dive with three meters as the max depth, as I had to swim back to shore with one diver who was unable to equalize her ears.

Tomorrow I am getting up early, as I’m assisting on the first dive at eight thirty. Before that it’s my responsibility to set up the equipment, and make sure everything’s ready. We’re going to a dive site called “Temple of the sea,” which is a rather large pinnacle we’ll swim around. From what I’ve heard, the divers out there almost always see Hector The Threelegged Turtle. Turtles are supposed to be migratory, but since this one has lost a leg, probably in some fisherman’s net, it stays put. Since he’s so easy to recognize, the divers have named him, and he’s one of the attractions of the “Temple.” Don’t ask me why he ended up being called Hector…

Divemaster Trainee Gone Native

Monday, July 13th, 2009

On Wednesday I went for my first two dives here at the Perhentians. The first dive was a wreck dive, an old freighter they call the Sugar Wreck. It lies on it’s side at around 19 meters, so that the shallowest side of it is on about seven meters. When we arrived at the divesite, I looked over the side of the boat, and I could see all the way to the bottom! The divemaster and instructor that was with us said that it was the best visibility they’d ever seen on that divesite, 20-25 meters. We went down at the stern, made our way up to the prow, and entered one of the cargo bays. We swam through to the aft cargo bay, and returned along the deck. The dive finished off along the upper hull, before we surfaced again at the stern. The whole wreck was covered in soft corals, and we saw bamboo sharks, great barracudas, squids, giant blowfish, scorpion fish, and lots of other cool critters. The second divesite they call by the codename of T3, and it consists of a jumble of massive boulders with lots of swim-throughs. I saw nudibranches there for the first time in my life, and they are perhaps the fanciest things I’ve seen so far, little brightly coloured slugs with a knobbly surface. Google it!

Thursday I decided to go exploring the island, and I headed out after a late breakfast. I went north, up to a couple of windmills, and found out there was also a solar power plant. Where the electricity goes is beyond me, though, because everyone is running diesel generators for power… I continued down the other side, to a small beach that would’ve been nice if it weren’t for the fact that it was obviously used as a docking point when the powerplant was built, and has not been properly restored. At the northernmost beach on the island I found no other people, however, and lay there relaxing with my book for a while. I continued exploring, but by then my feet were sore from wearing shoes, so I carried my shoes in my hands the rest of the day. I haven’t worn shoes for so longΒ  that it hurts really fast…

On Friday, Helena arrived from Koh Phi Phi when I had finished my late breakfast. That day we celebrated Richard’s birthday, he’s one of the guys who works here. I tasted the local rum, Orang-Utan, which goes by the fitting nick name Monkey Piss.

Yesterday Helena and I went over to Coral Bay, and continued north along the shore to go snorkeling. The sea was rather choppy, and there was so much sand suspended in the water that visibility was less than two meters. We gave up after a couple of minutes, and spent the day on land instead.

This morning Helena went diving, and I went to tell Sonny, the owner, that I’ve decided to stay. I checked the balance on my account first, to verify that the money the tax collector’s office owed me for last year had arrived and I could afford the course. I am now officially a Divemaster Trainee! I calculated that If I don’t get a job I probably have to go back to Norway in about three months, close enough to be called exactly one year from the time I left. I hope to be able to stretch the money, though, so I can get to Australia and get work before I run too low on funds. If I manage to get a job here in the Perhentians after I finish my divemaster, I can pretty much stay until my student loan downpayments have eaten up my budget, before I head out, but I won’t make enough to cover the downpayments as well, for that I need a proper job in a richer country.

My beach towel disappeared from the balcony the other day, so yesterday I bought a Sarung to replace it. The Sarung is the local traditional outfit for men, basically a big piece of cloth with the short ends sewn together so it forms a big tube, which is wrapped tightly around the body under the arms and rolled down to the waist so it fits kind of like a skirt. I wore it today, and got appreciative nods and comments from Malaysian men wearing the same garment. When I got over to Coral Bay to speak to Sonny, she exclaimed before I had time to say anything, “Jerry’s staying! He’s gone native on us already!”

Boat trip to The Beach

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

For those who were wondering;I still don’t have a tattoo. I came to the conclusion that I want to try it in Henna or something before I do the real thing, to find out whether it looks the way I want on me. πŸ™‚

On Sunday night we went to watch Farang kicking the shit out of each other Muay Thai style at the Reggae bar, and while I was sitting there, craning my neck to see the fights, my neck and shoulders started hurting. It just got worse, so I took a relatively early night, and headed out to get a massage first thing Monday morning. I was looking for a place where I could get a cheap head-neck-shoulder massage in a calm environment, so when I found a nice, quiet place with relaxing music, I asked what I’d have to pay for that kind of massage. The woman kept saying “Full Body Massage 600 Baht,” so I thought she didn’t understand me, but when the masseur came out, they quickly conferred with each other, and told me I could get it for 300. The guy started massaging my back and neck, and then reached under my belly and massaged my stomach. He said “mhm, aha” and declared that he knew why my shoulders hurt; I had gas… It might have been a trick to make me pay more, but it was true that I was a little upset in the stomach, so I decided to trust him. I had a long, painful and uncomfortable massage where he mostly was standing on me massaging with his feet, and at the end he gave me lukewarm water and a herbal laxative. It worked after a couple of hours, and the pain has not returned. πŸ™‚ Money well spent!
I headed out to a beach bar called Sunflower, where they were supposed to have WiFi, but they didn’t, so I instead spent a few hours editing my underwater photos from my first two dives. Resetting the white balance made them look a lot more like what it actually looks like under water! That night I danced on the beach until the wee hours of the morning, and slept like a baby for a long time.

On Tuesday Helena and I rented a kayak, and headed toward Monkey Beach. We saw it, but saw no monkeys, so we crossed the bay to the south, and stopped for snorkling on a small beach where we met some other kayakers. Then we headed further south, and found a big, deserted beach where we went looking for coconuts to have for lunch. It seemed to be regularly searched, though, cause we found no ripe nuts on the ground. We headed back, and got in a half hour too late, right as the sun set. After dinner, we stopped in at a bar where they were showing Iron Man. It was nice to just sit and watch a movie, it’s been a long time…

Wednesday we rented a kayak again, and this time brought the camera. We went out to the same small beach for snorkling, and stayed there until the sun went behind a pinnacle, and headed back to the bay. We stopped for sunset on a rocky outcrop in the bay, and got some nice pictures. As we were taking the kayak back in the water, I slipped and cut my right foot right under the ankle on a rock, and it was bleeding a lot. By the time we got back, the bottom of the kayak was full of blood and water, and I was making bloody tracks all the way to our room. When I was cleaning out the wound, I saw that it was about six centimetres long, pretty deep, and I could see my pulse in there… it had gone straight through all the skin, about half a centimeter, and then started skinning me up the foot a little less than a centimeter. I didn’t want to go get it stitched up, although I probably should have. Instead I bought some strips specially made for closing deep cuts, pulled the edges together, and Helena put the strips on. I closed it in with a lot of gauze and medical tape, and headed out to dinner, and then bought tickets for a sigtseeing boat trip the next day. When I came back it had bled through all the gauze and run down my foot, so I was again making blood tracks along the island… I figured there should be no more walking for me that evening, so I changed the bandage and applied more iodine gel, and we watched American Dad and Mythbusters on my laptop.

On Thursday the longtail-boat-trip started at eleven, and we went out to Monkey Beach. I’d brought the camera, so we were filming along the way. There were loads of monkeys, drinking water out of bottles, coke out of glasses and beer out of cans, and eating the bananas and bread people brought them. I must say I don’t feel quite comfortable with feeding wild animals like that, and giving them beer and coca cola is just plain wrong!

On the way to our next stop, Phi Leh Bay, we went past the so-called Viking Cave, which is off limits because they collect birds’ nests there for bird’s nest soup… We swam in Phi Leh Bay, and my bandage fell off my foot… the strips stayed on though, so the woundΒ  didn’t open up. I took the chance of snorkling in the next bay as well, and then we stopped for an hour on The Beach, officially named Ma Ya Beach, but famous for the twenty seconds it featured in the movie “The Beach”…
Lunch was taken on The Beach, and then we stopped for snorkling on Shark Point, before we headed north to Bamboo Island. Both that Island and Phi Phi Leh, where Ma Ya Beach is, are part of the Phi Phi Marine National Park, but the park entry fee was covered by our boat ticket, so we could walk around. On the way back to Phi Phi Don, we stopped for more snorkling, and then on the tip of the island for sunset. The waves were large-ish, so it was difficult to take pictures and film, but I managed to get some good sunset shots. I now have WAY too many sunset pictures… πŸ˜‰

Yesterday we spent chilling out, and I was planning to not get my foot wet, but I had to give in and head to the beach, so I put a sock on my foot, and we waded out to a raft tied a little off the beach. We stayed there sleeping, reading and writing for a long time, and after dinner we took the camera around to get some good pictures of things we want to remember from the island, like Song who makes the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had, and Muzh who makes killer fruit shakes. πŸ™‚ We were planning to take pictures of us fighting with a cute little three-year-old who lives next to Adventure Club diving… He is always around, always trying to fight Muay Thai with us, but not that night, so we’ll have to try again. He has the best hair cut ever, shaved head except from a circle in the back, where he has a whip! Aksel, a German diving instructer who Helena took her courses with, has taught him something that the thai ladies around don’t much like; if the kid is playing with a girl or woman, Aksel says “Num!” to the kid, and the cute little boy grabs a handful of boob! -I suspect num means breast in Thai- πŸ˜€
We had a lot of fun telling the kid NUM! when Helena was fighting with him. πŸ˜‰ Helena is almost as tall as I am, so the kid was standing on the tips of his toes trying to reach, but I suspect with the thai women he’s even more of a nuisance, since many of them are almost a head shorter than her…

We also booked a dive trip last night, and this morning we got up early and went for two dives. The diving is still fantastic, and it was Helena’s first fun dives, so she was really eager. πŸ™‚ On the second dive we again saw two Leopard sharks lounging on the bottom. They are magnificent creatures!

Tomorrow I am planning to book a ticket to Malaysia, and head off to Pulau Perhentian someday soon. Helena is staying a few days longer, because she’s really hit it off with Tim the German, and then she’s planning to come join me in Perhentian for some more diving. Fingers crossed that I can find a place where they need a divemaster, so I can get a job once I’m done with my course.

Beach bum

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Since Tuesday I’ve mostly just been hanging around relaxing on the beaches, and watching Muai Thai and fireshows in the evenings. I spent some time with Cecilie and Simone and their friend Emilie, until they all went home yesterday.

On Tuesday I went looking for a beach where it might be possible to camp out for the night. It took me an hour and a half to get there, but I found an easier way back, so the return was only fortyfive minutes. On Wednesday Helena and I went back and spent the day there, snorkeling and snoozing on the beach, but it turned out not to be good for camping, since the water comes all the way up to the jungle on high tide. We didn’t pack any lunch, and there are no places to buy food, but there were coconuts lying around, so we cracked a couple, drank the milk and lunched on fresh coconut. πŸ™‚ When we got back, we just had enough time to pick up a camera and head up to a viewpoint overlooking the main village. I got some nice sunset photos, and we stayed until it was dark and got pictures of Phi Phi Don village by night as well. It was rather special to sit there at seven, because at seven pm sharp, the beach bars started playing loud music, and at the same time the evening prayer started at the mosque, with the call to prayer resounding from the minaret!

On Thursday we went to the Adventure Club, the dive centre we’re using here, and booked a night dive. Helena decided to do the Advanced Open Water, so the night dive could be part of her course. πŸ™‚ The dive was on Friday evening, and it started out with skill training for Helena. She was going to take out a compass course, swim out ten strokes, and then turn around and come back. I was her buddy, so I swam with her, but she didn’t get it right when we were going back, so in the end we had to go back up to find the instructor again! πŸ™‚ We then had a pretty long swim before we found anything interesting, and the visibility was rather bad, so it wasn’t the best dive I’ve ever had, but night dives are pretty cool anyway. πŸ˜‰

We’ve found a little shack that serves the best Pad Thai any of us have ever had, so we’ve been going there almost every day… Yesterday we were celebrating Helena’s AOW certification, and we ended up sitting around in a tattoo shop with a German guy Helena’s been hanging out with, called Tim, a couple of other westerners, and a bunch of really nice Thai guys. I was looking a bit at the main tattoo guy’s work, and the patterns he was familiar with, and I am considering finally getting the celtic cross that I’ve been thinking about for years. I might head over there tonight to see if he can design one that I like. He only tattoos with bamboo, which is what I’m after, seeing as bamboo tattoos don’t scab, and I can keep being in the sun and the water. We’re also looking to go sailing, but we both agree that we’d like to be on a boat where there ISN’T as much free beer as you can drink, and it’s not easy to find…

Climbing on Koh Phi Phi

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I am just as beat today as I thought I would be… When I got to the climbing centre yesterday, I was told that I’d have to pay more to do lead climbing, but my guide, Timi from Hungary, told me when we got up to the wall that she’d let my do it anyway. πŸ™‚ I first had to prove to her and myself that I still knew how to climb, however, and she set up the first top-rope climb. I saw before I started that it would be like walking a flight of stairs, so I climbed that one barefoot… The next one was a bit harder, so I wore climbing shoes, but still ran up it quite easily. Those two climbs convinced us that my body still remembered, even though some technique had to be refreshed. My greatest weakness is still that I rely too much on upper body strength, not using my legs enough.

I did a few leads, setting up climbs that the other climber up with us, Asaf from Israel, could climb top-rope. He had climbed a bit on indoor walls, but this was his first natural outdoor climb. The last climb i led was a 6a, and it was a bit touch-and-go on the top as to whether I’d make it, but after a couple of rests on the rope on the last bolt, I made it to the top. πŸ™‚ We rounded off the night on a tough bit, and I managed to get up a 6b+ on top rope, and was satisfied with myself. Today my fingertips are raw and my hands, arms and back ache, but I definately want to go climbing again before leaving Koh Phi Phi!

Today Helena is finishing her Open Water, and I went out to a beach that seemed suitable for camping out. πŸ™‚ It took me an hour twenty minutes to get out there, since I didn’t quite know the way, but I got back in three quarters of an hour. The snorkeling out there was decent too, and we might head out with mozzy nets and blankets to spend a night under the stars.

I am again sitting at the Ozzy bar with free WiFi, and while I was sitting here unsuspecting of anything, I was assaulted by Simone and Cecilie, the two Danish girls I stayed with in Vang Vieng! They’ve spent the time since then in Vietnam, and got to Phi Phi yesterday. We haven’t made any plans, but the island is so small that I’ve already seen them once more since then, and we’re counting on bumping into each other again in the next few days. πŸ˜‰