Posts Tagged ‘scuba diving’

Patience, Prayer and Penicillin heal all wounds…

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

… even tropical ulcers.

I had a visit from my cousin ages ago, and we had a brilliant time together. It was magnificent to finally be able to show someone from home what I’m always nagging about… Since then, I have also been able to show my sister Anne Malene and her boyfriend Øyvin, and two of my classmates from primary school and junior high, Gunn Ragnhild and Valdis. I went scuba diving with all of them,Β  but Anne Malene and Øyvin had to wait for my heel to heal before I could teach them to dive.

I got a tiny little scratch on the back of my right heel about a month ago, so small that I didn’t notice it before it started to get red. It soon started hurting, and then my foot swelled up like a balloon. The assumption when I got to the clinic in the fishermen’s village on Perhentian was that I had contracted a tropical ulcer, and I was put on broad spectrum antibiotics. It still took a good week and a half before I was off the crutches and back in the water, and it still has not healed completely, although it looks very nice.

Seeing my friends from way back when was also really cool. We reminisced about the olden days (about 20 to 14 years ago), and caught up on more current events. I got to refresh old diving skills with Gunn Ragnhild, while Valdis got her first taste of scuba diving.

Days of sun, sea and salt water still have not gotten old, I enjoy every bit of it. I even have one more friend lined up to come here soon, to finally finish a diving course, after having started it several times with several people who for one reason or another had to back out. πŸ˜€ If anyone else wants to come and learn to dive, just give me a holler, and I’ll set you up! πŸ™‚

In other news, I have crossed over to SDI, and now teach divers through that organization as well as PADI.Β  My SDI certification cards and teaching material arrived today, but my PADI cards that were supposed to be sent to Blue Season Bali, where I finished my course in the beginning of April still haven’t showed up… The course director there is now on the case, and is trying to get PADI to send me the cards here.

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Go with the flow

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Sunlight diveshopI’m back behind the counter in Sunlight Divers. This morning I went to the divesite called the Vietnamese wreck for the first time. The Vietnamese wreck is in fact an old Japanese landing vessel used to transport Vietnamese refugees, and it sank while going in for repairs. When we got to the site, the current was so strong that we had to struggle to hang on to the buoy line, and after we’d been swimming around under the upturned wreck for a few minutes, we headed out into the current again, and spent the rest of the dive drifting along the sand. πŸ™‚ This was my first time drift diving, and also the first time I saw a seahorse! Some of my dives lately have been quite boring, watching an instructor teach skills to new divers, but it’s all part of the deal. Other dives have been REALLY cool, with lots of barracudas, sharks, stingrays, turtles, nudibranch, groupers, snappers, damsels, wrasses, lizardfish, razorfish, filefish and colourful corals. πŸ˜€

One night a few days ago some of the other staff here at Sunlight saw a nesting turtle right here on Long Beach! I wish I get to see it, and that I still had a camera, so I could film it…

I am now starting the third week of my six week course, so I’m done with the first third. I’ve got one theoretical exam to go, and one of the four stamina tests. The theory exams for the divemaster course are “Supervising Certified Divers”, “Assisting with Student Divers in Training”, “Skills and Environment”, “Physics”, “Physiology”, “Decompression Theory and the Recreational Dive Planner” and “Equipment”, and I only have the “Equipment” left to go. I’ve also had to take the Emergency First Response, since I don’t have the diploma from my Norwegian Rescue Society EFR with me. On the practical side I’m done with my Rescue Assessment, where I had to satisfactorily simulate rescuing a submerged nonresponsive, non-breathing diver, and get him to shore. I’ve also done my my 400 meter timed swim, my 800 meter timed snorkeling, and my 15 minute tread. That last one was pretty heavy, once I got to the last two minutes, where I had to hold both arms out of the water from the elbows up… The only stamina test I have left is the 100 meters timed Tired Diver Tow. πŸ™‚ When I’m done with those, all that remains is actual diving, assisting courses, leading students and leading certified divers, i.e. the fun stuff!

In a couple of hours, I’ll be assisting a really fun one, the Rescue Diver course. It’s gonna be a lot of fun, I’m sure, ’cause doing the course myself was cool, and assisting as a divemaster looked like even more fun. πŸ˜€

Full Moon Party in Koh Pha Ngan

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Friday night I took the night bus from Bangkok to Chumporn, and the boat from there to Koh Pha Ngan. I walked around for a bit, looking for a guest house, but all I could find was way too expensive, so I was preparing to find a place to store my luggage and just sleep on the beach, when I found a place that had bungalows at a price that wasn’t blood curdling… I had just checked in, when another traveller in the same situation came walking up. He was a bit put off by the price, and I suggested we share a bungalow, seeing ass they all had two beds anyway. His name is Lucas, he’s from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, but has been living the last seven years in London. He’s a fun guy, friendly and outgoing and flamboyantly gay. πŸ˜›

The atmosphere here is a little like Vang Vieng, with lots of people out to party, but it’s both a bit less laid back and has a bit older crowd, i.e. more people my age… The reason why I came here was the full moon party last night, and it was a lot of fun. πŸ™‚ All the guest houses and restaurants along the beach rig up with bars and music and lights on the beach itself, and the whole beach is crammed with people dancing, eating, drinking or just sitting around talking. I met Helena again, that I went sightseeing in Vientiane with, Lucas attracted both girls and gay guys, and we ended up being a big group of people having fun together. I’ve also seen a few other people that I’ve met around South East Asia, but not as many as expected. The party was even bigger than I’d expected, apparently tens of thousands of people, and the chances of meeting people again in such a throng are not very great.

This morning we watched the sunrise on the beach, and then went to bed for a few hours before we had to check out. We found an even cheaper place to stay, at an Israeli guest house, and have moved there now. Lucas is really happy that it has aircon, but I’m afraid I’ll get a cold again… Today has been spent like the last two days, lounging on the beach, and my nose is peeling from too much sun. I am generally good at remembering the spf, but on the boat out here it was packed in my big backpack, and I spent all three hours of the crossing on deck, which was a thoroughly stupid thing to do. The water is so warm here that it doesn’t really cool you down very much, so people spend hours on end in the sea. It feels nice, but it’s not helping my sunburn, seeing as there’s no shade out there… πŸ˜›

Tonight I am planning to head to bed early, and tomorrow I might rent a moped and drive around the island. There are supposed to be some nice beaches away from the crowds out on the east side of the island, so I’ll try to find one of them and relax with my new book. I couldn’t find any of the books I was looking for in the book exchange store I went to, so I decided on a classic, Anna Karenina. I am looking into doing an internship for my Dive Master course, but I’m not sure where I’ll end up. I hope to find something out on Koh Similian or Koh Phi Phi, because those islands have the best dive sites in Thailand, but I’m also trying to find out about diving in Malaysia.

Ulan Baatar, the world’s ugliest capital?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

BaikalI met my Dutch friends, and we went to Listvyanka village by lake Baikal, about an hour from Irkutsk. It was definately a huge lake, and I took some cool pictures (that I still can’t upload, as the computers in this internet cafe don’t have accessible USB). My first priority was to find a dive centre, and lo and behold, even on our way into the village, we saw people in scuba outfit on the shore just next to the road! After a nice lakeside lunch, we trotted over to the dive centre.

I contacted a dive centre in Irkutsk a while back, www.baikalex.com, through the contact box they have on their page, and via email. They never answered, but I called them when I got to Irkutsk. They said they were fully booked, and that I should have contacted them via their web page… They suggested I just go out and have a looksee at Listvyanka village, so there I was. For a while, I actually thought I was going to get to dive! It then turned out that there HADindeed been a free spot in their previous dive, a couple of hours earlier, but the next free spot was in the middle of next week… (just about when I’m posting this) πŸ™

Pribaikalsk Nature ReserveInstead of diving, we went for a hike in the pribaikalsk national park, which turned out to be an, if not equal then at least decent, substitute. We went up one of the valleys from the lakeside, between quaint old wooden houses, on frozen creeks, through snow that was about ankle deep, and up steep hills. We were originally planning to head over to the next valley, and then go back to the village from there, but we instead decided to get up to the top of the hill, and thus followed the ridge when we got to the highest point of the pass. The two Dutch guys were beside themselves, which is maybe not so surprising, seeing as they both live four meters BELOW sea level… The view from the top was gorgeous, and at least lessened my disappointment at not having gotten in that dive.

When I got back to Irkutsk, I had to take a taxi to my host’s place in the suburbs, pack my stuff, and then back to town to catch the train. Anastasia saw me off, and offered to help me getting supplies and everything before I got on the train.

The train from Irkutsk to Ulan Baatar was the most expensive so far, because they didn’t have third class, which is what I’ve used so far. The only carriage that was crossing the Russian/Mongolian border was second class. In third, the “compartments” aren’t really compartments, because they don’t have doors or walls. Second class was a whole different deal. The third class carriages look like they’re from the early seventies, but the carriage I was in from Irkutsk was brand spankin’ new! Each compartment had a tv and you could get either the onboard radio or the tv sound from minijack outlets above the beds. Each bed had a reading light, the windows were clean so you could see out, you could open them to get fresh air, the provodnitsa spoke English, the toilets smelled of soap instead of piss, all in all it was a whole different world! Still, the biggest change was being able to have proper conversations with the other travellers. I shared my four berth compartment with a couple from New Zealand, two compartments over was a father and daughter from Holland, who both were fluent in English, and a few of the other passengers also spoke English!

The train was a really slow one, however, and apparently I missed some of the most impressive scenery in Russia, going through tunnels and across bridges along the southern bank of Lake Baikal, since we passed it in the night.

We got to the border about 1pm the next day, and then found out that passport control wouldn’t come till 4pm. We went out and looked around a little, but it was a tiny village, so there wasn’t much to do. I spent my last few rubles buying some more credit for my Russian sim card, and used it to send some messages to my friends in Irkutsk. Then we waited. Around three thirty we got some customs forms to fill out in duplicates. At five to four a guy came into our compartment, looked at our passports, took the customs forms, stamped them, gave one back, and left again. A while later, another guy came in, got our passports, and trotted off with them. After more waiting, first one, then two more people searched our compartment. I couldn’t say what they were looking for, because they didn’t even touch our luggage… About seven hours after we first came to the border, we started moving again… Ten minutes later we were at the ACTUAL border, and twenty minutes after that, we got to the first Mongolian station. There, we had to write immigration documents and more customs documents, and of course the Mongolians had to take our passports. I don’t really know how long the whole border crossing ordeal took, but it must have been over ten hours… πŸ˜›

The next morning, we were woken up at 5:30am, about forty minutes outside of Ulan Baatar. The plan was to borrow a phone and write my host in UB an sms with my arrival details as soon as we entered Mongolia, but I fell asleep before I thought of asking anyone, so I obviously wasn’t met at the station. There were several hostels that had pick-up-service however, so I hitched a ride to a hostel, had breakfast, borrowed a phone, and sent an sms. Fifteen minutes later my host picked me up from the hostel, and we went to his place. He went to work, and I spent the day relaxing, catching up on international news on BBC World, and fell asleep in the middle of an airplane disaster show on Discovery. It was unspeakably nice to get a proper shower and a shave, which I hadn’t had since Ekaterinburg. (I had shaved, but my host in Irkutsk didn’t have a shower, only a communal washroom)

Today I’ve been walking around UB. It just might be the ugliest capital in the world… πŸ˜‰ There are, however, some pearls buried in the massive concrete soviet heritage pig sty. My host runs a restaurant a few minutes walk from the city centre, and on my way from the restaurant to the Sukhbaatar Square, I found a small, run-down buddhist monastery, that wasn’t even among the few sights listed in my Lonely Planet guide! It was quite cool, with it’s prayer wheels,Β  huge communal Gers and locals going around offering their prayers! There is a bigger, more beautiful monastery in UB too, which I’ll visit later. I finally feel like I have time to do what I want, with two weeks here!

I also went to a large park that was marked on my map, but it turned out to be more like the ghost of a park… I don’t think it was supposed to be open to the public, because all the entrances were welded closed, except the one I reached first, and even that one was deserted. I was the only person in there, which was both nice and really eerie at the same time… There was a broken fountain with no water, a big, empty, dusty bowl where a pond was marked on my map, lined with broken statues of exotic aquatic animals. Further over were the skeleton of an old rollercoaster and a rusty ferris wheel that looked ready to collapse. The walk paths had almost no paving left on them, and dry, brown undergrowth was sticking up through the snow everywhere. I was really far from the place I’d gotten in, and all the other entrances were welded shut, so I ended up squeezing through a hole in the fence, in order to get out of the park on the right side…

My cs host has friends that are nomads, and live in a yurt out in the countryside. He’s arranged for me to go there tomorrow! I will be staying and working with the family there until Friday. Then I head back to UB, because I’ve been invited to a concert with Mongolia’s first (and only) death metal band! Can you say clash of cultures, anyone?

It’s starting to dawn on me that this is for real…

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

On Tuesday I had my last day of work, so I am now officially unemployed.

Today I got vaccinated with four inoculations against yellow fever, Hep A + Hep B, Meningococcus A-C-W-Y, and Typhoid fever, and an ingested vaccine against cholera and ETEC, and I bougt prophylaxis for malaria. Vaccination makes an effective diet for your travel account. This ordeal set me back NOK 2790,- (EUR 337,-)

Speaking of dieting travel accounts, I also went to my insurance company today, to extend my travel insurance from the normal three months to a year. I almost fell off my chair when the lady, rather apologetically I thought, told me that this would cost me the rather large sum of NOK 20870,-!!! (EUR 2520,-)
I laughed, picked up my things, told her that it was ridiculous and left. I assumed beforehand that 12 months of travel insurance would amount to about four times 3 months of travel insurance. Silly me…
Well, when I got home, just now, I quickly googled backpacker insurance, and the very first hit there was a company called Gouda (!) that sells travel insurance through x-plore.no. Their price for a world-wide 12 months continuous travel insurance ended up at NOK 11515,- (EUR 1390,-).Β  This is still expensive of course, but at almost half the price of Gjensidige it is the cheapest I’ve been able to find so far. I’ll have to compare their terms, but I suspect I’ll end up with the Gouda insurance, if I don’t get any offers that can beat their price.

For visas to Russia, Mongolia, China and Nepal, I have been in contact with the people at privjet.com. I sent them an email on Aug 18 to see whether they could help me. On Aug 20 they answered positively, so I figured I was all set. On Sept 8 I replied that I was interested in their services for visas to the aforementioned four countries. By Sept 19 I had still not heard from them, so I called and asked how things were going. The guy (Helge) was very sorry that he hadn’t had time to process my request, but promised to get right on it, and suggested I sent a new email so I’d get on the top of his inbox. I then forwarded the message I’d sent 11 days earlier, and waited for a reply. A week later (Sept 26) I had not had any response, so I called again. Helge was in Moscow at a conference, but I was told to resend the email, and he’d get back to me on Monday. (this was a Friday) So I re-re-sent the email, and got an immediate reply from Helge:

Am in Moscow right now, will be back in the office on Monday. Have just gone through the Transsiberian/Transmongolian with our partner, so I can give you some good feedback on Monday. Sorry this took so long. Helge.

That was on Friday a week ago. I called them on Wednesday, since I hadn’t gotten any feedback yet. Helge apologized again, and said I’d get a quote before the day was over. I called him again this morning, Oct 3, and he seemed confused as to why I hadn’t gotten the quote on Wednesday afternoon, and promised to look into it immediately. This is actually on the verge of me having to postpone departure because of these guys, so if I don’t have a quote from them by the end of the weekend, when the travel agencies open, I’ll have to find someone else…

Right now, I’m off to take my PADI Rescue Diver theoretical course and exam, the practical excercises are tomorrow.