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I'd arranged to go out snorkelling with Marcus and another new German arrival called Kai, and so after stupidly being snubbed by 2 superior English bitches upon suggesting we share the cost of their rented gear, they returned their masks and fins to the dive shop only for us to immediatley nab them and pay all over again. Silly cows. Snorkelling was something I could only ever do with company. It simultaneously challenged 2 of my greatest phobias and I had to be bloodyminded about it and assure myself that the benefits would make it worthwhile. It wasnt so much that I'm not a great swimmer, but there was something creepy about paddling about in the great unknown full of natural hazards, and the reputedly excellent visibility would perversely also present me with my heads periodic inability to "fathom" great depths and contrasts of scale. In I went though, and it wasnt so bad, just very rocky and with only dead coral to start with. The seabed was strewn with shards of corrugated tin roofing, doubtless courtesy of the tsunami. Pretty soon we were into healthier territory, with all variety of very large coral encrustations being nibbled on by beautiful large blue and green Parrot Fish. Others of similar ilk were in black and in my ignorance there were ones I took to be Angel Fish amongst others. One of the Germans reported a Sea Snake but I missed it, and it was a little disappointing not to encounter rays or turtles as commonly happens here. To be honest I was happy just to be pushing my limits and experiencing a very different environment, with dramatic topography plunging to great depths and affording far reaching dioramas. Cobalt blue starfish the size of dinner plates were complimented by fluorescent navy and black anemones, also long elongated fish familiar to me if not by name, the odd dodgy jellyfish and a whole shoal of large black coral feeders. Schools of tiddlers tickled my arms as I pulled myself through them. It was actually more of a challenge dealing with the somewhat ropey equipment. My face mask singularly refused to form a good seal and though I could tolerate water around my nose for a while, the extremely salty Andaman Sea would periodically make me gag and cough until my throat burned with it. In our wonder we had ventured remarkably far, perhaps the best part of a kilometre, and so it was with growing frustration on the return journey that I had to stop every 20 or 30 seconds to cough and spit before we reached a landing spot half the way back. The trickiness of negotiating the rocks on the way in and out afforded me gashes on both shins and I was fortunate of sorts that it was only with my very last kick onto the landing area that one of my calfs spasmed in cramp. In my impatience to escape the choking brine I had also paddled hard to the point of taking the skin off the tops of my toes too. A little war wounded then I was fortunate also to land at a nice little chill out den where I found Dutch megamarathon traveller Peter again who favoured me with a tea. Blood sugar boosted, it was a short jaggy barefoot walk back to Norma's to gather my gear and so at last a good snorkelling session was an excellent addition to my trip. After a short siesta a laundry run was the order of the day, made remarkably entertaining by the necessity of using the local well by the beach. There was a knack to filling the plastic pail, one which I didnt have, but one of the local village sweethearts teased me with her adeptness before I got the rough hang of it to shower myself Mandi style. Then I joined the girls in their "womens work" of scrubbing my breeks before hanging them out to dry along the beachfront. Such a simple relaxed way of life. Back at the appropriately named Chillout Cafe that night my whisky was soon depleted and so I treated myself to a few Islamic inflated pricey Bintang beers before being accosted by another village chick Bharia aka Betty. Aaron had enlightened me upon the local mentality of uncomplicated living by explaining for example, that whilst as a 10 year old boy he had been whizzing about on his BMX, the local kids sometimes preferred to peep into tourist bungalows and watch big fit Norwegians hard at it. Shariah law still had some way to go around these parts. With a perfectly plain degree of sincerity, Betty said she liked "hot ice cream" and it wasnt a cone she wanted to sook on. I wondered how the hell I was going to get out of this one, or indeed whether I should.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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