Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘India’

IMG_0149 

15th August

The yoghurt smothered banana left my spoon and arched a smooth trajectory towards my mother, where it landed on her top. We glared at each other surprised as well as furious. The argument, as all good arguments are, was a petty one.

IMG_1307

I gathered my things (P.D.Q. I can tell you) and stalked across the terrace and down the steps to the small garden below where I paced, breathing deeply. After a good ten minutes I returned to our breakfast table over looking Udaipur’s picturesque Lake Pichola. We muttered apologies to one another and we both giggled – the day was underway.

IMG_1306

Jamil was taking us on ‘The City Tour’. I would never normally do the city tour but it was probably a good way to take in all the necessary Udaipuri sights without exhausting Mum (now bespattered) too much. As it turns out it was a waste of time and money (in my opinion, for the opinion of the other members of the tour you will have to ask her).

IMG_0233

Our first stop was the spice market, which rankled a little as I knew where this was having spent most of my last visit to Udaipur there and would have preferred to visit under our own steam. We were taken to the edge of the veg. market and given time to wonder around and the opportunity to buy spices from Jamil’s friend. I declined this offer knowing that the really good spices were much deeper inside the warren of market streets.

IMG_0244

IMG_1382

We made our way to the market where beautiful vegetables in a rainbow of colours are laid out on burlap sacks and the noisy bartering and weighing on old-fashioned hand held scales takes place. We were soon centre of attention and the market women wanted to have their photo taken.

IMG_0248

This is common place in India, wherever you go people of all ages implore “please madam, one photo” and then stand stiffly to attention for the photograph. I snapped a couple of the women who then insisted that mum went to join them for the pictures.

IMG_0240

The fat, jolly lady pulled up a plastic crate for mum to sit on and patted it. Quick as a flash, however, the adjacent veg. seller and owner of the bright orange crate pulled it back, “NO” mum could not sit on her crate. The first lady then rattled off some rapid Hindi and the crate was pulled back for mum.

IMG_0234

This continued for about a minute until our lady triumphed and secured the crate and indicated that mum take her seat for the photo. Almost in slow motion, as mum started to sit down the crate-owner pulled it out from under her. Mum was suddenly up-turtled, legs in the air! The entire market was in hysterics and once I realised that there was no saving mum from her fate I started rattling off photos to capture the comedy.

IMG_0235

After such auspicious beginnings the tour continued. We saw some mausoleums, king ones. They were alright, bit over grown and covered in pigeons and their effluent – fun when you have to remove ones shoes out of respect! Then we drove to see the statue of a famous horse, a warrior horse whose name was Chutak. He was loyal to his Kingly master and bravely defended him and then died in battle.

IMG_0259

Most importantly, lunch was an incredible thali.

IMG_1398

After which we went to the Princess gardens where we were supposed to admire the fountains. Instead we found ourselves inside the onsite Science Museum, in the loosest sense of the term, you understand. The officious man in charge pounced on us when we entered the room – his next victims had arrived. He was delighted when he found out that I was a teacher too. Being a teacher is usually the easiest lie to tell about ones employment and education status in India, being as it is an honourable profession. He led us around his museum which contained such strange exhibits as a pile of labelled local rocks, fun-fair mirrors, a magic (how did we do it?) tap and a large free standing pulley.

IMG_0178 

“Madam, Madam. Come” he ordered us from one display to another. “Look Madam!” “oh! yes” we politely nodded. “Here, Madam. Here!” “Touch the Peacock” he bodily moved me and then mum towards a plaster peacock. We both touched the peacock. We managed, but only just, to keep straight faces when he showed us riding a bike, Benny Hill style, standing up against a vertical mirror. I was then made, yes MADE to do the same. This continued around the mercifully small ‘museum’.

IMG_0300

If either mum or I tried to skip an exhibit or didn’t pay enough attention to the wonders of an exhibit, we were admonished and physically returned to the exhibit to appreciate the marvels within. The last item was a camera obscura and Mum was told to “SIT” and “look” which she obediently did. We managed to escape at last and made it out into the pouring rain where we stood next to the giggling school girls under shelter. Suddenly he was back, he looked at mum and said “I had to say goodbye to my English girlfriend” I let out an ill-disguised guffaw. Mum gave me a steely look, “let’s go now before he tries to make me his wife.”

IMG_0210

After this we told Jamil that yes it had been a wonderful tour but now we would like to go back to our hotel. My recommendation is that if you ever have the luck to visit beautiful Udaipur that you do not do the tour.

IMG_0179

The rest of our time was more purposefully spent. We took an art class. This I loved, not just because I really enjoy the intricate, delicate work of Indian Miniature Painting but because it was such a fun thing for mum and me to do together.

IMG_0302

IMG_0307

Mum has fallen in love with Nandi. Nandi is the vehicle of the Hindu God Shiva and he is a bull and the reason why the cow is sacred in India. You will find a Nandi at every temple entrance and he is the subject of her painting.

IMG_0310 

The teacher was intrigued by her choice saying that in all his years no student had ever requested a Nandi. I chose the national bird of India: the peacock.

IMG_0309

We took a cooking class. It was my second lesson with the same teacher so we took a more advanced class. We learned paneer butter masala, dal fry, pumpkin curry and veg. biryani. Our classmates, a married couple from Leeds were soon exchanging surreptitious glances and clearly thought that this mother/daughter duo were more than slightly unhinged. I am not sure exactly what we did but after eating they dived into their room and we could hear uncontrolled fits of giggles.

IMG_1417 

IMG_1421 

We had impromptu Hindi lessons over cold beer at the bar by the bridge, we watched Ian Fleming’s ‘Octopussy’ play out against its real life backdrop – minus Roger Moore’s quizzically arched eyebrow of course.

IMG_0414

IMG_0446

We looked after a 21 year old Scottish boy who was lonely, saw a traditional dance recital and weaved our way amongst the many bovine inhabitants – who just collapse wherever they deem fit. Looked through piles of pashminas and declined to buy any, we watched the women washing their clothes on the ghats from our beautiful room and had a romantic dinner in a posh restaurant with an amazing view of Udaipur city palace lit up like a fairy castle at night.

IMG_0199

We also had to eat part of said dinner in the drizzling rain but like the good Brits that we are we pretended not to notice. And on our last day at breakfast a very lovely gentleman leaned over and said “I have noticed you around and have to tell you, you are the best dressed ladies in Udaipur!”

IMG_1301

IMG_1464

Quitting whilst we were ahead, we decided, we had better leave Udaipur. Our quarry was still Jaisalmer where we want to do the camel safari and sleep in the Great Thar desert under the stars.

IMG_0154

IMG_0957

IMG_0956

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A Problem in Mumbai

11 August

IMG_1291

We had a problem. Mum’s brand new suit, tailored by ‘Master’ had Hindi writing in orange indelible ink over the back of one sleeve. Clearly it could not be worn. We were bashing the doors down at the fabric shop even before they opened and their baffled faces turned wary as we made our complaint. They discussed in heated Hindi the issue. Everyone from the owner to the cleaner had a good look at the offending sleeve. It was scratched by everyone’s index fingernail, held up to the light, sighed over and finally declared to be chalk. We (mother and I) poo-pooed this idea at once, it was very clearly not chalk and rather glaringly orange indelible ink.

Master was called. And while we waited for him to arrive we started the process of going through new salwar suit packages. In their desperation to please, nearly every cellophane-wrapped parcel was removed from the shelves. A servant was sent to buy stain remover and master arrived and grassed up the desk clerk by announcing that he had authorised the using of the inky material.

We left them with the problem and went off to buy skeins for my cross stitch as my entire nine month collection had been mislaid. For some reason the haberdashers is always located in the vegetable market where we duly went and I merrily bought thirty-four Anchor brand skeins at under £1.00 – serious bargain.

IMG_0088

However, we had another problem. This one was far more serious. Whilst packing our rucksacks that morning it was discovered that Mum didn’t have her camera (the beloved G10). We tried to mentally retrace the previous day’s steps: The tour, the thali, the internet cafes. Had we been to the perfume shop, what about Leopold’s? The days meshing together in a confused jumble. “Don’t worry about it” I said (rather magnanimously, I thought) “It’s just a possession. No-one has broken a limb” But Mum was inconsolable, she would not be consoled. “Besides which, this is India, if an Indian person has found it we will get it back” I added confidently. “If a foreigner has found it – you can kiss your Canon goodbye.”

On our way to the tailors we had been to Leopold’s – it was not there. We had asked at the cloth shop – also not there. So, after the haberdashers we wended back through the streets to the first internet cafe from the day before. But we were stopped out side the temple and the man explained that today was a festival for Shiva and he performed a small puja (offering or prayers) for us. Tying a red and yellow string around our wrists and painting our foreheads with red tikka. After which we continued our journey to the internet cafe where we explained our situation to the desk-dude and he went to get his boss. The boss arrived, took one look at us and exclaimed “Madam, you left your camera. Don’t worry I have it here safe.” Mum and I almost burst into tears.

IMG_1292

Nerves jangling like a temple bell we strode back into the fabric shop, battle-ready. What would be their solution, if any, or would we be fighting for our money back? On entering our nostrils prickled with the acrid scent of stain remover, not unlike old fashioned nail varnish remover – before they took the poison out. But the indelible ink indelibly remained. Chalk indeed!

In the end it was us that solved the problem suggesting that Master (we were starting to doubt the veracity of the epithet) found some off-cuts of same baby-pink material and inserted panels into the underside of each arm. But he would have to be quick because we had to check out at 12 and our train was at 14.00 from Bandra Terminus (don’t you just love the names? Terminus – makes me want to coo-chi-coo India under the chin).

I ditched Mum and started Olympic power walking back through the Colaba streets to get back to the hotel before the clock took us over into the “next day charges”, my dupatta billowing behind me like chiffon wings.

We hit the road (Jack). After an eventful local train journey to Bandra and fight with a rickshaw driver we eventually made our way to the correct train station and platform. We still were not sure of our travel status. We were told by the inquiry desk that we had been allocated one seat between us and by the Chief Reservation Manager that we had been allocated a first class cabin….

IMG_1297

As it turned out we had only been allocated one seat/bed for our eighteen hour train ride to Udaipur. It was a Lower Side berth meaning that we had our own window and was luckily in A/C class. We immediately engendered the animosity of all the other passengers (all men) around us because the passenger from the upper side bunk is supposed to be able to sit on the lower side bunk whilst it is a seat during the day (it gets converted into a bed for the evening). We drew our curtain across us, thus maintaining a dignified purdah (the custom (mostly Muslim) of keeping women in seclusion; veiled), from behind which we giggled, chortled and on occasions roared with laughter as we negotiated legs, bags, books and even dinner.

We settled down to sleep at around 22.00 a contortion of legs and carefully positioned bottoms as we top and tailed on the tiny Indian-person-sized (albeit a fairly wealthy Indian person) bed. As we had also pissed of the officious conductor by only having our reservation printout and not our ticket in triplicate, notarised and signed by the mayor we had not dared to ask for the possibility of another bed. My meek request for another pillow was stoically refused, my eyes not even met and I was dismissed with a wrist-flick like a beggar child.

At 1.00 I was given a reprieve, however, and told that I could move to bed 22. Soothed by the gentle chug and throb of the train and the mental security of knowing that I was not alone on this train, I slept like a baby, waking refreshed and ready for the rickshaw scrum in beautiful Udaipur.

IMG_0152

Read Full Post »

Dear Patient Blog Readers,

I am very sorry for the terrible gap since my last blog. Firstly, thank you to everyone who emailed me and if I couldn’t reply to every one I am also sorry.

Since nearly getting myself arrested in Malaysia much has happened and although I have not been able to blog about it, I did upload the photos from Indonesia – so please feel free to trawl through them whenever you have a spare 18 hours. (My Flickr Photos)

Indonesia was infinitely preferable to Malaysia and I spent many an hour in my hammock sewing and reading. I also was able to fulfil a life-long ambition and make myself very proud of myself by completing a three day jungle trek to see Orangutans. They were, of course, adorable and majestic in equal measures and I only wish I could jump back into the photos and be there again.

After the jungle I decided to reward my exertions by taking much deserved R & R by the beautiful waters of Lake Toba. It was here that I met Denise. A girl who shared not only my passion for India but loved it in (unnervingly) exactly the same way. From fresh lime sodas to the virtues of sleeper class, we waxed lyrical to one another, boring the very socks off anyone in ear shot. After two days of intense reminiscing, I made the best decision that I ever made since deciding to go to India the first time – I decided to go back. To end my trip of a lifetime in the place that bought me such joy and happiness. I will return to India for the last three months of my journey, visiting those places that I was unable to get to the first time: Calcutta, Khajuraho, Bodhgaya to name a few. The lull that was starting to pervade my trip has lifted; my excitement is very much renewed.

There will be one slight difference, however. Well I say slight – that is perhaps downplaying the enormity of the situation, for this time, yes this time I shall have in tow: one mother – mine. That should definitely spice the blog up somewhat, so if you haven’t already, subscribe to the blog now because hopefully they will be coming thick and fast and juicy.

Goodnight with lots and lots of love,

Sara (intrepidly returning to somewhere she has already been and apparently cannot stay away from) xxxxx

Read Full Post »

fly-to-thailand

I am flying to Thailand. No longer in India, but in the air with two delicious glasses of wine inside me and having eaten my last curry. I have no reservation for tonight and no Lonely Planet. I am going solo, turning-up the intrepid, because lets face it – it has all become a little too easy. I came for adventure and I truly hope to find it in SEA (South East Asia folks, keep up).

mumbai-skyline

My last night in India was a journey back to the beginning. I stayed at the Y. WCA that is and from there, took a taxi, metered of course, and I returned to the start. To Kemps Corner. The only way to know how far I have come was to go back. The area felt like it had had a million dollars worth of redevelopment. I noticed all these really posh shops that I just hadn’t seen before, because the first time, six months ago, what stood out were the ladies selling carrots and bananas by the edge of the road, the posh bathroom shops faded into insignificance.

Royal-castle-hotel

My first hotel in India (Hotel Royal Castle)

The dirty, scary, residential area I now realise was actually a really nice neighbourhood with an important hospital and up-market hotels and shops. No-one stared at me, noticed me. Or maybe I wasn’t looking at or noticing them. Kemps Corner is actually a fairly quiet (by Indian standards) quarter of the city.

I had three objectives:

1. Buy new flip flops.

New-flip-flips

I had bought these cheap flip-flops when I was there before for wearing in the shower, except they turned out to be more comfortable and easier to walk in than my TEVAs which cost £60. I knew that the shop would still stock my spongy, not-flat, good-for-walking-up-rocky-mountain shoes and I was right. Mission accomplished. Rs95.

2. Return to Shiv Sagar.

Last-supper

This was where I ate my first meal in India, I had Dhal Tadka and it was delicious and cheap. Except it wasn’t. Well it was still delicious but Dhal Tadka for Rs90? Are you kidding me?

3. Cross a certain road.

THE-road

I was not going to leave India without knowing if I could do it. I returned to that crazy five way roundabout and intersection. It was still crazy and the traffic was noisy and still sudden-appearing but I want you to know that not only did I do it, but I crossed all five roads, all by my intrepid self.

mumbaikers

So I have come full circle. In the last few days about six people have commented on how brave I am to have travelled India alone. When I first arrived, I didn’t feel brave – I didn’t think that what I was doing was particularly brave. But now as I fly away from India and the last six months is flashing before me like a corny movie with terrible sound bites echoing through the distance – I accept. Perhaps it was brave.

Read Full Post »

Golden-Temple-2

I have taken several trains in India and consider myself quite good at it now. I have taken full advantage of the many ways to procure a ticket: Internet, travel agent, booking office and on two occasions “Tatkal” or Tourist Quota. On every train a percentage of tickets are held back for tourists and released 48 hours before travel meaning convenient last minute bookings. For my train to Amritsar I had booked (Tatkal) a first-class non-AC ticket. A private cabin with locking doors and extra wide beds – luxury.

Tine-in-carriage

Well not quite, trains are often dirty nay filthy, but they would have to invent a new word for the ingrained putrescence on this train. Our compartment even came with layers of paan spit halfway up one wall. Luckily I had Tine to share the journey with. I have to say thought it was one of the best night sleep I have had on a train yet. The locked door meant that any worries about the safety of my baggage or person were eradicated.

1st-class-cabin

The Sikh Golden Temple was really beautiful and the setting serene but I didn’t feel as connected to it as I did at the Taj, for example. The ethos is fantastic – everyone is welcome. Tine and I arrived at the temple on the free bus and were directed towards the free accommodation and then given an amazing free breakfast of coconut rice-pudding (the ONLY time I have ever enjoyed rice-pudding) dhal and chapatti.

Tine-at-Golden-Temple

We were given a small three-bed room just beside the main dorm provided for foreign travellers. Once our stuff was safely locked away in the lockers and quite smug at our good fortune of not being in the main dorm, we went exploring. On our return three young girls and their copious amount of luggage were strewn all over our beds. Our hearts sank. Mine sank even further when they spoke and turned out to be English and posh, public school types on their “gaap Yaar.” Three beds, five girls – someone was moving into the dorm and Tine and I were pretty sure it wasn’t going to be either of us.

Golden-Temple

However, the problem couldn’t be solved there and then because we were all going to see the closing of the India/Pakistan boarder. Tine and I made our way to the taxi where we had been told to report at 3.45pm. The boring half-hour wait was livened up when a fight broke out suddenly between two middle-aged men. Punches were flying left and right, turbans were unravelling and spinning off, passer-bys seemed to pick a side, jump-in and start throwing punches too. When the, clearly, more aggressive of the two picked up a brick and appeared quite keen to use it, the crowd finally made a genuine attempt to break up the fight. When we realised that the brick-welding manic was supposed to be our taxi driver, we quickly found alternative transport.

Indian-border-soldier

The closing of the border is a bizarre affair. After being segregated by sex and searched, the foreigners were then led off to the VIP section. Like many VIP areas it was disappointing and only distinguished as such by a metal bar. Beyond the gates demarking the border were the Pakistani stands, filled to bursting with patriots, flag-waving and chanting at the tops of their voices. They released enormous bunches of green and white balloons into the air that then floated over into India – antagonising, perhaps, but decidedly non-aggressive.

Pakistan-Balloons

It was like being at a football match, but one where you wished you were supporting the other team. India put on a very poor show in comparison. After much waiting (of course), they invited the Indian girls to come down from the stands and run with the Indian flag up to border gates and back – hardly passion-inflaming. The heat was sweltering and boredom was setting in. The party hotted-up a little when pop songs were blared over the speakers and the women and girls were once again encouraged to participate, which they did with gusto.

girl-with-flag

Eventually, the ceremony proper finally started. A confusing display of strange comedic marching, high-kicking and pompous leaping. The gates were ferociously wrenched open on both sides, corresponding soldiers hoppety-skipped towards one another, shook hands and then slammed the gates on each other. Apparently not content with that, other soldiers then took their turn to practice their best “John Cleese” moves. The Indian crowd by now were chanting and yelling rousing choruses of “Hindustan – Zindabad” roughly translated to mean “Long-live India”. The flags were eventually lowered to more pomp and not quite ceremony; flags were folded and safely stored away for the next day.

Indian-crowd

The three English girls actually turned out to be very sweet and really quite intrepid themselves. Hannah, Otti and Natalie have been travelling all over India for three months, having passed four A’levels each – with A’s. One of them moved in to the main dorm. The other two managed to effectively cover our room in detritus quicker than even I can. Being 18 they glowed with rude health and enthusiasm that hadn’t quite encompassed all aspects of taking care of themselves. Not mentioning any names, of course, one of them had a birds nest in her hair that only half a bottle of coconut oil and twenty minutes of combing could finally tease out and the other took it very well when I told her that she would have to wash her feet before sharing a bed with me.

Golden-Temple-Fish

But no-time to stop and enjoy the scenery (I will also skip over the fact that I forgot to go inside the temple!) – I have to keep moving if I am to stick to my whistle-stop tour of Northern India. I am leaving soon you see. Have I mentioned that already? So where to next? I am heading to Dharamsala, or more precisely Mcleod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile and hopefully a private audience with the Dalai Lama himself. Oh and Christine my friend from Bundi will be there too – Hurrah!

Read Full Post »

Today has just been one of those days.

I was woken up at 6.30am by the hotel staff shouting to one another, the sound of furniture being dragged around and very loud banging. Since I was paying a kings ransom of Rs800 per night, at least double what I normally pay, I was not impressed. I went in search of another hotel.

Just round the corner I found a small guesthouse with a huge room, double bed, TV and bathroom with hot water, all for Rs450. I returned to my room, packed and went to check out. I have never encountered 24hr check out before, but in India it exists. It means that you have to check out at the time you checked in – even if that time was 4.00am. I had checked-in at 8.00am. However, behind the reception desk was a huge sign “Check out time 12.00pm. By order of Jaipur Authority”. I had naively assumed the sign was correct and that check-out was at 12.00pm! This led to a big row with the reception clerk when I refused to pay for a third night and ultimately with me handing over Rs1600, stating “if you want to call the police, then call them but I am leaving now” and stalking out the front door with as much dignity as one can muster whilst wearing a 12kg rucksack and a bulging day pack on the front.

Today, March 1st, is Holi, India’s famous festival of colours and not a day to be enjoyed alone. Groups of revellers take to the streets daubing each other with brightly coloured powders or “playing Holi”. I have not met anyone since I left the Andamans and as I have been city-hopping, seeing six places in ten days, there has been no time to meet anyone. So I would be spending Holi alone.

I tried to get lunch, but every shop, restaurant, kiosk, street stall was closed – in fact all India seemed shut today. I finally found a restaurant serving lunch and had my first bad meal since arriving here, paying over the odds for the privilege.

I really wanted to get some photos of the festivities and jumping into a rickshaw I went to the centre of town. There are foreigners here and I thought I might be able to find some people to play with. The streets were weirdly quiet and only a few groups of boys, on bikes, were out throwing colour at each other. I got out of the rickshaw and began walking down the main tourist bazaars. People did approach and wish me “happy Holi” and paint me etc.  However, there was an undertone with quite a few drunks and silly teenage boys. And Indian teenage boys are incredibly frustrated.

Two boys came over and were painting me and asking me to take their photo, one tried to hug me and as I pushed him away, he managed to grope me. Today was not my lucky day, but it was his – I had my camera in my right hand, so I was only able to hit him with my much weaker left hand. He ran back to his rickshaw but I must have thumped him about ten times before he got there. I hope it hurt him as much as my arm is still aching now!

Deciding that I had had enough “fun” I returned to my room. I tried to wash the colour off – but it is really hard to remove and my ears and neck are still stained red/neon pink. Then my washing line wouldn’t stay up so I couldn’t dry my washing. I finally found a shop open where I could top-up my phone credit but after trying five times it still wouldn’t work. And so it went on all day.

Now I am sitting in total darkness. Just waiting, for over an hour, for the electricity to come back on.

Today has frustrated me so much I have been seriously considering leaving India. I have been here nearly five months and I have loved so much of it, but the north is very different to the south. I seem have lost my sense of humour with rickshaw drivers and people trying to rip me off. I feel angry, defensive and aggressive when dealing with these situations. I am so used to them now; perhaps the ennui has set in. I expect and know someone is trying to con me. I have stopped haggling; I simply don’t bother any more. I will only give my money to the man who gives me an honest price from the out set – not everyone is trying to rip off the tourists.

I am going to Pushkar. Apparently calm and oh-so-Zen, it’s a perfect place to retreat to. If I can’t shake off this mood – who knows? I could be in South-East Asia sooner than I thought.

Read Full Post »

Lets-go-diving

I am very lucky to have learnt to scuba dive when just a fresh-faced teenager. At seventeen I learnt in Cyprus and after gaining my ‘P.A.D.I Advanced Open Water Divers Certificate’, I went on a fabulous diving holiday in Hurghada, Egypt – The Red Sea, don’t you know? However, diving is an expensive hobby and I have not been since; selling my fins and mask a long time ago.

scuba-boat

Andaman Islands just happen to have some really incredible dive sites, several schools begging to take you diving and loads of enthusiastic divers regaling you with their “I saw dolphins/turtles/manta ray” stories – less about them later. I found a latent passion being awoken. However, I was nervous after all I hadn’t dived for years and there is a lot to remember about breathing, mask clearing and not dying under water. 

I set about finding the right dive-school for me. In the end I selected the one who didn’t think that I needed to go through an expensive hour-long refresher course before hand. I was fitted for fins, mask and a wet suit and once I had signed away my right to any kind of compensation or the right to sue, my name went up on the board – I was going diving. I then spent the whole day prior mugging up from a diving manual. Remembering how to not explode my lungs when ascending on a dive, the correct way to take off a weight belt and how to properly throw up under the water.

Dive-buddies

Sitting on the boat, listening to the Divemaster go through safety procedures and the specific hand signals we would be using to communicate with one another under the water, I was feeling trepidation. The dive was a ‘reef dive’ and we would be going to a depth of no more than 18m, perfect for my first foray back to the murky depths. Visibility (the furthest distance you can see) would be 15-18m – so not murky at all. We would be making a line descent – this is where a rope reaches from the surface down to the sea bed and you literally make your way down the rope to the correct depth. Entry into the water would backwards off the boat.

Sunset-logs

Totally kitted out in wetsuit, scuba tanks, fins, scuba jacket, 7kgs of weights on my belt and a mask. Having checked my air was working and that my tanks were full, I was ready to enter the water. I sat on the edge of the boat and the crew did my last safety checks. On three I was supposed to roll backwards off the edge of the boat, whilst holding my mask and mouthpiece (regulator) in place. “One, two,.. Three”. I looked up at the guy; he looked down at me, with a quizzical expression that seemed to say “What are you still doing here?”  

scuba-tanks

“Ok” he said “on three?” I nodded; yes I was ready this time. I psyched myself up, took a deep breath, I was ready this time – this time I would go. After all flinging myself backwards off a boat, whilst laden down with a hideous amount of cumbersome equipment is practically second nature to me. “One, two, THREE!” As I had made no attempt to leave the boat and was still looking blankly at him, he gave my shoulder a huge shove and I somersaulted backwards off the boat, landing in the water with a large splash. I was in!

Sara-Scuba 

I took my time descending making sure I was safe and comfortable. I probably spent the first fifteen minutes getting used to the equipment and the strange phenomenon of being able to breathe underwater. Only after that did I start to notice the fish.

The water was warm, clear translucent blue. The many different species of fish and corals made the scene almost unreal, like a computer screensaver. Huge Parrotfish coloured blue, pink, green and purple glided heavily through the water, smaller Angelfish, Sweetlips and Needle fish move purposefully in shoals and tiny bright neon ones flit around the corals. My favourite was the small Boxfish. All dressed up for Mardi-Gras, he is box-shaped with lips, fins and a tail, to finish the look he is bright lemon yellow with black polka-dots – I’m picturing a handbag!. There was an anemone with three Nemo fish (AKA Clownfish), which made me very excited and frustrated that I cannot talk underwater – to share the experience, not communicate with Nemo! The corals were stunning, multi- coloured and fascinating to drift over watching the lives of the inhabitants. It was wonderful to be able to dip back in to this ocean world so easily.

We went to “The Wall” and “Dixon’s Wreck”. I much preferred The Wall. Literally a wall of coral that you can peruse at your leisure or until the air runs out. There are hundreds of fish flitting in all different directions so it’s a great site for snorkeling too. The wreck was ugly and dull, having sunk during the Tsunami it hasn’t developed a proper reef yet. However, right beside it was a very pretty reef that made up for it.

me-on-Beach-3

Two more dives logged and although the lure of night dives, sharks and turtles was quite strong I chose to save my scuba pounds for the promise of outstanding diving in Indonesia. That’s right folks I have added Indonesia to the itinerary, be very excited – starting ……….one, two,..THREE!

More-sunsets

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »