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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for Accommodation

“Great God, this is an awful place”

Now, I know Scott was somewhere with a rather more challenging climate than the 30 degrees Celcius we are currently experiencing, but by a slight error of judgement we have ended up in a place that can only be described as …er… a bit pants. Well, OK I could describe it otherwise, but standards of decency must be maintained.

We are on the beach of Hat Khong Nin on the island Ko Lanta. Our guidebook describes the island favourably, however thus far it has no redeeming features whatsoever. It is a hole. Even my red curry was a wet, watered down flavourless affair.

We arrived on the island having failed to book accommodation in advance (we did try, but Thai phones are somewhat taxing). A seemingly reasonable gentleman touting for business on the jetty offered us board at his establishment, the Lanta Nice Beach Resort, and offered us a lift there. His place had an OK review in the manual, so we went against all our past reservations of such touts and went with him.

On arrival he informed us there was, in fact, no room at the inn, and didn’t even offer us a stable. We searched up and down the beach and found all the other hotels to be full. To add to our annoyance, the town was not even nice. Finally we found a smelly room at the Pink House. It’s the most expensive room we’ve had in Thailand, and also the least pleasing.

We’re cutting our losses and leaving on the next ferry, 17 hours after arriving.

We found Nemo

We have just returned from a fine couple of days diving at Ko Similan, an archipelago about 60 miles off the west coast. We we’re accommodated on a small live-aboard dive boat called Linda which was very nice, but had the firmest mattresses we have yet experienced in a country that revels in the firmness of a mattress. It was run by Sign Scuba who were great fun and are proudly “Wan hundet pahcen Thai”.

The diving was fantastic; the most colourful and abundantly fishy place we have dived yet. We saw lots of Clark’s anemonefish (recently popularised in a cartoon), several hawksbill turtles (one tried to nibble my toes - not quite as dangerous as the tiger that might have chewed my leg off previously but it could have inflicted a nasty nip), a black-tipped reef shark, and a multitude of colourful and pretty fish. The coral was good too, as were the shrimpy things.

We’re back in Khao Lak now. Heading to Krabi and Ko Lanta tomorrow.

Travelling the Thai way

We have noticed over the course of our journeys through Thailand that what we expect to happen is generally not what actually occurs (we should have guessed this from our “Pick-up” in Bangkok). Take the following two examples (well actually our only two trips since arriving in Ko Tao):

1. What we wanted to do: Get from the island of Ko Tao to the mainland national park Khao Sok, 190km away.

How we thought we would do it: Ferry from Ko Tao to mainland, bus to Khao Sok.

What the travel agent said would happen: Ferry to mainland, ‘Taxi’ from ferry terminal to ferry company’s office, ‘Taxi’ to Khao Sok.

What actually happened: After a self arranged longtail boat to the ferry in Ko Tao, we got a ferry to another island (Ko Samui for those interested), where we were then driven across the island to another ferry to the mainland. We then got put on a bus to the ferry office (1.5 hrs away), where we had to phone the ‘Taxi’ company to let them know we had arrived and needed a lift (well, actually a helpful Thai ferry rep helped us). Waited long past our booked time for a little songtheaw (truck with a bench in the back) to pick us up and take us a couple of km to the ‘Taxi’ company office. Waited some more. A woman in charge finally arrived and tried to persuade us that to get taken to the national park, we would have to stay in a particular hotel. We refused as already had a place to stay (”Why you angry with me? It not me, it the driver!”). She told us that it would therefore only drop us at the main road. Got put on a (very cramped) minivan which, after some very scary driving, happily took us to our required place, the very lovely and highly recommended Morning Mist resort. In total our journey took 12 hours and 7 different modes of transport - quite an epic, especially when you consider the short(ish) distance travelled!

2. What we wanted to do: Get from Khao Sok to Khao Lak.

How we thought we would do it: A truck to the bus stop on the main road, a local bus to Khao Lak - scheduled at 11.30 and 12.00.

What actually happened: Our resort kindly droped us off at the bus stop at 11.15. We waited. Then we waited some more. At 12.15 a minivan arrived and made a small fortune taking us and four more bored Farang (tourists) to their required destination. No sign of any local bus at any point. Still not even sure what one looks like. Quite embarrassing actually!

It’s grim up North

We made it to the top of New Zealand (well, nearly), had a fine walk and a swim on a rather beautiful, long and sweeping, deserted beach, not half an hour’s walk from the procession of grockles heading to Cape Reinga lighthouse.

We camped by a beach on the other side of the Cape - a very  beautiful spot too. Only when the sun set did we discover the dark side of this delightful spot: more mosquitoes than I have ever seen before. The lee side of our van was black with them. All night we could hear the whine of these infernal beasts.

For the past eight months we have been cursing the mosquito net that we have been carrying around and have only used once. This night we used it - it fitted badly in the camper van, however it saved us from the hoards of mossies that we knew would find their way into the van.

In the morning we awoke to discover the power of Permethrin. Approximately 200 dead mosquitoes lined each side of our net (on the outside!). A few we still flying around, looking slightly intoxicated. We soon dispensed with them.

We are now in Rawene and heading south. Just one more week in New Zealand, then we are off to Thailand.

The north of the South

Over the last few days we have been exploring the north coast of the South Island - we started off towards the west with the Abel Tasman national park - there is a coastal track and lots of kayaking going on around there - we went for a couple of day walks around the area to check out some of the beaches, seal and shag colonies that are around - we had lovely weather (with red nose and shoulders to prove it), and the sea was a beautiful colour - so tempting to go for a dip, although a paddle proved sufficiently chilly and refreshing. We punctuated our hard walking (ha!) with afternoon naps on the beach - a habit I could get used to.

We saw in the New Year in a layby with views to the estuary and bottle of Tui beer, lovely!

The second main national park on the coast comprises Queen Charlotte Sounds - on the east side of the island. We arrived late in the afternoon after a scenic if twisty and hilly journey - we stayed in a relatively busy campsite (in comparison to the laybys we had previously been using) and finally went for a swim in the warmish waters of the sound. Yesterday we checked out a small section of the Queen Charlotte Track, which runs along the coast and occasionally into some of the bays and tramped through some overgrown grass and reeds to find our own lovely little beach for lunch - a Weka came and said hello, and Chris went for a quick dip - I was too wimpy and stuck with the paddling.

We are currently in Picton debating whether to go on a boat trip this afternoon for some dolphin and bird spotting. Tomorrow we head off on the Cook Strait to the North Island.

‘Tis the season to be jolly

Well, actually in NZ it feels like completely the wrong season mostly - all a bit too warm and sunny. On Christmas day the weather did its best though - it was very wet and rather chilly for quite a lot of it. We did, however, manage a walk to look at the Fox glacier before the clouds burst again. The glacier is pretty impressive, although it perhaps might have been more so if we could see the big mountains that were obscured by cloud in the background. Ah well.

For Christmas we both got flip flops as our previous pairs had sadly passed away over the last couple of weeks - very distressing, especially for mine which have been with me for a good number of years and a few travels - Reef flip flops therefore highly recommended.

We treated ourselves to a buffet style lunch full of our favourite things at a nice picnic spot in the rain, with an almost constant stream of campervans and cars driving past, though there were nice views when the rain stopped. We had a lovely, yummy Christmas cake that Nicola had very kindly provided, and we even got a twinkling Christmas tree for 97c (about 30p) courtesy of The Warehouse in Queenstown “Where everyone gets a bargain” - apparently this is true!

After checking out our planned camp for the evening and finding it was in fact a car park, and busy as well, we headed along the road and found a nice little grassy spot where we had our Christmas dinner - for those interested this consisted of “Marinated Aubergine Steak”, “Sauteed garlic mushrooms and capsicum” and new potatoes glazed with butter. Delicious. This was rounded off with a rather nice white wine from Gisborne, NZ.

Hope you all had an equally lovely day.

Always choose your tent carefully…

T’was Christmas morn by Lake Paringa. We were enjoying the pleasures of a small campsite and a morning cup of tea. Entertainment was kindly provided by a lone camper striking his tent (in the camping sense, rather than in violence).

Over the course of an hour we watched this Mr Bean like character fail to pack his tent away. Now, you might argue that it being the season of goodwill to all men I should have offered my extensive tent folding experience however:

1. He had erected his tent in a position that spoiled our view so we were not inclined towards generosity.

2. It was Christmas, he was alone, thus clearly a psychopath.

Now, why did it take him a hour before he succeeded in his task? His tent was a natty self erecting tent that sprang open and assumed the position as soon as released from its bag. Just when he thought that game was over and the tent in the bag, it escaped his grasp and exploded back to square one.

Chrismas Eve visitations

I awoke to the sound of a mosquito in my ear and rain on the roof. It was 0500 and we were camped by a braided river not far from the three townships of Haast.

My skin was all itches and bumps. I enquired as to the state of consciousness of my beloved. Upon finding her mostly awake I continued to ask her whether she had suffered at the hands of flying insects. By the time her sluggish brain had processed my words and considered the environmental conditions I was up and jumping about and not concerned with her answer.

The van was full of mosquitoes. Hundreds of them. These were the first mossies we had met in NZ. Ordinarily we suffered from Sandflies which give a nasty nip, but can’t penetrate the van unless we open the door for them.

There was nothing else to do but drive away with the windows open. We travelled 30 or so kilometres to Haast Beach which afforded fine surf views. We spent one whole hour killing mosquitoes, then went back to bed.

It rained all morning so we stayed in bed, drank tea and watched the huge surf. When the precipitation stopped we struggled out and had a solar shower. As there had been no sun, it was cold. Why we waited for it to stop raining, I’m not sure.

Our new abode

Last week we picked up our new camper van. We were slightly apprehensive since we’re going to be in it for two months, and the last one was fine, but basic to say the least (and this current one was even cheaper). We were therefore very pleasantly surprised to discover it had fridge, two hobs, a grill, electric pump tap and even fluffy towels and a duvet - luxury! We’re easily pleased nowadays! Oh, and the fold up chairs even had cushions - so posh! The table and seating area inside the van turns into the bed and so we have seating for about eight people - so if you’d like to come round for dinner - we even have a spare bed in the roof!

We can in theory stand up in the van which is also a nice change, although Chris still succeeds in banging his head at least once a day - think we might have to get him a hard hat for Christmas (if his head lasts that long!).

Needless to say we are enjoying our new found luxury accommodation and have been taking it to lots of nice places - there’s loads of free, pretty camping places if you look hard enough!

Why is everyone staring at us?

We observed that whenever we drove into a populated car park people stared at us. It dawned on us that it might be because our van looked like this

van21.JPG

Our camper van is from a company called Wicked which paint all their vans with silly stuff and cartoons. Our van has the Lord’s Prayer on one side, the Ten Commandments on the other and “A dead athiest is someone that is all dressed up with nowhere to go” on the rear. Its name is “No Peace”.

van3.JPG

This all seemed to tickle quite a few people; several times we found people sneaking up to photograph our trusty home. Fortunately they mostly did it whilst we were out (at least I think they did).

We saw another Wicked van with “Is there another word for synonym?” on its tail. We rather liked that.

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