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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

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!

Eyeshine, spiders and monkeys

We had a lovely couple of days around the Khao Sok National Park. We stayed in a lovely, and quite substantial shack, in a place that served up food in beautiful surroundings. For our breakfast viewing pleasure the staff hung up bananas to entice pretty birds to their flower clad dining area.

I was rather hoping to be able to provide you with a dramatic post - “A tiger chewed my leg off” or “An elephant sat on my sandwich” but the charismatic megafauna was not to be found. We did see some fluffy-headed White-crowned hornbills amongst other aves whilst Long-tailed macaques provided mammalian entertainment. We also saw more different, and impressive, species of butterfly than we have ever seen before.

After a lovely curry for tea we took a turn around some of the forest in the dark. We saw the eyes of a handful of mouse deer, chanced across a civet, some tree frogs and some very scary, but pretty, looking spiders.

Fiona’s found a new career…

She’s been inspired by this scene…

rabbit.JPG

and wants to be a Happy Go Lucky Talent Rabbit.

Other amusing signs we have spotted in Thailand include one advertising “Ice for rent”!

Temples and beaches

After a hot and steamy day in Bangkok we are now on the  moderately relaxing island of Ko Tao where we live in a shack  by the beach and eat fine food.  Apart from the changes of location, accommodation, diet and temperature, we now also have someone else to talk to in the form of Bella, who we picked up in a bar in Bangkok.

Talking of being picked up, we enjoyed the best hotel “pick-up” from our accomodation in Bangkok where we had booked a transfer, bus and boat to Ko Tao. Our pick up involved someone coming to find us at 0530 and walking us to the bus. Not quite what we expected, but luckily it wasn’t far.

Bangkok was quite an experience. It’s more laid back than Central America - touts on the street give up after a simple “No”. We stayed in the backpacker district of Banglamphu for a night and wandered the rather amusing Kao San Road. We also got Bella fitted out with a couple of nice dresses (can’t have our travelling companions looking shabby now, can we?).

The King is very popular here, as is Buddha, so we went to the Grand Palace and visited a small green Buddha with a disproportionately large temple, all gold and sparkly.

Fiona would like me to state that I am the “King of Understatement” and that I should emphasise how impressive these buildings were. A picture speaks a thousand words, so here’s one:

temple.JPG

We’re ‘In Transit’

We’re in Sydney Airport. It’s very like many other airports, but has some free internet facilities if you look in obscure corners. It’s not very sunny here, but we had a nice fly over town on the way in.

Must go. Fe needs a new bikini…

Bye bye NZ

After two months and 7000 odd kilometres, our travels round New Zealand are almost at an end. Today we said a sad goodbye to our lovely Campervan (after spending yesterday evening cleaning it). Awww - it served us well, even if it wasn’t mossie proof. Here it is about to fall off a cliff:

van.JPG

We now have a day or so to spend kicking around Auckland (not entirely sure there’s too much to entertain us, but I’m sure we’ll survive). Next we are going to Thailand for three weeks for more beach bumming, diving and perhaps some temple viewing… ahh how difficult our lives are.

When we return we’ll have to get jobs though, so any offers, of a legal variety only, might be appreciated. Thanks!

Poorly behaved endangered species

The island of Tiritiri Matangi is described as somewhere that anyone with even a mild interest in wildlife must visit. Eagerly we booked ourselves on a boat, with only slight disappointment at the huge number of our journey mates.

One of the highlights of the island is the Takahe, which resembles a rather overgrown moorhen. Now, the Takahe is one of the rarest birds in the world; it’s terribly endangered, and was once thought extinct. Rare birds should, of course, be difficult to see, and behave with a certain dignity befitting their status.

Takehe

This Takahe is stealing a chocolate bar from an old lady’s lunch. How rude is that? This beast is known - it is called Greg and will regularly strut around the beach begging and stealing food. All well and good you might say, more energy means Greg is better able to service the ladies and save the species from extinction! Not so, Greg has been eating too much junk food and can’t keep a lady. He hasn’t bred for years. Utterly useless. He should be confined to the sperm bank then poor old ladies lunches will be safe and any genetic uselfulness will be preserved.

At last…

After nearly two months of intermittent night-time wanderings we finally saw a wild kiwi. Several in fact, probably five. We’d heard one or two wild birds before, and seen captive birds at an excellent breeding facility in Rotorua and one lone beast in a less pleasing exhibit somewhere else (the names all disappear in a blur).

Our visit to Trounson forest was to be our last chance. Armed with red filters over our torches we entered the forest an hour after dark. Within 20 minutes we were listening to a beast snuffling and scratching just five metres from our path. After a suitably short pause to heighten excitement, a North Island Brown Kiwi popped out to say hello (well, it sniffed a little - a hello in kiwi-speak, I’m sure).

Over the next three hours we continued to explore the forest, enjoying brief glimpses of kiwi as they foraged. My particular favourite bird ran right past us as we were watching a scary looking short-finned eel and some crayfish in a stream. Quite brazen it was. Fast too, and with a comical looking rear end.

We decided to retire about 0100, and just as we were about to walk back through the gate to our conveniently located campsite two splendid kiwi decided to put on a proper performance - they strutted their stuff for a good twenty minutes in open view. Excellent stuff indeed.

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.

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