Tuesday, January 26, 2010

11,977 Miles Traveled

Jan 26, 2010
Koh Tao, Thailand
Mostly clear, some clouds, very warm and humid, 83 degrees F

A few years ago, I did a snuba drive in Mexico, where my air source was on top of the water and somebody else monitored it. I thought it was absolutely amazing, and for the last three years I have been promising to get myself scuba certified so I could really enjoy the novelty of breathing oxygen under water. Well, my procrastinating side got the better of me, and I did not get certified. Fortunately, the resort had a “discover scuba” course available, and today I dove down into the deep.
And now, I’m seriously and completely hooked. I love floating surreally in the water column and being face to face with the fish. Today, we dove near a coral reed just off of Green Rock in Koh Tao. We saw: Christmas tree worms (yellow, red, and blue colored Christmas tree shaped worms that retreat into the rocks when you get too close), Black tip grouper, Polka-Dot Wundibranch (like a brown and white sea slug, and we saw one storing its eggs on its back), Honk-kong butterfly fish, Eight-band butterfly fish, Green Throat Parrot, Orange Spotted Rabbit Fish and Bar head rabbit fish, anemone fish (these anemones were gigantic – like several feet across and home to many Nemo-like denizens), Neon damsel fish, Bowtie damsel fish, and tons and tons of Scissor-tail Sergeant fish, as well as hundreds of small black fish that I couldn’t find in the guide book.
This reef was so fecund that we swam through huge, thick schools of fish almost constantly. There was a very strong current and the dive master strapped me down with way too much weight. As soon as I let air out of my BCD (buoyancy control device) I immediately sank. Fast. Between the current and keeping myself off the bottom, it seemed to be a really good work out. We were under for about 40 minutes, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience. One of my favorite sensations is hanging upside down under water and feeling the compressed air rush into my lungs as it escapes from my tank. It is absolutely exhilarating.
On the boat ride back to the resort, I noticed that there were several plumes of smoke along the horizon. When we got back to our bungalows, someone just below us had started a fire. I think that these fires are from burning the waste – another example of the difficulty of waste removal on an island. The smoke plume about a hundred meters from our bungalow has been increasing steadily over the last hour, and suddenly died off. The smoke has infused my hair and clothes and is not the earthy smell of campfire, but the painful harsh smell of burning plastic. While nowhere near as bad as Bangkok, the air here is quite polluted, especially near roads The diesel exhaust from the motorcycles combined with the smoke from the fires means that about a kilometer off shore, you could begin to smell the humans.

Tonight, for the first time on the trip, I am going out to some of the bars around the island. There is a “cave party” that looks quite interesting, which is held in a bar that is designed to look like the Flintstones’ house. Some more unrelated pieces of information: I was looking out the window during my shower this evening, and I noticed that our neighbor had thrown a scissors at the tree and it had become lodged into the bark. A dog howling woke me up at 5:30 this morning and I asked Allen to go throw rocks at it. “No way,” said Allen, “I don’t want to get mauled by a feral dog tonight.” Roosters crow incessantly. We lost a day in travel, so while I have blogged every day, I didn’t think you guys would want to read a duplicate of my thoughts and observations as I crossed the international dateline. So I’ve finally caught up and changed the date on my blogs. Other than that, I’m just pretty excited just to relax and take it easy after such an intense day. That being said, I cannot WAIT until I get to dive again.

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