- Written by TimSC
- Category: Travel
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Time away from work: 184 days
Time away from the UK: 168 days
Approximate distance flown: 49,000km
Instructed dive certifications: 23 approx (12 OW, 11 AOW)
Number of photos taken: 2400+ (although many where deleted)
- Written by TimSC
- Category: Travel
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18th Jan 2007
It's all done. This should be the last entry in this web log. Perhaps I will start writing another if I have a good reason.
Thanks to all who made my trip work well (directly and indirectly). There are probably too many to list without forgetting some important people!
Any way I will finish on a quote that sums my feelings up:
'Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together,' said Merry. 'We have left all the rest behind, one after another. It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.'
'Not to me,' said Frodo. 'To me it feels more like falling asleep again'.
LA, United States
17th Jan 2007
I am on route back to London with a quick stop here in LA for about 3 hours. We stopped on the way at Tahiti for 2 hours and I stayed in the airport. There was a big crab running about the departure hall for some reason. (It's a strange world.)
LA is about what I expected considering I have only time to walk down the street and find an Internet cafe. I have to get back shortly for my London flight. I did see down town and the hollywood sign as we landed.
Wide roads in the city (3 lanes in each direction) where you would get squished if you crossed at the wrong place. Lots of 4x4 vehicles and pick ups. To quote the Movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit: "You lack vision, but I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on all day, all night. Soon, where Toon Town once stood will be a string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food. Tire salons, automobile dealerships and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. My God, it'll be beautiful. "
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
15th Jan 2007
I am on my last full day of my trip, not counting traveling. It's hard to believe I even attempted this trip, less still that it's over. I think I achieved everything I set out to achieve.
- Dive cool places
- See a few other countries
- A break from the routine in UK
- Work as a dive instructor (briefly)
I am looking forward to getting a small bit of routine back on my return.
Yesterday, diving was canceled because of the wind direction. We could only go from the north harbour on Sunday because God sent cyclones to warn us not to use the south and west boat launches on the day of rest (seriously what we were told). Instead I climbed up part of a nearby mountain. I got to about 280m above sea level with the peak at 340m. The remainder of the climb looked hard.
I was diving today, perhaps the last for a while. We saw some stuff - Spanish dancer, moray eel, etc. It was good.
Thankfully, Mike Ball Diving found my wet suit so I am going to have it posted back (somewhere).
Tomorrow I am leaving for LA so my next update will be from there or more likely the UK on Thursday.
13th Jan 2007
The weather continues to improve. We had just one or two brief showers. Finished the book Empire of the Sun. I am thinking is this book finally over? (Mirroring Jim's confusion on if WW2 had ended). It was interesting in places but sometimes hard to fathom to others.
I might go up into the hills later when it cools slightly. If I can be bothered. :) Diving tomorrow probably.
12th Jan 2007
Yesterday diving was canceled because of the wind. I did nothing but read more of The Empire of the Sun. It was a bit depressing being trapped indoors reading about the protagonist being even more trapped! We went out into the town for food and to see local drumming and dancing.
Today was the best weather I have seen on Rarotonga with only the occasional shower. I just got back from two dives. They were good but again a large surge making photography difficult.
I have to remember to apply mosquito repellent frequently since they got me just walking from one room to another last night. Dengue fever is apparently a potential risk.
Tomorrows plans depends on the weather...
11th Jan 2007
Diving yesterday was quite good. I saw a few things - crayfish, nudibrach, etc but it's hard to compete with the other places I have dived recently. Similan Islands and the Barrier Reef are among the best in the world. Here is not that good but still fun. There was a strong surge that made photography rather difficult. I should be diving again this afternoon.
The last two days have seen frequent showers. I was lucky to miss the worst when I was diving. The forecast is set to continue but with perhaps lighter winds. Since I am not going out much, I finished Perilous Power and started Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard. Perilous Power concerned US forgein policy in the middle east. It appears there have been recent developments with Bush admitting mistakes.
9th Jan 2007
It's raining. Not much to do when it's raining. At least people are around to keep me company in the lounge of the hostel. When it changed to drizzle at about 2pm I cycled around the island in about 2 hours 15 (30km ish).
I have been getting through books at a great rate. Finished Magician's Gambit by David Eddings, Why I Am So Wise (Ecce Homo and The Twilight of the Idols) by Friedrich Nietzsche. I am reading Perilous Power by Chomsky and Achcar. I am still reading Driving Blind (slowly).
I booked diving with Dive Rarotonga but it was canceled today because of the wind. Frankly, I hope its canceled tomorrow because the forecast is for more rain. And I realized I lost my wetsuit - very annoying. I am going to try to track it down.
Rarotonga is odd in a few ways. It's about what I expected but all the restaurants only open after 6pm!! What's going on there?? There are also many church's of most missionary religions (JWs, Mormons, Catholic) which is kind of... patronising(?) for such a small island.
7th Jan 2007
I have arrived in Rarotonga. Not much to report so far. Everything is closed on Sunday apparently. I am going to find a dive centre when I get a chance.
It was strange going back a day because of the date line. I left Auckland on the 8th Jan. I think to avoid further confusion we should globally change to Coordinated Universal Time.
Auckland, New Zealand
7th Jan 2007
On Thursday, I drove from Wellington to New Plymouth with a stop at Wanganui for food. I considered driving around Mount Egmont but I was tired of driving and went a direct route. The hotel in New Plymouth turned out to be vacant student accommodation. I walked to the beach which was the usual black volcanic sand.
Yesterday, I traveled back to Auckland with a break in Ngaruawahia. The total distance I drove in New Zealand was about 2300km. I visited the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. It was a welcome rest from driving. The tour through the caves was good. A river runs though the lower part with hundreds of thousands of glowworms attached to the ceiling. The lights were like the night sky except for they were all about the same brightness. Under the glow, I could vaguely see the rest of the group - about half moon brightness. It was creepy to think they each had several snares hanging below to catch prey. Fortunately the maximum length of the snares was about 40cm.
Recently, my battery charger and music players have broken. When I get an annoying song in my head I can't listen to music to forget it! I have another reason to get back to the UK.
This is the second time I am typing this diary entry. Internet Explorer lost the data and has given me another reason to hate it. If you have a choice, use another browser for all our sakes. I say this as both a web user and web page designer. Ok rant finished - I feel slightly better now.
I have emailed work to confirm I am returning on the 19th Jan. It will be a surprise (hopefully not an unpleasant one) to find which project I will be assigned.
Next update should be from Rarotonga after I find an Internet cafe.
Wellington, New Zealand
4th Jan 2007
I saw the movie The Queen at the Embassey Theatre. It hardly had any staff and no displayed movie times (you had to ask) so I was not sure what to expect. The screen itself was actually very large - nice place to visit and the film was quite good. My preferred option is to have massive reform of the monarchy and second choice is abolition (not that its particularly relevant).
At last, Air New Zealand have reissued my tickets. I was there when the office opened at 9:30 and it was completed in about 15 minutes.
I drove to the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve and walked up the river bed to the pinnacles which took about 45 minutes. The rock has been eroded by water into interesting shapes. Incidentally a scene from Lord of the Rings was filmed there (the Dimholt road).
I drove further along the coast to Cape Palliser Lighthouse. The steps up to the lighthouse nearly wore me out! I could vaguely see the South Island in the distance. I stopped in Martinborough for food on the way back.
Tomorrow I am traveling to New Plymouth.
3rd Jan 2007
All fine here. I have been busy. I have the hire car so I can cover more distance. I Went up Mount Eden which is an inactive volcano only 5km from the city centre. It has an amazing 360 degree panorama. You will probably notice I mention the view several times. The landscape of New Zealand is stunning. That reminds me of a road sign I saw: Thermal Explorer Scenic Highway 400km - that is quite a long scenic route!.
I drove to Matamata and wandered around the area Hobbiton was filmed in. I headed towards Napier and saw the Wairakei Geothermal Power Plant. I am told the whole country is volcanically active and has a few active volcanoes. I stopped for lunch near Lake Taupo. Again, saw many interesting landscapes.
Yesterday, I looked around Napier - from the Bluff Lookout over Hawke Bay and walked around the town. The town was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt a mostly Art Deco style. I walked for an hour on the Northern Circuit in the Tongariro National Park. The full walk is about 8 hours and goes around the active volcanoes. I drove up to Whakapapa and Turoa Ski Areas where sections of the Lord of the Rings was filmed.
I am now in Wellington and I will explorer for most of today. Hopefully I can get my tickets reissued... I am in the city for about two days.
Update: I started and finished the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in two days. It was similar in tone to the well known film adaptation Blade Runner but most details and plot were different. I was listening to Sound Lounge on Concert FM on the drive down to Wellington. Lots of ambient and electronic music - I should find more of that.
I am feeling tired now and its only 4PM. I walked to the film location in Lord of the Rings where they first encounter a black rider. It is suprisingly in the middle of the city in the town belt park! I asked Air New Zealand to get my tickets reissued. They asked me to come back tomorrow. Mildly annoying since I have been bounced around several times.
Looked around Te Papa Tongarewa (the national museum). It had a good national art gallery show. Lots of the Māori exhibits fall back on their own lexicon which makes things more complicated.
It is really windy at the moment (16C, 19mpg). I am occasionally wearing my heavy jacket. Good thing I dragged it half way around the world! Apparently it is unusually cold at the moment.
Tonight, I am going to see The Queen at the Embassy Theatre (incidentally where Return of the King world premiere was held).
Tomorrow I think I will drive over to the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve.
- Written by TimSC
- Category: Travel
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Auckland, New Zealand
Happy new year! (Although the concept is an recent and almost arbitary convention.)
Yesterday I started exploring the city. Apparently about one third of the population lives in Auckland! Nice place but slightly chilly compared to where I have been (ok its 19C not that cold). As I go south I might be needing my heavy jacket.
I visited the Auckland Museum. It has a good section on pacific islands people and culture.
I just finished planning hotels for the next few days and in Rarotonga. I am going to drive to Napier tomorrow if the plan works.
I have arrived in Auckland. The taxi driver dropped me at the wrong hotel so I booked in there instead. I have just requested a cancellation from the original hotel - hopefully this will not be a major problem.
I had a sleep for 4 hours and I have not yet seen much of the city. I will go about changing that next.
I have been attempting to have my flight tickets re-issued but I keep having the responsibility passed on - from Cairns check in, to Auckland check in to Auckland travel centre. I am beginning to get a bit tired of it.
I am just killing time in Cairns until my flight. My trip to Australia was great. In some ways it feels unreal. Next time I go to Australia, I will try to see more of the desert outback. The east coast, where I have spent my time, is mostly tropical.
The plan for New Zealand is to spend two days in Auckland to get my bearings and hire a car to drive to Wellington. I don't know if I am going to the South Island. Some people on the boat trip recommended the south but it is a long way. Someone also recommended diving the Rainbow Warrior but I will have to hire to get a dry suit - the water is much colder than the Great Barrier Reef.
The end of the trip is now getting close. Only three weeks remain.
I came second in the southboard photo competition. What was strange was I did not even enter the photo - someone else thought it was funny and I guess they were right. (You know who you are!)
The weather is overcast and I am wondering if my washing will have enough time to dry. My luggage has a slight damp feel to it from not drying properly but its back on land now and it should dry itself.
A news story that caught my interest was a parrot with a 950 word vocabulary. It just goes to show humans are (cousins of) monkeys with big brains.
I don't have any plans for today. I fly tomorrow evening and I will be at the airport early to get my tickets reissued. I finished reading A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. It was a bit strange but it was certainly different. I am also reading Driving Blind by Rad Bradbury.
This is the last full day on the boat. We have been busy diving. I have taken a great many photos. I am still debating weather I should re-enter the photo competition - I don't really need to win twice (which I judge is a possibility). The sea conditions are calm and I definately have my "sea legs". The food is excellent and has variety and quantity.
I am now beginning to think about the next phase of the trip and travel in New Zealand. I met people on the boat who raved about the place. It should be interesting.
Merry Christmas. I am still on the boat Spoilsport. We are just leaving Lizard Island with some new passengers. People are mostly from Hong Kong and the US. I was on the shore for about an hour and I had forgotten how humid it feels compared to the sea. We will be having Christmas dinner out on the ribbon reef.
A underwater photo competition was held on the boat. I managed to get the first and second prize. The shots were of a pink anemonefish and a siloetted eagle ray. It makes a change from my local club where the competition is very strong.
The dive staff conducted a shark feeding dive at North Hook of Osprey Reef. There is a large natural amphetheatre. We were lead down in single file and seated at about 15m. A metal cylinder was then lowered containing several tuna heads on a chain. The guide triggered the release and allowed the sharks to get to the bait. There was about 20 white tipped sharks and 20 grey sharks. They bit the tuna and thrashed around to break it free. After about fifteen minutes they had broken all the tuna heads loose. The sharks quickly dispursed after we started moving towards them.
We are now heading south back to Cairns. The wind has dropped and the sea conditions are much calmer. Hopefully I see a hammerhead shark or manta before we get back...
I have been on the boat Spoil Sport for the last two nights. I have been getting good diving. The boat is immense and carries about 30 passengers and 10 crew. The passengers are a wide range of nationalities. I think every continent is represented apart from Antaricia. With a group this size it is hard to bond quickly and most are only on the boat until 25th Dec. The staff eat separately from the passengers which I think is strange - I think that socializing is half the fun of working in diving.
The water is warm(ish) 27C. We have seen several white tipped reef sharks, moderate sized potato groupers and a small eagle ray. The fish and coral life are good and I think it is comparible to the Red Sea. There is a photo competition running which I am trying to tackle. I am beginning to suspect fish here are more camera shy.
Visibility has ranged from 10m to 30m or more. There is an option to do 5 dives a day but I am pacing myself at 3 to 4 a day. Yesterday we were on the ribbon reef and cod hole. Today were are at Ofspey Reef.
Conditions are suprisingly windy and rough. Last night we were cruising through 7 foot waves which kept almost everyone awake. Tonight we are staying in a sheltered area much to everyone's relief. The forcast is for improvement over the weekend.
Merry Christmas. I am going to be out of touch until next Thursday 28th. I will be out on the reef on a boat. Try on to eat and drink too much...
I finished Chart Throb. I am now going to try and locate a book shop in Cairns for a book resupply.
Hopefully I will get some photos when I am diving. I wonder how it will compare to Egypt and Thailand...
I have changed my flights to now go through New Zealand and the Cook Islands. I will miss Fiji all together and just transfer flights at LA. I feel sorry for the Fiji tourist industry though because they are probably getting loads of cancellations.
To change the flights, I went to the airport to track down Air New Zealand. I eventually found their office in an admistration building but they were just closing (at 11AM - they are only open for three half days a week). They were helpful and explained what to ask for on the reservations phone number to get things organised.
I am a bit stiff from quad biking today. Tomorrow evening, I am going on the boat but I will be online once more before then.
I spent the morning driving quad bikes. It was very different from riding them in the Egyptian desert. The tracks where off road through a forest with hills. We were told to keep the same gear for most of the time but there was enough to worry about. I had to lean left or right to keep the balance of the bike maintained on the tricky cambers. My main concorn was the brakes felt really soft and the rear brakes hardly seemed to do anything. On a few down hill slopes I had full brakes applied and I had constant speed. One of the bikes kept cutting out and left a huge trail of fumes - not very well maintained I think. Still it was fun, tiring and very challenging.
Finished Sputnik Sweetheart - excellent book, very like David Lynch in form. Started Chart Throb by Ben Elton which I expect will be an easy read.
I am having a quiet day today. I have been away for 5 months (more or less) and I have one month remaining. Strangely I am really looking forward to getting back. As Asimov said "For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse." It is possible to have too much of a good thing. I long to get something "productive" and practical done - that is part of my personality. After spending many years learning to do tecky things (like my job), it seems a waste not to be doing it. I stress it is not that I am bored with travel and diving but essentially to have my cake and eat it. Basically I want work and holiday at once which is oxymoronic. I know when I get back, I will want to go back to my current place again so there is no point me wishing away time. I almost have a duty to enjoy myself - because if I was not doing it, I would miss it. Clear? OK I thought not. I just wanted to record my thinking so I can look back on it.
I finished The Age of Falability. The author puts forward his own interpretation of politics and truth beyond "The Age of Reason". The key idea in politics is to remain open to the possibility we are wrong (what he calls an open society). I agree we should do this to stop getting trapped by dogmatism. And my dogma says avoid dogmatism! :)
I have started reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami.
I talked to Air New Zealand and apparently they can change my flight tickets on the same days as the flight, presumably for a fee. This is good because I can delay my decision on Fiji until later. I am thinking of shortening the Fiji stay or skipping it all together.
Tomorrow I have booked to go quad biking. I was so impressed by my recent driving after all...
All fine here. I drove down to see The Boulders and various other national park areas. I returned the car - no comments were made so I guess I did not damage it (too much).
Tomorrow I will probably stay in town and plan futher activities.
I have been driving around the area in a hire car to see the local sights. I think it was the right decision not to drive to Townsville - its a long way and the roads are windey. Yesterday I was in the Atherton Tablelands and I drove around Lake Tinaroo. The whole area has surrounding mountain ranges covered in thick forests.
I was driving along the dirt road by Lake Tinaroo when I had a slight mishap. Perhaps I had forgotten that dirt roads have much less grip than tarmac... I was going a bit fast. On rounding a down hill right hand corner I span the car 180 degrees. oops! Fortunately, there appears to be no harm done. I did get a bit of a shock. I spend all the time since driving cautiously to the point of paranoia.
I drove to Emerald Creek Falls which is 18km along a dirt road in the middle of no where. My car was the only one in the car park. I was thinking I really hope the car does not break down since it was a long walk back!. Looking back along the valley there was no sign of human development. I can imagine what people thought when they were exploring Australia. It's big and potentially dangerous. (Also I did feel like I was heading into the "blank space on the map" as in the Heart of Darkness.)
Today I was in the Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge in Daintree National Park. The coast road and the forest where beautiful.
I have the hire car for one more day. Tomorrow, I will be heading south to Innisfail. I am still undecided what to do about the Fiji situation.... I have almost finished reading The Age of Fallibility by George Soros.
Arrived in Cairns. I have located the boat trip company office and an internet cafe. The town is more touristy than even central Sydney but it is relaxing and convenient. I am going to hire a car for the next few days since I have time before the boat. I just finished reading Heart of Darkness - it's a good read but not really recommended for reading while travelling solo!
This is my last full day in Sydney. I was not doing much last weekend except for a 26km bike ride around Olympic Park with Vic. Yesterday, I was in the Paddington area for a look and I went down to the Centennial Park and Fox Studios area. I was lucky to avoid the thundery showers on my way back. My next update should be from Cairns. The Fiji situation is still unresolved.
I watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for the first time this morning. Very amusing but strange. Tobey Maguire's small role was good.
I wandered around Pott's Point and down to the Australian Museum (mainly natural history). Very good exhibits but they seem to be doing a large amount of renovation.
Yesterday I was in Sydney again looking around the central area. I passed by Darling Harbour, in the Chinese Garden and the Powerhouse Museum. They had an interesting special exhibit on the Great Wall of China.
Today I think I am going to take it easy. My legs are worn out!
I was sight seeing today. Started at the Opera House, round the botanical gardens, in the NSW art gallery, lunch, then got the train to Bondi Beach. I walked a long way...
There was a coup in Fiji - still hoping it will calm down.
Tomorrow, I will probably go into the city centre.
I met Malcolm and went diving from Manly with Pro Dive. The boat was full to capacity making things rather cramped. Even though the water was 20C, I was really cold in my 5mm semi-dry wetsuit. I think I am acclimatised to warmer water unfortunately. We saw a weedy sea dragon and a few other things. I think I will need to return with a dry suit.
The view of the habour is very good from the Manly ferry. I took a few more photos.
I had a look around The Rocks area of Sydney. It was very scenic with many interesting buildings. I went into the Observatory, Cadman's Cottage and the market. In the evening we (Vic, Anne, Sandra, me) went out to an Indian restaurant and had a drink in Darling Harbour. We missed the fireworks by 5 minutes.
It is unseasonally cool but the forcast is for hot and sunny after Tuesday.
I have arrived in Sydney feeling sleep withdrawn. I am staying with my aunt and uncle in Burwood. I think I am going to have a nap.
I am monitoring the situation in Fiji. "There is a very unstable situation on the ground that is unfolding very quickly"
I had the usual culture shock (for a European) to see Christmas decorations used in the summer! I need to get a photo of that....
- Written by TimSC
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I have been soooo lazy in the last few days. It is just too humid to move and I just don't feel like doing anything. My transfer to the airport is in two hours anyway. I am looking forward to seeing family in Sydney and being in a less humid climate!
--- WARNING: RANT ON FOX NEWS FOLLOWS---:
I have been watching lots of news on the TV to catch up with the world. I am getting into Fox News but you need to question every word they say (or imply). For example "Is Global Warming A Hoax?". It really annoys me when non-experts like Jim Inhofe can state that the scientific consesus is a fraud and there is no expert there to rebut his claims (and the presenters did not press him on evidence). Perhaps it is an inconvient truth that much of his campaign donations from the energy (oil) industry. And don't even get my started on Fox News's medical science coverage!
--- END OF RANT ---
The situation in Fiji seems to be getting more unstable.
I noticed the Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Fiji. Hopefully things calm down before January or I will have to change my plans. I might spend time in New Zealand or another Pacific location instead.
I personally find outside the Dive Centre and Hotel a bit of a culture shock. This is amplified by the signs being mostly in Thai - which I don't understand. The area seems pretty seedy with quick access to very seedy. Getting around its interesting with unsafe looking mopeds and rip off taxis. However the food is excellent.
I have returned from the live aboard trip to the Similan Islands on Marco Polo. I have not been able to do updates while I was away. We were even outside of mobile phone converage for the entire time. Incidentally my email is again having problems - urgent message use SMS text.
The passangers and staff on the trip were mostly Germans - all except one Czech, one Portuguese and myself. The rest of the group were friendly and often used English when I was around so I could follow their conversations. We were all experienced divers with at least 50 dives each. I think this is the first time on a live aboard when I was the most experienced passenger. The staff (boat and diving) were very helpful. They translated the briefings into English. One of the instructors looked very similar to Eddie Izzard and I could not help thinking of that every time I saw him. I would say this was the best liveaboard trip I have had (on the other had the other two were disasterous). I would strongly recommend Sea Bees Diving especially if you speak German or you were part of a large group. Everything was very well organised (German efficiency?).
The diving in the Similan Islands was excellent. Water temperature was 29C visibility 30-40 metres except when there were upwellings that lasted for a few minutes (25C, 5 metres visibility). The types and abundance of fish and turtle life was impressive - comparible to or better than Marsa Alam. The coral life I would say was not so good. The underwater terrain was rocky with steep and interesting formations. The currents were moderate to strong but apparently this is a seasonal variable. We were out of the manta and whale shark season and we did not see any this time. My only annoyance with the diving is we were swimming into currents more than 50% of the time. Typically we plan to dive with currents to save effort (and therfore air).
I did see and photograph many other interesting species. I have good photos of sea horses, turtles, ghost pipefish, porcelain crabs and others. I am looking forward to viewing them on a computer. If I can, I will put some on this page in the next week or so.
I found and read The Laughing Policeman book by Sjöwall and Wahlöö on the boat. I am currently lacking books and I will buy some new ones when I can.
I am back in the Palm Garden Resort where several other passengers are also staying. I am currently enjoying doing nothing much - sleep, TV, reading Australia guide books. Tomorrow I might go into Phuket town.
Not much news at the moment. I have been diving daily around Phuket. I have a few problems with my diving equipment but replacement parts were found by Sea Bees. Their boats are excellent for diving and very organised.
I am going to pack tonight as I am going on the liveaboard tomorrow for 6 days. I doubt I will have an opportunity to do web site updates for that time.
I was diving with See Bees today. They have a large dive boat so it is easy to assemble the kit. Most of the people on the boat are Germans along with various others. The visibility was not particularly great today at about 10 metres. I hear the visibility varies considerably depending on the weather conditions. The water is very walm at 29C to 30C. We saw several leopard sharks, moray eels, shrimps. I have several photos that are promising and I am looking forward to seeing them on the computer.
I am just getting my bearings in Phuket. The area seems to me like a small Egyptian town but surrounded by jungle, everyone drives scooters and its very humid. I have booked into Sea-Bees diving for day trips on 17th to 19th. The hotel, Palm Garden Resort, is quite fancy by my standards with a pool, mini bar, laundary (thankfully) and restaurant. All the signs in the town are in an alphabet I don't even recognise (Malay? Update: Actually just Thia alphabet) so its harder to understand many things. I suppose it's a benifit (for me) of colonialism that the British imposed English signage in South Africa and Singapore (and Austrialia and America I imagine).
The hotel computer I am using now is running the Apple Mac operating system. It is also configured for German I think. Since I have never used a Mac and I don't speak German, it's quite hard to use. That is probably an unfortunate first impression of the system.
My plan today is just to sit around the hotel. I feel too hot to move almost! I have a few books to read that I purchased in Singapore.
I just got back from Sentosa Island and I was not particularly impressed. I used the cable car to get to Mt Faber and then to Sentosa. Both were really commercial in an annoying way. It was like being trapped in a hotel and you can't find the exit. There was a large amount of building work on Sentosa so hopefully things improve. The best part was seeing the Central Business District over the container port.
I finished reading Pawn of Prophecy which was an easy read, predictable in some ways (but not entirely luckily). That probably reflects it was published over twenty years ago. I will get the sequel when I can.
I have almost finished Introducing Nietzsche by Laurence Gane. He had some amazing ideas. One thing I think I disagree with is altruism is always contrary to noble ethics but I will have to read more than I summary of his work to see. I thought: what is the source of altruism in Darwinism - and it turns out to be beneficial in the long run. Update: I found that Nietzsche had already thought of that and agrees with what I said. In Ecce Homo he wrote "Expressed morally: love of one's neighbour, living for others and other things can be the defensive measure for the preservation of the sternest selfishness."
The retail sector in Singapore is huge. I have seen so many shops my head hurts. I suppose it is better than having one large shop that sells everything! Large general shops don't specialise and you can't get any obscure items (I think this when shopping in the UK).
My next update is likely to be from Phuket, Thiland. Fortunately, I don't have much packing to do this time. Hopefully I will be able to locate an internet cafe. I am looking forward to warm water diving.
I have been busy and my legs are worn out from going places around Singapore. Thing I saw yesterday included: Fullerton Hotel, Merlion statue (or at least one of them), Esplanade Theatre, Dalhouse Obelisk, Lim Bo Seng Memorial, Cenotaph, Tan Kin Seng Fountain, Civilian War Memorial, City Hall (there was a cool free modern art exibition), the old Supreme Court building, the new Supreme court building that looks like a UFO, Raffles Hotel, various Raffles statues, etc.
I also remembered other major differences to the UK: high humidity, heavy showers.
My last full day is tomorrow. I plan to go to Sentosa Island and around that area.
Now I am looking around Singapore. It's quite a different culture. It has a feeling from the film/novel Starship Troopers in attiude. The streets are very clean, there are signs banning this and that, posters encouraging joining the military, very efficient public transport, seeing police occasionally, funny count down signs when crossing the road saying how long you have left, food courts, death penalty for drugs, lots of high rise housing and offices, UK style power sockets, expensive alchohol.
I spent the first day looking around the Botanical Gardens and the National Orchid Garden. There were loads of locals(?) that were doing photography. It started to get overcast so I headed back feeling jet lagged. I was caught in the rain. I dozed from 2pm until 6pm - it was still raining. The hotel is fine and rather basic.
Today I was walking around the Colonial District which is filled with other tourists. For some reason, I can't get to my email at this internet cafe so I am a bit out of the loop for a day or two.
I was in the city doing tourist things today. I went to the main museum in Cape Town and had a long wander 'round. They had an excellent underwater section on whales, sharks and rays. I also went to the Green Square Market and Company's Garden Park.
I hoped to be able to go to the top of Table Mountain but the cable car was closed because of poor visibility. I instead drove to Signal Hill which has a wide view of the area.
I have started packing for my flight tomorrow morning. My next update should be from Singapore.
I was planning to dive today but I found I forgot my booties when I got to the harbour. That was annoying but I found other uses for the day. I went to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. There was a strong wind and the sand was being picked up and thrown at speed at my skin and eyes. When I was near the water this was less of a problem and I had a look at them.
I drove down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. They are within a national park and have loads of spectacular views. I walked up to the disused lighthouse at Cape Point and saw more southern right whales in False Bay.
I am now back at the B&B. The neighbourhood strikes me as really European with the types of houses and gardens. There are lots of horses and riding schools. On most of the houses there are signs saying "Armed Response" which is kind of alarming. The area is a semi rural "small town" suburb of Cape Town. On the other hand just next to the dive centre's industrial estate is a township residental area.
Tomorrow, I plan to go into the city itself and ride the cable car up to Table Mountain - assuming the wind has not forced them to close.
Where to begin? I have been busy since my last update.
3rd: The queues at heathrow where really bad due to security wanting to screen for liquids. We heard that the liquids restriction was going to be lifted on Monday anyway. I wonder why they bother keeping to screen when someone plotting could just wait until Monday? I wanted in line for the security screening for 70 minutes. The flight was straight forward and I slept for about 4 hours.
4th: The queues for emmigration at Cape Town where again long (another 60 minutes). I was met by the Goose Green lodge people and transferred in no time to the southern suburbs. I am staying at a nice B+B. The owners are helpful and keep offering me lifts around the neighbourhood to save walking. I talked to the dive centre Scuba Shack about diving Sunday.
5th: First dives in South Africa done. I saw some small catsharks (up to 40cm). I tested my camera underwater without any problems.
The boat trip was 15 to get to Shark Alley. We saw two or three great white sharks in the day. I got some good surface photos of them coming near the boat. They did not try hard to get the bait and we did not see the mouth out of the water (most photos of great white sharks seem to have this feature). Two groups went in the cage before my group to have a closer look. They were simply doing a cage free dive (breath holding) and not my perferred way of scuba. On the other hand they spent most of the time floating on the surface waiting. When it was out turn, we got in the cage for 50 minutes and saw nothing. But I have seen bigger sharks before anyway and I can imaging what I missed! :)
7th: I was diving near Camps Bay, north of Hout Bay. It is much colder than in False bay. I think today was my coldest ever wet suit dive (12C). We were forced into that by the wind direction and the chop in False Bay. On the first dive, a seal came over and was circling us for about 10 minutes. I took a few acceptable shots but he was moving so fast it was hard to aim the camera.
I was using my hire car today for the first time. The public transport system in Cape Town apparently sucks and taxis are expensive.
The plan for tomorrow is two boat dives in Hout Bay. Hopefully we will finish by 4 ish so I can drive down to the Cape of Good Hope. Everywhere around Cape Town is surrounded by spectacular mountains, its worth seeing that just by itself.
I am monitoring the Fiji situation since my route is going through there at the moment.
1PM: I am just about to depart on the next phase of my trip. I just got my scuba regulators back from being serviced - "that was too close". I will try to update this site at least once a week but I am not sure how accessible the Internet will be on my travels. Check the trip overview to see what country I am supposed to be in. Next stop: Cape Town.
It's freezing at the moment in the UK. I have done no packing yet. mm better start tomorrow or now.