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November 25, 1998

Arrested in Fernando de Noronha

fernando_arrest-t.jpg
Arrest record(170kb)
After sailing across the Atlantic and arriving in Fernando de Noronha today, Chris, James, and I were arrested by Brazilian police.

December 17, 2002

Trainspotting

Either they're running fewer here trains to piss people off at Christmas or I'm just being incredibly unlucky. Usually there's trains every ten minutes or so but last night I waited and waited and nothing turned up. After wandering around for a bit exploring all the dark corners of Norreport station to keep myself amused, I finally found an empty, sparkling bench in a corner of the station so far away that apparently no-one had ever sat in it before. So I made myself as comfortable as I could on the wooden slats and was just contemplating how best to spend the night on it when suddenly a train appeared.

I was of course about as far away from it as it was possible to be so I jumped up and sprinted down the platform. Just as I got there the doors began to close. Determined not to miss it and be forced to spend Christmas waiting for the next one, I instinctively leapt over and shoved my arm between the doors to keep them open. But instead of opening again, the large rubber seals on the doors simply closed snugly around my arm. I had a rush of adrenalin as I realised that the train was about to leave the station and take me running along with it, my arm trapped inside. The people inside were looking at me disapprovingly, as if I was about to embark on some new form of dangerous sport - being dragged through the underground with an arm inside the train. I stabbed frantically at the door button with my free hand, and after a short pause, thankfully, the doors re-opened and I joined the passengers inside as they stared at me and shook their heads.

December 23, 2002

Fell off Bike

Ok, so we just had dinner with Nina's parents and on the way home I had a small accident on my bike. I fell off of it onto my face with a crack after cycling into a hedge. Thankfully I don't seem to have done too much damage though there was quite a bit of blood. I'm sure I hit some black ice or something and it was nothing to do with the amount of alcohol I'd consumed.

March 18, 2003

Travel Plans

I booked flights at the end of last week to go to the Middle East and Asia for a while. I fly out to Dubai on Sunday, then planned to travel overland to stay with Colin in Oman. A few weeks later I fly over to Bangkok, and then intend to head over to Cambodia and Vietnam before returning to Thailand and flying on to Borneo.

Since then, due to the war, Oman has closed it's land borders, Dubai has been upgraded to high risk by the Foreign Office, and a mystery virus is sweeping across Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, causing the US to advise against non-essential travel there. Shouldn't be a problem finding a room then.

April 5, 2003

Dhofar

baby camel
We got back from our 2000km round trip across Oman this morning. The Dhofar region, where we were, as well as being the world capital for frankincense, has always had a reputation of being bandit country, and much of the population share their ancestry with the Yemenis, which we were only 50km away from. By the time we were leaving, things were beginning to feel quite unstable. Saddam had called for a jihad a couple of days before and apparently a lot of Yemenis were on their way to Iraq to answer the call. Every cafe we sat down in was showing Aljazeera on TV, with footage of civilian casualties and screaming children in Baghdad. A guy at an adjacent table asked where we were from. We lied. "Ireland? You terrorist? Good!", he replied. We felt like everyone's eyes were burning into us as we walked through town to catch our bus. We had things thrown at us and a crazed old guy wearing camoflage gear and a huge dagger screamed at us as we were boarding the coach.

June 1, 2003

Wales in a Blur

biking in wales
Yesterday we took Chris's bike for a blast over to Wales and back. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day as we came into Abergavenny and met up with Pedro, Anna and Andy. I seem to recall making some comment to Chris about him riding like an old woman, becoming old and boring, which in hindsight was probably not a good idea.

From there we carried on through the lovely Brecon valleys where the roads were empty and things quickly began to hot up. Chris decided to push the tempo up a bit and we soon ended up in a full-blown race through the country lanes against Andy (without a passenger) on his Daytona 955. Although I normally have 100% confidence in Chris, I did begin to wonder when he pulled a 100mph+ wheelie, neatly dodged some oncoming traffic, then flew through the next bend on a road he'd never been on before in flat out pursuit of Andy. It was becoming very difficult to hang on as a passenger, even when both wheels were on the ground, my arms had gone completely numb, and the scenery had just turned into a complete blur as I fought to stay on. I was quite glad when we finally pulled into a pub, seconds behind Andy, for a break and a chance to empty my pants. Essentially realising that we were fairly lucky to be alive, or at least that I'd managed to hang on until the pub, we took it just a little easier going back on a lovely road through the Wye Valley. I still haven't got feeling back in all of my fingers today though.

July 3, 2003

Menorca Tidal Wave

We sat and had a drink with our friends on board Duet in the anchorage last night and heard more about the tidal wave. Their boat had only survived because they were on board at the time and they were surrounded by millions of pounds worth of damaged and sinking boats in the marina. Apparently the wave generated by the earthquake was six metres high when it came into the mouth of Mahon harbour and swept in through houses. From there it dropped in height but accelerated as it crossed the shallower water, destroying all of the boats in the outer harbour and continuing until it reached the marina in town and had nowhere else to go. Id been very close to putting Zamindar in that marina for the winter, and if I had, she would quite possibly been destroyed. The only reason she survived with a minor scratch was because she was on a floating pontoon which thankfully rode the wave, but even that was evacuated later when a mussel farm broke loose and nearly hit it.

August 5, 2003

More Scars

Someone has covered a huge area with stone cairns and sculptures from washed up flotsam on one of the nearby beaches and so I took some photographs of that this evening and was making my way back out to the dinghy which was anchored off the beach. As I was wading out through the breaking surf I slipped and instinctively put my hand out to save myself. I came down hard on a razor sharp rock and, feeling the pain, knew that it had sliced my hand open. The dinghy was quite a bit away, however, and so there was no point in looking at the damage until I got out there, so I swam the rest of the way feeling the blood running out of my hand. I pulled myself up into the dinghy and was slightly shocked to see how badly I'd managed to cut myself. My hand was sliced open in three places and the blood was gushing out of it down my arm. I managed to get the engine started single handed and headed back to Zamindar to see if I could stop the bleeding. Although it's the worst cut I've given myself in a long time, I cleaned it up and thankfully managed to stop the bleeding without having to make the long trip for stitches.

August 26, 2003

Barbecues and Wipe Outs

elizabeth and jorge
At the weekend we had a barbecue on the beach in Espalmador with Jorge and Elizabeth, my chums from Taniwha, one of the other boats. Jorge used to have a vegetarian restaurant in Barcelona, which was somewhat ironic as we sat grilling tons of meat on the fire.

We took Elizabeth to the ferry last night as she was flying home then had dinner and went out to Casa Paco, which has to be one of the nicest bars/clubs in Formentera. It was around 0400 when we began heading back in the dinghy to the boats, which were about 5km away. It was very calm, with no wind at all and completely dark, but we knew the way quite well and it looked like it would be a fast, smooth ride. As we got closer to Espalmador, however, quite a big swell began to come in from the south. In itself it was nothing to worry about, but as we began to cross the shallow sandbank between Formentera and Esplamador, Jorge suddenly shouted and I looked over to see a huge breaking wave coming straight for us. I tried to turn the dinghy into it to stop us from getting capsized but it still hit us hard, throwing us and the boat over towards a dangerous sandbar and dumping a ton of water on top of us. It was dark and a bit worrying as all we could see were the white breaking crests of waves surrounding us. Impressively, the boat didn't turn over, the engine kept running, and I hit the throttle hard so that we hit the next wave with enough force to go right through it. We got out into deeper water as fast as we could then took a bit of a detour the rest of the way over to Espalmador in case another big wave came through. By the time I got back to Zamindar everything I was wearing was totally soaked and the dinghy was full of water.

August 29, 2003

Anchor Drags

A couple of hours after writing my blog last night, I was in bed sleeping when the anchor alarm went off - the boat was dragging its anchor. I jumped up wide awake, running through the boat turning everything on as I went, leapt into the cockpit, and started the engine. The wind had really picked up and was blowing in through the harbour entrance bringing whitecapped waves with it and we were now very close to the rocks of the breakwater. I was alone onboard at the time and I knew it was going to be difficult to steer the boat into the wind whilst getting the anchor up at the same time. I motored forward then ran to the bows but only managed to get about three metres of chain up before the wind had blown Zamindar close to the rocks again. I rushed back to the cockpit, put the revs up, and managed to get the boat turned around again and motored forward. To make things even more tricky there were boats anchored to each side of me which I had to avoid getting blown into as well. I realised that I had no choice but to motor forward fast and attempt to drag the anchor until I was far enough away to run out to the bows and bring the chain up but the risk was that while I was doing this it could catch onto something on the harbour floor and get stuck. I gave it a try then sprinted forward to pull up some chain. The wind was howling and coming through in gusts so I had to repeat this about eight times, each time running back to motor away from the rocks as we got close, but finally I got the anchor up and breathed a sigh of relief. I motored further out, dropped the anchor and lots of chain, and really hoped it would dig in or else I'd have to go through the whole thing again. I stood and waited as the boat began to drift back towards the rocks, but slowly she started to turn into the wind; the anchor was holding. I kept the engine running for the next hour or so just in case, and ironically, now that we were well anchored, the wind calmed down.

When I'd anchored I'd tried to dive on the anchor but due to the water being fairly deep and visibility being only about one metre it was impossible to find it so I hadn't been totally sure how well it was dug in. The other factor that contributed to us dragging was that we'd anchored reasonably close to the harbour wall due to it being one of the few spaces when we arrived, and so when the wind picked up I didn't have enough room to dump the huge amount of chain that I normally would. Anyway, today I wired in the remote control for the anchor windlass so that now I can raise and lower the anchor from the cockpit while I steer - just in case a similar situation occurs again. I know, however, that after a couple of beers one night I'll probably fall asleep on top of it and lift the boat's anchor.

January 7, 2004

Ice Swimming in Finland

frosty nipples
It's been cold enough over the last weeks that the lakes have frozen and the ice on them is about 20cm thick. So tonight, rather nervously, we went to a public sauna down by the lake and prepared to go for a dip in an ice hole. We sat and sweated in the sauna for a while first, building our body temperatures up, then anxiously made our way down the path to the lake. The water felt arctic as I held onto the frozen ropes and stepped into it - cold enough to take your breath away, and then I was up to my neck in it with ice covering everywhere but the hole I was in. After a few seconds I decided that I should get out and make room for Carita to get in, but getting out was almost as painful as getting in. Carita went in, and judging from the screams, she was a bit more used to it than me; then we rushed back up to the lovely, hot sauna.

Sitting back in the warmth I could feel my skin tingling all over - it's supposed to be very good for your circulation, and slowly the feeling returned to my body. Then we went back out and did it all over again. Afterwards, all of our muscles felt very relaxed, and mentally we were relaxed too - really just happy to be alive after it. Apparently, there's also a 25m swimming competition in a frozen lake here. The Finns really are quite crazy people.

photos of ice, snow, and sauna action

September 4, 2004

Shaken Not Charred

It hardly ever rains in Ibiza in the summer. I mean once or twice in the entire season. So you can imagine how unfortunate I was when, the other night, I was heading back to the boat in the dinghy across the two miles of bay from San Antonio and I ran into a wall of torrential rain. My clothes needed washed anyway so I wasn't too worried until lightning filled the sky and began to strike around the bay. I looked around to discover that I was in the only boat in the entire bay, making me the highest point to get struck. Just the night before I'd been joking with Lawrence, Carita's boss, about how the boat had already been struck three times by lightning, and it looked like God hadn't appreciated my sense of humour.

Whilst trying to figure out if lightning was more likely to strike a fast or slow moving target, I lay down in the dinghy, altered my course and headed towards the hotels on the coast, trying to avoid the swell taking me onto the rocks in the darkness as I followed the edge of the bay. Eventually I got back to Zamindar just in time for the rain to stop, slightly shaken but happy not to be fried.

September 18, 2004

White Squall

Although it hardly ever rains in Ibiza in the summer, Wednesday made up for it. Some parts of the island had 80 litres/sq m of rainfall and the meteorological office recorded 343 ground strikes of lightning. We were in Ibiza Town in the morning when the first squall hit. The streets flooded and Carita's building was hit by lightning, bringing concrete and plaster falling down into the street. Needless to say, she closed up and got out of there. I was checking the boat cam all the time on my phone and was amazed to see that things were dry and calm in the north of the island. We drove back and as we crossed the hills the rain stopped and everything was bone dry.

The weather had been very unsettled for days and there was a lot of swell coming into the anchorage, so that evening I tied a extra line over to another mooring... just in case. Carita and I were sitting in the cockpit having a drink at about 03:00 in the morning, watching a massive lightning storm that was taking place over the sea. We were just about to go to bed when a chill wind began to pick up. Realising the squall and the lightning was heading our way we cleared the cockpit and put things inside. Due to the boat turning in the wind during the evening, the line I'd put across to the other mooring was now twisted around our chain so I needed to sort it out. The rain began pouring down as I took the dinghy across to untie it and untangle things but the wind was increasing all the time so manoeuvring the dinghy was not easy. I managed to get back over to the buoy and concentrated as I tied the rope back onto it, then, as the wind was too strong to steer through, I pulled myself and the dinghy back to the boat along the line and Simon tied it up. Lightning was now striking all around us and the wind kept increasing with seemingly unlimited power. I heaved the rope tight so that we were now being held on the other mooring as well as our own and hoped things would hold. The smaller dinghy was lifted out of the water and flying in the air as Carita tried to secure it, then it was suddenly blown onto the deck. The wind was screaming by now, around Force 11 or 12, hurricane strength. The hotel next to us, which was slightly higher than our mast, was hit directly by lightning. Carita was almost blown off the foredeck into the sea. She seemed to be screaming something to me about ice falling but I couldn't understand what she was saying until an egg-sized lump of ice hit me on the head! The wind was blowing so hard by this time that the air was full of seawater and visibility was very poor. A small sailing boat moored nearby was being lifted so far out of the water that you could see it's keel. We took shelter from the ice storm under the sprayhood while Simon comforted the dog downstairs and took care of the water that was getting in. The solar panels sounded as if they were being smashed by the impact of the falling ice and the wind continued with a deafening roar. I began to wonder what else I could do if the moorings started to drag. The wind was far too strong to attempt to tie off to anything else or take an anchor out in the dinghy so I started the engine & motored forwards to take some force off the moorings, praying for the wind to drop. Looking behind the boat I saw huge waves crashing over the rocks barely 30 metres away. Lumps of ice continued to fall from the sky amongst the torrential rain and it felt like hell. It was one of the most frightening times I'd ever had at anchor.

We managed to sit it out though. Eventually the wind backed to the south as the eye of the squall moved past, then finally to the east and we felt the wind begin to drop and the rain ease off. Shaken and shocked but glad to be alive we looked around. Part of the beach had been washed away and some of the smaller boats in the anchorage had taken a bit of a battering but they were all still intact. The adrenaline was still running through us and we were wide awake. I turned the engine off and we sat hoping that there wasn't another squall on it's way.

Apprehensive when we finally crashed out, we didn't have a very restful night, but all that followed was some rain and the next day the weather, thankfully, began to improve.

January 5, 2005

Near Miss

The flight we were on today coming back from Ivalo made the national news when it was involved in a near-miss. It was snowing quite heavily as we were coming into Helsinki Vantaa to land and as we got close to the runway the pilot suddenly pulled back and put the plane into a climb. According to the tv, there was a German plane on the runway unable to get out of the way, and the situation was described as 'quite dangerous'.

September 9, 2005

Night of the Beast

I awoke the following morning, asked for directions at the village petrol station, and cycled the 20km or so into the nearest town. Sweden immediately felt much friendlier and less shy than Finland, with people asking where I'd come from and where I was heading to. Finding a bookshop, I bought maps, sat in a cafe having breakfast and planned my route down to Stockholm. Much of the cycle was through lovely Swedish countryside - a really beautiful route through green, mossy forests, rolling countryside with old wooden farmhouses, and past still lakes.

I'd now passed four run over snakes, three of which were poisonous black adders, on the trip so far, which, in addition to Carita previously warning me about all the dangerous animals I might just be lucky enough to encounter in Scandinavia's wilderness (bears, wolves, lynx, wolverines...) was giving me pause for thought about camping at night. There was of course little other choice, however, so as darkness fell I found a field and camped at the bottom of a valley.

I lay in the tent trying to fall asleep as things rustled around outside. This was fairly normal, but as the rustling became louder and closer I began to wonder if it was rats looking for food. Often, lying in the darkness in a field with nothing between you and the outside world but a nylon sheet it's easy to feel threatened but I tried to put these thoughts out of my mind, rolled over, and tried to get to sleep. By now I could hear the footsteps getting closer - obviously it was a larger animal outside, and I felt my legs going tense with nerves. Suddenly, it was right outside the tent, right next to me, and began sniffing the tent itself. I shouted out a growl to scare it away, hoping it was possibly a deer, but it didn't move. Instead, it stopped sniffing, paused for a few seconds, then answered me back with a loud, aggressive snarl. I froze, and was just about to fill my pants with terror, when, after another few seconds, I heard it's footsteps as it ran off.

I was very tired from cycling all day and I really didn't want to pack things up and move elsewhere. I wished I'd remembered to bring my Swedish sim card as my phone wasn't working at all if I needed it. I went outside, had a look around, and tried to calm myself down. It was pitch dark by now, and the stars were shining brightly in the sky. A fog had fallen in the valley, giving the place a spooky appearance so I got back into my sleeping bag, and once again tried to sleep. Quickly, the rustling footsteps came back. I made lots of noise and flashed my camera to try to scare them away but they never left for long. After another thirty minutes I decided that I had to move.

Exhausted, and really just wanting to sleep in peace, I packed up the tent and my bags, got on the bike, and cycled up towards a farmhouse I'd passed on the way. The fog was so thick that I could hardly see anything as my headtorch lit up the air in front of my face, making me feel even more nervous. I wondered if I should just keep cycling and get well out of the area, but it was so dark that finding another place to camp would be almost impossible, so I put the tent up close to the main road and the farmhouse, thinking that the occasional traffic might keep whatever it was away.

As I pegged the tent out and unrolled my sleeping bag I heard the snarl again and again. It seemed about 300 metres away from me, back down towards the valley. Even though I grew up in the countryside it was a sound I'd never heard before. Once again, I climbed into my sleeping bag, and finally managed to get to sleep. In the morning when I cycled off I noticed the number of the bus service on the local bus stop. 666

Here's a recording I managed to make of the animal mp3 456kb, which Carita reckons was either a wolverine or a lynx (leopardsetc.com sound sample)

October 19, 2005

Stoned in Chefchaouen

Stoned in the Rif MountainsWe decided to head out of town and do some walking in the nearby mountains to find some peace, and the Lonely Planet recommended a trek to the top of a nearby peak. Much of Chefchaouen itself is built on the mountainside, and we gradually climbed up through the narrow, blue-painted streets until we were in scrubland outside of the old town walls.

The track from there gradually zigzagged upwards, passing first through a rubbish dump of burning refuse, and plastic bags blowing across the mountainside, and then disappearing into the shade of a cedar forest. We rested out of the sun, looking down at the view of the town, as two boys sat above us on the hill, watching over their goats. It was mid-afternoon, we'd already climbed quite high, and the sun was at it's hottest as we continued further and higher along the track.

The solitude couldn't last much longer, however, and soon we passed a couple of guys, who decided to follow us, attempting to talk us into coming back to their village. We tried everything we could to get them to leave, but each time they just replied that everything was cool (with the implication that things might become uncool if we didn't co-operate. They were pretty big guys, and the track now clung to the side of the mountain with a sheer drop next to it into the valley far below. No-one would ever find our bodies here. Their pitch, of course, soon turned from friendliness to hash selling, and, whilst making it quite clear that we weren't interested, Colin, in a sudden turn of extreme diplomacy, asked them to respect our wish to be left alone, and somehow persuaded them to leave without anyone being thrown down the mountainside.

Shortly afterwards we passed the 2000m height marker, and turned off the road towards the peak. Although there appeared to be a path twisting it's way to the summit, once we'd begun climbing we just couldn't find it. The side of the mountain was, unusually, cultivated and had recently been ploughed by hand - the incline was too steep to do it any other way. The soil was really dark, like terrific earth for growing crops, but our progress was slow as we trudged through it, slowly climbing higher and higher.

I was walking in front, and I soon noticed someone further up the mountain, close to the summit. As we continued upwards, he seemed to be paying more and more attention to us - I wasn't sure if he was alone or if there were others, but he appeared to have something slung across his back, like a rifle, which raised my suspicions. Finally, we found the path we'd seen from down at the road, and our progress towards the top improved. The summit was at 2800m, and already our view across the mountains was stunning, with Chefchaouen sitting almost vertically below us. The sun was beginning to lose it's heat now, sinking slowly towards the distant hills, but catching our breath was becoming difficult as the air was getting thin.

The guy near the summit now seemed to be getting agitated, running along the ridge, stopping every so often to stand and stare at us. I started to get the feeling that something wasn't right, but Colin assured me that I just, "had the paranoia", and, not wanting to stop so close to the top, we pushed on. At this, the guy above us began totally freaking out, shouting, screaming, and waving his arms. We hoped he was shouting at one of his friends, but it became clear he was screaming at us to stop when the first rock flew into the air towards us. Realising our lives would probably be at risk if we continued, we quickly decided we didn't really need to climb to the top of the mountain, and instantly turned to get away from him. He still seemed pretty freaked out, however, and suspecting that he was armed, our descent soon became something of a scramble as we expected shots to ring out at any time, something like the chase scene in The Beach. We were, of course, trekking through one of the world's main marijuana growing regions; we'd strayed across the line, they of course didn't want visitors, and naturally the crops were going to be guarded.

Further down we stopped, looking back up at the mountain. The rock-throwing guy was lying down on his stomach on a ledge, but unable to see if he was looking through binoculars or aiming a rifle at us we decided to just keep moving! As we approached the road another figure on the hill opposite began screaming at us too, but thankfully he soon disappeared back into the scenery and we didn't see him again. A bit shaken, we made it back down to the track and began the long walk back to Chefchaouen - the touts in town were probably a lot less life-threatening than the drug mafia in the mountains.

February 9, 2006

Lunch with the Monitor Lizards

After several fruitless walks back to the river to see if we could spot the monitor lizard again, we were finishing off our lunch one day just after the restaurant had closed when we had some unexpected company.

A massive, two metre long, grey monitor lizard came wallowing in from the trees, went around the back of the building, and walked into the bin room. I went off to grab my camera, and whilst Carita was standing watching it a passing ranger shouted to tell her that there was another one coming up behind her.

It seemed that all the animals in the jungle knew when the restaurant closed and soon it was full of monitor lizards and monkeys, with hornbills sitting around in the trees watching the feast. A couple of the restaurant staff came over but seemed particularly concerned about the komodo-like lizards and beat a hasty retreat.

We slowly crept around, close to a large male monkey, to get a good shot of all the action. As I pressed the shutter, however, it instantly looked up surprised and leapt at me, screaming angrily and showing it's teeth, thinking that I was after it's food. With less than a metre from being monkey food myself I dodged away and we ran around the corner from it, but realised too late that we were now surrounded by hungry, large monitor lizards and a pack of monkeys. Suddenly feeling like the hunted, we had to stop and take a few deep breaths to compose ourselves before carefully moving between the animals and out of danger.

We stood watching all the beasts munching their way through the rubbish for over an hour, feeling very lucky to be able to watch such powerful, wild animals so closely. Eventually, a warden came over to the restaurant and we warned him about the huge monitor lizard in the building. He just laughed and said, "I know. They come every day."

February 15, 2006

Sharks of Koh Adang

We were lucky enough to get the very last tent on Koh Lipe - all the other accomodation was booked by three hundred Thais who were visiting the otherwise uninhabited island for the weekend. Maybe lucky isn't the best word; the tent seemed to be a remnant of World War II, full of holes and of the ancient triangular school of tent architecture, with a central pole at each end to hold it up. I wished I'd brought my own tent on the trip, but we had a beautiful pitch at the top of a tropical, white sandy beach, our nearest neighbours were almost out of sight, and Carita set to work sowing up the assortment of holes in the tent.

One of the reasons we'd come to Koh Adang was to go snorkelling on it's coral reefs, which we'd heard were terrific, so once we'd pitched the tent we dived straight in. The sealife was amazing, with brightly coloured parrotfish, angelfish, and triggerfish everywhere, and it felt wonderful to be swimming over coral reefs again, floating weightlessly with so much action going on below us. We watched a huge, black pufferfish swim away and hide beneath a rock from us, and the water was so warm it felt like we'd never get cold.

We swam out to deeper water where the coral began to shelve, hoping to see something bigger, and suddenly the dark shape of a shark appeared about ten metres away. Powerfully and effortlessly, it slid through the water with hardly any force at all. We didn't feel frightened, just in awe of this majestic creature, though we were a bit on edge. A black-tipped reef shark, less than two metres long, it just swam over to check us out before disappearing back out of view. This experience was worth the entire trip by itself. Even still, we spent quite a bit of time checking behind us on the rest of our swim, just in case it reappeared!

It was really windy that night, and we were woken regularly by the gusts and lay wondering if the fragile tent would be blown away to Malaysia. The following day the huge party of Thais left and we moved to a bamboo sheltered tent. This was really lovely - a cross between a tent and a bamboo hut, shaded from the sun and built on a raised wooden platform off the ground.

Koh Adang has a couple of good treks, one of which is a near vertical 500m climb up a cliff face, which passes through bamboo forest and emerges out to a stunning view across to Koh Lipe. At one point whilst walking I heard a loud squeek from the undergrowth and spotted a rare mousedeer running for cover. The other notable forest trek takes you to Pirates Waterfall, and whilst returning from this walk at dusk a large, black snake slithered across the rocks next to us, and out of our way. We decided to watch our step after that.

On our last morning in Koh Adang we awoke to the sounds of a cockerel and looked out through the mesh door of the tent to see the sun rising behind the Malaysian island of Langkawi. We're convinced we're going to return with camping gear on our next trip to Thailand and spend a lot more time staying in the national parks as we had such great experiences and got close to so much wildlife.

March 25, 2006

Ice Camping

Now that I've been back in Finland for a couple of weeks I thought I'd liven up my weekend by going camping on one of the islands out in the frozen Baltic. It was only about -7c when I left the flat and I reckoned it wouldn't be much colder than winter camping in Scotland so I packed my gear and walked down to the beach.

The sky was clear and the moon was just rising above the horizon, shining bright red over the ice as I made it down to the frozen sea and began walking out to the islands. It's quite normal to go walking on the ice during the Finnish winter - the Finns even drive their cars out there when the ice is very thick. As it was quite dark, however, I couldn't see any thin patches until I was right on top of them. There was nobody around for miles and I listened to the creaking and groaning of the ice beneath my footsteps as I made my way further and further from land.

I began to have thoughts of falling through the ice with my backpack dragging me down to the bottom, freezing to death before I could have time to drown. Although, according to the Finns, it's allegedly not a bad way to go, I decided to unfasten my backpack and carry it over one shoulder just in case I took a dip.

Soon, however, I reached the island, which strangely in a country where you're normally allowed to camp anywhere, had 'no camping' signs on it. Obviously, I was going to ignore these. Trying to follow a path through the woods, I kept losing it and straying off into knee-deep snow in the darkness of the forest. The best place to camp seemed to be on the south side of the island, with a view across the ice, and I began putting up the tent. Illogically, I'd left my snow stakes on the boat in Spain, and it took some practice to get the pegs to stay in the solid ice, but soon enough I had the tent up and I jumped inside.

Needless to say I slept with all my clothes on and hoped that the tent would warm up like a snow-hole. Instead, I woke in the middle of the night to find that the temperature inside and outside had plummeted by another five or ten degrees. It was very cold. I reached for a drink of water but my water bottle had turned to solid ice. Maybe a 3-season sleeping bag wasn't quite enough for these conditions so I put on my down jacket and slept inside that in the sleeping bag.

I woke in the morning, which in itself was a pleasant surprise, to find people passing right by the tent on skis, and snowmobiles shattering the peacefulness. I had breakfast inside the tent, and apart from the end of my thumb turning black, I was happy to have survived the bitterly cold night without any injuries.

October 19, 2006

Attack on Galle Naval Base

I realise I've been appalling at updating my blog over the last months so I've got some catching up to do and thought it was best to write something after yesterday's attack close to where we're living here.

I was in Colombo at the time, missing all the excitement, but the attack on Galle harbour was only 20km away from the house in Hikkaduwa - the explosions woke Faye up, who at first thought it was monkeys on the roof. Again, it's an attack on a purely military target, not a random bombing, but being the first attack for years in the south I wonder how things in the country are now going to change.

The military imposed a curfew on Galle, closed all the schools, and most of the public transport on that part of the coast wasn't running. Apart from that, it's probably easier to get information on it from elsewhere in the world than in Sri Lanka!

BBC report on Galle attack

BBC video