Friday, 20 April 2012

91. Finding Nemo

Sawing out the rusted seatpost... day 3

Ma using his metallurgical training to curse the seatpost

German cyclist Patrick, Ellie, Benji and Nook

After three days and three nights, in the spirit of the lenten season, the seatpost came free. Elation. One of Ma's friends cooked up a Thai feast on a stove in the back of the shop and we brought Patrick along, a German pedaller whom we had first met in Cambodia and bumped into on our last day in Bangkok. We packed our bags and prepared for an early morning departure from the capital. The 5 a.m. alarm came and went though and it was near midday when we woke up. So after one last day in the capital we rode out on a quiet Saturday morning and followed highway 35 and then some quiet coast roads past workers gathering salt, down the beginning of the Thai-Malay peninsula. A few days of riding on both the busy highway 4 and some peaceful coast roads brought us to Chumphon, where we stacked our bikes between the piles of gravel and sand on the deck of a night ferry over to Ko Tao (Tao island).

Leaving the big city on a big road. Nice clouds.

Drying something fishy

Collecting salt

There are some places that even Rocinante finds it difficult to go. We spent five days on the former penal colony of Ko Tao where Ellie caught up with school friend Darren who works as a dive master, while I was introduced to a new underwater world of scuba diving. Over the days our class gradually emerged from awkward thrashing mammals with rubber fins and metal tanks to almost graceful movements as forty-five minute fish (that being the typical length of our dives) around the reefs surrounding the island. As a veteran open water diver, Ellie joined me on the advanced open water course and we did a series of dives together including a night dive, a wreck dive, and finally a navigation dive where we set forth on our own and fortunately found the way back again. Most of the time I felt like a lego man in a tropical fish tank as multi-coloured, fluorescent fish floated past. Monogamous pairs of Vagabond butterfly fish, blue ringed angel fish, cat fish, bat fish, goat fish. A stingray. A little octopus. Christmas tree worms that snapped shut like a wink when I got too close to their home on the coral. Occasionally a threatening titan trigger fish could be seen scratching at the coral and once on an ascent I was the last to rise and saw a trio of reef sharks dart among the shoals of barracuda for breakfast. And I also found Nemo clowning around under a rock.

Nemo and mates

Outside the monkey temple in Prachuap Khiri Khan


 The monkey on the footpath nearly got the mangoes on the back of Ellie's bike

 Highway 4 - unavoidable at times, the main north-south route

Not every day looks like this

We arrived groggily back to the mainland on the night boat to Surat Thani, stumbling onto a deserted pier at 4.30 a.m. and setting off through the city while the monks collected their alms. In a couple of days we crossed the peninsula to the west side and the Andaman Sea. Through tropical cash crop plantations of rubber, coconut and palm oil. The sweaty grind being rewarded with friendly locals and fiery curries. Sitting outside the market in the village of Thap Put, our German friend Patrick rolled up and we camped together in a nearby temple where the monks gave us a couple of wooden cabins for the evening to lay down as well as presents from their morning's alms including mineral water and soya milk. We chatted in the dark while the rain fell and woke up at 5 am with the morning's prayers being broadcast on loudspeaker. As we handed over a small donation, we were given rice desserts, sandwiches and tea to take with us. And south we went. Patrick said goodbye for the third time in a few weeks as a rain cloud burst overhead as he headed to the climbing mecca of Railey and Ellie and I rode past the forested limestone outcrops into Krabi for day's rest before continuing on over the Malaysian border in a few days time.

Chasing clouds as the rainy season approaches

Elections. Some sort of divine light behind this candidate.

Latex drips into a split coconut shell on a rubber tree

Note: The half-hour Touring Talk interview we did with Amaya in Bangkok is now available to listen to online or by podcast if you're looking for some perceptive insight into the world of bicycle touring!

Krabi, Thailand
Pedalled: 59,703 kilometres

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thailand - Exciting! We did the overnight boat ride out to Ko Tao a few years ago as well! And the Monkey Temple in Prachuap Khiri Khan! Cool place for sure! Oh And the sign on highway 4 you have a photo of? I have nearly the same exact picture. Not often you seen a road sign for Myanmar! Sorry, I get excited about Thailand, haha. Stay safe!

-Eric (Japan!)