Thursday, December 21, 2006

Diving into the Blue

I think I mentioned that while on our honeymoon, we went diving. In fact, we learnt to dive and got our divers licenses (there's a joke lurking somewhere in this but I will refrain). We did our divers course in 3 days with 1 day spent in the swimming pool of a local resort (there were some very surprised swimmers as we popped up from the deep), and 2 days of boat dives. Actually the pool wasn't very deep. Less than 6 foot at the deepest point. This made the whole diving thing a little tricky, as every time we plunged into the not so murky chlorinated depths we hit the bottom.

Our 2nd and 3rd days were fantastic. Exhausting but fantastic. We had an early start, catching a big catamaran to Koh Tao, a smaller island ideal for diving. The boat trip took about 1.5 hours each way and this provided time for us to review the theory that we had had to study the previous evening. On the final day, on the return trip we did the theory test for our Padi Open Water Diver tickets, which was an excellent use of time. The only tricky thing about doing it on a catamaran was that that particular trip was quite rough. Consequently, Mr Heroic (me) got sea sick. It's a touch distracting needing to race outside for fresh air every few minutes while trying to take an academic exam. Still, the Madeline Barnes, our instructor was brilliant and we can highly recommend the company that ran our dive course, Searobin. The course was very time efficient, and we felt like we had the complete, undivided and supportive attention of our instructor.

Diving off Koh Tao was great. Our first dive was just off the island. When we arrived at the island, we boarded our dive boat and were dropped near the beach. We did the dive and finished on the edge of the beach and walked up the sand to the island restaurant for lunch.

Our second dive was in much deeper water and was a lot more fun. The dive boat was shared with a Japanese company, and for some reason they had preferential treatment, making the decision as to where would dive. This wasn't too much of a problem though, as they were keen to dive at cool places.

On the second day of boat dives, we again did the first dive in shallowish water (less than 10m) due to having to finish a lot of the practical material for our PADI tickets.The second dive was to have been off Sail Rock but sadly, the boat broke down before it picked us up after lunch. We could see it just 15 metres away over the water from the jetty, but no boat, no dive. Eventually it arrived, wheezing and literally fountaining oil from a hole in the engine. One of the boat staff sat in the engine bay and poured more oil in the top while the other drove us just a little way from the jetty for our final dive.

Overall, we had a fantastic experience and loved every minute of it. Well, apart from trying to find masks that worked for us. Neither of us could find a mask that fitted perfectly, so we spent some of our time each dive clearing them. All the same, to see another world like that and to realise afresh the brilliance, versatility and sheer creative genius of the our God was a great experience. Can't wait till we can dive without all the Scuba Gear.

Friday, December 15, 2006

White Noise

OK, so when I left you in the lurch with this long winded and needlessly wordy story, we were in Vietnam, enjoying the amazing scenery of Halong Bay ... Actually, here is a photo that I took while on Halong Bay, from the deck of our Junk, the inaccurately named Jewel of the Bay.

After enjoying the bay, we returned to harbour and then were driven back to Hanoi. We spent a day shopping in Hanoi (actually looking for shops would be a more accurate description. Hanoi, being a Communist city in a Communist state, hides its shops, disguising them from the enemy eg me) and then back on the plane to Bangkok (just for a change). From Bangkok we switched planes and flew through the night down to Melbourne.

Of course this all sounds straight forward but glosses over the 2 uncomfortable hours spent on a park bench on a crowded Vietnamese harbourside, waiting for a bus to show up in the sweltering midday sun, an altercation with a would be extortionist bike taxi driver and the frantic race through the airport to catch the plane in Bangkok due to delays exiting the plane from Vietnam. Still, all good to have a laugh about later. Or not.

Now, about this stage you are either saying "I am sick of this honeymoon, and it's old news anyway" or "Why call this post 'White Noise'?" To the former I say, "May your olives drop off" (an ancient Hebrew curse that is all bark and no bite to those of us without olive trees) and to the later, "I'm glad you asked."

Once in Melbourne, we got through customs, exited the airport, picked up a car (managed to scam a racier vehicle than we payed for ... Yep a pumping 4 cylinder internal combustion engine rather than a 3 cylinder goat powered go cart I had payed for), did some shopping, dropped through a friends house to pick up a snow board and then off to Bright. For we are snowbound, hence the title. OK, I admit it. I'm tired and can't think of anything better to name this post. Go away.

By the time we arrived in Bright, I had been awake for something like 30+ hours (all day in Hanoi, all night on the plane, all the next day and then driving till about 12pm to get to Bright). At Bright, the directions I had been given to our chalet suddenly stopped making sense and we drove in circles, bewildered and dazed like a bird whose lost and is driving his car in circles, until I was pulled over by the Highway Patrol. The officer was probably fairly surprised to have someone so abjectly happy to be pulled over at 1am ... Luckily he knew our way, and soon after, so did we.

So we stopped for one night in the Buckland Valley just outside Bright in this little chalet. Its one of 4 obsessively German, beautifully appointed chalets. Modern minimalist interiors, fantastic views and great design. Nice for couples, not so good for families - ours, at least, had only one bedroom and one bed.

Next morning, after a bit of a recovery sleep in, we rose and headed in to town, picked up some snow gear (I bought my beautiful wife a snow jacket) and then headed for the hills.

The ski season at Mount Hotham this year was disappointing, but we still had a great time. My wife had never been snowboarding before, so it was all new to her. I found it a little more difficult as all the runs that I wanted to do were closed due to poor cover. Still, we had a great time.

To keep the consistency of this chronicle of ours, I include a shot of the place we stayed at while at Mount Hotham, the brand new Chalet Hotham. More precisely, a shot out the window towards the ski run. For those of you famailiar with Hotham, the Summit run in on the left there, Heavenly Valley on the right and just below our field of view (somewhere nestled amongst the cushions, is the Basin Run.

Commanding fantastic views out over the Mount Hotham and being situated literally, a slip, a swift slide, and solid thump at the end from the start of several good runs at Mount Hotham, this place couldn't be situated better.

Anyway, we spent 5 days, up the mountain, loving every minute of it. Well, apart for the acute pain brought on by a hard days snowboarding ;)

Well, gotta go. Said enough for tonight. Loads of love to everyone. Or not.