It's great to be back in the water after a full week of, literally, looking after my infected eyes, including putting on some mad strong ointment last thing at night. So I got back in the water on Tuesday for two dives at Koh Haa and today (Wednesday) managed to pass my DM 'stress test'.
This for the uninitiated involves swapping all your scuba gear (BCD and tank, fins, mask) with another diver while kneeling on the bottom (in my case at eight metres) and having sand flung in your face, your air turned off, your regulator purged and bubbles blown into your face by some obliging instructor. It's probably one of the toughest assignments of the Divemaster course, so it was great to get it over and done with!
I was lucky because Luke, who became a DM two months ago, has done a few of them and was my 'buddy' for the equipment exchange. He's become wise to Mellisa's sly moves and managed to keeep me calm when she was attacking me from all angles!
It's been amazing to see my hobby from the professional point of view, how the boat works from behind the scenes and, thankfully, the number of divers has picked up in recent days after Koh Lanta got extremely quiet at the tail end of last week.
The dive season usually ends at the end of April, but the rainy season (or a little sample of it) has come early as it has rained for about 90 minutes in the late afternoon for the last four days. It's bizarre to watch the little microclimates from the Blue Planet boat as we return from the dive sites.
I'll do a full blog on the DM course when I finish it, which should be in about a week to ten days. Imagine, I'll be a dive professional! Scary, that. The two most recently qualified DMs, Emma (UK) and Raggi (Norway), are having their 'snorkel' test this Saturday night which will mean copious amounts of alcohol for them (shots are obligatory) and a few little tricks from the boys at Blue Planet.
If we are not diving the next day, no doubt we will end up at the Saturday night party at Korner Bar, my favourite night out on Koh Lanta. The boys behind the bar wear t-shirts from old punk bands like the Misfits and their DJ plays some of the finest hard house and techno I've heard in years. And I thought those days (or nights) were well behind me, me of the ancient Happy Mondays and Stone Roses generation.
It's fantastic to groove to the Korner Bar DJs sounds on a Saturday night, with a totally eclectic bunch of people, while looking out on the Andaman Sea and the glorious 4km stretch of sand which is Phrae Ae (or Long Beach). It's hard NOT to go there because Korner Bar is literally 100m from my bungalow at Red Snapper. I've met kickboxers, divers, hookers, lady-boys, Ozzies, Viking wenches, and Dubs, on verious Saturday nights there and, somehow, they all seem to blend in well together.
That's all for now. I'm up at 5.45 a.m. to dive the world class sites which are Hin Daeng and Hin Muang tomorrow. It's still pretty hard to believe that Ciaran Tierney, of all people, has found a hobby / job which involves getting up at such an ungodly hour!
When the news here is all about rain, tides, sunshine, people coming and going at the end of the peak season, it all seems so refreshing compared to the economic 'doom and gloom' back home. Yes, I know the 'Red Shirts' have been marching through Bangkok for the last three weeks, but they might as well be a zillion light years away from Lanta. Just as all the Fianna Failers, paedophile priests, bankers, GAA officials, and auctioneers (all the lovely Irish people I so sadly miss) seem as though they inhabit another world from this gorgeous tropical island, thousands of miles away...!
Ayudante Profile #5: Concepcion
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