Colin’s camp doesn’t train on Sundays, so everyone gets a much-deserved break (except me; there are no breaks from the strenuous life I’m living). As luck would have it, the groundskeeper has a new longtail boat, so we were invited out for a good luck ride. The Thais reckon the more people you get on a boat’s maiden voyage, the more luck you’ll have. They told us that when the boat was already packed with a dozen Thais enjoying a meal of curried goat, so we were a little wary about piling on with some 15 other campers. The Thais weren’t coming along for the ride, it turned out, so the 16 or so foreigners climbed on with just enough room after a goat breakfast of our own (I abstained).
Our pilot was taking us on a tour of the nearby islands, beginning with a beautiful cove surrounded by heavily vegetated karsts. He invited us to jump in and I was second to only the crazy Frenchman in getting out of the boat. We could swim right up to the rocks and let the drops of salty water coming off the island splash on our heads. No one seemed as interested as I was in the thick, healthy-looking tree growing in four feet of ocean water, and Colin predictably wanted to climb up the jagged rocks.
At the next stop, we waded through Styrofoam, plastics bottles, and coconut husks to follow our guide into a sizeable cave. We followed that with another beach with less trash but five speed boats full of mostly Chinese tourists. Here a few enterprising Thais had tied up some swings and set up some benches, all the more reason for tourists to stick around and buy a beer or coconut from them.
The crazy Frenchman was first in the water again at the next stop, a karst that had a sort of carved-out stairway and ledge for jumping off. The water was a beautiful deep blue, indicative of plenty of depth, but even so everyone else waited to see how our French friend fared before jumping in after him. Even though it couldn’t have been much more than 15 feet above the water, I opted to just swim around the mountain and out away from the boat a bit. The water isn’t quite as clear as it is where we’ve been diving, but it’s wonderfully warm. It’s also home to tiny things that sting or bite when you swim into them.
We stopped at a beach and had an impromptu handstand contest before continuing on to the greatest (only?) challenge of the day. A spit of sand runs up to a muddy (especially with all the rain we’ve had) hill that is laced with trees and holding onto some rather sharp rocks. And we climbed it the way the Thais do, in flip-flops or barefoot. No one escaped clean and a few suffered some slips; there were a number of bloody scrapes by the time we made it back down. It was a fun scramble, though, and a pretty stellar view.
Though we’d had plenty of sunshine during our trip (as Colin’s shoulders now show), we just had time to rinse off and order lunch before the wind whipped up and the clouds rolled in, dousing our island with over an inch of rain in a couple hours.