Monday, March 29, 2010

Last Day!

Now that it is here, we're quite sad to be leaving. Not so much because we can't tear ourselves away but we're just not that looking forward to picking up the yoke at home. We'd better make the next holiday soon.

I started out the day with my 100th dive which is something of a milestone in diving. What a dive! I wish they were all like this one. Saw about 5 rays on the bottom which we managed to get quite close to before they flew away; rays don't swim, they fly through the water. It's amazing to watch. Also saw a stone fish which is quite poisonous and a whole bunch of nudibranches but mostly I just enjoyed the dive itself, warm water, great visibility, no current or surge to speak of and loads of interesting fish to look at - perfect.

The second dive was also really good, we dived at the same place as a couple of days ago. And swam past the same fish trap that had the big trigger fish but this time the trap was in pieces and a nice big hole in the wire at the top. Talking to the dive master afterwards he said that the trigger fish must have broken the trap, probably by chewing through the wire mesh, which was nice to hear. The trap itself was pretty much unmistakable because it was right at the beginning of the dive and had a long anchor rope unlike any other I've seen. Another great dive, saw octopus and fire coral amongst a host of other fish. The dive master pulled an octopus out of its hole and as I went to touch it, it squirted a cloud of black ink at me. What a great sighting.

At the deco stop, my dive buddies computer put him into deco for 25 minutes so while the rest of us went up after 10 minutes he had to stay down for a further 15 minutes at 5m. Pretty boring but it made me very happy that I had kept with the dive master during the first dive and hadn't dived deep with my partner.

Back on the beach, Caron and I read and drank the day away. I'm now on my 5th book which is something of a record for me although it is tough to concentrate with so many women in bikini's walking past my nose the whole time. Not easy I tell you!

Late afternoon we had a sundowner which was very tasty and I attempted to take a holiday snap which sort of worked.

As the sun set for our last time over the Indian ocean I snapped the following of the resort.

What a tough place to have to stay for a week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Almost there ...

I'm starting to wake up early without an alarm clock; not a good sign because it means that I have started catching up on sleep and the next phase is about to begin which is melancholic boredom.

We started the day off with a snorkel and swam quite far out towards the reef, far enough that we were swimming in actual waves even though we were still within the reef. As you can see from the picture we were literally within arms length of the reef and sometimes closer. It would not be wise to do this swim at any time other than near high tide because one would definitely impale oneself on a coral.

The coral, by the way, seems to be happily growing although there is some dead coral here and there, from el nino I presume.

Sea urchins, like british women, are not normally things of great beauty but how is this for a sea urchin!

We saw loads of vividly coloured and curious fish and the occasional clam, a few about 250mm across which is quite a large clam. This is besides the coral and the anenomes; it really is a special place to snorkel as long as one doesn't spear oneself on some coral.

I was paddled into by a novice, I give him the benefit of the doubt, paddler but I still can't fathom how incompetent you have to be to do that. No harm done so we carried on, I tried Caron's new snorkel out; what a difference! I am definitely going to buy myself one of those when I get back to Johannesburg.

We spent the rest of the day sitting under our tree, watching the scenery, and reading ... not exactly taxing. I saw several people going bright red today and I just can't understand it. If I go that red, I'm in pain for days; do these people just not feel it or am I just oversensitive?

16:00 arrived and out next session at the I asked for the same girl that gave me the massage - silvanah (or selva, we differ on what her name actually was) because she was really good last time. This time I asked here to just go a little harder and it was perfect, probably the best massage I have ever had. I'm not much into curios but if I had to take one from here, I would take her. Of course she might not be so keen. Great massage and then a steam bath followed by two showers to try and get the oil of; I don't know what oil they use but they use plenty of it and it's a devil to get off.

Clean and neat, we went to the bar to get a cocktail to have on the beach while the sun went down but the staff at the bar were so pathetic that the sun had long gone by the time we got down to the beach. I wonder if we can give tips bar the bar.

Yet another good meal and then off to bed. Last day tomorrow.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Aaaah, another day in Paradise.

It's starting to not feel so much like paradise, more like the movie that Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson were in called "The Island" - everything is perfect but you have the feeling that there is something you're missing.

We haven't left the boundaries of the resort which I am sure is what the proprietors want but I just don't have the energy to actually go and do something, all this relaxing is getting to me. I'm starting to feel like I'm Odysseus on the Isle of Lotus-Eaters.

Caron doing her best to smile and still communicate the message "I'll get you later!".

Today was dive day and we (the other divers and myself) had two really nice dives. The first was called "white cliffs" and is practically in the gap in the reef that boats use to come in and go out of. It's a wall dive with the bottom being at about 28m and the top at about 15m so we just gently drifted along the wall at about 18m. Saw lots of nudibranches and a juvenile emperor which has bright blue and white concentric circles on it's body. Very pretty. Loads to see, warm water and great visibility made for a great dive.

The second dive was within the reef so a bit shallower and we saw a cream with brown spots snake which I was told is actually an eel; a first for me. We also saw fishing traps with fish trapped in them. There was a large trigger fish in one of them who was going frantic, swimming hard but ineffectually into the wire mesh wall of the trap. I felt quite sorry for them, by tonight the beautiful trigger is fish is going to be on someone's plate, a barely remembered meal of what was once a thing of grace and beauty. Pretty sad when one thinks of it, it's not that it is wrong; just sad.

When we came up there was a bank of dark cloud on the horizon and as we neared the resort it solidified into driving rain which stung quite a lot. Washed up and then went to find Caron who had retired to the room so we slept and read the afternoon away while it rained intermittently.

As I write this, I am completely in the dark because the resort as a whole is observing earth hour so everything is off including the air-conditioner. Everything else I can cope with but I have grown quite attached to the air-conditioner. I think we are starting to acclimatise because the outside temperature of late 20's or very early 30's is starting to feel normal and the room to feel quite chilly.

To finish the day off I went for a walk between rain showers while Caron continued to snore away. Very beautiful in spite of the overcast weather although I think that as far as actual physical beach goes, South African beaches are much nicer to walk on.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A quiet day.

Since I'm not diving and the snorkel boat was full I had to find alternative entertainment since my normal source of entertainment, that would be Caron, is starting to fight back.

I managed to get one of the two lasers that can only be used at high tide and set off for a bit of a sail. Their description of where I may and may not sail was just a little bit vague and definitely not helped by the language difficulties. I headed out in the direction that they indicated was ok to sail but I think I went out further than they expected and a speedboat soon appeared to inform me that I wasn't allowed there. Sailing is only allowed in the 30 minutes before and after full tide because the lagoon is, in general, too shallow to sail on. Even a full tide, the rocks and coral are disconcertingly close to the bottom of the centreboard.

I have to confess that I did capsize a couple of times and had my hat taken off during a gybe but other than that I managed ok, at least I didn't have to be rescued from the coral reef. My sunburn on my legs from yesterday was quite painful, since I ride quite a lot I tend to think of my legs as sun insensitive but there's this little gap between where cycling shorts come down to and where a swimming costume comes down to. This piece of skin turned out to be very sensitive so I have a very wierd sunburn because halfway down my thigh it just disappears into suntanned skin.

We basically didn't budge for the rest of the day; all we did was laze around and read, drink water and move the deck chair into deeper shade as the sun moved across the sky. Caron went for a wrap and bake at the spa (I am not to call it 'the panelbeaters' anymore) and when she returned we had a plate of chips between us.

I was eating a nectarine while leaning over our balcony either yesterday or the day before and I felt a drop of juice escape and as I followed it's flight path downwards, the girl downstairs stepped out; the juice missed her nose by inches and her cleavage by less. Fortunately she didn't notice the sudden appearance of a dark splodge on the cement to I kept quiet and all ended well.

When the sun had gone down we showered and I shaved, much to caron's delight/relief, and dressed in what passes for formal wear here and went to the bar. It's not a coincidence that I've avoided the bar; R250 for a single J&B whisky and a Bombay Saphire G&T. I'm not sure about other people but this is expensive for me, I briefly thought that maybe we should have taken the 'all inclusive' package but then I noticed that most of the bar menu was excluded which makes me wonder what the 'all inclusive' package actually includes.

Nevertheless we had a very pleasant time sipping our drinks as night fell.

Supper was eastern this evening and, as always, it was delicious. I'm having to try really hard not to make a pig of myself but, thus far, I am managing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Diving in Mauritius.

Woke up late 07:30 so we had to rush breakfast and get down to the dive shop pronto in time to catch the boat.

There are only 5 divers myself included so it doesn't take long to kit up and carry our dive kit down to the waiting hard chine dive boat. I last dived over 2 years ago so by rights I should have had a pool session but since I have close to 100 dives; they let is slide and it didn't take long for everything to come back. It all feels so natural now, a bit like riding the proverbial bicycle. It will be my first dive with Nitrox instead of air and I should have switched my dive computer to nitrox but I just left it on air which is a more conservative measure mostly because I don't have the manual to switch to nitrox and you have to key in percentages and stuff and I don't want to be down there wondering if I did it right.

The first dive wasn't so fantastic, not too much to see but the water is nice and warm. We did see a small moray and a stinging nettle which was mid water and looked like fishing line just floating along with small poison capsules spread along it's length which was about a metre. I only wore a 1mm wetsuit top and I was plenty warm enough and 4kg of lead had me sinking like a stone. The second dive was much better, 2kg of lead; more than enough. We saw a nudibranch, a leaf fish (it looks just like seaweed) and several octopi. The octopi were very shy and refused to come out of their holes so we could only peer in at them. The diving rules here are more relaxed so they allow you to gently touch some of the things like the anenome that nemo usualy hangs around. Quite interesting, the 'tentacles' for want of a better word attach themselves to your finger quite quickly and you have to give a bit of gentle tug to get your hand away. One of the girls accidentally had them latch onto her forearm and she had a nasty case of mosquito bites where they touched her skin. Much more successful second dive and it was nice to get back to the boat with more than 70 still on the gauge, it really is like riding a bicycle.

Back on land and after a shower I found Caron on a beach recliner in deep shade which is unusual for her but ideal for me. We spent the afternoon reading, no silicone on display today, until the sun lost it's heat when we went for a walk along the beach past I don't know how many beachside holiday resorts. The beach is a bit eina to walk on because it isn't really sand but a mixture of coral and sand and sometimes the coral isn't as broken up as it should be.

I've seen a number of local fishermen on their boats during the day but we got to see some locals fishing with a net from the shore. They were catching small sardine like fish - they didn't look very appetising to me but they seemed pretty happy with them.

Back at the shack, another splendid meal and then before we knew it, it was sleepies time. Enjoyed watching a small child throw all the the decorative rocks around the edge of the pool into the pool! Ah, the joys of parenting!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First day in the sun!

First things up - Activities, diving for me; spa for Caron, I just get to tag along. Turns out that we can only dive tomorrow because todays boat has already left but we can at least get into the panelbeaters, I mean spa. Ouch!

We spent the morning snorkeling just off the beach which has quite a vicious side current, so much so that swimming at full tilt simply means that one stays still. I took my camera swimming, the advertising says that it is waterproof to 3m so there is only one way to find out if it is true. It is, check these out ...

and here we have sun baby absorbing some UV on the platform anchored about 75m offshore.

Once we had finished snorkeling we commandeered some beach recliners in a shady spot just next to a 50+ year old tanning topless; there weren't any other recliners so we didn't have a choice. Topless sunbathing is verboten but doesn't seem to stop the french, at least I think they're french. Not that I'm complaining mind you but it did have Caron chortling under her breath at me trying to act as if this is a completely normal situation for me; which it isn't.

We spent the majority of the afternoon just chilling out on the beach reading and at 17:00 we went to the spa where we were panelbeaten, I mean massaged, but it was quite unlike the Sani2C pain festival. This was really pleasant, I think that I am going to have to do it again. After the massage which went so quickly that I suspect that they have faster than normal clocks, it couldn't possibly have been a whole hour; I went for a steam sauna and then a cold (cool, nothing here is actually cold) shower. I had another shower back at the room because the oil they use for massage just won't wash off.

It was only at this point that Caron pointed out that the back of my legs were quite sunburnt from the snorkeling. A great supper, we have fallen into the 3 course habit. First up is a plate of salads/starters and then the main course which is chased down the hatch with some cheese on rolls. I am trying my best to restrain myself so I don't roll out of here like the other tubs of lard that are all around me. They make me feel quite lean and I should not be feeling that way.

So, all in all day 1 - Sunburn, great food and silicone boobs.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mauritius, here we come!

Not much to report, the trip to Mauritius takes far longer than the 4 hours flying time that one expects.

We woke up late i.e. after 06:00 and had a relaxed breakfast and left for the airport at 09:30. For some reason they want people at the airport 3 hours before flights. I can understand an hour or two but 3 hours is getting a little bit ridiculous. It did however give me tons on time to break some plastic in the 'duty free' which is supposed to actually be cheaper than buying the same goods on the landside. Not so much. All that happens is that the retailers pocket the duty they would have had to pay to customs. You do get a slight discount because you don't have to pay VAT but other than that, it's just more profit for the retailers. I think they should change the name because 'Duty Free' it isn't. Nevertheless, I now have a new phone and a new pair of sunglasses to replace the stolen ones. It only took close to 4 months to get the payout from the insurance company. They were pretty good about it, i.e. they didn't squabble about valuations but it did take a long time.

Seeing as we are flying against the rotation of the earth, we landed in darkness and by the time we made it to the hotel is was 21:00 Mauritian time. By the time we finally made it to bed it was 01:30 Mauritian time by which time we, read I, was starting to get a bit ratty. If they could just have delivered our bags to our room without having to encourage them to do so, three times.

The hotel looks beautiful, this is the view as you walk into the front entrance:

and another view, the night was warm at 30 deg C but not that stifling heat of Dubai, probably thanks to a bit of a breeze.

I always judge rooms by whether they are more or less comfortable than home and I have to say that for the first time that I can remember this room cuts the cake. No hotel room that I have stayed at in europe comes close and neither does any of the south african hotels I have stayed in. Hope Caron doesn't take to this too much because we would have to knock half our house down to create something similar.

While we were waiting for the bags we went and had some supper on the terrace which is just visually superb and is complimented by the cuisine. I'm not much of a gastronaut (gastronome) but I am definitely going to enjoy the fine dining to be had here.

Bags finally arrived so after a shower in the 'wet room' we were off to bed. Did I mention that the room as a study attached? How convenient. The hotel does not have wireless internet access which, in my book, is a particularly black mark.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Follow your heart ...

There is another sense in which the heart sometimes should be led, not followed. When motivation is lacking, it is often inadvisable to just wait until you feel like getting on with whatever it is you want or think you should be doing. Making a reluctant start is often the best way of creating more motivation to carry on."

Julian Baggini - "Should you judge this book by its cover"