Fred and I had organised a boat tour. We had a pickup time of 8am, but neither of us took a time-telling device to breakfast so we were horribly late. Luckily a tiny man wearing a posh red shirt turned up in a minivan and took us to the pier.
We were to go on a boat trip around the Islands by Pak Bara. I had dreams of a little ramshackle boat with a couple of nice boat guy guides, but it was more like a ferry. It must have been around 80 people that got crammed onto it and a man with a megaphone.
This was pretty much the theme for the day, as the boat followed the same route as another 4 or 6 of the same size. So each place was swarming with unloaded boatgoers. But it was still well worth it for the stops were pretty special.
The first was Emerald Beach. It was here everyone on the boat was offloaded one by one outside a watery cave. They wore life jackets and clung to each other’s backs in the water, like a huge seagoing millipede. Each segment a human being, bobbing up and down as the ever increasing waves drove them deeper into the cave. Fred and I were allowed to swim separately, and swam on ahead of the millipede.
What we’d thought was a simple task soon turned pretty terrifying. We were basically swimming through a pitch black cave for thirty metres, hoping we were going the right direction. The only useful light would come from the boat guide behind us, pulling the millepede through at a painfully slow pace. This meant we’d only get a dash of light every thirty seconds or so, and those thirty seconds seemed very long indeed. On top of all this there were huge waves coming in and through the cave, and if you were in the wrong place you’d rise up fast and thump your head on the ceiling.
Eventually, with some relief, we made it to the light at the end of the tunnel. As we followed it we emerged into a huge open chasm with a beach in front. It was rock solid karst stone surrounding us, reaching up to the sky. The only way in or out was the cave, and yet there was a beach filled with fauna, and trees over forty metres tall. It was stunning, except for the fact there was a lot of other people there, each millepeded from their own boats, and yabbering and taking pictures. It was still worth it though.
The other stops of the day were Koh Kradan – a beautiful but expensive island where Fred and I bought beer and drank them as we sat in the sea – and a couple of snorkel stops. These weren’t up to much as boat anchors had destroyed pretty much everything, but I managed to see a moray eel for the first time. It sat in a hole poking its nose into the air, its mouth slightly ajar. I lifted my head out the water to call Fred, and felt a sharp stinging sensation in my foot. I’d kicked a sea urchin. I thought this was the worst thing in the world, but the boat guy I showed it to just laughed.
We returned to shore feeling tired, but it was totally worth it. At the beach Freddie tried putting up a hammock. But he was using the shittiest bungee cords I have ever seen. As he sat on it there was a ‘poing’, and the bungee cord shot into the distance as Freddie was ungracefully dropped to the floor. The large numbers of locals sitting around having their picnics laughed as though witnessing Laurel and Hardy themselves, and stood up and clapped Freddie for giving them such a show.