What goes up, must come down

This post is going to be pretty light on text, the reason for which I’ll explain in a moment. But first, let us pause to appreciate the insanely beautiful sunsets in this part of the world:

sunset

I was having a marvelous time on Koh Tao – a scuba divers paradise in the Gulf of Thailand – rekindling my passion for diving and even giving the art of rock climbing a bit of a go.

Diving in tropical waters means you are almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of awesome stuff to look at, and you can’t help but be on a natural high after each amazing journey below the waves.

My little point-and-shoot camera is capable of withstanding -12m and I took it along on the two best dives I’ve ever done. I gleefully snapped away and in amongst the hundreds of photos there were a few gems.

A pair of Butterfly fish (Chaetodon spp.), Twins, Koh Tao

A pair of Butterfly fish (Chaetodon spp.), Twins, Koh Tao

Underwater photography is more difficult than I imagined for a few reasons:

1. You are floating in the water and, unless you have mastered buoyancy control, you tend to move around a fair bit

2. The fish move around quickly and rarely pose for pictures, let alone give you time to compose your shot. Combined with number 1, above, this means you get lots of pictures of their tails

3. The water is rarely crystal clear (like you see in National Geographic) so you get lots of poorly focused pics of the bits and pieces floating in the water column when you need to rely on autofocus.

So I feel my success rate of ~2% wasn’t bad.

These creatures are amazing. Nudibranchs are something like naked snails and range in colour from neatly camoflaged to insanely colourful like this one

These creatures are amazing. Nudibranchs are something like naked snails and range in colour from neatly camoflaged to insanely colourful like this one

I knew rock climbing would be well outside my comfort zone, but I wanted to give it a try. I did the intro-level course with the folks at Goodtime Adventures and surprised myself a bit with what I was able to do. Despite violently shaking knees and a jaw clenched to the point of pain, I found myself much farther up seemingly flat rock walls than I ever thought possible.

The "holds" on this face were no more than one centimeter deep. I was terrified.

The “holds” on this face were no more than one centimeter deep. I was terrified.

It was with a sense of real achievement, that we went out for a few cold beverages that evening, and everyone was feeling a touch invincible having looked death and dismemberment in the face and come away unscathed. This is of course, when disaster is most likely to strike, and it hit me in the form of a plank of wood at the entrance to my accommodation. One little stumble, a hand out to break the fall and searing pain.

The next morning, I attempted to find somewhere to get my hand x-rayed and discovered that all the doctors on the island had taken a holiday for the day. I got a splint put on it and waited til the next day to get an x-ray. After the x-ray I was told that I’d cracked one of the bones in my wrist and that would mean up to six weeks off the bike, devastation hit pretty hard.

I headed off to Samui the next day to see the bone doc with my spirits pretty low. The first thing the doc said to me was that he couldn’t see any fractures on the xray… Huh? My hopes started to rise, but I kept it in check until a second xray was taken. I think I scared the doc when I performed a seated dance-of-joy when he gave me the news that he still couldn’t detect any fractures. Woot!!!! It’s still pretty badly sprained and I’m in a partial plaster cast, but I can shower and more importantly, get in the sea for a gentle swim. The thought that I was to be trapped in a tropical island paradise and not be able to swim was threatening to send me nut-bar crazy.

It will be a couple of weeks until I can get back on the bike – I can’t make a fist with my left hand yet and maneuvering a heavy bike is still a ways off – so I’ve been finding other things to keep me occupied. There’s a great little cafe up the hill that has an artists corner (Raw Art Moovement) so I’m preparing to paint one of the pics I took diving. Paint should be hitting the canvas shortly, so fingers crossed it comes out looking something like the picture I took down there.

Some more pictures:

A unique aquatic relationship: the small blue fish is known as a Cleaner Fish and spends his time picking parasites off other fish at pre-arranged "cleaning stations". The other fish queue up and wait their turn in quite an orderly fashion. Family groups consist of a dominant male, a dominant female and additional submissive females. When the male expires, the dominant female changes sex and takes over the role of cleaner. Fascinating stuff.

A unique aquatic relationship: the small blue fish is known as a Cleanerfish and spends his time picking parasites off other fish (like the larger parrotfish in this pic) at pre-arranged “cleaning stations”. The other fish queue up and wait their turn in quite an orderly fashion. Sairee Reef, Koh Tao.

More fun facts from this photo:

  • Cleanerfish wrasse family groups consist of a dominant male, a dominant female and additional submissive females. When the male expires, the dominant female changes sex and takes over the role of cleaner.
  • That beautiful white sand that you love so much? Well it’s basically parrotfish droppings. They feed in massive schools, consuming bits of coral and algae off the sea floor which they then excrete as sand. Nice.

Friend or foe?

Friend or foe? Sairee Reef, Koh Tao.

Butterflyfish (Chaetodon spp) in Staghorn coral, Japanese Garden, Koh Tao

Butterflyfish (Chaetodon spp.) in Staghorn coral, White Rock, Koh Tao

The devil of Koh Tao: the Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens). One of these buggers attacked me when I was learning to dive here in 2004. During breeding season these guys are incredibly territorial and attack hapless divers that enter their "zone". Twins, Koh Tao

The devil of Koh Tao: the Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens). One of these buggers attacked me when I was learning to dive here in 2004. During breeding season these guys are incredibly territorial and attack hapless divers that enter their “zone”. As they grow to around 50cm in length and have an ugly set of crooked teeth they can be very intimidating. Twins, Koh Tao

Big sad eyes. A Porcupinefish (Diodon spp.), Japanese Garden, Koh Tao.

Big sad eyes. A Porcupinefish (Diodon spp.), White Rock, Koh Tao.

Christmas Tree Worms. These guys live inside coral and use these feather-like filters to gather microscopic food from the water.

Christmas Tree Worms. These guys live inside coral and use these feather-like filters to gather microscopic food from the water.

The regal looking Bannerfish (Heniocus acuminatus), named for its magnificent flowing dorsal fin. White Rock, Koh Tao

The regal looking Bannerfish (Heniocus acuminatus), named for its magnificent flowing dorsal fin. White Rock, Koh Tao.

Anenomefish inside a Magnificent Anenome. These guys have evolved to be immune to the sting of the anenome, while their predators have not.

Found Nemo! Anenomefish inside a Magnificent Anenome.

The glamorous Giant Clam. Old and kind of cool, these creatures live with photosynthesizing algae who use the clam's waste to produce energy which they feed back to the clam.

The glamorous Giant Clam. Old and kind of cool, these creatures live with photosynthesizing algae who use the clam’s waste to produce energy which they feed back to the clam.

A pair of Jorunna nudibranchs (Jorunna funebris). White Rock, Koh Tao.

A pair of Jorunna nudibranchs (Jorunna funebris). White Rock, Koh Tao.

Sea urchins. These guys are spikey and leave their spines inside your flesh if you happen to accidently give them a high five. Best just to wave hello.

Sea urchins. These guys are spikey and leave their spines inside your flesh if you happen to accidently give them a high five. Best just to wave hello.

Another rare and beautiful aquatic creature. May be poisonous and uses hugs to heal other creatures.

Another rare and beautiful aquatic creature. May be poisonous and uses hugs to heal other creatures.

Angelfish (Pormcanthus spp.) , White Rock, Koh Tao

Angelfish (Pormcanthus spp.) , White Rock, Koh Tao.

Still can't believe I was brave enough to snap this photo. I was wedged into a crack with my feet on one wall and my back on the other.

Still can’t believe I was brave enough to snap this photo. I was wedged into a crack with my feet on one wall and my back on the other and was at least 5m off the ground (which felt like 50).

Happy Princess Day! I woke on my birthday to find this make-shift cake outside my bungalow. My beautiful cycling friends Lisette and Werner paid me a visit to celebrate my birthday, they also spent plenty of time telling me to "be careful" everytime I approoached the plank that I tripped over. So much so, I still have their voices 'playing' when I approach it. Thanks guys!

Happy Princess Day! I woke on my birthday to find this make-shift cake outside my bungalow. My beautiful cycling friends Lisette and Werner paid me a visit to celebrate my birthday, they also spent plenty of time telling me to “be careful” everytime I approoached the plank that I tripped over. So much so, I still have their voices ‘playing’ when I approach it. Thanks guys!

I hope this post finds you surrounded by extraordinary beauty and without any annoyingly banal injuries to frustrate your plans.


Comments

What goes up, must come down — 8 Comments

  1. Beautiful pics again! I’m glad the camera provides you with so much pleasure. I’m sorry about your wrist though. Hopefully you can continue your journey soon in good health!
    By the way, this summer I will be back in Holland but in September I will be back in China. I hope to see you here again in the future. Or maybe Down Under. You never know.
    Big hug

  2. oh Jane – running for a tram, walking, getting up from your desk – its the mundane that gets you every time – you should feel invincible with the scary shit!!!

    Keep a cold beer near that wrist and regularly lift it

    yours etc

    Dr Dobson

  3. Somehow Im oddly disturb by the lack of penguins in your underwater photos. You are completely insane, keep up the good work!

  4. Yo Yo Yo! Holdin’ it down in Dali. What a great place to be forced to hang out at. I’m jealous. Hope you get better soon. Send us an email, b/c we don’t know how else to reach you but through this comment thingy. Miss ya!

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