Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

No, I haven’t been to Mexico recently

Sunday, 10th May 2009. Filed in Travel1 Comment »

I spent the afternoon yesterday going through the 1,071 images we took while we were in the Maldives. It’s a work in progress, but thanks to the helpfulness of Adobe Bridge, I have around 300 already marked for deletion. At one point in the trip down memory lane, I hit a rough spot. I came to the pictures we took on our sunset photo cruise – the dhoni boat trip that had us drifting up and down, up and down, up and down. Did you get that? Up and down, up and down, up and down. I thought I was going to die. Absolutely die. I tried to hold my pressure points. I tried to focus on a little island on the horizon.  The only thing I managed to really do was think about how I was going to die.

I have never been seasick like that before. I’ve hit some rough moments on ferry crossings that prompted me to buy some acupressure wrist bands, but nothing terrible.

Luckily, I didn’t barf. On the boat. I made it halfway along the jetty toward the bathroom at the dive center before vomiting all over myself and the jetty.

It is not a happy memory – I was pretty embarrassed – except for the part where I finally made it over the side of the jetty and the fish swarmed – swarmed! – to the bilious remnants of my big mama cheeseburger and french fries. That part was actually pretty amusing.  And the fact that Crunchy husband kept saying, “where are your sunglasses? Give me your sunglasses! Don’t lose your sunglasses!” No matter that I am spewing my guts in paradise and spoiling the romantic evening stroll of more than one vacationing couple, let’s not lose the Oakleys. Yes, we know what matters in this family.

Unfortunately, I seem to be on a roll. Last Wednesday night, while sitting through a live Rob Brydon show in Margate, I started feeling a bit rough, a bit hot and a little ill. Crunchy husband concurred. We blamed the chicken and hoped for the best. (Read: we were in the second row and really not interested in calling attention to ourselves.) By Thursday evening, it was apparent we were both fighting a bug. I slept 11 hours and made it pretty well through Friday. Yesterday, I spent the day totally chillin’  (me and my photos) and eating lots of chicken soup. I thought things were looking up.

Oh, ho, ho! Was I mistaken? Yes, yes, indeed. I headed to bed at around 9 because it was all going a bit downhill, and I’ve just got too much stuff on to be sick for real.  But before I could get to sleep, I got the chills, the shakes, the ‘my god will the bed stop rocking!’ and promptly emptied the contents of my stomach into the trash can by the bed.

I will say one thing, my aim is getting better. And I slept like a baby and feel much better this morning. So, I am hoping for a good start to the week. But, I am disappointed I can’t ride today. The sun’s out and the bike is so ready to go.

For more Maldivian shots, the Flickr set has been updated.

Fish are friends, not food

Thursday, 2nd April 2009. Filed in Travel2 Comments »

…and so are humans!

Crunchy husband and I took a brief break from reality to soak up the sun (beneath our layers of 50+ sunscreen, of course) and learn about all the fish in the Maldives last week. We were calling it our “honeymoon” because a) we got married in November (not this past one – in 2005), so the 3 days of our honeymoon in Portugal weren’t very warm and we always said we’d go on a tropical beach holiday, and b) we never do stuff quite as extravagant as this so it felt special, just like a honeymoon. I even bought new pretty underwear (which is so NOT me) and wore a bikini the whole time (which is even more so NOT me).

It was an amazing trip. I didn’t stop feeling lucky to be there and experiencing the beauty of the place. We were given a sea plane transfer from the main airport in Male’ to our little island in the Raa Atoll (in the north, so we didn’t quite make it across the equator to the southern hemisphere, but we got close!). The sights from that flight blew me away. I was glued to the window. The islands are formed by a mountain range rising up through the ocean.  So, as you’d expect, some peaks are higher than others (those ones form the islands above water) and then others just form craters of shallower lagoons. You end up getting spots of clear, light blue surrounded by the deeper, darker ocean. The contrast in colors and patterns reminded us of so many of the geothermal pools at Yellowstone.

The first day we got there, we got to the island around 2pm. We were graciously received and told to have lunch as it was through being served in a half an hour. After we had our first (of many) tastes of very spicy curry, we dug out our bathing suits (I put one of mine in my carry-on, just in case!), snorkels, fins and hit the beach. My first trip out – Crunchy husband’s not so much a water baby as I am – I was swimming along, reveling in the fish that were so close, you didn’t have to swim far, or really at all to see so many, and then I looked up. I did a double take and then thought, “oh my god, that’s a shark!” They look exactly like they do on tv and at the aquarium! I was so excited, rather than sit there calmly and observe (or even kind of follow it because it saw me and headed the other way), I had to tell someone. I swam back to Crunchy husband and said, “oh my god, there was a shark, right there! I got to swim with a shark!”

I stood there in the shallows taking it all in. I was so excited, but then did I really see it? Was I hallucinating? It was really a shark, right? How could I be that lucky? And then I turned around. And found I had nearly landed myself on a sting ray. The excitement continued!

It was amazing. As we found as the week went on, the shark was real. We saw it again in the water later that day, which I am glad about because I wanted Crunchy husband to see it underwater too and share that with him, and then we saw it a couple times while we were walking along the groin and jetty. And the stingrays were common, too. You had to watch where you were stepping and shuffle your feet in the sand so as not to startle them as soon as you got in the water.

The snorkeling completely met my expectations. It took me a little while to get out to the drop off because, especially at low tide, it was not always easy to get straight through the shallow area. But,  I felt so good to finally make it out. The first glimpse of the deep while underwater is hard to describe: breathtaking, awesome. I was swimming along just barely above the coral and then at once, I was floating at the top of this immense blue void. It’s deep and solid, just blue everywhere. And then as my eyes adjusted, I could make out shafts of light penetrating the water near the surface and little dots that, as my eyes focused even more, I came to realize were tons and tons of fish.  It’s one of those moments in life that puts so much else in perspective. It’s quiet, calm and yet it’s so intense and meaningful.

There were so many fish to see, and so little time and knowledge to take it all in. We bought our “Reef Fishes of the Maldives” book and waterproof card to take with us out in the water, but it still took many trips of memorizing patterns and colors and sizes to start to be able to match them up with the pictures in the book. The scariest thing we did see was a triggerfish (like this one, but not the exact one) that we think may have been guarding a nest because it looked agitated and we swear we saw teeth. We gave it a wide berth, since we had just read in the book, “Titan triggerfishes are so powerful and defend their nests with such vigor that they are often considered the most dangerous fish in the Maldives. They are certainly capable of inflicting a nasty bite.” We didn’t stick around to find out.

There weren’t very many anemones on our reef, at least not at the depths we were going to, but I did find one and it did feature a couple of Maldivian anemonefish, so yes, I found Nemo.

It’s going to take a while to get through all the photos from all the various cameras we had, and pick out the best ones to put on Flickr. If you are interested, keep a watch on this link for additions.