After nearly 2 months in Madagascar it was regrettably time to move on, though we will be returning in September for the final trips of the season. The rough plan was to spend a few days in Madagascar, then sail across the Mozambique channel some 550 miles with a stop in Europa, a French island outpost of which we’d heard tantalizing rumours of sharks, turtles, and a phenomenal left hand wave.
I’m not used to this. Sitting down at the computer writing about a trip where everything went right..or at least mostly right. Ok, a few people got sick but in Madagascar that’s pretty much par for the course. But no one got hurt. The wind and waves paid us a number of visits. Knock on wood, but maybe our luck has finally returned?
In the 2 1/2 days between 14 day back to back trips I found myself deflated and exhausted. A common theme of these logs I know. Less than 60 hours to clean, provision, complete necessary maintenance, handle all the administrative tasks, take on fuel, propane- all the things that happen behind the scenes that are so necessary to keep Discovery on the move. Yet I hear again and again, from just about everyone who boards that I must have the best job in the world. Hmmm. My house has guests visiting 200+ days every year. It is small (as houses go), always on the move, in constant need of repair; and my office, bed, bathroom and only place to be “alone”, is the size of a large closet and shared with my partner Jody.
After our 30 day Cargados trip I was looking forward to 8 badly needed days of rest in Reunion with no clients and no guests. I’d researched all the surf waves and paragliding sites over a year ago and couldn’t wait to taste the goods. I should have known better. Maintenace alone took the better part of a week. Continued engine worries, a number of canvas and sail projects, burned out battery charger- the list kept growing. And then 48 hours before our planned departure things went from bad to awful. We’d flown our wonder chef Bobby back to Jakarta for the week so he could meet his new daughter, who was born in February. I’d received a number of emails all week about how good everything was going with his family and how excited he was to return. I drove to the airport to pick him up, but he didn’t show. I assumed he’d just missed a connection, but learned shortly thereafter from his first wife (Bobby has two wives) that he been very badly injured in a car crash en route to the airport in Jakarta on his way back to Discovery. We were told he had a broken back, badly damaged face, hands and one knee; and of course would not be returning to the boat.
Knowing the trade winds would be long gone by April we planned this 10 day adventure around surf. The southern atolls in the Maldives are exposed to reliable swell from the south Indian Ocean, which culminate in some of the worlds best reef breaks. Our plan was to leave Male and cover the distance to arrive well before the clients’ flight into Huvadhoo atoll, one of the largest atolls in the world and only 20 miles north of the equator. But on the day of our planned departure I learned 8 time world SUP champion Jamie Mitchell’s signature Surftech board had not arrived. As SUP boards aren’t the easiest things to travel with we’d made plans weeks in advance to have it shipped to Male so we could carry it south with us on Discovery. Instead of departing I spent a full night with our agent Abdullah at the airport trying to clear the board from customs. This would not be the last problem on the trip.
I’ve never been into drugs. But I imagine “coming down” would feel a lot like I do right now. A bit dizzy, a bit confused, a lot tired. The last 15 days played out like an eternity and somehow also disappeared in a flash. When I look back it all seemed to start ages ago because there’s no way you can fit into each day all the things that happened, but it also seems like the clients just stepped on the boat. My body and those of our guests show signs of genuine abuse. I’ve got a serious limp after smacking my calf into a Kiteboard while rescuing a sinking mask; the guests thankfully are unhurt, but they may want to have a skin exam in the near future. The sun has crisped their skin like burnt bacon.
In the Honeymoon destination of the Maldives you find many wonders, but get off the tourist route a bit and you find pure paradise. Join us as we are the first ever to paraglide over these magical waters.
I try not to get too excited about any of the locations on our itinerary. Most of them are places I haven’t been to in the past, just like our guests. But I’ve found if you allow yourself to romanticize and dream too much, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Readers might recall this was the case with Myanmar, where the guidebooks and the crazy costs to get there conspired into hype which got the better of me (see “Long Days in a Strange Land“). So as we sailed, well motored west from Myanmar across the Bay of Bengal to the Andaman Islands I left the guidebooks on their shelves, and kept my mind buried in the engine rooms, which needed attention, rather than the horizon.
Burma, or Myanmar is very, very difficult to sail due to the time consuming and exhorbitant expense of obtaining permits. Our hope was that this meant we’d be sailing an area that was pristine and wild. We find it anything but.
We celebrate the New Year with a full moon for company in the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar.