Kayaking trip – looooong!

The Kayak (which I have discovered, is how you spell it) Adventure

So we found some Kayaks! We where in the tiny little town of Seethanu yesterday buying some food and eating breakfast at the Rasta Bar. We thought it would be a good idea to ‘inquire localy’ about some kayaks. The coolest named place in/around Seethanu is Chills, which is spelled with a picture of a reclining man for the i (If we had a net connection I’d have found a picture), so we followed the signs past the SeeThanu’s make-shift harbour and down a mud road and up a hill and down it again until we got where we where going.

Oh my god this is going to be a long story. I can’t believe I haven’t even gotten to the kayaks yet. Or the day of the event.

Sos we wander up and there’s this nice looking little bar and an english accent hollers something friendly in our direction. I ask about kayaks and he says they just got two all of four days ago and isn’t that amasing. He quotes me 150 baht an hour (about 4.50 cad) and 700 baht a day. I ask him about two days because I recon we can just pull them up to our house at the end of the day. He hums and hahs and comes up with 1250 which sounds good to me. So we book 2 of them (both of them) for the next morning (well actually we book them for a couple hours later on that day and then change our mind at the top of the hill walking back but this is long and pointless enough already).

Skip ahead a day almost entirely spent swimming just in front of the house, a fairly restfull night, and a toast and tea breakfast. We have a date with Kayaks!

Yes, so, after that skipping we wander up towards chills again at like 9ish in the morning. The bar is just as nice looking, no sign to either of the guys I was talking to last night (sorry, one guy got streamlined out). Anyway after trying and failing to get Kayaks from both a very clean cut guest and a very thai waitress we decide we need some more breakfast. Which turns ot to be a very nice bowl of muslii, fruit, and yogurt (my breakfasts haven’t been real thai) with one of these fruit shakes that everyone here makes and everyone makes very well (my favorite is cococut, this one was banana. A close second).

Anyway the very clean cut american (it turns out) guest I tried to rent a kayak from decides he needs to watch That 70’s Show at 9 in the morning in an open air thai bar (I’m never going to refer to anothing eating establishment as ‘open air’ because I have yet to see one that isn’t). So we ate our tasty breakfast while realising certain things about western culture in general and that 70’s show in particular (omg! that short chick on that show totaly plays meg from the family guy!) until one of the english guys wandered down to the bar.

He remebered us, remembered the deal and, promptly set his man on retrieving the kayaks. Which his man uncomplainingly did.

I ended up chatting to the english guy who turned out to be really interesting and very cool, dispite ordering some thai dude to do all the heavy lifting when he himself was a bit of a free-loader at the time (remind me to edit this if I ever make friends with that guy and give him the addy to this). In fact he was far too interesting to attempt to discuss at this point in time, as his most interesting aspects are only tangentially related to kayaks.

So yes, we obtained a couple of Kayaks! First kayak mission: to the house! we need a passport in order to rent the kayaks! Yes. He informed us that morning: “Huh, gee, I should probably get a passport or something off of you so you don’t just run off with the kayaks”. Of course it would be really inconvenient to walk all the way back to the house and then back to chills with a passport so he suggested: “why not use the kayaks to pick up the passport”? Genius! Why didn’t I think of that?

So there we where in the water bobbing off towards the house, which wasn’t really very far away at all. So we bobbed between some rocks that buffeted the very small beach Chills is perched on, and past the clumps of very small mangrove (I think?) forests to our house. It probably took about as long as it takes to walk. Well the way there took much longer because we kept sneaking up on little flocks of Whimbrels (we checked three new birds off today!) trying to identify their whitish patch on the rump extending up the back in a V. Which we did. They have very neat curved beaks. And green feet! Which is actually pretty common here for waders.

Yes so we got the passport and then b-lined it back to chills, dropped off the damper than expected passport, and continued on past, into territories unkown.

Well actually we knew the territory at least poorly. We had walked all the way up to Haad Yao (you all have a map of Koh Phangan handy right?) where we spotted a used snorkling place. So we had walked past everything we where about to paddle past (altough in alot of places the road doesn’t follow the beach). In fact it was our informal goal to make it back to Haad Yao by Kayak to buy some used snorking.

So we paddled past a very small wall of the gorgeous granite that the entire island seems to be made up. We paddled through the bay SreeThanu lives on. Past their port. The bay is very very shallow except for a narrow trench leading in to the docks. Sarah thinks the narrow trench might be man-made but that seems like a big job to me for a tiny fishing village. I think it is more likely the village exists because of the trench and not the other way around.

We paddled past a floating… room. Made of bamboo right on the edge of the trench. Mabey for crabbing or fishing? It honestly looked like it was where the traffic guard stood when directing rush hour boat traffic.

Past one cabana, two, cabana, three cabana, more. And then to the end of the bay. This felt like an accomplishment. Recounting it to you now it doesn’t seem very far but there are factors I have not mentioned. For one, I said kayaks but we did not get kayaks. We did not get what you get if you walk down to the water in BC and ask for a kayak.

We got what tourists in the bay of thailand get when they walk down to the water and ask for a kayak. I think they’re called ducks? But I may be making that up. Anyway they are small (7 feet long?) and open. And being open they bob your centre of gravity around 20 centimeters over the water instead of a couple of centimeters beneath it. Anyway they where not like paddling a kayak. They where like paddling a log. A very admirably designed log, but a log none-the-less. Actually they didn’t act like a log in terms of the yawing with each paddle stroke. Each stroke brought the bow through something like 10 degrees so you kind of waddled back and forth. I just kept staring at the bow and cringing at all the energy I was expending to make that stupid little waddle happen. So keep in mind we where not doing this in an elegent vessel designed for nar-whale hunting, we are doing it in a chunk of plastic designed for drunked germans.

It also doesn’t seem like very far to me because I just got back from doing it in the other direction. And let me tell you, with the current the way it is I barely had to be awake for the return trip. Even though I was paddling a duck.

So yes, we where starting to feel the effects of that marathon 2km paddle as we rounded the head of Seethanu’s bay. And wow, we saw, weather. The darkest storm cloud we have seen to date filled the entire sky up ahead of us. It reached down to touch the water in places where it was raining, and it was moving towards us steadily. We were doomed!

Luckily as we rounded the bend we also came upon a small deserted looking beach – shelter! We paddled down it for a bit and noticed all the fishing refuse and palm tree stumps. It really was a nice beach; deep fine sand and a tide line of broken coral bits and beautiful little shells. They must work pretty hard to keep the tourist beaches so clean. Sarah thought the garbage and stuff was actually pretty cool and set off to walk down the beach, and Colin climbed the sandy bluff to investigate our first small forest, made of these trees that look like giant horsetails, and big vines that hung off everything. Oh – and we got rained on, a lot. It was wonderful. :)

But all the storms we’ve had so far last for about 10 minutes, so we were off again after some more tooling around and spotting some beautiful new birds (so glad we have the binocs again!). Around the next bend we could see what looked like a shipwrecked ship up on the rocks, with torn white sails flapping in the wind. These guys had their decor down – it was the famed Pirate Bar! With an entire wall of speakers and DJ booth – outdoors no less; can they do that? I can see why the bar is way out on the rocks a long way from nowhere. Dude from Chills said he did some DJing at the Apache Bar the next beach up; I wonder if he has been to any parties here.

Speaking of parties! They’ve been building a house (or maybe a house/business) just up the street from us and are now celebrating it’s completion with a karaoke party. We’ve been wondering what the deal with the loud Thai music was; Colin just strolled up to take a look and met someone we knew from a nearby restaurant who explained it. I’m glad it isn’t just obnoxious tourists! :)

We’re pretty wiped tonight after so much paddling and sunshine, we couldn’t even drag out butts back out for dinner so we’re dining on snacky odds-and-ends. I’m happy to say they have those little chestnut and bean paste cookies here that Sarah liked so much from Thriftys. Also sticky sweet rice wrapped in leaves – yum!

So anyway we continued on past the pirate bar, and five-cabana-six (more like 20 at this point), to the fabulously clean Sunset Cove with resorts surrounding it on all the hillsides. The going had been pretty tough so far; there seemed to be a (wonderful, coolin) wind blowing in our faces and a current to fight against, so we stopped in for lunch at the clean clean beach. And found the most beautiful resort (all wood and gorgeous flowers, and wooden paths everywhere, like botanical gardens) which also had the best food so far. Even the bathrooms were super-wow with a sink and mirror carved out of a gnarly tree base. And TP! We’re keeping places in mind for those of you who will be joining us next year and this one is tops (although we were too polite to ask the price).

We noticed the start of our sunburns at this point, and after re-lathering up with sticky white sunscreen we decided to head back. It had seemed much too far to go two more long beaches to Haad Yao, but as soon as we turned around and had the wind behind us and the current going our way, things were a breeze. We discovered we had much more time and energy to get back with so we took our time and poked around the rocks and stopped at the cool deserted beach again. We saw an amazing huge jellyfish with bright blue tentacles, numerous crabs, one very well-to-do hermit crab and a school of silver fish that jumped out of the water around our kayaks.

There is a large grove of trees growing out of the water (mangrove trees (?) – at least three species) just north of our bay, and we spent a couple of hours trying to navigate our boats around inside the dense dipping branches (or are they roots?). The water in there was extremely still and shallow, and the only sounds were birds around making eerie hoop-hooop noises.

Yes, the mini magrove forests where completely fantastic in the little ducks. It’s like being 12 again and wandering all through the woods. I hasten to mention again that these where small patches. I don’t want people all imagining these amasing mabgrove forests just to feel lied to when we finally get a picture out. The tallest trees in stand something about 5 meters and the largest patch is probably on the order of a couple of mabey a hundred meters to a side. But they are very dense and they are very cool. They are pretty much exactly as you’d imagine a tiny mangrove forest. Much like a normal forest of tall sapplings but all standing on roots as thick as thumbs arcing every which-way into about a foot of water with a sandy bottom. It is SO much fun navigating the maze of roots in the little ducks. I admit that a real ocean kyak would be completely useless here. Far too long and far too hard to manouver. I don’t know why but the huge tangle has these little sort-of-paths running through it. Paths where the tangle is just a little less dense and you could, if you layed down flat on your back and pulled your little faux-kayak along by the branches, sneak through the maze.

We crept along inside the forest exploring and looking for unfamiliar birds (two of which I startled but did not get much of a look at). The sun was shining, the ocean was warm, there was a marine thicket in need of exploring and good god life is just really really good.

Spider count for Erin: Sarah has now seen four. A second fuzzy little wolf spider has been sitting on our front door, and there were tiny tiny tiny little webs in the grove with equally tiny spiders in them. Sarah *thought* she saw a terrible ugly big spider nest in a bunch of hanging leaves, and actually capsized her kayak to avoid smacking her face into it. It may have actually been caterpillars of some sort but she was happy to leave that investigation for another day.

Oh, and there were rocks in the middle of the grove that we climed up on to. What a view!

Wheuf; exhaustion has hit both of us for reals, and we’ve checked off in our bird book what birds we could identify (the hoop-hoooper was a Greater Coucal which we spotted once). So I think we will both rest well tonight; despite the bass thrumming of the karaoke party down the street.


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