Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Heart of Darkness 221208

I’ve had a couple of days surfing the pretty solid lefts of Careneros. The first few sessions I went barefoot, like the big boys do, but a foot full of sea urchin spikes has put paid to my early bravado and I’ve donned my reef boots since. A full hour digging and hacking at my feet with tweezers, a knife and finally a sewing needle to get the beautiful yet poisonous purple shards out extinguished the remaining desire to be a cool barefoot reef surfer. It’s not like I’m trying maneuvers of such skill and delicacy that only my highly dexterous soles in direct contact with my board will suffice. My Bocas surf buddy has been with a 9yr old local kid who’s hitched free water taxi’s with me – I think that illustrates my level perfectly.

The swell dropped in the last day rendering Careneros too small so I headed for Isla Bastimentos, the next island in the chain and one who’s north coast is exposed more directly to the prevailing wave direction. The water taxi dropped me in the small town of Bastimentos on the south side of island. I was heading for Wizard beach on the north side and had been told there’s an easy 20 minute saunter across the island on the one clearly marked path from town. I asked some kids for directions in my finest Spanglish and was pointed down the path which served as the town’s high street. There’s no cars or roads on this island and it’s conspicuously less developed as a tourist spot than it’s neighbours. With chickens, goats and ponies wandering up and down the High Street(path) and not a gringo to be seen it’s unequivocally authentic. I followed the main path hugging the coast through the town until it veered inland and up the hill through the town graveyard, weaving it’s way through the graves until it stopped abruptly leaving only a small track leading into the dense jungle. This easy, clearly marked path kept splitting and splitting into equally insignificant and equally muddy one-person width tracks. As the mud got deeper and the jungle denser my flip flops (Inappropriate Footwear) stopped flipping and just flopped as the plug incessantly got sucked through the sole by the sloppy mud. Not long after I had to use my gorgeous new board as bridge to cross a stream whose banks were knee deep in mud I began to question the veracity of this path. I continued further taking a few left forks and a few right forks using my primeval hunter-gather’s instinct to guide me… Yes, I was lost and alone in the jungle. The twenty minute skip over the island had turned into an hour or so’s hacking and wading through almost impenetrable foliage and impassable mire. It was here and now that those innumerable hours spent worshipping at the televisual altar of the Almighty Ray Mears and my tireless, meticulous study of The Book — ‘Ray Mears World of Survival’ — kicked in. These years of Mears-conditioning had brought me to this point. My mind was alert, my body taught and keen. Preparation is the key for survival in this kind of terrain. My calm, calculating mind instinctively surveyed my kit list: Shorts, T-shirt, nice green surfboard, flip-flops (I.F.), sunglasses and a flimsy plastic bag containing a novel, a latin-american phrase book and some zinc sun-block for my lips.
What would Ray do?... What would Ray do?... The question rolled over and over in my mind for a minute or so before instinct, a sixth-sense if you will, possessed me as I reached for the phrase book and swiftly mastered the phrase “Where is the beach?”.
I stumbled onward, accumulating mud, sweat and tears as I went. Through sheer good luck, a favourable breeze, an indeterimate number of left turns and some right turns later I triumphantly staggered out of the jungle toward the topaz, lapping sea,. I had slightly missed my destination and had gone full circle back to the eastern end of the small town I’d been dropped in. To add to my already swollen sense of self-worth I had to shuffle past the kids who’d pointed the way an hour or two earlier — now a sweaty, sun-burnt gringo covered head to toe in a baby-diarreah coloured mud, wearing flops that had lost their flip, bearing a heavily mud-camouflaged mint green surfboard, muttering “ Dónde esté la playa”. Thanks Ray.

I did finally make it to Wizard beach, using the OTHER main path out of town. It’s a beautiful, secluded, palm-fringed beach but the solid 3ft waves were blown out by an onshore breeze by that time in the afternoon. I was exhausted and just had a 30 minute paddle out, as much to wash the mud off my self and my board as to catch a wave.

SR’s arriving in just over a day — woohoo!
Just in time for a new swell pulse to hit, which if Surfline is correct should be producing 12ft waves on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! A classic case of the surfers eternal dilemma. I’m really looking forward to spending tropical beach time with SR but can I ignore the best waves of the trip so far? Greater men than I have stumbled upon this quandary before me, so what can I learn from their accumulated wisdom?

Get up early and get a couple of hours in before she wakes up and then try not to fall sleep over dinner.

Monday, 22 December 2008

No quiero vomitar morado 191208

As I passed the anchor line through my hands descending metre by metre beneath the surface my ears wouldn’t equalize properly and I began to feel some pain. This reminder that being, and moreover breathing, underwater isn’t normal for us homo sapiens was enough to unsettle me and I began to breathe quicker. Then I became all too aware of my breath and then breathing seemed like the most difficult problem I’d ever faced. I signalled to Claire, my instructor, that I wasn’t happy by which stage I was taking too many short shallow gulps of air but her experience showed as she looked into my eyes and calmed me down, directing my breaths like a conductor would an orchestra. From that point on, although never fully relaxed, I was much calmer and able to enjoy my first ever scuba dive. The rocks we were diving around were teaming with technicolour fish of all sizes, shapes and denominations and corals of all colours. It truly is another world down there and one I was privileged to visit for 45 minutes. We weren’t able to go to Isla Coiba, which is reputed to be one of the best dive spots in the world, but it was an unforgettable introduction to another water sport I can enjoy when the waves aren’t working.

Too many days with too little surf prompted me to make the move to the Caribbean coast, to the archipelago Bocas Del Toro. It’s not too many crow-miles away, but travel in Panama is mas lento. So two buses, three taxis , eight hours and no food later Kurtis (the Canadian) and I rocked up at The Purple House in David to break the journey. Everything about this place is purple, the walls, floors, furniture, books, cupboards, plants, air fresheners, the owner Andrea, the cleaning products…. Damn, I even inadvertently turned up in purple t-shirt. I’m not a major fan of purple, particularly not the sort of wishy-washy lavender purple that infected every molecule of this place. The cuteness of it all was cloying, overwhelming in the scorching heat of David and when the lovely poodle snuffled up to me and was introduced as “Cute-Si” by Andrea I think I had a little bit of lavender scented sick in my mouth. There was only a dorm-room bed available so I hardly got a wink of sleep before heading to the airport the next morning.

I arrived in Bocas on a funny little plane which skimmed and bumped it’s way over the highlands over to the East coast. The atmosphere, the smell, the rickety wooden architecture, the people and the prices definitely have a Caribbean flavour. Bocas del Toro is the name of the archipelago and also the main town which is on Isla Colon. It’s a ramshackle maritime town nudged up against the water with a few upmarket hotels catering for the rapidly increasing tourist boom. Bob Marley & Che Guevara seem to be the heros to the local mestizo looking rastas. I dumped my bags in my room, waxed her up and got a water taxi to the neighbouring Isla Caranero for $1 and surfed a nice left point break which reels down the coral reef on the east side of the long thin island. It was pretty fast and shoulder to head high with some real power behind it. It was breath of fresh saltwater and I had the first real surf workout of the trip which exposed the shabby shape I’ve fallen into. I’m pretty rusty on my lefts aswell (that’s assuming I was ever actually metallic enough to go rusty) but I had a couple of good rides in the pocket getting a few top to bottom turns in. I’m still not exactly at home on GG but damn she looks good!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

El Lujo 171208

(Luxury) is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort - Jean Cocteau

We woke early and waded across the river to catch the 7am bus to civilization. Civilization comes in the form of a wild one-street town , how I’d imagine a wild west, frontier town to be complete with rancheros on horseback wandering down the street. The joy and jubilation of the ATM working ensured the trip had a positive slant. My breakfast of Jamon omelette, patacones (fried plantain chips) and Panamanian coffee was just reward for the grueling trip to town. My silly coloured hair attracted the town’s attention; an old man laughed and reached out to grab a lock that was peeking from beneath my cap and a beautiful young English student requested an interview with me. She took me aside, produced a Dictaphone, shook my hand and began the interrogation. I think her hormones must have gotten the better of her when she strayed off course and asked if I liked Panamanian women and then asked why. I think I blushed and shuffled awkwardly in true Templeton-gigolo style. These Panamanian mestizo women can be incredibly beautiful, a mix of afro-carribbean, Spanish and indigenous Indian creates strong proud features, perfect skin, almond eyes that dance in the light and physiques born from an active lifestyle, though to see them married to or hanging out with old, fat, ugly gringos has the rancid reek of a nu-capitalist imperialism where the dollar wins all.

I surfed the next day at Punta Brava, the swell magnet of the region with Kurtis my Canadian room-mate — Paula was afflicted by the Playa estero lurgy sweeping the beach. Itolo, a warm, amiable Brazilian ex-pat who wound up in Santa Catalina in 1979 and now runs a guest-house gave me the tip and talked me through the set-up. A twenty minute walk down the beach brings you to the rocky outcrop of Punta Brava , then a scramble through rocks and pools leads you to a channel from which you can begin paddling. No-one else was out and I found myself the most experienced surfer so I lead the tricky 15 minute navigation through the rocks and out to the break. The reward was about 45 minutes of fun 2-3ft lefts and rights breaking over rock and sand before the tide came in too far and softened the wave too much. I took a few drops and made the odd turn, but not enought to know whether GG is the dream-machine I hope her to be.

I really love the simplicity of this place… it’s an uncomplicated, simple, slow, raw, natural way of life here, with the added bonus of year round surf and perfect weather. The Real estate hawks are circling so it will not be long before the place is concreted over and golf courses are hacked from the land — prices have gone up from $5/sq.mt to $50/sq.mt in the last 5 years and investment groups from the states are busy buying up all available beach front land. Everything’s an investment opportunity in our wonderful exploitative western world.

No-one made any money, however, from one of the highlights of my stay so far. A heavy, tropical afternoon downpour stimulated an impromptu game of football in the rain on the beach followed by a rain-soaked swim in the sea. Why was such an ingenuous activity such a pleasure? Here’s a thought. We are made of water, saline water. We’re born into a womb with a saline solution almost exactly that of seawater, and our blood is similarly saline hence our attraction to the ocean. Whilst others ran for cover because of the rain we embraced it. The water in the air and the ocean, above and below relates to something primal taking us back, in evolutionary terms, to our aquatic origins.... Or maybe it’s just quite nice to be in warm rain?

Monday, 15 December 2008

The Cast

So back to the Green Goddess, as I prepared her for her maiden voyage she drew admiring glances and prompted conversations with all passers–by, she’s a real show stopper. I still haven’t been able to put her through her paces because I haven’t really found much power in the ocean yet. Not for lack of trying though. My surf–buddy so far has been Paula, a very cool girl from Asturias — where I'm looking to to buy a village — via Madrid who I met whilst priming GG. We’ve wandered up and down the coast, scrambled over rocks, paddled out to rocky prominantaries day after day with little luck. There’s either been not enough swell, too much water, too little water or we’ve just been to the wrong places — our joke has become that we’re actually not surfers, we just like taking our boards out for a 'lovely walk' — and end back at the weak beach-break out front.

Another significant character in the Santa Catalina story is the wonderfully warm, charismatic and incredibly funny Mikael from Israel. He’s so unlike the typical dour Israeli traveler to be almost unrecognizable. Paula, Mikael and I are going for a family day out to Soná tomorrow on the bus and we’ve resolved to sing all the way there, entertaining the passengers and thereby saving our $2.50 fare. We’ve been laughing lots together. They are good people.

Another interesting character is Lee from Hull who I met on the plane into Panama. His typical northern machismo persona masks a sensitive, deep thinking man. Some of the conversations we’ve had he’s said he could never have with his best friends at home. He’s been a Saturday night pub fighter in his youth and has razor blade scars all over his body to prove it. He’s been hilariously funny in a very loud, northern way, but what’s been equally amusing is the American, Dutch, Canadian and Spanish speakers trying to understand a word he’s saying. At the beach bonfire last night he got soppy-drunk and called me an oracle and that our conversations had stimulated thoughts which had changed his outlook on life. He said I had a 'pure soul' which is one of the nicest things anyone has said to me, but means even more coming from a stranger, a stranger from Hull. There's nothing stranger than Hull.

I’m thinking a lot about another pure soul I know and that makes me happy…

The Mission

I now have a mission. I don’t know why but having a seemingly insurmountable feat to perform gives shape to our days. I think we’re conditioned to think that life is about solving problems, beating this, winning at that, achieving the other… I think it will take a few more days for me to stop ‘needing’ these missions.
Anyway, my mission is this; I need to get some cash from the ATM.

It’s tougher than it sounds. I’m in Santa Catalina, Panama’s surf city, so you would imagine it would be geared to getting & keeping the surfers balboa (dollar), but this place is remote, really remote. As I write this on the porch of my concrete cabana on Playa Estero beach I am a 30 minute walk — across a river mouth which at high tide you have to wade through neck deep — from the centre of Santa Catalina. The centre has a restaurant, a small barely stocked shop, a couple of hostels, 2 scuba diving shacks, 1 telephone box (the only international call place in town) and a bus stop. The bus can take you the 2.5 hours over roads which are 3 parts pot-hole to 1 part road up to Soná, the local conurbation, which has 1 internet computer (the nearest to us here), 1 ATM, a couple of shops and a bus stop. Luckily my mobile phone doesn’t work in Panama (it seems all European ones don’t) and with a stroke of sheer good fortune my bank stopped my card as I tried to get money out in Panama City.

Still, I have money enough for a couple more days, the beach is on my doorstep, the waters warm, my board — the Green Godess — is waxed, finned, leashed and built for fun, the food is good, the beer is cheap and having ditched the penny-pinching dreary career-backpackers I accidently fell in with on the bus ride over here I’ve found good company in the Brits, Spanish, American, Canadian & Israeli folk that I’ve been hanging out with. The surf is small and weak, but that will change, the sun I shining, the landscape and beachscape is heart-achingly beautiful — I sometimes have to add a little skip to my step as a surge of excitement runs through me at how god damn incredible life is!

Thursday, 11 December 2008


I began my journey aboard the unwelcoming and cheerless Continental Airlines flight to Newark, NJ churned up with feelings of loss and yearning at leaving the wonderful SR behind combined with the palpable anguish of a situation with potential to upset ‘our’ apple-cart whilst I am far away. These thoughts were then jumbled, shaken and stirred together thoroughly with 4 hours of teeth chattering, bone-shaking turbulence. The resulting cocktail from this blend of ingredients was, surprisingly, one of wind…. A mighty wind. The diversion of finding opportune moments and localities in which to parp brought with it enough space to allow my thoughts to settle and with it a wonderful, almost Biblical sense of peace and clarity. The kind of clarity that only distance and flatulence can bring.
By the time I was passing the hours in Newark airport eating bad fast food (or was it just bad food, fast) I felt calm and open enough to embrace the journey ahead. The five hour hop down to Central America was almost consistently turbulent (and yes, a little but windy) the food didn’t really deserve the moniker and it was way too hot but the feeling was different. People struck up conversations easily, offered sweets around… smiled even. By the end of the trip I’d met enough people to fill a cab into town and whisk me to the ‘rustic’ palace I find myself in now after some well needed but short-lived sleep.
I’ve just had an early morning wander around the Havana-esque old city of Casca Vieja which has got me really excited about being here, there was loud latin music blaring from the crumbling colonial facades and kids protesting in the streets about something and deals being done in alleyways and people spitting joyfully in the gutters… but much as I love it I’m heading straight out to the beach today I think. I need the water in my gills.
One other point of note; the rave pustules I gathered from the weekend’s party have made a seamless transition into travel boils and a couple of cold-sores have come to join the party too! Here we go…

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


It's with a mild sense of panic that i find myself packing for Panama today. As usual I've procrastinated until I've left myself too much to do and obviously I'm trying to take way too many things (despite promising myself last time to go light). Of course I can depend on my furry faced friend (that's my cat, not her-indoors) to help in such a situation. He's parked himself on my board bag and looks so cosy and comfy I don't have the heart to move him. He's also generously donated little bundles of his fluff on my towel and clothes as mementos whilst we're apart.

I need to leave a record of my beautiful new surfboard before I relinquish control, throw it in the hold of an aeroplane, cover it in wax, and dash it on some panamanian rocks, so here's a few pictures of her in her immaculate, virginal prime.... mmmm!

Monday, 2 June 2008

The essence of life

You don't have to go away to 'find' anything, it's already here within you, but the break from routine and giving yourself time does help. We fill our lives with so much 'doing' that we never have time to 'be'. Various pursuits throughout my life have allowed me a glimpse of joy of presence – those moments when you are completely at peace within the moment, without thought, without mind-clutter, not dwelling on the past or worrying about a future that hasn't happened.

These moments spent wave-riding are just such a pursuit, but i've had moments dj'ing when for hours on end the records seem to choose themselves and everything 'comes together', privately listening to music can connect to the timeless as can sex, (some) drugs, yoga, dancing, the awe inspiring enjoyment of beauty.... These glimpses show us how we can be all the time, and that's worth pursuing, it's what humanity has called at different times and in different places God, Allah, Krishna, spirit, soul, holiness, enlightenment, the divine... More please!

A surf trip to tourist backwater like the East coast of Sri Lanka is a good place to contemplate such matters.The surf is good (not windblown) from sunrise til about 10am and then from about 5pm til dark at about 6.45pm leaving a lot of hours with nowt much to do. I've clocked up some serious hammock time and have been reading (amongst other things) the eminently sensible Eckhart Tolle who talks about this kind of stuff with such clarity and ease without any airy fairy California-isms that it's hard to ignore. So this in combination with several glimpses of 'Life' a day through wave riding is a recipe for getting deep!

"Don't think, Feel!" as the Karate Kid once said.

In summary:
1 dislocated thumb
1 sliced hand (by an oyster)
4 reef scrapes
67 Mosquito bites
10 Sand fly bites
4 jelly fish stings (3 mild, 1 electro-shock therapy)
6345 new freckles
1 sun-bleached mop of hair
2 hangovers
3 monkey raids
1 snapped fin
5 dings (1 severe)
280 waves ridden
87 games of shithead
4 books read
18 yoga sessions
15 new friends
12 blog posts
53 amazing meals
14 snoozes

Saturday, 31 May 2008


The paradox of the Bay is that the reason it’s so peaceful, sleepy and detached is through fear. Fear of the LTTE related troubles in the region, fueled by western government warnings, has kept many tourists from visiting this season, yet this enclave seems nonchalantly unaffected by the bombs, landmines and battles going on within earshot. The firecrackers I wrote about on arrival transpired to be a battle between the Tigers and the government troops in nearby Yala East national park and every day we hear the sound of gunfire. Is it a training maneuver? Is it a battle? Another game of shit-head? Oh, ok, one more before a snooze… The soldiers that cruise the strip on their tractors smile and wave, damn even the guy on the machine gun turret of an armoured vehicle gave us an stiff yet genuine wave despite his heavy flack jacket.

We’ve been without power, internet and associated western conveniences a lot this last week allowing the mind to focus on the more palpable fear that has been rising in me as the waves have risen these last few days. The crescendo was yesterday morning as waves pushed over the reef with twelve to fourteen feet faces at some points. Stop for a moment and look around the room. Work out a spot that’s over twice your height from the ground and imagine a wall of water looming over the horizon and pitching forwards over itself with the fetch of the Indian Ocean behind it, powering it, as you lie at sea level looking up at it. Tell me there’s not a little drop of fear in you…. These waves aren’t big in surfing chronicles and seasoned surfers will laugh a macho laugh at my mention of fear, but I certainly have the fear of God within me as I frantically scrabble for the horizon amongst the surfer ‘pack’, me desperate to just make it over the beast without being driven into the reef like a pin into a steel plate, they desperate to get their spot at the peak, where the wave curls and begins breaking so they can ride it. The fear, as I name it, or the buzz/stoke/excitement as the veterans name it is tangibly crackling. The atmosphere has shifted to alertness, aliveness, the moment, certainly in the water, but is also residual for a time back on land. I may be a chicken, but I love it!

On big Wednesday as I’ll now call it, I was the absolute greenhorn in the water. Usually there’s a few more down the pecking order from me so I didn’t get too many waves in that session. Survival was my primary aim, from the big set waves, but also making sure my inexperienced decision making didn’t put me in the path of a six foot lump of sharpened fiberglass with a person leashed aboard. But the handful of rides I did get were intense. There’s no real memory-record of those rides as the moments were devoid of thought… frustrating as I try to replay the thrill in my mind, but I guess that’s what makes it so special.

[this was written a good few days ago but we’ve been without power and internet since then. I’m sending this from Colombo airport as I prepare to depart. The digital equivalent of posting your postcards at the airport]

Friday, 23 May 2008

Band of brothers

I like the company of men as much as the next man, but it dawned on me after a few weeks that I do miss the softness, beauty, wisdom, care and openness of female company…

Why don’t women surf? Well, of course they do, but not in the numbers that men do, and there certainly aren’t many here… in fact there’s only 1 Japanese woman who is surfing here, and the only other females I’ve met are Mel, Rosie and Flora who were all here with surfing boyfriends. In fact the same was true of Bali when I was there unless you were in Kuta with it’s ‘resort’ facilities – beaches, bars, restaurants, shops etc. – the female count was disturbingly low. I know women are different, but why isn’t there a comparable urge to surf between the sexes? So here’s the theory I’ve come up with: Women are more naturally connected to their Self and are less driven by their ego therefore they don’t have the physical urge that men do to find complex ways of suppressing the ego to glimpse that true inner self by surfing or engaging in other ‘danger sports’… still they’re missing out, and so are we!

As many travellers in Arugam Bay have gravitated to Sooriya’s for Ram’s hospitality and culinary skills the evenings are spent round a communal table, playing cards, eating, drinking, smoking, and telling stories & jokes… which is all well and good but some of these young men are here to party aswell as to surf an getting desperate to just see a woman. My needs aren’t quite so primal as my intention for this trip was more as a retreat than a rave but A-Bay is beginning to seem like borstal-with-a-view but with more beer, surf and better food.

I’ve learnt to exist well in these testosterone fuelled environments from my school days but I’m not entirely comfortable . As evenings progress and otherwise decent aussies show their deep seated bigotism and racism – I haven’t met an Australian man who isn’t racist yet – I’m disappointed to find most others at the table laugh and join in with the “abbo” jokes, except perhaps Panu, a warm and gentle Finnish man. It must be born of ignorance over contemplation because on every other level I really get on with these people.
As we all get to know each other better the sessions at the point are getting more and more convivial. The brotherly concept of surfers calling us ‘tryers’ into makeable waves and pulling out of waves to let us get the tail end is a beautiful thing. Whoops go up when a good wave is ridden and there’s genuine shared joy as the learners improve.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Point

The point of me being here is the point, Arugam Point. Twice a day I make the fifteen minute walk from my hut, up the south end of the bay to the coral prominentary jutting into the Indian Ocean which causes swells from the south to form into waves as they hit the shallow reef and then refract around the point into the bay giving long surfable waves which peel from left to right.

The evening I arrived I threw my bags into The Nest and made straight for the point to get half an hours water time before dark. The set waves were 8-9ft on the face and barreled in one section. I paddled out in the lull between sets but my timidness amongst a pack of seasoned locals and travellers ensured I didn’t snag one of the big fellas, but I snuck onto a couple of smaller waves on the inside. Since then the size has dropped to not much beyond head-high but I’ve surfed the best waves of my life. I’m really getting to know the wave, and surfing with the wave like never before. I’m paddling into position, making the drop and immediately taking a high line along the wave to gain speed in order to make it round the fast breaking section 20 metres down the line, after which the wave slows so a cut back gets you back into the curl of the wave to begin generating speed down the line to make the next section. You can connect these sections up from the point down into the bay, probably one hundred metres or more, but as the season progresses and more sand is pushed over the reef these sections connect up to give rides of nearly eight hundred metres! I’ve by no means got this wave dialed and continue to get tumbled over the reef as waves close out on me or I completely misjudge a turn but the simple joy when it all comes together, as all thought disappears and you exist purely in the that moment with that wave is pretty special…. then Crunch! You snap a fin plug out of your board and begin a satisfied trudge back to the A-Bay board repair shack.

There’s a laid-back and friendly atmosphere in the water with the same faces - Aussie, American, Sri Lankan, English, Japanese, South African, French, Finnish, Spanish and Israeli – appearing day in day out. I would guess there are about twenty five surfers in town but there’s usually no more than 10 out at any one time and apart from some sour faced israelis there are smiles, waves, chats and the waves are shared by all.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Nest

I’m living in a wooden shack on stilts, like a tree house, called The Nest at the bottom of Ram Sooriya’s garden. I have a veranda on two sides with a hammock and a chair and table. Inside I have an electric light and a Tilley lamp as a bedside reading light, I have a bed with a mosquito net and a large lockable wooden box for keeping my things away from prying monkey hands, some large spiders, a huge centipede, some geckos, a few cockroaches and a bat. About 20 metres away is a well with an electric pump which draws water up through a stand-pipe and acts as my shower, and the banana tree leaves surrounding it are my soap tray. The nearest toilet is a couple of hundred metres walk towards the main building so I’ve been taking a leak in the surrounding flora and fauna. In fact in the spirit of going feral I’ve felt compelled to mark my territory with strategic urinary deployments about the perimeter. Such bestial instincts weren’t effective enough to save me from the devastation that greeted my return from breakfast this morning. Having changed into dry shorts after an early surf I left The Nest to see an upside down monkey face peering at me from under the apex of the roof. “Good morning” I waved as I headed for eggs and fruit salad thinking nothing more of it. That cheeky money had obviously been casing the joint whilst waiting for my departure before whistling his firm in to do the place over. As I walked back towards home I saw the porch light was on and swinging slightly, as I neared I saw my erstwhile drying boardshorts strewn on the sandy floor beneath the hut, approaching further I spied some of my toiletries and other nick-nacks dotted around the area. As comprehension dawned on me I opened my door to the full carnage within. Anything and everything that was accessible had been ransacked. There was kerosene from the lamp mixed with citronella all over the floor and walls, forming a nice paste where it had merged with my soap powder. The bed was covered with incriminating muddy paw prints, the mosquito net torn down, my pillow nowhere to be seen. Luckily my muji wash bag was sturdy enough to save most of it’s contents but my coconut after-sun tube was riddled with tiny teeth punctures, it’s contents sprayed across the walls looking like the scene of a coconut massacre. Bizarrely my photocopied yoga sheet had been removed from it’s plastic wallet and sat neatly in the middle of the floor… But the icing on the cake was a monkey poo-present at the foot of my bed…

Luckily I heeded Ram’s advice and stowed anything of value in my wooden chest so the damage was peripheral, but caution is the operative word until I can figure out how to keep the buggers out.
Monkeys -1, Ed -0.

Monday, 12 May 2008

things come and go

the internet is at best intermittent here in crazy lazy aragam bay - so this post may have a long gestation period. a nine hour, two hundred mile drive from colombo through the hill country navigating horrendous roads delivered me to this bizarre enclave of peace in a crazy civil war ridden, election frenzied (the first in twenty years!) eastern sri lanka. the sound of gunfire and bombing whilst out surfing this evening turned out, of course, to be fireworks at a local buddhist festival!

it was sad to lave the ashram family, they made me very welcome and unusually I felt at home immediately upon arrival which is testament to the spirit of the place. I'd love to see them again, and my imagination has been captured by india. wouldn't it be great to do a road trip around the coast finding surf spots along the way... anyone interested?

having spent two weeks in lacsidasical coastal karnatika I got an intense blast of what india can offer a rooky when I transferred from mumbai's domestic terminal to the international one for my flight to colombo. it was a thirty minute ride but it packed in a middle-england's lifetime's worth of sound, colour, traffic, dirt, poverty, mayhem and all round sensual overload. there's almost too much life happening there for my tiny mind to comprehend!

i only managed to get my camera around the lagoon in mulki to the beach for one morning's photography - that's a damn shame as we had much better sessions than the one recorded here but on reflection i realised i've only put one surfing image up so here's a few more...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Super Glue

Over these last couple of weeks I’ve surfed 4 or 5 spots either side of the Shambhavi River mouth, all within paddling / walking distance from the Ashram. We did venture to Mangalore jetty one afternoon when there was some transport available. It’s reputed to be about a foot bigger than Mulki and with more regular form as the groundswell wraps around the jetty… alas when we arrived the 3ft waves we’d been riding earlier in Mulki were non-existent. Another of life’s harsh lessons: don’t venture too far from home - you’ll only be disappointed.

I’ve had some really fun sessions every day, and as my energy drained after 8 days on the trot the swell conveniently dropped so I’ve been taking one of the Ashram’s longboards out for some easier bouts. I’ve been surfing mainly with Dustin who’s such a lovely bloke, really fun to surf with and great to chat to on the long paddle to and from the waves – he’s a good man. Pre & post surf confabulations have been easier these last couple of days as we’ve timed the tide to perfection, taking a ride on the outrushing tide as it drains the lagoon to the sea beyond and taking the incoming tide-expressway on our way back. That’s living alright!
I managed to slice the palm of my hand open on one of the many oysters lurking on the lagoon bed. They are razor sharp and as I paddled toward shore it cut me deep. As I reached the shore upon examination i could see my inner-workings, straining to get a better look I stepped back, onto another oyster and cut my foot… thank goodness there wasn’t a mop & bucket, a rake and two men carrying a sheet of glass nearby or the farce could have taken on Frank Spencerian proportions. After dousing the wound in salt water (for a couple of hours as I surfed) Dr Dustin hydrogen peroxided it and then super-glued it up – apparently super-glue is or has been used as a battlefield wound sealer – and it’s really done the trick.

I keep meaning to go in to detail about the amazing food I’ve been gorging on here, but keep getting sidetracked by other trains of thought…. Maybe tomorrow…