|Our Really Big Adventure|
Limestone Paradise - 2
| Staring at the cliffs
being pounded by the sea we realised there was no way to walk home and the
prospect of spending a mosquito-ridden night on the beach didn’t appeal.
There seemed to be only one option: to swim home. However, our guide had
a Honda tattoo (burn on the lower calf from a moped) and we had far too
much climbing equipment. We could see long tail boats in the distance and
tried in vain to attract their attention. The light was rapidly fading:
something had to be done and fast. Without discussion it was decided that
one of us should swim and come back with a boat – that someone was me.
“You’ll just have to swim a hundred meters and then you’ll be able to walk the rest of the way on the rocks”, said our guide. I looked dubiously at the height of the water and thought him rather optimistic but kept my thoughts to myself as I waded into the sea. A few minutes of front crawl and I realised that the day’s climbing had made me tired. I had to carefully balance the need for speed with conserving enough energy to actually make it to shore, so I wisely changed to breaststroke. Five minutes later I rounded the corner and as I had expected the sea had risen too high and the rocks were impassable. If I had attempted to walk the swells would have pushed me along the jagged cliff rather like a giant cheese grater.
As I settled in for what was to be a long swim I could see sharp rocks protruding through the troughs. I decided to extend my journey, taking the safe flagged channel for boats. Twenty minutes later, with the sun providing only the faintest of glows, I dragged myself out of the sea beside the boats that I hoped would soon be speeding their way to the others. As much as it was tempting to make my way to the beach bar and have a swift one I knew Barbara and the others wouldn’t be impressed, so I went in search of a boatman. I wasn’t looking forward to this, as not only would I have to convince him to take the boat out to sea long after his working day but I was also in the worst possible bargaining position – I would have to pay him whatever he asked.
I made my way over to a restaurant, explained our predicament and asked if there was anyone there that would help us. It quickly became apparent that all the boatmen were half an hour’s walk away, at a different restaurant in the jungle. By the time I made it there and back it would too late – the night would prevent safe navigation through the rocks. A good few Thais had gathered round, laughing at the hilarity of my situation. “Why you not come back earlier?” one thoughtfully asked, which had the rest of them in hysterics. Luckily Thais are helpful people and once they’d had their fun one of them suggested that we conduct the rescue using his kayaks.
While Thais may be helpful they are not averse to making a quick profit and a sum was agreed to. The two of us pushed the kayaks into the sea and started to paddle. I was apprehensive; despite my new friend’s assurances I was dubious about getting five people and several rucksacks into kayaks made for two. A small swell could have a thousand dollars worth of climbing equipment sitting on the seabed like so much rusted scrap. I steeled myself for the ribbing I was in for: I was sent to get a boat and here I was limping back with two kayaks.
The kayaks performed better than I had expected and we were soon landing them on the now tiny beach. I was relieved to see that everyone was relieved to see me and the inadequacies of my arranged transport were overlooked. Everyone piled into the kayaks and despite the overloading they remained steady, keeping us, and more importantly the climbing equipment, dry.
Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in a deck chair, toes wriggling in dry sand sipping a beer.