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Published: March 15th 2010
In Thailand, when the captain of a boat says the weather is too dangerous to carry on, he starts laughing. Thats when I started worrying.
Thailand's coast was far away behind us and the nearest real land was Burma to our Starboard - which is on the righthand side for you landlubbers. A looming grey cloud piled up over Burma and another storm was rolling in from the sea ahead, which is the Fore. Or the Stern. But it didn't matter right now, as the captain was looking very stern himself.
His small wooden boat was being lashed with rain and wind. Our ferry journey started as a cheerful trip but now we had fallen silent, soaked and slightly seasick from the side to side pounding.
The barefoot captain and his swarthy crew were gripping the oversized longtail motor harder than ever to keep us on track toward the small island outcrop of Koh Chang Noi where two countries meet and tropical storms swell up from the Indian ocean.
As the waves approached, the bow and all the passengers would lift into the air, smashing down the middle of the boat heavily into the next wave, right under
I looked down each time to spot cracks or leaks, but by now so much water had blown in or had rained over the side, it was hard to spot the signs of a sinking ship.
We cracked down onto the second wave with the bow facing down and so in the best position for a third wave to crash over and into the boat, soaking us all - first time journeymakers and the long-time resident hippies of the islands.
This must have been serious storm as the deep-sea fishing boats were turning and heading for shore, their grey and hardy hulls taking cover for the night.
We turned to the left, or Port side, for land, which was a useless phrase right now as there was no port, just a bay of rocks, mangrove and the thick jungle of the tip of Koh Chang.
"Maybe this is what it feels like to be shipwrecked" I thought.
Thoughts of self survival were in my mind, so I eyed up the crew onboard for possible cannibalistic mealtimes. The old-time hippy guy who i chatted to earlier had annoyed me with his insight that the island was "too
busy now, too many visitors and the locals just rip people off'' but I figured that his island knowledge would be useful. Plus, the three chunky German girls with sarongs, sunburn and supersized rucksacks looked promising - definitely more meat on them than the vegetarian hippy...
As i was considering that Germany has had its fair share of cannibals recently and so maybe the German girls may know some good recipes, the boat steered toward the mangrove trees and amazingly a small channel opened up in them - a gap barely wider than the boat was long and studded with brown, decaying teeth of rocks that were gnashing at us, foaming the water and making me feel like this island was laughing at us. Evilly.
One of the tattoo covered crew climbed to the front in his bare feet and stood watch.
"Are we stopping?" I wondered aloud, even wished silently.
''No. Hes going to try and get through that gap!"
Still the captain smiled, but he wasn't blinking and his grin was fixed.
I'm not sure who's teeth were worse, but this would be a battle between man and land. The waves were still pushing us
around and rain was punching down from the sky.
Like a dinosaurs snore, the rocks gored along the hull with a groaning sound.
The wet wood under my feet shuddered a number of times and the rough vibrations cut through all our bodies.
The mangrove branches slapped the boat, twisting and poking us.
The engine coughed and growled. I could feel individual rocks through the hull - teeth grinding at my feet.
The lookout up front hooted out warnings, but there was only really one way through this.
The captain lost his smile. He was showing his teeth but it was not a smile anymore.
Finally we broke through to the calmer side of the island, The rain was lighter here, waves calmer, we could see the coast of Thailand in the distance and everyone seemed to breath easier now we were sheltered on this side of the island.
The crew disembarked us - hippies, German girls and big bags soaked on a remote rocky pier. Eventually a few motorcycles arrived and propelled us through the rainy jungle, dropping us off on the beach at the other end of the only road on the island.
busy" they said on the boat , "all sold out now."
I looked up and down the beach and couldn't see anyone here.
It was still raining and we walked through the pines looking for something, anything.
Solitary on this wide sweep of a beach stood a buddhist temple and maybe a dozen huts on stilts dotted amongst the trees.
Taking shelter from the rain we shook ourselves dry underneath a hut and puzzled about where all these people were. The tidy, simple huts on stilts looked empty apart from the orange clothes hanging outside some of them. Monks robes.
The rain eased off and a glowing purple and red sun began to set, apologising for all the stress and danger we had been through that day. The beach was empty, peaceful and calm.
This was high season and spoilt and busy? We were soaked and there was no place to stay, yet after the noisy crowds of the other islands, this was a chance to exhale.
"Ah!" i thought.
is what its like to be shipwrecked..."
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