Sunday 29 June 2008

BeefEater BBQ

Happy Customer

Jenny spent ages shopping for a BBQ and finally settled on the BeefEater Discovery Classic as the best choice. It’s a proper Aussie one. She’s now an expert so you can ask her for advice. The day it arrived, I dutifully assembled it and it proceeded to start raining. Doh! The picture is of our first test run later that day.

Friday 27 June 2008

Diving Layang Layang

Jenny and I went for one last diving trip before the end of our travels. We flew to Kota Kinabaloo, met up with Jenny’s brother who flew in from Singapore and the next day we all flew out together. Pulau Layang Layang or Swallow’s Reef lies 300km northeast off the coast of Sabah. It’s part of the Spratly Islands which are militarised for various territorial claims.

The plane we flew in was tiny. It held 15 passengers, two pilots and our bags and supplies piled up in the back. Just behind the pilot was a box marked as the life raft. It would only hold 12 people. Somebody got their math wrong! This is the only flight I’ve been on where they weigh both you and your bags.

Arrived at Layang Layang

The flight took about 80 minutes and we eventually touched down on the tiny island. There really isn’t anything more than a runway, a dive resort and a naval base. In fact, much of the island is artificial. The naval base is strictly off limit.

The resort was excellent by diving standards. Diving places tend to be simple and functional. The rooms were hotel-like rather than bungalow-like but they were very comfortable and spacious. Meals were served five time a day and the food was very good. There was a nice bar and an excellent pool with lots of loungers. Each day is much the same: get up, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, rest, optional dive, eat, sleep. Sunsets are beautiful. There’s nothing that bites you. The water is 29 degrees celsius. Perfect!


Layang Layang rises out of very deep water. The navigation chart puts the water depth at 1600m. Nearby it drops to 2000m. The place is famous for healthy corals, fantastic visibility and big fish of which hammerhead sharks are the big attraction.

The visibility is indeed wonderful; it’s at least 20m and maybe 30m at times. It’s a little scarey when you look up and realise how deep you are. My deepest dive was 35m. There’s a strict rule that you can not go beyond 40m or you’ll be banned from diving. The resort doesn’t have a decompression chamber and it’s 16 hours by boat to Kota Kinabaloo so you really do not want to get the bends.

After five days of diving, I was gutted that we never encountered a hammerhead shark. We knew there was a large school of about 50 of them around. Divers on the other boats saw them. But after several swims into the blue, we just never got lucky. And that’s the problem when you want to find big stuff – a lot of it is luck.

Fish EyesSoft Coral

The corals were extremely healthy and beautiful. There’s not as great a variety of reef fish as Sipadan but I’m not complaining. There was plenty to see. The highlight was seeing many manta rays including a few at quite close quarters. There were other rays, sharks and turtles. We also encountered dolphins while on the dive boat but they moved too quickly to swim with them. The pictures here are from Jenny’s brother who had bought a new underwater camera for this trip.

Floating in the blueManta

Layang Layang is a great diving destination. I got in 13 dives bringing my total dives up to a total of 66 since I started. Our dive trips have been the favourite part of our travels. I would certainly like to go back and find one of those hammerheads.

It's Later Than You Think

Went down to London yesterday with a friend to see the recording of a new Radio 4 comedy show at the Drill Hall. It’s a chat show format hosted by Marcus Brigstocke where he has a guest and gets them to try things they’ve never tried before. His guest was Tim Brooke-Taylor of Goodies fame.

It was free and very good fun. Tim had to order pizza, go to the gym, listen to rap music, eat sushi and buy porn. The pizza call and sushi were done live; the rest were things he had done previously. Buying porn was the funniest but might suffer from a lot of edits. Lots of material for a good laugh.

I really should sign up to the BBC website for getting more free tickets like these.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Home Sweet Home

We’ve been back home in the UK for two weeks now. After being away for seven months, it felt pretty strange coming home. Everything is very familiar but new at the same time. It’s very clean and green. Plenty of open spaces and it’s not crowded. It’s great going outside without the energy-sucking sweltering heat sapping your motivation. Skin isn’t sticky. Traffic is orderly. No ants or mossies. Of course, prices are outrageous.

Best of all, it sure is nice sleeping in one’s own bed and being surrounded by one’s own stuff.

We’ve got dozens of projects keeping us busy. I need to sort out and post our pictures. The house and garden need work. We need to toss lots of our useless stuff and reorganise what’s left. K* was offered a place so we put him back in school. R* needs to catchup with her schoolwork. We’re catching up with all our friends. It’s good to be home!

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