Maldives Rowing Volunteer
Sorry for the long radio/blog silence internet access has been limited since I left England. Had a good flight and an interesting day in Oman on the way over. Took a tour offered by a taxi driver who spoke no English but would very enthusiastically point out every car showroom we passed – trust me there were lots! We also did a circuit of the top hotel in Muscat’s forecourt just to drive the point home that is was the best! Souk was lovely and I sweated my way round wrapped in long sleeve, trousers and scarf in a cosy 40 degrees.... Managed not to get sucked into buying everything I was offered (this time Confucius wasn’t about, as he was in China, to tell me I needed them) so only came away with half a kilo of frankincence! Myrhh was also on offer as was jasmine. I wasn’t too convinced by the Jasmine it smelt more like lifebuoy soap than any Jasmine I’d ever smelt before. We also popped into the most expensive perfume store in the Souk so that Ali, tour guide extraordinaire – who’s number I have if anyone is going that way and needs a taxi? – could get a taster spray of something that cost over £100 on his little tassle (Pa no comments please) that hung round his neck. I was offered a sniff of said tassle as we re-entered the steamy heat of the souk and it did smell good not sure £100 good!

Rest of the flight passed uneventfully. I was only midly put out by the fact that from Oman we went to Sri Lanka for an hour before dropping down to Male. The travel agent from crystal travel’s had failed to mention this as I’d vetoed a flight that went to Sri Lanka for a stop over in favour of an Oman stop over as I have a strange illogical issue with going past my destination to then go back towards it!! Annoys me lots!! So after sending a few curses his way I zoned out to some film with Liam Neeson in it to distract me from my ever lengthening journey.

Had a good week in Male puttering about with Rachel and developing a truly storming sinus infection as well as doing some very enjoyable snorkelling and taking some fuzzy underwater shots - very awkward when being rolled around by waves and generally over excited! Also spent a large amount of my time watching kids from one of the schools in Addu compete in a swimming gala. They did very well and seemed to enjoy having me around to ask endless questions. Did I eat pig? My answer of yes got them very worked up. They seem to be under the impression that you will die or be very unwell if you eat pork yet here I was at the ripe (and very old age) of 30, a fact ascertained from the starter question, apparently quite healthy - just very pale and unmarried (question 2). My being 30 and unmarried is very unusual, most Maldivians currently getting married in their mid twenties or earlier and it was certainly earlier in previous generations. Quite a few of the kids Mum’s were my age. I’m sure pig eating and being an old maid have been linked for ever more in their heads!

The other reason for sitting in the baking heat and getting burnt while watching kids swim was that I was joining them on the ferry back to Addu so thought it would be a good idea to get to know a few of them before we embarked. The trip was hilarious. I’d been asking around as to how long it took to get from Male to Addu by boat and had been given various times 10 hours was the first this then progressed to 18 and then 36. So I was all set for my 36 hour trip – 72 hours after leaving port we rocked up in Addu......! Feeling a little frayed around the edges and I didn’t stop bobbing for a good 6 hours!

We were meant to sail at 2300 on Monday the 25th but due to the arrival of rain and wind this got postponed to 530 the following morning. All I had been given for info was the boats name: Hivaaru, time of departure and that it was docked by STO market and the supreme court – I had no idea where either of those were. Thought i’d better find out so Monday afternoon while it was still light I located the supreme court and market and a load of boats tied up to the dock side but could i find one called Hivaaru or anyone who knew of it? No. So having been assured that this section was where boats for Addu left I returned to do my packing.

Next morning being a typical westerner I was up in good time and into a taxi at 5am for the 5 min trip to the dock so that i wasn’t left behind. Anyway taxi driver had no more luck than i did the night before with finding the boat so i was left on the road side, sat on my bags in the dark waiting. 535 another taxi pulled up and disgorged a load of kids and kit which was piled around me a couple more lots were there by 6 (scheduled boat departure time) and the sky was lightening. The main group were still waiting elsewhere on the island because some late comers had still not arrived. As we waited everyone was bustling about trying to find the boat – no success whatsoever. Finally the teacher in charge appeared with the rest of the kids and it transpired the boat was not called Hivaaru but Furusath and was tied up three boats out from the dock side! By 9 all the bags, people, live pet fish, chest freezers, dayglo chicks and other random cargo had been loaded and we had untangled all the various ropes holding us in place and eased out of the harbour and were off!

I was only sea sick for half of one day. I’d taken my sea sick prevention arm bands off the night before because it had been so calm and i was feeling fine and also the bands seem to have been made for some incredibly small wristed person – they fit snugly onto two of my fingers and were cutting into my wrists alot! Anyway I woke up to a madly pitching boat, looked at the dolphins riding alongside and was then ill until we finally made it back inside an atoll and the water calmed down! My bands went back on for the remainder of the trip. We stopped twice on our route down to pick up cargo and give the passengers a chance to get off and wash. At each stop we were met and escorted to a local house and allowed to use their bathrooms. Felt loads better after each shower. The second stop was on Vahdhoo island where we waited from 9am to 1am the following morning – by the time we got on the boat again we were all so zonked we passed out and no one stirred despite the boat crashing about wildly as we crossed the equator so much so that water was splashing in over the sides. I remember thinking hmm my computer is getting wet before the need for sleep drowned out any care i had on that front!

While on Vahdhoo for something to do we went in search of fresh produce to buy. This involved setting off into the undergrowth with two mothers, Mhandha and Miriam, giggling and squealing about being raped and murdered in the general direction of some fields they’d been told about. We met a panga wielding man on the path who rather than slaughter us led us back to his fields and made a packet out of M and M selling them butternuts, watermelons and yams. In retaliation the two of them told the ladies working in the field that the foreigner with them was from England and was the Queen’s daughter. Much to their delight the ladies bought the story hook, line and sinker and even agreed that it must be so because i looked like her!!!!      

We got fed on the boat – ferry is too grand a name – wooden tub much better suited. Fish curry, chicken curry and noodles with tuna curry all very tasty if you’re not feeling ill! Bread and jam with sweet milky tea for breakfast prepared by a guy that looked like yoda and who caught me as I came out of the loo one night and made me sit and eat supper perched on little stools by the roaring engine with the rest of the crew. I don’t think many, if any, foreigners travel by ferry and everyone is very impressed / highly amused that i did!!

Addu is really lovely and I’ve been very warmly welcomed – i’ll write more about Addu in the next blog. Lastly as you’ll have seen from Rachel the boats have arrived and the ones for Addu should be coming down towards the middle of this month – very exciting!

X Tash


09/10/2012 12:25

I created a weebly blog after seeing how simple it looked.


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