Maldives Rowing Volunteer
After one whole year of back breaking hauling, lugging, dragging and dropping some of the heaviest doubles in the world back and forth from the Power House to the sea four times a day. We have finally got a trolley!!! I was so excited when it turned up I was jigging up and down all over the place. The students are in love with it - amittedly it takes longer to get all the boats put away (loading and unloading one boat at a time) but no one cares.

Boat moving is now accompanied by shrieks of 'he hasn't got a licence', 'learner driver' and the kids sitting and standing on the trolley and being whizzed around the power house. So nice to have a back that does not ache at the end of each session. I think I could go on with detailing the wonders of the trolley but will leave it there - suffice to say the novelty will take a long time to wear off and we are all ECSTATIC!

James and Beth (teaching friends in Male) got away from the capital escaping to the country, Addu, for their school holidays. Luckily this coincided with the Interschool athletics tournament that was being held in Addu so all rowing students were running round in circles, jumping over bars, throwing various round and long objects and left me free to entertain my guests!

We went snorkelling, ate lots of food, talked alot (James joined in when not fast asleep on buses, ferries, dinner tables, beds- pretty much anywhere), gave swim lessons, more snorkelling, picnicking, missed a number of buses and got various lifts up and down the islands. We had a day at equator village which doubled their tourist presence. The only two bona fide guests in the place turned out to come from Norwich so we chatted to them lots.

Jeeja and Hari celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary by a group trip to Dhoogas, a hotel on Gan, for sundown followed by food at I cafe. Everyone had a great time except Kichu. He was convinced he was going to the airport and flying home so was devastated to discover we were getting back on the bus and returning to Hithadhoo instead!

Beth, James and I managed to get to Formulah – the next island up the Maldives chain – renowned for it’s beautiful beach and women. The order in which these two beauties are mentioned depends upon who you are talking to. But rest assured they will be mentioned. Our departure was delayed by a day as the ferry was having engine problems. However, the following day all was well so we caught a taxi to Maradhoo and boarded. The trip across was quite rough – I kept a firm eye on the front of the boat trying not to be distracted by the vomiting of other passengers into little plastic bags handily provided by the ferry staff before we left. Indeed so insistent were they that people had at least three bags each we knew we were in for a rough ride!

We arrived and were met by Addu and whisked (the fastest driver in the Maldives so far) to our guest house which was great – had a sofas in a communal room with the two rooms leading off it and some crazy coloured lights that you could get to flash at various tempos! We spent the next two days walking the island – we are convinced we are the only people to have walked it in a very long time. Everyone looks at me as if I fell off the moon when I say we walked and did not take taxis or motorbikes. We found the beautiful beach, saw the beautiful ladies and even found the two fresh water lakes (we had walked right past it the first time without realising – caused some confusion). I leave it up to you to decide if the photo of the lakes calls to mind similar lakes in Switzerland!? We were assured by some locals when remarking upon the lakes that ‘yes they are just like the ones in Switzerland’. We muttered some vague agreement and changed topic.

The Euro 2012 also kicked off while we were in Formulah so we wandered the darkened streets until we found the Maldives Democratic Party Office. They had rigged up a big screen and projector and so we joined the group of men clustered on plastic charis around it and settled down to watch Poland vs Greece. We came armed with coke, lemon puff biscuits and were presented with toffee éclair sweets by our fellow viewers. A far cry from pubs and bars across Europe! Much to James’ delight we were able to have an evening in – ordering pizza and watching ‘the gods must be crazy’.

The ordering of the pizza was an entertaining process in itself – James introduced himself, did a classic British circular chat around why exactly he was calling which totally confused the Maldivian/Bangladeshi at the other end of the phone and then was stumped when asked which village he was in. Apparently there are 8 on Formulah. So our first order finally arrived - one pizza and a sandwich pizza. This turned out to be a piece of toast cut in half with pizza topping on it. So we ordered a second pizza which took ‘farty minutes’ to arrive!

Formulah is a unique island in the Maldives in that it does not have a surrounding reef and lagoon so is literally one (for Maldives) BIG, 5 x1km, island in the middle of the sea. This means big waves  break directly onto shore and in one spot all the sand and finely ground and polished coral collects and forms a sparkling white beach. So for the first time in ages we were able to surf in on waves and land on beach rather than be smashed into coral reef. Had a great time body boarding in it.

We had our last breakfast at the restaurant overlooking one of the lakes. Followed by another speedy drive to the ferry from Addu in a very posh Chelsea tractor affair complete with thumping rap music. The sea was much calmer on the return, although James felt really rough so was unable to get the full benefit of short eats and tuna Panini before flying back up to Male.

A very enjoyable weeks holiday.

X Tash