A water wonderland
Jun 5, 2013
|Last night at dinner there was a raging storm with very heavy rain as we were eating dinner. The lights went out three or four times but the hotel has a backup generator so they came back on in only about five seconds. Power outages have been common but only five to ten seconds at a time. The government isn’t doing anything to improve the infrastructure here as most of the town is a “red zone.” You can repair what exists but cannot build anything new.
Later that night I finally got access to the internet so graded my web classes and updated my trip journal. A slow connection though and I couldn’t upload pictures, or only a few. But at least a connection!
We got up about 7:15 and I went over to breakfast of mango, banana, and toast with butter and vegemite. I had forgotten how good it is – but a bit salty. Not bad for yeast. Alice stopped by a bit later and ate some for me. We left at 7:45.
Eddie drove us down to “the Yacht Club” (it used to be, now a shaky pier). We met Richard there – the dive master. We cruised by boat across the harbor for an hour (the same as a car between the two towns) to Kokopo to pick up another diver – LJ – who would be doing scuba. After another 30 minutes we ended up at The Duke of York Island for our first dive on a coral reef.
Enormous numbers of fish everywhere – very colorful as well – blues, yellows, greens, multi colored… Blue starfish. Huge sea cucumbers. Lots of types of coral as well but many bleached beds as well. According to Richard there is much less coral than just ten years ago. Some due to more tourism but much due to some other cause. Climate change?
Then we swam with the dolphins. The crew took the boat to a feeding area of the dolphins and as we sped along they joined in, jumping out of the water, swimming in front of the boat – almost as if they were racing. There must have been 30 to 40 all together usually in groups of six to ten. The fun part was that I got to hold onto a rope with my mask and snorkel and was pulled along beside the boat and could watch the dolphins swimming – 20 to 30 feet below the boat, neat the boat, jumping out of the water next to me. I did that for about 15 minutes then lice took a turn for about the same amount of time.
After about 45 minutes we headed to our second dive. But… there was a dark cloud on the horizon – then a storm blew up – heavy rain, a cold wind, and white caps. Not a typhoon but the rain stung and the waves were crashing over the side of the boat every once in a while. At a couple points we could not see anything except the rain. Quite the storm! The crew knew exactly what to do and handled the boat very well.
It continued on as we reached the second dive site off a small island about a mile from Kokopo. We first dove on a wrecked Japanese ship from WW2 – a small freighter. Then back toward the island and another coral reef. The whole time we were doing this we were pelted by rain in our backs. Nicely though, the water was much warmer than the air so it was quite comfortable. This reef had much the same as the last but some fat star fish and a giant clam – more degraded than the last reef but also closer to the city.
We swam up to the shore of the island after the storm broke and the sun came out. Alice spent some time trying to open a coconut… no luck. At that point one of the crew called us over. He had come across a whole bunch of baby Hawksbill turtles. They had just hatched and many had become trapped behind a fallen palm tree. All together there must have been 40 to 50 of them. I got a box and started transporting them to the ocean. The scuba guys sailed up and we were all amazed at the little things – all of them said they had not seen this before. Absolutely amazing.
Once all the pictures had been taken and the turtles in the water we sailed back to Kokopo in what was becoming quite heavy waves. Once we landed it was decided that we’d go back to the hotel by car. As I tried to pay for the dive (five hours, two people, $140) there was all sorts of issues with the card. They finally had to get a hotel manager down to make the whole thing work.
We drove through Kokopo and it seemed a roaring metropolis! Alice liked it as did I – there was more than one restaurant!!! In any event we decided to cut our stay in Rabaul a bit short and transfer to Kokopo on Friday. That will also put us closer to the airport for Sunday morning. This is especially important as the rain today washed out the road between Rabaul and Kokopo – if that would happen Sunday morning it would not be good…
Alice was exhausted from the day so napped most of the afternoon. I did a bit of laundry and worked on resizing pictures for the journal. Then we had dinner at the only restaurant in town (and the power only went out twice).