By Camilla de Coverly Veale
Well it is nearing week 3 of expedition 43, a very small group, only 9! Which has its pros and cons. The days pass in a whirr, mostly focused around meal times. Our huts are built on the beach, giving a much needed breeze.
My typical day involves waking at 5 30am (and if my alarm doesn’t go off there is usually a menagerie of animals glad to be of assistance, anything from the cockerel to the local goats, that come in to the hut! and the very occasional zebu) and running around my lopsided shared (and now VERY sandy- and recently damp..) hut, cursing the fact that I didn’t get my kit ready the previous night (just like school!) grabbing water, fins, snorkel. Then disaster! my dive computer, where is it?? Ah, under the bed! and running to the ‘Bat cave’ to ‘kit up’, which I can now do blind – which is fortunate because usually I am half asleep.
After the first dive there is breakfast at 8am then another 9am dive doing ‘Point Intercept Transects’ and ‘Invertebrate Belt’, before legging it back to shore to be able to boat marshal or shore marshal the learner diver’s dive, going out at 11 am. After that there is lunch at 1.30pm which hurtles past in frantic blur of rice, sprite and exhilarated chatter (anyone possibly reading this blog before going out on an expedition, I cannot stress enough, bring something to make the rice interesting, I thought I could stick it but now I’ve brought up the town’s supply of soya and chilli sauce!) There is a break then till 3pm where most of us collapse into our hut’s hammocks, book or iPod in hand.
At 3pm there can be anything from boat maintenance, lectures, painting (I have drawn out some rather fetching fish and octopus’s on my hut but I should really go and source some paint now!) tests or teaching. As well as a weekly stint as an English teacher to 15 and 16 year olds in the local school (where my Malagasy-English, English-Malagasy dictionary transforms itself into a holy bable fish bible) Moira and I also have a twice weekly rendezvous with the town’s English Teacher herself. After that there are duties to be done at 6pm, fish to be learnt and by this time the power is usually on, or there is time for a quick swim as the sun sets before Vau Vou at 7pm, a nightly meeting to share news and discuss the next day. After that, supper…rice…again, and then time for coffee, cards, chess, scrabble or the addictive marathon games of ‘Risk'(I m missing one as I write this!) – torches close to hand – the power could go out any minute!
Although the last two weeks have been hot, dry and sticky, high factor sun cream required, the last couple of days have given us almost a monsoon! For a couple of days the storm clouds created almost a ring around Coco Beach, but never quite reached us, leading to the beautiful spectacle I encountered, heaving myself into the boat after a 9am dive, our little boat bobbing up and down in a little patch of sunlight, bright forked lightning against a slate grey sky all around me when two orange and black butterflies fluttered around us.
Party nights are held the night before the ‘day off’ (off diving that is) where alcohol can be consumed and a guarantee of a lie in means the town’s local Epi bar can be visited, where incidentally I have managed to swap a waltzing lesson for a lesson in the local ‘bum shake’ (which involves vibrating your knees and stomach muscles, so your bottom…well…shakes, and then somehow rotating your hips around- I think I shall have to practice this in the bathroom mirror when I get home) with the enigmatic Bic, our assistant dive leader. Yesterday’s theme for the party was ‘Toga’, which meant of course that we were all wrapped in our bed sheets. When the storm hit we were eating supper outside… I can only imagine what the couple of guests of Coco Beach hotel thought when halfway thought their relaxed meal 10 or 12 half naked people, swathed in now completely sodden green bed sheets, weeds representing laurel leaves broken by the force of the water, nosily skidded and slipped their way inside.
But, I am having an amazing time doing all those cliché things like making new friends (and making the locals laugh when I try and speak vazo) and improving my diving (like managing to hover upside down over a reef trying to peer into a murky hole and ascertain if the urchin is thrix or diadema). Hopefully I wont muck up the science data too much….