By Christopher Webb. An eerie quiet sets over Pulau Tioman as bags are packed and the volunteers of expedition 7 prepare to go their separate ways. No more shall Yu Lin’s laugh echo round the dive shop. No more shall screams be heard from the boys room as another cockroach is found. No more shall squeals of delight be heard from the girls whilst watching twilight. No more shall Sandra be found in her natural habitat on the computer. The fridge lies empty of beers, the rooms’ silent and awaiting the next occupants, the storeroom full of baskets renamed by new owners.
Week 6 and the final week on Tioman sees the last dive for the volunteers as a group, the ‘harder than hell’ jungle trek and the premature departure of the two hunks of the expedition. Needless to say the eye candy will be sorely missed by the girls.
The trek, well what to say…? I think the best way to sum it up is to mention the fact that Katie has never been on it and asked for our comments and complaints BEFORE we went. I have a feeling those talks may have gone very differently had the trek been earlier. The trek itself was 5 hours walking the first day, 8 hours the second day and 5 hours on the last day, many leeches and bugs and some rather unwaterproof tents. On the second day the walking took a rather more difficult turn and hands and knees were muddied and scuffed as fall after fall occurred, especially to myself, Christopher Webb Esq. as I decided to go for style over substance and wore indoor court shoes, despite the rest of the group wearing either proper trainers or walking boots.
After 4 hours difficult trekking on the second day, we had to haul ourselves up a tree to get to see the view. At least that would make all the effort seem worthwhile… Except that the beautiful views were covered by trees. Imagine going all the way to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and finding that it’s covered for restoration. It’s there but you just can’t see it.
And then there’s the leeches, horrible blood sucking fiends that they are. In typical fashion the quote of the week came once again from Sandra: ‘don’t leeches only bite short people because they can’t jump very high?’ Apparently not is the answer as both myself and Liz, the two tallest members of the group received the most leech bites and myself gaining a rather uncomfortable friend in the shape of a leech in the belly button. But needless to say it wasn’t all bad, there is a certain amount of satisfaction having completed the trek and despite a last miserable night in the rain soaked tent, the walk home was relatively easy going and leech free. Also Swiss Cottage seems like absolute 5 star luxury on return which is a bonus.
And now each will be going their own way. Myself and Coups are off to Thailand (though i’ll be back for the next expedition), Jo off to South Africa, Sandra back to Beijing and then onto America for University, Yu Lin back home before another expedition and her dive master course and Liz back to Belgium after a short stay in KL and Singapore.
So now it falls to me to say a big thank you to both my fellow volunteers for making the stay really very enjoyable, even when covered in leeches, and to the staff of Swiss and in particular the staff of Tioman Dive Centre and Blue Ventures for being both brilliant mentors and excellent friends. Finally to sum up the expedition: Roughly 200 beers, 4 bottles of spirits, multiple cocktails, only a few bottles of suncream, (which brought about…) multiple bottles of aftersun, 60 dives each, over 100 fish learnt and countless laughs later sees the end of the road for the intrepid explorers of Blue Ventures volunteers number 7.