Monday, 10 September 2007

The Perhentian Adventure: Stars, Waves & Near-Death Experiences

THE trip started out innocently enough. 15 of us on a small fibreglass boat, heading home to the hotel after a long day of travelling and visiting giant electricity-generating fans. The trip from the hotel to the fans had been only about 15 minutes max.

The return trip took bloody FIVE HOURS.

We'd started out at around 7:15pm, taking a nice breezy trip between the two islands, and a short stopover at the village. We got there around 7:30, when we got to the village; we couldn't get on the jetty because the waves were too big.

At this point we still had a bit of light, and we could really see the waves were pretty big.

Cannot dock? No problem. After waffling around for around 15 minutes, the boatman decided to head home to the hotel. That's when all the excitement began.

You see, to get to our hotel, we had to go around this outlaying crop of rocks aptly (and menacingly called) Sharp Point. And to do this, we had to head out to open sea for a bit.

The open sea during monsoon season (or this close to it, anyway) is no joke ok? The waves were HUGE, and the light little fibreglass boat was skipping and falling like a rock skipping across water (read: could sink at anytime). Water was splashing into the boat, we were all holding on for dear life, and the boat just kept going up, down, up, down, up, down.

Finally, after around 10 minutes of trying to fight our way pass Sharp Point, we encountered this GIGANTIC wave that LIFTED our boat almost 3 feet in the air, and we CRASHED down (thankfully right side up) onto the water with a horrible lurch.

I remember thinking at the time, "F**K, this is it, we're all going under", and already imagining what I would do if we really did go under.

It was at this point that the boatman decided that it was too dangerous to keep going and we turned back, travelling a short distance to a nearby cove where the waters were nice and still.

It was then that we realised how close we were to disaster. According to the boatmen, if there had been a second big wave directly behind that last big wave, it would have overturned the boat instantly). To make things worse, we were all without lifejackets, and it would have been almost fatal for us if we'd had gone under.

Anyway, we were stranded in that little bay for almost two hours, as we could not get out of it to get to a proper jetty either due to the waves (we tried once, but gave up midway). We were cold, scared, and worried; some of the passengers had their holy books out and were busy praying; some were frantically calling people for help and loved ones to tell them about the situation (thank god for mobile phones huh? Unfortunately for ME, I'd left mine in the hotel. BRILLIANT). We could do nothing but wait, and wait for the waves to go down.

Eventually, after almost two hours of waiting, we decided to risk it and try to get to the nearest jetty, which thankfully we did. I tell you, it was AWESOME to be back on dry land. And tasteless nasi goreng pattaya never tasted so good before. There, we waited for another hour for a bigger and heavier boat to arrive and bring us home.

But that was not the end!

On the big boat also got damn a lot of drama. For one, they tied the smaller boat behind the big boat to tow back to the hotel, but midway through the journey, it came loose and we had to turn back to rescue it.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we managed to get around Sharp Point on the boat, with me actually almost falling asleep on the front deck (it felt a bit like being on a HUGE baby cradle); and occasionally admiring the clear night sky (I'd forgotten how awesomely beautiful the night sky looks when all the stars are out).

Then, when we got to the area where the hotel was located, we still could not get to it because the waters were too shallow for the big boat and we had to wait another hour for the boatmen to get the boats moored next to each other so we could safely board it and go home (it was actually quite a hilarious interlude, because the captain of the fishing boat sounded so exasperated with his dumbass crew, and was constantly running in and out of the cabin while barking instructions in a THICK Kelantanese accent which we could hardly understand at all).

Anyway, we eventually arrived all wet and exhausted but safe and in one piece at our hotel, at exactly 12:15. Whew!

As for the rest of the trip, thankfully nothing else happened on our other boat rides; though if it were up to me, and if it wasn't for the fact that we were still on the bloody island, I'd have sworn off taking another boat altogether.

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