Sailing the swelly sea on the way to Ko Tao, Thailand

Day 17 – Round the World 2008

We arrived at the ferry port around 6.30 in the morning after a completely useless night’s ‘sleep’ on the unluxury bus. The whole lot of us trooped down the stairs looking just as bad as we felt, and everyone was straight into the little cafe to empty them of their coffee stocks. Then around 7.30 we were loaded onto a pretty shabby looking

and worrying small ferry and within 10 minutes we were off on the way to Ko Tao.

The first indication that things were about to take a turn for the worse came as we neared the mouth of the harbour I caught sight of the waves coming in from the east to batter the harbour wall. They seemed pretty large to my land-lubbering eyes, at least a few metres from top to bottom and stacked up in unending rows right to the horizon. Then, as we exited the harbour we hit the first of them – our 100 person passenger ferry made like a speedboat and I started easily the worst journey of my life. I had been wrong, the swell was far bigger than 3 metres – it looked like something out of The Perfect Storm with huge deep valleys between every peak. The boat started to nose up over every peak before dropping with a sickening crunch into each trough. No exaggeration, there was a good 2 or 3 seconds of freefall, tummy flipping over and over every time, as we crested each wave, and people were letting out involuntary yelps and screams as we hit a particularly big one every few minutes. To make matters worse, we were crossing the swell at an angle so the ferry wasn’t only tipping forwards and backwards, but also side to side as we cross each wave. It was completely terrifying for the first half hour, totally feeling like the boat was going to tip over, and every after I’d concinved myself the boat could handly it I spent the next 1.5hrs with a white knuckle grip on the arm rests, staring fixedly at the horizon. Well, when I could see the horizon over the incoming behemouth of a wave anyway…

As soon as we left the harbour the ferry guy came round with plastic sick bags, and right away just about everyone grabbed one. The first was used only moments later and the rest of the trip was made with a backing track of ‘heeuuuughey…’ and ‘baaaaarf’ playin on repeat. People just lay down on the floor, sick bag in hand, assumed the foetal position and stayed there. One lady sounded like she was dying, the most noisy spewer I’ve ever heard, and she had to be picked up and helped off the ferry at the end. I’m not gonna lie to you, it didn’t exaclty smell great either, 50% of the people there chucking into a bag for two hours, and sometimes outside of the bag too. I managed to keep my breakfast down, and Cat did well too helped along by her travel sickness pills, but it was still the longest 2hrs I’ve ever had while not being in excruciating pain.

As we all got off the barf-boat and stepped onto the Ko Tao pier we saw the crowds of people waiting to get on and head back to the mainland. They all wore uninformaly grim expressions which told us that our trip wasn’t a one off, it seemed that that near death experience was standard fare for getting around the Thai islands.

The rest of the day wasn’t too much to speak of, mostly recovering from the boat. we walked from the pier area of Ko Tao over to the slightly quieter Sai Ri beach area, a couple of miles north of the Pier. The walk was a little longer than we thought and we flopped into sai Ri about 1pm reeeeally looking forward to tramping around, comparing prices and haggling ourselves a bungalow. It wasn’t too traumatic though and after seeing around 4 or 5 places we managed to get ourselves a wee raised cabin with it’s own balcony for 400 bhat a night – a mere 8 quid. The accomodation over there is pretty cool, cheifly consisting of these raised bungalows, just a bedroom and a bathroom, all overlooking the beach. Ours was about 2 rows away from the beach itself but was pretty perfect nonetheless and we spent the rest of the afternoon just walking along the beach, paddling away and checking out the bars and restaurants, most of which also overlooked the mile long stretch of sand.

We weren’t on great form that night after our combined crappy bus-sleep and almost-certain-death ferry so we just grabbed a wee dinner that evening and hit the hay early, resolved to fully appreciate our island paradise the next day.

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