Alright folks, it’s time to go hiking with Larry! Let’s run through our checklist first.
1) Improper shoes? Check!
2) Vague directions to a place you’ve never been, surely to result in you getting lost? Chiggity check!
3) Leave around high noon, pretty much the hottest time of the day? Cheeee-yeck!
That being said, I did remember to do some things right. Before my journey I made sure I had my first aid kit (mental note, buy a new first aid kit. First one all used up now), my flashlight, a huge bottle of water, 3 bananas, and about a dozen mangosteins (a delicious fruit).
So off I went, sandals flopping on a winding dirt road as I slowly ascended the mountain on what I expected to be a 90 minute round trip hike to Fraggle Rock, which is known to offer a fantastic view of the west coast of Koh Tao. Well I guess I zigged instead of zagged, because an hour later I was on the other side of the island, hadn’t seen anyone for 45 minutes and was now at a dead end. Dripping with sweat, I was determined to keep going. I didn’t see any trailheads, but I could hear the ocean in the distance. At that point an angel appeared on my shoulder. Either that, or I was dehydrated and the hallucinations were starting.
“Don’t even think about trouncing through that forest, young man. No one knows you’re here. You didn’t tell anyone and if you hurt yourself, you’re trapped”. It turns out that the angel had taken the form of my mother. Mom has always been so logical.
“I know, Mom. I’m totally with you on this. But I’m just so close.”
“Well come back tomorrow. You have a week left on the island”
I nodded, packed up my belongings, said goodbye to the dozens of butterflies who had been fluttering around me and proceeded back up the road. A couple minutes in, I noticed a wooden post on the side of the road. What an odd place for a post, I thought. Right then, a devil appeared on my shoulder. It had taken the form of my father.
“Pssst….son. You should go investigate that wooden post. I bet that’s an old trailhead. Just go look…a quick peek, that’s all.”
My Dad had a good point. It was just a peek. I moved past the first post and began to scramble over rocks and push my way through overgrown foliage. Down the mountainside I went, following from what I could tell was a trail that was barely, if ever, used in the last few years. I pushed my way through thorned bushes and banana trees. 5 minutes later, another wooden post. Success! Buoyed by this new find, I kept moving forward. Each time I found a new post, the confidence grew inside me. That feeling was all too short-lived as I found myself without a new post roughly 2/3’s of the way down. Again, I could hear the waves crashing against the shore, so I went for it anyways. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find my way back to the last wooden post, so I did what any reasonable person would have done; I began leaving a trail of mangosteins. Doing my best Hansel and Gretel impersonation, I walked towards the sound of the ocean, searching for anything that looked like an old path while strategically leaving delicious little fruits on rocks and in tree branches. Soon enough, I made my way to a clearing and found myself staring out at the ocean. Victory has never tasted so salty.
I had the beach all to myself, and poked around for some time. I later found out I had stumbled across Mao Bay and that it was one of the only beaches on the island without human presence. Content with my accomplishment, I began my journey back up the mountain. The mangosteins were a success, and I celebrated each time I found one by quickly devouring it. Soon I found myself back on a familiar dirt road and began the journey home. Well, until I came to a fork in the road, that is.
Confident from my recent exploration, I decided that it was too early to go home, went left instead of right, and made my way down a dirt walking path. 20 minutes later I found myself at an abandoned resort. It was an eerie feeling at first. Normally this type of environment is bustling with foreigners, but here there was nothing but silence. Bamboo bungalows were barely standing, windows were smashed and the main lobby was covered in graffiti. After a closer look, I realized I wasn’t alone. I noticed a tent near the lobby and introduced myself to a middle age Russian man named Micha. He was a kind man, and told me that he came here to escape other people. It didn’t work he said, as I was the 8th person to visit him today. Just as he said that, 3 more people came down the hillside. Now Micha was up to 11.
I struck up a conversation with Florena, a young French woman celebrating her 23rd birthday. She was here on a mission. She was determined to find the best place for rock jumping, and this old resort had some of the best spots on the island. So off we went, soon finding ourselves on a rock roughly 20 feet above the ocean. She kindly offered to test the water for me, and hurled herself into the water below. One large splash later, she popped up on the surface, touched the top of her head with a fist (Scuba sign language for “I’m ok”) and swam off. Now it was my turn. I kept waiting for the angel to pop up on my shoulder again, but nothing. I counted to 3, took a deep breath, and pushed off with full force. It was over before I knew it. There I was, bobbing along in surprisingly rough waters, sharing big smiles with a new friend. I wish I could say exiting the water was as enjoyable as entering it. The rough waters made it difficult and the swells pushed me into the muscle/barnacle covered rocks a few times. I tore up my hands pretty bad, and I left a trail of blood as I walked to my gear. Luckily my new friend was a nurse, so we emptied my first aid kit and treated my wounds. She made one more jump and we began our journey home. Tired and thirsty, once we reached the main town we found the nearest fruit shake stand for a well-earned treat.
(our jumping rock)
It was a long day, but a fun one. I ended it by stopping by my scuba school and signing up for the advanced courses. 2 more days of diving, starting on the 7th, and I’ll be certified to dive 100 feet. I’m very excited, especially since Will was free to be my instructor again.
I showed my torn up hands to my neighbors Tom and Zebrina, an older couple from Germany who have been coming to the island for 12 years. I visit them a couple of times a day and we have become very friendly. Zebrina saw my wounds and gave me a plant I’m supposed to rub on it every few hours. I’m not sure if it’s going to work, but what the hell.
I’ll stay out of the water and relax until I start scuba again. Better safe than sorry.
Oh, and since I haven’t included any pictures of my bungalow or “home” beach, here you go!