A blog with no name

notes and observations on my travels

When in Rome. . .

clock October 22, 2012 17:55 by author Phil

After the US, our first stop was the Philippines. After what seemed like forever, we were off the plane and onto a bus to get to a small plane. We had to go from one terminal to another. Now, in SF, that would mean walking from one part of the airport to another. However, in Manila, terminal 3 is nowhere near terminal 1. Being jet lagged, we almost got off the bus at the wrong stop.

Anyway, we made it to Coron town in the province of Palawan (pah-LAH-wan) around dinner time. We stayed at Sea Dive, right on the water. Beautiful, but we were exhausted by a day of traveling. A quick dinner and we were down for the count.

Of course, being our first day in the Philippines, we were up at 4 AM, just in time to listen to the Giants game on WiFi in the restaurant. It was a little eerie in the dark, but when you're jet lagged, your body still thinks it's California time.

Being a dive center, we had to go diving so we went on an Adventure Dive the next day. Val has never been SCUBA diving before and has trouble free diving, so we were a little apprehensive. However, we had a great divemaster in Ramil. He was calm and patient and had Val comfortable in no time. I hadn't been diving in 15+ years too, so it was good to do a shallow dive. What do you know, it was still pretty easy and I remember all that stuff that I'd learned in 1979. Being warm helps a lot too. One of the reasons I quit diving in California was that it required a super thick wetsuit and I was always cold when I went diving.

The last diving I did was in Thailand. Diving in the Philippines was like that: warm water and beautiful reefs. Coron has the advantage of also having WWII wrecks. My second day of diving was on wrecks. I'd never been wreck diving and was a little intimidated. We were given lights and followed the divemaster inside the Irako. The first dive was to about 36m, so we didn't have a lot of bottom time. However, that was long enough to go in the top hatch and through a big hold into another room and then out, around the top and back to the top. Even though we had a no decompression dive, we stopped for 1 minute at 15m and 3 min at 5m. Too cool!

Lunch was fried marlin with rice. While waiting out our top time, we headed over to the next wreck, all of 15 min. away. Nap time!

The second dive was on the Kogyo Maru. It was lying on its side in about 35m of water. It had lots of holes in it so more light came into it than the Irako. We entered in through the top of the ship, into the rear hole. Inside the first chamber were cement bags. Passing through a smallish hatch, we went into another hold that had a truck and bulldozer in it. Nearby lay rolls of cyclone fencing.

Third dive of the day was the small gunboat. We went in and around it and then went along the reef. Beautiful corals were all around. I wish I'd had a dive camera for the corals, oysters and occasional giant clams. Some of the coral looked like giant leaves of lettuce.

Giving my ears a day to recover, Val and I spent a day around Coron. One of the things that they advertise as something to do is to head to the hot springs. Why anyone would want to go sit in 39C water when it's 35C outside is beyond me. However, that's exactly what we did, as we got super sweaty riding bikes over there.

While looking at a poster of the Irako that night, Daboy told me that SeaDive also had nitrox classes. Using Enhanced air mixtures, you could increase your bottom time and reduce decompression stops. Sign me up! I studied the book while I played princess on one of Val's dive class days. We got to dive Barracuda Lake, which has a hot spring thermocline around 14m. Since the hot water was salty, it didn't mix with the cooler fresh water above. The next day, I took the test and got two free nitrox tanks to dive the wrecks again.

We dove the same wrecks as I did the first time, but you could dive these wrecks dozens of times before seeing all of them. The depth, mixed with the complexity of the rooms, limits what you can see on each dive. This time, we got to see the front hold of the Irako. Unfortunately, my regulator was free flowing and I ran out of air when on one of our decompression stops. Luckily, Daboy had lots of air left. We switched out regulators at the surface and we were good to go for the second dive.

The Kogyo was similar to the first time I dove it. However, since I was a little more familiar with the wreck, I saw more details. Turns out that one of the divemasters at SeaDive has over 15,000 dives. He really knows his way around these boats.

I'd highly recommend going to Coron to dive the wrecks if you're in the Philippines. We had a great time there, but it was time to go see the cooler part of Luzon next.



Klamath with kids

clock October 8, 2012 18:57 by author Phil

After Humboldt, we worked our way northeast and worked for a week on a class outing on the Klamath river. Val got us this gig. She's worked a couple of trips each year for Sierra South. This trip is for the Juniors at a private school in Pasadena. It's pretty easy duty for the guides. The kids are already organized into their own rafts, with one of the kids acting as the guide. They also do their own cooking and they often bring way more tasty food than they can finish. Val has joked that we could go without cooking on a trip, mooching all our food off of the kids. 

Since the kids didn't know any better, I could pose as a super gnar guide:
 

All we guides have to do is to make sure that the kids don't kill themselves on the river. The school provides two teachers for each pod of 28 kids to enforce discipline and provide meds to kids that need them. It's a 6 day trip and in October, the weather is still pretty warm. In August, it'd be too hot at night. We had some cool mornings, but it was fine for us. Even the camp they called Hell was fine. It had a really hard dew in the morning, but it didn't penetrate my down bag and I didn't even zip it up the entire trip.

On the water, we had three guides for each 28 kid pod. One of the guides paddled a raft with the teachers in it, another guide (me!) paddled a kayak and the third guide (Val) sat in different rafts to help the kids out if they needed it. The first day was really funny. You can tell teenagers things, but they won't always sink in. We had a swimmer in the Class 1+ rapid not more than 50 yards out of the gate. Another boat had a lot of trouble going straight. They were bickering with each other and the student guide wasn't really paying attention. They ended up hitting most of the trees and rocks that day. That night, guides from the other pod noticed that their raft was leaking air and couldn't be repaired. Luckily, we had a spare raft at the campground we were staying in. A little air and we had a new raft for them. As we were rolling it though, we noticed lots of twigs in the boat. 
    "How'd you guys put a big hole in this raft?"
    "It was there when we got in."
    "Where did all these twigs come from?"
    "We ran into some trees on the way down."
    "So it wasn't the running into rocks and trees that made the hole, huh? Yeah right."

We didn't have a waterproof camera so not too many pics to share of the trip.

One day, I had to help one of the rafts when they couldn't keep the boat straight. I just clipped my cowtail to their raft and towed them back to the rest of the group.

One day, camp started out cool and foggy
 

We drank lots of espresso and hot chocolate to warm up.

Then the sun came out and we put away the insulated clothing.
 

This was a really fun trip and my first experience on the other side of guiding. I enjoyed it and hope to do it again.



About the author

After working at the same company for 21 years, I've decided to quit and spend some time traveling. I'm going to try and share some of the trials and tribulations of my journey.

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