Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May I have some more Chateau Cardboard please?

Now I had said to Grumpy that I had broken five ribs in December and that I would probably be OK getting into the water but would have to take my gear off to get out and would need some help. He said that would be OK.
When I went to get to out there was no move to help me get my gear off so on the basis that the level of assistance so far had been zero – and was likely to continue at this level -  I started up the ladder.
The Fuckup Fairy – who by that time had roused herself from her slumber and was now cursing lost opportunities - touched me lightly on the shoulder and my foot slipped on the ladder. I lost my grip on the ladder and fell back into the water – onto a German.
My tank hit him on the forehead - hard. It made a clanging - clunking noise. The German made a cursing noise.  
Rule #23b in diving is never get too close to the ladder when a diver is climbing out because when the boat is moving about it is easy to slip and fall. This I did. The boat moved up quite suddenly and I slipped and fell.
The German bled a lot and was taken to hospital in Male. He suffered no lasting damage but was unable to dive for two days. The other Germans formed a protective wall around him and we divided into two camps along vaguely geographic and ethnic lines.
The Germans and Swiss on one table and the Dutch, Italians and Australians on the other. The Swiss initially were neutral and moved between tables but after a day or so aligned themselves with the Germans - probably because of the language issues.
Relationships between us and Grumpy and Grouchy moved quickly through the stages of disinterest to dislike and we were then chastised for everything we did underwater. We sat out a lot of dives simply because it was so unpleasant  - and they obviously disliked us so much.
I suspect that each morning after he has said his prayers – the Captain gave Grouchy, Grumpy and the Grinch a good thrashing to set them up for the day. The Dutchman said that the staff were just as unhappy last year as they were this year – but the diving was much better. 
Apart from that – the food was that which you would expect to find in the average roadside stall in Ouagadougou and consisted mainly of rice, noodles, pasta and chicken.  We had beef one night from a very, very old cow.
The cook was a remarkably able and cheerful guy who did wonders with what was available. If I was confronted at the start of a voyage with bags of pasta, noodles, potatoes, rice and chickens - and a tin of curry powder - I would be flummoxed - but he performed  miracles. 
One night he showed tremendous flair by putting a tin of peas into the boiled rice - and we marveled about this inventiveness for hours.
The wine at meal times came from cardboard cartons and was barely drinkable. But it is apparently rare and precious and is distilled from angel’s tears.  We were rationed to one glass per person per meal and there were no exceptions – for us anyway. Some people seemed to be on a mysterious ‘two glass package’ and could summon another glass without problem – and without charge.
We found this out when tried to purchase (i.e. pay money for) an additional glass of Chateau Cardboard after dinner one night and the bar tender – clearly shocked by our audacity – had to refer our request to ‘the management’ – whatever that is (I wonder if this required a telephone call to London? I think the boat is UK registered).
In a masterpiece of public relations our request was denied by ‘the management’. This did not surprise us at all. Indeed we were grateful to escape a beating for making such a foolish and flippant request.
We made the request because we had previously purchased – for $45 – a bottle of filthy reddish muck – which proved to be absolutely undrinkable. Cate and the Dutchman had a glass each and had decided to leave the rest to be used to sluice the bilges or frizzle the flippers or whatever they do on boats with mixtures of bat urine and avgas which they keep in the fridge for guests.
The coffee was instant. There was an Espresso machine upstairs in the bar but was broken. The Dutch people on board - who took the same trip last year (wow – are they training for Survivor?) said that it was was broken last year as well.  This is probably just as well. I can imagine what it would have tasted like.
There was a packet of peanuts on board but Cate ate these over two days for afternoon tea with her afternoon beer.
After that she had dry biscuits. I tried to buy chips or crisps but they professed not to know what these were and I could see no evidence of any other kinds of snacks or nibbles of any kind.
The Crew smoked incessantly on the Gulag and on the Dhoni.  As we are both allergic to smoke the only place we could escape to that was not poisonous was our cabin - in which we spent all of our time – and  it was quite wonderful.
So we sat in our air conditioned cabin and reminisced about our time on the dive boat in Palau where we had hot towels and Smoothies after each dive - barbecued chickens and steaks, hamburgers and hotdogs and salads for dinner – and best of all – Espresso coffee - Bliss. There we had laughing and joking Filipino Dive Masters who seemed to care about us and – on the last night – actually started a Karaoke session.  Dive boat heaven.
The diving was below average – and occasionally average - but the quality of diving wherever you go depends so much on the season and the weather. We saw a very big school of Manta Rays – the first we have ever see – so it was worthwhile for that reason.
But Cate had a wonderful rest and we mooched around reading and napping. As I could not get the Internet I could have used my time productively but did basically nothing useful. The brochure said there was Internet ‘in the Saloon’ but when I asked about this I was given a USB which I could not get to work after trying for a few days - so gave up.
So – and not nearly soon enough – we stood in front of the Parole Board and had our papers stamped. And then it was goodbye to the Dream Smasher and off back to Paradise Island for a day and a bit before the long, long trip home.
A trip not to be forgotten in a hurry.
Tomorrow – our sad return to Camp Festering and Cate’s Gold Plated Wobbly


  1. Oh dear. At least it has given you something to write about, Badger.

  2. Food bad. Coffee bad. Wine bad.

    And I guess you had to pay heaps to be there!
    Sad :-(

    Bet your furry friends were glad to see you back!

  3. Gold pp. And glad you made in back in no more than several pieces.

  4. Next time better make sure St. Peter is around, with a bagful of George's coffee pods. ;-)

  5. This is a great blogg and I'll be following since now. Congratulations!

  6. At least this time you didn't go round a corner too fast and fall overboard, otherwise I suspect they would have backed the boat over you a few times - propeller full bore.

  7. The holiday from hell. Sounds mindblowingly awful. (Except that you were with Cate.)

  8. I used to work on a live-aboard in Palau. Were your joking Filipinos Ike and Hector aboard the Palau Aggressor?

  9. I had imagined for a while, Badger, that you might be getting well paid by some kind of tourist outfit to test various exotic but harsh sites such as dusty Jerusalem, battlefields on the Western Front, the Arctic wastes, etc… comprising an assortment of inevitably low-quality airlines and hotels. However, since your most recent assignment, which sounds like one of the nastiest and most risky of all, I'm starting to wonder whether you might in fact be making all these sacrifices for an organization such ASIO or maybe even the CIA. I can understand that it's impossible for you (for obvious reasons) to either confirm or deny that you're on active duty, and I'm not asking you to provide us with explanations, even among friends such as your blog readers. In any case, you'll probably tell us nothing. You've no doubt been selected as a consequence of your skill at handling contacts with naive outsiders such as me, and you've been trained to avoid answering questions. Concerning your latest mission, conducted (if I understand correctly) in a Muslim territory, there are simply too many coincidences for me to believe that you and Cate were simply on vacation. There's that whole business about the underwater nature of your excursion, after acquiring new high-tech frogmen's equipment. So, out of curiosity, I'll ask the obvious question, and look forward to seeing how you'll brush it aside: Please be frank, Badger, were you involved as an auxiliary agent in the plans to get rid of the body of Bin Laden?

  10. What a great post! I just came across your blog and I fell in love with it! It's spectacular! I love your style! Check out my blog and follow if you like it, I promise to do the same!
    See you soon, kisses!

  11. Maalie: Exactly - life's rich tapestry - love it!

    Annie: Not as bad as it sounds. You know I do tend to go on a bit!

    lenny: and the ribs are almost better

    Merisi: Just had my first cup of Alt Wien - Heaven!

    Gris: Thanks very much

    freefalling: Oh I don't think they disliked me THAT much

    Merricks; I do tend to exaggerate just a teensy bit!

    Janice's kitchen; No it was Ocean Hunter 2. Great guys.

  12. William: Damn! You are too clever by half and I have said too much already. As you have guessed - the first half of the trip was refresher Navy SEALS course. That is all I am permitted to say. I can confirm that the reason most recruits drop out of SEALS training is not the physical endurance aspect - it is the food!

  13. William: And as to the issue of the body - I rather suspect we may have eaten it. It was hard to tell because most of it was amorphous sludge.

  14. Fisherman: Thanks

    LMV Technischer Handel: I do exaggerate a bit!

    Irina: I will do that. Thanks for your comments.

  15. just catching up on some reading. this post made me laugh out loud! the trip on the dive boat sounds truly awful... but i hope you forgive me for laughing :-)