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Alone in the Dark

I’ve been touristing (refuse to go travelling – say no) with Joe for a few months now, and there are a couple of soundbites / mottos that remind me of the whole experience, including when we hooked up with Mike. They include

  • “Denzyl, let’s offroad”.usage: to all taxi / motorbike / truck / cyclo drivers conveying us who may or may not be ‘off roading’ from (the Fast Show Off Roading characters who are actually called Simon and Lindsey)
  • “Let’s get into trouble”. usage: whenever we’ve not been out in a few days, signalling that the liver is functioning once more and needs some punishment. from: being in KK too long, and wanting to stay out past curfew / get attacked by transvestites to break the routine.
  • “It’s very nice”. usage: anything ingested that isn’t that nice. from: being polite to hosts
  • “Lesbian dopeheads on mopeds”. usage: anytime women are seen travelling on the same moped . from: great name of a band which is quite catchy
  • “Toe it”, “Rag it”, “Nail it”, “Go on my saaarn. give it some”. usage: to any non-comprehending driver. from: expressions on Balak shouted at Lara / Alex when they were driving the boats – “Rag it!” being Sarah’s preferred directive.
  • “Its the bomb. The money. The Lick. The Flush”. usage: good things. from: Mike’s favourite expression on Balak, augmented by Joe’s “Flush”

The latest addition to our stilted dialogue is “Don’t Panic!” This was born in a kayaking incident yesterday in Ha Long. Ha Long’s rocky outcrops have numerous small indentations and abrasions from the sea. At low tide, you can see small caves and dark passages that are covered by the sea at high tide. At low tide, you can see all of the shells and barnacles between the low and high water marks. While waiting for the other tourists, at low tide, in our two man kayak we spotted a cave which looked deeper than the rest. I had just taken over the back seat and was trying to get the hang of the steering control. We zig-zagged towards the opening, as I wrestled with the rudder. Once in, we could see a small bend, and total darkness beyond it, and paddled towards it under the very low ceiling, covered in pointy shells. Suddenly, Joe noticed that we couldn’t stop.

As the tide was rising, for some reason, a strong current was pulling us into the darkness. We paddled furiously and in a less than coordinated fashion to prevent being sucked further into the dark, fearing that our heads would be gashed by a razor sharp stallactite. I tried to steer. We got turned sideways, and pulled faster into who knows what. Trying to slow our progress and realizing the speed at which things were going from bad to worse, I put out my hand to grab at the ceiling. I pulled it back, covered in blood from a myriad of barnacle slices to my hand. I had unsettled the kayak now, and we had the added fear of capsizing.

“Don’t Panic!” I yelled, realising that this was exactly what I was doing, and somehow recalling the idea of an “incident pit” into which panic can quickly suck you from our diving training. Somehow, Joe managed to wedge the boat between two rocks and arrest our progress into the spikey void. Another big heft and we were facing outwards, and then we toed-it, ragged-it, nailed-it and gave it some, until we were out into daylight again. It could only have been a matter of about 90 seconds of mayhem, but we were both fully pumped up on adrenaline, and babbling about the speed we lost control. All of this on an organised tour with a guide? Bring on the trips down south where we get live ammunition and no guide….

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