Project work continues at Uza. The place is really looking good. For this update, I thought I'd share a bit more about other aspect of living here on the less touristy, less developed island of Ko Jum.
At the beginning of last week, I switched rooms at Uza. I moved out of my air-conditioned, heated-water villa, and moved into one of the bungalows. I did this for two reasons. First, I would be closer to the rest of the Helpers who are in adjacent bungalows. Second, I wanted to test myself with a bit more rugged “jungle living.”
Well, I guess I got what I asked for. Only one day after my move, as I was walking up short stairway to my bungalow door, I noticed some snakeskin hanging from the bottom of the bungalow. I had seen snakeskin before under other bungalows and I knew there were snakes around, so I wasn’t really alarmed. But then, as I proceeded up the stairs, I glanced up to the eighth step, and there she was – a green snake with black stripes! (I later tried to identify online, and I think it was a “mildly venomous” golden tree snake.)
I froze in my steps as she lay there staring at me. I backed away and grabbed a 10-foot piece of 20mm plastic pipe that was lying nearby. I used that to gently push her off the step. She snapped a few times at the pipe. It was like something out of Wild Kingdom or Crocodile Hunter. (Unfortunately, my GoPro was up in the bungalow and NO WAY was I going to try to get by the snake.)
After pushing her off the step and watching her fall into the bushes, I then retreated to the Uza Beach Restaurant for about half a day to let the snake settle down (and maybe slither away). I’m sure she was not happy that I interrupted her nap in the morning sun. Having a snake in the bushes is bad enough. I imagine having an angry snake in the bushes is even worse.
So far, I haven’t seen the snake again – but every time I go up and down those steps, I pause for a minute and check each step carefully.
In other wildlife news, we also saw a snake in the grass outside the restaurant the other day. Actually, it was the local cat (we have a small cat that has been hanging around Uza for a couple of weeks) that was trying to hunt the snake. It was pretty fun to watch the cat stalk the snake, pounce on it, and then sometimes jerk back as the snake fought back. The little black snake got away, and the cat continued foraging for food elsewhere. Now I am also walking a bit more carefully around that part of the property.
We also continue to see the pack of monkeys hanging around the various parts of the property. They of course like the Eucalyptus trees, but they also seem to enjoy the Tiki bar and Tiki hut. One even entered a Helper's bungalow! I'm keeping my door shut from now on! (The Helper had been in the shower, but left the sliding glass door to the bungalow open. The monkey came in, poked around, and was sitting on the floor when the Helper came out of the bathroom!)
In boating news, I don’t have any update on sailing, but I did embark on a different kind of nautical adventure. There is a small island just off the southern tip of Ko Jum. Rumor had it that a single monkey lived on the otherwise uninhabited island. I wanted to explore this island and yes maybe get a glimpse of the monkey. Max and Noe (other Helpers) joined me. We borrowed Uza Beach’s kayaks and paddled 1 hour to “Lion island,” all the while wondering why it wasn’t called “Monkey Island.”
We arrived at the island at low tide, so we had to carefully land the kayaks on the beach, avoiding the exposed rocks and coral. But that was the most exciting part of the day. We didn’t see the monkey, despite our best monkey calls.
The highlight of the week was accompanying “Oh” (a local bartender) as he visited his fish farm on the other side of Ko Jum. Max and Noe also joined us.
The four of us borrowed a motorbike with sidecar and went down to the mangroves where Oh keeps his long-tail boat. The tide was very low, though, and the boat was too heavy for us to lift into the water. So we took Oh’s second boat, a rowboat which was barely big enough for the four of us. We still had to carry it a few hundred meters, through a muddy mangrove, to set it in the water. During the walk, I cringed with every step not knowing exactly what I was going to step on. When we finally got the boat in the water, Oh sat on the bow and paddled us backward to the fish farm which was a few hundred meters offshore.
The farm was basically a checkerboard structure with 1x4 planks and/or bamboo poles lashed together with large styra-foam blocks providing the buoyancy. There were 12 “squares” in which nets hung down into the water, creating “tanks” for the variety of fish that Oh was growing. There was also a 13th tank off to the side holding a grouper.
The walkways between each tank varied in width – from 4 inches to maybe a foot. We gingerly (and me nervously) walked around as Oh explained the different tanks and fish, and a bit of history about the farm. He had to rebuild it from scratch after the tsunami. His dream is to build 4 floating bungalows for tourists around the farm.
After giving us a tour of the floating fish farm, he then gave us fishing rods and said he would be back in twenty minutes with beer. He told us just to relax, fish, and enjoy the surroundings. (But not fish for the fish that he was farming, of course.) We used the squid lure to try for more squid – but no luck. Oh returned in 20 minutes with cold beers for all of us, which was almost as good as fresh squid.
Oh showed us how to throw the net out to catch fish, which he would use as food for his farmed fish. He caught many small fish, which we pulled from the net and then dropped into the various tanks holding much larger fish. We did this until sunset, relishing the unique experience.
Before we left, Oh put some bait on a hook, dropped it into one of the tanks, and within seconds he caught one of his own fish. He gave it to us as an edible souvenir. We cooked it for dinner that night. Ah, if only fishing was always this easy!
As the sun set, we cleaned up, piled into the little row boat, and rowed ashore. Fortunately, the tide was much higher, so we didn’t have to carry the boat through the mangroves. We actually floated.
Apparently when Oh went to get beer, he switched motorbikes. We stared with mixed reactions at the normal 2-wheeled motorbike with no sidecar. He didn’t bring back the one with sidecar. We decided to try to fit 4 grown men on one motorbike. It was snug, but we did it – and we have a GoPro video to prove it!
Now, with Christmas around the corner, our attention is focused on a Christmas Eve barbecue and a New Years Eve party. I've also picked up a new hobby besides squid-hunting: walking on the slack-line. I'm about as good at slack-line as I am at squid hunting.