Wednesday, 14 March 2012

End of the holiday :(

Well I'm sat in Kuala Lumper airport waiting for the flight home at midnight local time so it's about 3 hours to go. I've had a good walk round the various shops & restaurant, has a coffee to kill some time but time drags in even the best of airports when you are waiting for a flight.

I suppose I'd better say thank you to a few people.
First of all a very big thanks to Jonkey and Mac our dive guide & boat driver for the week, I'm still amazed how he found all those wrecks. All the staff at the Blue Lagoon Resort and Dive Centre for making us all so welcome.

Steve for helping organise the trip with Graham Weston at Plymouth Dive Centre and Phil North of Dive Worldwide. Rob for being such a great buddy and bothering to drag his twin set gear all the way it there to do the San Francisco. Bill for being a constant source of amusement and taking it all in good heart. Harriet for letting me steal a couple of her photos and Lisa for putting up with a bunch of divers all week even when she did not dive.

Well thats all for now but I will add some more photos over the next week or so once I sort them out.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Manila on the way home

This will most likely be the last post of the blog from foreign shores, I don't know if I will get wifi on stop over in Kuala Lumper or if it will give enough time to send anything.

Anyway we are back in the Dusit Thani in Manila and this time I get to sample more than just the pool as we are all booked in overnight because there are about 19 hours between the flights. The hotel really is very good but that is to be expected from a modern 5 star hotel, that has won a number of Hospitality awards including hotel of the year. The service is exceptional as well which is a nice change and everywhere you go the staff greet you with a cheerful smile. A modern hotels become larger and quite impersonal this hotel is a welcome change.

For some reason the pick up for the next flights at 11:30 about 4 hours before its due to depart which seems a bit excessive as the airport is only about 20 minutes away, still time will tell if we are hanging around the airport for ages again as we did on the way out.

Yep we are stuck in the airport for ages so here are a few more photos of the Manila traffic to help pass the time

Flights home the first legs

Well the last day started of raining and grey, trying to make us feel better about going home :). After a morning of finishing the last minute and hanging around the hotel it was off to the Chuuk International Airport. At 5 flights a week it's not exactly the busiest in the world. Check is a little odd as they do a bag search before you check in then your bags are taken from you then hang around in the check in area till just before flight and then the usual hand bag & body search takes place.

The flight to Guam was again a United 737 and rather full and loading seemed to take an age, but the same United cabin staff who flew us in did well to settle every one down even those that seemed to be unable to work out which seats they had been allocated. The good news in Guam was my ESTA US visa seems have sorted it self out and I sailed through immigration this time with out any issues. Passing back in to departures Guam is not the most exciting airport in the world but there is a good noodle bar and the usual connection of duty free shops.

The stop over in Guam was quite painless as was the next short ish flight to Manila where we have just arrived and with a beer in hand I bid you good night for the evening

Monday, 12 March 2012

Last morning

And it's raining.
Off to the airport in a couple of hours

Truk the last day :(

Why are the last days of any holiday always the same. You arrive thinking you have loads of time, halfway through it seems like paradise then all of a sudden it's all over:( Bills to be paid, dive kit to wash and bags to be packed.

Our last day pretty much like that but we did get he chance to go off on as small tour of some of the islands old Japanese relics. The first stop was Ettan where we had been having our stops between dives most days. During the war the Japanese turned Ettan into an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" blasting away most of the mountain and building a huge air strip control centre and bomb storage. Today it is all overgrown and home to a few local family's. After leaving the boat we had a sticky 15 minute walk through the jungle to the old command centre this two story building of heavy ft think concrete was destroyed during the war and only the bomb scared bottom story remains.

After Ettan the took the sort boat ride to Dublon that had been the main Japanese base during the war and after an even longer walk, and it was really hot there too!!! past the local church and small village the came to the derelict old japanese hospital, for a short stop for photos. Then on to the Japanese school a building that is still in use as local government offices. This ended the short tour and I for one was glad to see the boat with the prospect of a nice cool breeze on the run back to the resort.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Sunday update

Well no diving today, there was the chance to get one last dive in on the Fujikawa but my dive buddy got a bit worse for wear at the BBQ last night and was not really up to it, still it give me a chance to so some catching up on the blog, pay my gas bill at the dive shop and take a look round the resort.

So the last dive was the shark dive yesterday afternoon the dive was on a small Tila, a small reef that doesn't quite break the surface and lasted about 40 minute. The guide took down a bag of fish an placed it under a rock for the sharks to find. In all we had about 8 small black tip reef sharks feeding and swimming in and out of the divers so there were lots of good photo opportunities. The only down side is I managed to set my Hero cam to still so I did not get any video of the action.

In the evening the dive guide organised a BBQ for the group which was a lot of fun and ending up adding another wreck to the lagoons list namely my dive buddy Rob.

The plan for today now is to sort the last things out over the dive shop and then Jonkey the dive guide is going to take us on an island tour of Dublon which was the main base for the Japanese in WW2 so there are lots of relics and sites of interest, it should've a good tour so I'll keep you posted.

Sunday San Francisco Maru

Wow ........ This has got to be my very best ever wreck dive. The 'cisco sits in about 70m of water so it needs to be planned as a technical dive as only Rob of us had the technical gear to do it justice we had the boat to our selves. For those who are interested we planned a 58m 20 minute bottom time dive with deco gas of 50%
O2 and a cylinder of 80% O2 hung on the 5m line. Checking the gas in the morning one of the deco side slings was a little light at 45% O2 but as we had calculated the plan with a lot of spare gas we decided to stick to the bottom time and extend the deco to suit.
Dropping on to the wreck you catch you first site at about 20 m when the bridge starts to appear and as you drop deeper you get a good view of most of the wreck in water of around 30m viz. The bridge is at about 42m and from there you can see the 3 tanks which the wreck is famous for. From the bridge we went over to the bow gun and down into the first hold the is still full live mines, some of which have have been stolen by the local fisherman to go dynamite fishing on the reefs. Following the hold we got a good look around the tanks before the guide left us and we carried on doing the rest of the rear holds that are still full of ammunition. The 20 minutes bottom time were over all to soon and we started our slow deco assent at 20m we changed on to the 50% O2 mix for and at 5m we moved on to the 80% O2 mix to end the dive hanging under the boat for 25 minutes may not seem like fun but we had a a few shoals fish to take our minds off the time. Before we knew it was the end of the deco and 100 minutes of the dive had gone by.

So to sum it up totally blown away by what must be one of the most amazing wrecks in the world.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Photos from Saturday

Don't you just love bat fish. Check out the small shrimp in the anemone

Saturday dives

Only three dives were planned for today, the first one was the Momokawa Maru a 107m 3829 tonne freighter this wreck is off the east of Dublon island and is resting on its port side in over 40 m of water. After dropping down on to the bow at around 35m we went through the forward holds which contained a mix of aircraft parts, oil drums, machinery and large artillery shells finally coming out at the bridge where Steve left us to go up with his ear problem. Once back on the boat the guide decided to head back to BLR for an extended lunch break so that Steve's ear could settle down and he would get a good chance of doing the next dives.
So after a long lunch we set of across the lagoon for about 40 minutes, which is about the most we have done, to dive one of the few real navel vessels in the lagoon. This is the destroyer Fumitsuki which was undergoing repairs and could not leave with the rest of the Japanese task force. The 103m 1913 tonne wreck was only found in 1987 and sits in about 35m. Most of the wreck is sitting up right but the bow section from the forward gun has collapsed and is on its port side. Because the wreck is unstable no penetration was allowed but it was a good wreck to swim around.
The last dive of the day was back on the Shinkoku Maru the 10000 tonne tanker we dived on the second day. This time we took a slightly different route giving up a bit more time to look round the engine room & bridge.

Ramblings from Truk Lagoon.

We had the first of the diving casualties today Steve our un elected group organiser is suffering with an ear problem and finding it difficult to equalise on the way up on Momokawa Maru the first dive of the day and is suffering a bit.

Today's dives are all quite deep too 40 to 30m so the guide has moved rings around to give us all a longer break and Steve's ear a chance to recover. The diving is pretty relaxed and you get the guide and driver for the week so they get to know you. Jonkey our guide is very easy going and has a laugh and a joke with us now and again. In the water he sets a really relaxed pace underwater and points out all the good stuff as he goes. Our boat driver Mac is a real another great guy an yesterday turned the boat round an fished out my hat when it blew off but even better on our afternoon rest stop he went back in to the wreck of the patrol boat we dived the other day and fished out the weight pocket that one of out group lost while we were diving it on Wednesday.

I suppose I had better say a bit more about the Blue Lagoon Resort. Since arriving on Monday I have managed to find the the reception, gift shop, restaurant coffee shop and, no surprise, the bar. It all has a great rustic atmosphere and laid back pace but the service has been faultless. The one or two little niggles have been sorted quickly with out any issue or argument so full credit to them. There are quite a lot of staff keeping the grounds and apartments clean & tidy but I think this must be a major employer on this corner of the island and a little local community has grown up around the resort. However not every one lives close by and you can see the boats brining in the staff and taking them away to the local islands.

The food really has been very good and the menu is split up into 3 main sections. International, read American, steaks & fish grills, various pastas etc. Japanese, would put Waggamamas to shame, and local which are various chicken & pork stews and spiced dishes which are also really nice. So far I have sampled each of the sections and I have no complaints at all and can really recommend the grilled tuna, Yakisoba and the chicken & pork Adobo :)

Some photos from yesterday (Friday)