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Scuba diving is an activity which:
a) I really want to do
b) Scares the shit out of me

I am not good with technical equipment. Valves and hoses and such. “Clumsy” and “lack of common sense” are tags frequently applied to me. I cannot even cook for myself. I am the kind of person who requires other people to take care of me. Placing me under thirty metres of seawater in control of what is essentially a very complex life support system is probably not the best idea.

Chris, on the other hand, is a rugged and competent he-man who has recently decided upon “divemaster” as his latest career ambition, and enrolled in a six-day course scheduled for June. I’m probably going to go to Sorrento Quay and enrol in the same course tomorrow, because there are certain destinations on the Hypothetical Round The World Trip where a diving certification would be very, very useul. This includes virtually anywhere in the South Pacific or Caribbean, but the place I’m most intrigued by is Chuuk.

(Images courtesy of Where The Hell Is Matt, my favourite travel blog, in which the writer spends a substantial amount of time below the water in Chuuk.)

Chuuk is an island in the Federated States of Micronesia. During World War II it was a major base for the Japanese Navy, right up until the Americans attacked it in the largest aerial bombardment in history and sent them down to, wait for it, a watery grave. It was essentially the Japanese equivalent of Pearl Harbour. About twelve battleships, fifty merchant and supply ships, and a whole heap of planes are now lying on the seabed all around the island.

Due to the fortunate presence of a thick reef barrier, the lagoon all these shipwrecks are located in is well sheltered from waves and currents. Meaning that all the ships are still there, at a very shallow depth, with great visibility. It’s basically the best wreck diving in the world.

To do list: sit in the cockpit of a sixty-year old Japanese fighter plane, underwater.

In order to accomplish that, of course, I first have to spend a surprisingly large amount of money and six consecutive days dipping myself into the TURGID GREY SEA that encroaches on Perth during the rainy, wind-whipped months of winter. Summer would have been a much nicer time, but them’s the breaks. It will be either one of the best or worst weeks in my life.

Either way, it should be worth it.

Chris and I have started throwing darts at the map in a form of loose planning (or daydreaming) about our round the world backpacking trip set vaguely sometime next year, i.e. as soon as we can scrounge up about ten grand each. This is probably the most fun stage of planning, since most of it involves browsing lonelyplanet.com and WikiTravel instead of doing my university work.

LOCATION SPOTLIGHT: MALE’

There are islands in the Indian Ocean. This was news to me. Even more surprising was the fact that not only are there islands, but those islands have cities on them, like this:

it's been out there this whole time?

(full resolution)

According to most travel guides the Maldives is insanely overpriced – an archipelago of paradise resorts for rich people, with tennis courts and swimming pools and rented yachts. There’s great scuba diving, but nothing you can’t see elsewhere for a fraction of the cost and without a bunch of braying California socialites being herded around by their tour guides (good Lord, I’m already an elitist and I haven’t even left the southern hemisphere yet). Overall, it’s not really a feasible destination for shoestring backpackers.

But man. That city!

It would have been yet more visually impressive if it wasn’t for some fuckwitted dipshit…

Formerly it was a walled city surrounded by fortifications and gates (doroshi). The Royal Palace (Gan’duvaru) was destroyed along with the picturesque forts (kotte) and bastions (buruzu), when the city was remodelled under President Ibrahim Nasir’s rule after the abolition of the monarchy.

…but still! That city!

Maybe I’ll elaborate a little further.

I’m halfway through a 3-year degree in Communications & Cultural Studies at Curtin University, purely because when I graduated high school I was still trying to fend off the real world, much like a man in a small cave with a stick, listening to the lions growling outside. I have no expectation of a job at the end of my course, but that’s all comfortably in the future. Oh, and I’ll also owe the government something like $10,000 by the end of my course, which I essentially consider a free loan because without a good job how am I going to pay it back, suckers?

Instead of securing my financial situation (I challenge you to come up with a more boring phrase), I hope to go backpacking with my friend Chris, using the money we’ve scraped together. Chris currently leads by several grand. Starting sometime in early 2009, we don’t plan to return to Australia until our funds run out. Ireland, the USA, Nepal, Egypt, China, Russia, Japan, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru and several others all have darts in them on my mental world map.

What happens when we come back? I don’t know. The idea of a career is pleasantly faraway in the future for me. My one and only talent in this world is writing, in any form. Barring poetry, because y’know, that’s for girls. The pipe dream is to become a successful novelist and spend my time sleeping on a pile of money, having sex with Miss Universe, and jetting back and forth between LA and New York and Sydney and London on my private jet (which will be extravagantly luxurious).

In the meantime, I’m a poor-ass university student living on $13.00 an hour from the local supermarket, procrastinating endlessly about assignments, and writing a cheesy post-apocalyptic online novel that’s marginally improved itself in my eyes by transforming into an epic swashbuckling adventure. What better way to squander the precious little time we all have before death?

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