Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Friday, November 12, 2010 09:04:27|
BIOT & Maldive Islands 2010: 3 - Filling in time on Gan
Monday, November 8, 2010
I didn't mention yesterday that both Seth and Carl arranged flights out, being less restricted on their return tickets than some of us.
This morning I slept late so didn't snorkel. At breakfast the 8 of us left discussed what we should do. The idea of going to Gnaviyani Atoll, better known for the name of the town Foammulah, was presented by Pam & JoAnn. It was agreed that was a good idea, as it is difficult to get to and seldom visited by tourists. This a free standing island, not part of a string of islands surrounding a lagoon like most islands in the Maldives.
Jorge mounted one of the complementary bicycles the hotel provides and went to the ferry office. I contacted Masood to see what he could do on a private boat. When we got back together Jorge said there were only two spots open on the ferry that runs daily at 1:20 PM, and few spots on the next days. This brought up the concern that even if we got there we may not be able to get back.
Masood came up with a price of 6,500 rufiyaas (the local currency - about $506) each way, or $145 return per person for 7 of us. Jorge dropped out and took one of the available seats on the ferry to go on his own. The price was considered high, so I worked on chartering a boat for a full day of exploring Addu Atoll, where we are staying, for 5,000 rufiyaas ($389) for the 7 of us, or $55 each.
Joanne and I decided to rent a motor scooter to explore the island in the afternoon. I didn't mention my previous dismal experiences on motorcycles and scooters or she may not have come! As we passed Masood's company a short distance away JoAnn suggested we go in to confirm arrangements for the boat tomorrow. While there Masood offered a better deal for the Foammulahh trip, so a decision will have to be made.
He walked out with us, saw our motor scooter and invited us to do the island tour in air conditioned comfort in his vehicle, something we were delighted to do. A short way down the road he spotted Terry on a hotel bicycle, so he joined us, putting the bike in the back of the crew cab pickup.
The tour was interesting. We visited the two fresh water lakes on the island, both with fish in them, and a fresh water stream. We drove the long, dirt Main Street of the largest town, Hithadhoo, with its scattered shops, then saw the dock areas, the sports stadium and drove around various lagoons before returning to his office. One more round of negotiation brought the price for boat trips for both days down to 13,500 rufiyaas, or $150 each. We were very excited by the price, which included a 3 hour layover on Foammulah, so celebrated with a couple of beer back at the hotel.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
We boarded a very comfortable 24 passenger launch at the nearby police pier. It was there precisely at the appointed hour of 9 AM and we were soon skimming over the lagoon at 30 knots. The open ocean was rougher with about a 3 foot swell and a slight chop, but the captain maintained speed and we bumped our way through 50 km of waves to Foammulah in an hour 15 minutes.
Foammulah is the only island in the Gnaviyani administration district. At 5 km long and 1 km wide it is the largest island in the country. There are two freshwater lakes and ample water to support considerable agriculture. It is home to about 10,500 people.
One of the waiters at our hotel had a friend on the island, who arranged two taxis to meet us for a tour. They arrived shortly after we did, but as the drivers didn't speak English another person was phoned to come to the harbor to talk to us. Meanwhile, we were offered the services of a new bus that was at the dock for 70 rufiyaas ($US 5.45) for a three hour tour - it had the name of Masood's company on it, as did the boat we came over on.
When the interpreter for the taxis arrived he quoted 800 rufiyaas ($US 62.26) for the two small cars. It wasn't difficult to decline and accept the 24 seat bus. As soon as we accepted the bus the taxi price dropped to 70 rufiyaas as well, the largest single drop in any negotiation I've been involved in, but we said it was too late, preferring to keep the group together in the comfort of the bus.
We stopped at the local market, where some of us bought water and bananas, then visited ancient graveyards, old mosques, a school where the entire staff greeted us, a huge boat under construction on the beach, a hill under which pre-Islamic artifacts have been found, other shops and beaches. The homes and businesses were well kept and neat - the whole place had a feel of great community pride. They seldom see tourists here, so residents came from their houses to see us, bringing along children and babies. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly. The taxi interpreter and others followed us on motorbikes, answering questions with no expectation of payment.
Time flew by, and before we had completed the tour we had to ask the driver to head back to the boat. The driver and the others were anxious to continue the tour at no extra cost, but my deal with Masood was three hours. Back at the boat our escorts and the bus people tried to talk us into having a meal with them at a harbourside restaurant - they really didn't want us to go, however we had to.
The sea was rougher returning, making moving around in the boat difficult and dangerous, however we still made good time. The pounding through the waves had little effect on Terry, who stretched out on the back seat and fell asleep! Fantasies were traded about having the boat head for Chagos, which we figured would only take about 10 hours each way, but if that was possible I'm sure Masood would have suggested it. Not only that but we'd have scrambled kidneys from the pounding!
At the hotel I sampled the afternoon tea sandwiches which were available at 4 PM each day as we'd not had lunch, and then went snorkeling. The water wasn't as clear today and the sun kept hiding behind clouds, but a bad day for snorkeling here is better than most good days in a lot of places I've been!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
This morning Masood laid on a 34 passenger traditional type boat for us. The hotel made up lunches and provided a cooler with ice, bottles of water and a good selection of soft drinks to take along. We toured the entire ring of the atoll, stopping now and then to snorkel or swim. We went ashore at Hulhudhoo to explore the town of 3,500 people. The captain of our boat is from here, so we saw his house and met his family. It is a very tidy community, somewhat like Foammulah.
We anchored off another small island to swim and have lunch. Terry, who visits islands of all sorts, waded a long distance through water up to his chest to get ashore on two connecting islands. After stopping at another snorkeling spot where there was an enormous population of fish we went in search of dolphins, finding two pods with a total of 40 or 50. When we stood on the bow of the boat we could easily have reached down and touched them as they played beside or in front of the bow. They were spinner dolphins, which they proved by leaping high out of the water over and over again doing the characteristic spin that gives them their name. There was also a boat from the very upscale Shangri-la Resort laden with scantily clad young women who provided their own erotic show when Kevin got his large video camera out. It made it difficult to concentrate on the dolphins!