Category Archives: Outdoors

Smoke from early morning campfires. Kanangra, NSW, Australia. 2010

Although the temperatures went below freezing during the night, my wife and I had an excellent time camping with friends at Boyd’s crossing in the Kanangra Boyd National Park over the weekend.

The photo above was taken in the morning while there was still frost on the ground. People were starting up their fires to cook breakfast. It was such a beautiful setting to share with friends and to have our favourite breakfast, huevos ranchero.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

Epicurus once said, “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf”

Dunn’s Swamp. Kandos Weir, NSW, Australia. 2010

My wife Engogirl and I, decided we wanted to get out of town for the weekend so we invited some friends to come camping with us up at Kandos Weir at the Dunn’s Swamp campground which is in the Wollemi National Park.

Kandos is about three and a half hours drive north east of Sydney. Although the weather forecast was for rain we left on Friday night anyway.

Just about everyone we hang out with is fairly experienced with the outdoors and they all have plenty of camping gear for just about any circumstance, so the weather was of no real concern for any of us. As a matter of fact I always feel good when it rains at night and I’m in my tent as it seems to justify bringing all the equipment.

Engogirl’s uncle Ray brought up his kayaks so we could get out on the water and have a look around the lake created by Kandos Weir. The kayaks were quite nice sleek things that were designed for better kayakers than me. Being so narrow made them not only fast but also a bit tippy. I felt a bit nervous in them although I’ve done quite a bit of paddling in wider, more stable kayaks. Whereas, Ray and Paul (in the photo below) were quite home in them.

Although I was in constant fear of falling in, Engogirl and I went out for a couple of kilometres to paddle about the lake. It was absolutely beautiful and if I hadn’t been so afraid tipping over and getting my camera wet, I would’ve taken some shots while we were out in the kayaks.

The Weir was built back in the late 1920s to supply a cement factory 25 kilometres away and it flooded a narrow valley of sandstone pagodas. I’m pretty sure such a structure wouldn’t be allowed to be built in a UNESCO world heritage area (due to the biodiversity of plant and animal communities, including the recently discovered Wollemi Pine) with Aboriginal cultural sites nowadays.

The name “Dunn’s Swamp” doesn’t sound very promising but I’m sure it comes from before the weir was built. When ever I hear the word weir, I think of one of those low walls in a stream that the water flows over. Kandos Weir is more of a dam in the real sense of the word being about 30 metres high (about 90ft).

When Engogirl was at university she did an assignment on the weir and we went to the cement works to meet up with the engineers who run it now, to have a look at the original drawings. It was a bit of a shock to see that the plans for such a large structure were in pencil and seemed so simple and yet the weir is still there working just fine.

One of the things I love about my country is that places like Dunn’s Swamp have been made available for public use at a very reasonable cost. Only $5 a day per person and firewood is supplied plus there are environmentally friendly composting pit toilets, but there is no potable water so you have to bring your own.

All around the lake there are various walking tracks and on Sunday a few of us went up to a look out, which gives a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Because of all the rainfall lately, the vegetation was lush (by Australian standards) and I can’t remember seeing the area looking so beautiful and green in the past 15 years I’ve been going there.


It was just so beautiful that it came as a surprise to come across a large group of people (foreign university students) who were out there drinking and leaving their beer bottles lying about, discarded on the track. I went up to them and said, “hi, it’s a beautiful area isn’t it?” They all smiled back and said yes. Then in a polite and gentle way, I suggested to them that the area looks better without the bottles and they agreed.

From a distance I watched them leave and the guys who had been drinking weren’t carrying anything back with them.

It’s funny how people will say one thing and do another.

When we came back to the area we found a bunch of bottles hidden behind rocks and under bushes so we collected them up and took them back to the campground. On the way to our tents we passed the students, so my friend Joseph and I went up to the group of about twenty with smiles on our faces and I said, “Hi! How are you all?”

Smile and greetings of “hi” came back to us.

I walked up to one of the guys who I had seen drinking the beer and I pulled out one of the bottles from my coat (a Gore-Tex with large cargo pockets) and said, “here, I think this is yours”.

He looked embarrassed and his friend stepped forward and said, “oh thanks, we were looking for them but we couldn’t find them”.

I said, “yeh right!” and then I handed the other bottles back to various other guys, “saying, here, I think this one might be your’s” until I was rid of the rest of the bottles.

Sheepish looks of embarrassment all round. I then dug out all the bottle caps that I’d also picked up on the way back and said to the group, “these are so small you can just put them in your pocket and bring the back with you”.

All the while I was making sure I was smiling and speaking in a polite and gentle manner. I was into winning hearts and minds, not getting the crap beaten out of me.

I went on with, “it’s great to share these places with you, but let’s try and keep it nice for each other” as I patted the biggest guy in the group on the back in a friendly and brotherly way (I’ve read that touch can help make people more calm and co-operative). Much to their credit, the students seemed to be taking what I had to say on board, and there were mumbled apologies (which I hadn’t come for) and smiles.

Hopefully that will be a group where some of the people will think twice about littering in the bush.

Water is life. Segovia, Spain. 2009

This little water spigot has been the object of a lot of attention. Firstly its design lends itself so well to a bit of ribald fun and secondly there is the acknowledgement of the fact that it is so photogenic.

What I also find interesting is what I see as the subtext of a low regard for fresh water.

What I’m constantly amazed at when I’m out and about near waterways is how so many short sighted and selfish people think nothing about polluting them. I’m not just saying this about Spain, I’m talking about the world in general. It would seem that just about anywhere in the world, people take water for granted. Even people in places that don’t have much water will pollute it.

When we were in Mostar in Bosnia, we saw a guy with a stick flicking plastic waste that was caught up in some rocks located in the middle of a tributary stream, into the main stream. I guess he thought he was cleaning up the place and the river would take the rubbish away. He didn’t appear to have the slightest concern about the people down stream or the health of the waterway.

Time and time again, we hear on the TV about how countries like Israel are stealing water from other countries by pumping out their aquifers near the borders, or how Turkey’s dams are stopping Syria getting enough water.

Here in Australia there is huge cotton farm (Cubbie Station) up in Queensland that has no consideration for the people downstream and has basically cut off with a huge dam, the seasonal waters from the Murray Darling basin. Vast wetlands have been destroyed while many ancient little rivers have dried up, not to mention siltation, salination and decreasing water quality downstream. Adelaide’s tap water is the lowest quality water in any major city in Australia and it’s just about undrinkable because of all the bad water management occuring upstream.  

Cotton farming with its high use of fertilizer, insecticides and water in the area where Cubbie Station is located, shouldn’t in my mind, be called agribusiness, but rather, “a bloody-minded act of environmental vandalism”.

A few years ago I was at a Christmas party with some seriously rich people (with hundreds of millions to their name) and I was talking to them about the doing the right thing by the environment, and their response was, “the government should subsidise the private sector to make it worthwhile for business to clean up their act”.

Do these people come from some other planet? Do they think that the mess they make isn’t going to affect them and their offspring at some stage?

It just goes to show that the old question of, “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” Is such a stupid proposition. I’m beginning to think that to be filthy rich, one doesn’t have to be that smart, just sociopathic.

A pox on all their houses!

Belgians at the beach. Knokke-Heist, Belgium. 2009

My wife, Engogirl was interested to see the coast near Brugge so we looked at our map and saw that the coastal town Knokke was marked with a blue star which indicated that it was “nice”. We asked the landlady of the B&B we were staying at, about Knokke and she said it was very chic and then went on to suggest that nearby Damme was nicer. To me the word “chic”, when applied to a town, means a place with expensive stores with overly coiffed peopled wearing sunglasses with large vulgar golden logos showing how much money they’ve spent.

We took our landlady’s advice and went to Damme. I was O.K. but no big deal, but while we were there we saw a poster for a sculpture exhibition by the sea at Knokke, so we set aside our feelings about “chic” and went to check it out.

We were both expecting something like the “Sculpture by the Sea” that is held in Sydney each year but we were disappointed to see that there were only a few brightly decorated statues, all of a similar type. Sure enough, Knokke was what I had imagined chic to be, but it was also fascinating to see how the Belgians relate to the beach.

The beach of Knokke is lined with a promenade where the well heeled stroll up and down checking out each other and the shop windows of stores like Yves Saint Laurent. The beach itself is entirely covered with little shacks that served as storage and changing rooms.

there will be no great danes on this beach

I’m not sure what the deal with the booths was but they weren’t uniform in construction so I suppose they were privately owned. The little shacks were like little holiday homes. People would lay and play near them and the sea seemed to merely provide a backdrop for their activities.

The sea was dead flat and it looked like it was the sand that the Belgians were more interested in.

Lets get a shed on the beach and dig holes near it

What also seemed odd to me as an Australian, who grew up at the beach, is that the Belgians don’t face the sea, they face inland and ignore it.

It is such a challenge to make a call at the beach and not get ones phone covered in sand

There were lots of places where those who didn’t have a shed of their own could go and feel like they had staked a claim of a small part of the beach for themselves.

One wouldn't want to mix with others

The whole beach had been compartmentalised into different functions. There were areas for kids to play in.

When I was a child we were so poor we had to play in the sea

There was even a place that had an inflatable pool with heated water to swim in (it was too ugly to photograph).

The whole town of Knokke may be chic but I have to admit, as interesting as it was, it wasn’t our cup of tea, even if its first aid station had wind socks which looked like old fashioned bathing suits.

nice togs

Skin diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland, Australia

My wife (Engogirl) and I went both scuba diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier reef last month.

I learnt how to scuba dive years ago and to tell the truth, I never really thought it was any better than snorkelling. Scuba is interesting in that it’s a bit like flying. You aren’t restricted by gravity to the ground. When you want to go down, you merely swim down and when you want to go up, all you have to do is swim up. all very effortless and it’s a bit like being like a bird except the medium which you pass through is much denser and you can’t breathe it.

Engogirl wanted to try scuba diving so when we went out to the reef, we both did an introductory course (I hadn’t done any scuba diving since the mid 1980s). 

Engogirl and the razzbuffnik go scuba diving

My wife was very underwhelmed by the experience as not only did she think that there wasn’t as much to look at the bottom (the reef is mainly in about 10 metre, which is about 31 ft, deep water), she also felt that the noise of the breathing apparatus and the bubbles it made, detracted from the experience. In short she felt it wasn’t worth the hassle of dealing with all the equipment and she’d rather just jump in the water to snorkel.

Engogirl and pineapple sea cucumber

Before we left on our trip we bought a very cheap and consequently low quality underwater camera (a Vivitar 6200W). It’s fixed focus and it can make little low-res movie files. We were a bit disappointed with the lack of sharpness and poor colour rendering. The digital screen was next to useless and basically we pointed the thing and just hoped for the best. The only good thing about the camera was that it was waterproof to 10 meters (which we took it down to).

The nice thing about snorkelling is that it’s very simple and far less dangerous. No hassles with having to be careful with surfacing to avoid the bends and no time limits. Another plus is the gear is way cheaper and far more simpler.

clown fish

Scuba gear isn’t that necessary on the reef because most of it is in shallow water and the colours look better closer to the surface. 

There were some very keen scuba divers on the boat we went on and I scared one while I was snorkelling by diving down to her depth (about 8 meters or about 26 feet) and swimming under her. She sure didn’t expect to see someone without scuba gear at that depth.

surgeon fish

The only advantage of scuba, that I could see, in the area we dived in was that one could take their time taking photos. Trouble was that the further down you go, the duller the colours become. If you use a flash to bring back the colour, you’ll illuminate the particles in the water and you’ll get lots of lightly coloured, out of focus dots in your shot. Unfortunately for us the coral had spawned a few days before we arrived and there were lots of small particles in the water. The crew on the boat seemed to enjoy telling us that we’d be swimming in coral spooge.

There’s no doubt it, the Great Barrier Reef has plenty of fish to see and it’s quite easy to get fairly close to them.

surgeon fish

 We saw some quite large fish such as a 1.5 metre (about 4′ 6″) shark and a very large Maori wrasse (almost 2 metres or about 6’6″). Both fish were big enough to make me think twice about getting closer and I didn’t get any pictures of them.

By the second day Engogirl had found the perfect snorkelling combination; a stinger suit and a noodle.

Engogirl and the latest in snorkelling fashion

Stinger suits are designed to protect the wearer from stings of the irukandji jellyfish and sunburn. The noodles are a long closed cell foam cylinder that provide floatation. I stuck with my lightweight wetsuit.

Engogirl spent most of her time taking little movies with our camera while floating on the surface. I’ve cobbled a little movie together of Engogirl’s first efforts at filming. If you’d like to see the movie, click here.

I’d rather be blown. The Great Barrier Reef, far north Queensland, Australia

What I want to cover in this article is the dynamics of being on a charter yacht for two days in the tropics.

About a month ago my wife (Engogirl) and I went up to Surfers Paradise to attend a conference on large dams. Engogirl had never been up to far north Queensland, and she wanted to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. I hadn’t been up to Cairns since I was about 14, so I was quite amenable to extending our trip by travelling up north by train.

A fact that many people aren’t aware of, is that the Reef is actually about 20 or 30 km offshore and if you want to visit it you will need some kind of boat. Because the Great Barrier Reef is such a well-known tourist destination, there are plenty of options to get out there for visitors wishing to go diving. There are huge catamarans that hold hundreds of people complete with a helicopter pads on top through to charter yachts catering to much smaller groups.

Due to the facts that my wife and I can’t stand large crowds of people and that it’s easier to go missing at sea on a large boat, we decided that a smaller boat would be more suitable.  We booked tickets on a boat called the “Vagabond“, which is crewed by three people (captain, diving instructor and cook) with nine other passengers.

Engogirl and fellow punters

We boarded at about eight o’clock in the morning and straight away it was obvious that the cook (who I suspect was the captain’s girlfriend) and diving instructor didn’t get along. The cook (an American woman from Virginia) made it obvious that the diving instructor got on her nerves by snapping at him a few times about nothing, in front of us. 

The diving instructor (Frank) was one of those happy go lucky guys that obviously has a great time, doing his work and chatting up any of the female punters who might mistake him for a legend. I’ve known plenty of guys like him. As matter of fact, a few of my friends have been trekking guides in Nepal and white water rafting guides, so I know what their headspace is like and I’ve heard all the stories about their gormless punter conquests.  Unfortunately for our diving instructor, Frank, he was a German, and although he wanted to have fun and joke around, there was a little bit of cultural dissonance happening, which cruelled most of his attempts at humour. Which was a pity because he was a nice guy.

Viri shoots the breeze with Frank

I’ve got real soft spot for Germans and there have been very few Germans that I’ve met, that I haven’t liked.  I think that many non-Germans think that Germans are rude, because they are so direct. I’ll admit that it can seem confronting at first, but once you get used to the way how Germans interact, it’s a real pleasure to be able to relax and be so straightforward. No fragile sensitivities or gameplaying, just direct communication, and I love it.

It was an absolutely beautiful clear day with a good offshore breeze that allowed us to make good time (12 kn) under sail.

There’s nothing like being on a large yacht that has all its sails and spinnaker up in a good stiff breeze.  To add to the general feeling that we were partaking in something special we were accompanied every now and again by pods of dolphins. It took us a couple of hours to get out to the reef, but by about lunchtime we were already in the water snorkelling.

About half the people on the boat where experienced scuba divers with their certificates. I on the other hand, learned how to scuba dive when I was 14 years old for $11 at a local YMCA with a high school friend of mine, Stephen. That was back in the bad old days, when they basically just said, “make sure that you exhale when you surface and don’t come up any faster than your bubbles”. Of course, things are very different nowadays and I couldn’t in all good faith tell the diving instructor that I was properly qualified to scuba dive. Never mind having to produce a certificate that would be recognised today.

Fortunately my shonky scuba certification and Engogirls girl’s complete lack of experience wasn’t an issue because the Vagabond offered an “introductory course”, which basically meant that the driving instructor went over the basics with every one and then escorted us on the dive, ensuring that we didn’t go any deeper than 10 meters (about 30 feet) and that we exhaled as we resurfaced slowly. I won’t talk any more about scuba diving and I will leave that for another post.

When a yacht is under full sail with a good wind, sailing can be sublime. Of course it’s not for everyone, because a good wind means that there is usually fairly choppy seas, and that means the boat leans over and goes up and down in a way, that people who aren’t used to it, may find alarming. I’ve been on various water craft on the ocean many times and I’ve never been sick, even in large storms.  Although I’ve never been seasick, I know that it can strike anyone and I was a bit worried that I might get nauseous, and I was doubly worried about Engogirl because I wanted to her to have a great time. Luckily both of us didn’t even come close to getting sick, but one unfortunate passenger did. According to common wisdom, one can avoid seasickness by staring at the land or the horizon if there is no land in sight. Another strange thing about seasickness is that the nausea completely stops when the sufferer enters the water.

Strangely enough, it’s very hot and humid in the tropics. Since you can’t or don’t want to scuba dive or snorkel all day, you end up sitting in the shade on deck, sweating your arse off drinking. Being on a boat means that you can’t get away from the heat and humidity and your only relief is to jump on the water every now and again to cool off, then drink some more.

Engogirl and a fellow punter from Germany

With such a small group, interpersonal dynamics are important. Most of the people on our trip were very nice (we met up with a couple from Mexico and Brazil who live in Sydney and we’ll be having them over for dinner this Friday), with the exception of an older surgeon (who’s wife was lovely) with an unfortunate god complex. He used to own a yacht charter business himself at Airlie Beach and he was the sort of guy that saw himself as the font of all knowledge. He constantly contradicted people. If somebody said black he’d say white. He was just ridiculous.  I guess he was used to pushing a bunch of terrified underlings around without any comeback, and his personality had suffered as a consequence. So our little tin god held court in the cockpit and bored the shit out of me. Unfortunately the captain, who was quite capable at his job, seemed to be in his thrall and basically encouraged him to pontificate.

Another interesting thing was that none of the passengers smoked cigarettes but all three of the crew did.  I asked the captain, ” what’s the matter, do you guys get too much fresh air?”

As the day passed, I found myself noticing how fatigued the crew looked. They go out as often as they can, day after day, without much time off.  They go out for two days to come back in the afternoon, and then they have to clean up the boat ready for the next day’s group first thing, the next morning. 

In such heat and humidity it was no wonder they looked so exhausted and jaded. The diving instructor was new to that particular boat, and he obviously hadn’t been ground down by the routine yet, but the captain and cook could barely disguise how, over, the situation they were.  Constantly being out in the heat and humidity whilst having to make small talk with people they know they’ll never see again, must be completely draining. They were too busy to go scuba diving and snorkelling themselves (the captain said he hadn’t been scuba diving for over a year) and were constantly at everybody’s beck and call. I can completely understand why the captain seemed so disinterested and fake in his conversations, but I do wish he had have been a bit more professional and not shown it so openly. Then again, us Australians are like that in general.

The food on board, whilst being quite plain due to the fact that they have to cater to so many different palettes, was perfect, as it was mostly light and fresh salads with cold meats. One of the guests asked why they weren’t serving fish on board, to which the captain replied, ” we bring people out here to see the fish, not to kill them”. Then the captain went on to explain to us how much damage fishing does to the reef. Not only do the fish stocks get depleted, but the coral also gets damaged by boats dropping anchor in areas they are not familiar with. He had a very low opinion of sports fishermen and boats that took such people out onto the reef to fish. After having spent a little time diving on the reef, I completely agreed with him on that matter.

It was so hot and sticky all day, that nobody really spent any time in their dark tiny little cabins. Our cabin was up at the front near the head (boating talk for “toilet”), which was a drag because our cabin had two doors; one to open into the passageway, and one into the toilet. The toilet was shared by other people who could enter through another door. 

During the night both of the head doors were to be left open because there was a hatch directly over the toilet that was left open to let fresh air in.

Much to our chagrin and disgust, we found out that our cabin was so hot at night, that we had to leave the toilet door open so we could get a small rank smelling breeze through to us. To make matters worse, when I asked the captain how to turn on the fans that were in our cabin (the switches didn’t seem to be working), he looked at me as though I had just asked him if I could have my way with his mother, and curtly replied to me, ” I’ll do it in a couple of minutes”. So went back to my cabin and lay in the sweltering heat, and waited for him for about nearly an hour. I figured he must have forgotten, and he looked so irritated when I asked him, I thought I’d probabley be better off asking the cook how to turn on the fans. She told me the captain hadn’t turned on the power to the fans that she would speak to him, and it should be sorted out pretty soon.  Another half an hour passed on the fans weren’t turned on, so I went out and asked the captain again, if he could turn the power to the fans on.

He said he’d get right onto it.

It never happened.

I laid there fuming for hours. I was so angry thoughts of violence crossed my mind.

Another dive boat anchored near us at night

I was still angry in the morning, but I thought, that there was no point in kicking up a big fuss as I would be off the boat later on in the day and I might as well enjoy the rest of the trip.

The second day was calm and the wind had gone away. My wife and I spent the day snorkelling together, and all my anger at the captain just drained away as I enjoyed being in one of the most amazing places in the world.

After lunch, we headed back into Cairns, but unfortunately there was no wind and we had crawled back at a snail’s pace under power. Sailing is great, but motoring along in a sail boat sucks!

The sun just beat down on us, and there was no breeze to give us any relief. I was starting to think that one of those catamarans with a helicopter pad seemed like a great idea.  I’m pretty sure that Engogirl and I would have been happy to spend a couple hundred dollars just to get off the boat. Again, I found myself thinking about the crew, and how they did this day after day. On the surface of things, it might seem to be a dream job, working on a charter yacht on the Great Barrier Reef, but I’m pretty sure that the nitty-gritty, salty, sweaty, stinky reality, would pall pretty quickly.

On the way back, I was chatting with the diving instructor (Frank), and he told me about some of the jobs that he had. He had worked in Mauritius and in Thailand at resorts before he’d come to Australia. Frank had said that there was a high burnout rate with diving instructors in Cairns working on the large boats. Apparently, the large boats work like assembly lines, with all of the different parts of the dives divided up amongst the various instructors. The multitude of divers on board are broken up into smaller groups, and there is one instructor checking their group’s gear on board, plus two more in the water, checking on the punters as they enter the water. Then there are two other drivers who act as guides for the groups.

It all sounded like an expensive nightmare to me.

By the time we got back into port, all of us couldn’t get off the boat fast enough. It was obvious that everybody had, had enough of the heat, and just wanted to go and have a shower and cool down.  As we left, we were asked to sign the guest book and make a comment, so I wrote, ” it was hot….. in so many ways”. Later on in the day I found out it was one of the hottest days recorded.

Both Engogirl and I are glad that we went and dived on the reef before climate change completely destroys it, but would we do it again?


Sure enough, having a sweltering night and having to deal with burnt out crew didn’t help, but the main issue for us is that we aren’t really suited to the tropics.  We are basically two pasty white people who have been genetically engineered to live at the foot of glaciers and hunt woolly mammoth

I spent about two years in South-east Asia travelling around in the tropics, I’ve been to Tahiti, Central America, Florida, Peurto Rico, The Virgin Islands and now that I’ve dived on the Great Barrier Reef, I can safely say that, “if I never visit the tropics again, it will be too soon”.  Both my wife and I know we don’t belong in the tropics and it’s gotten to such a point that when I see those sandy beaches fringed with palm trees and clear blue skies all I can think of, is physical discomfort.

It was so good to go to an air-conditioned hotel to have a shower, cool down and have a decent nights sleep.

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My little sunburnt angel. Cairns, Queensland, Australia

This is a photo of my wife (Engogirl) having the first decent sleep she has had for the last week or so. We went to bed at 9:30 last night and this photo was taken at 9am this morning.

Engogirl is a real trooper and not a party pooper

Sometimes, travelling can be so exhausting and daunting. We came up to Queensland for a conference in Surfers Paradise, on big dams here in Australia. We thought we may as well go all the way up to Cairns to do a couple of days diving on the Great Barrier Reef (before global warming kills it off) . We also thought it would be a good thing to travel up the coast by train in a sleeper.

What with all the conference schedules and dam tours (or should I say, “tours to dams”?), early train departures and poor sleeping conditions on train and boat, complete with recent strenuous physical activity, we are totally worn out and ache all over. Today we were supposed to be going on a trip up to Kuranda on an old steam train but we both decided that we’d rather sleep in and have a relaxing day resting before we fly back home tomorrow.

Engogirl has been a real trooper over the last couple of days. Unlike me, all this full on travel and outdoor experience thing is still quite new to her.

I grew up near the ocean and learnt how to scuba dive when I was 14 years old back in the days when all you were really told was, “don’t come up faster than your air bubbles”. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve snorkelled and spear fished, because I’ve done so much of it over the years. I also backpacked around various foreign countries for 11 years roughing it, before going home.

Engogirl grew up, a little back from the coast, and going to the beach was not a part of her upbringing. The ocean is still “terra incognita” to her, and uncomfortable travelling hasn’t been on Engogirl’s agenda either. The first time Engogirl had ever snorkelled was on our honeymoon in Bali, four years ago.

Two days ago, my wife tried scuba diving for the first time out in the open ocean about 30km  (about 20 miles) off the coast. Scuba diving isn’t all that difficult but it is a bit disconcerting breathing underwater. “It just ain’t right, I tell ya!” Never mind that the ocean is full of things that can view us a food and there was no land in sight.

I’ve never thought that scuba diving was that interesting and I just went along with Engogirl to keep her company and to reassure her. We did our dive together and Engogirl said to me afterwards that she thought that snorkelling was much better. I so totally agree. So we spent the rest of our time on the reef snorkelling.

I can’t really describe how glorious it is to share amazing experiences with people you care about, but I can tell you that I love it. After two days of diving, it was difficult to get Engogirl out of the water she was loving it so much. There was no more fear or hesitation, just joy and I was glad to be a part of it.

Unfortunately the sun was so hot and Engogirl didn’t put enough sunscreen on the back of her legs and she got a bit sunburnt. To make matters worse she slipped on the deck and barked her shin.

So as I looked at Engogirl sleeping so peacefully this morning I was taken by how strong she had been over the last couple days breaking through various fears, dealing with discomfort and pain. It’s times like this morning when I realise that I married the right woman and I know how lucky I am.