Joe's Blogs: a travelling diary

Friday, September 09, 2005

From the depths of the sea, back to blighty: drawn to a close.

All good things must come to an end. It's a quote I just made up, and I think it to be true. I had to come home some time, and don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be back in England, but it does highlight many reasons why one would go travelling in the first place.

But let's talk about Utila first.

As I'd made a bit of a runner the first time I 'left' Utila, I decided I'd make an appearance at Coco Loco and Tranquila one last time before one more leaving the island. But that wasn't before a day's diving with Errol, one of our boat captains who decided to dive for the day, along with Lizzy, Steve, Christina and Jo. And it was top fun.

We mostly made fools of ourselves underwater, getting severely 'narked', taking off various pieces of equipment underwater, and taking pictures with Mark's generously donated camera.

Sadly, it was again time to leave Utila, so after a quick Kobs ice cream on the way out, it was bye bye island, bye bye Honduras (after a gargantuan 10 hour wait in San Pedro Sula airport, seeing me share the whole place with just the security guard) hi and bye America (who cares) and then hello... Manchester! The folks picked me up and whisked me back to familiarity.

The thing about coming back to exactly where you started twelve months on is that it feels like nothing has changed and you could quite easily have been milling about in your house for the last year. Of course this is impossible for me to accept because I have had the most wonderful experiences since September 2004, made unforgettable by places, and most importantly people.

From Petra in Italy with her fantastic cooking, hostessing and friends, to Carsten, Steve and Andi making for top times in Thailand. Marc and his family for generously letting me stay with them for two months in Australia, and meeting a top English crew in New Zealand consisting of Liam, Georgina, Gareth and Lisa. And let's not forget the amazing staff at Auckland Central Backpackers - namely lovely Michelle - and the best group of girls I've ever travelled with: Kelly, Fredi, Dee and Kristin. Adam and Henry made for cheeky times in Chile and Argentina, the Bath lads kept it going in Brazil, and Beth & Ben helped me chill out in Peru. The crazy Canadian housemates, Matt and Ryan, shared some pretty hilarious times in Utila with me, as we mixed with Chris, Alfred and the rest of the Underwater Vision Staff. But finally, and perhaps the most cherished by myself, all the friends I made in the students and staff at Utila Dive Centre: Fearghas, Ryan, Daniel, Steve, Mark, Sam, Ruthie, Jo, Simon, Bob, G, Jules, Dan, Nir - and of course Lizzy. You, and others, but yep mainly you lot, made my last year a truly memorable and unforgettable one - so thanks a shitload.

What now? Well, I've got two more weeks to relax in my lovely home city of Chester before I move down south to what is apparently another lovely city called Bath. It's all admin work at the minute but once I'm all sorted I know I'll be raring to go.

Since this blog was a 'travelling diary' which has seen me go through the 12 months, it is now officially finished. But I can see myself keeping a supplementary blog for life at Uni and at Bath, so keep checking your email accounts - no doubt I'll let you know what I'm doing.

For those of you who visited, or who feature - thanks again. I made this for you lot and I'm glad you're reading it and looking at it now. And with that, I close. All the very best, and keep in touch.

Joe Zakzouk

* * * +44 7876 595460 *

Liz looks at her watch in - and I can't stress enough - t o t a l d i s b e l i e f as she realises she's spend far too long at depth and has to perform a decompression dive. She really made a meal out of that one, didn't you darling? Naturally, I found it to be comedy.

PADI: put this picture on your promotional material and your sales will increase exponentially. As will your totally super amazing coolness factor.

According to HSBC, the international symbol for 'OK' (see picture) is considered offensive in no South American countries except Brazil. Good job he's not there, or he might be getting violated.

Jo takes a well deserved rest... in the coral.

Jo rides her BCD underwater.. with her reg out of her mouth... totally detached. That's actually pretty hardcore. Do the seahorse, girls.

Errol tells me what he thinks when I ask them to get a move on..

Why is it that staff are the last to get off the boat? They're always pratting about, as I wait impatiently for them in the water. COME ON YOU THREE!

Loe and Jiz. Ha.

Jo loved the dive, Liz doesn't look so sure. And Colorado in the background, well, he looks pretty stoked with his cup of water and beret.

End of the dive and we return to the boat - good job we found it. I always lose my way.

..and as we swam, Jo developed gills.

S C U B A S T E V E @ W O R K.

Don't take your regulator out of your mouth underwater, please. It's dangerous.

Errol and Liz: get your fins out!

Jo descends into an effervescent body of water. Not farts, mind.

Errol experiences nitrogen narcosis at 40 metres below the surface. 40 metres, ahem.

Jimmy, head DM at UDC, poses for the camera professionally while all the other staff go and act like idiots. No peer pressure for this big man.

I know what that underwater monstrosity is, it's an Irish-Steve-Fish

Oooh there's another one I don't know the name of..

Pretty fishes! I think they're black durgons, but knowing my total ineptitude at naming marine life, I'm probably wrong.

Another day another dive... students get ready to go down - even though one idiot is signalling up..

Friday, August 26, 2005

My last Utilian days... supposedly

We'll get on to the 'supposedly' part in a bit. Let's do a brief rundown of events after snorkel test recovery.

The diving here as I've mentioned has been great, but what we've been missing are dives with fellow staff to have a laugh. So we decided to have one at the Haliburton wreck - at night. It was top fun, not being able to see much in midwater and then perusing around the sunken ship for a bit. Oh and Fearghas showed us his arse down there - more than one full moon that night, let me tell you.

I've also been diving on the resort boat, which goes out in the morning to all the cooler dive sites in Utila. So a few dives to lead - and lose my way in - around the north side have been stunning. If you ever decide to come here, go to Black Hills, it's my favourite dive site bar none.

Simon and Chris were running an Open Water that I got to assist on as an AI, and I made money! It was the usual sitting around and keeping a hawk's eye on the diving peons, but the last dive saw me have my air turned off by an instructor, and then tied to a buoy chain and be laughed at by the whole class.

Since Fearghas, Ryan and myself were all leaving around the same time, I thought we'd have a bit of a barbecue at UDC. Stars Errol and Travis picked up the food, got it all cut up and marinated, and cooked it. Pretty much the whole lot: fifteen chickens and ten pounds of fish. It was a big one, and about fifty people turned up - although some impatient ones complained about the food taking too long to cook. Wait until the barbecue master is good and ready I say.

So it was time to say bye to a few people, Ferg and Ryan both having good sendoffs. I myself had a top goodbye: two amazing dives with the lovely Liz in the morning, followed by a quite spectacular r o a s t d i n n n e r (mmmm..) cooked by Sam and Ruth. It would surely only follow that I was to leave the next day...

..and I did. And all was well with the 'close shave' timing getting from Utila to San Pedro Sula, but my flight to Miami was cancelled.... and I couldn't get on a flight to The States for six days. "Six days?" I said - "you've got to be f***ing kidding." I've never heard of something so ridiculous. And I stand firmly by my belief that American Airlines could be the shittest airline in the world, with the globe's worst customer service. so AA: get rammed.

It's not all bad I suppose. I'm in La Ceiba airport at the moment wating for my flight to.. yep, Utila. So I'm back there and not due back home for another week, having to forfeit my time in New York, but I'm about ready to head home, so it'll be just great to spend my last days in a place I've grown to like so much.

Oh yea and I've shaved my head. No more mohawk.


Dan, our videographer, after getting in a bit of a fight. Doesn't look like he came off too bad after taking one on the chin. Resillience.

Yamil can never make a normal face, and Roy sports Helen's sunglasses.

Nir made a muscle top out of his staff t-shirt - everyone else's are relatively look, but not this big man's.

Look at him pimping the girls out..

A great t-shirt, custom made - one of Utila's "three lies" - because people always come back or just don't leave (like me..)

A boat captain and two compressor operators - the welfare of our divers are in these three guys' hands..

Errol fires it up, and uses a compressed air tank to get the fire going - classic.

That is my hand holding my tips for the night. Looks like I'm rich but the Lempira is worth bugger all.

Freg's obviously come up with another cool idea! And Daniel looks to be agreeing with him..

UDC crew stop for a bit of a pose - Liz looking spicy of course. And Ferg looking, well, Fergy.

Errol had had way too many Port Royals at Chris' birthday - cool tattoo though.

Sam really loves his salvas.

The boys Errol and Tungi chill out before the big bbq.

Helen and Sylvia, just a couple of the hot girl contingent in Utila.

The place I did a lot of dives and spent a lot of money with - UDC reception.

Simon l o v e s the equipment room - I'll have a small BCD, four regs, 9-11 fins... cheers mate.

I was lovin' the night dive, but Concha (bottom left) looks a bit bored..

The 'full moon' culprit undoes his regulator. Nice arse mate.

Dance, Sam. Do it.

Daniel is the only guy I know who puts his kit on when the tank is on the floor - silly Israelis.

John checks his weights in the equipment room. Where are the full tanks?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Snorkel Test

So as I noted in my last post, I'm now a PADI Assistant Instructor. Scuba Steve is now an AI also, and Fearghas & Ryan finished their DM courses as well (well, nearly) - so we decided to have a 'snorkel test' - where people posion you with whatever they can and throw it down the snorkel. The object of the whole thing is to drink all of it through the snorkel mouthpiece and have your mask on. It's a great laugh and it was a fantastic night, with pictures (naturally) to boot - take a look!

Even though these shots are so easy to take, they always come out stunning. This is a shot of Utila bay from Underwater Vision's dock. Spicy silhouettes.

Did you steal my flip-flops, bitch?

Bangin' tunes at Cocos and glowsticks made for a top evening and cool swirly effects. 16th August 2005 will be remembered for a long time by a few of us!

Look! Helen's stealing money from the bar! I reckon Nir is in on it as well - he looks interested. Oh and there's Ryan and the ladies (surprise surprise.)

Jess Davis and Chris Brady try and enjoy a quiet chat in some alcove until an overexcited Joe comes and orders them to smile at my camera. Thanks you two.

Woohoo it's Robert Drew! The instigator and dividend collector of the snorkel test - we salute you for your assertiveness, forward thinking, supervising of the poisons, and for being an arsehole.

Simon! Never without his D-9 dive computer (actually NOT in the picture) or his elephant taped lighter - great idea for those smelly smokers.