Well, this is a fun mess: Valkyrie is sporting a massive gash in her left knee, I’m suffering a resurgence of my travellers’ diarrhea, and we’re trying despite all this to enjoy our island trip. It’s mostly working, I think, even though Valkyrie can’t swim and I can’t really eat the delicious seafood.
To add to the catastrophic mix:
- a few of the people with us get some money stolen, and Daniel suspects this has something to do with the online gambling habits of one of the island locals;
- foreigners aren’t allowed to visit Binh Ba period, passport or no passport, and so we won’t actually be able to make it there;
- Daniel already paid up front for three days’ worth of food, and it looks like we’ll be heading out today.
This trip has somehow taken an exceedingly dire turn, which makes it all the more important that we remain in high spirits!
We start the day with a quick breakfast, from which I can only eat the rice porridge, rice crackers, and bananas – not so bad if you think about it. I decide this time to actually take antibiotics, something I’d avoided last time in favor of the probiotic mix Daniel fetched from the hospital. Valkyrie at least has a chance to enjoy the delicious seafood while I get well acquainted with the monks, who have what seems like the only working toilet of any kind in this area. After that it’s out on the boat for our first swim of the day; the fishermen whose boat we’re taking need to do some lobster fishing, so we stop in the area of their submerged cages.
We pop back onto shore for another bite to eat, some cold drinks, and a walk over to the other side of the island. It’s hard going with Valkyrie’s knee, but she actually manages to walk out further than Tanya and the other foreigner with us, Chris, which in our mind gives her some serious bragging rights. There’s a series of temples along the periphery of the island, along with a section of cemetery grounds that is somewhat less creepy than it was when we walked through it last night. On the other side, we have a great view of the mouth of Cam Ranh Bay and some of the smaller outlying islands.
Then it’s back over to the boats, where we all opt for a quick tour around Binh Hung. Valkyrie, Chris, and I offer to stay here while the rest go to Binh Ba, but Daniel won’t hear of it, so tour around Binh Hung it is. The first stop is a spot nestled between Binh Hung and a tiny rock outcropping that hides a stunning variety of marine life. There’s sargeant majors, Moorish idols, giant blue and red starfish, schools of vibrantly colored fish I can’t identify, some bright purple coral, Voronoi cell-shaped coral in teal and light purple…all spectacular, especially in the coral shelf zone out a bit from the rock outcropping. Daniel will eventually need to be able to free dive to 15m for the Divemaster part of his scuba instructor certification, so he practices a few times.
Around to the next spot, which is another coral formation. Swimming into shore, I spot a sort of canyon containing a whole bunch of fish, so I follow that for a bit. I’m feeling a bit queasy – probably the mix of undernourishment, Malarone, and Tetracycline – so I make a beeline back to the boat and keep Valkyrie company as she attempts to fish. Not much is biting under the boat, so I try to take her line out to where there are a few more fish swimming around. No luck, though, so we both just sit up on deck. Meanwhile, the locals have caught some more of the edible snails, which they boil up over a one-burner propane stove onboard. I eat one, but otherwise take it easy and opt for the leftover bananas and rice crackers.
After this, we all make the decision to cut the trip short: we’re mostly having fun, but there’s one too many bad omens in the air. We pack up, then jet back across through some smatterings of rain to the mainland and collect our motorbikes. From there, it’s a bouncy ride back up the coastal road to the AH1, then 32km down to the next major town: Phan Rang. We stop for some of the best nuoc mia we’ve had in Vietnam just before reaching the AH1, but otherwise head directly into town: Valkyrie’s knee and my stomach could use some rest. Maybe we’ll stay another day in Phan Rang to recover a bit…