I slept surprisingly well on the deck, under the stars. The motion of the sea, or maybe the light breeze, they agreed with me. It was the sun that finally woke me up and the heat that forced me to seek shade. I sit by the rudder and slowly realize where I am. I feel at peace. Yesterday, we sneaked into Thailand’s Tarutao National Park and last night we dropped anchor close by.
The crew lazily climbs up. We eat fruit and biscuits for breakfast then we pull up the anchor and start our return trip to Langkawi.
We’ve lived on Langkawi island, Malaysia for close to two years, so swimming and sunbathing are second nature for us now. Tanjung Rhu is one of our favorite beaches because it’s a bit more secluded than the others and we can always hang our hammocks in the shade, among the pine trees. We also got most of our sand-fly bites here, while lazily swaying in the breeze.
Close by is where the organized mangrove cruises usually start. We never went on one of those, so we only ever saw the mangroves from the shores. But this time we have the amazing opportunity of exploring the channels ourselves. We leave the boat behind, safely anchored, and start the journey by dinghy.
We did go on boats before, we volunteered as crew members for „luxury cruises”, here in Langkawi. Those cruises, run by this German lady, Eva, gave us our first true taste of swimming in the middle of the blue sea, exploring wild beaches by dinghy and drinking cuba libre to our heart’s content.
But now it’s different; there’s this warm, cozy feeling when you do this with friends. The mangrove channels are pretty much empty so we have them all to ourselves. We feel like true explorers as we advance towards shallower and narrower canals, deeper and deeper.
Soon we have to kill the engine because the propeller keeps hitting roots on the bottom, so we continue by paddling, surrounded by the gentle noises of waves and birds.
We keep referring to these nautical episodes as „adventure time”, but we have to educate our friends on the reference, so now is as good a time as any to tell them stories of Finn the Human, Jake the Dog and Princess Bubblegum. One of our favorite shows, for sure.
We head back out onto the main channels. A fast longboat speeds by, accompanied by the tourists’ cheerful cheering, hollering and howling. They are having the time of their lives as they wave at us. We wave back. Large foamy Vs extend from the boat’s tip and we watch the little waves splash onto the river banks. We learn that the mangrove forest is quickly being destroyed as the earth holding the roots together is being eroded by the action of the waves and crumbles into the water. We contemplate the effects of tourism for a bit then carry on.
With the women safely back to the boat, the men go out to hunt for food. They bring back a plentiful bounty of fried rice and ice tea in plastic bags from the floating restaurant. There’s swimming, eating and storytelling until sunset.
We’re certainly not „boat people” by any stretch of the imagination. But we can easily see how it can turn into a home for some. We grew quite fond of the orange belly of the ship during our short stay.
It’s all rather small, very cozy and well thought out. There’s a place for everything. Most of this stuff is new to us: the spaces, shapes, angles, mechanisms, hinges. It’s kind of like a house, but not really.
There’s a big U-shaped sofa where people can chill. There’s a table on a pole in the middle and it can slide up and down so it can be either a table or fill in the missing piece of the sofa and turn it into a large bed.
Dead-center there’s this big chunk of metal that can slide up and down. It goes all the way into the water and is supposed to stabilize the ship or something. There’s steep stairs with alternating treads, bunk beds, a toilet and a shower.
You have everything you need, including the kitchen sink. Maps, atlases, books about fish, an old sextant, it’s all there. We cook, we drink, we talk. Bellies full, we sail on.
I sometimes wonder if we use the word „adventure” a bit too lightly. I listen to a podcast where the question „What is adventure to you?” gets asked a lot. Personally, I’ve come to believe that the unknown is the only ingredient you need to have an adventure. But most people seem to think adversity is also required. We’re about to get a taste of real adventure.
As we make our way along the coast of Langkawi, en route back to Telaga harbor, dark rain clouds form port side and soon a curtain of rain is clearly visible in the distance.
The captain goes into emergency mode and starts barking out orders as we prepare for disaster: „secure the sail to the boom!”, „clear the deck!”, „close those hatches!”, „put these rain jackets on!”, „where’s my waterproof phone bag?”, „sit down and grab a hold of something sturdy!”, „where’s my lighter?”.
We function in sync, as an adrenaline-oiled machine, executing orders promptly, as the wind speed picks up and the dark clouds menacingly engulf us. We brace for the worst and exchange stern looks, knowing full well that these may be our last moments together. The first drops whip our faces. Then there’s a bit of rain and then it’s all over anticlimactically, in like a few minutes.
Poseidon calls off his storm dogs, Pegasus and Triton, and we are granted passage. We take off our rain gear and take stock of the damage. Everything seems to be in order, with the exception of the captain’s cigarette, which got irremediably wet and is now a soggy mess. The sun is up again and in full swing. We made it out alive. And, as we all know, whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.
„To live life, you need problems. If you get everything you want the minute you want it, then what’s the point of livin’?”Jake the Dog, Adventure Time
The rest of the trip is all sunshine and smiles. We see the lighthouse and soon reach the harbor, slip between the other ships and park. We’ve been out at sea for three days and, as we approach the shore by dinghy, we feel like old, battle-scarred sea dogs. The sun is almost down and we head towards the gas station for ice-cream.
Outside, at the cashier’s desk, there’s a spectacled monkey staring us down. We’ve seen the rascals before up in the trees around our home, they are called dusky leaf monkeys, they carry around their notoriously cute golden little babies and are orders of magnitude nicer than their relatives, the aggressive and unpleasant, sharp-toothed, cheeky, stealing and plundering long tailed macaque. These guys, we like them a lot. So we offer them some of our food, which they graciously accept.
We walk into the gas station, all wobbly and jelly-legged, trying to get our land legs back. The strangest feeling, after being out at sea, it’s like the floor won’t stop moving. It takes a while and some getting used to, but soon we start to walk like normal land creatures again, firmly planting our feet on the ground.
We feel ready to jump on our scooter and head back home. We say our goodbyes, we hug and kiss and we decide to meet again in a week and do a quick tour of the [Kilim Geoforest Park].
We ride home in the dark, tired and happy and sleep in a bed that is unexpectedly stationary.