Hello Friends and Family,
Well, I am very excited. I will celebrate my 39th birthday next Wednesday (July 18th.) A few days later I will fly out of Seoul for a few more days in Bangkok with my buddy (and amateur/inadvertent youth hostel operator) Lucas Krump on my way to New Delhi, on my way back up to the glorious Himalayas of Northern India. If everything goes right, I will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of this Lexpedition on August 1st while standing on top of a beautiful mountain somewhere way up high, pumping my fists and dancing around on my skinny little Latvian legs. Wahhhoooooooooo!
So I will be leaving Seoul, which as I was told recently, is the second most populated metropolitan city on Earth, second only to Tokyo. Seoul also happens to have pretty dirty air, which makes my throat sore and my eyes water. Next I go to Bangkok again, which has even dirtier air. Then on to New Delhi, where the air is AMAZINGLY dirty, ranking up there just behind Bejing as one of the most polluted cities in the world. But soon I will be back up in the mountains, breathing pristine cool air, getting back into great shape, gawking at the crazy views of snow-capped mountains and massive Himalayan valleys. Oh, I can’t wait.
But in the meantime, I’ve been a very busy boy. As you know by now, I love coffee. Lots of coffee. More coffee than the experts think is healthy. More coffee than the young clerks at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks probably think I should be drinking. More coffee than my wrinkled face and over-taxed adrenaline glands want to endure. But oh, how I love coffee. There, I said it. Coffee good.
So I don’t know what I’m going to do for work if/when I go back home to the U.S. I’m really enjoying my pre-tirement, and I don’t see any ominous blips on the radar screen that look like threats to my continuing adventures. Please don’t mistake my laziness for laziness. When I need to, I get stuff done, break stuff, fix stuff, invent stuff, buy stuff, sell stuff, etc. Then I hit the road again. Here are a few of the new projects I’ve been tinkering around with lately to help me avoid having to have a real job ever again.
First, I am thinking about creating a new coffee shop chain called “Java’s Witness.” When you walk into a Java’s Witness coffee shop, you will be greeted by two young men wearing blue pants, a white shirt and bicycle helmets. They’ll hand you a little pamphlet that has the day’s coffee and food specials, and quietly but enthusiastically ask you, “Do you believe in coffee?” All of the employees will wear the blue pants, white shirt and bicycle helmet outfit, and the coffee will be world class. The Java’s Witness slogan will be, “There’s only one coffee. Ours. We’re going to convert you one day. Just watch.” Maybe I’m confusing them with the Mormons? I can’t remember. But you get my drift. I like coffee.
Second, I’m working on my new country music song, “It’s so hard to leave you when you’re so soft.”
Third, I’m working on a couple of new books. I’m actually working on a few books at the same time, and following Rockbox’s advice (my father), I will be skipping the first book, as he says the first book is always the hardest. As I’m generally a very lazy and efficient person, I’ll probably skip books one AND two and start on book number three. Stay tuned.
So today I’m finally getting around to sharing the last episode in my Philippines adventures with you. After I left my Danish friends behind in Boracay, I flew to Puerto Princesa to hop on a live-aboard boat with about eighteen other scuba divers. We left the next evening for four days of scuba diving in the Tubbataha Reef, in the middle of nowhere in the Sulu Sea of the Philippines. Legend has it that this national park was once among Jacques Cousteau’s favorite dive spots. I can see why. We dove four or five times each day, seeing manta rays, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, an elusive whale shark, and countless reef sharks and colorful fish. But first, I want to show you some pictures from my bungee jump off the 70-story Macau Tower. So here we go…
OK, enough about bungee jumping. Let’s get back to the Philippines and scuba diving.
But first, my friend Abraham from the Philippines was finally able to email me the photos from the day we swam with the whale sharks in Donsol. We saw a total of nine whale sharks that day. We were on a small boat, floating around in a bay, searching for whale sharks for three hours.
The whale sharks love hanging out in this particular bay because of the high concentration of plankton and food for them. This makes lots of tasty meals for them, but it means the visibility is very limited for us humans. The boat crew would spot a whale shark and aim the boat towards its path. Then they told us to jump out quickly and try to swim along with the massive but gentle creatures. We’d swim with the shark for a while, then hop back into the boat to go look for another shark to swim with/pester.
We each had a snorkel, mask and a pair of fins, but it was hard to keep up with the whale sharks. Even though they were very gentle, they usually began to dive after a few of us “bothered” them by swimming next to them or around them. They’d dive for a while and then come back up near the surface for more food.
Due to the poor water visibility, it was very hard to see the sharks unless we were really close to them. One time I was swimming very quickly, believing that I was swimming to catch up to a whale shark from behind. All of a sudden, I saw a big dark blob getting closer and bigger in front of me. I quickly realized that it was the massive, open mouth of a whale shark, and it was headed directly at me. I swam up just in time to avoid bumping into it, like a bull-fighter slinking out of the way of the bull at the last moment. I was very alarmed, but I quickly turned and began swimming next to the whale shark.
Here is the live-aboard boat that was my home and scuba base for four days while enjoying the Tubbataha Reef. The food was great, the crew took care of all our equipment and needs, and the other divers were a lot of fun. It was VERY expensive (about US$1,250 for the four days), but I highly recommend it. Home Sweet Home.
The diving in the Tubbataha Reef was amazing. On my first day there, the water visibility was the best I’ve enjoyed so far in my (relatively limited) scuba diving career. Here I am about 100 feet (30 meters) down, enjoying the clear water and world-class scenery
Swimming with a big trevali, also known as a “jack.” This one was maybe 3 or 4 feet long (1m). But many times I saw bigger ones, sometimes in a school of maybe 1,000 or 2,000 big silver jack fish. A few times I was able to swim inside their school and surround myself with a wall of big fish. They are quite curious fish, and their eyes would come very close to mine before swimming away. Floating inside a massive sea of silver fish was a rush, and I’ve been able to experience it a few times.
On our way back to the boat one afternoon, we noticed a school of dolphins playing around in the water ahead. There were hundreds of them, jumping out of the water and doing rolls and flips, just like at Sea World, I guess. They stayed around us for maybe 20 minutes before swimming away. Dolphins rock!
On each dive in the Tubbataha Reef, we would see at least 5 or 6 reef sharks in the water around us. They are generally harmless creatures, but they are still sharks. If I saw a shark, I would watch what it was up to and watch it swim out of view. I wasn’t necessarily scared, just respectful of its power. One of the other dive groups got lucky enough to encounter a hammerhead, which can be quite dangerous. Our group never saw a hammerhead, so it’s still on my list. Here I am next to a “resting” reef shark near his/her cave, about 100 feet under water. Does that shark make me look fat??? Tell the truth. Frankly, I don’t think any body looks good in a wet suit and scuba gear. We all look like big fat dorks.
And last but not least, we got really lucky and saw a whale shark in the Tubbataha Reef. Our dive guide said it was a VERY rare and precious event, as he’s only seen a whale shark four times in over ten years of diving the reef there. You can see how big the whale shark is here, because the water was pretty clear. The jacks swimming next to it look really small. What a treat.
Thank you again Abraham, and Henesey (AKA Heinz) and a few other fellow divers for some of the great pictures above. Thank you.
Ok, sorry about the length of this email. I wanted to finish my Philippine adventures to make room for my upcoming adventures in India and Ladakh and the Himalayas. Thanks for indulging me with you time. I hope you enjoyed these pictures, and I hope you can understand how I have fallen in love with scuba diving. And the Philippines.
It looks like I may head back to Kentucky and Arizona around the end of the year for a short visit. Not sure when, but it will be nice to see my family and friends again, especially my seven sweet nieces and nephews, even if briefly, and take care of a few pieces of business. Then I’ll hit the road again. While I’m home I’ll wash my socks, get some new deodorant, plant some trees, play cards with my buddies, drink coffee, make sure the cat has enough food, and change my mother’s diapers. I’m just joking… I don’t really have a cat.
I hope you are doing well and enjoying your lives. Thank you all for your support and friendship.
Peace & Love,