hungry like the wolf part 1

10 March 2010 16:11:00 AEDT

Andaman Islands, India :: 1995

'The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong' - Mahatma Gandhi


We pulled out our wad of US Dollars like a pair of rubes and everyone on the room looked up – that smell of metal on paper, the unmistakeable scent of exposed cash hit a receptor deep in their brain. The agent looked away and motioned us with his hand towards an ancient looking woman seated in the corner, she sat cross legged in front of a small black box - a street beggars box. Behind her an incredible looking Indian girl in red heels flipped lazily through an Asian fashion magazine, her perfectly toned legs reclined on the faux leather sofa.

I saw how this worked now, we booked with the agent but we paid a beggar woman, so if the police burst in and decide to turn the room into a bullet festival then everyone has a way out…maybe.

We bent down to the eye level of the old woman now. She looked forward with opium cancelled eyes. Head straining on tight thin neck chords, brain activity approaching absolute zero; she didn’t even move when the two wads of cash hit the bottom of her box. Everyone nodded and the agent spoke up in an Indian / Thai mash,

“Number 3 wharf, eight o’clock”

We tried our best to look like people you wouldn’t want to fuck with – as cool as you could look in board shorts and medium Mekong Thai Whisky T-shirts. We had just handed over $2500 US Dollars. We had just booked a 7 day surf trip to the Andaman Islands from Phuket.

The Andaman’s sat like the last piece of fruit hanging untouched on the great Sumatran Island chain. North of Nias, beyond Aceh – at the rim of The Bay of Bengal. Two days passage from Phuket due west. It was the mid nineties and the rules on surfing in the islands hadn’t been written yet. The Andaman’s were Indian – no disputing that and technically you had to clear customs in the ramshackle capital of Port Blair before you landed but..we weren’t landing..technically.

Ajay the agent was ex Indian Navy and from what I could work out ran some sort of Thai cathouse for visiting Indian Businessmen in Phuket. He had a fleet of boats that ran god knows what around south east Asia and said he could spare a hull for our surf trip. He also said he knew the local patrol boat commander that covered the Andaman’s and he would clear us to surf there. By ‘clear’ I assume he meant cash in hand and a lazy blowjob from Girl 7 next time Captain Ahab came to Phuket. In hindsight it was odd that this all made sense to us at the time…we didn’t bother asking about travel insurance.

Number 3 Wharf – Eight O’Clock

We checked out of our hotel and pushed past the sex tourists recovering from the night before in the streets. A tuk tuk pulled over to the side of the road just as a street vendor waved a piece of roast meat under my nose. I consumed it immediately, my mate Levi vomited into his mouth next to me at the smell of it…we caught the next Tuk Tuk. Fifteen minutes later we bounced down to Wharf 3. The tourist boats heading out to James Bond Island and Phi Phi were well to the north, we were down near the fishing boats, importers and ladyboys working the docks. A security guard with his fly down waved us through.

Okay..Wharf 5..Wharf 4…Wharf 3.

It was better than I expected to be honest. It was a whitewashed converted trawler about 50 feet long. Along the bow were a group of Siamese characters but under that the word ‘Som’ which meant ‘Appropriate’ – I thought long and hard on this. A heartbeat later a dark skinned Thai fisherman bounced down the gangway wearing a 1920’s straw hat that someone had given him. His polaroid glasses were flawless Eddie Murphy knock offs from Beverly Hills Cop. This was Jaidee whose present employ was captain of the Som.

He helped us with our bags and screamed out towards the ship for help. Two barefooted guys in grease, filthy shithouse brown shorts materialised from a hatch and bumbled onto the ship with our boards. I swear they bumped the boards into every guardrail, hatch combing and metal object in their path before they vanished below.

Someone further down the wharf was swinging off a manual pump that was transferring oil or lubricant through a long snaking yellowing pipe. The ash from his cigarette drooped long in the morning air. Jaidee gave us a quick tour – we were the only two onboard apart from the crew of 5; he was proud of his ship. It stunk like an abattoir but it was his ship. He dragged us down to the engine room, the howling diesels already kicking over – we acted interested and asked a few questions but over the noise no one could hear a fucking thing. We were underway within the hour.

It was 2 days passage to get to the islands and 2 days back which gave us 3 days on station in The Andamans, it would have to do. It was mid June – peak season for the pathing SW swells that would be carving through Bali and all the way through to the Mentawais . By the time they reached us they would be smaller but the period probably 2-3 seconds longer. I checked a weather fax before we sailed. 3-4 foot – good but not great. Winds were rarely an issue at all around here. The islands looked to have so many reef passes around them that we planned on switching sides whenever a breeze came up to make it only ever a sideshore at worst.

Suddenly all hell breaks loose...



Sory 5 of 365 (360 days and 360 stories to go)

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