Thursday, 29 April 2010

Busman's Holiday

I've always had an (unhealthy?) interest in the Second World War. From an early age, all I drew were Spitfires, Me109s, Tiger tanks and German soldiers. They had the best uniforms, after all...we had those shit helmets like soup bowls and stupid puttees over our boots. When I was 13, my old Physics teacher, Mr Landau, peered over my shoulder in the library and saw me drawing a battle scene featuring several SS men. Considering he was a childhood survivor of Treblinka, it's little wonder he went absolutely fucking ballistic and ripped up my drawing (good one it was too, you touchy bastard) whilst making growling noises, before directing me to the headmaster on tip-toes (me, not him) using my ear as a handle. Sorry about that, Sir.

Anyway, since getting into diving, it was pretty obvious I would be setting up a hit-list of war relics to visit. Truk Lagoon has got to be No1 on any such list, although some would argue Scapa Flow is better. I'll let you know once I've visited the Orkney's dark, cold waters for myself.

Truk saw some 60 Japanese supply ships and 200+ aircraft sent to the bottom of the sea on February 17th 1944 during Operation Hailstone. The Americans saw Truk as a vital staging post vital to attacks on Japanese soil. The warships in the area made a run for it, leaving the supply ships and crews to their fates. Incidentally the Akitsushima, lying in Coron Bay, was attacked here and in Manila before being sent to the bottom.

To dive Truk from England is expensive. A week's break could set you back almost 2500 GBP. H had made enquiries about flying with Continental from Manila, and found flights for 400 quid. I knew the diving was expensive at 35 quid a pop, but it still meant ten days of diving these wrecks would be around 1500, including the flight. As soon as she mentioned it, I invited myself along. Bit cheeky, but I'm a cheeky young monkey; besides, Dean had an American mate turning up in Truk, so H needed some (relatively) sane company.

I'd always thought Micronesia would be an island paradise with a dinky little airport, beautiful girls in grass skirts throwing garlands round your neck on arrival, plentiful weed, delicious fresh fish and abundant fruit. I was right about the airport, and that's about it: what a fucking toilet. Imagine Toxteth in the 80s transported to an island (wouldn't have been a bad plan during the riots?). Boarded up, derelict houses; people living in metal shipping containers; fat, toothless people everywhere (that was just the sexy ones); gangs of listless teenagers sniffing solvents. Myself and H gawped that much on the shuttle from the airport, eyes wide and mouths gaping, that our bus might has well have had Sunshine Variety Club down the side of it.

Arriving at the extortionate Blue Lagoon Dive Resort, we had a heart attack at the $120 nightly rate (worked out OK in the end when some clown charged us 10 nights instead of 12). But as there are only two resorts, and the other is stuck in town, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We grudgingly took our room after searching round town for cheaper places and homestays; and after being told it was unsafe to walk around at night, and witnessing the state of the toilets at the airport (how much worse might a homestay be?). Still, we had a great view and we were just here to dive.

Dropping the gear at the shop, we went to bed early like children on December 24th wanting to make Christmas come sooner.

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