Sunday, 24 June 2012


Well under normal circumstances this week I would be posting about a wonderful climb up Mount Kinabalu, accompanied by some awesome pictures of the sunrise from the top and Cor and I together on the massive via ferrata.

These are not normal circumstances.

While on Mabul I was getting some intermittent sinus pain, which I thought were simply a case of a reverse block caused by diving.  After leaving Mabul, I came down with a week's worth of intense sinus pain.  Cor's father got me into see an Ear Nose and Throat specialist who he knew when we arrived in KK on Saturday.  As suspected, I have sinusitis.  See the black spots above and below my right eye on the scan below?  These areas would normally show black spots indicating empty sinuses.  As you can see from the scan, the ones on the right of my head are partially full of fluid, the ones on the left are chockers, hence the killer pain.  Normally the ENT guy would drain it and job done.

They scanned for a brain too, but nothing showed up on these tests.

Enough medication to kill a horse
The bad news is that the nose I broke in our car accident 2 years ago means that for now while it is infected it is impossible to drain.  If you have a closer look at the scan you can see my giant shnoz is as twisty as the corkscrew corner at Laguna Seca, and on my left the sinus is as tight as a nun's..... well you get the idea.  The ENT specialist advised us not to climb Mount Kinabalu, as the pressure change would be extraordinarily painful.  He also advised against diving until it clears up.  And here comes the kicker.  This is particularly scary as we have our trips to Costa Rica and Micronesia booked for later in the year (and in the case of Costa Rica, paid for), and if antibiotics don't clear it up, and it can't be drained....... let's just say it doesn't bear thinking about as it involves surgery and a long convalescence completely and utterly unpunctuated by diving.

Not many people know that the car accident Cor and I had in 2010 was the impetus behind us leaving London and embarking on this journey in search of the good life.  I plan to tell the story of the crash in a later blog post, but to have the legacy of that same car crash threaten our trip of a lifetime has made the last couple of days very tough for us both.

So at the moment we are back in Lahad Datu for another week, I am hopeful the antibiotics work, that it will clear up completely or make it possible for the sinuses to be drained, and everything will be peachy.  But for now, this is as close as I will get to Low's Peak on Mount Kinabalu......

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Super Sipadan, Magical Malaysia

So we are dry now, finally.  After 52 dives by me and 55 dives by Cor over the last few weeks, we needed some serious dry land time to de-prune the fingers and toes and we are currently at her parents' place in Malaysia doing this.

For those not "in the know", we have been spending our time on an island off the coast of Borneo doing some scuba diving.  During the three weeks, we completed our Rescue Diver course (apparently adequate care provided is better than perfect care withheld, who knew?) and dived the islands of Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Siamil, Sibuan, Mantabuan, Timba Timba and Mataking, plus did a couple of pretty interesting night dives in the port of Semporna, where you really don't want to know what's in the water, you just look for the crazy little creatures that come out at night.

First the diving.  In a nutshell we dived the number one dive site in the world a few times, plus did some brilliant diving at a whole host of other places.  The diving was incredibly varied, with Sipadan having stacks of big fish schools, sharks (our friends) and more turtles than you could poke a stick at.  Then some of the other islands were havens for small stuff like octopus, cuttlefish, camouflaged frogfish, incredibly cool nudibranches (which you will see from our pictures are an obsession of ours), plus some really weird things we have never seen before like sea moths (essentially a crazy-looking fish).  There is no other way to describe it other than brilliant.

We stayed on Mabul with Scuba Junkie and they were great.  The instructors, divemasters and staff all made our stay fantastic.  The accommodation and food was really good, though we only spent time in the room to get much needed sleep.  Scuba Junkie is a rare company that cares about the environment in which it operates,  plus the community that it works with, something that pervades the attitudes of everyone there.  Highly recommend using these guys if you ever go.

They run a stack of initiatives.  Please support the Semporna Shark Sanctuary petition by following the link, signing up and posting it on Facebook.  When you see firsthand the devastation caused by shark finning to the populations of these amazing animals, with 10's of millions of sharks being hauled out of the sea every year, having their fins cut off and thrown back to drown, you realise how insane and unsustainable the current appetite for shark fin soup is.

Scuba Junkie also have an innovative scheme relating to turtle nests.  In the past when a turtle came ashore to lay its eggs, the locals would either eat the eggs or sell them to others for food.  SJ pay the locals 10 ringgit per egg when a nest is found, and then their marine biologists carefully relocate the nest to a controlled location, re-creating the conditions of the nest, such as depth, shape and temperature.

On one of the nights we got back from a day's diving to find that one of the green turtle nests had hatched and we were privileged to hold a few of these amazing little creatures in our hands and help them on their way to the ocean.  111 turtles were released that night, and over 1000 have been released this year.  It was AWESOME!

We met some fantastic people out there, and dived with some incredible people.  Thanks to Rohan, Carys, Dave, Kev, Khai, Charlotte, Sofia, Ollie, Richbro, Astrid, Shane, Eric, Nas and Corey, plus Ann for those morning yoga sessions when we weren't too tired to get out of bed.  And we never even mentioned Aziz and the rest of the band night crew - you guys rocked!  Thanks also to those amazing people we met and dived with out there, Joachim and Cinzia, Sara, Luis and Sarah, and everyone else for making it such a special trip.

We were very tempted to stay on and do our divemaster course but we have other plans now that include climbing Mt Kinabalu in a couple of weeks, then a 9-day tour at the start of July from Darwin through Kakadu down to Uluru.  The divemaster training might have to wait until the end of the year.  We know a number of the DMs and instructors at SJ are keen to put us through our paces!

As usual, some selected pics are here, and the best of our 800 or so via the link on the right!

Matt and his school of bumphead parrotfish

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Singapore Sling

Sorry for the delay in posting of late, we have been on a remote Malaysian island with very poor internet access for the last month or so, but more on this later....

In late April we had a great week in Singapore with the extended Ung and Chang families for Cor's father's 70th birthday.  Our nephew Caleb was also celebrating his birthday and had no less than 4 cakes for the event!  We stayed in Sentosa and had days out in Singapore, and every evening was a fantastic meal somewhere, which as most people know is the centre of Singaporean life!

On our last day in Singapore we had a great day at the resort with Casey, Natasha, Emily and Caleb, rocking the luge (Natasha the reigning NZ and Singapore champion with a competitive streak a mile wide!) plus playing in the pool and on the trapeze.  It was seriously impressive to see Caleb and Emily 10 metres up on the trapeze, fearlessly swinging away.  It certainly put the pressure on Cor and I to get up there and give it a go!!

A few selected pics here, the rest in the links on the right.....

One of the fantastic birthday dinners

The cutting of Caleb's awesome Soldiers Vs Dinosaurs Cake

Emily launches...

...and Caleb flies!