Koh Mak : Nature in all her glory
The fish circling around me are translucent, the color of the sparkling turqoise and golden ocean waters. Only their tail fins are lemon yellow.
I turn around and there’s a pod, a pack, a herd of fish, arrow-like. They stay near the surface, where the water meets the air, and I can see one large eye on the side of their head gazing at me, unblinking, as they too start to slowly circle round and round me as I float motionless. I watch for 5 minutes, before they get bored and scamper off.
With a snorkel, I can stay under the water for 30 minutes, an hour. Yes, the back of my throat gets dry from breathing air in through my mouth, and yes, the snorkels Erik and I have are very cheap.They leak seawater, get fogged up, leak water into my mouth and into the face mask. We can balance carefully on a rock out in the ocean, just our head out of the water, take the mask off, rinse it, readjust and try again.
And yes, only my back and the backs of my legs burn and get tanned.
Back in the room, I hit the shower, rinsing salt from skin and hair, but I keep the memory of sea anemones and coral with me.
Most everything from the island comes from off the island on the ‘slowboat’, a big boat that take about 3 hours to get here, versus the one hour by speedboat. Bags of vegetables, furniture, cans of paint, scooters– everything comes by slow boat.
Except these two notable exceptions for Erik and I:
Papayas and Fresh cocanuts.
We can prop a ladder against the too tall, spindly papaya trees at Thaidaho resort, and carefully, carefully climb up, the tree bending under my weight, reach high overhead, and twist off a green and orange papaya, the sap from the stem dripping down onto my shirt and hair.
If we don’t see the papaya in time, and it ripens ‘on the vine’, the birds find it first. There’s a bird with a very pointy bill that can poke a sizeable hole into the soft flesh of the papaya, whilst hanging sideways or upside down, very much like a woodpecker. It uses it’s tail as the ‘third leg’, creating a tripod for added stability.
The ants and worms can now access the wonderful orange flesh. The fruit can look fine, just a small hole from the bird….but if you open it up, be prepared for wriggling wonders.
For the first few weeks, Erik and I scoured the beachs and inland cocanut groves for any dropped cocanuts. Erik even found a kitchen knife in the trash, and we carry it with us in our backpack if we go out for an afternoon.
Pick up a green cocanut, and shake. If you hear water inside, it’s probably good. If no sound it either:
a. Filled to the brim with cocanut water, and heavy
b. Empty of water and rotten, cracked open when it fell 30 or 40 feet to the earth.
Once Erik has the cocanut chopped open on one end, we pull out our straws that we’ve saved from a smoothie months before, and drink the cool liquid. If the flesh is still young, the cocanut water is sweet. If the cocanut flesh is thick and developed, the water has a much more neutral taste.
And finally, a small Ode to Insects: