This post will come in two halves, because this day was genuinely one of the longest day’s I’ve had in a long time, and there is plenty to grumble about. For starters, this is surely the only place in the world where you have to pack beach stuff, sun stuff and rain stuff all for one day out. When I say day out, I literally mean the WHOLE day. I woke up at 4.30am to get to the jetty for 5.30 so that we could set off and set up the picnic stuff before the sun got hot. But, as I was munching my cocoshells, I heard the clatter of rain on my tin roof and sighed. Rainjacket on. I had a lonely walk to the jetty because my bike has broken. My Facebook flip flop has also shown its value by consistently breaking after every fifty yards of walkage.
On the walk the rain paused but then recommenced with a vengeage. My waterproof then started to keep more water in than it did out. I met up with Habeeb and the gang and greeted the truckload of children that arrived shortly after us. Coming up to sunrise you wouldn’t have been able to guess where we were. The clouds were so thick that the only sunrise colours we got filtering through were many shades of grey but the rain stopped for everyone to gawp at another shark that had been caught on a line. This one was brown and not a Tiger Shark but a reef shark, but it was alive and then set free. Go nature!
I was eagerly eyeing up all the boats on the jetty and guessing which one we were going to take. While I was doing this the heavens opened again and in the confusion I ended up being roped into the first trip to the island. But wait: first trip? I thought there would only be one trip! But no, instead of a big boat, we had a dingy which would do four trips to transport all the people and supplies over. It was at this point, upon realization of how grim the next few hours would be, that I felt myself slowly transforming into a small, round-headed northern man called Karl. I sat in the motorboat, facing, but for the rain not able to see the desert island we were heading towards, muttering to myself and thinking forlornly about the contents of my rucksack currently getting drenched the deluge. Let us not forget that this was the first trip of the whole group, so we had all the food, stove, gas and water supplies for 40 people to look after in the rain. The dingy pulled into the island in a worrying fashion when the driver starting making sounds of frustration and one of the boys explained “it won’t go slow”, so we had to get one boy to jump out and act as a human buffer for the boat.
Once unloaded, the real fun started as we had to work out how to stay warm and keep all of our possessions dry at 6am in the pouring rain. As the oldest and tallest by far of the group of teenage boys, I made myself, perhaps not for the right reasons, leader of the pack. I began to coordinate an impromptu tent operation as if in a high-pressured Duke of Edinburgh situation. I felt like Bear Grylls, except there was no need for any emergency hydration enemas (if you know what I’m on about) , as there was plenty of water in barrels which we had to lug up the bank of this island. We used some coat stands and tarpaulin to create a paltry attempt at protecting the valuables. I caved in and used the huge cooking pan to cover my bag, it certainly did the trick! Once we had completed it as much as we thought we could have, I stood back to actually look at what we had made. This was less Bear Grylls and more a slightly special child’s attempt at Art Attack. But it had character. Sadly there are no photos, as my phone was under a pan.
We then sought refuge in the sea which was warmer than the air and awaited. And awaited. Until another 45 minutes of rain passed and the second load came. The dingy was so full of people, it was akin to a BBC report on illegal immigration, just to conjure up an image. As a grinning Habeeb and Hasna approached, I shouted “Why are you in the boat? Why are we still having this picnic?c” and they just laughed at me, as they always do. Having brought some actual tent-building materials, namely a fudge-off bamboo cane and proper tarpaulin, people swiftly disassembled my potato-print-tent. There was a tinge of sadness at seeing my creation razed to the ground, but that sentiment preceded the gratefulness of being able to actually take some shelter from the new one. I gathered some swimming floats and made myself a chair so I didn’t have to sit on the scorched earth while I sulked; this island is regularly used for fires and barbecues and the ground therefore seems to represent the Maldivian tribute to Stalin’s Scorched Earth policy of WW2. In other words, it was putrid, and everybody stood.
The rain subsided and I summoned the energy to “play” in the sea. Although “playing” involved running on loads of dead coral to try and catch a beach ball. I sacrificed poor mobility in handball for intact feet. The weather cleared up and it was 11am…. Still had 7 hours to go….