Breakfasting at a shady bar overlooking Ocheauttal beach whilst Miss Marsh continued her experiment in soaking up as much UV as a human body could take, we were all set for our boat ride to the distant island of Koah Ta Kiev.
We boarded and set off punctually, and all was going well for our first 15 minutes out on the waves. Then a loud crack was heard and the boat glided to a halt.
It didn’t take a genius to work out that the prop shaft was, well, shafted I guess.
With no mechanical power, and a lone oar not really an option for a 20km row against both tide and wind, we were pretty much stuck
The owner of the boat who also happened to be the proprietor of the jungle camp at which we were planning to spend the next few days laid anchor, then calmly, but with increasing concern, worked through the address book in his mobile phone in the hope of uncovering a rescue party.
The omens were not good.
Day off. Already left for the day. Mother died this morning.
I looked around the boat and started ominously fearing that we were just about to reenact the novel, “The life of Pi”.
The protagonists were all assembled.
Mother and child, tick. The boat captain, tick. There was even the crazy looking Italian chef from the camp peering disturbingly at me as he rolled a cigarette between the thick, calloused fingers of what I deemed to be a potential killer.
I began to wonder if perhaps after all there was some sardonic deity set to send me to my doom? A God who possessed a penchant for Wagnerian endings and a love of Booker Prize winning prose?
Fortunately my imagination was bridled before I had the chance to drink sea-water and envisage hyenas, one-legged zebras, and Bengal tigers.
After two hours spent as castaways on the Gulf of Thailand, the aforementioned boat captain who was grieving for his freshly dead mother arrived on the scene.
My Italian is negligible, but I understood fully when the chef solemnly exclaimed “Bravo regazzo” with regard to our saviour.
After a bit of deck hoping, the boats were leashed together inshore and we were towed to Koh Ta Kiev in time for a late lunch and a swim before sunset.
Seen from the water, the jungle camp of Ten103 (points of latitude/longitude) took up a few hundred metres of shoreline with each hut distanced enough to offer considerable privacy to its occupants.
Behind these huts there would prove to be a warren of interconnecting pathways that had been tramped through the dense forest by its occupants.
The centrepoint of the camp was a kitchen, a bar, a bread oven, and some decking areas where one might chillax and socialise.
Amenities consisted of a bucket shower and two squat toilets.
We’d done the back to nature thing in summer when we stayed at Ecovalle in The Dordogne, but this was to be even more basic stuff and Miss Marsh’s face painted a picture of deep concern.
No electric = No Hair dryer. No Flush toilet = ???
Our open fronted tree house was a five minute walk from the main camp along a sandy jungle path. The view out to sea from the bed was framed by mangrove trunks on either side, a leafy branch cut across the top of the scene, whilst at the bottom the foreground was marked by a scarlet hammock slung from one of the trees to a rickety side beam of the hut, and beneath that, a low, wooden guard fence.
In the middle distance, small islands blanketed with lush vegetation were dotted upon the open waters. Beyond them sat only the vastness of the horizon.
The dark silence of night was disturbed only by the lapping of waves against shore, an occasional call from the nocturnal life of the jungle, and the wee-hour scurrying of hermit crabs crackling across the fallen vegetation near our hut.
Apart from these animal guests, it seemed we were alone.
The only further hint of other human life was the infrequent hum of an outboard motor or the surreal cackle of radio voices somewhere in the distance as fishermen claimed their daily catch.
Talking of daily catches, New Years Eve dinner consisted of quite possibly the most fantastic meal I’ve ever eaten given the level of kitchen amenities.
Joel, (he of the boat and mobile phone) returned to land that afternoon boasting a huge Chow Fish which he planned to set about baking in the stone oven that evening.
His aquatic centrepiece was to be served with roasted potatoes, a fresh ratatouille, and that days baked bread.
The result was stunning. Simple flavours, fresh ingredients, the perfect jungle supper.
The company was great, the drinks unique.
Another notable thing about Ten103 is that they distill their own absinthe.
When I say “they”, I mean “Johanne”, the 6 Foot 8 inch bar tender who looks exactly like Bob Geldof would had he been cast as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
A veteran of running speak-easy’s in his native US, he both sounded and looked the part of a man with 16 years experience in the self-production of intoxicants.
A nice enough guy, for sure, but I’m certain he knows men who have killed. You get the idea.
Anyway, his production of Absinthe was unusual in that it used the traditional ingredient banned in most countries, that ingredient being wormwood.
His Abyss Absinthe is a 100% organic drink, 5 times distilled (stick that in your pipe and smoke it Smirnoff!) and uses a blend of 13 herbs to give it its flavour.
Wormwood itself is a bitter tasting herb, supposed to produce a “mind-opening” effect.
I deemed the only way to test this out properly was to drink absinthe shots!
Unlike most moonshine I have tasted, this drink possessed a rather palatable aniseed taste and was a damn sight better than many local over the counter brews that I have bought during my heady years of experimentation.
Johanne’s mixology skills also produced a rather nice absinthe mojito.
The concoction, consisting of a chunk of ice floating in the drink, topped with a couple of tangerine segments was based on the theme of an island, the sea and a setting sun.
I can’t say I experienced any “doors of perception” moment, after five drinks, though I was a bit paranoid walking back alone to the treehouse and fully expected things to turn weird in a “Lost” kind of way.
Having said that, the Dutch guy I was drinking the shots with is likely now wandering around his hometown of Amsterdam, one ear short after mimicking Van Gogh’s much-fabled absinthe fuelled self-abuse.
Ah well, at least he will have the advantage of not having to listen to his wife 50% of the time.
All in all, I consider that a result.