I was out of Male airport by 930 am on Friday and hopped onto an airport ferry to take me to Male Island. Mohammed from the LuckyHiya Hotel had been waiting for me since 750am at the airport. Coconut trees, speedboats and ferries dotted the perimeter of the airport island as we pulled away. The Island of Male is a maze of smaller alleyways and wider main streets. You get around most of the city by bikes and scooters but older cars abound as private taxis. But for the petrol head in me, did see an Audi TT and a lime green Nissan Z350 this morning. Exhausted from my flight, I checked-in and fell asleep for a good five hours. By the time I woke up, all the shops were closed for prayer time and were due to open after 8:30pm. So I showered, ate a chicken sandwich and waited to meet Thorique who was my first local contact who was generously going to take me around the city on his bike. I think Thorique drove me around the entire island for my little shopping spree. I even got a snorkeling 101 lesson on the basics from the shop where I picked up my fins in Male. I was looking forward to my first snorkeling trip next weekend. Then we had dinner in a Maldivian restaurant where I tasted tuna rice with fried fish and a plate of nuts at the end which is just deconstructed Indian Paan. A perfect end to my first day in Male.
Weekends see lots of police out on the streets to discourage any disturbances. For women surprisingly, Male is very safe. I saw a number of women walking alone on the roads after 9:00pm and no one was bothering them. Apparently I’m told even thieves have a code here- they don’t steal from women! There was even a movie theater with 7D cinemas. Thorique was kind enough to give me an entire Island tour on our drive around. The variety of colors of all the buildings just brighten the skyline.
The Islands of Maldives & my finger pointing to where I’m going Lhaviyani atoll.
Saturday Morning, my breakfast was a plate of Mashuni which is tuna & coconut with roshi (maldivian for rotis) and some black tea. There is tuna everywhere. They love tuna here. I think maybe I’m going to be eating tuna for 3 weeks!
At the speedboat ferry station, the boat guys call out ‘Juvenile?’ & up shoots my hand, that’s me! I get into a pretty good looking speedboat and instantly rocket to a window seat. They told me to look out for dolphins oh I’m looking out alright. A girl with a gallon of paint and bathroom fittings is sitting next to me.
While my spirits were up and absolutely marveling at all the wonderful water I was looking at all around me, the boat geared up and began our 2.5 hours ride to Naifaru. Half the passengers on this boat were going to Naifaru. What was initially smooth sailing soon got a little bumpy with choppy seas. The skies were clear blue with overhanging clouds that didn’t look very ominous. We were passing islands with water villas and small beaches sloping into a hint of lovely azure waters that sold you on this place for the first time. I could see five ‘Thanks God’ stickers inside the boat from where I’m sitting. I’ve realized in life, the simpler your life is, the better God plays a part in it. The stiffer you are about sitting in the boat, the harder the ride feels. After a while if you relax all your muscles, there is a certain rhythm to it that you just fall into. That’s the romantic side of the story. Window high spray was washing the sides of the windows every time the boat dipped and jumped with the swells in the ocean. It was near Impossible to take pictures with so much motion.The boat felt fast and I tried an old remedy of mine – some chewing gum to keep my mind off just how much my innards were rolling. Around the boat all I could see was relaxed faces, a couple even sleeping while I grit my teeth and try to be as stoic as I can about my gut popping into my mouth every ten minutes. How do people do this for a living everyday? The Captain’s insides have got to be made of re-inforced, galvanised steel. Eating a light breakfast definitely helped control any serious motion sickness I could have felt.
I focus on the horizon to get my mind off the lurching. A cloud that looked like a hand tickling the underside of something, an old man like on the voice celebrity audition was smiling at me. Then there was a funnel cloud going up into the sky like a twister emerging from the blue. The water changes color in places from deep sapphire blue to bright emerald green. This is so far from the desert that I have come in 2 days. After arriving at Naifaru, I meet up with Collette and get shown my room while the other volunteers are out snorkeling already. I shower and crash for a few more hours until they all get back. Later in the evening, I get to meet all the volunteers – there are totally 8 of us here right now. We have dinner together and then a short meeting with the head of the Primary School who briefs us on what to expect tomorrow when school begins. Time for some shut eye now so that we are bright & early to start our first day of volunteering on Sunday.