Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Diego Garcia isn't a Spaniard

After traveling to, and hiking around Singapore for 3 days, finally, I could sleep late. Liz had to get up early to catch her flight back to Japan. My flight leaving Singapore was at 2 pm, while hers was 7:30 am.

The flight to Diego Garcia was on a DC8. This is an old plane that is in frequent need of repair.

Diego Garcia is an atoll (coral reef surrounding a lagoon) 7 degrees south of the equator. It's 42 miles long if you follow the strip of land around. It's a British Indian Ocean Territory or B.I.O.T. You'll see those letters on a sign further down.



The island is very tropical with thousands of coconut palms, coconut crabs, donkeys, lots of birds and no snakes or poisonous animals or insects.


There are about 2500 people on the island, 2000 Filipinos, 400 Americans and only about 40 British.

Since I found I was going to Diego Garcia, I was curious why it was named like a Spanish sailor. The island previously had a coconut plantation, managed by Diego Garcia. And the donkeys, which were probably used on the plantation, are protected by the British.


I made a lot of friends and enjoyed lots of Filipino food, including pancet (like pasta) and lumpia (a sort of eggroll with fish).



Here's the highpoint of the island, the pool (above), six feet above sea level. Below, are my host Dave, his friends Ray and Nani, who was the lumpia chef, and me on the left.



We went deep-sea fishing on Saturday and had a blast. It was my first fishing trip in the Indian Ocean. We made a good catch and cooked most of it for dinner.

I caught this wahoo, 3 grouper and a few snapper. Transportation for our catch is a wheelbarrow.>

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We played golf on Sunday and had a picnic afterwards near the ruins of the old plantation house.

I looked around the ruins. It's too bad the island is off-limits to anyone not working for the British or U.S. government. It would be a nice quiet family vacation spot.

I arrived on the island on Monday evening. At lunch on Tuesday, a dive instructor overheard my conversation about wanting to dive. Jason offered some of his gear and I made a dive in the lagoon on Thursday after work (mostly to get my buoyancy adjusted).



I went diving in the Indian Ocean (again a first) after work on Friday. We were in about 10-15 feet of water when we spotted a shark, who you will see in a video at the bottom of this posting.

Here's a coconut crab. They hide in the bottoms of trees and obviously like to climb.

The turtle is in the lagoon, where I did a short dive Thursday. Water's pretty clear, isn't it?

Jason photographed this lobster (very unusual color) and the video of the shark.

I played in a golf tournament on the island with Dave, Ray and Mr. Kim. I played terrible but considering the course, I had fun. The fairways are on limestone (think coral atoll) and one of my shots hit in the middle of the fairway took a 30 foot bounce and flew the green, a tiny carpet covered green.

This sign is in front of the ship's store, so called because it's a navy store. As you can see, the island is pretty far from everywhere. And who knows where St. Cloud, Florida is anyway?



As promised, here's a video taken by Jason, the dive instructor. We were in about 10-15 feet of water and the shark was just checking out the unusual fish (us). The remora attached to the shark is about 2 feet long, making the shark about 8-9 feet. In the video you'll notice a lot of tropical fish, a large snapper towards the middle of the video on the bottom, and near the end of the video, far in the distance some dark objects (these are large grouper).


video

My flight was delayed because of mechanical issues, so I caught a C17 back to Japan. If you do not know what it's like to fly 13 hours on a cargo plane you don't know what you're missing!! It was loud, uncomfortable, cold and long (really long). And who makes these flight arrangement? I left a 1:00 am!I made it back to Yokota Air Base and Liz met me. A shower, dinner and some sleep was all I needed to get back to my happy old self. Thank you Liz for being there when I needed you. You're the best.