Deep Water Tornadoes

Deep Water Tornadoes, Thailand

I haven’t had the chance to do any climbing while here in tiny Ton Sai, a town, no, village, no… a spit of white sand crammed between enormous limestone peaks, jutting out of the earth and ocean. A few bungalows and restaurants have sprung back up since this place was decimated in the 2004 tsunami. There are no roads, and only a few hours a day of electricity. But back to climbing thing, I took a chance today and joined the Deep Water Solo Climbing adventure group. Yesterday’s group returned at 3pm, more than enough time to shower and catch the last boat out to the mainland. 

My visa expires tomorrow and it would cost me 500 Baht per day for any over time. I need to get to Krabi today so I can take the 6am bus to Satun, where I will then catch an international ferry to Malaysia’s Langkawi. At least, I was supposed to…

So I woke up bright and early today excited for my chance to combine two amazing adrenaline sports over the clearest waters of the Andaman coast: Rock Climbing and Cliff jumping. Basically you get to free climb (no ropes) over the jagged peaks rising out of the warm waters that you will eventually land in when you fall, or more desirably, jump into after conquering your climb. It was a long, hot, awesome, hot, fun, did I mention hot? day. The sun was beaming all day. We climbed, we snorkeled, we ate on a beautiful deserted beach, we kayaked and then climbed some more.

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Exhausted from the climbs and aching from the sun on my skin I settled into one of the humble long tail boats that had ferried us about 20 minutes out to sea and started taking some pictures. The ocean had been getting a bit rough in the last few hours. The waves grew substantially making even our Thai guides struggle on the kayaks. But the sky above us remained the brightest blues with only the most perfect little cotton ball clouds. All our eyes continued to be fixated on the rocks as climbers reached higher and higher on overhangs and stalactites and jumped farther and farther into the choppy sea. I guess that is why no one saw it coming!

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It wasn’t far, but it wasn’t close. It was still thin at the top, nearly transparent at the bottom, but it was very, very clearly a tornado! It spun nearly motionless over a far away island seemingly disturbing nothing. The dark grey clouds above spread and let down a sheet of water obscuring daylight. Still all you had to do, was turn 180 degrees, back to the rocks, for a perfect sunny day on the west coast of Thailand. The storm did not seize. The tornado grew bigger, thicker, and darker. Eventually it moved over the water with such force that the sea seemed to be displaced, sucked up into the power of the twister. The waters got rougher. The guides made the call, everyone in. We had already been battling to stabilize the boat for an hour, moving around it trying to make our weight shift keep us from capsizing. But the storm was always just far enough away. Needless to say though, when it came time to head back inland, maneuvering through the waves clearly became a challenge for our little boat. The return time was more than 5 times what our journey there was. We had to take several detours behind other islands and seek shallower waters. It was never a great safety risk. Our guides were clearly experts in everything we did today. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to help me get to my boat on time! I’m surely not crying about having to stay here one more night (not even close believe me:P) but that 500 Baht fine sure is going to hurt when I finally cross the border, one day late!

~An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega~

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