I wasn’t planning on learning to sail in Mui Ne. After our chicken bus arrival, we were thrown out the bus and found ourselves standing outside the Mui Ne Backpacker Village (MBV for short). The hostel was a large enclosed area, with three blocks two storeys high, centred around a luxurious swimming pool and a restaurant/bar at one end. It had everything the backpacker could need in one handy location. We had found home.
Arriving in the early evening we had two competing priorities. One, we were starving having not eaten since breakfast and two, we were extremely hot. Our hunger won the competition and we found ourselves sitting poolside, having parted with only a few dollars, with beer in hand and noodles on the way. We gobbled our food quickly, with the beer barely touching the sides, and had thrown on our swim suits in record time. I could almost taste the refreshing water. I dipped a toe in cautiously and instead of a cooling bite I was given an unpleasantly warm hug. Sliding into the water, which was soon to be a common occurrence, the water was as warm as a used bath. There is something especially curious about bathing in tepid water with strangers. Despite the lack of refreshment, we bathed in the water until we hadn’t cooled off at all, and headed back to our room.
MBV prides itself in being a “social” hostel and by “social” they mean you are encouraged to be a noisy, drunken nineteen year old, who is preferably on their “gap-yah”. Each night from 8pm a themed party erupted until midnight when, mercifully, it abruptly stopped. I have realized that while I might not be that old, I am unashamedly too old for hostel parties. The first night happened to be a quiz night, which actually sounded interesting, so we joined in the shenanigans. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? We started a team with two American girls (unsurprisingly, 19 year old gap-yahs) and proceeded to answer the questions. In true quiz-night fashion, the rounds took too long to start up again and the questions became increasingly more vulgar as the night progressed. We headed to bed “early” and proceeded to lie awake while the music thumped in our ears.
The next day we ventured out in the crippling heat to find the real beach. We were told there was only one access point that wasn’t controlled by a private resort and it was a 20 minute walk away. In the heat, it might as well have been an ultra-marathon in the Sahara. However, 20 minutes later we stumbled onto the sand with little left in our legs. We ran into the water awaiting the blast of the salty sea and, I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the water gave us a sloppy warm kiss. The sea must have been at least 30 degrees Celsius. It was as refreshing as a fish milkshake on a hot day. However, it was then we learned that you can use the facilities of a fancy resort if you buy something. Only moments later we were sipping on an ice-cold beverage, under a bamboo-woven umbrella, lying on luxurious loungers overlooking golden sand and crystal clear water at the 4-star Blue Ocean Resort. I could have sat there forever. We had forgotten to bring our books with us, but it didn’t matter. I was content at staring into the ocean and watching the world go by. Being quiet season the beach was empty, which was perfect. I felt like Kanye West on my private island.
Fast forward 18 hours (after a night of Glitter and Face Paint Party which I enjoyed in bed with ear plugs) and we were again at the beach. This time we had wandered into the Jibe’s Beach Club. We were instantly greeted with quite possibly the nicest man on the planet, who welcomed us to hang out as long as we wished at their beach (although it was a little steep and narrow) and partake in any one of the many activities they offered. Ben had hoped of going kite surfing, but unfortunately the wind had other plans. Instead we hired some Stand Up Paddle-boards. Now anyone who has ever discussed this activity with me would know that I believe the “sport” (really, can we call paddling awkwardly a sport?) is reserved for hippies, yoga hippies, and yoga hippie vegans. However, I will now take that all back, because I loved it! Floating on the open water was majestic and balancing on the board was one of the most physically demanding activities I’ve ever done. The hour we rented the boards could not have been longer, as my whole body cried out for a rest.
Our real interest that day was going sailing on the classy looking catamaran that was parked on the beach. Soon after lunch the wind had picked up enough to take it out. My sailing experience is limited to once around the Auckland Harbor on the most glamorous motor-yacht I’ve ever seen, whilst lying on the sun deck, and sailing Raglan harbor on Ben’s Uncle Tom’s trailer-sailer in my wet suit whilst fearing for my life (nothing to do with the actual boat, but my inexperience of being on the “seas”). Having blocked the later out of my re-callable memory, I hopped on the little catamaran ready to work on my tan. The boat and our captain had a very different view of how the next hour was to progress. The guide on our boat was to teach us how to sail and within minutes I was expected to control the heaving beast. I was encouraged to “feel what the boat wants to do”, which threw me into a frenzy having zero ability to translate boat to English. I frantically tried to remember the difference between tack and jibe (which is apparently quite important) until I drove the boat into a flag and got it stuck in the rudder (at least I think that’s what he called it) and we had lost control of the devil-possessed floating monster. Having had quite enough of this tomfoolery I passed the helm over to Ben, who spoke fluent boat and had us lefting and righting (sorry) and turning all around. I was not exactly left to my tanning though, as I had to hold on for dear life as the creature flew around the ocean at a blistering speed. Whilst I might not be ready to man-handle the boat, I began to enjoy the experience, similar to the pull that brings a rodeo rider back to his bull.
The town itself had a laid-back, beach-town vibe. The menus were filled with freshly cooked seafood and the drinks came icy cold. After three days of lying in the sun, taming the wild seas, and swimming in bath water I was convinced that this was the life for me.
Click here for the next in the series.