Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.
After eating Dramamine with a side of eggs for breakfast (totally kidding, I only took two), we waited for Luis to pick us up for our second day of diving. After having made two successful dives the day before, I was more excited than anxious for this round.
After previously mentioning to Luis that we were interested in renting a moped for touring the island, Luis brought a friend with (I was not expecting this) to coordinate the delivery of a moto to our posada (lodging) the following morning. I discovered after the fact that Luis did not know this guy particularly well, but was trying to do him a favor by acquiring some business. However, said-friend, whose name was Ronald, ended up being a bit of a shyster. And I don’t appreciate shysters.
More on that in the next installment.
For me, diving was incredibly relaxing – especially after ditching the sea sickness and vertigo. As I breathed in, the air made a life-sustaining hiss as it traveled from the cylinder, through the regulator and into my lungs. The bubbles that rose to the surface as I exhaled made gurgling crackle-pop sounds around my face.
I had to make four open water dives to complete my certification, so on this particular day I only had two more to go. After arriving at a dive site, anchoring the boat and taking the plunge into the water, divers gather at or around the anchor line to make a descent. Depending on the current, certified/experienced divers can make a free descent, letting the air out of their BCDs (buoyancy control devices) and sinking slowly into the depths.
New divers follow the dive master down along the anchor line, with the least experienced diver closest to the dive master in the front. Holding the anchor line in your right hand and your nose with your left, you guide yourself down at an angle and equalize along the way to clear your air spaces. Just as you plug your nose and blow gently against it to get your ears to pop on an airplane, you do the same thing as you make a dive descent. You just don’t do it while ascending, because it can damage your ears as the air expands.
We dove at two sites, called Diamond Cantil and Wreck Diamond. The best way for me to describe Diamond Cantil is a huge coral garden that drops off gently. It reminded me of a large, rolling hill, covered in tall, cylindrical sponges, colorful sea plants that slowly swayed back and forth, and of course, coral. This underwater hill steeply descended to a sandy bottom. Diamond Cantil was one of my favorite dive sites, because of the vividness of the colors, especially blues, purples, greens and yellows. The deeper you dive, the cooler the color tones. I had difficulty orienting myself under the water, so I can’t explain which direction we went, however we swam parallel to and down the side of the coral garden.
Under an outcrop of coral, I spotted the underwater version of a giant spider out of a Harry Potter movie. Actually, this was not an arachnid, but an arthropod – an enormous lobster with long, spindly legs. As we swam back up the coral garden and drifted with the current, our dive master pointed out a large sea turtle, calmly floating just above a sandy clearing. She stared up at us as serenely as if we were giant black fish with yellow fins, forming our own school and watching her through shiny, googly eyes. Her head turned slowly to the left to analyze the dive master, who moved his hand from side to side in a slow motion wave.
The second site, as the name suggests, was a wreck dive – a German boat, which had been stolen and used for drug smuggling, then sunk on purpose for divers. The dive master pointed out to us that the propeller, which had been made of copper, is missing from the vessel – likely stolen and sold. Under a hollowed-out area, a moray eel protruded from the shadow of the boat, yellow eyes glaring at us as we swam by.
After the dives, my mom and I made a tentative plan to walk to the central beach and rent bikes. On our way, we passed an inconspicuous restaurant that had been suggested to us by our Airbnb host, hidden behind a wall that lines the beach. Fishermen’s Place, as the restaurant is called, sells the most amazingly authentic sea-foody seafood I have ever tasted.
How can I describe sea food as sea-foody? Because there is no other way to explain the intense fishiness of these dishes, exuding sea-fishy glory onto the dish and into my mouth, and making me never wish for seafood again. Don’t mistake this as me saying I didn’t like it, because it was amazing. The lesson learned was that seafood is wonderful… in moderation. I’m a huge fan of ceviche, one of the dishes we ordered. But we paired the ceviche with a mixed sea-critter casuela (I say sea critter because I don’t remember the exact name, but casuela is a type of soup), and that sent us over the edge. For the rest of the week, we were in hot pursuit of burgers, salads and anything that wasn’t fish-related.
We met an English-speaking elderly gentleman working at the restaurant who took a liking to us. He hung around our table, sharing his family connections to the U.S.: a mother who lived in Michigan and daughter working as a teacher in Texas. He told us he always wanted to visit the States, but never did. He described the view from his home near the Baptist church on the highest point on the island, and asked about our political views regarding our president, and religious beliefs. I perceived his questioning as curiosity more than critical prying. Maybe if this type of dialogue would take place more often between people of different backgrounds, it would lead to greater understanding.
Too late to rent bikes, we went for a 5 mile walk to buy ice cream – adding to the aquarium of sea food swimming around our tummies – and to the dive shop to collect my mom’s forgotten water bottle. The sun set early and quickly, lowering in the west as we unlocked the gate to end the evening at our posada.
Day 4: Check.