Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Going down, going up, throwing up.

This past week I decided to shell out and get my dive certification here in Byron Bay. Awesome idea! So the first two days were lots of theory and pool time.

The first time I breathed through a regulator I felt like a mixture between Darth Vader and like I was about to get some dental work/surgery done. Odd feeling. When I first put my head under the water, my lungs felt like they would explode because, oh yeah, I was holding my breath. Totally the opposite of scuba. Go Hannah. When I finally gasped for air, I was half expecting to breath in a mouthful of water, and have to come coughing up out of the water (we were in the shallow end), but no water hit my lungs (obviously). It was the most liberating feeling of my life. I have spend a good 8 years or so snorkeling, and a good 18 years swimming, used to fighting for air, swallowing water. etc etc. If I could have any super power in the world, anyone who knows me, knows that I would totally pick gills. The ocean is my love in life. It means the world to me. So after the first initial shock of "holy crap I'm breathing underwater", the complete bliss set in. I felt so peaceful and just a total sense of belonging in the water. Truly incredible.

Today was our first day or open water dives. Let's just say that the bliss did not continue. On the boat ride I felt totally fine, no sea sickness or anything, just happy to be heading out to Julianne Rocks. There was about 3 meter swells so the sea was pretty rough today, but we figured it would be alright (bad mistake #1). When we got out there and attached to the mooring line and started to put on our gear, that's when the sea sickness hit. It was like automatic awful. So the dive instructors just got me in the water asap. After doing the traditional backward-fall into the water with gear dive move, I felt totally fine just being in the water. When we started diving down the mooring line, I continued to feel just fine. we got down to the bottom, around 8 meters, and I felt completely happy, just so excited to finally be a "fish". As we were heading down, a batfish came and hung out next to me, seeming to just say "welcome to my reef". It made me heaps excited! I love batfish. They are amazing. We saw loads of stingrays, some schools of yellow damselfish, around a few thousand fish. It was magical. There was also a big blue parrot fish that followed us for a while, chomping down on his coral. There were some reef clownfish, some moorish idols, and some silverfish and everything. Visibility was only about 2 meters, so that was a little disappointing. After only about 20 minutes we headed back up unfortunately. The currents were a bit strong. I thought the dive was going to end fairly well, until we got to the 5 meter safety stop. The moment we got there I instantly felt nauseous, and started the whole dry heaving/verge of barfing motion. All I could think was "I will not last three minutes at this safety stop". The second my head broke water, I spit out my regulator and proceeded to just dry heave a whole lot. I only had a few rice crackers that morning, so I was just dry heaving lots of stomach acid up. So not fun. It is a different experience spewing with your face in water. I think I like it better if I had to choose between that and a toilet.

When getting certified, we do two consecutive dives, so one right after the other. We headed back to the dive center to grab new tanks (and sea sickness pills and an apple). The same scenario went down, fine on the ride out, slightly feeling queazy putting on gear, and just fine once in the water. The swell had gone down so we all though visibility would be better, currents would be calmer etc etc. Descending this though continued until we got about 3 meters away from the mooring line. Then it hit us like a brick wall: the E.A.C. Yes, for all you Finding Nemo watchers this is the same EAC, East Australian Current that holds all the turtles. It's a brutal current in real life. It hit us, and automatically threw us around the other side of Julianne. The dive instructors were all trying to get us to swim perpendicular to get out of the current, but to no avail. We were getting thrown around, and panicked. It was super fun. Not. After about 10-15 minutes of getting dragged by the current we all decided to surface. Once again, the 5 meter barf line hit. This time was even better though. We were now on the opposite side of Julianne and had to wait for the boats. And the swell had kicked right back up. So there we were, a little clump of divers going up and down, up and down. Somehow during the dive and ascent, the apple that I had eaten between dives had decided to compact itself back into a whole apple in my stomach, then proceed back up. There was no force behind this barf, just a giant mass that I could feel every centimeter of the way back up my throat. When I finally managed to throw it up, it was just this apple mass like "would you like to eat me again?" It was awful. So I just proceeded to spend the entire time floating, waiting for the boat, ralfing my brains out. I can't even remember the last time I threw up, so I hope this was my one time for the next 10 years or so.

The second dive did have it's beauties though. I saw a guitarfish, about 2 meters long. It was lovely. Also a whole school of sand rays, just hovering above a sand bank in the current. There was around 40 or so rays. It was quite a sight. I also saw a big black bull ray, about 1.5 meters across. He was big! Absolutely gorgeous though. The good thing about Julianne is now I know that there is tons of sea life out there waiting for me to explore it! I am very excited to go out again. Back on shore the dive masters said that if we could dive in that, we could pretty much go anywhere in the world and dive. They said it was the worst dive conditions to possible imagine. I just wanted to scream "WELL THEN WHY DID YOU TAKE US OUT THERE?! WE'RE BEGINNERS! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE US FALL IN LOVE WITH DIVING, YA IDIOT!" But i obviously kept my mouth shut. I am grateful for the experience so I know what it can be like, but I pray that I never have to go back into water like that again.