Transport is still an issue. These things take quite a bit more time than anyone (me) could forsee. Good thing is we have a lot of time available.. But idle-hands are up to no good, so we decided to complicate our days here a litte.
I kind of belong in the water, and the subject of scubadiving has come up earlier during the trip. The thought of learning how to dive properly, mastering my fear of being shark-bait, and not drowning where all imensly compelling reasons to forge ahead. Anyways, so we sat by the pool (yes, I know – not easy being me..) and the subject came up again. I imediately grabbed that idea and ran with it like a hungy Labrador making away with the family dinner. The key is to rush on with total abandon! What can possibly go wrong, right? Before Tonje really knew what happened, I had made an apointment for our first PADI Open Water class at the local scuba-center in Benalmádena, Spain.
Two days later we met up at the local dive center. We had a quick-ish briefing and dive-theory session, gathered all the gear, learned how to assemble and do a pre-check, before we packed the van and headed for a confined waters dive.
A confined waters dive is basically a pool-dive. I can understand why PADI chose to label it differently. This confined waters dive, or pool-dive as it where, would take place in a hotel-pool nearby. A hotel-pool full of screeching children, old pink tourists and leathery sun-worshippers. Imagine us two norwegians and the DiveMaster walkin up to the pool, getting into wetsuits and scuba-gear, doing a buddy-check and then waddeling into the shallow end. Trust me, there where a lot of conflicting feelings. Are we as Norwegians such pussies that they need wetsuits in a hotel-pool? Maybe they all think theres something wrong with the pool? Should I present myself as Sweedish if someone ask? It the water really supposed to be so very very cold? Why is the lifeguard playing Bob Marley on the stereo?
A lot of information where conveyed at the surface. I learned that with the hood of the wetsuit on, you really can’t hear anything. So some of the information was lost. We prepared to decend (at about 1 meter 20 cm depth) I defalted my BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and decended. Had I heard all the neccesary information, I probably would have replaced my snorkle with my regulator. The regulator is a breathing doo-daah that you shove into your mouth, that lets you breathe and therefore not drown.. If you try to breathe through the snorkle at any deapth that is not surface, you get a lot of water. In the seconds it took me to realize this and grab the regulator, I swallowed a good portion of the pool. Then followed a lot of wheesing and coughing in the regulator and trying to control my initial near panic: Your fine! Wheeeze. Your fine! Cough! Your not drowning.. Breathing under water in very counter-intuitive. It takes a while for your brain to accept the fact that though you are well submerged you can breathe and thus not drown. All the while we did a lot of training drills to prepare us for the open waters. And if I where cold,- Tonje had it worse: she where practically blue after 90 minutes of not drowning.
The next day, we had our first salt-water dives. Tonje where padded with extra layers of insulation. Due to the relatively cold tempratures in the ocean – a brisk 17 degrees C on the surface – Tonjes extra insulation layer had an extra insulation layer. We had to walk to the house-reef all kitted up. It’s about 300 meters to te shoreline where we could wade in. Being mindful of Tonjes back-condition, I carried my own kit on my back, and then hers in front. It’s a lot of weight. And let us not forget the 12 kilos in the weight belt around my hips. Or the fact that a wetsuit is supposed to keep you warm. A black wetsuit in the sun = sky-rocketing temprature inside the suit. The chill of the ocean was a blessing!
Visibility at the housereef was not the best. My logbook says 1 meter. I kept loosing the others all the time. However, the DiveMaster and Tonje managed not to loose anyone but me.. Later Tonje claims that I got lost trying to keep up with this or that little fish-thingy. She claims I acted like a hound with my nose to the ground following a hot trail, ears flapping. We agree to disagree on this. But safe to say, the fear of drowning as a result of breathing under water is gone.. My mask kept leaking and filling with water, prompting me to empty it every 5 minutes. Imagine emptying a mask of the water inside it, under water. It’s a tricky prospect of wich I am now something of an expert..
Third dive-day we got stuffed into the dive-mobile to travel up the coast to Nerja. The plan was to go down to 18 meters. Getting there, we kitted up and headed to the water.
The last dive took us down to 15 meters. I wondered about my own reactions to this. Some people feel it’s claustrophobic or get stressed. Or so we where told. I just felt free. Diving may be one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had. Also, communication is clearly a lot more difficult under water,- and so they teach you some hand signals for the most basic needs. Tonje and I expanded that a little, and I am proud and amazed how an alread very good level of communication could expand and get even better. It may sound like a cliché (probably because it is), but we as a team grows stronger every time we challenge ourselfs, together.
When the fifth and last dive was over, I really just wanted to jump right back in. Tonje, with her multitude of layers looked me dead in the eyes and said “We are getting dry-suits!” shivering all the way.. Also, leaving the shoreline after the final dive, Tonje carried her own kit like it was nothing! It made me wonder about the real reason I carried all the gear the 4 previous dives.. 😉
Before we could complete our course and take the exam, there where a lot of theory and informational DVDs to go through, Nothing spells excelent study conditions like Vino Tinto..
As of wednesday this week, we are both PADI-certified for open water dives. Wohoo!
Cant wait to do it again..