Yesterday I went scuba diving in the Caribbean. There was talk of whale sharks, schools of Dolphins, all kinds of manta rays and turtles and tropical beauty. We were going to the North side of the Island of Utila which is one of the best spots in the world for the ould diving.
The sun was up early. The sea was calm. The breakfast of omelette and freshly baked bread was eaten at 6am in the local café, washed down with a nice creamy coffee. Cinnamon buns just out of the oven were bought and put in the pack to give nutrition in between dives.
We headed down to the dive shop, got our gear ready, hopped on the boat and away we were.
We skated high speed around the island for some 30 minutes and perched ourselves at a dive point.
I was feeling a little queasy from the motion of the ocean, but passed it off.
We got the gear on and everyone jumped into the water and got ready for the descent in to the depths of the Ocean. For those of you who have been scuba diving there is no explanation needed.
But for those who haven’t then the best way to describe it is that it is like being able to breathe underwater! It is like being in an alien world. It truly is. It is one of the greatest adventures you can go on.
So we began the descent.
Breathing underwater is a fine thing. It is tricky though. As you descend you have to do it slowly and you need to release the pressure which forms inside your cranium, much like you need to do when you “pop” your ears after you take off in an aeroplane.
But this I could not do. I tried every little trick in the book to release the pressure and equalise, but I couldn’t do it. I spent 5/6 minutes bobbling between the surface and 5 metres deep, but as soon as I tried to go deeper the pain inside my skull became too intense, so I had to return to the surface and call it a day.
I got out of the water and put my gear back on the boat. I felt queasy, my head was throbbing and my eyeballs felt like they were going to pop out of my head. I sat down at the end of the boat and looked out at the different shades of ice blue, deep blue, royal blue and turquoise water and then I started to vomit.
Eggs. Enough eggs to feed the first battalion of the Honduran Army came flying out from my gullet. Bile and eggs hurtled from gut out into the gentle tropical ocean. I was feeling sick from getting sick and getting sick made me feel even sicker. The boat rocked gently sending my insides into a violent churning cement mix of mashed puke extravagance.
After ten minutes or so I calmed down.
Everything was out and the fish were having the time of their lives. Gourmet lunch for them.
I jumped back into the water to freshen my head and body and climbed back onto the boat.
By now the skipper of the boat had woken from his slumber under a canopy and was standing puffing on a very short and fat looking cigarette.
“Smoke mon?” he asked politely in the deepest Creole Caribbean accent.
“I don’t think I should man, I feel like shit…I mean…..I gave up and…..”
He gave me that quick one eyebrow quizzical twitch and held out the joint once more in my direction.
I looked around at the distant island, the beautiful Caribbean waters and smelt that sweet scent drifting down the boat. I mean, I could not have created a better scene with all my powers of imagination in which to have a joint.
The skipper passed it into my hands and I toked deeply.
It was a mix of local grass and Jamaican (8 times more expensive but so tasty apparently). It hit so many spots at once that my mind relaxed, my body forgot it was sick and my thoughts and that “other” part of my intellect woke up.
The skipper spoke about how he was descended from English and Irish and most of the locals wanted to be back under the rule of the Commonwealth and not the Hondurans and Spanish. Although he was white, he spoke in a deep accent which seemed a blend of Belfast, Bristol, Cockney, Shetlands, Cork, County Dublin, Welsh and New Orleans creole.
He spoke simply and easily about the problems with drug culture on the Island, while at the same time told me he’d introduce me to the local dealer for whatever else I wanted.
He talked about the history of the Island and how life was changing with so much tourism there now.
My head was light and my ideas minced with the rapid, vapid fleeting thoughts I held of humans being sponges and assimilating that which surrounds them. We copy whatever we see. We copy and we learn from what we copy. And as such is there ever any real authentic thought? I argued with myself about whether one could truly think of something original as it must surely have been thought of already, seeing as though one can only learn through mimicry and copy.
But I answered myself, no one else has ever contained your unique set of DNA coding and thought about those things with your set of perspectives. So surely this is unique and original thought…
The skipper was talking on about life and whale sharks and I looked around, my eyes feeling fuzzy, my lips dry.
I got an overwhelming sense to be back in the water so I excused myself and jumped back in with my snorkel.
I swam for about thirty metres and saw three weird looking fish. They looked like squid, but brown and only one big long snout. They stopped and held themselves floating in the water just a metre or two in front of me. They floated there and I floated where I was.
-Hello fishies, I burbled under the water.
One of them lifted his snout in response. He waggled it twice.
-What’s going on down here? Any sharks about or what?
He waggled his snout again. His mates were just floating there looking at him as if to say, what are you talking to the human for? He is probably gonna kill you and eat you. My buddy didn’t care though. He waggled his snout again as if to tell me that it was ok, that everything was gonna be ok.
-Thanks man, I gurgled into my snorkel, thanks a lot and I hope no one eats you today, or this week for that matter
We all sort of floated there for a while together…me, the fishies and the rest of the underwater world all one, bundled together in a moment of clarity and togetherness. A mammal/invertebrate aquatic oneness for moments fleeting, felt then passed.
I turned around and swam back to the boat and climbed aboard. Before myself and the skipper got to talking the group of divers arrived back from their dive. As my wife got out of the water she took a look at me and said,
-What happened your eyes…something looks strange about them.
Balls, I thought to myself. A few tokes and my eyes are blazoned red. So I told her what happened and she laughed.
-I don’t think that’s your problem
Turns out it wasn’t the grass, but that I had the blood sucked from my eyeballs when I was trying to equalise the pressure. The dive masters all had a good laugh as they saw my evil eye, a common occurrence amongst the idiots who can’t manage their face masks and the pressure and all that.
What a funny old day.