Saturday, December 30, 2006

Xmas Day and My First Dive

Another gorgeous day

Okay after yesterday's bandwidth-thumping update I will try to be restrained today. Not through lack of photos available, mind! Decided to do a similar thing to yesterday, i.e. boat out in the bay. I was feeling slightly tender from the sun, so wasn't out on top with no sun cream!

Leaving pretty Paraty again..

Dito's first attempt at digital photography

The sturdy Lua Nova is once again commissioned

Santa would be somewhat warm in his gear if he makes it here

We go exploring caves

The other 100 are guarding the restaurant..

..which is allegedly through here somewhere

..and just past this..

Ah ha, found it!

The Restaurant Paixão Do Vivinho [GPS:23.21487S, 44.62627W] is rather tucked away, but is a nice spot for a cold beer. Or at least it would be if they had any! So caipirinha instead. I'll live!

Ikea are considering adopting the design. They would have to think up a silly name for it though. Like Pomstrůpper.

My First Dive (Mergolo)
Yay! Final full day in Paraty, and I was wondering what to do. The answer was provided in Nicole managing to get a place to do a "baptism" dive with one of the schools here. Did I want to do it? Of course! Not cheap, at $R 220, but I'm not really in a position to negotiate. Taxi to Port de Paraty, the other side of the bay from the historical centre, and on to the Adrenalino boat, with about 8 other people. It's a big and quite powerful boat, but doesn't hurry to our dive sites, which are around the islands and beaches I have visited the past few days. Here's the second site, which I didn't dive at, but it was close to my dive: [GPS: 23.18994S, 44.62328W]

My attempts to get up were foiled by the air tank being strapped to the wall

The laughing gas was self-administered

Action shot as I plunge in!

Underwater handshake between divers for a job well done

Surely the idea is to avoid having to use adrenaline through procedures and thesuchlike?

The sinister image being cultivated was ruined by bright yellow snorkel and armbands

Anyway, what did I see? Anenomies, football-sized starfish, coral, alive and dead, some looking like human brains sitting on the sea bed or rock, fish of a variety of sizes and colours, some camoflaged against the rocks and seaweedf, others bright yellow stripes and shimering light, including big shoals moving as one body, switchnig direction as one in an instant, and "clouds" of tiny baby fish drifting like coordinated plankton. Visibility was about 8 metres, which apparently is fairly good.

And what was it like? Initially really strange. I felt a bit apprehensive when gearing up, as I basically was being talked at in Portugese, including presumably those all-important safety instructions, and I of course wasn't understanding a word. I got "breathe normally okay". What a comprehensive briefing! Good job they'd explained what to do if things went wrong, gulp!

So, wetsuit on, and then a belt with heavy weights round my waist. I tried to explain that I already had a natural version of this deployed, but to no avail. Plus surely my somewhat "comprehensive" breakfast at the Pousada would also help in this regard? Next was jacket with all the dive gear - the gas canister at the back, two breathing mouthpieces (one "reserva" I was told after asking), a tube with two instrument dials at the end, and a tube with some control buttons. I wasn't to touch these. Then mask and snorkel, not that this was used at all. Ooh and flippers. Did the classic diving plunge off the boat, which was fun but for me worrying I wouldn't jump far enough and the canister would clip the boat, but all was well. There's also a slight suspicion that with all this gear you may sink instantly, but it all floats rather well.

So how does this breathing mouthpiece work? Not entirely sure, but you can blow into it and the air comes out via some sort of one way valve, and if you try to suck even slightly out of it, a blast of air comes from the tank. Somehow if water goes up the tube, i.e. if you leave it dangling in the water, it stops the air. Anyway, as a result of the slight suck required, and generally being nervous about the lack of oxygen, within seconds of being underwater I realised that I was only breathing in, and was filling up like a balloon. Thus a long exhale was required, but this then left me without enough oxygen, so a big inhale again, then the same problem! The instructor swam with me and was controlling my ascent and descent with the buttons on one of my tube. I think this was inflating a pouch with air in my jacket. Me not having control over my movement just made me worry more about the whole "breathing underwater" thing, making me breathe more, making things worse! This went on for a few minutes before I started to relax and get into it. Still very weird breathing "normally" underwater!

Also my goggles leaked slightly, so after a few minutes I had some water in my right eye. No problem. All you have to do is look up towards the surface, PULL YOUR MASK OPEN (!) and blow through your nose. Can you imagine how counter-intuitive it is to pull your mask off when you're several metres down underwater?! Takes some doing! Reminds me off running off the cliff in Nepal when paragliding. There are a lot of "rational" controls in the brain that advise against such behaviour! Still, it does work, I have to reluctantly confess! I guess the air rises up, and pushes the water out of the bottom. Still...

I must confess I've always been suspicious of diving. It seemed to me that there is too much involved - lots of gear, wetsuits, heavy canisters, reliance on people to fill these up for you, need to have other people with you. I've always snorkelled, which in the right place is wonderful. I think the most abundant sea-life I've seen was in Redang in Malaysia with Chucky, where it was almost intimidating to have thousands of fish of all colours and sizes circling you, as interested in what you are as you them. It's great being able to just pop a mask and flippers on and swim straight off beaches or boats. So until now, no diving. However, after my first dive, I must say that there is something magical about the tranquillity of being deep underwater, pottering about as you desire (not that I could do this, I was being yanked about by the instructor). I would definitely like to do the PADI certification so I can dive more. Perhaps in the Pacific or Australia.

Leaving Paraty
Following morning, final breakfast, good-byes to all at Pousada Arte Colonial, and postcards sent. Printed out a couple of photos for Dito, our boatman, and found him waiting for customers at the marina. He seemed happy with the shots. It's something that if you have time, is really appreciated all over the world. I haven't often printed shots, but whenever I have (Peru, Nepal), the recipients are so happy. If you're travelling, do it :)

The gang - Nicole, the shy Mariam, Patrick, and Barbara

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sam, We know your father well and he gave me, all your travel details! I am nearly 85 but have just acquired a laptop but not very knowledgable about it yet. I am Bill Simpson's mother so have known your father and paternal grandma for many years as we now live in our flat in Padstow. I will now browse through all the rest of your blog - whatever that may mean! It's so interesting. Margaret Nye.