A drop in the ocean

Day 29 - Utila

Diving in the morning conceded to pure recreation in the afternoon and evenings (for us at least, the truly hardcore dove morning, noon and night). Time we filled with large amounts of nothing, only the metronomic swing of the hammock marked its steady progress. Après-scuba indeed. Faces became familiar, familiarity became friendship. Nicola and Tania monitored our diving progress with enthusiasm, each success toasted with the clink of glass. We became part of a little community where, even if everyone did not know your name, they certainly knew your aim and common ground was reclaimed from treacherous waves. Life outside the island was fond but faded remembrance, what did we lack but the means to exist here in perpetuity? How long could a person spend in this permissive utopia where not a policeman walked the streets and resplendent stars lulled you to sleep under a haze of slumbering cloud. All writing ceased and it is only now nearly a month since arriving that I relay these experiences to paper. I feel it a disservice to those times to omit anything at all from the account and a disservice to the reader to disregard eloquent concision. Hopefully I strike a middle ground between brevity and indulgent boredom.
But we were not divers yet, we had a foot in the door, a toe in the water, certification was pending however. The sea's ancient threat stood between us and our unexpected ambition. Okay so perhaps the only way you can fail the course is to drown but the six of us weren't home and dry at this point. The rigs were assembled, equipment checked and rechecked, the boat bounced by the dock like a dog eager for a walk. Our little launch's only possible water entry method was the classic backward roll. I pitched headfirst into unsighted unknown and after a somersault in the water found the surface. We spun into our rigs with increased ease and prepared to meet a bottom more than feet from our fins. Descent brought discomfort, each metre down a fresh pain to the ears. They squeaked and squabbled with the unyielding pressure outside, while I swallowed and pinched and wiggled and writhed. Eventually I dropped to 6 and 12 and the full 18 metres (54 feet for you pre-decimaliens) permitted by my basic training. The surface was near and yet unnervingly far, the sun's beams struggling through the liquid.
Languorous kicks propelled us through the water, silver saucers of carbon dioxide floated upwards trailing bubbles in their wake. We swam along sheer walls teeming with life, a tangled bank of Darwin's wildest imaginings. Eagle rays flapped close over cow and drumfish. Little tetra of a blazing orange and sultry purple mixed with parrotfish of pastel while barracuda leered from dingy caves. Breathing returned to unconscious pace, a slight inhale lifting while an exhale dropped. Deeper! my adventure urged, but that is not for now. All was in control in this most improbable of places, fear's business lay elsewhere. The twists and turns of travel had thrown up no greater surprise than this. Eighteen metres of water atop our heads meant we were certainly not in our element but those to whom it did belong shared it with tranquility. We shared beer and elation on our return, all had passed, all were scuba divers. Collective spirits were soaring, our certification all the sweeter for having achieved it together. The drink slipped down like iced nectar, the sea was our oyster, our fish and our crab. Talking of a dive afterwards, the things you all saw, the things that some missed! was almost as good as the dive itself. Truly we are social animals, our pleasures shared are pleasures magnified. The girls teased us with predictions of Dive Mastery before the year's end. A little fantastical perhaps, but only a little. I filled my logbook with every detail I could gather - air pressure, water temperatures and conditions, depths and times, sites and sights. The satisfying thud of the Dive Master's stamp an approval of our exponential progress and indisputable status. The best left turn I ever made.

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