Under the Sea

“We got no troubles, life is the bubbles, under the sea…”

Hello again my Dear Reader,

When we last spoke, I was packing my back for my Passover break and setting off to Cairns and the Gold Coast. I am now unfortunately back Melbourne sitting in the closet that UniLodge has the stones to call a bedroom and trying to avoid the reality of school by typing this post and planning my next adventure. Not to have a repeat of when I first got here, I am determined to catch up my Recollections before I leave for my next trip. I left Melbourne on Thursday morning. Matt had gotten up insanely early to catch his flight to Sydney to meet his dad so I wolfed down some yogurt before slinging the backpack over my shoulder and locking the apartment up. It was a weird feeling to actually close my bedroom door as I rarely ever do so since it is just Matt and I in the apartment. However as soon as the door closed to 322, I felt the excitement start to grab hold of me. It had been too long since I had left on the Glenferrie to Southern Cross to Tullarmarine trek and I was so extremely anxious to finally be leaving. You would think that with all the tourists and international students that Melbourne has that people would get used to seeing individuals walking around train stations looking like they are about to go summit Mt. Cook but as always I was the recipient of half of Metlink’s customer’s stares that morning. Fuck ’em. The trip to the airport was uneventful and while the $28 return shuttle always hurts a bit when you buy it all you have to do is think about your final destination and it seems worth it. Before I knew it I was in the air on my way to Brisbane. I am always amazed at how quickly layovers seem to go. Mine was about an hour and a half in Brisbane but it felt like I was there for mere minutes. Granted I wasn’t stuck with a 12 hour layover and had a great book to pass the time but I was pleasantly surprised when my plane was announced as boarding. I shot a quick text to a few friends I knew were already in Cairns to let them know I was close and took my exit-row seat for the second time that day. The flight was short, we had hardly reached cruising altitude before beginning our descent, and after picking my backpack up from baggage claim I waited in the glorious late-afternoon Cairns sun for the shuttle that would take me to my hostel, Gilligan’s backpackers.

Gilligan’s is easily the nicest hostel I have come across in my travels. The place was absolutely massive with the facilities of a hotel and rooms that could easily pass as hotel-worthy if not for the four bunk beds they had shoved into each one. My room had a private bathroom (unheard of in the hostel world) and a balcony that overlooked the pool and bar. Sweet as. When I stumbled through the door a few of my roommates were already in the room and I was immediately struck with how friendly they were. Not to say that people in the other hostels I had stayed in weren’t friendly but these people completely dropped their conversation to begin a new one with me. It was really quite awesome. I unpacked and made my bed when some more of my new roomies came through the door. I took my leave though so that I could meet up with Cody, Quintin, Meagan, and Rachael who had arrived in Cairns the day before me. I met up with them in the Maccas along the Esplanade and from there we went to Woolworth’s to find food. It had been brought to my attention that the following day was Good Friday and I was told that almost the entire city shut down during this day so that it would be nearly impossible for me to find food unless I bought it that night. Hello, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I managed to grab the last half-loaf of bread in the entire Woolworth’s store and it was very obvious that the holiday backpackers that had taken over Cairns were in a panic over the possibility of going a day without food. The five of us decided that a barbecue would be a fun dinner to have the next night so we got all the fixings for that as well. But you aren’t a backpacker or self respecting man if you don’t have beer with a barbecue so we wandered around Cairns for a few blocks before we found a bottle shop. I parted ways with the other four since we were staying in different hostels and returned to Gilligan’s to shower and cash in on the free meal hostel guests got in the bar. I asked for a few reviews on the meal before diving in and the unanimous decision was to upgrade to the fish and chips for $4 or else I would be stuck with a plate of rice and meat that could make Taco Bell pass as a five star restaurant. I wasn’t going to try and prove the reviews wrong. The gang came over to Gilligan’s right about when I had finished my dinner so we all grabbed some 2-for-1 drinks and a booth for a few minutes. They all had a free meal at another restaurant though so we left Gilligan’s and headed down the street to the Woolshed, another popular bar and the home to a sweet as plate of nachos. Natalia, Colleen, and Nicklaus (more Swinburne students) were there  so we joined them for a drink before going back to Gilligan’s in search of another 2-for-1 drink special. It never returned though so we simply called it a night. When I got back to the room there was very little that could have kept me awake, not even the club music blaring just below the balcony. I was out.

 we be grillin’ yo.

I am going to take a moment to introduce you to the people who I met on the boat now. Mikael, a backpacker from Denmark, who would be my cabinmate and dive buddy. Chris and Jess, a couple from Melbourne who I would hang out with a lot the next few days. Michelle, recently moved to Canberra. Dafna, an Israeli dive instructor who is hilarious. Katie, a student who is finishing her studies in Australia. Tess, a Dutch girl studying English in Australia. Anna and Chris, a German couple who provided some great comic relief throughout the trip. James and Charleen, a couple who would share I would share my late night trips to the top deck with and many a laugh. Sam and Raph, my two dive instructors for the trip. Ben, the ‘safety guy’ on the boat. Alli from the Galley, the cook on the boat. And so many other people, too many to name!

The next morning came early, but what morning doesn’t? I grabbed some jelly sandwiches for breakfast, packed up the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples that would be my lunch, and threw on my boardies to get out the door by 7:30. I was nervous and not quite sure what to expect from the ProDive experience but one thing I definitely wasn’t prepared for was their shop and training facility to be two different places. The shop was 100 meters away from Gilligan’s and I had seen it while we were walking around the city the night before. Upon my arrival though I was soon realized that it would be impossible for me to start my class at 8am if the shop didn’t open until 9am. The questions of the Universe are never ending. I began a semi-frantic search around Cairns for the training facility, ducking into every cafe and convenience store in search of directions. Every person I approached looked at me like I was on crack except for one sweet lady selling cinnamon rolls from behind a counter. She pointed me in the right direction and even called me dear. What a sweetheart. The place was about three blocks away and I still got there before 8am but when I walked through the door I was informed that I didn’t have to be there until 8:30am but I was more than welcome to tea and biscuits. By biscuits they meant chocolate chip cookies so I was quite content for the half hour I was waiting. It is funny to think about everyone walking into the classroom that first time as perfect strangers since we all grew so close, but I took my seat in the classroom and watched as the rest of the group trickled in with their steaming styrofoam cups and crumbling cookies. Our trainer, Sam, joined us shortly after that and jumped straight into the course. Armed with caffeine and booklets, he clicked a few buttons and let us watch instructional videos for 4 hours only interrupting in 15 minute intervals to clarify the video and allow us to fill out the quizes on the back of our certification pamphlet. Around noon we were released for lunch and our diving physical. It is quite difficult to answer a busy nurse’s questions with peanut butter still sticking to the roof of your mouth but I guess I had all the right answers because I passed. Also found out I have a resting heartbeat of 58 beats a minute. I can fux wyt dat. After popping my ears for the doctor and reassuring her this wasn’t an elaborate plan to kill myself, I was granted physical clearance to dive. Just one step closer. We ended up losing one of the group members in this process but once it was all over they immediately threw us in a pool for the swim test. Slipping in the bathtub is more of a swim test than the one they gave us. We were allowed to use a mask and snorkel for the lap part of the test and 10 minutes of treading water is only uncomfortable if you are holding back a fart the entire time. And even then its only a mildly uncomfortable experience. We took turns holding the snorkel while we treaded water and introduced ourselves, where we were from, and why we were taking this course as our long plastic mic made its rounds. Before the swim test the group had been split in two to make it easier on the instructors and I was placed with a new instructor named Raph. From here on our Raph was my man. When our swim test was over Raph went through the basic steps of setting up the scuba equipment. It was simple enough but even on the last dive of the trip I was shaking my head at myself for missing tiny parts here and there. Not one to waste time, Raph had us geared up and in the pool moments later to begin the teaching us about dive techniques and such. I was paired with Mikael, a backpacker from Denmark, as my dive buddy. The other members of our group were Chris and Jess (a couple from Melbourne), Michelle and Kat, and Anna and Chris (a couple from Germany). We would get to know each other pretty well by the time this was all through. To be completely honest, I forget what all we did on which day but we learned a plethora of things including how to clear our mask of any water (just tilt your head up, press gently on the upper frame of your mask, and exhale through your nose) and locate our regulator (the thing we breathe out of) should we lose it. We also practiced buoyancy and continued breathing techniques (blowing bubbles to make sure you never hold your breath and blow up your lungs). The pool is about 4 meters deep at ProDive so we practiced descending and ascending for awhile, too. When the class was over we all piled into the shuttle and got dropped off at our respective accommodation still more or less strangers. I joined up with Cody and the rest of the gang for the barbecue for some much needed relaxing. I had just spent more time in a classroom in a day on break than I do in a whole week during class so a beer was just what I needed. We barbecued in the park next to the Lagoon, which is just one big swimming pool along the shore, and stuffed ourselves with snags and chips and beer. Yumm. It was then decided that going for a swim would be a good idea so we jumped in for a little while before the need for sleep hit all of us like a ton of bricks. Sleep would have to wait for me though for when I returned to my room all of my roommates were sitting on the balcony with cases of goon and bottles of beer scattered amongst them. Hell, I can sleep when I’m dead. I stayed up and talked with them for a few hours before finally giving in to slumber.

 the ProDive training centre

It is pretty much a safe bet that every time I start a new day, I am going to say that the morning came too early. So I might as well stop saying it, right? It’s almost like saying “Hey” and “What’s up?” because it happens so often with the exact same outcome that people should just stop saying it altogether and get to the fuckin’ point. Ah, my point. Right. The shuttle picked me up this morning and I once again got to experience Raph’s crazy driving. Nothing like a trip in a speeding maxi-van to wake you up in the morning. Chocolate cookies were once again my hot date for class but instead of the boring videos we got a briefing on all the different types of dive equipment there were and then got to go straight into the pool to try some of it on. It was pretty cool because we just got to snorkel around trying on different masks and flippers while attempting to free dive down to the bottom of the pool with good technique. After that we strapped on the BCDs and tanks for awhile to practice more technique and just get us more comfortable in the water. After this we took a vote on where to go for lunch which turned out to be an all-you-can-fit-into-a-plastic-box Chinese place that was actually quite good. Damn Gilligan’s fridge ate mine before I could eat the rest of it though. After lunch we stopped to get some gelato before heading to the store where we were assaulted with one of the best designed and operated business strategies I have ever come across. The first day of class we were given basic rental equipment that we would of course associate with the awkwardness and uncomfortableness that comes with diving for the first time. The second day we were given top end equipment to try on armed with a new sense of confidence that came with some (albeit little) knowledge and experience from the day before. And then BAM! we were standing in front of a wall of nice new top end equipment ready for purchase. It worked and I ended up walking away with my own snorkel gear which I am actually incredibly excited about because there will be lots of opportunities for me to use it the rest of my time in Australia. Oh by the way Mom and Dad, I bought snorkel gear. Our shopping itch scratched, we were put back into the classroom to watch the final two videos and take the exam. When the exam was over, we were free to go. I walked back to Gilligan’s and did some packing before I met up with Alex and Angela, some friends from Melbourne, who had just arrived in Cairns. I hung out in their room for a few minutes before returning to my room to relax, finish packing, and catch up on sleep. So much for sleeping when I’m dead.

 sunset over the Great Barrier Reef on my first night on the boat

When 5:30am rolled around though I was really glad I had stayed in that night. I staggered out of bed and may as well have been drunk on sleepiness. I gathered my things as silently as I could and by the time I was downstairs checking out I was gripped with excitement that I couldn’t even be bothered to think about closing my eyes in fear of missing something. Kind of reminded me of New Zealand and those long bus rides. This time we were supposed to go the shop so I opted out of the shuttle and walked the short block from Gilligan’s. I could tell I wasn’t the only one fighting off the excitement. I dropped my backpack in a storage closet in the back of the store, shrugged into my book bag, and waited impatiently for everyone to check in. I was surprised at how many divers who hadn’t been in the class were coming on the boat with us. All told there were 32 people going out on the boat. I caught the crazy-Raph shuttle to the docks where I caught my first glimpse of my home for the next 72 hours, ScubaPro. We hopped onboard, were assigned cabins and safety numbers, and given the run-down on life aboard ScubaPro while the crew was preparing for departure. I was bunked with Mikael and we did a bit of moving in until we felt the ship begin to move. Then it was a bum rush to the sun deck to make sure you got all the best views. The view soon took a backseat for many passengers of the boat as they were preoccupied with trying to keep breakfast from exploding into the conveniently placed brown bags throughout the boat. The initially crowded top deck was soon vacated as almost everyone searched for low, middle ground in an effort to limit their spewage. I was thankfully not one of the passengers stricken by this sea sickness and this was when I met Dafna, an Israeli who is a certified scuba instructor. We chatted it up with the occasional peak down below to see what the damage was. Between the random auditory signs and trips to the water fountain to fill water bottles by those who remained immune to the illness below, I came to the consensus that it was bad. Very bad. It was never-ending, too. Not until the boat had arrived at the first dive site and anchored did people finally begin to show signs of life again but even then there were those who would be queasy for the entire trip. To make sure none of us got ahead of ourselves in our estimation of personal diving prowess, we were immediately slapped with an extensive dive preview by Raph followed by a highly supervised equipment set up. The lycra suit that they gave us to protect from jellyfish was absolutely freezing and still cold from the wash basins when we went to put it on. You didn’t really have time to be self conscious about how you looked in it but since everyone was wearing it you also couldn’t feel too embarrassed. If everyone looks ridiculous, then no one does. Now that we all looked like singed smurfs in spandex, it was time for the weight belts. I got a pretty neon green one with 4.5 kilograms of weight strapped on. There is no convenient or elegant way to go about this process but if you didn’t break a toe in the process it was deemed a success. Up next was the BCD, which is the vest that your tank, regulators, and whatnot are all attached to. Tank strapped level with the handle, first stage screwed in, emergency sausage clipped on, air on, 200 bar, and octopus strapped in. Good to go! Once the BCD was on we would do a buddy check to make sure everyone’s equipment worked properly. Our group was the last one ready on almost every dive so after we watched the other groups jump in we walked single file to the dive deck where we were signed into the water, washed our masks out (the greener the cleaner!), and took turns stepping our one giant step into the Big Blue. It was fantastic. Just floating on the surface, chin shoved into your chest to see into the water, eyes darting in twenty directions at once was such a thrilling experience. The first dives we did were pretty elementary, which was to be expected. Our descent was guided by the ropes that the boat was anchored to. The line was actually really cool. On the ocean floor were a set of four massive concrete blocks that were permanent residents of the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching up from these blocks was a rope upon which a ring and buoy were attached to. The boat would throw a second v-line into the water with a hook on its end. Hook + ring + massive concrete blocks = really cool area to explore. The rope itself was interesting, covered in algae that attracted many fish looking for a meal. We still saw a lot of cool things but these dives would be spent repeating all the techniques we learned in the pool but this time 10 meters deep in saltwater. Flooding the mask was easily the least popular of these activities. Contacts made this one especially uncomfortable. Raph took us on a brief guided tour of the reef afterwards and once we surfaced we practiced various surface rescue techniques before leaving the water. One thing that ProDive got right was the food on board. Sam had told us that we wouldn’t need to bring any sort of snacks with us and he was absolutely right. Every time we got out of the water some sort of food was waiting for us and there was all you can eat biscuits and fruit. It was glorious. The food was really good too! After lunch we had our second dive debrief and went through the same process of assembling, checking, and putting on the gear. Actually almost all of the certification dives were similar and only varied in the one or two tasks that we did on the ocean floor before going on the brief tour of the reef. That dive was our last of the day so we dissembled all of our gear and I threw my six pack in the fridge for that night. Even though we were done diving, they still let all of us back in the water to snorkel in the afternoon. This was a lot of fun. You have so much more freedom with snorkeling than you do with scuba diving. You may be limited by how long you can hold your breath but you move much more quickly without all that equipment on you. I also really enjoy free diving so this was my chance to enjoy that while trying to see as much as possible. When we climbed back out of the water it was dinner time! After dinner was over we got a bit of a show when the scraps were thrown into the water. Fish were everywhere and a shark even surfaced to see what all the commotion was about. I watched as the certified divers got ready for their night dive and was almost glad I wasn’t able to go because it would have been freezing. Once everyone was back out of the water we all crowded into the lounge area to hang out. A deck of cards surfaced eventually and I spent a few hours playing various games with people. Bedtime was early for most and it wasn’t too long before there were only a handfull of us left but even we called it a night around 1am. I had an awful sleep though because our cabin was a sauna so the 6:45am wakeup call came way, way too early.

 The cabin that I split with Mikael on the boat.

Even though I was slightly stunned when the wakeup call first came, I was so excited about getting back into the water that by the time I hit the dive deck I was wide awake. Today we got a little bit more freedom in the water. Instead of using the ropes to descend we did a free descent, letting air out of our BCDs to make us sink to the bottom where we once again got on our knees to practice dive skills. We did a little bit of compass work where we followed a bearing for a certain distance than returned to our starting location but that was really easy. “We only have one dive left until we are certified!” That was all I could think about when I climbed out of the water after the morning dive. It was hard to believe that it was already the fourth day of my trip but I was really excited to finish the class and go out by ourselves. The second dive of the day was great except for the fact that we had to completely take our mask off, put it back on, and clear it. No fun. Raph also issued a challenge for us; to descend to exactly 16 meters. No more and no less. If you went below or not deep enough than you would be punished and if you succeeded your reward was to not get punished. I managed to do the 16 meters exactly and the rest of the group did too but Chris got a bit carried away and went too deep. When he showed me his guage I flooded my mask on accident because I started to laugh. Lesson learned. When we came out of the water we were officially certified as Open Water divers! Hooray! We did a little ceremony where we got our cards and then were almost immediately sent up to the top deck for the third dive’s briefing. I was lost as soon as Ben started talking. Chris joined up with Mikael and I for this dive so we went downstairs, threw on the gear, and jumped in the water. It was a really weird feeling being alone down there. It was exciting, but to not have a professional who dives the reef every week down there with you was a bit freaky. I spent most of the dive staring at my gauge worrying about how much air I had left and staring at my compass trying to figure out where the fuck we were. On land, the briefing described all sorts of coral formations but in the water they all look exactly the same. At least to me they did. This meant that the three of us soon had absolutely no idea where we were or where we were going. I can’t say that I was all that surprised that it happened and looking back on it its pretty funny to think about, but in the moment it was a tiny bit distressing. We followed a bearing up into the shallows and without even realizing it basically surfaced (this isn’t good). I was really bad at not realizing that the ocean floor is anything but flat and that even if you were following the floor you would still be descending/ascending as you went. Today we ascended and before I knew it I saw Mikael’s tank out of the water and I could have lifted my hand above the surface easily. We surfaced, signed that we were okay to the boat, and talked over what we were going to do next. Everything but our orientation was fine so we descended back down with a pledge to be extra conscious of our depth this time. We headed back through the shallowed parallel to the boat for awhile before we once again were lost (the fishes were so pretty… we couldn’t resist the urge to follow them). We did a second surface, signed to the boat, and came across Jess who had been out snorkeling. She told us that she thought she had seen a shark so we immediately went back down in search of it. We did indeed see a shark but we also saw TURTLES! Up close and personal, too. One was busy munching on coral and really couldn’t be bothered with us and the other was just swimming along not giving two fucks about anything else in this world. We found our way back to the mooring line and did our third and final ascent of the dive. Once we had signed out of the water and put our equipment up, Sam approached us about the Adventure certification that we could do now that we were Open Water divers. The Adventure would let us dive to 30 meteres as opposed to 18 meters with Open Water and only consisted of three extra dives; a night dive (which we could do anyways), a deep dive to 30 meters, and an optional specialty dive. I said I was definitely interested and after our snack Sam sat all the Adventure diver wannabes down and went over some of the difference between Adventure and Open Water. He talked about nitrogen narcosis, which is where you basically become drunk as your body begins to take in too much nitrogen and also about some of the safety procedures that come with deeper(er) diving. We got a little time to enjoy the sun after the meeting before dinner and then we suited up for the night dive. But as always a dive briefing had to come first. Since we were in the Adventure course this counted as a certification dive so I was once again in the lounge with Sam, whose twisted sense of humor really made its presence known. It was all well and good at the start, he was just talking about the glow sticks and flashlights (NOT a torch) we would have and the different signals we would use once we were in the water. Then the topic of sharks came up and his speech went something like this…

“Now guys, since we are so close to the Continental Shelf we do get a lot of different tropical fish in these waters. This means we get a lot of sharks. I know you have seen the black and white tipped reefers but at night the reef can attract some different species. If you see this, *holds flashlights close together* it is your dive instructor so pull your lights away. If you see this, *holds flashlights a few inches apart* it is a stingray laying the sand. If you see this *holds flashlights half a foot apart* it is a reef shark. If you see this *holds flashlights a meter apart* it is a bull shark. If you see this, *holds flashlights AS FAR APART AS POSSIBLE* it is a tiger shark, which is one of the most aggressive sharks in the world. Now, if you see this *holds flashlights AS FAR APART AS POSSIBLE* then I need you to immediately signal to me and we will form the Iron Circle, where we will all face inwards in a circle, link arms and not give the shark anything but our tanks to touch. Sharks always will rub up against their prey before they attack it and will normally do so two or three times before going in for the  kill, so if we can form the iron circle fast enough they will not attack us because they will only feel our tanks. If we can’t form the Iron Circle though and you feel or see your dive buddy move suddenly once or twice you need to *pounds table with his fist and starts screaming* SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE THEY ARE ALREADY DEAD!”

Holy shit I was terrified. Looking back on it now, we all should have been smart enough to know he was completely fucking with us but his seamless transition made it almost impossible to detect when exactly he started to bullshit us. No one had to change their pants but it definitely took a moment or two for the heartbeats in the room to slow down. While he was telling that story you could have heard a mouse squeak or a pin drop, but you wouldn’t have had the chance because even the mouse was sitting in wide-eyed fear and no one would dare drop a pin in case it was enough to attract the shark that was going to kill your dive buddy. You don’t want that on your conscience. Once Sam reassured us that there would be no Iron Circle-ing he sent us out to the dive deck to get ready. I was so excited. Not even the cold suit and shark stories could keep me out of the water. Jeff was going to be our guide for the night so when we were all ready we followed him into the water. It was eery. The water was almost pitch black but we could see the lights of some of the dive groups who had already begun their descent. We swam to the mooring and followed the ropes down to the blocks where Jeff gave us a bearing we had to follow, go a certain distance, and then come back. It wasn’t hard at all but definitely was a freaky feeling leaving that circle of light everyone’s lights provided. The tour began after that and it was so amazing. Sam had told us that the predators in the reef were actually very smart and that we shouldn’t be surprised if a fish suddenly disappears in a puff of sand once we shine our flashlight on us. This only happened to me once and I admit I felt a bit guilty afterwards. At least it wasn’t Nemo. Jeff took us to see Brian, a massive turtle who always goes to sleep underneath the same coral ledge. He was about the size of two picnic tables and the crew told us he has a tail almost a meter long. After that we did what Jeff called a blackout, where we all pressed our flashlights into our chest and swam in the complete darkness. It wasn’t total darkness since we still had our glow sticks on our tanks but it was pretty damn close. This was easily the coolest and freakiest part of the dive. You could see fluorescent algae that would light up as people kicked through the water. With each little kick of a fin you could see an arch of tiny little lights. I was actually really impressed with how much I could see. Don’t get me wrong, it was almost pitch black but once your eyes adjusted to it you could begin to see the outlines of coral, divers, and who knows what else. That was the freaky part, not knowing exactly what it was that you saw in the dark. The dive ended shortly after we brought our flashlights from our chest and I was impressed that Jeff knew the reef so well he had guided us back to the concrete blocks without any aid of artificial light. When we climbed out it was absolutely freezing. The water was easily warmer than the air and the wind cut right through that suit. Couldn’t get my gear off fast enough. Now that everyone was back on the boat, it was time for Ben’s game he had been talking about all day. The whole boat gathered into the lounge and none of us were prepared for what happened next. At first it was all clean humor consisting of taking a broom from behind your head, under your legs, over your shoulders… I forget the exact order but it was something I could not do. A few rounds of random goldfish facts, some pictionary, emergency sausage assembly, and the good ‘ol Ocean facts were thrown in there as well. Dafna managed to argue or cheat on almost every question and this would continue through the whole night. Things started to get interesting when the snorkel and toilet paper rolls were brought out. With a mask covered by tape a person had to stick the snorkel between their legs from behind and then be vocally guided by their partner to the toilet paper roll they were holding. Crude humor at its finest. But nothing could come anywhere close to the card game. Don’t ever touch the deck of Uno cards on the ProDive boat. The name of the game was Suck and Blow and the idea was that one person had to suck a card to the face and pass it to the person next to them without dropping it. This involved a process of the second person beginning to suck while the first person began to blow and so on and so forth. Not only did we not begin in a boy-girl-boy-girl assembly we also played elimination which meant that you were inevitably going to get that awkward moment. I was quickly eliminated (I guess my heart just wasn’t in it) but was glad to be a bystander as the game quickly went downhill. The card always fell at precisely the perfect (or wrong, depending on how looked at it) moment to make the game absolutely hysterical. But what happens on the boat stays on the boat, so I won’t go into any more details.

The next morning was brutal. We had all stayed up just a little too late, may or may not have drank just a little too much, and we were in the water by 6:30am (and I thought the 6:45am wake up was bad!). This was going to be our deep dive for the Adventure divers. We swam out to a coral wall that we used to help our descent and then followed Sam down to the ocean floor a full 30 meters underwater. We played the 7 game where Sam held up a number and you had to hold up the number that would add up to seven. This was his way of determining if anyone was going through narcosis, which no one was. We watched our gauges for awhile and then set off to explore the reef. This was easily the coolest dive we went on the entire trip. Sharks, stingrays, a turtle, clownfish, a school of bumpheads, and countless other things plus the reef itself was the brightest and most beautiful I had seen the entire trip. Definitely worth getting up for. When we got out of the water we had about an hour and a half to get out of our suits, dry off, eat breakfast, clean our dishes, put our suits back on, and jump back into the water. We also had a dive debrief in there somewhere. This was going to be our specialty dive for the Adventure certification. I chose to do photography and rented a camera to use since my camera is only 10 meter approved and we would be going deeper than that. I jumped in and soon realized why they don’t let you take a camera on your certification dives for Open Water. I was nearly oblivious to everything that was going on around me. I lived my dive through the camera screen which resulted in some great pictures but I wish I had been better about putting the camera down and just enjoying the dive. I also noticed I ran through my air a lot more quickly than I had before since I was concentrating on the camera instead of my form and breathing. Sam guided us around the other side of the reef and I was bummed that I didn’t get to see any sharks or turtles to take pictures of. I got lots of pictures with Nemo and some really great ones of the other divers, though. After this second dive we were officially Adventure divers! We didn’t have much time to celebrate though. I was barely out of my suit and dry before Sam sat us back down to explain the reef to us and let us loose for one final dive. I managed to get a camera for this dive as well so Mikael, Chris, and I set out in hopes of not getting so hopelessly lost like we did the day before. It worked out pretty well, although I did accidentally descend a bit too far. Oops. I got some great pictures but unfortunately it died a little over halfway through the dive. Managed to get one of a black tip that was swimming past us though so that was sweet. When we got out of the water for the final time we were met with the cleaning crew. Hang up your lyrca here, dump your BCD here, wash your snorkel here, and strap your tank up there. Yes, sir! It was bittersweet to go down into the cabin and pack everything up. I didn’t want to go but was excited about the next part of my trip in the Gold Coast. A lot of people armed themselves with sea sickness medicine for the ride back in so it was a much more enjoyable trip than the ride out. I got some snooze time in on the top deck but was rudely interrupted multiple times by ‘rain.’ Jerks. Ben told us that there would be drinks at the Rattle and Hum along the Esplanade at 7:30pm so that gave us about 4 hours to do with what we pleased once we got back to Cairns. I checked back into Gilligan’s and ended up sharing a room with Anna and Chris by complete chance. I suffered quite heavily from land legs though and found myself a bit wobbly for a good two days. I did some souvenir shopping and got my bags ready for the flight to the Gold Coast the next day and then met up with Anna, Chris, Mikael, and Kat to head over to the bar. We were some of the first ones there so we grabbed drinks, ordered some food, and just sat around talking about our favorite part of the trip and where we were all traveling to next. Slowly but surely almost everyone from the trip made it and as our table grew more food and drinks were passed around. It was great fun. The Rattle and Hum scene wasn’t good enough for Sam and Raph though so they gathered us all up and took us to the one and only Gilligan’s. It would be an easy stumble home. Just kidding, Mom. We ended up not going in because a few people didn’t have their international ID on them so we walked back through town to the Woolshed. The rest is history. Lets just say that if you go to the Woolshed and don’t dance on the tables, its a disappointing night. No one is really quite sure how things happened that night but all we know is it involved shaking hands, bottles of Carlton, and lots of techno music.

The next morning was a good morning. I had to check out by 10am but so did Chris and Anna so we all went down together. We ran into Kat in the lobby who told us about her night and then Jeff walked in so we said hi to him. We let those two go off on their own and the three of us walked down the street to a little coffee stand, threw our packs down, and ordered some high quality caffeine. A ten minute coffee stop turned into a three hour conversation but thats what happens when the company is great, the conversation is good, and the sky can’t make up its mind on whether it wants to rain or not. We talked about everything in those three hours; from tv shows and food to books and traveling plans. The only thing that stopped the conversation was my shuttle to the airport so I packed my bags up, said my farewells, and walked back to Gilligan’s to catch the bus. Not two seconds after I had climbed onto the bus did Cody, Quintin, Meagan, and Rachael walk in right after me. We hadn’t really discussed departure details with each other so we were all surprised. When we got to the airport we were treated to another surprise when we realized that all of us were leaving on the same flight to Townsville. Unfortunately we were scattered about the plane but it meant we got to share our pre-departure waiting time together. I ran into Chris and Jess on my to get Hungry Jack’s so I caught up with them for a little bit before returning to my chicken nuggets and french fries. The flight to Townsville was short and uneventful. I was actually taking the same plane to the Gold Coast so I said goodbye to the group and walked right back onto the plane I had just walked off of. Two hours later I walked out into the early evening of the Gold Coast, Australia.

_______

So, that’s my Cairns experience. It was really a fantastic time and I am so excited about the opportunity to continue diving while I am here in Australia. I even have some awesome new dive buddies, too! The update on the Gold Coast will have to wait for a day or two, I have this thing called school and laundry that need my immediate attention. Love and miss you all, talk to you soon!

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