It’s 5am… and although I went to bed at about 9pm, I’m tired after a reasonably uncomfortable night’s sleep on a thin mattress and a few inches between my face and the ceiling. I’ve never really been a morning person but I have a feeling that this will change in the course of the next couple of months.
I have an hour to lie and contemplate the previous day’s experience and enjoy the microcosm of personal space that this hour before the engines and generator start, and the official “wakey wakey” is announced. For the first few days I was sharing a very small cabin with an Egyptian (coincidentally, and the second Egyptian I’ve met ever while traveling. The first having been the night before..!). The latter few days the same small space was occupied by myself, an Aussie woman (a Physical Education teacher), and a very quiet Canadian guy (a nurse who’d only just finished his open water course). The rest of the divers ranged from journalists, designers, a pro soccer player, financiers, a neuropathologist… amongst others.
At the beginning I managed to get up earlier than the first call but later in the trip I was getting really tired and only managed to drag my ass up on deck after the lights went on… As I climbed up from inside the hull of the boat I was generally greeted by a beautiful sunny sky, and less than sunny expressions on the divers faces. Given that the instructors and crew had a good 40mins head start on the day from us we were usually greeted warmly and invited for hot drinks and cereal.
It took me a few days to get into the rhythm of taking a motion sickness pill, making sure the battery on my camera was changed, unplugging the various bits I needed to charge overnight, and change into my swim shorts. Yes, at this time of the day 30 minutes is just not enough…
After the dive briefing we all pulled and struggled into our semi-dry wetsuits, which was all very entertaining to watch if I was in that kind of mood… which I wasn’t… Then it was on to the skiff, dive boat, or getting ready to leap off the side of the liveaboard. Some days had a little extra time as we sailed off to another mooring. Thankfully the ocean behaved, with little or no swell. A godsend by all accounts as I was dreading being on a boat for several days with anything more than a gentle bobbing motion.
A normal day consisted of either 3 or 4 dives (the additional one being a night dive). The first usually started around 7am… I think on some occasions even the fish thought this was too early. Perhaps it was just the notoriously strong currents of the Komodo National Park (news to me…!!) that kept them low and hiding in the corals. There was a couple of occasions that these currents were rather scary… but other than that they were not as much of an issue but certainly made for the addition of some skills I hadn’t had before.
After the first dive of the day we had Big Breakfast, a more hearty cooked breakfast with fruit, with only a short time to rinse, dry off, and get ready for the next dive. Of course this is when I used my coffee addition fuelling and essentially life saving Wacaco “Minipresso” which was the envy of all (including some Italians in all their espresso elitism). An hour or so later we were ready for the next dive of the day… followed by lunch… followed by yet another dive and then dinner… on the occasion that we did a night dive dinner followed that, a good 13 hours after waking up.
So our schedule pretty much consisted of sleeping, eating, and diving… it was amazing!
In the evenings we sat around and talked about the dives, what we’d seen, and writing down the details of the day in our logbooks… with the odd beer thrown in (although some more than others…).
I think the one thing that I was worried about most (not having any space and that the other people would be weird and not really my type of folk) was totally unfounded. I think I pictured some kind of party boat with people up to all hours and loud obnoxious music. In fact, I couldn’t have met a nicer bunch on the last few days. Everyone was chatty, friendly, interesting and was just there to relax and enjoy the diving.
As I left the boat on the last day, arranging to meet many of my new found acquaintances for dinner, it brought back memories of years gone by when I regularly made great friends all the time and reminded me of how connected we can easily become with the world around us, even if only superficially. That those brief shared experiences bring people from all over to create a euphoria that pulls like minds together, even for a moment, to find common understandings and passions that give us a sense of a greater belonging, widened vision, and protect us from insular isolating thoughts and behaviour.
After dinner I remembered why travelling, or at least meeting new people, produces such a addictive sense of connection, or maybe it was beer…