Monday, February 27, 2017

Learning to Dive 1/9/17-1/13/17

So this story goes back two years.  I actually came to Cairns once before and had planned on finishing my scuba dive certification.  My dad told me he had signed me up for the open water half of the scuba certification and that I had to do the first half before hand.  So on short notice I booked a private instructor and expedited everything.  Cost me wayyyyy too much.  Unfortunately my dad had no idea what he was talking about and I was on an intro dive trip that was completely separate from the certification process.  We were going to do up to 5 dives, live on a boat for a couple days and none of it would count to my certification.  It wasn't all lost everybody else in the intro group bailed after 4 dives and on the 5th my instructor who had learned this earlier in the day just took me on a dive and let me manage myself (intro dives the dive master actually does everything for you, you can't even touch your own gear).  That last dive was epic.  Unfortunately due to life I didn't manage to finish my certification in the year that you have to finish and my private lessons went down the tubes.

This time I was determined not to let the chance go by and I was lucky enough to find an awesome deal at a hostel I stayed at in Queenstown.  It was a 5 day course 2 on land and 3 days live aboard on a dive boat (2 nights).  It covered my whole lesson, food and lodging for the live aboard session, and several post lesson dives.  The ridiculous thing was that the whole thing ended up cheaper than my first half from last time.

Anyway the first couple days were just class room lessons and pool sessions. While not the most exciting thing in the world I did get to know my fellow students and we had an awesome group.  I unfortunately never got a group shot of all of us but there is a pair of pictures from one of the evenings where the Americans in the group (four out of six of us) went out to get dinner and a few drinks.  The damnedest thing happened that night.  The bar was trying to get some more action in the bar (it was a weeknight) so they started a beer pong tournament.

This was Mack and I super focused on this ridiculous game.
This was the American contingent: Rudolph (Evan), Me, Mack, Natasha right after Mack and I won us a 100 dollar bar tab

The class passed without too many hiccups and we moved to our boat the Kangaroo Explorer, unfortunately we lost Natasha when we moved to the live-aboard because she didn't have enough time to stay on the boat for a couple of days.  We did however meet another American on the boat who was just out to do some diving (already certified), there are some pictures of our underwater shenanigans below.  I'm not exaggerating when I say this was one of the best weeks ever.  Learning to scuba dive is crap tons of fun, the Great Barrier Reef is an absolutely gorgeous place, and I had the company of a really cool group of people.  Also our instructor Ethan was very interesting.  He always had a story to tell and he had some interesting experiences and a very unique perspective on life.

The horse we rode around on:Kangaroo Explorer (I saw no kangaroos)
I love these giant clams
Too early, I sleep
Becky and I at 5 Ways (my favorite site for all the canyons and swim throughs)
Mike and I at the same site (Mike was the German delegation in our class)
One more, just because
Here is another clam
I told you I really like these things
It is amazing how much the lighting changes at depth
I can't remember what these are called but they slam those holes shut when they feel moving water, it is really cool to watch (like Christmas Tree Worms but I don't have any good pictures of them right now)

The following sequence of pictures is what happens when you run into long lost friends under water.  It had been like 20 minutes since we'd seen each other on the boat, clearly way too long.
This is where we get to my favorite part of 5 Ways
The swim throughs and the canyons
This is one of my favorites (about 1 meter tall and 2 meters wide).  You swim down this canyon and see no way out until you look all the way down and find this hole.
One of the cool canyons you can swim through
One more for good measure
One last look at our floating home
The inevitable ride back to shore

I don't think I realized how much I needed to spend a little time with some fellow Americans.  Its amazing even in other western countries the slight differences slowly add to the stresses of travel.  A week of hanging out with some really cool people that understand my travel experiences in a different way really proved to be good for me.  Now it is time for the next adventure.

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