My stomach lurched as another wave crashed into the the plate glass window next to me. Somewhere behind me was the now common sound of someone else losing their lunch. When I had looked up reviews of the ferry online the first one to come up was “1 Star” a single line of description, “These boats are a catastrophe waiting to happen; make sure you know where a life jacket is.” Mine was being used to stop the fire extinguisher that had broken off the wall from rolling around. People pay good money at Amusement parks for a thrill-ride such as this, and those only lasted a few minutes, I had the pleasure of riding the waves of The Gulf of Thailand for another two hours.
The day had passed like a blur up this point. The world slipped by through small windows on planes, vans, and long haul buses. I slipped in and out of sleep the entire day as we drove through quiet jungles down long unfamiliar roads. All of it seeming so far away as the boat puttered on through the storm further into the engulfing darkness. Then the dark horizon lit up with hundreds of twinkling lights, and I could hear music through the last few drops of rain. With a collective sigh of relief we wearily shuffled our way off the boat and onto the pier of Koh Tao.
I had missed my arrival time by nearly five hours and any taxi sent for me by Phoenix Divers was long gone I was left standing in the middle of a busy street, bars and neon lights flashing, a live band performing on a stage in front of me, military and police walking around in force, and dozens of drunk tourists crawling there way down the street. I had no phone, no cash, and no clue what to do. The cycle of constant travel, getting familiar and comfortable with somewhere just in time to throw yourself into the unknown. I hoisted my bags higher onto my shoulders and took off into the night ready to start again.
I woke up the next feeling refreshed. Through the generosity of a few locals I was able to find my way to Phoenix Divers and and accompanying Hostel. The day was spent alternating between lounging by the hotel pool, and when that got to boring, wandering down to the ocean for a swim in the now gentle surf. That night I met the two other people who would be learning to survive under water with me Erika, a timid Mexican girl, and Rita, a tattoo artist from Portugal. I would have to learn to trust both of these girls with my life, and in turn trust myself to be able to do what was necessary to save them. We were getting our open water certification and if we trained properly the most dangerous points in our diving careers would be here in practice as we learned to deal with the worse case scenarios.
On the second day, following more lessons on air control and the science of buoyancy, we finally donned scuba gear and set off to explore the magical underwater world of the hotel swimming pool I had become so familiar with. Rita and I had been diving before so we had some initial experience on what to expect but Erica had no clue. As we ran through some basic exercises it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a problem. While Rita and I swam around the bottom of the pool in circles Erica was spending one on one time with our Instructor Rory reiterating some of the basic skills. She was struck by the completely rational fear of going underwater and relying on such a few small parts to continue to live. It worried me because I knew that I would be partnered with her; I was afraid that while on an actual dive something would go wrong and it would put one or all of us in a bad situation. At the same time I felt bad for her, after-all diving is suppose to be a fun and exhilarating experience; it’s hard to enjoy anything if you’re paralyzed by fear. Rita and I assured her that she would be fine, but I was apprehensive. Tomorrow would prove if she, if all of us, would sink and swim and not just one or the other.
Up to this point, this post has been nothing but filler, because the truth is words, at least the few I can muster, cannot do justice to the underwater world. I was floating ethereal in this surreal landscape, colors distorted, sound echoing all around, strange creatures floating around in this vast network of life. Yeah, it’s fish, underwater, so what, and that’s why I can’t explain it, because it was so much more than that. Maybe it scratched my explorers itch, to see the unknown. All I know is that four dives later, after I got my certificate, I was in love with scuba diving, and I need to find an excuse to make it into the water again. Oh, and Erica, she killed it, all the outward fear gone. She to was enchanted by what lay beyond our masks.