We live on what seems like a tiny insignificant spec of a sailboat compared to what is out there when you look into the horizon. There’s nothing like sitting up on the bow while sailing and no matter how far the chart says you’ve gone, it seems as though you haven’t moved an inch. Its like the water never ends, we sail forward, but there is always more water to fill the view. Its actually really magical, I love the feeling and rush of grateful emotions every time I sit up on that bow. It feels so raw. So simple. Just me, on this boat, sailing around this ocean. Where the sky is free to touch the horizon all around, dotted by the occasional islands here and there. And its always lit up by such vivid beautiful colours, streamed with clouds that seem to go on forever.
This view is one of the best but the crazy thing is, its all above the surface. It’s a whole different story when you descend down below.
It was a little over 4 months ago when I took my first breath underwater. And a little before that, I remember being in Fiji, sitting on the deck of Delos, in the middle of hair braiding and other pirate gypsy activities that Brady asked me if I knew how to scuba dive. No, I didn’t even have a clue about the basics? Ok, you wanna learn? Of course! We had nowhere to be and nothing to do, why not. Within the next 45 minutes or so, Brady taught me the basics. He pretty much said that what most people learn in 3 days, I learnt in about an hour. How professional. It seemed pretty simple though; breathe through this reg, push this to inflate/deflate, this tells you how deep you are, blah blah. I just wanted to get down there and see what all the fuss was about! But it was ok, because I knew I was in safe hands, I felt confident (enough) and excited. 90 minutes after the initial question, we were off to the sand bar to learn. Feeling bombarded with information already, Paul tells me “Don’t forget to clear your ears” I hear Brian say “Oh yeah, crucial. Have fun Josjerama! You’ll love it”. And off to the sand bar we went, sitting on sand under 13 feet of water. Breathing.
4 months of really, really amazing diving followed. World class dive sites that people pay thousands of dollars to come out here (the Solomons) and dive. And here I am, a little novice diver, with no money, diving straight off Delos for free, down into the wilderness of marine life, vibrant coral, WW2 wrecks, and the occasional Cruise Ship that ran onto the reef. Lets just say the Solomon islands is a very random and cool place. And as I hear, its got the best scuba diving in the world. Not that I can compare, but with 30meters of visibility, warm waters, pristine coral and WW2 wrecks, I’m not going to argue. I know that wherever I go, nothing will be able to compare to the diving here.
With each dive, I learnt a little more about the aspects of diving. Back in Fiji, starting with the basic drills. Then moving onto safe depths and decompression, safety stops, neutral buoyancy, how to make sense of the computer, using the compass and all else that follows in Vanuatu. Tongoa wall in Vanuatu was my 5th dive, and my first deep dive, where we went down to 115 feet. Once we reached our maximum depth, Brady kept signaling if I was OK and I gave him the OK sign in return. It wasn’t until I looked at my computer that I realised that we were pretty deep.
Since then, about 20 dives have followed, including going down to 175 feet to see a Japanese troop carrier, where I first got narked. Now, that was fun. I started somersaulting over the masts of the fallen ship which now lie outwards parallel to the sea floor. The fish swam in a more interesting manner and Brady’s air bubbles seemed to feel amazingly spectacular as the glided up and passed my skin. There was an amazing bed of coral at 15 feet where we stopped for 3 minutes to do our safety stop. This was my first discovery of Christmas tree worms, so I spent the next 3 minutes flicking my hand inches away from the coral heads to see the little spiky colourful ‘Christmas trees’ contract and disappear. This was a fun dive. And to make it even better, we were greeted on the beach by a bunch of Kiwis who fed us with birthday cake and some classic old Solbrew beer.
But don’t get me wrong, every other dive has something equally as strange and amazing, but they’re also unique in their own manner. We found saki bottles and jap bullets in the Mavis sea plane, we dove down extinct lava tubes, sat in the cockpit of a B17 Bomber, did a gnarly drift dive, swam through broken portholes in a submarine and even leaped off sailing Delos with full gear on to dive down into an underwater cave, which takes you to an opening in the middle of the jungular island.
See, its things like this that makes me so happy I learnt how to dive, and so lucky that Delos has all the necessary equipment. Its made this whole experience even better than what’s already above the surface. But for me, both feels so natural and half the exploring is underwater anyway.
Seriously, some of the reef dives that we do look like a movie set from finding Nemo or something. Its ridiculous! I never knew there was so much to see, to explore and to learn. And the wreck dives are even more incredible. At times it can be pretty intense, when you really take a step back and realise that these wrecks are some 70 years old, laying to rest at the bottom of the sea. When I’m diving, I often imagine what it would have been like to have flown one of the planes, or be working on board one of the ships. And to have been shot down in an intense struggle for survival. Or been bombed by the sly enemy hiding within the bush. And once you’ve been spotted and targeted its only a matter of time before your plane or vessel is sinking its way through the water, waiting for a thud to know its reached the sea floor. And now the stillness of those memories is what we explore.
When I look back on the past 4 months, we’ve had some pretty crazy times on Delos. Its just been day after day of new horizons and new adventures, it’s fucking great. We never plan where we go either, at least not until the day before or from word of mouth. We meet great people and sometimes they give us positions for their private island. Or we hear from the locals about all the secret kastom places, which often require a small kastom fee. And unlike other cruisers, we don’t wear shoes, which is a general sign that we are poor and have no money. We seem to glamour and sneak our way around these fees though, often trading the various clothes we have left, magazines, batteries, rusty drill bits and sometimes even used motor oil. And this is how we pay for our kastom fees, literally a heap of carvings and most fruit and veges. The fish don’t really have a choice of being caught and stuck in the grill so all in all, I say we’re doing excellent for the amount of money in our pockets compared to the stuff we’ve been up to.
Exploring a very big cave full of bats. This cave was where Americans came to hide during WW2. We found some old tins bottles from that time.
Unfortunately all this amazing world class diving, waking up and stepping off the boat into the crystal clear waters, no plans, beautiful sunshine, beautiful people, drinking beer and the occasional gold mining has to come to an end. We plan to spend another 2 weeks in and around Gizo, soaking up the last of the sun and the ocean of the Solomons before heading to Aussie land. Which in fact will be a whole different story, in a good way. Although I’m not so sure how our plans of trade for food, drinking and general adventurising will go in cities full of working, civilized people. Or so we think.. ? We are unsure of what the future holds but nevertheless, we are excited. Our enthusiasm will be through the roof when we rediscover real milk, juice that doesn’t come out of a packet, avocadoes, white people, buildings more than 2 stories high, the wonders of cars, bikes and trains, going out for dinner, going to the shop and buying anything we want, wearing clothing other than our bikinis or boardies, and McDonalds.
Not to say our simplistic and beautiful lifestyle will be greatly missed. But the most important thing is that we will all remember to take some of this life back with us.