Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Bravery of Jaques Costeau

We are currently in the heaven of a small town called Santa Cruz Laguna on the famed Lago De Aititlan. Aldous Huxley called it the most beautiful lake in the world and he wasnt far off. It is a huge aquamarine body of water surrounded by three volcanos. The lake itself was created 85,000 years ago when an enormous volcano exploded creating the crater that became this lake.

The crossing by boat to this small town was somewhat daunting the chop becoming ferocious in the late afternoon. The local captains who appear to be somewhere around 15 and their respective crew 7 years of age, overload you in their rickety boats equipped with seven sorry lifejackets and start the motor to make the tríp to the various towns about the lake. On our soujourn, we were placed at the very front of the boat next to a 6 year old sailor who was responsible for look out and roping the boat up. His Dora the Explorer backpack didnt give me that much confidence in his sailing skills. But then many of the famous mariners of the past who had circumnavitgated the globe didnt have the benefit of at least a kindergarten education either, so who was I to judge.

C glared angrily throughout the trip as lake water poured in and covered her, her hair and our luggage. The little sailor tried to assist by giving her a ripped, dirty plastic tarp to sort of cover her hair which she didnt find to be very effective. As the boat lurched across the lake tossing and pitching in the white caps, I began laughing. At the rear of the boat two American hippies in their late 60s decided to lift everyones spirits by pulling out some Mayan flute and playing away. I was just glad C didnt have a hangover like I did or I think, she would have gladly sacrificed the guy to San Simon.

The lodge we are at specializes in scuba diving at high altitudes. We were excited to be getting our open water license, C especially, until she started watching the diving video which warned you never to hold your breath under water, even shallow water with a regulator, as your lungs will explode. Immediately she opted out of the course and decided to take Spanish.

I bravely continued on and mastered easily the many quizzes about the terrible things that could happen to you while diving. I felt confident that I would pass my first open water confined dive. That is until I tried.

First they dress you up in a massively restrictive wet suit. Next you are loaded down with the Buoyancy Control Device, your octopus, your regulator and pressure gage. Next comes the steel tank filled with oxygen and your leaded weight belt. Mine seemed to have eighty weights in some sick ratio to the degree to which I am on the heavy side. Finally comes your flippers and mask.

I felt like a medieval knight and fervantly wished for a hoist to lift me into the water. Instead Walter, my diving instructor, and I had to walk in little booties down to a pier some way away on a crooked cobble stone and dirt path up and down over little bridges of crumbling concrete.

At finally arriving at our destination, soaked in sweat from the wet suit which completetly insulates one, Walter told me to now remove alll my equipment which had taken me such time to put on and do a swimming test. The choppy waters and buoyant wet suit meant that the only swim I could effectively do was a backstroke as the suit kept rolling me onto my back.

After floundering backwards to another pier and back it was out of the water and back on with my equipment.

We jumped into the water and so far so good. I figured out how to add and subtract air from my vest. We put the regulators on and breathed in and out underneath the water. I was able to breathe under water without mask. I could take my regulator out and put it back in. I could purge my regulator. I was able to throw away my regulator careful to blow out and not hold my breath lest my lungs explode and recover it blind.

Now for the test involving flooding your mask with water and getting rid of it. As I was wearing contacts I was required to do this with eyes closed. Unfortunately it involves blowing air out of your nose while being careful not to breath it back in by way of nasal passages while continuing to breathe through your mouth regulator. Again and again I tried it while being bounced around by the afternoon chop. I kept motioning to surface. Walter started looking at his watch. "What´s wrong" he asked. "I keep thinking I´ll breathe in water through my nose instead of my regulator, its scaring me". "Why" he replied. Hmmm...I thought, well for one, I am not a fish, I cannot breathe under water. He looked at his watch again.

We shall try again tomorrow and Walter, being the great teacher that he is and wonderful sport, promísed that if I cant get my PADI license, we´ll still just do some scuba diving around the piers.

Oddly enough breating under water and swimming around doesn´t bother me at all. I guess I must try tonight to blow out of my nose while breathing through my mouth.

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