That afternoon my friends on the boats Sara Jean II and Merkava and I went for a dive out at our favorite reef, called "Big Knobs" by some and named "Mushroom Mountain" by me. The reef is about 10 feet under water, so we used latitude and longitude coordinates to find it. The weather was still a bit nasty, and our 2 dinghies full of dive gear and people were bashing into 3 foot wind chop to get out there. I didn't mind too much, but it was a bit tricky getting into our gear out there. The dive was cool - we saw a giant Napoleon wrasse and lots of other neat stuff. The coolest part of the dive looking up at the giant coral mountains that look like mushrooms. After the dive we had cold beers to help us warm up.
That was on Wednesday. On Thursday the compressor for the freezer broke, so Mom and Dad took Rutea back to Neiafu with the hopes of getting it fixed. I opted to move aboard Merkava for a few days because frankly, while Neiafu is nice, the outer islands are way more fun. So is Merkava.
I moved on board Merkava with my dive gear and ukulele, intending to stay for a night. I ended up staying on Merkava for the past 3 nights. Mark and Yuka are the kind of people who do not do things half assed, so when they get into things such as diving, they go all out. Our typical day was wake up, play music, eat breakfast, go for a dive, come back, eat ramen noodles, and then start drinking. We have been diving every day for the past week and Mark is planning to go back into Neiafu to refill all our tanks tomorrow.
I like diving. It does not replace surfing, but it is nice to have another water activity to take away some of the pain of not surfing. It is amazing to be able to breathe under water, to follow fish around, swim through canyons, under arches and closely study coral. But, in all honesty, I find free diving much more of an adrenaline rush (perhaps it is the lack of air...). One of the dives we did was at Mariner's cave. The cave entrance is about 10 feet under water and one has to swim in another 10 feet (or so) into the dark tunnel to come up in the cave. I had done the dive before and it is super cool, but I really wanted to free dive it.
Looking at the black, gaping mouth of the cave was intimidating, as was knowing that I couldn't surface if I wanted to until I was well inside the cave - even though I had been in it before. My first attempt was unsuccessful. I dove down too deep and got about half way in, looked into the darkness, looked back into the light, and headed for the light. I came up gasping for breath, even though I can swim way deeper and farther. It is notion of swimming into a confined space into total darkness that is so scary. However, I overcame my fear and made a dash for it, successful the second time. I was proud of myself for making it free diving, even though we dove it with tanks right after. Scuba diving Mariner's cave is cool too because there is a second exit about 50 feet down, which would be nearly impossible (and hella freaking gnarly) to free dive out of. It is easy but exciting with dive gear on.
And so, the last few days have been full of under water adventures, living on board Merkava with Mark and Yuka, and enjoying much of what Tonga has to offer. I think we have been here close to a month, but 1. it doesn't feel like we have been here that long, and 2. there is so much more to explore. Unfortunately Dad is already talking about preparing to leave... but I don't wanna go to New Zealand.... yet!
At 9/25/2011 2:18 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 18°42.03'S 174°01.79'W
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