Breakfast at the hotel
We got up at the crack of dawn, had breakfast, and caught a taxi to Tagonga where we landed at 7:30 on the nose. Johann at the Aquantis Dive Center was expecting us, and set us up in the video room so Ji could watch her “Discover Scuba” video. This would be her first time diving and she was looking forward to giving it a try. I sat with her and read my book as we both fended off the mosquitos that were breeding in the room. Then she took her exam and nailed a solid 100%. (We’re so proud)
They put us in a boat for a quick trip out to the dive site with the other divers: Ron, Carlos, and Sabrina. Our dive instructor was Jonathan. Ji’s instructor was named Chopper. (in Ji’s mind she kept hearing quotes from Pulp Fiction, “This is a chopper baby.” The sun was beating down pretty strong – though neither Ji nor I love the sun at all. And we got splashed by salt water every where we went.
Here’s Ji’s version of her very first dive:
- “I was tortured with skills”.”
- “He made me take out breathing apparatus at depth, which I was not happy about.”
- “I couldnt figure out the mask clear. I kept pointing upwards but he wouldn’t let me. Eventually he left me up bc I couldn’t figure out signal for ‘blow out your nose’.”
- “Then back down and saw stingray and swimming snake eel. He had me do the blow out nose thing and I figured it out.”. “It was very messed up. I felt very exposed.”
- Because she’s especially buoyant, she needed 3kg weights plus two rocks “the size of honeydews. I predict bone issues in my future”.
Too funny. My version of the dive (which was in a different place on the dive site than Ji’s). My dive buddy was Ron. We got in the water and waited for Jonathan to get in. Then we dove. Ron was all over the place; the guy could not stay at depth at all. We saw lobster, eels, and one hunting eel. When crazy Ron ran out of air, Jonathan took advantage of my instructor status and left me underwater with Carlos and Sabrina while taking crazy Ron to surface. We did have a slightly wacky safety stop as Jonathan tried to get Carlos and Sabrina to stay at 15 feet but they kept floating up. But all in all it was a lovely dive.
Heidi and coral
We stopped on a nearby island for a slightly “sad lunch” of a funky meat and cheese sandwich, an apple, and a few other random things. Ji had to hike up mountain to pee “because I refused to pee in the water” (n.b. that I peed in the water). We learned more about Ron, a chain smoker who’s traveled all over and who likes to talk about it. And the very charming Carlos and Sabrina, who are driving from their home in Ushaia to Alaska. There were some fishermen nearby who threw their fish into a boat to take it to Santa Marta to sell. Then we were back on the boat for Dive #2
Ji got to do a fun dive with no skills. She saw a squid and lots of little fishes. As she said, it’s “much more pleasant when he is not asking you to take out your breathing apparatus”. She says they swam around forever until she got to 70bar (“almost, like, to death.”) Ji got a shell on this dive, and noted that there was no prize on the first one bc there was “no room for shells with the rocks in my pockets.”
On my dive, Ron kept going up to the surface and I had to pull him down twice. We saw some big lobster. The current was super strong, and when Ron ran out of air Jonathan gave me a coral bracelet so he could take Ron and I would stay with Carlos and Sabrina. Carlos and Sabrina are fine divers and we had a good dive together, but because of the current Carlos ran low on air quickly. We had another wacky safety stop that made me miss my dive computer so I could more easily tell my depth. That will be something I bring on every trip where there’s water… just in case.
Ji and Coral
Happy, not-dead Ji
On the way back Ji had to pee very badly but the boat stopped dead in the water for a brief time. So she was in a lot of pain when we got back to the short. I told her later that there’s a logical medical reason for the increased need to urinate when you dive, and there’s also a reason that no one else in the boat had to pee like she did. That may be gross, but it’s the trust. Here’s the medical reason, courtesy of Midwest Diving: The phenomenon is called immersion diuresis, and it occurs whenever the body is immersed in water, regardless of depth. Because of the immersion, especially in colder water, the blood vessels in the extremities constrict, moving the blood from your extremities. As a result, an increase of blood is sent to the major organs, which is interpreted as a fluid overload by your heart and kidneys. This, in turn, triggers some hormonal changes through which your kidneys regulate urine output. When output of certain hormones change, your kidneys produce urine, and you’ve experienced the rest.
Back at shop we washed our gear and waited (for forever) for Johann so we could pay. We also launched an expedition to find the nearby ATM, which was actually right around the corner rather than the 5 blocks I walked.
We had lunch at a seaside hut that cooked fish brought right off the boat. The cook brought us a tray of fresh fish to choose from though of course we had no idea which was which. It was good though.
On our ride back to Santa Marta our driver stopped us at a scenic overlook for pics and trinkets (if we wanted the trinkets).
Ji and Tagonga
Heidi and Tagonga
Back at the hotel we took out books to the hotel pool, swam, read, and chilled out until we got cold. Then it was time for sunset showers.
Ji, “practicing her buoyancy”
Rodadero at Sunset
Putting away the beach toys
Peace and quiet
Dinner at the Gourmet Plaza Bistrot
We ate in Santa Marta (this time smartly taking a taxi rather than attempting a walk to nowhere) at a tiny place called the Gourmet Plaza Bistrot, where we learned that – in Santa Marta – “bruschetta” means = shish kebob. The decor was wonderful, filled with old antique gadgets and tools. The music was an eclectic mixture of Duran Duran plus opera, and Ji and I had the whole place to ourselves for the beginning of our meal.