Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Andamans Scuba Diving & Day 1: Trip Preperations

Prep For the Trip - Killing Me Softly!!

The whole idea of doing scuba diving was lingering in my mind from last couple of years. I had no particular reason why I wanted to do it, what I am able to perceive is that is was just about taking up and adventure which not many people have done and face a serious challenge. To basically take my fear to the next level. Though I am not among those people who are very comfortable in water, or who are not afraid of water. I was always scared even in a pool. This was all the more reason to do the trip.
After the Himalayan odsessy, i was certain that I want to do diving. Himalayan odsessy was a very inspiring trip and had given my confidence a big boost. I was even more confident about myself and wanted to do more, take up a bigger challenge. The trip gave me an amazing feeling of content. It had transformed my impression about myself, I had always feared the trip but then I was able to complete the trip with flying colors, not even a single fall, no illness, no trouble. I was very proud of myself. I always make a point to do things i am afraid off, but then that does not mean I am not terrified. I still remember when i started from Manali for Keylong, I was almost shivering, the mountains felt like guardians and just waiting to fail me and cause me trouble. But then I realized that they live in such solitude that all they are doing is, standing tall with arms wide open to welcome!!! I can never forget the first view past Rohtang Pass, it was phenomenal, a tall mountain barren mountain providing shelter was the sun raise, for almost the whole ride down. It was like a guardian and saviour and I believe it was done its job from time immemorial. Anyways, this is about the Andaman trip. I just get carried aways all the time, when i think about the Odsessy.
I had decided to go to the Andaman in the month of September, but then thing like job change, work pressure etc. took a toll and I could not take up the trip as planned. Finally I got in touch with some dive centers in Andaman and realised that the diving season basically starts in October and the sea live is better then. In November amidst all confusion I decided on the dates and that would in the 3rd week of January. Even now I was taking the trip seriously and had not started any preparations. Then came a call, Umeed from Barefoot called me and discussed the trip and told be that I should able to swim fairly good and that I will need to give a swim test of 200m in the middle of the sea. This is when the alarm rang hard in my head and what I call the panic preparations started. I found a nice pool in Bangalore near CV Raman nagar and made sure that I do swimming everyday. The beginning was horrifying, I could not do even 5 laps i.e. 100m with stops. So this called for drastic measures. I started spending a lot of time and energy into it, not just swimming, I started doing walking and exercise on a daily basis. Umeed had done the trick...apart from everything else I lost 7 kgs in like 1.5 months, that was in itself an achievement. I started building up decent stamina and by the time to fly came I was able to do about 35 laps and I was very content with the preparations. The the days came, Jan 11th, I was all set, in high energies and enthusiastic.
I boarded the bus, my seat number was 32, it so happened there was a couple how wanted to sit together and hence I was moved to seat no. 20 and then the same issue and I finally landed to seat no. 5. I was pretty happy as I was not happy with a back seat as I had a long day ahead and wanted to have a nice nap to preserve my energy. There was this uncle sitting next to me who would not move a muscle whatsoever happens. I had a tough time adjusting myself and then finally went to sleep to wake up directly in Chennai. I took at auto for 200/- bucks (outrageous, but had no choice as it was 5 in the morning.) to the airport. As soon as I landed in Chennai I had felt like having some nice dosa. I have always liked the taste of idly/dosa in Chennai. At the airport I found a TAJ resturant to eat one of the most horrible dosa in my life at an astonishing sum of money. I paid Rs.100 for a plain dosa, after waiting for almost 1 hrs, as the kitchen opens up only by 6:30AM. This breakfast was quite a setback and then I took off to check in to my flight. There was a huge groups part of some tour from Simoga, I believe except for me the whole flight was filled with this group. I boarded the plan at 9:20 to discover that I have been upgraded to the Business Class. I was very excited, this was the first time I was travelling my Business Class and that too without paying a dime extra. I called up Dad and told him about this too. It was a strange and overwhellming emotion. I felt pricy and important and the thought that the airline upgraded me on their own was making me feel proud of myself.
Once we were nearing Andamans, the view from the window was amazing, small and big islands all scattered in the sea, blue waters and waves, everything was just like out of the fairy tale. Though I have seen this before, but it was like a new thrill.
Port Blair airport is a small airport, I was picked up my Rafiq from Barefoot and taken to the Barefoot office in Port Blair, as there was still some time to our boat. There we met a Australian Couple and one couple from Chennai (Rohan & Neha). We discussed Indian food etc, with the Australian Couple and I also talked about Udaipur and Rajasthan also.
To our advantage we were being taken to havelock in a small private boat, just the 6 of us, crew and Umeed. I met Umeed for the first time and by the looks of it, he looked like a tough instructor, who would give a tough time (later my views changed). Rohan was very excited and was all enthusiastic to explain what diving is all about. He knew a lot about diving and was also certified. The journey to Havelock was about 3-3.5hrs. Soon we could see the island in a distance, as we started approaching, I realized that I have actually reached paradise and the site of the water and forest was out of this world. No wonder the Beach is rated as the Best Beach in Asia. Just about 300m from the beach, I saw Rohan suddenly jumping off the boat to swim all the way to the shore. I was so excited, that I also wanted to do the same, but then reality struck me and I realized that I dont have that much stamina as of now. From there we were put in a Maruti Van towards Cafe Del Mar, the dive center and the place I would be staying. As soon I reached there, I reported to the folks at the dive center, and then it all started. I gave measurements for the equipments. Suddenly everything was so professional, I forgot that I am on vacations and had hit reality, this is no joke, I have got myself into deep trouble. Checked into the cottage, interesting place, attached toilet, no gates to it but.
We were supposed to meet our dive instructor tomorrow by 9AM.