travel... coming soon
The Depths Called
Travel Shorts, and Stockholm To Ko Chang
The glinting ripples and bright light made the distant toasted slender locals appear as if walking upon water.
Early morning tropical sounds were drowned out by the noise of the engine. We bounced about on the back of the truck upon a road that snaked its way through tall slender palm trees. Upon one side, glimpses of hypnotising turquoise waters, upon the other; the thick lush jungle that seemed to whisper, come in if you dare. The light was strange, as if coming from a unique angle different to other places. It created startling contrasts between blinding bright and occulting dense shadows amongst trees.
The heat had intensified when we arrived at Bang Bao port. The restaurants and shops that refreshingly lacked ostentatiousness stood on groaning stilts. The pier was little more than a cement gangway that ran like a spine between the waking businesses. At the far end; moored boats of all shapes and colours tugged and gently bobbed shoulder to shoulder. Despite the narrow strip; carts, people and the occasional scooter moved along its length with relative ease and little fuss. High tide partly submerged the pier and the locals supplying the boats appeared as slender toasted Southeast Asian saviours walking upon water.
The wooden boats rocked in anticipation of the open sea. Their bows adorned with flowers and ribbons. It was Buddha’s place, and it seemed appropriate as some of the vessels looked as if they would easily sink if it were not for an impalpable miraculous force of intervention. The dive gear had been stowed aboard. Motors that coughed and spluttered into life did not whole heartedly nourish confidence about their seaworthiness, but the anticipation of being upon an expansive gulf and the depths that awaited erased traces of anxiety.
The boat chugged into open waters and the port became a thin blurry distant memory. There was ample time for a snooze on the upper deck accompanied by the lullaby of the rhythmic engines and cradling sea. When the engines ceased; the boat skated further upon the mirror like rippling waters. The equipment was briefly heavy before the large step off into the warm clear waters. We mirrored our readiness signals, released the air from our buoyancy vests and descended into the encompassing blue. The pressure of the surrounding sea brought every sound close to the ear and the sunlight saturated the water in shimmering translucent curtains. By the time we had bottomed out at thirty plus meters; sounds drew closer, bubbles warped and struggled to rise against the weight of the sea. At first the visibility was little over a meter due to the sediment we had disturbed as our knees gently touched bottom. It was part and parcel of the behavioural training requirement at compression depths when losing site of a dive partner. As the visibility descended on us sufficiently to sync hand signals with each other, we moved off in close proximity.
A ray shook sand from itself and drifted away effortlessly. We had drawn uncomfortably close for it to remain lying camouflaged and motionless. Upon ascending some meters the visible distance extended and more light filtered through again. There were brightly coloured schools of fish that drifted and darted one way and another quite uninterested in what we were doing. A large barracuda hung close and motionless. Unfazed by the bubbles its unflinching eye inspected the odd looking organisms in its realm. Its strong streamlined body deceptively poised to race off in less than the blink of an eye. Batfish accompanied us so closely it felt that they wanted us to be part of their school. We were merely their safety cover in open stretches of water. White eyed moray eels curled and peered from well lit rocks flashing with threads of reflected light. A resting turtle under a ledge grew weary of our curious intrusion, taking gentle flight to open depths; it merged steadily with the distance beyond visibility. I never envied another soul as much as I envied the perception of its freedom from all the trappings above the sea, and that which they call the civilised order of dry land.
The fifty plus minute dive evaporated as briefly as the lifespan of an ascending air bubble. The fifty bar gauge marker was reached by one of the divers signalling the end to the dive and the beginning of our decompression ascent. Breaking the film separating the two worlds returned me to a place I no longer wished to call home; the depths were a true place of peace. The harsher sights, sounds and smells were as alien as they might have seemed to a man from a deep sea Atlantis.