Only two more days in Candidasa; we're well rested and fully acclimated - ready for our two companions to join us on the second. They're flying in from Singapore with only two overnights for jet lag catch-up. They'll be tired.
New Year celebrations are underway in town. The ghastly fireworks will be blasting tonight.
From my seat I can see the tops of the "spider" boats anchored outside the villa. In the morning, I watch the Balinese boat and dive operators transferring a pile of equipment from the beach to the boats: motors, tanks, scuba suits, flippers, gas tanks and masks. Like ants dismantling a large insect, the pile diminishes a bit at a time and is re-organized into piles on the boats. After a short time, the divers appear, laughing, joking, wearing colorful t-shirts and bathing suits - ready for a wonderful day.
I don't like watching them; a sense of dread seizes me whenever and wherever I see divers. Fighting the urge to stand up and yell, "Don't go!", I hunker down and try to think of something else. Hopeless.
Look...it only takes a couple of minutes to drown. Most of the time, when a person is not getting air underwater, they don't flail around and give others lots of warning. They often just go still - and it can happen almost instantly. I would never, ever trust diving equipment anywhere outside of the U.S. I'd never, ever trust the so-called dive masters to competently watch over their divers. The buddy system helps but it's not good enough. In my opinion, every diver should have a watcher...one on one. Actually, in my opinion everyone is better off leaving the whole thing to Jacques Cousteau. You can see beautiful fish in great numbers in any of hundreds of excellent videos. Why take the chance? On terra firma, no matter what thrill you seek, even under the worst of circumstances if you can breathe, even if every bone in your body is broken, or you're burned over 80% of your body or you're beaten half to death or shot full of holes, you might still survive. Not so underwater. You can be 100% alive one minute and 100% dead the next.
When Richard and Rene went snorkeling off Angel Island, they jumped into the water fitted out with their snorkel gear. Richard had a problem with his fins and returned to the boat to re-organize himself. Meanwhile Rene, a strong swimmer and very experienced snorkler, couldn't see Richard and decided to head out alone to an area behind large rocks, out of sight of all of us. Richard jumped back in and as he snorkled I did not remove my eyes from him for even one second. Every once in a while, he'd dive down out of sight. I watched even more intently and cursed myself for not bringing binoculars. After 30 minutes or so, Richard had enough and climbed back on the boat. The boat chugged around the corner and we found that Rene was in moderate distress. He hadn't been able to fight the current and get back around the corner. He was OK but tired. It could have been a disaster. People panic; he was seriously over weight. Who knows what other problems he might have had? It was seriously careless to allow him to get out of sight. When I say "we" I mean the boat/dive guys who were responsible for our safety. They were all hooked up with ear buds and while Rene and Richard were snorkeling, they were getting lunch together and doing boat related chores; they were not watching the snorklers. Having experienced a fatality myself during a diving expedition I should have known better than to let Rene get out of sight. In my own defense, I was pre-occupied with keeping my anxiety in check and my full attention riveted on Richard's back. My point here is that people get very, very casual about safety. Boredom sets in after doing the same thing hundreds of times when nothing has happened. They simply don't realize how fast a disaster can occur. Or maybe they do realize but think as the young always do, that they are beyond the reach of disaster. Too smart for that; too lucky; too quick; too skilled.
A jolly Australian family was having their 10 year olds certified to scuba dive at Angel Island. I was shocked that children of that age are allowed to participate in such a risky and in my point of view, dangerous sport. Actually statistically speaking, I'm all wet...diving has a better safety record than driving a car. Sorry - in this case the facts be damned; they don't count at all to assuage the stubborn fear lodged deep inside my brain.
I was going to write about my own terrible experience, but my churning stomach is signaling me that I've gone far enough. On to happier thoughts on the eve of a New Year.