To celebrate the new year, our anniversary and my Dive 300 together, Spunky Abe and I went to the Solomon Islands (east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu, where we first learned to dive) for a full week of underwater adventures. This vacation began with a fair dose of drama as the remote island we were travelling to was hammered by the start of a cyclone. We found ourselves trapped overnight in Honiara due to cancelled flights and spent our anniversary bunkered down against torrential rains in some random Japanese restaurant where even the staff could not make sense of the menu (thankfully, the food was pretty delicious!) We found ourselves seriously considering whether it would be courageous or foolish to try to move forward once another flight became available, and whether we should try to board the next flight home to move in the opposite direction from the brewing cyclone, rather than risk being caught even closer to the middle of it.
Long story short, after three consecutive 4am mornings and a number of cancelled flights, we finally found ourselves exhausted but onboard a small plane to our intended destination where we managed to do twelve dives (my Dives 300-311). Almost every dive was around 30 metres deep, including a shipwreck, two plane wrecks, this sinkhole, magnificent coral walls and reefs, caves and a brilliant night dive! (I have lots of photos and videos and some interesting stories to share over the coming weeks, so please stay tuned!)
On the final dive day of our trip, Spunky Abe and I undertook a spectacular, full-day expedition. Four very different dive sites connected by the kind of jungle lagoon passages you might expect Indiana Jones to travel. Our first dive was a completely vertical shipwreck (which will be featured in my next post), followed by a stunning barracuda encounter at Penguin Reef and a picnic lunch at a gorgeous private island on the fringes of the most picturesque secluded lagoon (later that afternoon we dived two WWII bomber plane wrecks). After lunch, we marvelled at the deep, clear blue body of water before us. ‘You can swim on this side of the lagoon,’ our Dive Master Deliver advised us, ‘But not on the other side where the water is dark.’ ‘Crocodiles?’ I ask with bated breath, secretly hoping to see one. He nods ominously.
After an hour of lazing in the bright sunshine on the safe side of the lagoon, we boarded our private diveboat once more and back-rolled off it into the Babata Sinkhole. This is a spectacular vertical shaft descending beneath a wave-cut cliff platform down to around 28 metres (think of a mini Grand Canyon underwater!)
This short video will give you just a taste of the majesty of this beautiful site, complete with caves, electric scallops (affectionately known as ‘disco lights’), wreck relics and sea fans. And if you’re wondering what Spunky Abe and DM Deliver (yes, his real name!) were searching for with their torches and magnifying glass in that sea fan, it was one of these impossibly tiny little pygmy seahorses (you could honestly fit at least 10 of them on your pinky finger nail – they are probably around the size of a very small ant or a grain of rice!):
While I am super-excited to share my other videos and stories from this trip, it may take me a little while to finish editing and posting them as I find myself somewhat limited by very low energy levels moving into this new year.(Maybe it’s just taking me a little longer than usual to recover from this trip to the Solomon Islands, which in some ways was a fairly challenging expedition).
To be honest, I think I’m also still coming to terms with entering the first whole year of my adult life without a career due to my prognosis, but increasingly I am reaching an even deeper level of peace with this transition. I am more than grateful to have the blessing of my extensive medical team to continue diving as much as I am able to, and I am excited to have as many more dive adventures as possible throughout the coming year. As one of my specialists assured me this morning, ‘We just want you to have the best quality of life possible,’ and as I’m sure you and my entire medical team understand by now, spending as much time as possible underwater is definitely my definition of living 🙂
While I never used to think twice about it, now it is so strange when I travel to complete my Departure Cards before I disembark from the plane which require me to fill in my occupation. And I wonder to myself, do I actually write ‘RETIRED’ in the small blank space? (Surely that will raise eyebrows when they see I clearly am nowhere near 65 years old …) ‘No longer employed due to terminal illness’ would undoubtedly pose more questions than it would answer, and ‘Unstoppable Aquatic Adventurer’ would most likely cause the customs officers to think I either had not understood the question or had refused to take it seriously.
Then I realise there is a better, simpler and entirely truthful answer to that question, and I etch out my response, carving out my official new identity in black biro: ‘Occupation: Scuba Blogger’. After all, diving is the sole purpose of my travel, as the entire contents of my carry-on and check in luggage will attest. And to my great relief, not one single customs officer or airport official blinks in shock or disbelief, and no-one squints at me as though I am being flippant or pretentious or looks at me as though I am some sort of terminal time-bomb now 5 months into a 6-12 month prognosis …
No matter how I feel as this year progresses, I will endeavour to post frequently and to keep this blog worth reading. I will cherish each opportunity for adventure and will relish every chance to share those adventures with each one of you. Exploring the vast and mysterious underwater water world keeps my sense of awe and wonder vibrantly alive and gives me a blissful sense of fulfilment and purpose.
I recently purchased a hot pink hoodie that reads ‘Live every day as though tomorrow you might DIVE’, and I definitely think that philosophy will work well for me in 2015 😀 So … pushing my supreme tiredness aside, I offer you this as the first of many adventures for this happy new year, and I tank you with all my liddle pink heart for joining me on this crazy ride 🙂
Love and bubbles,
ps Tanks so much for taking the time to read this blog. While you’re here, please check out a few more of my underwater and Bucket List Adventures!
pps And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog by email for updates and to follow Pink Tank Scuba on Facebook!
ppps Special request from Spunky Abe … a lot of people who know us personally have begun to call him Abe. He just thought you should know that his real name is Adrian and that ‘Abe’ is just my lazy pet name for him, combining ‘Adrian’ and ‘Babe’. He feels a bit weird now that so many other people are calling him Abe. I think it’s absolutely hilarious 😛 😛 😛