I am not a water person.
I like my feet firmly planted on the ground. If I can’t stand in the water, I don’t want to be IN IT!
You can make me hike for 12hrs, make me climb 1000s of feet in the day and I won’t complain or cry. But, put me in water for a few minutes and you are assured to see my ugly side!This fear was probably planted in the deep recesses of my brain during my childhood on family’s summer vacations to popular beach towns in India. Like a lot of Indian families that come from non-beach towns, our family loved going to the beaches to – enjoy the scenery, eat the chaat (Indian snack food) and drink coconut water, while sitting in the shade of the tree/umbrella and watching the crashing waves. We’d sometimes dip our toes in the water and if we were adventurous enough, splash in the water for a few minutes…but NO swimming in the ocean! As a kid, I wanted to be in the water the minute I saw it. But, as soon as I got too close to the water (my toes barely touching), my parents would call me, “Not tooo close, it is not safe! You will get pulled into the ocean!” As a kid, I couldn’t really comprehend what was not safe about it but the seed was planted. In the 11th grade, I finally had my first swimming lessons, but I always stayed next to the wall for safety. My instructor was too busy dealing with the thousand other kids in the pool to fix all my bad habits.
When I met Dan, I realized, he had deep love for all things WATER. He talked in length about his childhood swimming and water skiing in the lakes of Louisiana, and later, his trips to Florida where he kayaked with his sister. During our vacations, I always managed to plan a trip scaling some local mountain or a hill and he always managed to include a water activity. I, of course, always threw a tantrum like ‘Why do we have to do this? It won’t be fun. The water will be too cold this time of the year. What if there are sharks in the water!” and random other excuses. He always somehow convinced me that everything will be alright and that I just got to try it….if I don’t like it, he would never ever ask me to do it again. It’s worthy to note that he got me private swimming lessons right before the start of our around the world trip. His ploys have worked up to now ……(that mischievous bastard!)
AND here I was in Australia, 40 miles away from the safety of the shore, on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, about to jump in the deep, dark, open ocean for the first time. I thought I would be scared but I felt more numb than scared. My mind was muddled from the 2hr crazy boat ride on the choppy water, the sleep deprivation from the night before due to anxiety, the relentless rain and wind that still hadn’t stopped, and my fear of the ocean and all of its predators.
After waiting for 4 days for the rain to subside, we decided that we couldn’t leave without doing a Great Barrier Reef snorkeling trip. It would be sacrilege! If it got cancelled, so be it! (between you and me, I really wanted the storm to intensify and our trip to get cancelled….)
As our boat tottered to and fro around the first reef, I watched everyone put on their fins and their masks and slowly melt away into the water. For 15 mins, I stood shivering on the edge of the boat, contemplating my fate. On one end, I knew this is something I had to do for myself to prove that I can overcome the fear and on the other, Dan wouldn’t let me live it down after seeing 12 year olds leap out onto the reef sans parents or life jackets.
The water was surprisingly warm and calm when I entered. When I first looked down below me, it was dark, vast and scary. Every few seconds, I would look behind me to make sure a Great White wasn’t sneaking up on me. I mean I was dressed in all black anti-jelly fish leotard that made me look exactly like a seal!
In the open ocean
As I started to make my way towards the reef, the colorful fish and reefs were amazing. It was a different world – live, vibrant and not scary. Not to say that I didn’t wedge myself between as many big boned snorkelers as possible so they could take the brunt of any JAWS attack 🙂
Our attempt at taking pictures with a cheap underwater camera. Next time we will come prepared with a water proof case for our camera.
Me on the reef
Link to all Great Barrier Reef pictures