September 27th, 2008 – by: Stevie_Wes
First time in a wetsuit... "look out world, skin-tight trauma coming up!" ;D
āYippee!ā Time for some underwater action! Having grown up by the sea and being a regular(ish) swimmer back home, after 30 days plus on the sunny road without a splash itās time to wet my head. I am very fortunate as Bede, also a diver, is just as keen as I am (even more so) to dust-off his rusty diving skills. Itās been 2 months for me since I was last submersed but 3 years (!!!) for him. There is a dive trip provider here in Riomaggiore also which is great!
Starting at 9.30am itās time to get down there and get kitted up. Iām worried as ever that my rather ill-proportioned frame will present some challenges when it comes to getting a wetsuit to fit but it doesnāt prove to be so.
A real relief. āDive on!ā Today is my first time in a wetsuit actually. Having only dived in cool or cold British waters to date (ranging in my experience so far from 9 - 16 degrees) I have only used dry suits with undergarments. Yep, a giant bright orange inflatable beanie-sack of fun! This is fairly necessary in UK seas unless itās high summer or youāre a āhard coreā like my instructor Tim.
Umm?... (L->R) Sarah, A Swede, Crazy French Dude & Bede.
Today we are in the company of dive leaders Claudio and Italian Navy man Antonio - the navy have a large presence just down the coast here in La Spezia. Good lads the pair of them and all together the group comprise an impressively multi-national posse with Italians, Brits and representatives from Australia, America, France, Germany and Sweden too!
Bede and I have paid to do two dives today (as have most of the rest).
This means quite a wince-making 90 Euros but āHey!ā thatās diving for ya and anyway itās time that I treated myself to a slightly out of the ordinary adventure.
Both dives take place in one of two areas within Le Cinque Terra coastal territory designated as āprotectedā for reasons of being of special quality and interest for marine life. The other is in the northern most village Monterosa. First off about half of us roll off the boat sides to follow Claudio in a leisurely finning journey at about 18 metres down around many large rocky formations on the sea bed. The water is a pleasing clear shade of blue and visibility is excellent.
This last fact though (the good visibility that is) does not prevent me from getting a little confused and technically ālosingā my dive buddy Bede.
By ālosingā I mean in the sense that everyone pretty much looking the same once theyāre in black wetsuits with hoods pulled over their heads I forget which one is him. Consequently I take a bunch of photos of a guy Iām convinced is him but actually turns out to be our bonkers French co-diver. āOops!ā Bede says afterwards that he had no such problems keeping an eye on my whereabouts. I question why but the underwater photos we have taken pretty much reveal the obvious answer why. All he had to do was follow the rare underwater specimen whoās scientific name is Subaquatia-Gingervarious-Hairanenomae J
So far so good for Bede as we descend on the shot-line.
A coupleāve hours break back in Riomaggiore for lunch and then back for dive two.
A few less people this afternoon and weāre all down in one large group with Antonio this time. Heād taken down the ādeepā divers earlier (20 metres plus) but they hadnāt got much out of it apparently. Not enough light and no life to observe. This is by far the longest dive I have been on to date (63 mins) and whilst very crowded at times, a very liberating experience as the wetsuit endows me with new freedoms not so easily obtained when in a dry suit. I happily fin down and around at no risk of rocketing back to the surface and do cartwheels and all sorts with glee and ease. Proper dolphin activity! J I manage to stick with Bede correctly this time.
There is some marine life to see down here but not loads. A sizeable shoal of large, silver fish (sorry thatās the best description I can give not being a good marine taxonomist yet) feed off deposits collected on the rocks. I manage to see 3 or 4 of my first Moray Eels and am the only one to observe a tiny white puff of a jellyfish, pretty but seemingly all alone in this vast expanse of blue.
Bedeās breathing gas consumption rate troubles him a bit (as it had on the morning dive too) so I stick close to him as it gets nearer and nearer to empty, my spare valve ready for him just in case but it proves not to be an issue in the end. The diving has been great fun. Made a nice change to proceedings. For those divers reading this and genuinely considering diving here my honest appraisal would be that if interesting marine topography and life is very important to you on a dive than this site at least is unlikely to satisfy you, especially after the coat factored in.
You could pass this one by at no great loss to experience. For me though itās been great to do my first dives outside of murkier, colder, harder British waters.
My first ever Moray Eel... they look kinda cute... in a slightly scary way.
I tell ya, diving donāt half take it out of you! āFoof! Iām bushed.ā You may only be down and finning off and on for only approximately 2 hours, but itās 2 hours of intense activity and concentration, exhilaration and sometimes adrenaline. Focussing on correct breathing technique and gas consumption all the way too takes effort if ya wanna stay safe whilst making the most of things.
Bede goes off to an internet cafĆ©. I stroll around Riomaggiore some more.
Mainly I head up to higher ground. Some stairways and winding cobbled streets up towards the clock tower that periodically amuses and disturbs our sleep (and waking moments) throughout our time in Le Cinque Terra. Itās nice to see Riomaggiore from this new, higher vantage point. Beyond the church, and behind the hill area upon which sitās the clock tower construction (and a restaurant with great views) there is a perfectly placed viewing point.
Blinded by the underwater Ginge : a rare sighting of Subaquatia-Gingervarious-Hairanenomae
A nice tiny paved area with picturesque trees and a couple of benches facing near-directly west out to sea and right now another soul-soothing sunset is playing itās performance out for me. Just me it feels. Well, and maybe the four American girls on the bench over my right shoulderā¦ and the kid and his dad with the cameraā¦ ok, and the rest of Italy and this hemisphere tooā¦ but ya know what I mean!? That intensely private-moment feeling that sunsets make you feel you are experiencing.
Your heart slows and expands. The day coming to an end, slowly. Softly. A quiet, many-coloured symphony plays within your heart as accompaniment to the scene, for you and you alone as the sun paints upon the clouds for your entertainment. You tunnel-vision stare at the setting scarlet-gold disc and the rest of the world and itās pleasures and woes just melt away. A beautiful, private moment and each sunset unique. For your eyes. Never to be repeated in quite the same colour or composition again though the sun may try and try until itās heart finally packs in from the effort many billions of years from now. The sea stretches as far as the eye can see, an undisturbed canvas except for the zephyrs of wind that cut across the surface and from way up here look like the passing brush strokes upon the waterās canvas of some invisible God, maybe trying to interpret the sunset in shades of blue in itās own painterly, miraculous way.
Quite a crowd down there!
Sun goes down into the Mediterannean.