Downtime

:

One of the things I like about travelling to tropical environs is that it usually resets my body clock to that of a human being. I’m almost always up at 7 or 8 in the morning, bite off a huge day, come back for dinner, a few beers (in hand), and am in bed by midnight. Such is a welcome break from my vampiric existence in The Land of the Morning Calm, where sleeping before 3 a.m. is personally seen as a sort of sacrelige.

One of the things I like about travelling to tropical environs is that it usually resets my body clock to that of a human being. I’m almost always up at 7 or 8 in the morning, bite off a huge day, come back for dinner, a few beers (in hand), and am in bed by midnight. Such is a welcome break from my vampiric existence in The Land of the Morning Calm, where sleeping before 3 a.m. is personally seen as a sort of sacrelige.

This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, but it hasn’t been. I was supposed to hunker down in a bungalow on a white sand beach and spend the days writing and drinking coffee, the evenings eating light meals of grilled fish and a reasonable amount of beer. As far as the evenings go, I’ve been relatively successful, but my day times have been FAR MORE active than anticipated. I’ve been out snorkelling, motorbiking, diving, or swimming just about every day that I haven’t been travelling. I return sun zapped and wonderfully spent. I’ve lost a bit of weight (despite the copious lager intake) and feel more physically in tune than I have in ages. But… the writing has been put off….

Last night I was officially certified by PADI (Professional Associations of Diving Instructors) as an Open Water Diver, which means I can pretty much go anywhere in the world and dive on my own (with a buddy, of course), or join in on a a trip. What I can say is that it’s nice to go on vacation and actually accomplish something concrete. I now have a card and certificate. It cost a bit of scratch but was well worth it, since they forwent the whole swimming pool thing and trained us in the open water, meaning that we got to do six dives in two days, in some of the most amazing diving water on the planet. I saw sea turtles, moray eels, stingrays, and hundreds of varieties of fish, not to mention endless corals, sea anenomies, giant clams, sea urchins, jellyfish, and other creatures/plants that defy terrestrial description.

Diving is at once relaxing and physically taxing, especially for the newby. The gear alone presents a challenge, along with the the reality of breathing underwater, which is really one of the most counterintuitive things a person can do. And trust me, your body tells you this, at least right at first. We had to do a load of challenges and exercises to get certified, including emergency training, compass work, and removing our masks, letting them sink to the bottom, swimming in a circle, retrieving the masks, putting them back on, and clearing out all of the water by breathing out through our noses. The latter was the most difficult, and pretty much sorts out those who are cut out for diving and those who are not – a litmus test of sorts.

Two days of this, along with the two weeks of prior activity and travel have left the two of us dead today. This has been my first day of nothing to do since La Union, and I spent it sleeping, uploading photos, and writing. I’m currently in the Art Cafe, a slightly overpriced joint that overlooks the bay and plays music perfect for the surroundings (currently listening to “Candela” from “The Buena Vista Social Club” soundtrack). I’ve been here since about four and now it’s seven.

Sometimes things just work.

Our three companions left town today, heading back to Puerto Princesa to catch flights to other parts of the Philippines. We evacuated the beach house and Sam and I found a decent room nearby to spend the next couple of days, before catching the boat north to Coron. Tomorrow shall be more motorcycles: this time 200 cc dirtbikes. We’re going to do a loop of the northern bit of the island. After that we’ll have another down day, and then sail away.

I really like it here. As General Douglas McCarthur famously said of the same place:

“I shall return.”



Leave a Comment