…not really, but I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind.
…was just a really, really long travel day. Up at 6am, got from door to gate in 40 minutes, and had a really chill day. We had a 3 hour layover in Houston, which was nice because we got a chance to sit down and have lunch, but by the time we got there, it was 7pm – dark and late.
That evening, Bonaire consisted only of our stickshift truck that got a little lost on the way from the airport, our condo where the living room AC didn’t work but felt nice once we opened up the windows, one little trip to stick our feet in the ocean, and the Italian place (Sofia House) across the street which was the only thing in near walking distance open. It was fancy and served us glasses of red wine and lasagna the size of our heads, and salad the size of our fingernails. After refueling, we crashed into our comfy bed and read and decided to roll sans alarm in the morning.
While really motivated scuba divers would have been up and at ’em to be at the shop when they opened in the morning at 8, that was not us. We slept ’til 9:30, headed down to orientation around 10:30, and then had a delicious lunch on the water at Breezes and Bites before even THINKING about packing up our gear and heading for our checkout dive.
We got there in the afternoon and I was awkward setting up all my gear since normally someone swoops in and does it for me, but after some dithering and help I was suited up and we jumped in the ocean to do our buoyancy checks. We sank just fine, so they sent us on our way.
This was actually the first time we had gone diving with just us. We’ve either had an instructor, a dive master, a group, or at least a boat waiting for us. I mean, we’re certified to do this and more, but it felt like being allowed to walk to school by yourself for the first time.
I got to spend all the time I wanted looking at fishies and trying to get good pictures. If we felt like turning around or going deeper or shallower or just being done, we could. It was awesome, albeit a little scary because if something happened, we were indeed on our own.
We liked our dive at Something Special, just offshore from the Yellow Submarine Dive Friend’s shop location, we grabbed a second tank and went back. I remembered vaguely our dives and experience in Bonaire two years ago on the short morning and early afternoon we were visiting from the cruise ship. I knew we had to go back for longer, and that afternoon reminded me why.
First, the dives are BREATHTAKING. Even on a rough or not-so-clear day, every dive is probably the best dive anywhere else of your life. So many fish, so much to see, and 85 degree crystal clear turquoise water.
Second, the people. At first, while I was transitioning from not-being-on-vacation Quix who was like, “hurry, hurry, efficiency, why haven’t you served me my food I ordered it 2 seconds ago, hurrrrrr”, it was a little annoying, but once I calmed my shit… I loved the relaxed attitude. Everyone was pretty friendly, but it wasn’t that fake, customer service type friendly. They seemed to just genuinely be happy to be doing what they were doing, living in paradise.
After two tanks, we called it for the day because we had one more errand to run before really sinking into vacation mode – hitting the grocery store. This was an experience in and of itself.
Unlike the US, where there is a mega mart on every corner, there is ONE large supermarket, and it is primarily Dutch. This is the place you go if you want to get what you want, rather than roll with whatever happens to be there. The carts are locked together, and we actually couldn’t figure out how to deal, so we just grabbed a few carry baskets and looked ridiculous.
We picked up the essentials – breakfast (decaf coffee, cereal, milk, fruit, and yogurt for me, nutella on toast and stuff to make cheese quesidillas for Zliten), lunches (sandwich stuff, salad stuff, a weird chinese soup to try), snacks (chips, crackers, etc), beer and wine, and some european sweets that looked amazing. If it sounds like we were shopping for teenage kids (minus the booze) – each hour down burns me almost 600 calories, and that’s not counting the setup and takedown. We needed the fuel. 🙂
However, since it was our anniversary, we decided to leave the groceries at home and walk down to get food at Rum Runner’s, and got sat at a lovely table right on the ocean. While we drank our margaritas (my margarita came with a turtle on it, which meant they knew me because they’re my favorites) and waited for our food, giant tarpin played in the water below us. I ordered the fish fajitas and Zliten ordered the shrimp in this magic anise honey chili magic love sauce, and we split both. It was perfect.
We sat on the couch and went through dive pictures and photos, and split a bottle of wine and floated off to bed soon after.
Set the alarm for 10 but didn’t need it. We woke up and brewed some coffee and lazed about that morning. Our goal was to hit up all the 5 dive shops and dive from those locations over the trip (since it was the most convenient) and today’s targets were Dive Inn, and our house reef, Bari. Let me tell you – I miss having a “house reef” where I could walk out my door, gear up, grab a tank 10 feet from the water, and go. But, I digress.
First we hit up Town Pier and dove there. There was rumor of a turtle, but I got a little confused underwater, and I told Zliten to turn us around before we got there. Here’s the weird part about diving and communication – it’s a game of charades where you can’t cheat even if you want to. You have to communicate to your partner what is going on or what your intentions are (or what the problem is) without the use of voice.
You find ways to get by. Fish get their specific hand signals. Tapping on the tank to make noise means attention. At first, you want to give the thumbs up when you want to say that you’re ok, but since that means go to the surface, you learn to use THIS instead. There’s a symbol for squeezes (when you have trouble equalizing). There’s a symbol for “how much air do you have left” but I usually just grab Zliten’s if I’m curious or tell him mine first. Pointing in certain directions or at certain things seems obvious.
But when the weird stuff comes up, you definitely feel awkward and trying to communicate “hey, I think that we’re not supposed to go past the pier and I think this is past the pier” and he’s trying to say “but wait, I think this is where they saw the turtle up ahead” without using the turtle symbol as to make me unnecessarily excited is advanced level charades shit. Diving dictates that you always go conservative, so if one person says turn back, you turn back.
Needless to say, we didn’t see a turtle, and I was kicking myself, but hey, we had many days left and we didn’t get run over by boats.
After some lunch from our fridge (a turkey sandwich and a salad and some chips and probably a sweet or two was like HEAVEN), we headed out our door to Bari. People had said good things, and I think we would have gone even if it wasn’t home base, but I’m so glad it was.
It was magical. The reef starts at about 20 feet down (so, almost snorkeling depth), and just the sheer AMOUNT of fish around the area was… amazing. We took one tank and went one way, and took a second tank and went the other. The highlight of the day was seeing a great barracuda as long as me just hang out with us. It was a little scary at first, but as I said earlier, it was more interested in friends, not food.
After cleaning up, we decided to try a place up the road… it was a sketchy looking bar but said it also had food so we moseyed in and found that it was actually a chinese restaurant with an extensive menu, so we ordered eggrolls, egg soup, and I got chicken chow mein. The eggrolls were amazing (or I was just hungry), the egg drop soup was WAY better than the traditional, and my chicken chow mein was great. The only bummer was the use of dark meat chicken in everything, which I don’t love, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority there.
Even though it was a bar, we saved the drinks until we got home and drank these little tiny Polar beers (Venezulan beer that’s made in Miami?) and headed to bed early.
We had to catch a boat at 8:30, so I was up early enough to eat cereal, fruit, and yogurt and use the potty (sounds a lot like race morning?), and then we were off to board the Carlotta and head out to Klein Bonaire.
Post boat dive (oh the hair-manity!)
We dove Sampler and Country Garden. They were beautiful dives, but at this point in my memory, everything is running together. The only real memory that stood out was being cranky with my gear. My wetsuit was causing me STRIFE. Being that I’m a little heavy right now, it takes a little effort to get on and off. Pairing that with all the gear hauling, I had so much abrasion and chafing going on I just hated the above water parts of diving so much right then.
For lunch, we hit up a local sandwich shop called Between Two Buns, and when we both noticed a burger and fries, that was it. And honestly… it was the shit. The meat was so flavorful and it was super huge and filling and all I wanted and needed out of life right then. We took a walk around the property and chased around the leezards and soaked up a little sun.
And then… we went back to the condo and I crashed for a 90 minute nap. I kinda hated wasting precious diving hours, but diving is SERIOUS BUSINESS, y’all. You do this incredibly peaceful thing, but then you come out of the water and all of a sudden you realize that a) your body is WORKED and b) you either need to eat or sleep or both. I guess I needed both that day.
As soon as I got up, we did a dive that ended at sunset at Bari and decided to ditch the wetsuit. I was a little nervous because of all the ouchy coral around, but it made me be more careful and that’s probably a good thing. At the end of the dive, in just a few feet of water, we finally spotted our first TURTLE! I was cursing myself so hard because my camera was dead and I didn’t get a great shot of him, but hey… TURTLE!
I’m cheating and subbing in a turtle picture from another day, so, *spoilers*, it was not the last sighting.
We were tempted to try doing a night dive, but my ears were giving me trouble, and I wanted to make sure I was good for the boat in the morning. We ate food in the condo (I enjoyed a grilled cheese and tomato chinese soup, and some other random snacks), and just melted into the couch and then the bed.
…and on that note, we’ll call it here. Part 2
coming shortly HERE!, including equipment malfunctions, giant eels, a long swim under a (not-so) short pier, road donkeys, and much much more.