The roads of Taganga are dirt, some chunks of asphalt remain, fighting the good fight, forming little ledges the motorcyclists must skirt. The houses here are made out of concrete and painted in vibrant colors. Our hostel is a mustard yellow. The interior walls are also concrete. The room we’re sitting in has one wall that’s lime green and the opposite wall is a shade of mint, the other two are shades of white. Running across a green wall and onto a white one is a jagged line of bare concrete, the paint scraped away as though some restless creature dragged an armored tail against the walls. A curling frame holds a piece of canvas portraying an enthusiastic, abstract seascape. I peak behind it, it’s covering a spot of bare concrete. The door is forest green and it hangs a little drunkenly trying to fill a frame too big for it. A small window faces an interior courtyard, where you can hear someone teaching the parrot a wolf whistle. It has a silky, white, curtain with a hole off to one side and some fringe that’s seen better days. The fourth wall, the almost white one, it has three pink hibiscus the size of my hand painted on it at random. The concrete floor is primary blue. The room contains a double bed with white sheets and orange pillows, a white plastic lawn chair sits in one corner. A little wooden dresser that probably started life as a liquor cabinet is the only other thing in the room.
It seems like the kind of place that would leak despair into the air but some magical quality not visible to the naked eye imbues the room with a comfortable, happy feeling. It feels like it could be a drunken leprechaun’s first attempt at interior decorating. It’s a private room, there’s air conditioning and you can hear laughter floating in on the breeze. Music fills the background in a soft, unobtrusive beat.
My stomach is so full of celebratory pasta that I’m leaning way back into my pillows, only my head propped against the wall. We’ve been diving and taking classes for the last two days and tonight’s night dive wrapped up our Advanced Open Water Diver course. But it’s in this room, in this little bed that I can begin to try and understand what I experienced tonight. That I can begin to try to process a tiny bit of the awesomeness of it all.
Scuba diving is always such an amazing experience, the chance to turn the pages in a book that nature never intended us to see. Swimming amongst schools of fish, spotting sea turtles, watching our depth, how much air, time, is left… 15 feet, 30 feet, 60 feet, 90 feet down. I close my eyes and I’m not in the room. We’re in the dark water again. I can hear my hissing, gurgling breaths rasping in my ears, reminding me of my trespass into the sea and reassuring me of my existence.
Diving at night, the water becomes more tangible somehow, it presses darkness on you, all around you. It seems to thicken the silence between breaths. At night the ocean will not let you forget her vastness. The night dive was the dive that reminded me, put me in my place, brushed away my hubris.
Fish move sluggishly around us, barely reminiscent of their brisk daytime selves. I feel like Scooby Doo again, terrified of monsters and tiptoeing around on the promise of food. The darkness is barely penetrable by our small flashlights, we are constantly bumping into each other as we huddle around Jorge, our instructor. He shines his torch down on a lobster and it folds up it’s tail, shooting backwards, away from the light. A squid about the length of my forearm wiggles past us. It’s shimmering through the water, spots and streaks glow on its long smooth sides and the little legs flow behind it in a tight formation. I watch the squid with the wonderment and joy I’m sure my dog feels every time we pull up to a window and food comes out… like I had somehow stumbled across a door into a mysterious, beautiful scene. I grin around my regulator, water leaks into my mask. I glance at my air pressure gauge, my time is running out. The squid heads off into the blackness, another night hunter. I glance around and remember the darkness pressing in on us. I shy away from it and bump into Jorge again.I reach for Matt’s hand and focus on the places my light touches.
We’re at 18 meters. I try to stop from translating that into feet. It’s 60 feet. All I can hear is the hiss of air as I suck it into my lungs, the bubbles flowing out of my regulator, racing around my face to be reunited with the air, to be is free to join the wind on the surface. Focusing on my breathing is soothing, meditative, underwater. Jorge spots a sea horse and points it out to us, its huge, the size of my palm, with it’s tail wrapped around a plant that waves gently with our movement. We keep moving and a sea cucumber is stretched out across the sand, Jorge waves swirls the water above it and it contracts. I glance at my air pressure, the clock is running down, we begin our slow descent.
We hover at 15 feet, exhaling nitrogen for a few minutes when Jorge directs us to tuck our flashlights into our chests. He begins waving his hands through the water rapidly and suddenly we’re suspended among the stars in the night sky. Tiny specks glow green all around us and the bioluminescent plankton envelope us in eerily beautiful clouds. I reach out for them but all I feel is the ocean. It’s amazing, it’s more than amazing, it’s like slamming into this visceral reminder of everything we’re a part of, of just how incredible and ancient the earth is, of how special the tiny little things are, the ones that get overlooked and ignored, it’s magic. Our air is almost gone, we must leave behind the secrets of the sea. Our heads break the surface and we shine our lights down onto ourselves and the four of us are floating here and I can’t stop smiling. I’m so happy I didn’t get eaten before I got to see the plankton.0