Sep 9, 2007

BLUE HOLES, Palau – I surface from one of the world's greatest dives. And wish I could magic it all away. Or dial back a few hours, at least.

Seven a.m. was a good time. A kinder gentler time. My friend Steph and I were practicing yoga on a rough-slab dock. Below us, a sand-colored shark nosed over the iron shards of a WWII pier.

Seven a.m. was before the ghetto wetsuit: the one with the ripped-out bottom. Before the divemaster said, "I will be your depth meter" and "you don't need an octopus (back-up mouthpiece – a standard accessory now*)."

Seven a.m. was before the high seas, the sullen six-foot waves smacking around the motorboat.

And before said waves made the classic Blue Holes entry – drifting through the reef's peekaboo portals into a cathedral of sunshot blue – impossible. Instead we descended to 70ft and blundered into the dark, silty cavern.

Before the seasickness. Before Janet's regulator malfunctioned. Before Bronwyn's second-degree sunburn. Before Steph's congestion forced her to call the dive, surfacing with a bloody nose and one deaf ear.

"I bruised my eardrum in Honduras," I console her, scrambling aboard the boat. "It'll be fine in a few days."

"But I just missed the Blue Holes," she cries. "I traveled halfway around the world and missed the BLUE HOLES."

I blurt: "German Channel was much better yesterday: all the sharks, the manta, the coral."


"Oh yeah. I could barely see anything in the cavern, certainly none of the big tuna and wahoo down deep. And the holes were patches of fuzzy green. Kinda like being inside a giant washing machine ... In a way, Steph, you're lucky. You still have the Blue Holes ahead of you, while I caught 'em on a rare mediocre day."

She hugs me. "Even if you're lying, you're a great friend." Then the Atlanta belle turns all steel magnolia: "And never, ever tell me if you lied."

Good thing I didn't.

*After some squabbling, he did, finally, monster together two regulators with "an island wrench".

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