Technicalities - Who Cares!

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2013

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Flag of South Africa  , KwaZulu-Natal,
Thursday, June 27, 2013

27-28th June – Umzumbe

The bus ride to Umzumbe wasn't a long one; only an hour and half down the road from Durban in the rain :( So this meant we arrived at the hostel around 10am. The hostel Mantis and Moon was amazing; a quirky hostel in the middle of a mini-jungle with the rooms wrapped into the flora with a really funky bar area, as well as ping-pong, a kitchen, lounge area and generally really cool vibe with very welcoming staff.  However, there were dogs EVERYWHERE which I wasn't so happy with.  We had pre-booked a dorm, but they didn’t have our booking (our they had it for the previous 2 days...I couldn’t remember when I emailed them with regard to finding out we had to stay in Durban another night...oops!), so we were put in the tee-pee for the same price, but by ourselves.  The tee-pee was really cool; a massive triangular tent with 4 beds in, but with just us, we spread out a bit as soon as we were in!

Settled and with the weather improving a bit, though still cloudy, Laura and I went for a long walk along the beach and had a good chat whilst seeing pretty much no one.  After hours of talking about life we eagerly went back to the kitchen to had our very exciting lunch; Dr Otker pizzas.  So excited; home comforts!  They were exactly the same as home, delicious, and everyone around was very jealous.  We finally met some people in the hostel; we got talking to Lu and Kate for quite a while, who then went for a walk, same as us but a few hours later.  We also met another Laura, who was telling us about some diving she had done the previous day in the next town over; a wreck dive and diving with sharks even though she only had her open water Padi.  With what seemed a place with very little to do other than surf, obviously Laura and I took the information and rang the company.  After a number of phone calls back and forth we were arranged for the next day :) 

The rest of the afternoon consisted mainly of playing cards!  Laura and I got Lu majorly obsessed with my Christmas present "Backpacker" and we must have played about 5 games; major déjà vu of Kerry’s obsession when we in Halong Bay!

Each evening, the staff get an allowance for food with which they cook a meal for anyone who wants it.  Conveniently, Laura and I arrived on the night of the fish braai (BBQ) so were very excited.  And the fact that the pesto pasta and salad and garlic potatoes were being prepared whilst we were playing cards got us even more excited.  Sadly, the fish was overly tasty, nor was it seasoned enough, but what it came with was brilliant so a good meal all together.  The 4 of us sat talking in the bar for a few hours before Laura and I called it a night, ready for our 5:30am start for scuba diving – excited!!!

Arriving at Aliwal Shoal Diving Centre, we were quickly moved through all the paperwork to get kitted up.  Having had all our equipment ready and waiting for us on the Great Barrier reef dive, the fact that I had to test and set up all my equipment was a bit overwhelming considering I learnt how to do it in October and hadn’t done it since!  Luckily, Laura was doing it right next to me, so the pair of us managed to get it all sorted and tested.  Then the real challenge came – getting on our wet suits!  OMG, was this an effort and a half.  They were 5ml suits rather than the durable 2ml suits I was used to, and it felt like getting on skinny jeans that were 3 sizes too small.  With a hand from the other, we both managed it and jumped on the back of a truck and off we went. 

We were diving with Matt, the instructor, who had a student, Rich, doing his final 2 dives with us for his Advanced Padi.  This made me feel a bit better as Rich had only done his Open water recently so I wasn’t the only one diving with little experience.  The morning was to consist of 2 dives; a scenic dive to around 20m with the hope of seeing some sharks and the other, a wreck dive to 30m.  As I only had my open water qualification, technically I am only allowed to 18m.  Matt however, said he would "look after me" and sign off the dive as going towards me Advanced qualification.  We actually went to 33m which technically he wasn’t allowed to do.  A lot of technicalities – who cared!

The first dive was the wreck dive to 33m and I was shitting myself (sorry to be so blunt!).   To try and make this as comparable to my experience as possible I will describe 2 situations:

1)     You are in Thailand in safe waters and it is really sunny and you can almost see the bottom of the sea at the point you are about to enter the water.  You get into the water and start your descent, instantly being able to see about 20m in front of you in all directions, feet down, holding onto the 'safe-line’ as you go down, with various stops and “okay” signs along the way

2)     You are in South Africa in shark infested water and it is really cloudly and the sea is black and you can’t see anything other than the surface of the water your are about to enter.  You get into the water and start your descent, just about being able to see the people around you only a few metres away.  All of these people then swim downwards quickly all the way to the bottom without any stops and any “okay” signs along the way.

It was really scary going down but luckily Rich was also going down feet first and at a slower rate than I was, so this made me feel a bit more confident.  And we actually reached the sand-floor 33m below a lot quicker than I expected to.  The visibility though was pretty poor and to top it all off, there was a really strong swell that moved you about 3m in each direction each time!  But I soon felt safe and got used to the surroundings (what I could see) and just got on with it!

We soon came across the wreck and started looking around.  The swell made it more or less impossible not to bash into things (which you’re obviously meant to avoid) but we managed to find some sheltered areas where we could get a closer look.  The wreck was pretty broken up, so it was hard to get an impression of how big the ship would have originally been.  The best part was about a vast 10m wall of metal upright in the sand, completely covered in sponge, coral, anemones and just tonnes of colour – really cool.  But with all the excitement and nervousness though, I used up my air earlier than everyone else and had to ascent with Matt.

Back on the boat, on the massive waves and swaying about back and forth back and forth, bloody hell did I feel sick.  We were given a lolly to give us some sugar which I religiously sucked to try and feel better, whilst making very little conversation and according to Laura, looking rather pale!  I did manage to spot a massive turtle surfacing for air whilst we on the boat as well as a large, dark grey fin just before we were about to get into the water for our second dive!  The second dive sadly was a bit of a let-down; the swell and visibility had got even worse by this point and Laura and I were gutted that we didn’t see any sharks.  The dive was just about saved when Rich found a metre wide, round ribbon tail ray which was just really cool – it literally looked like an alien, blinking at us as we all starred at it in awe.

After our thanks and good-byes to Matt and Claire (who’d helped us out on the phone and with paperwork) we ended up taking a taxi back to our hostel with Rich in tow!  He was planning on getting the BazBus with us the next day and spent a good hour trying to sort that out when we arrived back at the hostel.  When back, after some lunch, Lu was eager to play some backpacker, as was I and we both sat and taught Rich how to play and after about 3 games they were both pros!  This took us up to another dinner provided by the hostel; lasagne.  I was very excited about this but quite let down when it turned out to be, as Laura put it, Jamie Oliver style with very little tomato.  It was good but nothing on mine – big headed I know :P  Rich, originally put in a dorm with 2 old people who he was sure would snore, moved into our cosy tee-pee for a night of snore-less sleep!What could have potentially been a rather boring and wet stop off in Umzumbe took a surprising turn to still be wet, but in another way, with some friends made in an amazing hostel.  A good stop on our BazBus journey through South Africa :)
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