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Down UnderDiving Course Update

On 17 July 2004 from Exmouth, WA | comments closed

On Wednesday I started the PADI Open Water Diver Course, and the first thing we did was getting some fitting gear from the shed: wetsuit, boots, fins, mask, snorkel, BCD (buoyancy control device), regulators, weight belt and scuba tanks. Luckily the dive shop had a mask with prescription lenses my strenght (actually, slightly stronger), so now I can see perfectly underwater as well. This is probably something I should buy for myself when I really get into diving, but unfortunately those masks are very dear, although I already got an address in England that makes prescription mask lenses for 38 euro a lens.

The other participants of the course were Arno (Dutch), Ron (German), Max (German), Helen (Scottish) and Elaine (English). Roy (Kiwi) was our instructor. After getting all the gear, we did some theory lessons, before doing our first confined water dive in the pool. That went all fine, except for the fact that the pool was fairly cold.

On Thursday we did some theory in the morning, before getting into the pool again. That was even colder than the day before, because Thursday was all cloudy, very untypical weather apparently. At least the rain did not bother at all under water. After our third confined water dive in the pool in the afternoon, we finished class early, because Helen and I still had not had our medical examination. That took about 2 hours, mainly because the doctor was running late with the previous appointments that day. Fortunately I can report that I am in good health, except for one thing: I cannot see anything without glasses… Nothing new there, and as I mentioned: I have prescription lenses in my mask to make me spot the fish, other divers and boat (although boats are usually hard to miss, even without visual correction).

The course group got slightly thinned out on Friday, because Helen failed her medical and Elaine was not very confident, so she wanted more time to study the theory. Since there were only 4 of us left now, things were moving a lot faster though, and we managed to finish the remaining confined water dives in the pool in the morning. In the afternoon we went to the Navy Pier with a whole lot of certified divers. The Pier was really cool to swim around and through, we saw lots of fish, from tiny bright blue ones (Neon Damsels) to entire schools of large silver fish. Only drawback was all the sand afterwards; everything and everybody was covered in sand.

Friday during lunchtime I met the daughter of a former Rabobank colleague (also doing a working holiday in Oz), and we went out together with some other Dutch, German and Canadian girls. I did not make it a late night though, since the doctor said I should sleep well, eat well, and not drink too much alcohol before diving. And since I always do what doctors say (ahem…) I decided to follow that advice. [Lecture]In all seriousness, diving is lots of fun, but there are risks involved, like decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis and the like. That is why it is essential to do a diving course before diving, so you know about the things that can happen, and how to handle in those situations. After all, you might be 20 metres deep in the water, and getting straight up when a problem occurs is just the opposite thing you should do. Therefore it is good to know the things you should do, so potential health damage is minimised.[/Lecture]

Today (Saturday) started with learning some more diving theory, followed by making the final exam, which I passed without any problems (and also without actually reading any chapter of the book). In the afternoon we planned to do another dive around the Navy Pier, but it got cancelled because of bad weather conditions (too windy, but at least it was not raining today, like the three previous days). Unfortunately I will not be doing another Navy Pier dive for the course, and I regret not taking my disposable underwater camera with me yesterday. The remaining three open water dives are at Ningaloo Reef on Monday, so tomorrow is a day off (maybe to study some theory or maybe to check out some beaches and/or gorges in Cape Range National Park). I used the afternoon today to browse the internet and update my website, since I can use the internet for free at the dive school (normally more than 3,5 0 euro/hour).

Down UnderNew Mobile Number

On 15 July 2004 from Exmouth, WA | comments closed

Since (1) Vodafone has almost no coverage outside the major cities in Australia, (2) my Vodafone credit ran out, and (3) I needed to be reachable, I got a new mobile number today from Telstra. So if you want to reach me or text (that is what SMS is called here in Oz) me while I am in or close to a town, this is the new number to dial:
+61-407083434

Down UnderDiving Course

On 14 July 2004 from Exmouth, WA | comments closed

Yesterday evening I got talked into doing a diving course here in Exmouth, so I started it this morning. It is not something completely out of the blue, ever since I planned to go to Australia, I also planned on doing a diving course here. However, initially the plan was to do a diving course on the east coast, most probably in Cairns. But when I spoke to some diving backpackers last night, I learned that diving courses are not significantly cheaper in Cairns than in Exmouth, and more importantly, most diving courses in Cairns do not even go out on the Great Barrier Reef, since that is 250 km out of the coast. Additionally, the Navy Pier here in Exmouth is the 4th best diving site in the world. Therefore my reasons for doing a diving course here in Exmouth are the following:
1. Getting my diving certificate in Exmouth allows me to dive on Ningaloo Reef and do a multiple day live aboard diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef.
2. Diving courses in Exmouth are slightly more expensive than in Cairns, but the groups are probably smaller, and I get to dive the Navy Pier and Ningaloo Reef.
3. Spending some time in Exmouth gives me more time to find people to travel up north with.

So I booked my PADI Open Water Diver Course with Coral Coast Dive in Exmouth. It should be 4 days in total, consisting of theory and practice in the pool, as well as 4 dives out in the ocean (Navy Pier and Ningaloo Reef). Total damage is 235 euro, plus 60 euro for my medical examination.

Down UnderIn the Tropics

On 13 July 2004 from Exmouth, WA | comments closed

Saturday morning we (Marina, Jenny and I) went to see a lot of parrots in Rainbow Jungle, before heading back into Kalbarri National Park to see the Loop (again for me) and the Z-Bend (more gorges). Afterwards I drove straight to Denham, where we checked in late at the hostel and still managed to get a complete little unit to ourselves. Subsequently we had our own little kitchen and Marina made some nice dinner.

Sunday morning we drove to Monkey Mia early in the morning. In Monkey Mia dolpins come straight up to the beach, and they stayed there for about half an hour, until the ranger gave them some fish and they swam away. We also left after the feeding, because it was a long way to Coral Bay, with just a stop for food and fuel in Carnarvon. Unfortunately it was a Sunday, otherwise I would have stopped at a windscreen repair place as well, since a little pebble hit the windscreen between Denham and Overlander roadhouse, and it created a bit of a crack. I just hope that is fixable.

On Monday I went on a 4-hour cruise on the Ningaloo reef, spotting lots of humpback whales, dolphins, turtles, and snorkelling at the reef. The latter was rather cold, because the sun hid behind clouds, but the reef was still spectacular and I was just surrounded by fish. It was also the first day I was travelling alone again, because travelling with Marina and Jenny just did not work out, our interests were too different. I mean, I like to sleep in, but that just does not go together very well with sightseeing in the winter here, when the sun sets around 17.30, making days really short.

The plan is to start looking for a few people to travel up north with in Exmouth. Aside from it being more fun to travel with someone, it is also safer, and it will save me quite some money on fuel, since my car turned out to be not very fuel-efficient. At least I think it is not very fuel-efficient, but from discussions with other backpackers with cars I learned it is not doing very bad, especially considering the fact it is a 4WD. I am currently getting about 300-350 km out of a 45 litre tank (I have 2 of those). That translates to about 1 on 7, or 14l/100km. With metropolitan fuel prices of 0,53 euro/litre that is not bad, but in the outback prices rise to 0,83 euro/litre, so it is definitely better for my finances if I can share fuel costs with someone.

I spent Tuesday relaxing on the beach in Coral Bay and socialising at the hostel, before going snorkelling on the reef for a bit in the afternoon, when the temperature had risen enough not to get hypothermia. Late afternoon I drove to Exmouth, and met up with some fellow backpackers that I met before in Kalbarri and Coral Bay (I just keep meeting the same people travelling up the coast).