Sunday, 10 May 2009

Love At First Sight

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I've fallen in love. As soon as I saw her, I was captivated. She's bigger than I'd usually go for, and a fair bit older than me. But she's in good shape for her age. Exotic and exciting, the moment I touched her I knew forever wasn't going to be long enough. Dad said she sounds interesting, but Mum doesn't approve. She thinks she's dangerous and will get me into trouble.

Her name's Irako; she's Japanese. She's been in Coron 65 years, and lies in 30 metres of warm Philippines water in Coron Bay. Her darker points are at a good 42 metres down, around her salvaged propeller shaft. Gerd told me she's the Three Ds..."Deep, Dark...and fucking Dangerous" he cackled. Red rag to a bull...I wanted in. Top of my list since the first day in his shop, Gerd had steered me away from her until I'd proved myself on the easier wrecks. But after our first dives together he'd told me "I like British wreck divers...strong" while tapping his temple and smiling. So I'd earned my spurs. Divemasters at other shops don't penetrate her, as you only get a bottom time of around 15-18 minutes before you have to come back up; Gerd's actually dived her on his own, exploring. So he knows her intimately, and I'm her jealous suitor. He has around 12 bottles from her stores...green or brown glass with Nippon Breweries around the base. I'm not leaving the country until I own one.

Artur was guiding me on this one, as Gerd had other business that day. I was a little wary, as I trust Gerd implicitly...but he assured me his Divemaster had over 1000 dives on these wrecks. A night on the booze wasn't really great preparation for this one, and as we hit the deck at 30 metres down, I wasn't sure if it was the narcs or the alcohol making my head spin. But no turning back now, he gave me the signal. I responded in the affirmative, and into the dark hatch we went.

She was no disappointment. The foreboding darkness enveloped us, machinery and collapsed metal highlighted by the beams of our torches. Not having much ambient light to guide us, each sweep of our lights revealed something else; wreckage, switches, doors we dared not enter, pitch black beyond their frames. Conscious of time, we headed through the transmission room; masses of twisted metal, remains of machines, wheels and tilted beams abounded...you could almost sense the souls of the dead in this cast iron crypt. So much to see, but so little time. We entered a decompression dive before we knew it, our beeping computers urging our escape and indicating the several minutes of boredom we'd spend hanging on the line on the way up, nitrogen bubbles escaping our systems via our lungs on the way up to safety. But no matter...it was worth every nanosecond. Adrenaline flooded my system as we found our way out and located the shotline.

Irako was a refigeration ship, and Gerd told me there's much more to see. She's huge at 147m long. We barely covered a sixth of her. He has an American client who comes back every year and does 200 dives on her alone. Sounds excessive, but I'm beginning to see where he's coming from. I wanted more within seconds of getting inside her bulk.

Heading back to Coron Town, I sat at the stern of the Emily and watched the islands pass, the sun set. And I started weighing up my options. Indonesia, the Gili Islands and my Divemaster course were my next planned stop...I'd booked a flight to Manila in the next few days, as the visa was running out within days. Another visa extension would cost me 65 quid for a month. Coron was a dusty little place, and wouldn't have the entertainment of Gili Trawangan. There certainly wasn't much action here. But could I leave the wrecks and a mentor like Gerd Schulte? I think my mind was made up before I got on the plane back to Manila.

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