Sunday, 3 May 2009

Rocksteady Diving

It was a blisteringly hot walk around town to find somewhere to dive the Japanese wrecks around Busuanga. There were a good few operations offering good deals, most around 42 quid for three dives, which isn't bad.

Staff in most shops didn't know where the next day's diving would be, and couldn't tell us that much about the sites. Others just didn't seem bothered and told us to come back later. One shop told us about the further flung establishments, and we decided to have a good look round all of them.

Rocksteady was a ten minute walk out of town. The shop's decked out in Jamaican colours, the reason for which I'd learn later, and contained allsorts of rusty relics from the ships: radios, lights, beer bottles, rusty bits of unidentifiable metal (lots of those)...you name it. Gerd, the owner, had obviously been busy.
We started chatting about the wrecks, and he impressed me with both his knowldge and passion for them. Books and charts were brought out, recommendations made. Gerd's very laidback (not with incompetent students, but more on that later). He spent a good hour with us, chatting about this and that. Apparently he was Bavarian, and he informed that this was different from being German "like the Scottish are not British". I said "Or the English British...we don't like getting lumped in with those Welsh and Scottish types, old chap." He laughed.

I liked Gerd straight away. He leans across the counter on one forearm when making a point, examining you pointedly with his piercing blue eyes as he waits for a response. I could easily picture him in the Kriegsmarine uniform of a U-Boat captain. And for a German, he's very funny. We'd been chatting about diving experiences, great places we'd dived, and various pains-in-the-arse we'd encountered. He'd had some hard work with an awkward Austrian customer some time back "Bloody Austrians. Those bastards" he sighed to the ceiling "Never trust an Austrian. My wife is Austrian..." he gestured to the office behind him. Before I could chip in with a water-testing joke, he beat me to it "...Hitler was a fucking Austrian!" he roared, eyes twinkling. I grinned so widely my face hurt. A German who makes jokes about Hitler; we'd get along just fine. Next he'd be telling me he supported Preston North End.

He also told us a little about his diving history. Like me, he'd been a late starter at 37 and, also like me, got hopelessly addicted immediately. The Instructor who'd taught him was actually the model for the Jethro Tull "Aqualung" album cover opposite. Very bizarre. He'd done his Divemaster course in Coron years back and got hooked on wrecks. Despite a couple of short spells back in Germany, he's been here 8 years and has no intention of leaving the boats. His wife, Karin, has got used to his other love taking up his time.

Will said he'd like to check out the other dive shops first, and Gerd was fine with this. We thanked him and left. It wasn't far up the road that we turned round after Will had asked for my impressions of him and the shop. I told him I felt Gerd was the only person who seemed interested in us diving with him, knew his stuff, and was a bit of a character into the bargain. Will agreed. We went straight back and arranged a schedule to dive over the next few days.

I hardly slept that night; this was the main reason I'd come to the Philippines. After reading and researching these warships, I was finally going to get my hands on them.

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