It wasn’t an ordinary day. It wasn’t an ordinary month either. Being strong was weakening from the inside. Grief loomed over me for weeks now and I longed for a break. Probably a trip to some place I have never been. A trip with no familiar faces..
Scavenging through numerous travel groups, forums, I found Nirvana Nomads. Google defines Nirvana as being in ‘a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth‘. Nirvana sounded good. The group offered a trip on the coming weekend. The highlight of the trip being Scuba diving at Netrani Islands. “Scuba” happened to be, just what I needed.
It definitely is exciting to plan a trip all by yourself. Or even go backpacking without any planning. But at times, planning can itself be a tedious. The task of pulling in people, finding transport, stay, etc etc could be tiresome. Some days you just don’t have energy to do all of it. Now, that’s when a travel group becomes your saviour. They tuck away the pain part under their sleeves and wrap us up with only the comfort of a journey. So I went ahead and blocked my seat. Its human nature to be unsure of a new group of people and a never- done- before adventure. That night, I lay on my bed wondering how it would be, to go 40 ft down into the ocean. A scary thought.
Friday night, we met at Chaipathy, Indiranagar. A group of 12 strangers. As minutes past, we got over the initial introduction and awkward silence bit. Everyone looked excited, skeptical and a little hesitant. After exchanging formal greetings, a little prying into everyone’s lives, what they did, where they are from, we began our journey.. a journey Into the Blue.
The Nomads had arranged a traveler for our journey. We all jelled in quickly, singing songs, playing games, late into night… A bond forged over a journey is definitely stronger than most of the hi-bye bonds we make in life. By the time we got to Murudeshwar, everyone had forgotten that we were strangers the day before.
Around 8.30 in the morning we checked in at R.N.S guest house. I could taste the sea already. The air was salty and humid. We freshened up and departed to the temple town of Murudeshwar.
Though Murudeshwar is inherently a fishing township, it was bustling with devotees.This town is famous for its Shiva statue and the Murudeshwara temple. The 123ft tall statue is the tallest Shiva statue in India and second tallest in the world. He sits peacefully on a small mound, with his back facing the Arabian sea.. Thousands of devotees come here every year.
After having a light breakfast, we proceeded towards Dreamz Diving’s office, where we filled up few forms regarding medical condition of every person. Dreamz Diving conducts diving tours at the Netrani Island. We were lead by Mr Dhirendra Rawat and his diving team. Netrani is a small heart shaped island, 20km off the Murudeshwara coast. We donned our life jackets and boarded the boat.. As Mr Rawat started explaining the basics of Scuba, my heart did something similar to a somersault. We are taught how to breathe through the mouth and how to release the ears from the air pressure. We were instructed not to touch any creature or object as the world underneath could look really tempting, but she could be vile if we are not careful enough,
Almost half and hour since we left and the shore line had dissolved into the sea. All you could see is the shimmering blue ocean spreading out into the infinity. Soon we could see a glimpse of Netrani. It almost resembled a crocodile’s back popping out from the ocean. We were told that the island is uninhabited except for pigeons and wild goats. As our boat drew closer, we could see large round stones paving the lush green bushes. Since the place is inhabited by goats, there should be fresh water. And it was surprising that fresh water could be found in an island in the middle of ocean. I made a mental note of getting into the island if I get a chance.
The boat circled the island several times and finally anchored. We were asked to shift to another boat which had stationed there earlier. The second boat carried all our scuba gear the oxygen tanks, jackets, belts, fins etc. Every person would be taken down into the ocean by an instructor. Few went for snorkeling first and the rest to dive. Each of us were asked to sit at the edge of the boat. My heart was racing, it would be only minutes before I take the plunge. Next was the suiting up process. We put on jackets fitted with oxygen tanks. Then we wore masks which covered our eyes and nose. Fins on our legs. Finally we were ask to bite on to the mouth piece of the oxygen tube. I looked as though I just tumbled out of Transformers.
“Ready” he asked. All I could manage was a feeble nod and before I knew it, one of the instructors gave me a push. A push known as “Trust Fall”. ( Personal Note:- it was a fall which would make you lose all the trust). And I toppled down into the water. Into the deep blue ocean.
The descend began. We were moving down at a very slow pace. Every few feet, I was signaled to release the pressure in my ears by pinching close my nostrils & mouth and breathing out. Once I felt my ears pop, the sharp pain I felt decreased. Slowly as I got used to being under water, I looked around. Underwater is nature’s best painting. It was as if little colored fishes were splashed on a blue canvas. I could see shoals of fishes all around me. There were yellow stripped ones, silver ones, jet black ones. Some looked like little rainbows waddling around dancing to some tune I could never hear. As we went further down, we began spotting large corals. The corals were mostly wheatish brown and yellow in color. Some of them looked like small leafless trees while others resembled large stones covered in algae.
The instructor brought me closer to a group of corals. He pointed at a gaping fish like creature popping out from a crevice. It had black body with uneven blue circles and a vicious look. Later I found out that it was the Leopard Moray eel. I always pictured eels as brown ugly snake like reptiles, but this one looked magnificent. Few sea urchins had positioned themselves randomly on the corals. It is a spectacular sight to watch a school of golden colored fishes glide past you. As if a fairy had sprinkled the sparkling fairy dust.
Finally we reached the ocean bed. Not many fishes were seen around here except for one or two big ones, who looked like, they needed some time alone, away from the maddening world..
As I looked above, I was spell bound at the bigger picture of all of it, the blue brine ocean with all its fishes, corals, and under water creatures. They all moved with the grace of a ballet dancer, gentle and elegant. The fishes glided and twirled between the corals in such harmony that you could almost hear murmurs of a sweet silent ballad. And I would not be surprised if I see the the slender tail of a mermaid, coyly wrapped around a coral branch..
Alas, I could not stay here for ever. We slowly began our ascend. I took one last look at this enchanted place and before I could manage a second glance, I was at the surface. We boarded back to our boats. Throats were parched and salty, but everyone had beaming faces, and glowing smiles. We all knew what it meant.
Travel Group : Nirvana Nomads
Diving Team : Dreamz Diving