Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Found Nemo! (And Much, Much More!)

Em was kind enough to let me go out alone on my SCUBA trip. We had talked of going to one of the pontoons and taking turns, me SCUBA, her snorkle, me SCUBA, her...
But the day before she decided she'd lounge and browse around Cairns. (Speaking of browsers...did you know the Internet browser "Firefox" is named after a real animal--the firefox or Red Panda?!? It is now my favorite animal!!!!)

Anyway, after much research and going back and forth between dive tours/company's I took the advice from the life guard on Green Island and went with Silverswift. They do 3 dives. I was only planning to do 2 but it was only $12 more to add the third and I was feeling good after the 2nd dive. All the companies have different reefs and many different sites at each reef to choose from, depending on conditions.

We did one dive at Milln Reef, Fish Town site and then went to Flynn Reef and dove at Gordon’s Mooring and Tracy's. The first dive was a little tough as I had a large underwater camera with me. I hadn't been diving since 2004 but everything came back to me right away, including the difficulty keeping a neutral buoyancy. To do this you have to put in the right amount of air into your buoyancy control device or BC.  I kept putting too much in and then taking too much out, plus the deeper you go the more the air compresses giving you less buoyancy. This wasted too much air and cut my first dive a little short. This combined with one hand trying to not let go of the expensive camera I hired (rented) gave me some added awkwardness.

*Insert: It is not easy taking underwater photos. The fish don't tend to hold still, even the lumbering sea turtles drift away at a pace making it hard to photograph. Then when you do have a subject that doesn't leave, like Nemo, he darts around and as I try to take the picture I begin to either sink or rise (remember the buoyancy problem). As if that isn't hard enough, I was constantly trying not to land on, bump into, or disturb the fragile coral.

On to the dives:

The first one was cool just to be under the water again. I don't remember this one as well as I was focused on remembering how to dive and what not.  There had been a recent HUGE cyclone that had come through the area and destroyed a lot of the hard coral. I remember seeing tons of staghorn coral broken off and littering the sea floor.

Kinda sad. It was still amazing though. The first dive's highlight was the blue spotted sting ray. I saw a white and black stick and wondered what it was.
I then followed its to 2 bumps and then saw the outline of ray just under the sand. Totally awesome, one of the things I really wanted to see  (the others being Nemo (clown fish) and a shark, never found a shark =(.) The first dive was quickly over (fastest 33 minutes ever!) Who knew 200 bar could go so quickly?

The second dive started off great with an immediate sighting of a green sea turtle. Then we found Nemo, or at least his one stripped cousin. (I did see the real Nemo variety while snorkeling on Tuesday).

This dive went much better for me, I was much more graceful with my camera and buoyancy and extended my dive by 4 minutes.
I loved seeing the pink anemone fish (Nemo).  The photography guy said it is a cliche' for a professional to photograph them, but they all do and just don't talk about it.
They are so pretty and are set against a beautiful back ground. I found a "field" of this anemone and thought it was beautiful.
As the dive master was about to take us one way I spotted another turtle hiding down in some rocks and swam over to visit.
He soon noticed me and began his slow and effortless withdrawal. All the other divers then came over to see him too. This one is a hawksbill sea turtle. Very pretty and very large. About 3x the size of the green sea turtle.

Another cool thing about this dive was the coral "swim-throughs". One was a tube we swam through and another a pretty canyon. This maori wrasse swam through with me, he's about half my size. It was so cool to look up and see the surface through these coral walls.

The third dive got even better. There seemed to be a lot more fish and the coral was even prettier here. One of the best parts was the unbelievable landscape. This area had a lot of pretty corals and colorful fish. We saw some more turtles and another Nemo cousin residence. Our goal on this dive was to find a reef shark but we never did. Bummer but still probably my favorite dive. This site also had a lot of these giant boulder corals. These stand alone from the rest of the coral shelves and are massive--20 feet with corals domes. They take about a hundred years to form. Other coral varieties were growing on them too.
 After my last dive I went back out with my snorkel and explored some more. I'm glad I did because I realized how much better SCUBA was, it was easier to swim under the water instead of on top, I got more salt water in my mouth with the snorkel and it is awesome to be able to just stay below the water.

Here are some of my other favorite pictures:

(Another of my favorites sights were these pretty which hard coral bushes. They had about a hundred tiny blue fish and sometimes some larger black and white stripped ones which would swim out like a cloud and then dart back in, over and over. They proved very difficult to photograph though.

One that I was very excited to see (this one is small but I saw some huge ones too) was the brain coral, such a cool pattern! 

It was a great day of diving! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sumo-A battle of Wedgies

Max and I went on a trip to Tokyo to see the Sumo Tournament. We rode down on a tour bus on Sunday. He started out throwing up on the bus twice before we left the city limits, but did fine on the rest of the 8 hour ride. Though he was real angry that I wouldn't let him get ice cream at each of the rest stops! He did get some the next day at the tournament. We got to Tokyo and went on a walk to see The Temple. Being Sunday it was closed but he enjoyed seeing it and I again felt a great sense of peace just standing on the corner in front of the temple gates. We then went and found some dinner, Max- McDonalds and me Subway, yes I am getting tired of trying to find food for Max and sometimes myself to eat in Japan, kinda wanted to have some american food around but didn't want to take the Subway to Outback (Tokyo actually has a few american options).
We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel reading and we watched a conference talk of President Monson for our spiritual dinner.

Monday was the tournament. Our tour, through the Misawa Travel Agency, took us to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the Sumo venue which are neighboring buildings. The good Sumo wrestlers don't fight til later in the afternoon so we spent the a few hours at the museum first. They had free museum guides and she was great. If you can make the history of Tokyo, (how it started out as a little town in the 1600s called Edo and then grew through the powerful influenced of the Tokugawa Shoguns into a thriving city which became know as Tokyo as the Emporer Meji allowed the Western influence to enter the Japanese culture), interesting to a 9 year old and a 33 year old, then you are a fabulous tour guide. It was fun. It took you through scale models of what Edo looked like and had some life size building replicas and so on and then took you into the transition from Edo to Tokyo. 

After the Museum we headed to the Kokugikan, the Tokyo Sumo Arena. We ate lunch and watched the lesser Sumo guys while we ate lunch. We enjoyed it a lot. It was fascinating stuff with a lot of ceremony. Each match takes about 5 minutes and the wrestling part is about 5 seconds. It rivals baseball for excitement. I definitely got into it and cheered. There were a lot of good matches and  a few that lasted less then a second as one wrestler would move out of the way as they lept for each other causing the other to fall on the ground. (One wins by forcing the opponent out of the ring or to touch the ground with any body part.) There are numerous moves one can do by grabbing their loin cloth, thus making a "Battle of Wedgies." Sam thinks they are all immodest. After an exciting final match, where the guy who was undefeated almost lost but pulled off a great victory, we headed back to the hotel for dinner, where Max forwent his hot dog and had two salads!, then went swimming.

I turned my reading light out around 10:30 and later heard Max exclaim, "Wow. It's 12:30!" as he turned his off. He had tried to finish Harry Potter Book 5 but just couldn't pull it off. The next morning was comical. I could barely get him out of the room to go the breakfast buffet, his favorite thing in the world. After one bite of french toast and two bits of pineapple he took the room key and left me eating my yummy scrambled eggs and potatoes. I returned to find him back in bed, which is where he was when I left at 9:30 for the Temple, leaving him with some Filipino hotel babysitter, and where he was when I came back at 12:30.

I eventually forced him back out into Tokyo and we visited the Sensoji Temple, dated back to 1600's.

 Max finally got his souvenir samurai swords, he's been wanting for 2.5 years. After this we took a variety of subways and monorail to get to Odaiba island, a man made island where one can find Joypolis (the spelling still bugs me I want it to be Joyopolis), an indoor Sega themepark.

Max loved it. There was a giant half pipe where you were strapped to a giant skate board and could try 360's. Max screamed the whole time, awesome. At the end of the evening I started feeling sick and Max had to go on the last ride by himself. Outside, despite a growing sense of queasiness, I stopped to take some pictures of the beautiful night scene of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo skyline.

Then I looked around for a garbage can and barely made it to one before I throw up. Let me tell you, I did not like having the Tokyo subway system between me and the hotel with my queasy feelings. I made it eventually, only having to hover above a squatty potty in the subway station for a minute before my body thought it was ridiculous to attempt that one!

We eventually made it back to Misawa the next day and we glad to see Em and the other 3 boys again. It was a fabulous trip with Max. He is such a good kid. It was nice to share this trip with him.