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We Conquered the Ocean

THAILAND | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [140] | Scholarship Entry

Imposing cliffs stand like faithful sentinels all around us, their far-reaching shadows a reminder of the many lifetimes they have watched these waters before our arrival today. Turquoise water spreads around our boat, waves stretching for kilometres before ever meeting shore. The sun hangs high above us, its rays drying the sea water on our captain’s browned shoulders, leaving faint traces of salt in its stead. Dressed in nothing but a faded singlet and well-worn denim shorts, I watch as he moves sure-footedly around the boat, anchoring us to the sea floor before announcing that this is where we’ll first disembark.

I peer over the edge of the boat. Only a foot of air separates me from the waves, and whatever lies below. The hair on my arms stand on end, imagining what that may be. Still, I am not so distracted by my fear that I can’t appreciate the way the water glitters in the light.

I turn to face the boat’s occupants, and already our American counterparts have pulled on their wetsuits. Toned and tanned from many adventures into the blue, only the creases bordering their eyes and mouth reveal the couple are in fact, my age twice over. Confidently, they jump as if to greet the waves; the woman alone turns to call to me.

‘Coming, Australia?’

I nod nervously in reply, watching them disappear below the surface, their snorkels now the only indication of their whereabouts. Then there is only Eddy and I, the captain having closed his eyes once we’d been anchored, his bare feet crossed on the dashboard, hands behind tilted head.

‘I want to wear a life jacket’. I admit to my husband. He promptly sources one from under his seat, and gently but firmly fastens it over my six-month old pregnancy bump. Eddy steps towards the edge of the boat, holding his hand out so that he may help me ease into the water. I shake my head, and urge him forward. I can do this by myself.

I needn’t have worried. Enamoured with the way schools of exotic fish change direction all at once, I would follow them far from the boat, forgetting I ever feared the open sea. I would find the water cool and comforting, a relief from the heat in which the boat baked. As the sun dipped below the Phi Phi horizon, the scent of coconuts staining our fingers, I would know I’d treasure forever after, the day my baby and I conquered the ocean.

None of that could happen however, if I didn’t get off the boat.

I still my breath and slip into the water.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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