WHEN NORTH METS SOUTH

“What is that noise?” I asked aloud as the sound of a cascading waterfall grew stronger.

It was the day after my sacrificial jump to appease the sea Gods. I guess they don’t like hairy virgins cause the wind had died (it was as though Neptune had flipped the switch to ‘off’ on the fan). So we were basically a floating bucket out in the world’s largest bath tub, 4,000 meters deep.

Of course, out in the middle of the Indian Ocean (or any sea-sized body of water) there are no waterfalls so unless we were taking in water, what was the other explanation?

“It’s the current,” Manu said and pointed out to port-side. I looked over and saw a confluence of water colliding and moving across the surface, carrying man-made garbage from the shipping lanes further north.

The water was filthy, strewn with plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic containers – just plastic everywhere. How the fuck can people just throw out their shit into this (or for that matter, any) habitat other than a fucking rubbish tip\recycling plant?

As I stood watching the north greet the southern current as though it were the Mason-Dixie line, something raised its head among the rubbish, breaching the water and stared at us. We stared back for a second.

“It’s a sea turtle!” I called out excitedly.

P1060956It was a Hawksbill, just like the one that had watched me surf in Sri Lanka and just like the stoned character in Finding Nemo (where I get all my marine knowledge from). I now understood why it was given the stoner typecast. It looked blitzed. Wide, droopy eyes, a sunny disposition and I swear it had a loopy, “Hey… man,” look on its face.

We scrambled for our snorkel gear.

 

 

Until now, including the passage from Thailand to Sri Lanka, not only had we not caught any fish on the two lines we trolled daily, we hadn’t even seen any besides the blue-striped, yellow –tailed fish that swam under the boat, using the San Miguel as an adoptive parent.

When I dived in my jaw dropped in awe. I remembered to immediately close it as we were swimming in rubbish.

It was just like in Finding Nemo when the clown fish and Dorie come across the EAC – the Eastern Australian Current – the super underwater expressway that marine animals use to cross the ocean without having to burn fuel (like I said, it’s where I get all my marine knowledge from).

There were Dorados (AKA Dolphinfish, AKA Corrafin) the size of primary school kids, a couple of Barracudas at least 6-feet long, schools of small fish, a satellite-sized sea turtle surrounded by pilot fish and remoras and then I saw what should have made me fly out of the water like the flying fish I had seen in every open water crossing.

It was undeniable. There ain’t a creature out there that has more distinguishing features than this one. Its torpedo body, built for speed, swam side-to-side, keeping a steady pace with the boat at what appeared to be a leisurely stroll. It was grey-brown on top with black stains on the tips of its fins. As it turned upwards to see who was staring at it, its belly flashed white along with its teeth in that ever-smiling mouth that all sharks have. It was like driving on the highway and a Ferrari comes up behind you, lingers a bit, the driver winks and takes off as it leaves you a cloud of dust to stall your carburetor.

We were on the Autobahn of the Indian Ocean. And it was amazing. I was so taken by all the sudden forms of life overtaking us that it took me awhile to realise that the stinging sensation on the top of my left ear was rising to unbearable on the pain scale. I knew it was a jellyfish sting. I looked around and saw a Purple Jellyfish but their sting is only annoying rather than the feeling of a kickboxer’s roundhouse kick to the head I was now enduring.

I climbed out and hit the galley, fishing for vinegar. I dabbed the stung area and the pain immediately receded. I returned to the water, watching the traffic swim by.

The water was turning misty, like a desert highway when the steam rises off the asphalt. Oil and petrol and other pollutants being the suspects, no doubt. As though to urge me to quicken my pace and get out, two more stings clipped me on my left ribcage and left Achilles’ tendon.

Slightly dazed, I clambered out. As I sat clutching my left side I watched a Portuguese Man-O-War float by. It’s made-up of individual hydrozoan animals clustered together giving it the impression that it’s a single organism. Basically, it’s a floating colony.

All of a sudden my lymph gland in my left groin area started to raise the alarm. ‘We’re under attack,’ it seemed to announce as pain I had never in my life felt experienced started to pulsate from it. I made my way slowly down to the galley for more vinegar.

‘We are at DEFCON-4, Code Orange,’ my lymph announced as the bombing started. Manu was in the galley, staring at me.

“Jellyfish,” I winced, dabbing the vinegar on the attacked sites.

“Yeah?” he said in surprise. “Francois too. He is in super pain.”

Great. Death at the hands (or tentacles, I should say) of a fist-sized blob of jelly named after a conquering nation. Sometimes, when you play in a minefield, you forget that explosions can occur.

The overwhelming pain was growing but not spreading, which I hoped was a good sign. It was like being kicked in the balls by an African elephant.

I lay down on my bed. I could see the headline (or more-so, the little one -liner somewhere on page 19, after the sports and business section) announcing:

“NOMADIC ADVENTURER DIES AT SEA, STUNG BY JELLYFISH.”

Won’t that make mother proud?

I can’t remember passing out. I only remember regaining consciousness an hour later, the pain gone as though it never happened. The only reminisce of an assault was a lingering stinging sensation on my Achilles’ tendon.

I dabbed some more vinegar and climbed up to the cockpit, sharing war stories with Francois.

“All along my lower back. I couldn’t move,” he said. “Fuck, I never felt pain like that in my life.”

Me either.

As we floated into an oil slick, he fired up the engine and took us out into the carpool lane of the Autobahn.

As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill ya, let’s ya live another day.

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Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Sailing, The Indian Ocean | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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