Monday, March 30, 2009

Ever thought you might have accidentally joined a cult?

Don't worry! I'm not dead - I'm doing Yoga. No really. All of the time. Because, as my teacher... (or should I very tentatively say... Guru?) says -

"Everything you do do on your Yoga mat, should be Yoga. And everything you do off your Yoga mat... should also be Yoga"

Quite. So, I am doing a Yoga Teacher Training course at the moment and in the spirit of practicing what I intend to preach, I am doing my best to immerse myself in the philosophy as well as the course. I feel I can officially describe myself as a Yogini. I will, of course, blog a lot more about this enormous, life changing topic... but at the moment (to be honest) it's just too enormous, too all encompassing and too life-changing for me to be able to reduce it to a small, mildly glib, Blog Post.

In the meantime I shall leave you with this, from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: Yoga is

"To still the restless mind (and thus find peace)"

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

It’s behind you! (Part 2)

I’m wise to it now – it’s not going to happen to me again. I did two dives today, finishing off an Open Water course. Ten minutes into the second dive, I was chilling, watching my students doing a wobbly hover, being entertained... when a sudden thought crossed my mind! What is happening behind me right now?

Could there be another Eagle Ray cruising past? A Giant Green Moray emerging from it’s cave? A school of shimmering Bat Fish? A Turtle stopping by for a rest and a snack? Herds of wildebeest sweeping across the plain? Ok, not that.

But I am a responsible Instructor! I didn’t turn around... not until they’d finished. Then I gave them both an underwater round of applause, a polite handshake and suggested we go for a quick explore. I turned... and I swear, for a minute I thought my eyes must be deceiving me, when three dolphins calmly glided past, no more than a few metres ahead of me.

You never see dolphins underwater. Only once before have I seen a dolphin under water and that was very brief. Today, these guys just sauntered past, relaxed, composed, amazing.

Back at the Marina, chatting to our (very jealous) photographer, I said how lucky I felt. He laughed and said, no, not lucky: because the dolphins know exactly where we are. So if we see a dolphin in the water, it’s because they want us to see them.

I reckon one of them must of read my blog! Heard about the Eagle Ray, decided to make up for it. Well it did. Boo sucks to Eagle Rays! I saw Dolphins today! Top trumps. Game over!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

It’s behind you!

"So how about that stingray? He was cool, wasn’t he?" I asked.
"Yes great! But there was a much bigger one at the beginning, while we were coming down the line. This one was different though," replied my customer, with a puzzled frown.
"Really? How so?"

There are a number of different kinds of rays: your ‘common & garden’ Southern Stingray (above) is the one we see most often. They’re very slick, light grey, very fast – but nervous, so sadly you don’t usually see them for long.

Marble Ray : Photo from Dive Sites Directory

There are other rays though: occasionally around here I’ve seen a Marble Ray, they are bigger and very UFO-ish. Last year, in the Philippines, I was in the pathway of a very startled Marble Ray, it came racing up a wall straight at me – I remember hovering, wide-eyed, completely unable to identify what I was looking at – for a moment I thought I might of been in a real-life Abyss scenario!

Further south they sometimes see Eagle Rays, I used to see them fairly often in Honduras, but since then (6 years ago) I think I’ve only seen two. I’ve never seen one here in Mexico. They’re pretty spectacular. Of course the King of the Rays is the mighty Manta. I’ve only ever seen four of those – unforgettable, gentle giants of the ocean. Related to Mantas are the smaller Devil Rays – they sound scary, but they’re just smaller Mantas, very mellow.

"So what did it look like? What shape was it?"
"Fatter than the other one we saw and it was dark red, with spots I think, and... well... you’re going to think I’m crazy, but it’s head kind of looked like a bird! I think it had a sort of beak!"
"A Spotted Eagle Ray. You saw a Spotted Eagle Ray..." I struggled to keep the resentment and jelousy out of my voice, "where was it?"
"It was very close! It swam right behind you!"
"A Spotted Eagle Ray swam right behind me?" Too brisk, be polite!
"Yes, it was big! Bigger than you! About 6 feet! Are they usually that big?"
"No." I swallowed, "so, a two-metre Spotted Eagle Ray swam right behind me? That’s very big. I haven’t seen an Eagle Ray for well over a year."
"Really? It was quite amazing looking!" he gushed with a broad grin.
"Yes, they are, fantastic. I wish I’d seen it." There was an awkward pause.
"Oh!" The penny dropped. "Oh... I probably should have pointed it out, shouldn’t I?"
"That would have been nice, but never mind." I said, insincerely.
"Oh well. I guess I was lucky!"

Spotted Eagle Ray : Photo by Timothy M GcGovern

Two bloody metres! He saw a two-metre Spotted Eagle Ray and he didn’t think to point it out! The reason it swam right behind me, without me noticing, is because I’ve got to keep looking at him! Bloody customers! I mean, what was he thinking? Even if you know nothing about aquatic life, surely if you saw a red, bird-like creature, with the head of an eagle and a two-bloody-metre wingspan, you’d think that it would be worth a casual nod in the general direction, wouldn’t you? You can’t seriously be expecting to see that when you sign up for your Discover Scuba experience. Surely, you would point and give the appropriate hand signal for ‘what the be-jesus is that?!' Or indeed any hand signal, or a wave, or flap your arms, or at the very least you would stare with big eyes and an open mouth! Wouldn’t you?

I remember coming down the line with him very clearly; he was perfectly calm the whole way. He showed no signs of surprise or alarm. At which point do you think he saw the red, spotted ray, with a head of an eagle and a two-metre wingspan?

Could he have been lying?

I enjoyed my first ever dive, but I have to say, if I had seen a two-metre Spotted Eagle Ray I would have been a bit alarmed. I definitely would have pointed it out to my Instructor. Could he have been lying? But he described it so well... and why would he make up something like that? To wind me up perhaps? He tipped though.

Two-metre Spotted Eagle Ray! Seriously. Right bloody behind me.