When I get any new gadget I don’t have the patience to read the directions. I have to try to put it together first, knowing that if I get stuck, I can always read the directions. This kind of attitude can be bad for one’s health. It’s a good thing I’m part cat. I must be. I’m sure I’ve used up many of my nine lives.
Before I begin, I have to explain why these photos are WAY worse than usual. I was rummaging around, supposedly doing spring cleaning, when I came across some dusty cartridges of slides and two old projectors. All cleaning stopped right there as I hauled out these memories from over 36 years ago.
My husband and I had talked about these slides some months ago, wondering how we might save them from deteriorating further. I thought it was time to have a look at what was on these slides. I ended up taking photos of the slides with my digital camera as I showed them on the wall. They’re a treasure trove of things we’ve done from so long ago – terrible pictures but they tell many a story.
One set I’d like to share with you today is from our time in Hawaii. We had done a five-month tour of Europe and felt a bit homesick for the Queen Charlotte Islands where we lived at the time, but our summer tans were gone so we decided to detour through Hawaii on our way home. We flew from London to Kauai, touching down briefly in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Honolulu, thinking we’d have no trouble finding a place to stay once we got there. After all, it was October, the off-season.
Wrong! It was Aloha Week. We went through dollar’s worth of dimes at the phone booth (remember those?) but everything was booked solid. A lady working at the small airport suggested Kahili Mountain Park and that’s where we ended up camping.
With a rented car, we toured the island over the next few days. I took pictures with my cheap camera.
“What a beautiful beach,” I said, “and not a soul on it.” I didn’t stop to wonder why.
The waves were a bit more than I thought I could handle so I stayed to do the tourist thing and snapped pictures from the safety of the black (yes, black) sand. My husband is a good swimmer and headed straight for the water. As he got out later, he winced at every step he took.
“Ouch! This sand is sharp.”
“No wonder. It’s like chips of fine volcanic rock.”
Back at the car, I noticed a sign. “Swim at your own risk. Dangerous undertow.” I guess they didn’t think the sharp rocks were worth mentioning in light of the more dangerous undertow. On the hot beach I broke out in a cold sweat, thinking of what might have happened in those strong waves. Should have read the directions. After that we went to a more populated beach.
A fellow tourist told me that the beach pictured below was the one used in the movie (before my time) “Blue Hawaii.”
But apparently it was the beach at Hanauma Bay that was used. As I looked at this photo I found on Wikipedia, taken by ErgoSum88, I could see the gap in the coral in the middle of the bay where I swam when we had returned to Oahu.
I had my mask, snorkel, and flippers on and splashed along happily, admiring the colourful tropical fish and the underwater coral sculptures. Lovely warm water, not too deep; I could probably stand up in most areas I swam. I felt safe. I had read about fire coral and knew better than to touch the rocks and plants with my bare hands and was careful not to kick them as I floated past. This underwater world was a feast for the eyes. Every few seconds a different shape and colour of fish swam by. I wasn’t sure about the pipe fish that looked like a long skinny snake. He wasn’t bothering me and I wouldn’t bother him. It was time to get back to the beach anyway. My husband was already halfway to shore.
I had swum through a gap in the coral wall to where the water was a bit deeper. I kicked towards the gap and used the momentum of a wave to push me forward. Just about there, I only had to kick a bit more to swim through the gap and be in the shallow sheltered part of the bay. But that same wave that had pushed me forward now pulled me back. I looked out to sea at the point of land and prayed that I wouldn’t end up out there.
With the next wave I took advantage of the push again and got to the middle of the gap. All I had to do was reach for the rocks and hold on, but the coral was unfamiliar to me and several plants covered it. What if that was the fire coral I’d heard so much about. Better not risk it. I’d wait and go shooting through the gap with the next wave. Back I went, pulled by the outgoing wave.
This scenario replayed itself about as often as a cat flips a mouse into the air before the kill. My eyes bugged out a bit when I realized I was getting tired. My husband a couple of hundred yards away, waving at me to come on in to shore. I could have called to him to come help but there were a lot of people swimming on the safer side of the reef and the thought of calling for help was mortifying to me.
I struggled and kicked harder to try to get through the gap each time the wave brought me close to it. No way I would hold onto the wall to stop from being swept back out. It was a case of degrees of fear – touch what was possibly fire coral or be swept back again. Finally I knew I would have to make a super effort to kick through the gap or suffer the embarrassment of calling for help. I kicked and kicked against the outbound tow until my muscles burned. I managed to get about two feet farther than the time before, but it was enough to escape that deadly pull out to sea.
Back on land, my legs quivered with exhaustion. My husband had no idea of the struggle I had just gone through. I’m sure he would have saved me if I’d called to let him know I needed help, but what’s that saying about pride?
Later that afternoon, as we wandered around the beach, we came to the visitor information sign and stopped to read the “You are here” map. It showed Hanauma Bay and, clearly marked, were the areas for beginners, intermediate, and expert swimmers. And also marked clearly as a “No go” zone where the undertow problems might catch you, was the place where I had been snorkeling. I was a beginner and had gone into the water with no clue of the risks.
This is what happens when you don’t read the directions first.
PS After I told my husband about this post and the gap he said he’d had no idea I was in trouble out there, but by the way, that’s where the sharks would wait, by the gap.
“Ha ha,” I said. “Very funny.”
“No. Seriously. They wait by the gap because that’s where the fish would come through.”
(And the odd snorkeler too, apparently. The kind that don’t read directions first.)
PPS Don’t forget to check out my other blog for more writing-related posts. http://annelisplace.wordpress.com