NOTE: This essay was originally published on Medium.com on January 2nd, 2014
Newlywed adventures in Grenada
In a Ditch
The three-point turn was—to put it mildly—not going well.
The nose of the rental car was pointing down into a deep ditch, the front tires perched precariously, inches from sliding over the edge.
The weather was pitching a fit: it was pitch black and raining cats and dogs. Seeing out the window was like looking through the bottom of a coke bottle into a dark room. And my left hand was having trouble finding reverse, the car sliding a bit further towards the precipice each time I mistakenly thought I had it in gear.
“I could have sworn that was reverse!” I said too many times.
I wish I could see the edge of that ditch, I thought too many times.
My newly-minted wife sat next to me, unaware (I think) of my rising panic or her imminent danger. I didn’t want to end our honeymoon before it even started—in a crumpled car in a ditch behind Grenada’s airport.
Fortunately, I managed to get my American right-side of the road mind to adapt to the Grenadian left-side of the road car, and my left hand to figure out how to get the damn thing into reverse before killing us both.
Switching to opposite-side international driving is tough enough as it is, let alone incorporating a manual transmission. And Mother Nature. And ditches. And young wives.
With a Hot Tub
We arrived at our hotel late. The rain had relented, and the polite night guard checked us into our room. We had booked a lovely, albeit weathered, property up on a hill overlooking Grand Anse Beach. Great views, but no (open) pool and no beach. There was a hot tub ‘tho. And it was empty.
Being frisky newlyweds, despite the late hour we tossed on bathing suits and scampered down for a dip. The property was deserted and we were giggling like…well, like newlyweds.
We both threw our legs over the side and stepped in.
We both spasmed, yelped and jumped out, shocked (pun intended) at having been electrocuted by a hot tub.
I, apparently being a slow learner, put my hand back in the water.
There was a well-known elegant restaurant far up the side of a mountain, nestled in an abundant jungle. Spectacular food and views were its claims to fame.
We arrived early and found our table not ready. The hostess thrust glasses of Planter’s Punch into our willing hands and escorted us to a delightful open-air balcony overlooking the twinkling lights of St. George.
As I sat sipping my fiery rum beverage, gazing lovingly into my wife’s eyes, slowly coming into my view was the largest spider I had ever seen.
It was at least as large as my hand.
It dropped slowly down a thread-like web from a tree above, and ceased its decent only about an inch to the left of my wife’s gorgeous, oblivious face.
I must have made quite a facial expression, because her eyes got wide and she said “what?”
To appreciate the enormity of this situation, you must know that my wife, brave and adventurous as she may be in other areas, is deeply—oh, so deeply—afraid of spiders. For example, I once received a hysterical call while at work because a small spider (say, the size of my pinky nail) was hiding in a hole in a doorway, preventing her from walking through it.
So while a spider the size of an adult hand dangling next to one’s face would be a surprise to just about anybody, for us it meant that if she turned her head only a smidgen to the right, she would see that creepy creature and FREAK THE FUCK OUT.
“What?” she said.
“I’d like you look over there for a second,” I said, pointing in the opposite direction of the spidersaurus.
“Why?” she asked.
“Just because,” I said.
She turned and I whacked it down with my free hand, quickly jumping up and stamping the floor like a madman.
“What was that!?”
“Oh just a spider,” I said casually. “I got it tho.”
I didn’t tell her about how big it was until later. Much later.
What I’ve never told her is that I actually didn’t get it. Which is why I immediately said, “Let’s go check on our table.”
The food was great.
I had read many articles about the scuba diving around Grenada, most using the word “unspoiled.” I knew that scuba diving would be a priority event of our trip.
My wife, however, had never been certified. In a visceral example of young love, she studied and got certified in Upstate New York. In the winter. In an ice cold lake.
Considering she’s from Florida, and her hands turn blue when it gets below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, this was quite a commitment on her part.
As I said, young love.
Our first dive in Grenada (and her first open water dive post-certification) was in an underwhelming shallow bay with a lot of runoff and low visibility. This disappointed me greatly, so I suggested that we take a boat trip to the “unspoiled” dive sites around Isle De Ronde.
At the time, I knew next to nothing about that area, only that the dive shop said it was spectacular. Doing some internet research now reveals that one of the sites is called Face of the Devil, and is described as for “advanced divers only.”
It was my wife’s second open water dive, mind you.
Located to the north of the island, the Isle De Ronde are craggy, mostly uninhabited islands only a short distance from an active underwater volcano. The dive sites are renowned for water clarity, abundant sea life, and coral structures the size of small houses.
And, as we were about to discover, strong currents.
The boat trip to Isle De Ronde took over an hour, so we got to know our small crew of fellow divers. There were six of them, and to this day I am convinced one of them was Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters. We learned all of our divemates held the title of Master Scuba Diver.
That was my first red flag.
The 15 foot swells on the open ocean was the next.
We managed to hold down our breakfast and got to the first of two dive sites. It was a glorious wall that lived up to expectations of its beauty. It felt like we were swimming through an episode of National Geographic. Aside from some challenges managing our depth, it went smooth.
This made for misplaced complacency.
I don’t know the name of the second dive site, but I would not be surprised if it was the Face of the Devil. As it was, we felt like we were in Hell.
Yes, it was spectacular beyond words or photos. Yes, we saw sharks, octopi, turtles, rays, eels, and coral as big as houses. Yes, it was certainly “unspoiled” by human interaction.
That’s because humans shouldn’t go there.
The dive conditions were unlike anything I’ve ever heard of, let alone experienced. When I think “current,” I think of a steady flow of water in one direction. But the current on our dive was wildly erratic.
We would struggle to swim against a strong head-current, such that no matter how hard we kicked we didn’t move forward.
Suddenly the current would disappear, only to blast abruptly from another direction—whether it be from the right, left or behind—with no warning and no consistency. It was strong enough to move our entire dive group 20 feet in a matter of seconds. This meant if you were anywhere near coral or rocks, you would quite literally get smashed against them like trivial ocean detritus.
It was terrifying.
Naturally, my wife and I were dive buddies. At one point I noticed that she was no longer swimming with her free hand (her other hand clutching me in a death grip that left me bruised). Instead, her free hand was on her regulator (the part in your mouth supplying air so you don’t drown), meaning that she was unstable and unable to propel us or protect us with that hand.
I tried multiple times to get her to let go of her regulator, but she would shake her head violently at me with a look of terror in her eyes.
I learned later she bit through the mouthpiece—it wouldn’t stay in her mouth unless she held it there. Now that’s an impressive amount of fear.
We later laughed about that. Much later.
We came through the experience shaken but unscathed. The six other Master Scuba Divers in our group resoundingly agreed that it was the most difficult dive they had ever done.
Fortunately, Mother Nature failed to kill my wife on our honeymoon, and my wife didn’t dump me for putting her in all those situations. Even losing my wedding ring on the trip (yes, I’m that guy) didn’t spoil our good time. I think those mishaps—and the shock of digging through three feet of snow with bare hands to get into our house after a four-leg, two airline flight back to New York from tropical weather—helped us form a “go with the flow” vacation attitude that has carried us though dozens of adventures over the last 15 years.
On the other hand, we haven’t been scuba diving since…