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  • Writer's pictureseimaistato

Hey mama, I saw barracudas!

May 2023, Key West, Florida


My first solo road trip in a long time. Me, my backpack and a legendary Toyota Corolla drove 170 miles (the equivalent of 270 km) from Miami to the southernmost tip of the United States, Key West.


I had chosen the first long weekend of the year, with Memorial Day, to do a few days at the beach and.... why not to stop in Miami too? Only a couple of weeks earlier I had been to the Pitbull concert (I am unlocking the memories of many), phenomenon of the teenage years of all thirty-somethings, and now I walk down Calle Ocho to try a Cuban breakfast I will never forget (at Versailles for the curious, suggested by an amazing local).


I walked the Seven Miles Bridge, a 6.7-mile-long bridge that connects all the Keys. Google Maps only indicated my position on a line surrounded by water left and right. Not to mention the view... I'd do it again for that alone.


After various happenings, I settled down in the hostel, made some new friends who recommend diving with a local company. Enthusiastic about the proposal, I call them and they manage to include me in the Sunday group. First lesson: having tips by locals ALWAYS helps.


That morning I woke up at dawn and headed for the harbour with the roosters crowing at the top of their voices, the deserted streets and the pink-orange sky. I got to know the group, characters from all over with curious stories. We spent the whole morning with the two instructors learning theory and techniques in the pool. Short parenthesis: have you ever seen an iguana running? One of the funniest things I have ever seen, that pool was completely surrounded!


After lunch, the first descent into the ocean. I didn’t even made it halfway because of a stabbing pain in my ear. I tried several times some techniques seen in the pool to uncork, but it didn’t help, so I waived the instructor (always for the curious, never do the OK with the thumbs up because apparently he is saying 'let's go back up, something is wrong'). In an absolutely reassuring tone he told me: 'Hey, no problem, now let's try going down slower with the rope. Just be aware that if this doesn't work either, you're back in the boat and you've given up for the day'. NO WAY! I descended at the speed of a sloth to avoid suffering, and I cannot describe to you the joy when I reached the bottom at 15 metres. Another world. Swimming while breathing. An absurd emotion. The beauty of the seabed. The fish. No words can describe it.


On the second dive, in another spot, we repeated everything and I was so amazed when I saw the instructor make a giant leap to the right and unsheathe a knife. For half a second I was overjoyed at the thought of having a shark next to me - we had been told it was possible to spot some. Obviously on the contrary, the rest of the group was paralysed with fear. No sharks, but a group of barracudas passed by us and overtook us. I didn't gasp just because I would have lost my snorkel, but... it was so cool!



Seven Miles Bridge

Cuban Breakfast

Sunrise

New friends by the pool

On the boat, ready!

Sunsets


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