We are excited to present this personal travel story from one of our top ten Travel Writer Award finalists. Read more about the travel experiences of Jamie Silva.
It wasn’t a particularly pleasant day, even by Kauai standards. Shirts— no matter how loose— clung to skin like plastic bags— cloth plastered in sweat that refused to evaporate in the soggy air, charcoal smudged clouds hung low on the horizon waiting to dump buckets when the timing was most inconvenient, and jet-lag lost hours hung over my shoulders like last night’s luggage dragging at my heels. But nothing could dull the excitement itching in my bones as I padded through the ivory sand, tracing the deep trodden footprints of my father and brother down to the water’s edge— into the turbulence of the waves, the sea reflecting the color and energy of the destructive cosmos above.
I could navigate the water with no problem— years of chlorine bleached hair and swimmer’s ear had prepared me well— it was the uncertainty of what lurked beneath that sent panic fluttering feathers in my chest: jagged obsidian-black rock climbing from the sea floor—rotten teeth and cracked talons existing for the sole purpose of breaking skulls.
I didn’t hesitate long before deciding to wade in, challenge burning on my tongue— the storm would not simmer forever. When water tugged at my waist I was deep enough to slip on my fins and snorkel. I plunged under — momentarily breathless as my lungs adjusted to the pressure of breathing through a tube and my eyes attempted to see through the water — goggles of little aid. Waves churned up the sand — blades on a blender — a murky beige soup obscuring vision and masking obstacles into indistinguishable shadow.
My limbs moved awkwardly through the water like spider’s legs — drinking straws being pushed and pulled with the current, bending themselves into concerning angles to avoid rock and crunching into whitewashed coral all too often. Rough edges cut my misguided arms and legs, sand pelleted skin like BB’s and lodged itself into my scalp, ears, nails, suit…. waves pummeled me down onto the reef leaving bruises black as the rocks themselves.
After thirty minutes of steady, calm and controlled, muscle memory breaststroke, I finally made it past the waves — disorientated but now with clear enough vision to see tiny wisps of blood escaping from my skin and snaking through the gray-green water. My throbbing bones and scratched limbs did not hurt for long — my heartbeat plummeted and my mind dropped all thoughts besides a single word.
Dozens of sea turtles hovered in the delicate space between the light strewn surface and the city of coral extending beneath — gentle and serene — blissfully unaware of the storm above: clouds now sizzling with electricity and peppering down rain that made the water’s surface vibrate and splash like EKG’s on a heart monitor. The coral, no longer dead and dull like near the break, swayed in the tide — sheets of fabric dyed in luminous colors: flamingo pink, wine red, marigold orange…fish with shimmering silver scales wove between layers of life.
My dad tugged at my foot — ‘lightning hazard.’ I turned to go — but not before reaching out softly to plant a sand worn palm against a turtle’s quilted shell. It turned to face me— the soft tissue of it’s head and neck a mosaic of ancient tile, scales carved from discolored stone, wide marbled eyes reaching out to mine, five hundred pounds of prehistoric curiosity. A single sinew of connection that spanned lifetimes and crawled beneath skin and identity.
I pulled away, shattering time like glass, snipping a fateful thread, and whispering a quick goodbye — as if a concrete word could seal a surreal encounter. I turned to chase the dayglow yellow tips of my brother’s fins back into the sand storm.
Did you enjoy reading about Jamie’s travel experiences? Like her story on Facebook to vote for Jamie and she could be the winner of our Travel Writer Award 2017!