Having successfully completed GUE fundamentals last April, Wifebuddy and I decided to progress with our GUE training and take the next step: Technical Diver Level 1, fondly known in the business as 'Tech 1.'
It was important to us to stick with GUE instructor Rich Walker, as we trained with him on a few occasions previously and he seems to know what he's at; well, most of the time ... but i'll come back to that. With Malta being the place to train these days, that was our initial plan, but my work decided that wouldn't be happening.
I had ONE week to complete the class, and the ONLY space Rich had in his diary was in Croatia (he truly is the busiest GUE instructor IN THE WORLD!) Cost? I didn't care, we were going; and we signed up immediately. We were set for Croatia. I'd never been.
A few days later i asked Wifebuddy;
"Where exactly be Croatia?
Is it warm?
Do they have bacon?"
Obviously i didn't receive a reply, but more of a 'you simple, simple man...' look. Left to my own devices, i jumped onto google to find the answer, as i do with the majority of questions i ask Kerri. Croatia is in Europe, used to be part of something-oslavia, is pretty warm and has some awesome wrecks to dive. Coupled with Krnicia dive centre, which is a specialised GUE dive centre, i knew i was in for a fabulous time.
GUE TECH 1
Tech 1 is the first step GUE offer on the open water technical diving side of Jarrod's almighty empire. Completion of the class would allow Wifebuddy and I to dive trimix (up to 18/45), drop to a depth of 51m, alongside accelerated decompression on 50% or 100% oxygen.
Both Kerri and I already possess some technical training, but not the way GUE teach it ... we were apprehensive.
We prepared for the class as best we could; simply polishing all the skills we learned at GUE-F, read all the class materials, practiced swimming, and did our homework. At that stage it was so far, so good. I felt i was in good shape.
Stupid o'clock on a Sunday morning we loaded 90Kg of tech gear into the Ford Boring and drove 100 miles to Dublin airport. Yes, there is an airport in Belfast, but due to the time constraints we had to depart Dublin and fly into Venice .. or Viennna ... i can't remember - whichever one is in Italy. Once in Italy we had to drive to Croatia. Oh aye; no need to keep it simple eh?
The checking in process was all going quite well, until we hit security. I knew it would happen; it always does.
"Can you step to the side sir, and kindly explain what these weapons of mass destruction are in your hand luggage?"
"They are scuba regulators. I use them to breathe underwater. I'm going diving."
"Where are you going diving sir?"
"Says on your boarding card you're going to Italy?"
It got rather confusing for a moment. I was tempted to explain, but I just said it seemed nice in Vienna and we were going there first.
"I mean Venice. The one in Italy."
A blank stare followed.
"That's fine sir, but i would like to advise you in future you'd be best not bringing those with you. We're always going to stop you if you do."
"But i need those to breathe."
"I know, but still sir, but best leave them at home."
I was going to ask her if she tried to kill all airline customers, but felt it may go a little pear-shaped, so decided against it.
"Thanks. I will."
The security wench nodded triumphantly and we were soon on our way to Vienna; or Venice.
We kinda forgot about the european leg of the journey and omitted to bring any euro. No euro = no trolley = dragging 90Kg of bags across the airport = me bloody knackered and the arse ripped out of the luggage bags.
Thankfully we had purchased some decent scuba bags for this holiday, thus removing the nightmare of "The Monolith" from the Red Tec adventure, but it was still a tough haul.
|Fancy new matching luggage|
We met "Tony" at the gate, who was sporting a rather homemade page with our names etched on it. It made me feel very important though, which was nice.
We introduced ourselves as the pride of Northern Ireland, and he apologised for his placard.
Tony had been sent from Krnica dive centre in Croatia by 'Maurizio' to pick us up. The poor fella had just driven 3.5 hours, and now had to drive the whole way back. He was very friendly, safe driver, and didn't seem to mind my inane ramblings for the 4 hours that followed.
The car journey was grand. I enjoy being driven, and it was very cool to have been in 5 different countries over the space of 12 hours.
The sun was shining while the air-con kept us cool as we hurtled our way through various borders and highways. Tony took care of all the border patrols thankfully. I liked to think of him as my 'fixer.'
He was very good at it, and successfully transport us from Venice (?) into Slovenia, and finally into Croatia.
There was a definite change once we entered Croatia. It was a little overcast, for which i blamed Tony, and for which he apologised, but the scenery was fantastic.
It was all greenery; fields and trees everywhere. I am fully aware Coratia has a history, but there was no sign of it.
The sights continued for the next couple of hours as the roads became narrower and narrower, and the bends became tighter and tighter, until we finally reached Krnica dive centre.
KRNICAIt was an amazing sight as Tony navigated another crazy hairpin bend, to be greeted by a picturesque harbour. The sea was flat calm and the sun glistened off the various little fishing boats that dotted the pier. It was surprisingly quiet around the dock, and to be honest, it continued that way for the whole of our trip; splendid.
The hand brake declared our arrival, and we stepped onto Croatian soil for the first time. We promptly headed for Krnicia Dive Centre.
KRNICA DIVE CENTRE
Dive centres are usually a bit mental, especially at a resort or a dive school etc. Krnica Dive Centre is far from mental, well, it was a bit, but not in a bad way, more entertaining; but i'll come back to that. As soon as i walked into the shop i was greeted by the hulk of man that is Maurizio.
Maurizio asked us if our journey was ok, ensured Tony hadn't upset us in any way, and explained the plan for the day. Everything to do with Murrizio is stripped down to it's simplest level, as a result life is extremely straight forward when he is about.
"You put scuba gear in boxes here, i take you to accommodation in car, i take you to see Rich, you go eat and have beer."
The KISS principal in all it's glory, and we followed his advice to the letter.
Next on the short list was a quick visit to see our instructor; Wreck & Cave's very own Richard Walker.
Maurizio brought us to Rich's apartment and kncoked gently as he was concerned he would wake Rich up. I couldn't have cared less and was going to blatter on regardless; it's important i let others take charge of such ettiquette.
The door opened and the GUE head of technical training in the UK greeted us wearing only a pink towel around the waist.
"Oh hi guys, sorry ... it's just that i've only been released from prison."
I was very proud. Last time my instructor got in trouble it was a simple ban from a pub, but this was proper rebel shit right here. I never knew Rich had it in him.
I had delussions about a GUE Tech 1 class being done 'on the lamb,' and staging a reinactment for 'Banged Up Abroad' but, alas, there was no more heard of it.
I did enjoy Rich explaining he wasn't able to contact Maurizio initially, and resorted to ringing his girfriend in the UK whilst at her work. I wish i had been a fly on the wall for that reaction.
"Yes darling, it's me.
Yes, I'm in Croatia now.
Yes, the flight was good.
Oh, and i've been arrested."
When the waitress came over Rich signalled, "large beer." I figured this to be a swell idea and ordered one as well. They really are big, and they really are strong. 3 and i was done.
As we enjoyed the beer i asked Rich about our 3rd team member. Ideally Tech 1 is conducted with a team of 3, so Rich sourced our comapanian for the week on our behalf. Rich explained he was an English fellow who answered to the name 'Liam Bateman,' but didn't know him personally.
As a GUE student it can be a bit stressful if the team doesn't gel. Our usual team of 2 get on the best, seeing as we're married, but the addition of a 3rd outside party provides a risk of working with a knob. This may sound harsh, but i have no doubt Liam was just as concerned about the 2 Irish knobs he'd been signed up with.
Images conjured in my mind of Liam dressed in a dry suit, wielding an axe, chopping me into small pieces, and promptly chasing Wifebuddy around the apartment with a chainsaw; all conducted to the tune of 'Huey Lewis - Hip to be square.'
Just as my mind wandered even further down a spiral of madness, Liam appeared at the table and we were all introduced. He didn't want to kill me, and didn't have an axe. Liam seemed a grand fellow, we chatted merrily, and our team of 3 headed back to our apartment having enjoyed some salami pizza and one too many beers.
Day one of Tech 1 beckoned...