COCOS, CHAPTER 4: Treasure Island

“Before we board the pangas, I have to say something important…” Angelo paused for dramatic effect. “You are not allowed to dig for treasure. You won’t find anything if you do, we already tried. Don’t touch anything or carve your name on the rocks or you won’t be allowed to dive again.” I scoffed as I turned to Bogs, “Treasure. Can you please this guy?” Bogs mused, “There’s rumors of Spanish gold that pirates hid here. It’s the real Treasure Island.” I tried to imagine re-doing the 36 hour journey to Cocos Island on a rickety wooden ship with no air conditioning, hot showers, or access to Netflix. However, I relished in the thought of no engine noise. I sighed, “I just want to get off this ship and stop rocking.” Angelo ushered us to the panga. “We have to hurry, there’s a break in the rain.”

The panga landed at the beach at Wafer Bay and I climbed out. The other divers headed towards the park ranger station, but I hung back. Instead, I stood still on the beach among the darting hermit crabs. The silence was so immense that my breathing seemed intrusive. It started to rain, but I couldn’t feel it because the tangled jungle reached out over the sand where I planted my toes. Suddenly, the tales of pirates and treasure seemed believable in this untamed land. If pirates had pulled up right then and there, I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. There were likely many secrets in this magical place. Angelo’s voice jolted me in the distance, “Come on, let’s all stay together!” I muttered, “Aye ayeee…” as I reluctantly caught up to the group.

On the path to the ranger station, I saw bromeliads crawling up to the very tips of the trees’ branches. Plant tendrils descended from trees and merged with mushroom-laden ground cover.

We reached a wobbly bridge that looked straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Luckily, there were no crocodiles snapping below the gaps between the wooden slats. After stumbling off of the bridge, we happened upon a hammock beside a gravestone. We approached a few wooden cabins with mural-covered walls. I particularly liked the mural of the rangers in a Cocos patrol boat watching a booby being attacked by a tiger shark. By this point, it was pouring down rain, and Angelo informed us that we had to wait it out at the station before we could head back to the panga. I noticed deer grazing in the open field, so I decided to brave the rain for a closer look. As I slowly approached the deer, I realized that half of the herd was in fact made up of brown pigs with black spots! The deer and pigs disappeared into the brush, so I re-joined the divers hunkered under the tin roof of the cabin porch. Peter was busy photographing a beige breasted finch with a yellow curved beak. These puffed-up finches lined the porch next to the divers and looked equally bored.

When the rain finally subsided, we sloshed back to the panga and joined the other divers aboard the mother ship. By this point, I was fighting a terrible migraine and I didn’t risk diving the rest of the day. Saddened that I would miss yet another opportunity for a medal, I told Henry to have fun with the whale sharks and I climbed into my bed in the hopes that a nap would cure me. I awoke to the screams of happy divers. I poked my pounding head over the railing. Henry yelled up at me as he climbed out of the panga. “Megan! We saw a whale shark!” I groggily yelled back, “Yeah, right!” He exclaimed, “We really did see one, thank you!” I laughed, “For what?” He replied, “You said to have fun with the whale sharks.” I shook my head and sighed, “You’re welcome.”

At the dinner table, all of the divers raved about the massive whale shark that surprised them at a dive site called Submerged Rock. They passed around their laptops to admire each other’s photos as I quietly tried to figure out how to ask for a second scoop of ice cream in Spanish. Ed asked me if I was okay. I answered, “I can’t get rid of my migraine, which is strange. The pills always work.” Bogs interrupted, “You know what cures everything? Alcohol.” I laughed, but he was right. I grabbed an Imperial beer from the cooler on the third deck. I stopped by my room and rummaged through my medicine bag for my emergency antibiotics. I re-joined the table and explained my plan to Bogs and Ed. “Okay, what if I have a sinus infection and I dived without realizing it? Any antibiotic is better than none, right?” Bogs handed me a decongestant pill and said, “In that case, why not add this in the mix while you’re at it?” I thanked him, washed down my concoction, and headed to bed.

The next morning, I waved to the divers as they left on the pangas for Isla Parajas. I looked at Carlos and asked, “So, what’s fun to do around here?” Carlos showed me to the laundry area and I managed to wash and dry my laundry using Spanish instructions. Then, Carlos let me choose whatever movie I wanted and we watched Ace Ventura 2 with Spanish translations. Since I didn’t have to share the couches, I was free to completely stretch out. On the third deck, Carlos prepared margaritas as I danced to 80’s music. Suddenly, I had a taste of what it was like to have my own yacht. I waved to the divers on the Argo liveaboard as it cruised by. There was so much more space without the 21 other divers. I was finally starting to relax just as the other divers returned from their dive. “Megan! Angelo says we can go back on land!” I set down my second strawberry margarita and skidded down the ladder to the dive deck. “Hey Bogs, if you’re wondering what happened to your Velveeta and Hershey’s stash, I ate them.” He laughed, “You wouldn’t dare.” I remarked, “You’re right, I thought about it, but then I realized you could just point at a map of my house and make it go away.”

On the beach at Chatham Bay, we followed Angelo to boulders engraved by Jacques Cousteau and Captain Morgan. The sand was littered by these similar rocks carved by seemingly every random person who happened to land upon the island. As the other divers began their long hike up to the ranger station, I instead laid on a flat, tree-shaded, boulder at the far end of the beach. As the hypnotic sea birds circled above me, the sounds of the waterfall behind me and the ocean at my feet lulled me to sleep.

I awoke to a thump-thump-thump. In my haze, I saw what appeared to be a wallaby hopping between the rocks on its way towards me. It stood on the boulder beside me and looked at me inquisitively. As we stared at each other, I realized it was actually some kind of enormous rat. I yelled, “No! I’m not food!” The rat backed up beneath the boulder gaps where it continued to analyze me. I was unable to sleep again as I imagined waking up to all of its rat buddies roasting me on a spit. Just then, tourists manifested on the beach. I felt obligated to greet them and assure them that I wasn’t marooned or close to being consumed by the wallaby-rats. I recognized the panga that dropped them off was from the Argo ship. I waved and smiled as I approached the tourist group. They smiled back as their guide ushered them to Jacques Cousteau’s and Captain Morgan’s boulders. I didn’t understand their language; and, as the group disappeared into the jungle, I returned to lounging on my deserted beach as Isla Manuelita glowed gloriously in the distance.

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I create original abstract paintings inspired by my undersea adventures.

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