Saturday, December 09, 2006

Barbecued Iguana 2

Sistema Dos Ojos

We spent 3 days diving the Dos Ojos system. First from the Dos Ojos cenote, then from Hidden worlds, and a special trip to The Pit.

The first day, it's Gary, Isaac, Mike and I on our own. I regret not joining the other group to look where the movie was filmed. And I'm really sorry I missed the Barbie in the Gator. I know we went on a more challenging dive and its silly, but I really wanted to see the Barbie doll!!

We had been sent on a wild goose chase. We followed a left cavern line & surfaced at another cavern opening according to plan. A few minutes later, an air bell with bats. Then we expected to take the first jump. We found an arrow to jump from, but no line. We searched for a bit, finding no reasonable place to jump to. Our group split up at this point, and I spent too much time sniffing out a spot that COULD be our jump. This brought me to a place no backmounter should ever try to enter. I gave up and headed back.

Mike was waiting for me on the line, we found the rest of our team up the line a bit at Motmot Cenote. We discussed the lost jump and came up with a new plan. We continued on through the maze and then Gary took

another jump. This cave was super, super silty and viz was horrible for photos. Everything was orange and dark. Its amazing that Isaac got a few cool shots even through the halocline at 30'. Isaac led us through a really tight restriction and I saw another line below us. I dropped to peek at it and it was very porcelain looking, much like the Taj Mahal "broken china" room.

Gary turned us around and we headed out. On the way out, I saw an air bell with hundreds of hanging bats.

Later that day, we did a traverse from Orquideas to Hilario's Well. Meaning orchids, the cenotes were at Hidden Worlds, and we got to meet Buddy Quattlebaum. The walk down wasn't too bad and we had to do a giant stride in pretty shallow water. Paul led us upstream to show where they filed the scooter crash scene in "The Cave."

We turned back after 15 min and drifted down to Hilario's Well. This is another dark cave with giant columns. Often the main line split in two and Mike took the "second story" while I stayed on the "first floor." This dive had a hysterical moment when Paul made an interesting gesture for our amusement. I almost choked, I was laughing so hard!

The following day, we headed out for the most special dive - The Pit!

The climb down was intimidating. A long, long hike over rocks and a steep
climb in which we had to hold onto tree braches. You'd have to seek out a
foothold, then as you'd shift your body weight to that foot, the ground would
give way. Thank God for Ruben and his team of sherpas!!

Mike and I drop down quickly (Yeah ears!), we reach 200 by 7 min, we onl
stayed at that depth for 3 min. Its funny because no one wanted to go deep, but when we got back up to about 180', it seemed like everyone was there!!

The nice part was doing a nice cave penetration during deco, instead of just hanging on a line or hugging a tree…Mexico spoils us!!

We returned to the Dos Ojos system two days later, and Paul took Mike and I to see the Barbie doll! I was terribly excited about this, and when we were done manipulating the position of her legs, Barbie was excited too.

This was followed by the "Mile Run" which is a 6000' traverse from Dos Ojos to Monolito. This place is like a medieval castle because the walls are so dark.

Paul carried the slave and got some good shots with Isaac as the

We passed a few other cenotes to get here. The sequence is:

Doss Ojos--> Dos Palmas -->High Voltage --> Tapir's End --> Monolito.

Recalculated thirds at each opening.

In one of the cenotes (maybe High Voltage) along the way, where were a
bunch of plastic hibiscus on the ground. Mike picked one up and handed it to me.

The exit was steep and treacherous. It was a mudhole - like Buford
coming out.

After the dive, we all went tot he Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Barbecued Iguana
Current mood: cheerful

A trip to Mexico for a week of cave diving tantalizes the imagination. Prior to the trip, I worried that I'd lose interest in diving places like Little River or Madison Blue after seeing the wondrous decorated tunnels in the Riviera Maya caves. We packed our bags with trepidation and struggled to meet the 50lb airline restriction. Hey, cave gear is HEAVY!

Once we landed in Cancun, I felt like the most dangerous part of the trip was behind me! Now, for the easy stuff - diving! Going through customs in Mexico is somewhat a madhouse. You have to grab your bags and THEN go through customs. As miserable as waiting is normally, waiting with 5 suitcases sucks even worse. Merging from 20 lines of brain-dead travellers to 2 lines while hauling your 5 suitcases is even more fun.

Our hotel, Aquatech Villas DeRosa, was fabulously more than we expected. The rooms were big, there was air-conditioning (which we never had to use) and the sounds of the ocean gently rolling into the shore lulled us into a deeply relaxed state.

In Mexico, the "standard" set of doubles is 2 AL80s and we used a cute device called a v-weight to wedge between the tanks. It worked out very well, and the resort provided these huge oversized milk crates in which to store our gear. This thoughtful item kept our gear from mildewing throughout the week and the storage area saved us from hauling up heavy wet stuff up three flights of stairs each night!

Sistema Carwash

Our first dive of the trip was in Carwash, named so because cab drivers used to pull their cabs there to rinse the dusty Mexican road off their vehicles. The entry was the easiest of the week and with nice tables to set your gear on, we got a little spoiled. The surface water was black and I kidded Paul about all the clear water he promised us. Fortunately, the water was crystal clear below about 10 feet. Our group was divided in two, and the 4 divers who were all full-cave certified formed my group. My husband and I were joined by 2 photographers: Gary and Isaac. We went off in search of the Room of Tears

Gary led, Mike was second, then me and Isaac was at the end. Since Gary, Mike & Isaac are all loaded down with camera gear, I ran the primary reel. Gary led me around trying to find the main line. I though we'd never find it! I barely had any line left on the spool! After tying in, we got in the right order. I was blown away how awesome it looked. We passed under another sinkhole called Luke's Hope. We got to a line arrow that marked the jump and Gary looked to the left and made a right into what we later called "the rat hole" that pinched off a little while later.

Since we couldn't find the jump so we continued on the main line all the way to Adrianna's Room. Saw all kinds of onion-skin looking paper, but it was rock!! Very thin rock. The room wasn't the Room of Tears, but it was gorgeous with stalagmites and stalactites all over.

On the way out, I scoped out the jump and I thought I spotted the right place to jump to. Mike pointed out a stalagmite that looked like a golf ball and took a fake swing at it.
For our second dive, we wanted to try again for the Room of Tears and the spot I noted turned out to the right one! This tunnel is just beautiful! Mike points out some broken stalagmites that look like ivory. I really wanted to take one, but I left it behind for others to enjoy. We made it back to the room of tears and went on a bit further. Gary turned the dive just as it dropped down. On the way out, we run into Paul and he gives me the "Wow" sign. Wow is right!!

Sistema Naranjal

Nothing in Mexico has only one name! The common convention is to refer to a place by its system name which may include several different cenotes. Sistema Naranjal is no exception, and we dove this system from both the Mayan Blue (also known as Esconditio) and the Cristal (aka Naharon) cenotes.

Escondito is a cool place to do a huge giant stride off the 8' cliffs. We were all a bunch of kids jumping off prior to gearing up, then again with gear!

Gary leads us to the hole (B Tunnel) and I run the line. At first, Naranjal reminds me of Peacock 3 because its dark and iced with silt, but its a pretty thick silt. The rock has a lot of jagged edges. I'm surprised by the extent of the halocline and its very hard to see. Its making me a bit dizzy and I have to hold onto a rock to get oriented. We came along a beautiful group of spires that resemble Cinderella's Castle.

Its pretty, like a tunnel filled with wedding cakes, but not nearly as nice as the Room of Tears. We switch order a bunch of times and at the turn, I take some photos of Isaac. Isaac called the dive, and its great that we all have about the same air consumption. I'm surprised when we have a deco obligation at the end.

Naharon was the next dive on the list. It's a very intimidating entry with very treacherous algae-covered slippery rocks. One member of the group declined to dive there, as she has twisted her ankle here and ruined a previous trip.

There are lots of snorkelers and swimmers here and there's a rope tied to a tree to help lower you in. I manage to get in without killing myself. There's a huge basin to swim to before you get to the cave and the ground has really cool plants with little fish hiding within. Since no one wanted to run the line, I volunteered and we shared a reel with Paul's group. Paul runs the first jump to the left a few feet later sends us off on another left jump. He knows this place well, having been part of the original exploration team. This dark tunnel has lots of halocline, but it is stunning! It was funny on the 2nd jump, I ran out of line and Isaac had to clipped his spool to my jump reel to finish jump. My measly little Florida reel is meant to bridge gaps, not do the exploration jumps they seem to expect in Mexico.

The Southern Sacbe tunnel has spots that look like a candle shop with wax dripping over the sides. It was very pretty. Mike turned the dive and is having trouble staying down. He's not carrying the slave strobe and can't seem to get un-positive. He added more lead for the rest of our dives.

Sistema Taj Mahal

This place is interesting with stark white and bright orange intermingled. The stalactites here have grown so large that many have fallen from their own weight. They are all over the floor pointing in odd directions. The water in this place is called "sweet water" which is a mixture of salt and fresh water.

I'm so disappointed that I can't find a map for Sistema Taj Mahal. We took right (downstream) line, Mike and Gary popped up at Cenote Buena Vista (we think this is the one) and we continued downstream. We all surfaced at Cenote Sacrada that had an alter. Mayans used to have some type of religious service here that somehow led to a lot of broken pots.

We popped at another hole and played with tree roots growing out of the ceiling, there's calcite flakes floating on the surface of the water.

We then went on to an enormous room in the Jumna River where were all doing cartwheels & flips.

="" lang="EN-GB">Sistema Sac Actun

Entered in Grand Cenote and swam to the Cuzan Mah. This cathedral like section towers over divers and was the most gorgeous ever! We saw lots of formations like cityscapes and a huge beehive rock. In one spot, we had to swim through a tight formation that was way cool. We made another jump somewhere along the way.

Gary turned the dive and we backtracked to where Sac Actun cenote is and ran a line to the opening. It was pretty and jungle-like. This was my favorite dive so far!!

The next dive was up the Paso de Logarto line where every rock seemed to resemble some type of animal. On the way out, we saw a little cage with lifesaver looking thing and a note that said: Scientific Experiment: Don't touch.

Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich

This dive was amazing!! We passed through "Heaven's Gate" and followed the main line for a while. Gary led us through 2 jumps all at an average of 15 feet. I thought I'd be tremendously bored at 15 feet, but this place is amazing.

Mike was working the slave. I ran the lines and stayed back. Around one corner, we saw a large formation that looked like an eagle statue...a bit later was a LITTLE HOUSE! The boys called it "jail house." One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen!

Gary turned the dive and we stopped at a cenote on the way back

(Luna something. Paul thought it used to be called "The Castle") and the angle of light created by the small hole in the roof was stunning! Met up with Paul's group and we all headed back together.

Our second dive was very different from the first. This time, I led in and made the jump at the first place we came to. This passage could be called "porcelain forest." It was highly decorated and resembles a forest with huge 4' diameter columns (like trees) with endless soda straw stalagmites that look like leaves on the ceiling. I had to keep flipping upside down to look at the ceiling. We noted a jump to the right, actually it was a T and Mike dropped an arrow. We stayed on the straight path, not realizing it looped around back to where we started from.

When we saw daylight, I'd hoped we were someplace new, and was disappointed that we were at our point of origin. This dive yielded the best
photo of the trip. Awesome dive!!! I didn't expect to do a circuit in Mexico!!