Back Into The Cavezzzz!

18 12 2014

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 ~

After only 2 1/2 hours of sleep, Steve and I pulled ourselves out of bed at 2:30am, and made our way to the airport. We boarded, and our seats were at the back of the bus. There was a lady beside us, sitting in the aisle seat, that moved across the aisle, to sit with her husband. Score! We had the 2nd last row to ourselves! There are good things and bad things about this… Advantage: Space, space, space. Disadvantage: Every single person that comes to use the washroom, will bump you. Every single one of them. They also hover over you, while they wait for their turn to go. There was also some hilarity, as these people were standing in the aisle, pulling my seat, hovering over me, I did get to witness many different varieties of the “Pee-Pee Dance.” That was entertaining.

There was quite a lot of turbulence, at the beginning of the flight, but we made it, safely. 🙂 Once we arrived, it appeared that the car rental company  had forgotten to pick us up. We found a very nice fellow, from another car company, who called them for us. After about an hour, we were in action. We actually got the car that we had reserved, too! w00t w00t!

To the shop! We went directly there, and got our gear together. This was the first time that we had been to the new shop, since they moved, in September. It is absolutely beautiful! Well done, friends!

We had to check on our scooter batteries, which we knew needed replacing. Their fate was not as wonderful as the weather…

 

 

We had one other, that was also toast. 2.01… Yep.

 

 

Steve put one of the packs together, and we were able to borrow another battery pack, to get us going, until our 3rd battery arrived.

As we assembled all of our gear, we started to see some of our friends, from across the ocean, as well as friends from back home!

Yvonne and I!

A.J., Mike, Jen.

Chris P.

Our first night, we stayed in one of the new condos, at ZG. We went up to the roof, to see the impending doom, that was almost upon us!

Monday, December 8th, 2014 ~

Up at 5:30am – Why? Why? I managed to grab a few more ZZZs, before getting up at 6:30am. Mike, Jen, Steve, and I went to one of the little cafes, in PA, and grabbed some yummy breakfast. Not exactly the most cost-effective place to eat, but it was delicious.

We had a nice view…

Back at the shop, we loaded our gear, and a big group of us (9 of us!) headed over to Caracol.

This was the first time that Steve and I had been here (same with most of the others, if not all of us), and the stairs were very steep, going down through the opening.

So steep, that when you walk down with your tanks on, you have to be careful not to bottom out!

It was extremely dark down there (duhhh… it’s a cave), and took a couple of minutes for our eyes to adjust.

Then, the owner put the lights on, for us!

Just. Stunning.

We broke up into four different teams, and off we went. Steve was using Jen’s camera. We stayed on the main line, and apparently, there is 25,000′ of cave, in this system. Steve and I swam an hour in, using a stage, and just a touch of back gas. This cave is pretty awesome – it has halocline, as well as an area with a lot of tree roots, in tannic, shallow water. A great dive!

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 47 mins.

Max. Depth: 23′

Avg. Depth: 15′

Water Temp.: 77F

Vis.: Do I really need to say? Gin clear! 😛

We dropped our doubles, before climbing back up the stairs, had lunch, then headed back down for a second dive. Johannes joined Steve and I, for this dive. We didn’t really need to bring a stage, so we left our second stage bottles behind, just using back gas.

We took a jump to the left, off of the main line. There were some really nice passages, with many changes, throughout. From white cave, to decorations covered in “chocolate sauce.” Very cool!

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 15 mins.

Max. Depth: 24′

Avg. Depth: 18′

Water Temp.: 77F

Steve, with one of the locals…

Back at the shop, we met up with Fred, Chris, Arno, Sander, Forest, and Stretch! We got our condo info, for the rest of our stay, then to dinner, then…zzzzz………..

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 ~

Bowl of cereal, shop, load, then to Minotauro, along with Sander, Jan, and Arno. We each brought a stage, which we realized wasn’t really necessary. There was a tiny bit of flow, as we swam in, and lo and behold, we happened to see Vlada, in the cave! We waved hello, as they were heading toward the exit. We noticed Sander, Jan, and Arno’s stages, just before we dropped ours (of course, we had to raz them about that). We jumped to the left, swam through the “river” section, with the gorgeous halocline, and another jump to the left, where we ended up in another small cenote. We didn’t stick around long in the cenote, since we were a bit paranoid of snakes landing on us (that almost happened to Steve, once…). We turned around, but still hadn’t reached our turn pressure, so we made another jump. We dropped down, through a bit of a restriction and halocline. I couldn’t see a thing, so I “ok’d” the line, behind Steve. The line went straight up, through some even more silty swiss cheese passage, and it eventually got a bit too tight, so we headed back. We ended up right behind the “Dutchies,” on our swim out. We were able to say hello to Vlada and pals, as we were coming out, and they were going back in!

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 45 mins.

Max. Depth: 46′

Avg. Depth: 27′

Water Temp.: 77F

Jan, Arno, Sander…

Back at the shop, Steve set up his RB80, we worked on our two scooters, then went to get some groceries. Also, shout-out to the Chinese Food restaurant, beside the Chedraui. It’s really good!!!

Back to the shop, where we attended the MCEP meeting. Chris gave us an intro; Fred gave us location info; Ed spoke about sediment; Kovacs gave us the low-down on calcite, and Ivan gave a presentation on some of the Baltic Sea wrecks, that they have been diving. Some incredible wrecks!!

Thank you, Forest, Becki, and Dan. I was presented with this… I think I had tears, I was laughing so hard!!!

Back at the condo, it was scooter balancing time, in the pool. We borrowed a battery pack, until our new batteries arrived. 😛

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 ~

Project Day!

We all assembled at the shop, and had our assignments given to us!

Stretch and Forest, armed with spanners!

Peter and Manu!

Jen was nice enough to let me jump into her car, to Yax Chen, since Steve was taking ours, and was filled to the brim, with RB80s and scooters.

There was definitely no room in here, for me!

More of the gang…

Jen and I had two stages each, and a scooter each. Jen was using an XK-1, while I had the T16 (Steve was using both of our Gavins). Our goal was to take sediment samples, from the top layer of sediment, and not to disturb the lower layers. This is a bit of a challenge, in an extremely silty environment!

We reached Tarpon II, dropped stages and scooters, then swam, using our second stage bottles. It was pretty dark, where we dropped the stages, and there was a bit of flow. We saw the huge school of tarpon that live there, and they seemed to follow us, each way. Pretty amazing sight!

At our first station (we started at our furthest station), Jen held the line, as I dropped into the H2S layer, to take a sample. I swear, that H2S layer had me  narc’d out of my tree, and scooping the sediment proved quite a task. When I reached for my wet notes pencil, it turned out to be my eraser, and I genuinely could not find my pencil. It took me a few tries, but I eventually found it, as I turned my notes around… about 5 times. It was pretty humourous – just ask Jen… 😛

We swam back to our gear, picked it up, and went to back gas. Our next station was pretty close, and I took Jen’s scooter, while she went to take the sample. The XK-1 was “a bit” negative, so we didn’t want it to disturb any of our samples.

This is where more hilarity ensued… I tucked Jen’s scooter over my leg, and it still wanted to take a silty nose-dive – not effective. After trying a few different methods, I ended up holding both scooters in my right hand, to keep them stable, and out of the way. Jen took the remaining samples, so that we didn’t have to juggle the scooters back and forth. We picked up the last sample, then scootered home, on our stage. There were so many crabs in the open water, right near our exit, so we had to check them out for a bit (of course). One of the little crabs was about to pick a fight with two curious fish.

Bottom Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

Max. Depth: 47′

Avg. Depth: 21′

Water Temp.: 77F

We waited for the rest of the gang to surface, helped to remove gear, and headed back.

Jan, Steve, Arno, Sander…

Forest and Stretch…

*Note* Need to try that stone oven-bake pizza place, near Yax Chen. They claim to have the best pizza on Earth!

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 ~

Today, Jen and I were going to Xtabay. Of the people that were here, we were the only two that knew where the sensors were, here. We were picking up Jen’s sensor, near the start of the main line (the GUE Ontario one, which is very close to Jen’s, no longer works), and the other one, on the way to the Repair Shop.

We swam through the Wizard’s Den (I love this room), then the “Bone Room (that’s what I call it, since it looks like a huge room of bones),” then a jump to where the sensor was hiding. It was definitely hiding, but I managed to find it! We then swam back to Jen’s sensor, in the salt water, picked it up, and out we went! We left the reel in, for the next dive. We used a stage, but didn’t even need to touch our back gas.

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Max. Depth: 43′

Avg. Depth: 31′

Water Temp.: 75F

After lunch, downloads, and a few punny jokes, we went back in to replace the sensors, then continued on with our dive. We headed towards the Repair Shop, and came to another room, after passing another cenote. We didn’t dare surface, after hearing about some of our friends’ experiences, the day before. All I know, is that there were bees involved, and there were jumps and leaps, back into the water! The Repair Shop was really cool. There were fossilized urchins, mini conch shells, and other neat things, that you don’t normally see. We turned the dive a little early, since the line decided to make a sharp turn upwards, and we had both had slight ear issues, the day before. There was a lot more diving to do, yet! We played in the halocline, on the way back in!

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Max. Depth: 44′

Avg.: Depth: 27′

Water Temp.: Still 75F

Back to shop, unload, condo, then Latitude 20, with a bunch of the gang!

Friday, December 12th, 2014 ~

David Dusek and I were heading near Little Chen, to do a sensor retrieval. It was one that was pretty tough to find, and apparently, there had been a couple of attempts to find it recently, without success. Ok… Time for David and I to get to work! We both really wanted to find it! Yvonne and Mike also went, with Constança as our Surface Manager. The other teams were in different locations today, so we were a small group, at Yax Chen!

David’s truck, packed right up!

David and I had 2 stages each, a scooter each, and I was carrying the back-up scooter. We were pretty efficient, and were tied into the jump line, stages dropped, at 43 minutes. We dropped most of our gear at the start of the jump line, so that we wouldn’t be carrying so many things, through the tighter passage. We made a sharp turn, and the cave gets a bit deeper, here. The cave really lightens up, and you go through a halocline. We looked everywhere, for that darn sensor, but couldn’t find it. It’s nowhere… really… There is so much cave to look through, and trying to find a little bitty sensor, was seeming impossible! We reached a T, and knew that we had gone too far – it was definitely not past the T. We turned back around, and swam slowly, slowly, slowly… and… WHAAAA??? THERE IT WAS! David and I saw it at exactly the same time! Boooooooyahhhhh! We would not be foiled! There may have been some kind of celebratory dance, in the water, between the two of us. Just maybe. We stayed on our second stage bottles, since we hadn’t reached our drop pressure. We picked up the rest of our gear, and away we went. I always get really nervous, as we scooter through the “L-Shaped” cenote. There are crocs there, and they might eat me (yes, I actually think this, as I scooter through this area… every time). As we went through Tarpon II, there was a really large tarpon that came right up to me. I was absolutely giggly! Funny, I don’t think he’s going to have me for lunch. It was a really amazing dive, and both David and I were thrilled that we found the sensor. It was really neat to see the cave change, into such white cave, as opposed to the giant darkness, that envelopes the cave, in front of that section. It was like night and day!

Bottom Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

Max. Depth: 51′

Avg. Depth: 28′

Water Temp.: 77F/78F

Vis.: Varied from 10′ to 100′, depending on where we were, in the cave

After our dive, we waited for the second team (we passed them, on the way in), packed our gear, and…. of course, we just HAD to go to the place with the BEST PIZZA ON EARTH!!!

It seems that they have the best drinks on earth, too…

It was a pretty neat place…

The pizza was pretty delicious!

Back to shop, unload, wait for Steve, condo, then we made some grilled cheese sandwiches, and off to Lat. 20, for some chips ‘n’ salsa, and for the MCEP dinner! Another great project, in the books!

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 ~ 12/13/14!

Steve and I went to the shop a little later than usual (about 8:45am), and packed up our little Atos, with two sets of doubles, two stages, two scooters, and the rest of our gear. Yes… that happened!

Rosa shared her homemade tamales and cake, with us! Thank you, Rosa!

We were heading en route to Tux Ka Paxa, where the jungle roads were not very forgiving, at all. The speed bumps are all natural obstacles, and can easily bottom out your vehicle. Our fingers were crossed, since we were so heavily loaded, in such a little car! We made it… *Phew!*

Some of the nicer road, on the way to Tux – part of the 8.3km, into the jungle!

Once we parked, we took our time bringing down our stage bottles and scooters, since there had been a coral snake seen here, the previous week. We were armed with a “fork stick,” just in case. There were also piles of poop, below the trees, that we had hoped were that of monkeys, and not giant kitty cats (yes, they come here at night). Being the first ones here, today, we really took it slow, and hoped that any animals left without us, as lunch.

Down by the water…

As we geared up, Manu, Peter, Sven, Johannes, and Kovacs arrived for a dive, too!

We made our way into the cave, and then hit the triggers. I was leading this dive. We went right at the T, made a couple of jumps, and went to see what are believed to be giant sloth bones.

We dropped all of our gear, before our stage drop pressure, since the cave was very highly decorated. We went for a swim, and the decorations were absolutely beautiful. We came to a gorgeous room, with “soda straw” decorations, tiny and large stalactities. We were in awe. It started to get pretty tight, and we were close to our turn pressure, so we turned around. We passed Kovacs, Sven, and Johannes… and then Peter and Manu, with their giant core sample poles! Of course, we had to wave!

Steve got some really nice footage, with the Go Pro…

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Max. Depth: 42′

Avg. Depth: 28′

Water Temp.: 77F

Steve and I, after our awesome sauce dive!

Shop, unload, condo, refresh, Chedraui (for groceries), and Chinese, again (it’s really good)! I did learn that the “orange” chicken is the one that is not “picante.” *Phew*

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 ~

Steve and Jan were going to Yax Chen, to retrieve the safety bottles and the reel. David D and I went over to Minotauro, for a nice back gas dive… that is, after we had to go back for my finz… Sorry, David… D’oh! Although, on our trip back, I finally got to meet Lynne, who had been avoiding me, for years! *Giggle* 😛

Once we finally got going, we headed toward the Winz cenote. There was a really tight restriction, going through there… probably one of the tightest that I have been through (that doesn’t move). At first, I wasn’t sure if I was getting through (I was behind David), but then, like a puzzle piece, I managed to find the right combination of movement, to get through. All the while, I’m thinking… Ok, I have to fit back through there… There were some very decorated rooms, covered in chocolate sauce (that’s my description), as well as white, swiss cheese passages. There were a few spots with halocline, too. We reached another cenote, and turned the dive, at the T. Getting back through that restriction proved a little tougher than the other way around. I finally made it! *Phew!*

(There was no danger, since there was the Winz cenote, right above, as a worst case scenario)

A really nice dive, to a place in the cave that I had not been to, before! Thanks for the tour, David!

Bottom Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Max. Depth: 48′

Avg. Depth: 26′

Water Temp.: 75F

Shop, unload, and Jen and Mike gave me a lift back to the condo! We met the gang at the Pub, and it was quite a feat… Lynne and I met, and the Earth kept going! 😛

 

Monday, December 16th, 2014 ~

Today was scooter and gear maintenance day. We probably could have squeezed in a dive, but we decided to take our time, and take care of our gear. We took the scooter back ends apart, sprayed them, dried them, and put them back together. Put all of our gear back into our bins, paid the bill (d’oh!), and hung out with friends.

Onno, me, Yvonne…

Anne-Marie, Steve, Lynne…

JP and AM…

Mike and Jen, playing “Finny-Cakes!”

We even got to see some of our Italian friends!

I have never seen a toucan, before. This was pretty cool!

Steve and Kees…

Our new friends, from China, that we met at the Pub!

Daquiris de fraisa, por favor!

Well, another fun-filled trip and project has come to an end. It’s really amazing, to pick up where we left off… both in friendships, and in Cave Diving Goodness! CAVEZZZZZZ!! Until next time!

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