Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vacation: Diving on Thursday

We got up in the morning, and gathered all our scuba diving equipment. We were to be down on the hotel’s dock at 7:30, and we certainly didn’t want to be late. As we approached the dock, the boat was arriving, and we loaded up. There was some question back in the hotel room about whether wetsuits were really necessary, but as our divemaster put on his full-body wetsuit, we followed along and did the same.

Our first dive was at a location called the Palancar Caves. This is a section of the main reef where the coral has grown up and back onto itself, creating holes in the reef that divers can swim through. Now, the first dive after a long hiatus is always a bit rocky. My last scuba dive had been in Cyprus, two and a half years before. So, I had a bit of rust to knock out of my diving. This particular dive where we had to come very close to the coral and the seafloor was probably not the best way to get un-rusty. I was incredibly worried about bumping into things, and for good reason. I know I touched coral three times in the dive, and I wasn’t the only one in our group. In fact, the reef generally looked like there had been a lot of divers before us that had done the same. It could be that the beat up look comes from the damage the island sustained a year ago from Hurricane Katrina, but that seemed unlikely at 30 meters. Fifteen meters, probably; but not much below that. We did see lots of colorful fish, most of which I can’t identify by name, but there were yellow ones and bright blue ones and red ones and purple ones and multi-colored ones. It was very pretty, but mostly I was just happy to have that first dive of the trip under my belt, and reminding myself of all the things one must remember while diving.

The surface interval involved us hanging out on a beach for an hour, just basking in the sun. There’s not much one really wants to do while outgassing the nitrogen from the dive. It’s surprising how tiring a dive can be when you’re really not doing much. After that we were back in the boat and on our way to the second dive of the day. I can now say I’ve done most every kind of scuba diving entry that can be done. During my certification, we did dock entries where you basically step off the dock into the water. In Bonaire, we did shore entries where you load up your equipment on shore and walk/swim out from there to do your dive. In Cyprus, we did great strides off the back of the anchored dive boat. Here we’re doing backward falls off the side of the boat. Very interesting how few dive trips I’ve done, and yet how much variety there has been. There’s been as much variety in the underwater view, too, but I digress.

Our second dive was in a spot called Los Palmas, and this was a current dive. We basically dropped down to our intended depth, and let the current drag us along and that’s how we went by the reef. We saw a huge turtle, and lots more of the fish from the first dive. There was a bright red and green parrotfish that I followed for a while, and then it decided to relieve itself, which was interesting to watch. There were tons of brain coral and sponges and wispy floating plants connected to the coral. This was also a very pretty dive, and I was amazed how long our dives were – 60-70 minutes! Usually, when you have a group of 6 people diving, someone will go through their air faster than the others, and we’ll have to surface earlier. Usually that someone is me. But my air consumption wasn’t the limiting factor this time!

We got back to the hotel in time to rinse off gear, take a quick shower, and grab a bite to eat for lunch before my husband had to head off to the conference. This conference was set up specifically to allow attendees to go diving in the morning, so it started at two o’clock each day and went into the evening. As he went to talks, I went back to the room for a nap. I tend to go to sleep after eating, anyway, but the morning was so busy that I was legitimately tired, too. In the evening, my husband had hooked up with a guy from an observatory that is currently wooing him to go work there, so we went into town and had dinner at a nice Italian seafood place with him and his wife. The observatory in question is in California, and we talked about life out there and how the leader of this observatory likes to run things, et cetera, et cetera. I do like the wooing phase, though. It’s nice to have someone really want you to come be part of their organization. In the middle of dinner, it started to rain and we had to move inside. And thus started our daily rains in Mexico.

We got back to the hotel for the guys to go to more conference talks, and the wife and I went to the hotel’s restaurant for dessert and coffee. It was nice and relaxing to hang out by the ocean at night with a few boat lights shining back at you. The dessert tray came out, and the waiter told us what everything on the tray was in English, except there was one dessert we couldn’t identify by sight or by his explanation. He said it was “coca pie”, but it was definitely not chocolate-looking. We asked him to write it down on the napkin, and he knew only the Spanish word, which we thought might help us in our identification, but the word was “elote”, which we couldn’t figure out either. So, I ordered it. It turned out to be a coconut pie, and it was very good. And I learned another Spanish word along the way.

After the conference ended for the night around 9pm, there were drinks, and we stayed for the prerequisite socializing with various folks. It was contrived, but we made nice. Afterwards we went back to the room.

And that was Thursday, and I slept well. My husband was supposed to finish putting together his application to an observatory in Chile, so he was already expecting to be up most of the night.

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