Mexico 2010 ~ Part 2 of 3 ~ GUE Conference

30 12 2010

Friday, December 3rd, 2010 ~

Today was Day 1 of the GUE Conference. Steve was up early, as he had an Instructor Meeting to attend, and wanted to try to fit a dive in beforehand. Jen and I were also going to squeeze one in, before heading to the Opening.

When Jen and I arrived at the shop, I noticed a mysterious e-mail from a fellow whose name rhymes with “Tug,” telling us that there would be a lost soul, looking for a dive buddy this morning, and that he would meet us at the shop. Dan B. was the soul, and we were more than happy to have him along. Apparently, he had been waiting a while too… Sorry, Dan!

We made our way to Chicken Ha/Xtabay, as Jen and I were going to retrieve the CINDAQ sensors, that we sponsor. One, for DIR Ontario, and Jen sponsors the other. The “DIR Ontario” sensor was in the fresh water, and Jen’s was in the salt water. We were just hoping that we could find them! Fred gave us a little map, that we hoped would lead the way for us, as to where to go off the line to find them.

Chris and Piotr were also out for a morning jaunt, as were Jacob, Blake, and Steve C., with their “turbos.”

Blake, heading out…

On our way into the cave, Jen ran the line, alongside of Chris’, and we tied into the main line, a little further than we meant to. This just meant we would have to back track a little, in order to follow the trusty little map that we had. So.. we made our way back, found the marker, and I headed to the location first. Voila! There it is! I replaced the sensor with a special cookie, that Jen had made up, and moved out of the way for Jen, who retrieved hers, and replaced hers with her special cookie. Dan was ever so patient, waiting for us. We decided to bring the reel in a bit, and reattach it to the beginning of the main line, leaving it in for our next dive.

As we neared the basin, Jacob came up alongside of me, with a friendly “high five!” Back atcha, buddy!

Jen, Dan, and I surfaced, recalculated our gas, then went back in for some surveying. I had the clipboard, with a map of the system, and we were going to verify directions, compass headings, try to give the map some scale, and note any large landmarks. I really enjoyed doing this, and I gained a new respect for people that do this, as there really is so much information to note, and it takes quite a bit of time. I really hope that I get more chances to do this. Jen and Dan were awesome buddies, and were very helpful!

We went through the Wizard’s Den, which is one of my favourite rooms. I never get tired of going through here. So many stalactites and stalagmites, and what appear to be large chunks of ceiling, fallen to the floor. It turns out that they are actually chunks of floor that have caved in, from a higher level. I think I could spend a lot of time in this room alone. We went through the next section of bedding plane, and I turned the dive on gas. What an excellent couple of dives!

Jen and I, with the CINDAQ sensors…

We chatted with Piotr and Chris, then raced back to the shop, dropped our tanks, then Conference bound!

Dive 1
Bottom Time ~ 38 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 44′ (Avg. 34′)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 43 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 46′ (Avg. 32′)

Of course, there was time for a triple self portrait…

We arrived at the Conference hotel, and lucked out on a great parking spot, then ran in. Just in time! *Phew!*

We arrived as Jarrod was taking the mic, and was about to address the family.

Todays talks were:

Cenotes in Maya Ideology & Potential for Underwater Discoveries ~ Dominique Rissolo
Hoyo Negro Discovery and Protection ~ Beto Nava
Endangered Sea Turtles ~ Holly Wilson
Partial Pressures & Solubility Coefficients ~ Heather  Hamza
MCEP: Ox Bel Ha Exploration Updates ~ Fred Devos

After the Speaking Goodness had finished for the day, Jen and I zipped back to our condo to get changed, then back for a couple of cocktails and dinner, at La Salva. Steve, Hassan, and Jesper decided to go out for a dive, seeing as they didn’t get their conspiracy dive in, before the meeting.

Once we finally got a table, the meal was delicious. Fred had brought his laptop with him, so that we could download our CINDAQ sensors, and see the information.

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 ~

Today’s line up:

Researching Shipwrecks: Locating & Surveying, Using Sidescan Mosaics & ROVs ~ Richard Lundgren
Lampedusa ~ Mario Arena *brilliant!*
Guadalcanal ~ Liam Allen
Remote Sensing & GIS ~ Sam Meacham
Cave Sediments ~ Ed Reinhardt
Triathlon, the Second Sport for Divers? ~ Errol Kalayci
Biodiversity in Yucatan Caves: What do you see when you dive? ~ Olmo Torres-Talamante
Why Side Mount? ~ Steve Bogaerts
Closing ~ Jarrod Jablonski

Another day of awesome talks. They were all very interesting, but Mario’s did stand out, as he outdid himself with his presentation. There was alot of great information, and definitely some great humour.

There were a lot of laughs, and it was really great to see people that we hadn’t seen in a while. Jarrod and David threw some prizes out into the crowd, and I even got a couple. W00t!

We closed off the evening with a rather large gathering at The Pub. I think they were getting to know us there… lol. We had an absolute blast with everyone, and it was a great way to finish off a fun week! Tomorrow’s festivities were to take place at Chicken Ha/Xtabay.

On our walk back to the condo, Steve and I met up with a medium-sized white dog. He was very cute, and had black ears, and a little black spot on his nose. He trotted along in front of us, seeming to lead our way. He led us directly up the few stairs to our condo gate, and waited for us to open it. How on earth did he know we were going this way?? We couldn’t get past him, so we decided to keep walking for a bit. So.. down the steps he came, and went along ahead of us again. When he was quite a distance ahead, we looked at each other and bolted back for the gate. Yeah.. that didn’t work.. He came bolting back, and waited for us at the gate again. We were laughing pretty hard at this point. Oh well.. I guess he’s getting through the gate. Then, for the Alfred Hitchcock moment… He ran up the stairs to our building, and waited for us at our front door. That was slightly freaky. Jen came up later, and he was still waiting outside the door.

Our little friend, hoping we would open the screen door for him…

Sunday, December 5th, 2010 ~

Today was reserved for a couple of workshops, as well as a BBQ and Diving Goodness at Xtabay. Our first order of the day was to pack up from our fancy condo, and move our stuff over to Jacob’s place. So, once that was done, and our cases ditched at Jacob and Gid’s house, we headed to the shop for some breakfast snacks and more chatting.

Jarrod, wearing Jesper’s fancy “Jackie O” glasses…

We grabbed a couple of sets of doubles, and headed to Xtabay. There were only a few people there by this time, and Steve and I jumped in for a couple of dives. Our first task was to return the DIR Ontario and Jen’s CINDAQ sensors. When we got to the location, it appeared that Jen’s fancy cookie had fallen, so I hope I put it back in the right place!

Our second dive, we just relaxed and had some fun. We played around in the halocline, and when in the Wizard’s Room, we stuck around to look at everything. I know I’ve said it before, but I really like this room. 🙂

We left our reel in, as we were going to do another dive after lunch. LUNCH!

What a great spread! There was a family from the US that had catered everything. Some amazing chicken, tomales, sausage, salad, drinks, and some incredibly yummy home made chocolate brownies.

After chatting and having some laughs with some of our GUE friends, we realized it was getting a bit late, and the cenote was going to close at a certain time, so we had to get our butts in the water!

We jumped back into our gear and headed back into the cave. We went past the “T,”  to the other cenote, then turned it. We took our time coming out, as we were still way below our  turn pressures. We did some more playing in the halocline, and my mask was even leaking a bit, from my giant permagrin.

Dive 1 ~ Putting sensors back in
Bottom Time ~ 53 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 44′ (32′ Avg.)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 33 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 42′ (Avg. 26′)

Dive 3
Bottom Time ~ 61 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 44′ (Avg. 26′)

Fred’s Scooter…

After our dives, we went back to Jacob’s to shower for dinner… Well, we tried…

We made our way to the front gates, where Julia, Kirill, and Philip were waiting for us. We jumped in and headed to Mayakoba. Elena was having a wonderful dinner for a bunch of us. Steve and I waited in the lobby, as everyone got ready.. what a beautiful place.

Christmas Tree, from the lounge…

Once everyone was accounted for, we headed downstairs, to the restaurant. We sat out on the balcony, where the air was perfect. There were oysters a-plenty, making the rounds on the table. Since I can’t eat things that swim, I let Steve have my share. I know how much he enjoyed them. 🙂

We had a couple of drinks, then the main courses came out. All I can say is, “Wow…” Everything was cooked to perfection, and was absolutely delicious. It was a lot of fun chatting with everyone, and to be a part of this evening. Steve and I really enjoyed it . Elena is so vibrant and fun to be around. Thank you, Elena! 🙂

Once we got back to Jacob and Gid’s place, we crept in, so we wouldn’t wake anyone.. Ohh… There is someone on the couch.. shhhh…

Monday, December 6th, 2010 ~

Despite getting home pretty late, the night before, I was up early… 6am. Steve was still sawing logs, but there was quite a group of us, having a pajama party. Roberto was there, Jacob, Sam knocked on the door, then Dominique.. then Gideon… All we were missing were Mimosas and pastries… lol. Once everyone had decided what they were doing for the day, I went back for a nap.

Once Steve and I got up (for real, this time), we headed out to find this crepe place that Gina had told us about. We located it and found our crepes of choice.

Steve’s Banana Nutella Crepe…

Mine was a Sunrise crepe, and the smoothies were incredible!

Once we were done, we were still dragging our behinds a bit, so we just relaxed for a while, then headed over to the shop. We were moving condos again today, so we figured we would just do that.

In the evening, we walked over to Subway (yes, there is a Subway, just outside of PA!) to grab a couple of subs, before heading over to ZG. Renato (Karst Odyssy) was giving a presentation on the Bosnia caves.

It was very interesting to hear their adventures and exploration through these systems. Even with the fluctuations of water levels that they had to deal with.

After the presentation, there was word of a Cave 2 course starting the next morning. J was going to sit in on it, as two people had to drop out, leaving just one student. Steve and I looked at each other… “Hmmm….” Yeah.. right… The course would run through Saturday, which was the day we were supposed to leave. Could we change our flight this late in the game? Bahh.. doubt it…

So.. we headed back to the condo, where we were fortunate enough to have a loan of Marina’s phone. Between Chris, Marina, myself, Steve, and Tom, we were finally able to find the right number to call (thanks, Tom). I got a really nice West Jet person on the phone, who was able to switch our flights for us, and even got us a direct flight back, with minimal fees. How cool is that??? So.. uh… I guess Cave 2 was starting in the morning… Thanks, Allison (at West Jet).

I guess our vacation was mostly over… 😉

Next… Part 3 ~ Cave 2!

Mexico ~ 2010 ~ Part 1 of 3

24 12 2010

Sunday, November 28th, 2010 ~

We were up and at ’em, out the door by 4:20am, and headed to the airport. We got through security fairly quickly, and while sitting in the lounge, heard them on the loud speaker.. “Last boarding call for Blake Wilson. Blake Wilson, final boarding call.” Doh!

We grabbed a quick bite at Timmy’s, and waiting for our flight to Toronto. Once there, we had an hour and a half wait for our connecting flight.

Once we arrived at the Cancun airport, we found all of our luggage, exchanged some deneros, then went out in search of our rental car company. Apparently, there are two with similar names.. EZ Way and Easy Way. The EZ Way guy tried to convince us that he was our guy, but we found the other fella behind him. Well.. he didn’t seem to have our names down, but I did have my print out from the net, so all was well.

We were taken a short drive to the rental car place, where it was not exactly on the main path. It looked a little scary, but our fears were eased quickly. They were very quick, friendly, and  honoured our online pricing.. which had been cut off on my print out. We were given a nice little Toyota SUV, that turned out to be the coolest dive mobile. We loaded it up with our suitcases, and started off for PA. The Climate Summit was going on as well, which led to a ton of military personnel everywhere… Trucks everywhere, machine guns on top of trucks, personnel hiding in the bushes.. all while burning cans of fuel, to block off lanes.

Rental car place…

Once we arrived, we really had no idea which condo we were in. We did some deduction, and figured it out. We went up the stairs, to the door, and there didn’t seem to be anyone around. Hummm…

Just then, Ralph came up the stairway, and it turned out that we were in the right place! w00t! We went in, ditched our stuff, then headed down to Gringo Daves. Mmmm.. chicken nachos. It made a nice snack to share, since we hadn’t eaten lunch.  Jen knew we were arriving today, and she had wandered a bit, then into Gringo Daves. Yippee!

We then headed over to The Pub with Jen, Ralph, Gina, Ed, Piotr, Chris, Olof, and Kathy. It was great to see everyone! We had another bite, and a couple of drinks, before heading back over to Gringo Daves, for a bit of Karaoke. Of course, I had to sing a couple of songs. It was alot of fun!

Monday, November 29th, 2010 ~

Let the diving begin!!

We made our way to Zero Gravity, where we met alot of the gang. We decided to head over to El Eden for the day’s diving. It turned out that Blake just made his flight, but he wasn’t too sure about his luggage. 🙂

Dive 1 ~ River Run Clockwise
Bottom Time ~ 38 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 46′ (Avg. 37′)
Water Temp. ~ 78
Visibility ~ Clear!
Steve, Me, Blake

Dive 2 ~ River Run Counter Clockwise
Bottom Time ~ 28 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 50′ (Avg. 34′)
Water Temp. ~ 78
Me, Blake, Steve

Dive 3 ~ River Run Counter Clockwise
Bottom Time ~ 38 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 50′ (Avg. 33′)
Water Temp. ~ 77
Me, Jen, Blake, Steve

Dive 4 ~ Cavern Line
Bottom Time ~ 36 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 38′ (Avg. 22′)
Water Temp. ~ 77
Jen, Me, Blake, Steve

We had some pretty awesome dives, and it felt really good to be back in the caves. We also saw Fred there, who was teaching a Cave 1 course.

There was some discussion about all of the Rock Boat sightings in the River, as well. 😉

We then went back to the shop, dropped off our tanks for fills, then went to get some groceries, in Playa. Dinner was at The Pub with Chris L., Tom K., David R., Bob S., Chris M., Piotr, Blake, Jen, and Lamont.

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 ~ Happy Birthday, Jen!

Today, we were going to Nahoch. Steve and I had still not been there, so we were really looking forward to this dive. A great one for Jen’s B’day too!

We packed a lunch, picked up our tanks, and packed the cars. A taxi pulled up, letting out a fella and his gear… “Are you guys going diving? I need a buddy!” He arrived just in the nick of time, and he filled Jen’s car with his gear. Hassan, nice to meet you!

We arrived at Nohoch, and we did make the first trek down with our doubles on our backs, but lowered our second sets down the rope. Thanks to the guys for that one.

Steve and I buddied up, Jen, Hassan, and Lamont were a team, and CMal and Piotr too. Ralph, Ed, and Gina were there ahead of us.

Wow.. what a stunning cave. I swear, it was like we were swimming through a Halloween movie. The stalactites, stalagmites, and columns were just incredible. There was one room that looked like there were a hundred different chess pieces from a scene out of Alice In Wonderland. Some broken, some just waiting to be played with. Call me crazy, but that’s what came to mind. In our swim through “Halloween-land,” it seemed like each room had a different gothic theme to it. Heaven’s Gates.. also amazing. This is definitely the coolest freakin’ cave I have ever been in.

Jen, Lamont, and Hassan were ahead of us, and them lighting up the cave for us was absolutely amazing. Thanks, guys!

One section had what looked like a giant pipe organ, with what could have been melted candle wax all down the sides. Another, was a giant section of more candle wax, sliding down to form the shape of a grand piano. There was even a shape that took the shape of what looked like Hobbes, from “Calvin & Hobbes,” columns that looked like stripper poles, even a giant slab of rock that looked like a boat ramp, and shapes that looked like religious figurines.

On the third dive, my light was flickering a little bit. I turned the dive on gas, and my light appeared to be fading a little. Just as I thought of pulling out my Heser backup to compare them… poof… my primary light went out. Heser, it is. I guess the battery was tired after three longer dives.

On the way out, both Steve and I were making animal shadows with our hands, and when I had my light turned, Steve would shine his light towards me, making a shadow of a giant “me,” ahead. That was cool!

Dive 1 ~ Main Line
Bottom Time ~ 57 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 24′ (Avg. 13′)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2 ~ Main Line
Bottom Time ~ 66 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 24′ (Avg. 13′)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 3 ~ Parker Line
Bottom Time ~ 70 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 17′ (Avg. 12′)
Water Temp. ~ 77

After our dives, we dropped our tanks off, and headed back to the condo to hang up gear. We headed to The Pub again, meeting up with the usual suspects, as well as Maren, Dirk, Jesper, Thomas, and Jacob. It was great to see Jacob again!

We also noticed that at the entrance to PA, the security checks alot of the empty taxi cabs.. back seats and trunks. Interesting.

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 ~

Up and at ’em again, to the shop. Not before having my All Bran with Raisins, and Steve, his Zucaritas! We ran into the Florida crew, who had arrived the night before, and were also getting ready for some Diving Goodness.

Myself, Steve, Chris, Piotr, Jen, and Hassan headed down through Tulum, and over to Car Wash. Steve and I hadn’t been there before, and were looking forward to it. There were rumours of a croc in the basin, which I didn’t really need to see. Jen had seen him the week before.

Part of the basin…

Jen led us on three out of four dives, as she had been there before, and the lines were not that easy to find. We did the Upstream line twice, then to the Chamber Of The Ancients, then the Downstream line.

The Upstream line was pretty cool, but I think my favourite was the Downstream line. The Upstream line was darker cave, with alot of depth change. Luke’s Hope was pretty neat to swim through, as we passed through giant schools of fish. The Chamber Of The Ancients was also very cool. Jen found the line quite easily, which was sweet! We dropped through the halocline to enter, and once we had gotten in and looked around a bit, we noticed a couple of lights at the entrance of the room. At first, I thought that there were two divers, but then noticed that it was a primary light and a helmet light of one diver. It appeared that whoever it was, had followed us in.  As we turned to exit the room, the diver left in front of us, and was out of the water when we surfaced. He did come up to us afterwards though, to thank us for letting him follow our line…

The Downstream line is probably one of my favourites, so far. There was SO much to see! So many formations, columns, stalactites and stalagmites. It all looked like candle wax.. just stunning. I think I liked this line as much as I liked Nah0ch!

After our dives, we goofed off a bit, in the basin. We did not see the croc at all, but we did see a few turtles. Steve and Hassan were blowing water rings, while Piotr demonstrated his wonderful trim.. upside down, and fins pointing upward. 🙂 Jen and I resorted to somersaults. Thank goodness there were no other people there.. They probably would have had us all committed.

Dive 1 ~ Upstream
Bottom Time ~ 42 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 52′ (30′ Avg.)
Water Temp. ~ 77
Jen, Hassan, Steve, Me

Dive 2 ~ Upstream
Bottom Time ~ 52 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 52′ (27′ Avg.)
Steve, Me, Hassan, Jen

Dive 3 ~ Chamber Of The Ancients
Bottom Time ~ 33 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 88′ (50′ Avg.)
Jen, Hassan, Me, Steve

Dive 4 ~ Downstream
Bottom Time ~ 47 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 60′ (32′ Avg.)
Jen, Hassan, Me, Steve

After our dives, we headed back through Tulum, where we were slowed down by the military check point, then back to drop off our tanks. Kirill and Julia had arrived!

We went back to the condo, and readied ourselves for yet another night at The Pub. More people had arrived, and the tables grew. What an awesome day!

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 ~

We continued with our morning rituals, then headed to the shop. AM and JP met us there too. A gaggle of us headed over to Sac Actun/Grand Cenote. This would be another first for Steve and I.

There were some pretty amazing formations, large rooms, and some incredible ceilings. Some of the formations looked like incense cones, covered in candle wax. There were some really neat looking passages off of the main line, that looked really cool too. So many nooks and crannies that longed to be peeked in. One day!

We made it to a very short gap, that is at another cenote. Apparently, this is the only place where a Cave 1 diver is allowed to put a spool  in, to continue through. There is open water there, so it is permitted. This was pretty cool too. We went a short distance past this gap, then headed back. We decided to leave the reel in, as we were going to do another few dives.

After our second dive, we came up to switch tanks around and have some lunch. We ended up having a much longer lunch than we had planned, so we only ended up doing one more dive. We made it past the gap this time, and into a HUGE room. What a wicked freakin’ room. We turned the dive, right before the restriction, and brought the reel in.

Dive 1
Bottom Time ~ 48 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 39′ (Avg. 29′)
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 48 mins
Max. Depth ~ 39′

Dive 3
Bottom Time ~ 67 mins
Max. Depth ~ 38′

During our lunch break, we chatted and took some pics of the animals…

Again, we headed back to the shop, dropped off our tanks, chatted, checked e-mails, then back to the condo to shower and change.

For dinner, we went to Tu Parador, across from PA. What a great place! The owners were very friendly, the food was awesome, and the drinks were even better. They had so many variations of different fruity smoothies, that you could have with or without alcohol. They were all freshly made, and were incredible! Even Piotr’s wierd Onion concoction was good!

Next… GUE Conference begins!