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!

Mayan Paradise ~ Part 3 ~ After The Course

22 11 2008

Saturday, November 8th – Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 ~

Since we had all done well on our courses, we wanted to go put our new skills to work. We figured we would start out with a system that we had already done, so that we had a bit of familiarity on our first time out (without a guide). We rented a big arsed van, in which we loaded up with 5 people’s gear and 10 sets of doubles.

We decided to go to Taj Mahal for a couple of dives. We did both the Upstream and the Downstream lines. Oren, Jen, and I were a team of three, and Steve and Francois were a team of two. Everything seemed a bit different this time out, as we actually got to see it on the way out (no multiple, expected gear failures this time around).

Dive 1 ~ Upstream
Bottom Time ~ 33 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 43′
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2 ~ Downstream
Bottom Time ~ 35 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 41′
Water Temp. ~ 77

We saw Alessandra there again, with a class she was teaching.

Here are a few pics of us in between dives…

Oren and Francois…


Steve and I…

After the dives, we were packing up, and met another couple of divers from Ontario Diving, that we had known of from the board. They recommended some great locations for us to dive as well.

What a small world.

Sunday, we went to the Jungle Fill Station, exchanged a few tanks, and headed over to El Eden again. We did 3 dives here ~ Counterclockwise, Clockwise, then a fun play around in the basin!

Dive 1 ~ Counterclockwise
Bottom Time ~ 39 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 50′
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2 ~ Clockwise
Bottom Time ~ 37 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 47′
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 3 ~ Basin
Bottom Time ~ 24 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 13′
Water Temp. ~ 77 – 80

During our basin dive, we did numerous dances (including the Heleen dance), played with the fish, did valve drills, saw an eel with funky eyes (he actually looked prehistoric), and just generally had a blast!

Oh yes, and we saw Alessandra yet again!

Monday, we headed over to Zero Gravity, where we returned a few items for Jen and Robert (they were flying out today), paid the bills (oh my…), and got directions to a couple of places to dive. Today, we were going to dive something we hadn’t done before. w00 h00!

We had our hearts set on Nohoch Nah Chich, and started out on the road. We had the mile marker number, and did remember to reset the tachometer when we left. We were also given a couple of landmarks to look for, that would mark the road through the jungle.

Well… we stopped at the mile marker, but did not see the sign that was supposed to be there. We pulled into a driveway, spoke to a very nice farmer, who pointed out that it was down the road. Down the road we went…

We stopped at another place, where we saw someone cutting tree branches. I walked up to him and said, “Hola! Donde este Nahoch Nah Chich?”

His reply….. “No hablo Anglaise.”

(Didn’t I ask in Spanish?) Ah well…

We went back on the road and decided that we’d try something else. We also had the directions for Mayan Blue. Let’s go diving!!

We found the signs for the place that we needed to get the key from, and the young fellow crossed the street to let us in. We drove down the jungle road, and came up alongside another couple of people that we’d seen along the way (Nando and his student, and Steve Gerrard and friend… and doggy).

We were told that this place was very different from the other caves, that it was much darker, a bit deeper, and a deeper halocline. There is a tannic layer of water, about 10′ deep, and.. of course the entrance to Tunnel A is at about 15′, and that tannic layer is pretty hard to see through. We were happy that we came upon it easily enough (thanks Nando!). There were these little pirahna fish there… ok.. very distant relation, but a relative none-the-less! They attached themselves to our fingers, and scared the living crap out of me, at first.

We dropped into the opening, found the main line, tied off on it, and in we went. This was indeed different than the other caves we had seen so far. It was quite a bit darker, a bit deeper, and even had blackish stalactites. The halocline was at about 50′. Very interesting to see. We decided to do two dives in this same tunnel, instead of going to Tunnel B (although we did find the opening to it ~ Thanks again, Nando)! When we were debriefing, I had one mini shark attach its great teeth into my finger, which caused me to jump out of my skin (ok, it was a Tetra, but it seemed like a monster at the time…). While on the surface, I inflated my suit, so that my hands would stick out of the water. We then discovered that if you spit in the water, they would jump out at it. We amused ourselves with this for a while, then finally got out and packed up.

Dive 1
Bottom Time ~ 33 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 57′
Water Temp. ~ 77

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 33 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 56′
Water Temp. ~ 77

Entrance to Mayan Blue…

The basin…

Nando and his student had left a bit before we did, and we bid our goodbyes. What we hadn’t planned on, was meeting him again at the gate. Apparently, our gate saviour with the key, was not across the street, at his post. I’m not sure how long we waited, but we hung out at the gate for a bit, chatted, and honked some more (the signal to get out).

Our friend finally came to rescue us, and we were on our merry way. We returned back to the shop, where we dropped off our weights, and headed back to the resort.

It was sad that our honeymoon/course/vacation in the jungle had to come to an end. We learned alot, were joined by wonderful friends (Leigh, we still missed you!), met some new ones, and couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful group of people to learn from.

Many thanks to Chris, Fred, Anjelica, Marcos, Jesus, Alessandra, Carlos, and Dennis (Danny, we’re sorry we didn’t get to see you).

As Fred says, “Let the adventure begin.”

Pic by Carmen…

Mayan Paradise ~ Part 2 ~ Cave 1

18 11 2008

Monday, November 3rd – Friday, November 7th, 2008 ~

It was finally time for us to start Cave 1. Steve, Oren, and I were taking the course with Fred. Francois, Jen, and Robert were taking it with Chris. We packed lunches and gear, and waited for our pick up.

Fred came to get us, and we headed to Zero Gravity, where we got our gear together in crates. We then went into the classroom, for some discussion on guidelines, limits for Cave 1 and 2, hazards, and command signals. We then packed up and went to El Eden, where we did a cavern dive, where our lights seemed to start failing upon exiting, then a dive in the basin, doing valve drills, mask removal, and no vis. line drills.

Tuesday, we were at El Eden once again, for another cavern dive, with more light failures, and some valve failures. We then did more no vis., touch contact line drills, then into the cave. We did River Run counter clockwise and clockwise, where it seems our lights and valves were still faulty on our exits. It’s amazing how crappy our gear is… hehe.

Wednesday, we went to Taj Mahal, where we had more light and valve failures, were out of gas, lost the line, and had a no vis., touch contact exit from the cave, over 4 dives.

We also had classroom time, and learned about the formation of caves, the Vadose zone, the Phreatic zone, and many other features of caves.

Thursday, we were in the classroom, learning about Solution, Elements in the caves, Contamination, and gas management in searching for a lost diver.

We then went to Xtabay (said Shta-buy), for three more dives. On these dives, we lost Steve three times, Oren once, and had to find them. We had more gas failures and an out of gas emergency.

On Friday, the final day, we discussed different cave environments, problems in cave diving, then headed out for our last 3 dives.

On the last few dives, we had a no vis. OOG exit, post failures, light failures, more OOG, and rescures.

The final dive was an exciting one…. We were going along our merry way, when Steve had a valve failure. Oren was quick to his aid as we thumbed the dive. As we exited, I was in the lead, Steve in the middle with one working reg, and Oren in the back. I was just waiting for that flashing light, to say that Oren was out of gas, and I would have to fly back to help him. There it was… saw the light flashing. I quickly hauled arse back to him, with reg ready to donate. Of course, I looked stupid, as it was Steve’s other post that had gone, and he had turned to flash Oren. The thought going through my head, was that I was Oren’s only source of gas, should he need it, and if I were to see a light flashing, I’d be there for him. I guess I’d rather look stupid than have my buddy need gas and not get it.  Oren gave Steve his long hose, and we kept going to the exit. When we reached our deco stop, which happened to be where the reel was tied off, I had to hand over my mask. I have to say that I was very relaxed here, and didn’t reach for my back up, as I figured it was a drill, and just went with the flow. I hovered there for a minute or so, when lo and behold, my buddy handed me my back up (thanks Steve)! W00 H00! We ascended up to our 10′ stop, where Steve switched to my long hose, and gave Oren a rest. Yes, we were almost at the surface, but at least we kept it in mind. Upon surfacing, the three of us felt pretty good about the dive. We had worked together as a team, and worked through our scenarios.

We debriefed, discussed, and packed up. It was now time to go back to the classroom for the exam.

I have to say that Fred was an amazing instructor, and I found it very easy to learn from him. There is alot of information to process in this course, and he just seemed to help everything make sense. I really enjoyed spending the 12 hour days learning from him.

I want to thank my team members, Steve and Oren, as well. We were dealt alot of cards, and worked well together to sort them out. We were always there for each other.

I am happy to say that we all came out with a pass, and couldn’t wait to put our new skills to work the following day. Oh yeah, and I heard the other group did well too!  😀

We were all a bit pooped, but had to go celebrate with some food and a Margarita…. and a Daquiri… and a Khaparina… and…….

To be continued in Part 3… After The Course…

Mayan Paradise ~ Part 1

15 11 2008

Monday, October 27th – Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 ~

Steve and I had tied the knot on October 25th (yes, two days ago), and had decided to head down to Mexico for our honeymoon. What better way to celebrate, than a Cave 1 course? I won’t go in to all the wedding details, but I will post a picture of the cake. The lady that made this cake is one of the most creative and talented people I’ve ever met. We brought her pictures, colours, and a general idea, and she came up with the result…

Cake picture taken by Carmen Cheung…

We arrived at the Cancun airport at about 11:30 am, where we managed to get all of our luggage pretty quickly, then Steve got to press the “Magic Luggage Search” button, and we passed GO! We met Juan Luna, who brought us the 80 km to our condo. We met with Chris that evening, and arranged a cavern dive for Wednesday.

Juan Luna…

Walkway to the condo…

Tuesday, we rented a car, and confirmed plans for Wednesday. We couldn’t resist picking up T shirts from the dive shop either.

We met Alex at Zero Gravity on Wednesday morning, where we also met some fellow divers from Korea, taking a course with Fred. We went to the jungle fill station, picked up our tanks, and headed over to Dos Ojos. One word came to mind… “wow.” I’ve heard that caves are addictive, but seriously… what a friggin’ awesome couple of dives. Even in the cavern zone, we were amazed.

We headed out from Cenote 1, surfaced in the Bat Cave, then returned to Cenote 1. The Bat Cave lived up to its name, as we saw a few bats hanging from their roosts in the ceiling. We had a bit of lunch, then went back in. We would often cover our lights, let our eyes adjust to the darkness, and just take everything in around us. There was so much to see.

Dive 1 ~
Bottom Time ~ 44 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 25′
Water Temp. ~ 77 (the water temp. is always 77…)
Vis. ~ Endless ~ “Gin clear”

Dive 2
Bottom Time ~ 36 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 31′

Francois arrived on Wednesday evening.

Thursday, the three of us went over to the shop, to grab weights for Frankie, then to the jungle fill station for tanks, then headed to El Eden for some skills. What a nice place for a skills dive, in the basin.

Again, clear water, fish surrounding us, and just a nice place to be. We did S drills, valve drills, removed/replaced masks, wrote in wet notes, used spools, cookies, arrows, and practiced our finning techniques. It would be really easy to get used to doing skills in this place!

Dive 3
Bottom Time ~ 75 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 20′

Dive 4
Bottom Time ~ 35 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 20′

We dropped our tanks off to the fill station and headed for some grub.

Friday, we visited Tulum, to see some of the ruins, and Saturday, our other friends were to arrive. We picked up some weights for them as well.

It was also Halloween! We saw some great costumes at one place…

Saturday, we met with the entire gang, and went for dinner and cocktails!

Sunday, the whole group headed for another tour at Dos Ojos, with Aquanauts. Steve, Oren, and I went out with Carlos, and Francois, Jen, and Robert went out with Alessandra. Once again, absolutely amazing dives. There are many decorations to see in this cavern, and it was nice to recognize some of the features from our previous dives there.

Carlos, me, Steve…

A bit blurry, but Alessandra and Frankie…

Here are a few pics, taken by Oren L….

My butt…


Dive 5
Bottom Time ~ 40 mins.
Max. Depth ~ 20′

Dive 6
Bottom Time ~ 35 mins.
Max. Depth 30′

What an excellent introduction to the caves in Mexico. We couldn’t wait for our course to start, the following day!

To be continued in Part 2…

Jibacoa, Cuba ~ 2005

15 06 2005

Well.. Cuba was so amazing the year before, so I just had to go back. This time was going to be a two week trip, so we needed to find a place where the food was a bit better, and where there was a slightly bigger dive op. We had planned on getting alot of diving in!

We arrived at the airport, boarded the bus to the resort (once it arrived), and off to Jibacoa we went! I woke up the next morning, I was sick as a dog. I had some kind of cold or something, but there was no way I was diving. Too stuffed up… pffffttttttttttttt!!!!! I had gone to Florida three months prior, and gotten my OW certification so that I could dive my arse off this trip!

Ok, it sucks, but I was able to snorkel. Luckily, there was a whole lot to see right off of our resort, so that was something…

There was a different theme at the buffet, every night (Italian, Mexican, American, Seafood night). It was an absolute blast. The people there all took the time to say hello and got to know you.. They even had me doing the Sun Dance about 5 times a day.

There were shows at night, and always food available. The piano bar was a blast too, and they had a “disco” for dancing and karaoke.
I even ended up singing on stage, with the band one night, during one of the shows. They had recorded it and wanted to keep the CD. They played it every day by the pool. Man, I really enjoyed that place.. I’m going to have to get back there one of these days!

We went to Havana one day as well.. We didn’t do the tourist thing, but hired a taxi to take us and guide us around. IMO a really good way of doing it. You were not on a schedule, and we were advised where to and not to go.

Our driver’s name was Raphael ~ a wonderful fellow. He showed us all the cool places, and advised us to go to a bunch of different places. The market was quite an experience too. One of the most amazing things I saw was a Cathedral in the main square. This thing was stunning…

Municipal Building… with Raphael standing in the archway…

What used to be the old theatre…

..and… of course, Revolution Square. I actually caught them rolling the carpet down the stairs, as Fidel Castro was to be giving a big speech in the next day or so…

We visited the Jose Monti Memorial, which had some amazing historical artifacts in it. It told the story of how Cuba became. Yes, it was all in Spanish, but I could make out the gist of most of it…

We also sat and had a Mojito at the legendary La Bodeguita Del Medio, where Hemingway used to come and drink his Mojitos…

We even visted a few castles ~ There are three in Havana, that used to protect every port…

Raphael was an amazing person too. He went out of the way, and took us to his home town, where he hangs out. I don’t think the locals were too happy to have tourists there, but we didn’t stay very long…just long enough for a couple of pics!

Raphael also took us way off the beaten path, to show us something so incredibly beautiful. Now… when I say off the beaten path, I really mean it… Not many vehicles would have made it off roading like we went… But this was the result… Pier Alta… It was where he used to come, when not working, when he was a fisherman…

I’m so happy we didn’t go the tourist route, and that we were able to see the things that we saw… An incredible day.

Ahh… a week had passed, and I was finally getting over the sickies. I was finally able to dive!!! w00t w00t w00t!

The first dive was El Valle (The Valley). I took a bit of Ginger, as I am known to get a bit sick on boats here and there… well… I fed the fish on the way out anyway…

There were many different Angel Fish ~ Yellow ones, orange ones, blue and purple ones… so pretty! There were also yellow snappers, and black spotted eels. I also fed the fish on the way back in, but had a great dive…

The next dive we did was a couple of days later ~ El Ancla (The Anchor). There were so many fish! Big green ones, some kind of lizard like fish in the sand, a huge conch, and a spider crab. I didn’t feed the fish on this one!!!

The next day, we did Las Catalinetas (The Pork Fish). This was an awesome dive! There were these funky looking creatures that looked like they could eat us alive!! Ok… it turns out they were Spiny Lobsters, but they were the biggest freakin’ lobsters I’d ever seen!! They were close to 3′ long!!!!!!! We also saw a Moray Eel, and a couple of barracudas. Great day! Two days in a row, I didn’t feed the fish!!!

Two days later, we did Los Cajolones (The Trenches). This would have been my 8th logged dive. It was terribly wavy this particular day, and I started to feel sick on the boat. They helped me gear up and got me in the water. On previous dives, one of the DMs would descend with me, and wait until the others and my buddy came down. Not this time… we stayed on the surface for a good 10 – 15 minutes, while everyone decided what they were doing (some weren’t sure if they were going to come on this dive). I was not a happy camper, and was very very sick in the water. My buddy finally got in the water, and his tank slid off of his BC. I tried to help, but I was just too sick. There was another DM in front of him that helped. It seemed like an eternity before we finally descended, and when we were about 10 – 15′ down, I started to get severe vertigo, and came close to passing out. I knew this dive was over for me, so I called it. I gave the DM the big thumb, and surfaced. He tried to get me to go back down, but I said no way, Jose… So.. onto the boat I went. My buddy went along with the group. I continued being severely sick for an hour, while we waited for the others to return. The poor boat captain was trying to hand me water, but I couldn’t really take anything. We finally made it back to the resort, and I was absolutely done like dinner. I felt like I had been hit by a train. I couldn’t eat, but I tried to drink as much water as possible. I don’t even remember the evening at all. The dive op told me to come back in the morning, and they would give me a free dive, as I didn’t complete that one… which was so generous of them. I woke up in the morning, only to feel like ten trains had hit me… I couldn’t even see very well. I looked out the window, and the entire freakin’ ocean was a sheet of glass… unreal… There was no way I could dive today, and the ocean appeared to have stopped moving!!!!!!! I managed to head over to the dive shop (which was next door to the room), to let them know I was out for today’s dive. The boat was full anyway, so they weren’t able to accomodate me if I had felt well. They did tell me to come back at noon and do a shore dive with them though. I was hesitant, but at this point, I had absolutely no idea that there was diving in Canada (Lmao), so I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d be in the water was. I didn’t want that last experience to be engraved in my mind as the last dive I did. We were also flying out the next day, so this would be my last chance. Our flight was at night, so I would be good to go.

I dragged my arse over at noon, and am glad I did. This dive has to still be in my top 2 most amazing dives to date. It was so relaxing, shallow, easy, and really did make me feel alot better. We saw so many fish on this dive! We saw 3 stingrays, 2 Rockfish, a baby green eel, a flat fish, 2 conchs, 2 Sea Cucumbers, 2 anchors, 1 anchor chain, a school of needle nose fish, some kind of small spiky fish, porcupine fish, angel fish… holy smokes… It was incredible. It was also my first dive over 60 minutes. I am so glad I did that dive…

Here’s the dive boat…

Me with the crew!

There was a hike we did a few times… It was supposed to be a nice, nature walk…. Holy smokes… Nature walk my arse… We were climbing a freakin’ mountain! Here’s a pic of me at the top, looking down on the resort! It’s pretty cool that you can see the reef in the water!

I made alot of friends there, and some that I still keep to this day… from people that work at the resort, to a friend in England.

Ok… I could carry on with the pictures forever… It’s just hard to leave some of them out! This place holds a little piece of my heart.