Feliz año nuevo y un próspero 2011!
Ayer fue mordido por un tiburón con dientes afilados. Eso no es cierto. Lo que realmente pasó fue que tiene un pequeño corte en la pierna de una roca bajo el agua.
Yesterday, five of us headed out to some cenotes, this sprawling underground river system that’s unique to this part of México. There’s underground rivers everywhere, and, in places, there’s holes in the earth that provide access to them. They look like flooded caves, and the Mayans thought they were sacred places, portals to the underworld. They go on for miles and miles, cavern after cavern, with these amazing underwater rock formations and tunnels. My sister Laura, who scuba dives, planned this entire trip because she wanted to scuba dive in cenotes, and the other 4 of us tagged along today and snorkeled. Laura raved about the scuba dives she did, but I’ll leave the details for Laura to describe in her blog, which she doesn’t have, so why don’t you just go to her website (and, while you’re at it, why don’t you pass it along to all your family and friends that need to find and hire an architect).
First step: Putting on a wetsuit. I tugged and pulled and squeezed into mine, and immediately felt more like a superhero than I ever have before in my life. Here’s me doing my best superhero pose:
It was very snug, but it really wasn’t uncomfortable, although I’d be annoyed if I had to wear something like this while climbing in and out of a Batmobile or fighting hoodlums. The truth is, I’d be annoyed if I had to climb in and out of a Batmobile or fight hoodlums no matter what I was wearing – I’m sure the Batmobile, like Mazda Miatas, aren’t designed for 6’4″ occupants, and, well, I prefer running from confrontation.
My wetsuit was a size XL, and I’d venture to bet that a year ago, when I was 153 pounds heavier, I would be larger than the largest wetsuit they had. And while you can snorkel without a wetsuit, there’d be no way in hell I would’ve worn just a swimsuit in front of anyone, including my sister. Which means that this is an adventure I couldn’t and wouldn’t have taken.
I don’t have an underwater camera, so you’re not gonna see any fantastic underwater shots in this blog, but here’s a little taste of what the cenotes are like (photos taken by either me, Laura, or our friend Lisa):
That’s the entrance to a cenote. The water is so clear and still that while it looks really shallow, you can basically jump into the water from the step at the end of the railing and not hit anything. Within feet of the railing it’s 10 feet deep. A few feet beyond that, it’s 40 feet deep.
We were at Chikin Ha cenotes, but this is a different one that we saw but didn’t snorkel in. The vines are actually tree roots from the trees above, that penetrated the rocks on their quest for water.
This is me climbing out of that cenote – it literally looked like a big sinkhole (that they had cut steps into, for the tourists).
I’ve never snorkeled before, but thanks to my swimming background, took to it quickly. It was beautiful. While cenotes do have a few fish and a few turtles, the reason you go is for the jagged, stunning rock formations, and to swim in these caves where sunlight punches through the rock, providing shafts of light that illuminate everything underneath. I found an arch about 12 or 14 feet underwater and challenged myself to dive down and swim through it, which I did, and that’s how I got the little cut I mentioned in Spanish at the top of this post.
One of my favorite moments was watching Laura and her diving partners descend into the cave. There was four of them, and I floated above them as they sank deeper and deeper into the cenote, into the darkness, slowly disappearing from view, until there was only the beams of light from their flashlights dancing on the rocks around them, catching metallic glimpses of each others’ tanks, until the beams became only glowing dots as the darkness enveloped them, until the dots stopped dancing and vanished completely, and they were gone.
A little later, a different group of divers entered a cavern tunnel another way, directly beneath where I was snorkeling, which I realized when the rocks around me started simmering with their air bubbles – bubbles escaping around peaks and edges, fighting their way through piles of boulders. As more divers swam through, the simmer turned into a full-blown boil, bubbles everywhere, surrounding me, bursting through hairline cracks and cascading around ledges, and after the divers passed, it stopped almost immediately, a return to stillness.
I found this YouTube video that gives you an idea of exactly how otherworldly and magnificent these cenotes are (the music is a little much, but I watched it on mute):
Later today I’m back on an airplane and heading back to Los Angeles. First, though, I’m heading to the gym. I bought a 5-day pass when I arrived here, and this is my 5th and final day. Then, it’s adios, Playa Del Carmen, México! I hope to come back after I get certified in scuba diving – maybe that’ll be a New Year’s Resolution!
Keep it up, David!