It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jailhouse: Swiss Siphon

Saturday we went to Jailhouse, along with Lynne and Peter. Rob and I went to retrieve the key on Friday after dinner, which was interesting considering our lack of Spanish. But eventually we managed to get the key after paying slightly more than we expected/remembered (but this was not atypical of this trip -- many of the sites seem to have increased their prices since our last trip). Several people had suggested Swiss Siphon to us as a nice photogenic salt-water passage, so we decided to check that out. After meeting up with Lynne and Peter, the four of us headed down to Tulum. Since Lynne and Peter were in the lead, Lynne hopped out to open the gate for us. We followed them in and eventually we got to the open area beyond the jungle, where you are essentially driving through a farm. We have seen horses (or maybe a horse) there before, but today there was a cow. It had a rope around its neck, and was tethered to a tree by the side of the road. Unfortunately, it had decided to stand on the other side of the road, so the tether was stretching across the road, blocking passage. So of course, Lynne was sent to deal with it. It turns out it was actually a bull, but a quite young one, with just little stubs of horns. Pretty cute actually. It was totally funny to watch Lynne give a tug on the rope to try to get him to move. At first he was cool with it, but then after a moment, he sort of spooked. But luckily his reaction was to run away in the direction we wanted him to go. I really regret not getting a picture of Lynne herding the bull!

After that we quickly came to the cenote. When we first went to check it out, there was a really big, pretty blue butterfly flying atop the cenote. Later we noticed a gazillion other butterflies off across the "parking lot" all congregating around a tiny little puddle to drink from. Guess they didn't realize there was a much bigger puddle just through the trees a bit. Speaking of the puddle, it was still pretty much a muddy hole, but not quite as muddy as I remember it. We set our stage bottles and cameras down by the water, and then got geared up pretty quickly. Since we lacked oxygen, we decided to do a single stage dive. However, we did want to take a quick peek at the INAH line just upstream, so the plan was to recalculate gas back at the entrance room and take a quick foray to there at the end of the dive. We also talked about possibly heading further up the mainline after Swiss Siphon. We got into the water, and as I mentioned, it didn't seem quite as muddy as I remembered it. I could see Rob descend from 3 or 4 feet away without a problem. However, I think that the viz opened up a bit later than before. I basically felt the rock at the entrance before I saw it (though perhaps that was because Silty Bob was ahead of me). When we got into the entrance room, by the T, we stopped there so that Rob could put the slave strobe on me. But we quickly realized that we forgot to put the bungee loop on the tank that is used to attach the strobe. Doh! Rob pulled a spool from his pocket and told me to hold and then for a couple of minutes I felt all sorts of pushing and pulling on my gear from various angles, including some tugging on the manifold. There was also some bolt-snap gymnastics, with a bolt-snap being clipped off to my right chest D-ring and then retrieved back from the D-ring. I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but at the end of it all, I was wondering if I had cave line running around my manifold, and a spool dangling from my tanks. After the dive, Rob confirmed that that was precisely the case.

Once we got going, we took the bypass line which is very shortly after the entrance room, and essentially drops you back on the mainline as if you went left, right, right, but skipping two of the Ts. The jump from the bypass was closer to the entrance than I expected, but I think that's because I was thinking of the minutes from the first T, and it was described to me in terms of minutes from the start of the dive. It looks on the map like the bypass is a big win, but it really isn't. It is much smaller than the alternative passage, so you go slowly, plus there are those two pesky jumps that you have to install. Anyhoo, it took about 9 or 10 minutes to get through the bypass, and we jumped back onto the mainline right in the halocline (at just about 50 feet). We continued up the mainline (to the right), and then we started looking for the Swiss Siphon jump, which is not marked. Rob actually stopped us just before the right spot and poked around a bit before moving on and then quickly finding the right place to jump. This passage is very pretty, pretty much right away. I thought it was extremely photogenic. We had been through the mainline passage right near the jump, and thought it was very nice, but this was even better. We spent quite a lot of time there taking pictures. The passage is quite big, with nice big decorations at frequent intervals, and of course it has the usual below-the-halocline blue glow. We dropped our stages somewhere in this tunnel and then we hit a T. One of the people we had talked to about Swiss Siphon told us to go right at the T, so I told Rob to do that. Apparently he had not heard that, so he thought it was just a lucky guess that we ended up in more beautiful passage.

The plan had been to use only some of our penetration backgas in the Swiss Siphon and save the rest for further up the mainline, or the INAH line. But we agreed to conference about that when we got there. We quickly decided that we should spend as much time as possible in this passage. So after spending quite a bit of time here, we eventually turned the dive on gas. When we got back to the mainline, we agreed to head a bit further up it for just a couple hundred PSI. It was nice, and Rob took a few pics, but I think Swiss Siphon is way nicer. Then we headed out back to the entrance room. We paused at the T to discuss our plan for heading to the INAH line, and as we were discussing, we saw the glow of Lynne and Peter's lights coming from that passage. We waited for them to come out, and then we headed upstream. I dropped my stage before the room where the jump is. I swam into that room, and I was absolutely certain that this was where the jump was. I remembered it perfectly. But I couldn't find the passage. So I thought maybe I was wrong. I took a few more kicks, and then I saw that the jump was marked on the line. Okay, so this is definitely the right room. But for some reason I still failed to see the passage (and I knew exactly what it looked like!). I think when I first looked around, I was in a bad position to see it, and then I got so discouraged by that that even when I was sitting right on top of the jump arrows, I missed it. But Rob pointed it out to me, and after a moment of "oh duh", I installed the jump and we were off. Once we got into the saltwater passage, I let Rob lead so he could decide where to take pictures. We stopped for shots in three spots, and made it to that big gazebo-type formation where the line turns right before I turned it on gas. I realized at like the last spot where he was taking pictures that I had forgotten to deploy the sensor for the remote strobe on all of the previous pictures (on the INAH line). I had it clipped off to the back of my light head, on the bungee loop. Turns out, that position still allowed the sensor to fire. Phew. I was worried I was going to be fired as Rob's model!

When we got back to the entrance room, Rob removed the strobe from my tanks (which is sad, since I never got to see exactly what craziness was required to affix it to me with a spool). We did a few minutes of backgas deco at 20 feet. I basically just pinned myself to the ceiling since I was terrified of stirring up the gelatinous muck below me. That worked quite well. Coming up into the warm poop water was pretty gross. Somehow bad viz just seems way grosser when it is bath-tub hot! Lynne and Peter were already out of the water when we surfaced, and they were kind enough to help us with getting our bottles and the camera out of the water (this was a recurring theme throughout the week -- Lynne, Peter, and Kevin routinely helped us with our bottles because they were already out of the water when we came up, and I felt bad that we never had the opportunity to return the favor!). Rob got himself out of the water, and then I got myself to me knees and with one hand on a tree and one hand on Rob, I stood myself up (okay, maybe it would be more fair to say Rob and I stood me up :P).

After we packed up gear, and looked at the butterflies for a bit, we headed to Tulum for lunch. We had agreed to meet at Taqueria Diaz, since Jacob had recommended it, oh I don't know, maybe five thousand times in the past two weeks. But when we got there, we found it closed :( So we decided to go across the street to Don Cafeto instead, which is one of those places I have heard reference to many times (I think from Beto), but never been to. We all got some variety of beef tacos, which were okay but not great. But their limonada was totally awesome, and basically made it worth going there just for that. We also had some tasty guacamole, and I liked the pickled carrots in the bowl of pickled things that they brought. Since ZG closes early on Saturday, we headed back to the condo and got there pretty early. So we decided to go snorkeling out behind the condo. I brought my snorkel and everything, even though Rob snickered about it. I also brought the Hero Cam, since I figured this was the sort of thing it was actually made for, so it would be cool to actually use it for that! It was quite a successful snorkel. We found a bunch of rather small patches of "reef" but even in those small patches, there were an impressive number and variety of little tropical fish (I suck at naming tropical fish, so that's about as specific as I can be). Eventually as we got closer to the breakwater, there were bigger patches of reef, which had a lot of medium-sized fish, plus I saw at least one barracuda, and a really big triggerfish. Conditions were getting rougher as we got closer to the breakwater, plus we were swimming against the wind or current. So at some point I sent Rob to take a look, to see if there was another interesting enough to make it worth going further into the rougher water. Of course that was a mistake. He swam maybe 100 feet away and then started grunting and signaling and yelling "turtle". I guess he happened upon a turtle sleeping on the reef, but it got scared away before I could see it :( After looking around for a bit, we headed back, which was quite a bit easier since we basically just drifted back. On the way in, Rob made two good finds. First, a lettuce sea slug (which of course I got some video of, just for Clinton :P). And the best find of all (that I actually saw) was a spotted eagle ray, maybe 100 feet from the beach. That was really exciting!

Later that evening, Lynne told us they were going to Akumal to have dinner with some friends, so we tagged along to Lol-Ha. Lynne and I shared the ceviche, plus the table had guacamole and mango margaritas. I met a very skinny but well-groomed beach kitty who was not interested in being pet but was very willing to share some ceviche with me.

1 comment:

Lynne said...

It hadn't even occurred to me to wonder why the butterflies were ecstatic over a tiny puddle, when there was a much larger puddle to be had . . . I suspect they don't like the spaces under the trees.

We got in after you guys, and I thought the viz was amazing -- I had never actually SEEN the rock before, and was quite disoriented to regain vision before we reached it!