It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Taj Mahal

We decided to try to get to Zero Gravity at 8:30, and of course we were running late. We showed up a bit before 9, and a few minutes later, Fred arrived (good thing we were running late). After loading (overloading?) the car with two sets of doubles each, we headed to Taj Mahal, like a minute up the road from ZG. But once you turn off of the road, there is a bit of a drive. Since this was the first day, we hadn't really figured out the best way to pack all of the tanks into the car, and the long bumpy ride through the jungle ended with me under a set of doubles. I had heard some stories about "interesting" entries and exits from caves in Mexico, so I was relieved to see a set of stone steps down to almost water level. The steps were fairly uneven, and a bit slippery from the rain, but all in all it was pretty civilized (plus there was a railing or rope to hold onto the whole way down). Once at the bottom, it was a few steps across a deck and then a little climb down into the water, which was much easier than expected due to the rope tied to a tree that you could hold onto. Once we were in the water, I thought the view up from the cenote was pretty cool, but a bit fake. I felt like I was on a "tropical" movie set with a glorious clear pool of water looking up at a little path through the trees, birds skittering around under the overhang, and the rainwater dripping down from the overhang. Pepper would have liked the birds.

We dove on two lines -- one was the main line, and the other's name I'm not sure of, but it's the line that goes to Cenote Sacrado. We dove the main line first, which goes off to the left from the cavern. There is an airpocket about 15 or so minutes in there, which Kevin referred to as "DCS dome" because it goes fairly abruptly from 30' to 10'. I think this is a rather strange name, though, since I don't typically worry about getting DCS when ascending from 30' to 10' (but what do I know about deco?). The water got really eerie and tannic when we got to the shallows there. And very warm! We briefly ascended in the air dome and then continued on. Beyond there we came to some big, well-decorated rooms. In hindsight there were some fairly well decorated areas before the dome, but on the first dive on the way in, I don't think I really noticed them. However, I was sort of disappointed that it wasn't all decorated all the time; not that that's bad, just not what I was expecting, since I guess the pictures usually only show decorated passages. I was told that we made it to about the "constrictor" on this dive, which means nothing to me except there is a little mark on the map that Kevin sent me that says "the constrictor". At the end of the first dive, we pulled the reel back to the sign and left it for the next dive.

For the second dive, we went to the right. I ran the reel and did not exactly distinguish myself. My impression of this line was that there were more frequent decorations, but they were not as impressive. Somewhere along this line, Rob signaled that there was an air pocket, and he wanted to go up and check it out. So he and I went up to check it out while Kevin stayed on the line. I basically broke the surface, decided it was a creepy little hole, and immediately descended. Eventually we made it to the end of the line (which sort of confused me at first, because I knew we were going to get to another cenote, but it didn't take as long as I expected to get there). We surfaced there and there were some bats.

After the dive, we had some sandwiches and then headed back in with fresh tanks. We did two more dives up the main line in the afternoon. One on of those dives, I saw a white cave shrimp carrying a sack of eggs. I had seen some of the shrimp earlier in the day, but I thought the eggs were pretty cool -- see, there are critters in the cave :) After these two dives, we had some gas left and decided to check out the cavern line. Along that, we ascended in an air dome with a little hole letting light in; I get the impression it would have been more impressive if it hadn't been so late in the afternoon. There were a ton of bats in the air dome. I soon realized the walls were moving, and just tried not to look directly at them. Then Rob pointed out that one of the bats was grooming and that this was cat-like, so I decided the bats weren't that bad. On the way out of the air dome, my light died, so we headed out.

We got back to ZG and chatted with Fred about their sensor project (BAUE is sponsoring some sensors, so we had some data dumping to do later in the week). Then we headed to the house, where Don and Elissa soon arrived. We went to "The Pub" for dinner. I had heard frequent references to this place, and now I experienced it for myself. They have excellent mojitos.

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