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Me diving

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Taj Mahal: Chinese Garden and the Waterfall

We left for Mexico on Tuesday night, red-eyeing through Miami and then to Cancun. This sort of sucked, since it certainly isn't the shortest route to get there, but on the other hand, the flight to Miami is actually long enough to get a decent amount of sleep (compared to flying through Dallas or some such more direct location). And by doing the redeye, we got in at 11, so we thought we might actually be able to dive. We got through immigration and got our bags and got through customs in no time at all -- under 20 minutes I think. We got the green light at customs, phew. Then we waited for Kevin to appear on the other side of customs. He was on a flight that was scheduled to get in like 10 minutes after ours. About an hour later, Kevin finally appeared, and we headed up to PA. Kevin had asked Danny about sites that would let us leave a bit later, and he suggested a few. One of them was Taj Mahal, which we decided to go to, since it is so close and Kevin had some suggestions for nice dives there. We asked Angelica to write a note for us in Spanish asking the guy at the gate if we could stay until 7. We presented him with the note and he said it was fine.

The stairs and entry seemed a lot less scary than the last time we were there. I think that's because it hadn't rained in ages, so it wasn't slippery. We put our stages into the water, and set up our gear on the table. That wasn't as hot and uncomfortable as it sounds, since we were nicely shaded. We had decided to head upstream to the Chinese Garden line and then to the "Waterfall". I volunteered to lead the dive, but made Kevin assure me that he would stop me if I swam past the Chinese Garden dump (which is unmarked). This path goes through the cavern line, which we'd attempted to do on the last trip but hadn't quite made it the whole way due to a light failure. The Points of Light thing was much more impressive today; not sure why, maybe it had to do with the time of day/position of the sun in the sky? Kevin's description of how to find the Chinese Garden jump made a lot more sense once we were in the water, and I had no trouble finding it at all. We dropped our stages at the jump (since it was allegedly a bit restricted), which was sort of amusing, since it was right in the halocline; maybe this wasn't the best spot to drop the bottles. I also got a bit confused about the sequence of dropping a cookie, switching off of my stage, dropping my stage, and installing the reel (Kevin said it was a long way to the jump line, so we brought a reel for it).

The tunnel was very very white and holey and crumbly looking. We were right in the halocline for a bit. I found the line and tied into it sooner than I expected (I'm not convinced that a 150' spool wouldn't have worked). There were some narrow spots, which were fine with me, but probably not so fun for #3 (Rob) since it was in the halocline. Eventually one of these narrow areas pointed up and we were spit out into a bigger room. I stopped there and looked back as Kevin and Rob drifted out of the tunnel and into the room, which was pretty cool to watch. We slowly worked our way through that room, which seemed big, until we got to the next room which was HUGE -- both very tall and very wide. And very decorated. We very slowly meandered through the room, looking around with awe. Eventually we reached the end of the room, and we continued on. Rob stopped us because he was having some ear problems as he tried to descend (as usual, he was pinned to the ceiling in the big room, so he had to descend quite a bit as we exited the room). While he was working on that, I asked Kevin if there was more after this room and he said not really. So once Rob fixed his ears, I signaled to turn around.

We headed back to the main line, picked up our stages, dropped the reel, and headed further up the line. We eventually made it to the waterfall, which I wouldn't necessarily describe as a waterfall, but there was definitely a major halocline effect. Swimming under it, it looked like the surface of a lake was right above us. The "waterfall" was definitely swirling, but kind of looked like it was running up or backwards to me. Weird. After looking at it briefly, I turned us, because I was a wee bit underweighted in the saltwater, and hence kind of in a hurry to get out of there (the saltwater anyway). Once we got above the halocline again, I was relieved that I could take full breaths again :P On the way out, we passed a jump to our left just before we got back to our stages, not too far from the waterfall room, but above the halocline, and Rob asked if we wanted to check it out, and we all agreed. The line was heading shallower as we went, and we went through a could of tall but narrow restrictions separating bigger (but not really big) rooms. After not very long, the line apparently terminated, with a jump back to the mainline. I didn't actually see this since I was in the back at this point, but this is what Rob tells me. We headed back out to the mainline, picked up our stages and out we went.

We ended up getting out of the water just before 7. Which is sort of funny since when we were asking Angelica to write the note, we regarded 7 as being way later than we would possibly get out :) We headed back to PA and after a brief stop at our condo, we headed to the Pub to meet Lynne and Peter, and eventually Jacob. We all agreed to head to Gran Cenote the next day.

Rob didn't bring his camera along, since we had just gotten in. And I sort of epic failed to get many topside shots on this trip :( So instead you get some screen-caps from my hero-cam footage from our last trip. But since I was diving with the same team, you'd hardly know it wasn't from this trip :)

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