It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Xunan Ha

Kevin was still not feeling up to diving but he suggested that we go to Xunan Ha. He even escorted us there since it's not too far. When we got to the gate, it was locked and no one was around, but about a minute later, a guy came along (who we had driven by on the road as he walked there) and opened the gate. It was a bit before 9 so maybe he opens at 9?  We drove to the parking area and looked at the site. There is a moderately long walk to the water, but it is on a nice path that is well-shaded. The cenote itself is really pretty. There is a drop to the water, with a few options for getting in and out.  There is a diving platform, with a drop of like 8 feet into deep water (obviously only useful for entry), a big sort of rickety-looking ladder, and a series of stone steps that stop just above the water, with a slippery-looking rock slope below. The dive platform is conveniently about the right height to sit down and gear up on, so we staged our rigs there. And we staged our bottles on the slope below the rock steps.

Path to the water
We didn't know too much about the cave. Kevin told us that about 25 minutes in, there is an air dome with lots of creepy looking tree roots hanging down into the water. I think he also mentioned that there were a lot of jumps.  He also told us that the average depth was around 40' though this was misinformation... It was really more like 20 feet.  (I will give him the benefit of the doubt and blame this on the bad empanada.) So we should have brought one stage instead of two. Two stages was ridiculous for this dive!  Anyhoo, we got geared up by the water and made the jump (which was scary but by that point I just wanted to get into the water!).  Another diver was getting geared up as we were and he ended up entering first. This was fine by me, because I could see where his reel ran to give me a hint where the mainline started :). Yes, I was running the reel; I know it's shocking!

The cave is really white and fairly decorated.  There are many fairly large rooms, so it's not always apparent that there are so many decorations on the walls, but the cave basically has very decorated patches here and there but not everywhere that you look.  There were several medium to big rooms and then the cave would narrow for a bit before opening up again. And oh my were there a lot of jumps. I think we passed at least 5 jumps before the air dome (which was around 25 minutes just like Kevin said).  The air dome sort of snuck up on me... All of a sudden I saw some hairy tree roots sticking down from the ceiling, and the passage got much shallower.  We didn't go up into the air dome, but we did end up at like 4 feet before the passage descended again.  So my ears had that to look forward to on the way out :)

The dive platform
Past the air dome, a lot of the passages had that white, rough-textured floor, that can be very chalky-silty. But the passages were never very small, so this wasn't really a problem. We passed several more jumps but kept on heading up the mainline. Eventually we came to a T (about 50 minutes). We went right, because it looked nicer right by the T. But that was a trick... Maybe 50 feet later we were once again on a slope heading up, with hairy tree-stuff hanging down from the ceiling.  Presumably another airdome, but I didn't think it was worth the potential ear trouble, so I turned us around and we headed up the other side of the T. By now the rooms were smaller (though not small), and generally relatively flat. After 10 more minutes, we hit a change in arrows (right at yet another jump).  After another 10 minutes, I decided that the cave had become less interesting than it was earlier, so I turned it and suggested that we get some pictures and hit some jumps on the way out.

Rob and I had agreed that I would video on the way in and he would take pictures on the way out. So once we turned, the video reflector went away and the camera came out.  At some point not too far from the air dome, Rob asked if we should take a jump, but I suggested waiting until we were past the air dome and I no longer had that hanging over my ears.  So once past the dome, we started looking down the jump lines. We didn't take the very first jump after (before) the air dome, but I think we took the first jump to the left. There were actually two jumps to the left right at the same spot... One was forward left and the other back and to the left.

I rather arbitrarily picked the forward one, and put in the spool, dropped one stage and led us in there. The line was fairly small cave, white and prickly all over, and after a few minutes, it looked small ahead.  Not necessarily unpassably small, but small enough that I'd have to drop my stage, etc. And I really didn't feel like doing that especially since I couldn't see that it actually opened up and didn't just get smaller immediately ahead. So I turned it instead.  When we got back to the jump, Rob moved the spool over to the other jump right there, and he led us in there.  This jump was much the same... After a few minutes, Rob signalled that it got small and turned us around.

So we went back to mainline, picked up our gear and headed toward the exit.  Rob found another jump to take after not too long, this one to the right.  After the last two jumps, I was sick of schlepping a stage into possibly small passage, so I dropped both of mine on the line and went to back gas.  It was very decorated at the entrance of the jump, though that soon gave way to a less decorated but still very interesting passage.  The walls were white and craggy and there were big boulders/plate-shaped formations laying on the floor. There was quite a bit of clay back there (my favorite) much of it lining the "plates" on the floor.  I thought this jump was one of the best parts of the dive.  There were also some jumps off of this line, though we didn't check them out. Eventually the passage got kind of sparse and boring, so after about 15 minutes, Rob suggested turning and I agreed. I think he had intentions to explore some other jump on the way out, but by this point I was pretty pooped, so we just headed out.

Since it was a 20 foot dive, there was no deco, though we did stop to play with the fishies in the basin.  We surfaced and then had the semi-daunting task of getting out. Rob wanted to try climbing the rocks.  So he did that, without much trouble, and then deposited his gear on the dive platform and came back to assist me.  Since he made the rock climbing look easy, I decided to go that route.  He held onto my manifold at some critical moment, and then gave me a hand up at the end.  It wasn't too hard though and certainly less scary than the ladder since you have solid rock beneath you at every moment :). Then we started the slow process of gear retrieval. After a quick break on the dive platform, I walked my rig back to the car. Rob carried two stages to the car, and then I negotiated a deal wherein he would carry my two stages and I would carry his rig.  I think I totally scored on that deal, though I did sort of wish Kevin was there to snicker at Rob while I walked his gear to the car. After the gear was cleaned up, we went for a swim.  Best swimming hole ever. The jump in was terrifying (worse than jumping in with gear) but once I was in the water it was great!  The water is super clear and the scenery is very nice, with trees all around.

Here, kitty kitty
We finally got out of there and headed to Tulum for lunch.  The empanada place was closed so we wandered for a but and randomly picked a place, Sabor Infinyto, which seemed like it was touristy but in fact was not at all.  The menu was in Spanish only, and our waiter spoke no English.  But the arrachera was really tasty!

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