A Message From God in Hell
Where to EVEN start?
So after Cuba, I hopped bus and made my way to Tulum, Mexico. I “planned” (why do I even bother?) to arrive in the morning, do a quickly cave dive (cause it´s $$$) and high-tail my late ass back to Guate.
Yeah right. So reason number ONE that I ended up staying FIVE days in Tulum can be found in the following picture:
Can you see it? White sand, beach front huts, hammocks, palm trees, crystal-clear-bathtub-warm water? *Ummmmm…*
Reason number TWO that I called in “well” to work and took 4 more days vacation? Any traveler will attest to this fact of on-the-road-life: Every once in while, when seen fit, the travel gods align the moon, earth, sun and travel itineraries of random glob trotting backpackers to bring them together under the same palm tree and *shizam!* — you have a group that bonds easily and separates with difficulty. The group broke out in hysterics each morning as I emerged from my hut and announced, “I´m REALLY gonna leave tomorrow…Seriously.” As one of the groupies described the aftermath, “I had that memory lump in my throat for days after I left.” Yup. Me too. *swallows*. (But I know you´re all having a wicked time ringin´in the New Year together. So cheers one for me guys!)
Now reason number three takes the cake…and the cookies, and the punch, and even that bowl of chocolate covered M&Ms.
Reason number THREE, of course, is the diving in the Cenotes.
Now, I sigh heavily at the idea of even TRYING to describe what was probably the most wicked and wonderful visuals of my dear eye-sight life. I heard about diving the Cenotes from some dive instructor friends of mine who I partied and dived those three months away with in the Bay Islands of Honduras. Now these guys are crazy in the first place, so when they went so far as to rank the experience above BOTH drugs AND sex and when one even went so far as to describe it as the “best 30 minutes of my life” I knew I was in for an adventure.
And I´m not the only one! Emerging from my first dive, I came out of the water last with wide eyes and a shit-eating grin to beat them all. I could just barely hold back my shouts of bewilderment. I tried to find my words….”That was…”, “Oh my God!”, “Did you see….” “INCREDIBLE!”. Suddenly a shout came from the platform, “AH! I see we have a future cave diver in our presence!” I turned to face a full set and camera crew. One of the divers from the set began quizzing me on my diving history and took FULL enjoyment in my bedazzlement with the new world I had just be de-virginized to. I was last out of the water and while the rest of my group climbed up for their surface interval, I nudged the guy next to me and asked, “If I´m REALLY quite and stay in the corner, may I please watch you film?” He smiled, said “of course!” and pointed me to a corner of the platform. Then he introduced himself. He´s Wes Skiles, one of the IMAX movie producers. The enormous camera *he pointed to it* just came back from Antarctica (and lookin like it´s worth a million bucks), and they are filming some follow-up on the recently released IMAX film “Journey Into Amazing Caves“. How lucky am I?!
SO…it´s really too difficult to put into the words what diving these Cenotes is like, which is why I am so grateful to Hidden Worlds for letting me borrow their own pictures of the first two dives I did with them: Dos Ojos and The Bat Cave (pictures 1 and 2):
The pictures will have to speak for themselves, because the dive that REALLY blew me away, was sweet Angelita. (And please excuse my mid-story change of tenses….)
Angelita is a sink hole in the jungle. We tromp through to meet her in FULL gear; booties, flippers, flashlights and all. I´m first to wide step off a 15 foot ledge into her pool, and you can bet “Come on girl…what would you do if you weren´t afraid…” was turning laps in my head. Once in the water though, the heat and the mosquitos no longer nip at me and I fall back into the familiar cool as the water seeps through my wet suit. *ahhhh* NOW I feel GOOD. Let´s do it!
I watch my depth gauge….10 ft….30 ft…..60 ft….
One of the guys has trouble equalizing his ears. The divemaster glances at me. I give him the okay sign and wave to the other diver to follow me down to the hydrogen sulfide layer where we´ll wait for them.
The hydrogen WHAT?
…60ft…80 ft….90 ft….100 ft….
The hydrogen sulfide layer… a layer of what literally is decomposition about three meters thick of which BELOW is salt water, and ABOVE is fresh water. The layers don´t mix. *Think oil and water.* Now…this is where I LOSE it.
The sulfide layer looks like earth — it´s dusty red with a thin white film swirling in, out and around it. Massive trees reach out in all directions. I immediately drop (despite what my divemaster told me) into the layer and watch my body disappear. I see the guy that I should be watching over wave a “no, no” finger at me. I laugh. I level myself out and FLY though the layer, watching it separate before my eyes. As if wearing mask-bifocals, it´s blurry on the bottom half and crystal clear on the top. I summersault and kick up the layer and giggle madly as I watch it swirl into the clear water and resettle. Now my “buddy” is watching me intensely and laughing also. Then I see it….something…something white, floating perfectly and wonderfully still. I approach it slowly, and as I do so, I think…it´s a message. It´s a message from God. I don´t know if there IS a God…but IF there is one, and if he were EVER to leave me a message – THIS is where he´d leave it. (Of course, divers begin to feel the effects of nitrogen narcosis around 100 ft — so given I AM a bit high.) The message turns out to be an O-ring holder — a small while piece of plastic in the form of an “S” — that apparently has a weight that allows for it to remain suspended perfectly between the two layers. I laugh, grab it, shove it into my wet suit, and make another flying sprint through this underwater Heaven that could only be described as looking exactly like the wastelands of “Hell”. My divemaster finally catches up and he gives up the symbol to descend through the layer.
I go last and watch the other divers sink into the ground …flippers …waist ….neck …and head. *poof* They´re gone. I´m alone. And then I drop. I can´t see ANYTHING. I´m descending, but I don´t have access to my senses. I “smell” and “taste” the rusty scent of the decomposition, but my lack of sight and sound, and my weightlessness are overwhelming.
I stop my decent in the middle of the layer and allow myself to freak out. I wonder what it would be like if I continued to descend and never came out of this foggy feeling. And then I get excited about what I´ll see underneath…and I drop.
I emerge from the layer and it´s dark.
The divemaster signals for us to to turn on our flash lights. I forget that I´m in water and I imagine that I´m flying….weightlessly cruising and exploring this forest from hell. In, out, under and over. I am an aquanaut. Through the trees. Touching walls. Watching my bubbles ascend. Looking down into the REAL depths, which are rumored to house Mayan artifacts around 200 ft.
And that´s it. Yes…eventually my divemaster grabbed my arm and gave me serious eyes and the “go up” symbol. And I did…reluctantly. I´m exhausted by the time I return back to my cabana…as I am now exhausted with reliving the experience.
….150ft….160ft…200ft…the visuals and memories have found their place in the depths of my mind.