…Well, it ain’t barracuda, man, but I think we got a hit record.”
After the trauma of Tuesday’s journey to Cozumel, Wednesday was a day just to relax. We had booked four nights on the island and we wanted to dive a couple of those days, so we set aside Thursday and Friday mornings for that purpose.
One of the reasons that we came to this part of Mexico was that we have a couple of friends who live here and we wanted to visit them as well as build up our diving experience. They live on the mainland, south of Playa del Carmen, so we would be imposing on their hospitality from Saturday for a week before heading to the USA. We had discussed with them our plans to dive on Cozumel and they recommended the Tres Pelicanos dive centre. We were staying at the Hotel Cozumel which was a twenty minute walk from the dive shop so, despite the heat, we decided to take the island air and stroll along.
Cozumel is a major stop on the Mexican Caribbean for cruise ships and there were at least four docked at the dedicated cruise ship pier that we could see from the sea front as we walked along. Many of the passengers had been herded off on buses for day excursions in various places but there were still enough of them around town to attract attentive interest from the many souvenir vendors that throng the roadside all the way along the seafront. We, of course, were caught up in the net as part of their potential target audience so spent a lot of the walk saying “No, gracias,” in response to their exhortations to acquire t-shirts, tequila, cigars, pharmaceuticals, and jewellery. The range of products available is impressive.
We arrived at Tres Pelicanos and booked ourselves in for two dives the next morning and were fitted out for the appropriate gear. Diving here is less than half the price of the same experience in the antipodes so we were pleasantly surprised when we paid the bill.
There was nothing left to do but relax for the rest of the day. We walked back to the hotel and were sufficiently overheated to decide we needed a swim. The hotel has a nice, large swimming pool which, at this time of year at least, wasn’t overrun by children. Nevertheless, we eschewed the pool for a walk through the tunnel that passes under the road leading to the small stretch of seafront the hotel enjoys. There are a couple of pools there that are mostly enclosed but are still open to the sea at one point, so fish swim in and out of the pools.
We both snorkelled a little over here – Ishbel more than me. I settled into a beach chair to dry off and, with the afternoon drawing on, ordered a beer. We had booked the All-inclusive package at this hotel, since it was only fractionally more expensive that the room-only rate. I quickly realised two things: why the all-in increment was so low, and why everyone in the hotel drinks their beer with lime in it. The inclusive beer is terrible and the lime disguises the taste.
I had no appetite for another beer and, once Ishbel had finished swimming and we’d both dried off a little, we headed back to the room to play the instruments for a while. We’d only had an early breakfast so we were among the first to sit down to dinner once the dining room opened at 6:30pm. A glass of wine with dinner was palatable. More palatable than the beer, anyway. The food was pretty good and we ate well. We didn’t stay up too long, but we headed back under the tunnel to the seafront to watch the Caribbean sun go down.
After this delightful sight, we headed for the room to get a good night’s sleep in advance of our dive the next day.
We were being picked up at 7:45am, so we were early birds for breakfast on Thursday morning. We nourished ourselves for the exertions ahead and marched outside in time to catch our lift to the marina. Including us, there were six divers on our boat plus our dive master Edgar. This was to be a day of firsts for our nascent diving careers. Straight away we encountered our first novelty when we were told that the dive would take us to sixty feet. This was to be our first dive using imperial measurements! Although Mexico operates on the metric system, the dive boats seem to use imperial since the overwhelming majority of divers they cater to are from the USA. This carried forward into our pressure gauges. In Australia and New Zealand, our tanks were pressurised to 200bar. Here, the tanks held 3000psi. The next new experience was our mode of entry into the sea. Up until now, we had been taking the “giant stride” off the back of our dive boats to get into the water. Today, we would be using the back roll, just falling backwards off the boat with all of our gear on. It involves a lot less moving around while fully laden and we both found it simpler than the giant stride.
Once in the water, we had a lovely dive, seeing lots of new fish including a shoal of barracuda – hence the title of this post. If you’ve never heard the song Summer Fun by The Barracudas, I wholeheartedly recommend you click on the youtube link in the first line.
The first dive was at Colombia, a site towards the southern end of the island. As was pretty standard for s when we’ve been diving with experienced divers, we were the first to return to the surface. A combination of unfamiliarity, anxiety, and excitement has resulted in our using our air faster than divers who have been doing this a lot longer. It’s something that is supposed to improve as you get more comfortable with the whole process of diving.
Our second dive was just as good and we saw many more fish. The site for this one was Punta Tunich, which is a combination of Spanish and Mayan words that means Rocky Point. We were first up again, but our dive was ten minutes longer than the first one.
Once everyone was up, we headed back to the marina. With hindsight, we should have booked and paid for both days at the same time, but we wanted to see how the first dives went before committing. We needn’t have worried. The organisation and the dive master were excellent so we asked the Tres Pelicanos people to sign us up to dive again on Friday and promised to come along to the shop that afternoon to pay.
We decided it was prudent to have lunch today, which we did after changing out of our wet costumes. With lunch, we drank several rounds of mineral water. Breathing pressurised air is very dehydrating, and you need plenty of water before and after a dive. Afterwards, we decided to get a taxi all the way to the ferry pier where we had arrived late on Tuesday, and walk back to the hotel via the dive shop, giving all of the hawkers the opportunity to hear us politely decline their wares. That plan went splendidly until we reached the dive shop, which was closed. We needed a contingency plan.
As luck would have it, I had spotted a bar selling Mexican craft beers not too far from the dive shop, so proposed waiting there for a little while to give the staff the chance to return. La Internacional is an excellent beer shop with highly knowledgable staff who were able to steer us in the right direction for some delicious beers. After an all too brief stop here, we went back to the dive shop and found it open, so were able to confirm and pay for our Friday dives.
Ishbel snorkelled in the rock pool once again while I pursued more sedentary activities. These blogs need to be fitted in somewhere. Once again, we enjoyed an early dinner and a glass of wine. To finish the night we went to the bar and had a couple of virgin pina coladas. The early dives are forcing us to be sensible here.