I’ve been spending a lot of time contemplating my materialistic values lately. Why do I want to possess so many things? What is that makes me want more stuff? I like the idea of living simplistically and not having all the gizmos and gadgets that will supposedly make me happy. As much as I like the idea its hard to actually shake the stuff. I was watching a documentary on Netflix the other night while laying in bed (Tiny: A Story About Living Small). The film is about a couple who is building a home that is only a few hundred square feet. It’s underlying tone is that we need to shed ourselves of all our stuff and get back to what life is really about. Get out and start enjoying what we have, instead of thinking that we need more manufactured products to be content.
This brings me to my story from the following day. I had most of the day off with no classes to teach and nowhere to be until six pm. So what did I do on my day off from being a dive instructor? Welllll, I grabbed my speargun, GoPro, and dive gear then set off for a nice day underwater! Everything was going perfectly. The sunrise was gorgeous that morning, I picked up my coffee from a local place called The Spot and headed to the dock. We set out on the boat, hardly any wind and the seas looked like a lake, flat calm. I knew it was going to be a good day.
I took my first plunge into the water around ten am. Shot five lion fish took some cool photos then ascended to catch some rays on the deck before going back under. The second dive was just as good as the first even better I would say. The visibility was a hundred plus feet, blue water and a nice eight four degrees. I speared four more lion fish, watched a few turtles cruise by, sneered at the shark who came my way and hung out with a goliath grouper that followed me the entire dive. My buddy came up before me but left me his pole spear before doing so. At the end of my dive with a stringer full of Lionfish I had to clip everything off so I wouldn’t lose anything. All while avoiding being stung by the Lionfish’s poisonous tips (which feels like ten thousand bee stings all at once and yes that analogy is from a personal experience). So there I am, clipping off spearguns to pole spears and pole spears to stringers ascending while keeping an eye out for sharks (they really like dead fish). I make it to my fifteen foot safety stop hang out for a bit and then come to the surface and wait for the boat to pick me up.
As I am handing up my spears to the Divemaster I have a major OH SHIT moment. Where is my GoPro?? Son of a ***** it’s not on my wrist, not clipped to my BC and the DM says it’s not on the boat. I climb up the ladder, frantically search the boat and yea you got it, it’s no where to be found. Our dives are over now and the boat is running an afternoon trip so we have to head to the dock. My whole day is immediately turned upside down. The incredible morning I was having just turned to shit. Not only was it my GoPro with the LCD touchscreen it was also my eight hundred lumen SOLA light, my Backscatter Macro filter, another Backscatter red filter and the mount it was all attached to. All in all I left well over a thousand dollars worth of equipment somewhere in the ocean.
It was kismet that this happen to me when it did. I was wanting to shed the stuff I possessed but not ready to do it on my own. I believe in an energy that surrounds us all. An energy that gives back to you what you put in to it. I needed help shedding myself of material things. I don’t think my day off was meant to be a day off at all. So often I am in the ocean teaching, however, on this day out in the blue, I was the student. Losing this small possession, no bigger than an average bag of David’s Sunflower seeds, completely altered my mood. If something so small has such power over me what control do I really have? The entire way back to the dock I was in my head rationalizing and justifying why it was OK for me to be upset about this loss. It’s expensive, I don’t make much money, I want pictures, I need a dive light ect…
As soon as we hit the dock I ran to my car fired it up and lit out of the parking lot. I went to the nearest shop and picked up two more tanks so I could make the afternoon trip. I know the captain fairly well and so he said he would drop me on the same part of the reef to look for my things. I made it back just in time to whip the tanks out of my trunk and hop on the boat as we untied and pulled out of the slip. It’s now nearly one o’clock in the afternoon in Florida which means it is an entirely different day. It’s now windy as hell, storm clouds rolling in, and 2 foot seas. We break the inlet and head south along the beach. We drop the divers on a wreck and let them have their fun. Just as we get them back on the boat for their surface interval it starts pissing down rain. We turn the Starfish Enterprise back towards the reef and start looking for the spot I came up.
I gear up and jump in the water head first, no time to stay on the surface, I’ve got to find my stuff. There was north current on the wreck so Doug dropped me south of where we think I surfaced. I get seventy-five feet under and it is a ripping south current and the visibility has dropped to twenty feet. There is no way I can fight the current while doing a search and recovery dive in that kind of viz. I come right back to the surface and have him re-drop me. The next drop we start north of our predetermined location. I get down seventy feet onto the reef and it is a ripping north. I can’t catch a break. I say screw it tie off my line and start swimming into the current. I AM GOING TO FIND MY STUFF. I NEED MY THINGS!
As I swim south against the current I am recognizing the reef. Yep, that’s where I shot the first Lionfish. I come over the next ridge and I see the Goliath Grouper that followed me. Now I know I am on the right track. I swim over three more ridges and I am about to give up. I’m using my air quickly, I no longer have a surface marker and I am getting frustrated. I stop. I take a few breaths and start to realize how ridiculous this is. On the bottom of the ocean in eighty feet of water I start to understand that I really do need to LET GO of these possessions. If I am going to get this worked up over some THING and let it ruin my entire day/week/month then I most likely don’t need it in my life at all. I said my peace with the universe at seventy-six feet below sea level. I stated that I understood I need to let go of my material belongings. I acknowledged the lesson I was being taught. I recognized that I need to place more value on relationships than on products. I accepted that I have been to focused on my own personal gain and that I need to work on giving back to others.
I swam over one more ridge.
And there it was. Laying in the sand, in eighty-two feet of water. My entire set up. Like it had been placed there on purpose. It was as if my entire day had been about that previous moment. About coming to terms with how I was living. About me getting over myself and my status amongst my peers and tearing down the walls I build by buying more and more stuff. I am still in awe of how it all worked out. The odds of me finding these items are incalculable. The chances of even being dropped on the same patch of reef are slim to none not to mention the strange currents and sudden drop of visibility. July 21, 2014 was a cosmic day and one I will not soon forget.
A short ferry ride from Belize City lies Caye Caulker, Belize. This little island paradise is full of coconut trees and fresh fish. Immediately after stepping on to the dock you feel a sense of relief. Relaxation engulfs your entire body and worries seem to simply float away in the breeze. The few streets that exist here are covered in sand and going barefoot is no problem.
Our favorite spot for dinner was a small hut right off of the main drag called Fran’s. Fran is a lady in her mid forties, a local who always has a smile on her face. She has her hut and her grill. She is usually sitting/standing by the street hollering at people to come try Fran’s Frantastic food! Her what seems to be son, is working the grill and another woman is in the hut preparing the sides. There are usually three options chicken, shrimp, or my favorite the snapper. Everything is grilled to perfection a mere two feet from the old picnic table. Every evening it is a gathering spot for young travelers alike. Sitting on the wooden bench eating fantastic food with my toes in the sand I am content. Life could not be better, and on an island where the people’s motto is “Go Slow” I start to understand how people get stuck.
My mornings consisted of taking a leisurely stroll to the coffee shop, and hanging up my hammock between the palm trees to lose myself in a book. My favorite coffee on the island is a french press brew by Ice and Beans. Ice and Beans is owned/operated by an expat who loves his doughnuts. He bought a mini doughnut machine that churns out delicious bites of goodness with the flick of a switch. He covers them in cinnamon and then if you wish adds chocolate syrup. It was a deadly routine and it’s a good thing I was only on the island a week.
My reason for visiting Caye Caulker was to dive the infamous Blue Hole. After doing some research on the island I find out that it is no cheap adventure. In fact it was quite expensive. In order to dive the Blue Hole you have to book the three dive package which runs anywhere from two hundred and fifty to four hundred dollars. The average cost is three hundred and finding a shop to do it for two fifty was a task. The dive trip is an all day adventure. We left the dock at seven a.m. and didn’t return until five that evening. First we stopped at the Blue Hole. I didn’t even know we had arrived. The water looks like the rest of the ocean, big and blue. I am glad I did the dive simply because I can say I have been there. It was a deep dive and the forty-foot tall stalactites were amazing. Halfway through the dive a few sharks came to check us out but didn’t come close enough for us to get a good picture. We ended the dive and headed to our next spot. The next two dives were epic. Both reef dives and the reef life was abundant. On our second dive we were joined by two sharks that followed us the entire time. Grouper were everywhere and a few barracuda here and there. The third dive was a wall dive and just as spectacular. A baby reef shark swam by me at one point and I saw a few black coral trees which are beautiful.
It was a long day and we were all beat. I found a spot on the front of the boat and laid out to soak up some sun on the two-hour journey back to Caye Caulker. Halfway back we were joined by dolphins who swam alongside the boat jumping in and out of the waves. A perfect day on the water and well worth the trip. Back on the island we made our way back to the hotel hung our gear out to dry and headed to Fran’s for one last meal. Tomorrow we take a bus, for twelve hours, to Tikal in Guatemala. I will surely miss my days of reading in a hammock, taking a dip off the dock, and the deadly doughnuts at Ice and Beans. “You better Belize it!”
The Cenotes in Mexico are world-famous. These fresh water caves have been around for thousands of years. It is estimated that there are over thirty thousand cenotes or entrances to these underground waterways. The Mayan people would use the cenotes as sacrificial sites. Some believe that because the cenotes are so interconnected that the decay of bodies in the water could have led to the demise of the ancient civilization.
We went back to Scuba Tulum, the scuba shop we had dropped our bags off at when we arrived in Tulum. We scheduled two dives with them. After a forty-five minute ride in an old Toyota forerunner we arrived at our first dive site The Pit. The Pit is quite literally a hole in the ground filled with water. First we all put on our dive equipment in the parking lot. Everything but our fins of course. Then we made our way down to the water’s edge. This is no easy task. In order to get to the edge we have to carefully make our way down a forty-foot staircase made of wood while carrying our tanks on our back. It was a little nerve-racking. Whew, I made it to the bottom, entered the water and was now ready to descend. The bottom of The Pit lies almost four hundred feet below me and I couldn’t be more excited. As I descend into the depths my heart is racing. It’s my first freshwater dive and also my first cenote. We descended to the max depth of one hundred and thirty feet had a look at some “bones” and then started our ascent. It was a slow ascent. We did a circle around the pit until surfacing by the wooden ladder to climb out. After climbing out of the water we started our next ascent up the water-soaked wooden stairs to the parking lot.
Next we dove the bat cave. The bat cave is route in Dos Ojos one of the cenotes around Tulum. We started the same spot as the snorkelers however we descended underwater and continued farther back into the cave. The water is not all that deep maybe 20 feet but it is cold! There are no fish in these caves but the formations are unbelievable. Massive limestone formations and ten foot long stalactites and stalagmites. We rounded corner after corner until the guide told us to ascend. We ascended and found ourselves in the “bat cave”. It is part of the cenote you can surface in and feels quite literally like you’re in Batman’s bat cave. We finished our dive where we had begun and climbed out of the icy bath. Once on dry land we made our way back to the vehicles, stripped off our wetsuits, and basked in the sun. It was a perfect day of diving and it was all over by one o’clock in the afternoon.