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Wednesday 13 Nov 2013
Cozumel, Mexico

Diving in the Caribbean

Most people staying at Amigos were in Cozumel for the diving and we quickly got chatting to some of the other guests.  Christina and I walked into town with Matt (Kiwi), Derek (American), Robin (Belgian) and Eduardo (Mexican) to check out some of the dive operators.  Amigos had a deal with one of the dive shops, but the guy there wasn’t particularly engaging and we didn’t feel like he really cared if we signed up or not.  The next place we tried seemed entirely focused on telling us they were the cheapest in town, but the money seemed to be all they were after.  Happily, the next place we tried was brilliant.  Jim, the American guy behind the counter, was so enthusiastic about the diving around Cozumel.  He was a breath of fresh air and made us want to go diving straight away.  We signed up for a three-day dive package, but he didn’t have enough spaces for us all to dive the next day.  Christina and I decided to snorkel in the morning and then start our diving the following day.

Jim directed us to a local taqueria a few blocks away.  Indio’s was a little café with tables outside on the pavement – despite the humidity, it was cooler outside than in.  We had an excellent dinner of quesadillas, tacos, guacamole and crisp cold coronas - served through the window to us - while getting to know our new companions.  Cozumel was shaping up to be a lot of fun...

 

I spoke too soon! Ugh, what a night!  Eduardo, the big Mexican guy in our dorm, snored louder and more continuously than anyone I’ve had the misfortune to share a room with all year.  I kicked his bunk bed a few times but it didn’t make a difference.  I got up to fish out my earplugs and found Christina glaring down at me from the top bunk, equally fed up with the snoring, so I handed her a pair as well.  Even that didn’t block it out properly and I finally fell asleep with a pillow and towel piled over my head, too.  We were supposed to be up at 7am for the snorkelling trip, but we’d had so little sleep that we ended up phoning the dive shop to cancel and going back to bed after everyone else had got up.  Unbelievably, Eduardo had the nerve to come back again after breakfast and sleep more too, but thankfully he’d stopped snoring at last.  Kathy took pity on us and moved us into the other dorm after lunch to get away from him.  We spent the rest of the day at the hostel, reading, enjoying a swim in the pool and catching up on more of my road trip blog.

A tiny, one-room café across the road served amazing breakfasts and - after a thankfully peaceful night in the other dorm - we had a feast of scrambled eggs, chorizo and refried beans, before heading off to Eco-divers for our first day’s diving.  Christina and I learned to dive around the same time earlier this year.  She learned in Cairns, when I met her at Dreamtime hostel, and I learned a month later in Gili, but we both got the dive bug and have been lucky enough to dive in various places since.  Up until now, though, we hadn’t actually dived together and we were looking forward to it.

We met our Dive Master, a local guy named Eric, and his trainee, Jorge, a 19-year old from Mexico City.  Once we’d got all our gear sorted, we drove down to the port and climbed aboard the Raquelita.

Rafael Nadal recently bought a resort on the Cozumel coastline and has sunk million of his tennis winnings into renovation and expansion.  We picked an American couple up from his resort jetty and carried on to the Palancar reef.  It felt great to get back in the water.  Visibility was good and I was amazed by the coral formations.  Instead of the low flat reef or individual coral bommies I’ve been used to in Indonesia, the coral here formed towers, channels and bridges that we could swim between or under, even huge caves that we could swim into.  There were lots of enormous lobsters tucked under ledges, with their long antennae poking out to investigate us.  I was a very happy diver to see two young hawksbill turtles playing and dancing around each other. 

I’d opted to dive in just a rash vest and shorts, but it wasn’t quite as warm as I thought and my lips were blue by the time we surfaced.  Luckily, we spent our surface interval on a gorgeous white sand beach in the sunshine, so I was toasty warm again before the next dive.  We weren’t so lucky afterwards, though, as we got caught in a heavy downpour that lasted all the way back to the office. 

New Zealand was playing Mexico in a World Cup qualifier, so Matt wanted to watch the game.  He was under no illusion about winning, despite Mexico’s recent losing streak, as most people don’t even realise New Zealand has a football team.  We watched the first half in the shop while they sorted out the gear, then ran a couple of blocks up the road to a bar they knew had a big screen.  We hadn’t bothered to change after diving as it was still raining so heavily.  The bar was set up for live music but it was empty because of the rain.  The staff were all dressed up and standing around bored, so they looked up hopefully when we all dashed in.  But the music meant no TV, so we piled back out the door and tried again.  We eventually found a bar down on the waterfront packed full of people watching the footy, so we dripped our way into the corner and joined them.  With half an hour to go, it was already 3-0 to Mexico.  Matt was so busy bemoaning the fourth goal that he actually missed the Kiwis scoring a face-saving goal of their own with a ricochet off the post that barely crossed the line.  When he realised, he stood up and cheered – the only Kiwi in a bar full of Mexicans, who just laughed and cheered back at him… then cheered louder still when Mexico scored again, making it 5-1 as the whistle blew.  Oh dear...

It had almost stopped raining as we walked back to the hostel to find our private room ready and waiting for us at last. 

No snoring roommates! Bliss.

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #2 Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica

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I met Christina in April. We travelled a bit of Australia together and both learned to dive. Now we're off to Mexico and Belize to see what the Caribbean and the Great Mesoamerican Reef have to offer, before I head down to Costa Rica for 10 days.

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