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Monday, August 4, 2008

Our first weeks in Pez Maya by Sophie Ormerod and Nicholas Martin

After months of waiting, studying and preparations 23 strangers finally found themselves in the rustic paradise of Pez Maya. Upon our arrival we were given a tour around the base we’d be calling home for the next few weeks. During this first week, with any free time we have out of the water, we while away our time mostly...hhmmm…studying ;-)…ehem. Beats sitting in a class room though as we are surrounded by a massive stretch of beach, jungle and lagoon.

The week began with a busy agenda to get us used to the routines of expedition life. For the non-divers our first highlight and challenge was breathing under water. Following lectures and safety revisions, nervous groups trudged their way into the sea with heavy tanks and weight belts. Thankfully the delights of diving and seeing incredible wildlife were amazing and we soon forgot about any worries (and the weight of the kit!). Our first snorkeling trip culminated in a sighting of a beautiful spotted eagle ray (for those who don’t know what this is watch Finding Nemo.) Since then, expedition members have caught glimpses of nurse sharks, moray eels and other rays, as well as an iguana catching its lunch.

A lot of emphasis has been put on team work and this has been a big help. People have found hidden talents for woodwork, making such things as a shoe rack and table as well as some new bins. Groups have quickly learnt to look after themselves, being given duties to help run and maintain the base. Kitchen duty is probably the most challenging job, trying to satisfy over 30 people with the likes of Shepherds pie (vegetarian of course), onion rings, refried bean soup and naan bread.

Although diving and science training was the main focus of the first week, to get us practicing our Spanish, the Mexican Army (who live just down the road) popped in for their first English lessons. It’s surprising the conversations you can come up with even though very few of us speak Spanish and they (at the moment) speak little English. Seeing them drive up in humvees or on quad bikes and clutching rifles in their uniforms was quite surreal. Also it was quite exciting for some of the girls!

On the weekend we had a day off and many headed into our local town, Tulum, catching up with emails, eating juicy steaks for those craving meat after a week of vegetables or some being cultural and visiting the popular Mayan ruins at Tulum. As much as we love Pez Maya it was nice to return to civilization once more. Tulum also has a great supermarket for getting extra bits and bobs and some nice shops along the high street.

Although at first some of us felt a bit uneasy, finding ourselves thousands of miles away from home, we’ve made Pez Maya a comfortable place for ourselves which almost feels like home. This place is now our paradise.