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Monday, November 22, 2010

What did volunteers in Punta Gruesa do on their long weekend?

Ah, what joy and adventures a long weekend will bring. There was a buzz on base as we dusted off and packed the old backpack ready to explore other coastal areas of Mexico, with different groups heading to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Akumal, and Xcalak. “Cenote, cenote, cenote!” was calling to the group venturing to Tulum.

Cenotes are limestone sinkholes filled with rainwater that wind and tunnel under the ground like a labyrinth. The name cenote comes from the Mayan word “Tzonott”, which means “well”. In Mayan times, the cenotes were the primary source of fresh water for the people who lived around them and they were revered as sacred. These ancient sacred wells are geological formations found mainly in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and it was the worlds second largest underground cave system, Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) that we had anticipated exploring.

Kitted up for our first dive we carefully (and awkwardly) stepped our way down towards the opening of the cave, attempting not to knock over tourists that seemed to be gathering in their truckloads…and there she was. A pool of turquoise, glimmering in the few splashes of sunlight exposed. Time to sigh people as this was a magic sight…ahh.

Snorkellers, scuba divers and tourists gathered at the foot of these mesmerising pools, showing their pearly whites for the camera, though I feel no camera could do this image of natural beauty justice.

Our fab dive guru, Jamie, lead the way through the first dive along the “Barbie Line”. This has been nicknamed due to the comical, and yes cheesey scene of the Barbie doll being engulfed by a toy plastic crocodile, which are both tied to a rock. Slightly random; perhaps a modern day version of sacrifice to Chac Mool, the Mayan Rain God.

Whatever the reason, the stalactites and stalagmites and other inspiring formations that funnel from the ceiling and floor, capture you throughout the dive. Torch in hand you swim through these unbelieveably clear waters at a depth no more than 11m, shining light on majestic limestone creations.

Just when you think you’ve seen all the magic there is to see Jamie indicates for torches to be turned off. We return to the opening mouth of this glimmering pool in perfect silence soaking up the breathtaking scene of crystal clear waters filled with bubbles and pouring light.

After an excited chat, photo viewing and chocolate chip cookies (much needed of course) we were back in the ancient well for dive two and my personal favourite, The Bat Cave. Highlights were definitely taking a break in the air pocket of the Bat Cave, talking and laughing with your dive buddies whilst observing the small bats clinging to the ceiling, huddling together to hide away from any form of light. It is no wonder how cenote diving made its mark on the world. A unique and surreal diving experience and recommended for all those who seek adventure or peace in the pools of Chac Mool!

Until next time!