Re: To the DIR gang: a heartfelt request


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Posted by ptf on July 20, 2001 at 11:40:45:

In Reply to: To the DIR gang: a heartfelt request posted by AADIVER on July 20, 2001 at 10:56:31:

Why wait? here are some excerpts of trips I have taken outside the US. This is the joy!

I met with the people of the Nimrod III and we took a DHC-6 twin otter to Lizard island for 3 days of diving
I won't bore you with the names of my ship mates , all 12 of them, since you can see it all on a music video.
Here's a typical routine from sunrise: Eat breakfast, dive, eat lunch, dive, dive, eat dinner, film the sunset,
dive, have a light snack, go to bed. I chose the Nimrod because it was the smallest boat around. I did not
want to be on a boat with "me and 35 of my closest friends". I prefer a small group and a crew that will take
you off the beaten path. Except for Cod Hole which is a must see - my desires were met. Is this an
endorsement for this ship? You bet! Before going on this trip I barely had 17 dives under my belt. When I
met up with the other divers I was the last one to sign the waivers so I had a chance to look at the other's
experience. I was about the least experienced diver and most were well into the over 100 dives. The first
dive was at Snake Pit, where we saw and videoed, a sleeping shark, snakes, wild looking tropical fish and
great coral. When I got back on board a few divers asked how long I had been diving. I looked in my log book
and said, "Humm... this was dive 18". It seems that I looked totally relaxed and had great buoyancy control,
I didn't crash into the coral, I stayed off the bottom and could float upside down. Training in California
sets you up for rough water conditions, surge, current and poor visibility. On the GBR the viz is can be
70+ feet , current nonexistent to slightly strong and most of all, the water temp is in the high 70's.

A year or so later the Jaunt took me to Cabo for a weekend
The diving was a tad on the spectacular side. Big fish and big water. At one point Wreck & I were drifting
about 20 feet above the rest of the gang. We were in the midst of this giant seltzer bottle, bubbles all
around us and this exquisite deep blue all around. Drifting with the current no kicking required. Totally
awesome. During our surface time between the dives I spotted a bunch of hammerheads about 100 feet below
me. What a bummer I couldn't get on scuba for another 45 min. By the time I could get back down they had
left. Oh well another day. On the second day, Jose our ponga captain, turned off the motor and said
"50 feet". I looked over and replied "no 20". Well we went back and forth a couple times. Finally Justin
came over with the other boat to see why no one was bailing. I said Jose says we are in 50 feet. Heck I
can see than bottom and it is only 20. Justin leans over and says 50 feet. Since we had been drifting
for about 20 minutes we motored back to the other end of the reef, bailed out and well, well, well....
50 feet. I got my buoyancy fixed and then spent the dive floating down the current. Geez, this was better
than Disney Land, trumpet fish, what we named spotted box cars (look like porcupine - puffers without the
spikes), parrot fish, yellow jack, walls and walls of schools. Two days and five dives later we headed
back to the cool California waters. I then started saving for the next trip - South America.

Destination - Costa Rica Pacific side. Objective: sharks, rays, turtles, eels and if we get lucky whale
sharks. We didn't get lucky. Top side diversions include the largest collection of live butterflies I
know of, over 200 volcanoes 10 of which are quite active, coffee, howler monkeys, 3 toed sloths. Saw
the monkeys but we were too far north and not far enough into the jungle to see the sloths. CR is a
small country nestled between Nicaragua and Panama. It is about the size of Maine or Austria. During
the non-tourist season you fly into the capitol city, San Jose. Our destination was then a 4 hour bus
ride on the Pan-American highway. If we had come during peak season we could have landed at the "other"
airport which is only an hours ride away from Punta Ocotol. Highway - oh my what a misnomer that is.
The country gets so much rain that the highway is often washed over the side of the road and is now a
dirt road. This is not your normal autobahn by any stretch of the imagination. The road is generally
two lanes one heading North and humm the other direction must be South. They used to have a pretty
good railway system but quakes of about 3 to 4 years ago brought an abrupt halt to that and the
infrastructure of the country has not been able to rebuild. Buses, the public transportation of the
masses are readily available and groups of 10 or a good sized family can readily hire them.

So here we are in a strange foreign land hurtling down this country road that is sometimes washed out.
Seat belts? yeah right. Now you would think that since I drive the streets of LA in a 36 year old car,
gee Becky you must be getting old, that doesn't have seat belts I would feel at home. Yeah right,
guess again. We finally tumbled out of the bus at our destination El Ocotol, a small village within
cruise missile rage of Nicaragua. Yep this sick puppy was whistling the Bruce Cockburn tunes of
"dust and diesel" and that ol'' ditty "if I had a rocket launcher". We had first class accommodations
with each little bungalow having a spectacular view of the ocean from a small cliff.

We were here for a short stay of 7 hours under 1 week but who's counting? Game plan was dive for 4
days or until you become water logged. Some of us bailed on day 3 and headed to the jungle. Hold that
thought for now, let's dive. I approach a dive site much like a movie, expect the worse. This way
if the site sucks for one reason or another then you are not disappointed. If on the other hand the
site/movie is not bad then you are pleasantly pleased. Hey I never get disappointed this way. So
now, my dive buddies, know why when they ask me how the dive was, I usually reply, "ok". Once again
I wasn't disappointed. So what if the viz sucked, it was just like diving in California. Cloudy
with lots of nutrients in the water, at least it was 79 to 80 degrees. The first dive consisted of
about 8 different kinds of eels. I saw 6 inch to 5 foot eels ranging from spotted, stripped,
snowflake, camouflaged, black and white to the green morays. The rest of the week included puffer/
porcupines, boxcars like we saw in Cabo, eels, trumpet fish, spotted eagle rays, jacks, pompanos,
eels, a few sharks - very shy and skittish, a green turtle, a one foot white tip shark.....Oh did
I mention the eels? I got some good footage of the trumpets.

The last time I had seen trumpets was the great Barrier Reef in the waters of Auz. They are almost
clear and are about 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 meters) long. They are about 2 inches in diameter and
for propulsion they whip their back ends maybe last 9 inches back and forth and move like darts.
They are a real pain to capture on video. You can almost see through them and so getting a good
focus on them is tough. Oh yeah, they too are a touch skittish. However, if you move very slowly
and be calm you can sometimes get them to fly in a wingman formation with you. So picture this, I
am floating/drifting trying to be relaxed and not all jerky in the water and trying not to kick as
I edge close to the yardsticks. One decided I am not a predator and uses me as a block as he hunts
by siding up to me lengthwise. I then have to maneuver the camera to the side pointing behind me
to film this dude. Kind of comical but maybe you had to be there.

On the second day we ran across a man with a bag of fish in one hand and a spear in the other. We
found out that he owns and operates the Catalina restaurant about a klick down the road from us.
Humm fresh fish. Each night we returned to the same place. Of course this was after we let the
resort suggest our first nights place , run by the resort. Wrong move - go to Catalina instead.
For about $15 you got more fresh fish, homemade bread, salad potatoes and fixing you could ever
want. That fisherman turned out to be the co-owner with his wife and their children. The
restaurant was their front porch, the rest-room was through the 2 bedroom, 1 room house. The main
course was what ever was caught that morning. Lobster or fish both grilled to perfection. Our
evening entertainment centered around tall tales of whale sharks we didn't see, gazing at the
stars and noting the geee there sure are a lot of stars down here. After all in LA we see about
100 on a good evening, and I have just been informed that two of the stars are actually planets.
One night while looking out over the bay we say a meteor come rocketing low overhead heading west
to east, very cool bright green trail, while out in the field we were dazzled by fireflies, the
likes which I haven't experienced since my grandma took me out east one year.

The last day of diving took us to a private beach, well all the beaches we went to were deserted
and thus private, about 50 miles from the Nic border. More great diving. We did two dives each
day and we had talked about doing a night dive but sleep was needed instead. We would leave
around 9 or 10 each am and return around 4. We found out later that usually the guides have the
guests back by 2 pm. Well our group made good use of the tanks, close to an hour on each dive,
and then we went ga ga during our surface interval. Either exploring the remote island we had
dropped on, taking a nap or just floating in the bath tub waters. Basically a two hour interval
between the dives, oh and then we had to have lunch before the next dive.




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