We skipped an afternoon of diving to visit the Island when the boat was moored on Wafer Bay. Hugo one of the Park Rangers that had made the crossing with us invited the crazy Guatemalans to a Park visit. Our two-hour hike would take us from the sandy Bay of Wafer to the rocky shoals of Chatham, across a mountainous ridge and through this emerald green island. Mark made all the arrangements and called via radio to the ranger station soon after lunch. Once he had the confirmation, the zodiac was ready and he did a last roll call for anybody else to join us on this hiking trip. To our great surprise, Frank, Kevin and Nic decided to join us. Frank is a "southern boy" from Alabama, whose dark humor made me laugh with all his comments and whose' "special" redneck accent was a joke just to listen. Kevin, a computer wizard from Illinois was a little shy at first but I'm sure that he was having a good time listening to all the jokes and pranks we were pulling (first among ourselves and later among the entire group during the week). Nic was a chiropractor from Minnesota that was traveling with Don; a 6'5" Viking like character that was the total opposite from our Pepe at 5' 3". The two of them had adapted very easily to the light and cheerful attitude we Guatemalans had during the trip. Chubby, our cabin boy and the boat's Chef, who unfortunately I don't remember his name finished up the roll call. Wafer Bay hosts the main complex for the Park Rangers and their installations are pristine. Our hike would take us through a trail that was steep and would make us reach the summit of this side of the island in an hour. The trail was well marked and in some places the Rangers had placed some ropes to help continue through this trail of stones, mud and lush tropical environment. Our bodies where sweaty and the inclination in some places was beyond 30%. The afternoon was beautiful and for the first time in some days the sun was holding for a period of time beyond 30 minutes. The tropical rainforest was overwhelming and the smell of rotting leaves coming though the muddy soil felt like perfume after all the days we had spend living at sea. After some minutes into the hike the forest gave us a break where we stopped. The sight of Wafer Bay below, adorned by the cloudy white Okeanos made for a "Kodak moment" and some snapshots. Along the trek Hugo would take his time to wait for the slow ones and would point out flora and talk about the fauna. He would also take the opportunity to talk about the impact of man throughout time in the island. All in all, this hike was also one of the highlights of this trip. We reached Chatham Bay before Okeanos would return to sleep for the night on its protected waters. The station there was smaller but also pristine and the small neighboring river that flowed into the sea provided refreshing cold water to clean the mud and sweat from this short but strenuous hike. Cigarettes where shared and pictures where taken under the nice sign that said "Bienvenidos a la Isla de Cocos" while a duel of joke telling developed between Hugo and Pepe. The low tide was slowly unfolding to reveal a beautiful sandy beach and delight us with another of Cocos Island's treasures. Over the centuries, visitors had chiseled their names on the rocks and granite blocks with entries dating back to the seventeen century. Captain Morgan and more recently the late Jaques Cousteau are among the "who is who" of this perennial guest book to this wonder of nature. At the distance Okeanos was coming back through the channel formed between the main Cocos and Manuelita Island to pick a group of happy campers that would have another everlasting traveling log entry.
I would like to thank all the crewmembers of Okeanos for a most rewarding trip. Mark, Alberto, Harold, Eduardo, Juan, Chubby, and the kitchen crew did a wonderful job to make us feel at home. Would I go back? Tomorrow if I could!
The group of guests (at least all that conformed diving group No.2) couldn't develop a better cohesion throughout the trip. I'm glad that there were no long faces and that after a couple of days together everyone was telling jokes and pulling pranks among ourselves. Kevin I'm sorry to have pulled your fin when we encountered the silkies after the pod of dolphins, it was "unintentional" LOL. I'm sure your scream made them disappear right after that. Frank I'm sorry that I got you lost. I promise that I'll work on my navigation skills, but remember at the end we had a better dive than most of the guys. I'm honored to have met all of you guys (Nic, Don, Frank, Kevin, Neil) and hope you don't develop a wrongful image of us four crazy Guatemalans that were just trying to have a good time...all the time.
I'll probably get flamed by the following paragraphs but here are my final thoughts about Cocos. Difficult to get to but worth every stomach convolution I had during the crossing. Cocos is up until today the diving destination where I have encountered the most abundant fishlife. Maybe not the most diverse but the most abundant among the species we encountered. Everything here is measured by the hundreds or thousands.
(Please take note that I'm not endorsing any type of irresponsible diving) Cocos is a place for divers that know how to handle themselves and not for hand held divers that need a dive master to tell them what to do, when to do it or guide (heard) them around. I'm not exaggerating when I say that all of us, among diving group # 2, broke most of the diving taboos sometime during this trip. Most, at least once, got to do mandatory Deco stops or were pushing limits of O2 toxicity. We did many days of reverse profiles (to continue with the controversy presented on this board some weeks ago). Solo diving (I would estimate that half of the time during most of the dives) became the norm not an exception and the ones that ran low on air would surface by themselves. The 500psi limit was respected most of the time but if someone went into Deco or felt prudent to do an extended safety stop you wouldn't mind going beyond this limit just to avoid getting locked out by the computer or playing it safe. BC's were never inflated during back roll entries and as soon as we hit the water down we went like rockets. Currents were challenging and we did push our limits most of the times. And finally I confess that peeing in your wet suit during a thermocline is almost as good as having sex.
Help is 36 hours away, so if you will push any limits you better know what you are doing and feel comfortable with the risks. If this is too adventurous for you, dive masters are there to take you by the hand. If you need this, they will probably make you feel comfortable but be prepared for surprisingly close big fish encounters, lots of tricky currents, low visibility and constant change. Before making this your destination you better log some dives, develop some self confidence and work on your biceps to pull you back into the boat each time. By the end of the week elbows, biceps and triceps where one more sore thing to take care.
For now I will log off until my wallet and my office will let me enjoy more diving adventures. Who knows, maybe the Komodo Dragons of Indonesia or the seldom dived sites of Christmas Islands or the beautiful sunsets from Taveuni could make an entry into my travel log book soon.
Hope you enjoyed this trip see you soon.
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