Friday, August 19, 2005

Most memorable vacations - Part 1

June 2001- The day before I was to go on vacation, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston. It was a weak tropical storm and was thought by me at the time to be no big deal.... My mom's boyfriend decided he wanted someone to go diving with him. My mom gets claustophobic, so she was out... he decided that I should go. He paid for my scuba certification and the trip. I was more than willing. Certification was entertaining... all in the pool until the actual qualifying dives. These were held in a former quarry north of Houston. It rained for two days before we went up there and all thru the weekend while we were there. the sign at the gate said- Visibility Great (for limited visibility diving). They weren't kidding! You couldn't see more than about a foot in front of you! I had some small problems during that weekend... At one point I kicked one of the submereged platforms and lost a fin (it was later found by another dive group). At another point I swam into an underwater roap and knocked my weight belt off (never to be seen again). Other than that, I passed without problem! The trip was planned to go diving in Belize. It turns out that you can get creative when you buy plane tickets and get a much better deal. This was the case here... it was cheaper to get tickets to fly to New Orleans, get a hotel for the night, and fly to Belize thru Houston the next day cheaper than getting on the direct flight from hHuston. Go figure. So we did this both ways... got to stay in New Orleans on both ends of this trip! Wooohoooo! We got a room right on Bourbon Street and enjoyed New Orleans. The next day, we went to the airport to fly to Belize with a stop over in Houston. It seems TS Allison was causing some problems in Houston, the airport was shut down.... We sat around the airport forever and sat on the plane even longer... but we finally got moving (about four hours late). Did I mention that we were flying first class for all this? Oh my! That is the way to fly! The entire time we were on the ground in the plane, they were bringing us drinks and treating us great! I wish I could always fly like that. Anyway... We get to Belize and we have to try to get an air taxi out to Ambergris Caye where we'll be staying. We hop on a little puddle jumper and make the short terror filled flight to the little airport in San Pedro. When we get to San Pedro, I realize that this place is nothing like I am used to. The streets are sand. The primary vehicle is a golf cart or foot power. This is a different world. We decided to find a hotel (no, we did not have any reservations) and it turns out that the one we stayed in was directly across from the little airport. When we went in, I got my first view of the ocean... Beautiful blue water- postcard setting! Ok... I'm in paradise! We throw our stuff in the room and go find a dive tour so we can get to diving! The first dive (due to my inexperience) would be an inside the reef dive, 30 feet depth. They took us to this little hole in the reef... First time I realized that barracuda look fierce when they are pacing you just out of fingertip range. Every time I'd look over I'd see that mouth full of teeth smiling back at me- he stayed with me for the entire dive. I got to see an octopus, some gorgeous fish, some small corals, but mostly it was just sand and sea grass. Not quite what I expected diving on a coral reef would be. The next dive we went outside the reef. OMG- 15-20 foot waves on a little boat hit somebody who is not used to it hard! I felt like crap before I ever got in the water. This led to a rapid purchase of Dramamine once we were back on land.... Anyway... Once I convinced myself that it would be better under water, I dropped down into the most beautiful place I had ever seen! This was what I had been watching on all those documentaries all these years! The colors were amazing! Huge corals, huge fish, sharks, turtles, rays, OMG... Everywhere I looked I was in awe! I was so not wanting to go back up when time was up... That was amazing! Next we ran over to Shark Ray Alley and snorkeled with huge sting rays and nurse sharks. They know that when the boats come, they will get some food, so they all come running when you pull up. It's pretty cool petting and playing with creatures who could seriously hurt you if they wanted to. We also did the night dive from Hell... Everybody had a flashlight when we started... Mine crapped out after about 2 seconds in the water... the replacement about 5 minutes later. I think we had 10 of us all with lights when we started... by the end of the dive we were all swimming together with the one remaining operating flashlight. I got to see some cool stuff out there, but by the end of it it was pretty pathetic! That could have been one of the best dives, but the crappy equipment kinda ruined it. For the first four days, we dove the reef right in front of the hotel. Swam through caves, valleys, shipwrecks, etc... and had a blast! On the fifth and final diving day we hopped into the boat early in the morning and headed off for the three hour journey to The Blue Hole. OMG it was rough. Most of the ride was fighting huge waves. But when we finally got there I couldn't wait. This was going to be the deepest dive of our trip... 130 feet! All the dives I had been on before were in the 60 to 85 ft zone... So we hopped in and started going straight down. After about the first 30 feet, the water got cloudy... couldn't see much, but I did notice the 15 foot bull shark that came in out of nowhere and left just as fast. I did notice the black tipped sharks that were coming in to grab the cut up fish the divemaster was throwing out into the water... I wasn't expecting that... kinda scared me actually... those things were fast! At 130 feet, I did something really stupid. Apparently nitrogen can effect your body at this depth- you get a little high from it. Somehow, I decided I didn't need this big thing in my mouth anymore... I took one deep breath of seawater and realized how bad of an idea that was! I moved up to 110 feet and was fine there- although I felt like Darth Vader with my deep breathing! The stalactites and stalagmites were beautiful, but I didn't care! I wanted to go up as quickly as possible. Luckily, this was a very short dive and we started to head up as quick as we got there. I'm glad I made that dive just to say I did it, but I won't ever do it again. The other two dives that day were worth the entire trip. The first on at Half Moon Caye was great! The corals here hadn't been affected by the hurricane a few years earlier... They were HUGE!!! And the last dive was on the outside wall of the reef... This was spectacular! On one side of me was the most incredible scenery I have ever seen, and on the other was the deepest blue imaginable. The Eagle ray I watched come out of the blue darkness and leisurely glide by made the entire trip worthwhile.... That last dive made the entire journey worth it! I have never been at such peace as I was when I was there. I didn't turn on the TV until the last day in Belize... I had no clue that TS Allison turned around and sat over Houston for all those days. I missed the great flood while relaxing in a hammock with a rum punch watching the waves break on the reef. I can't wait till I get another chance to go diving... It was one of the greatest experiences I have had. Somewhere, I have a few pictures that I took while there... I'll have to dig them up and let you see. This was one of the two greatest vacations I have taken. The second was where I met my wife... I'll tell you about that one later...

11 comments:

Michelle said...

Sounds like so much fun! I would be afraid to go in the waters though! Did you change the look of the blog? I like this look. If not, I like it anyway! Have a great weekend!

Bridget Unnel said...

I want to go somewhere exotic! Sadly, Baltimore doesn't count...

Texas_Ivy10 said...

Wow! Sounds fantastic! It'd be great if you can find some pics!

Star said...

Sounds awesome. I can tell you really enjoyed it. Hope you find the pictures.

Michelle said...

Great story! My husband went diving on our trip to Cancun, but I ended up with a sinus infection so I missed out. Sounds like an experience you will always cherish!

Nancy said...

WOW! That sounds amazing. I have always wanted to suba dive. The sharks would have scared me ;)

madman said...

Location and timing are two of the most important aspects in sales--and I guess that applies to vacations! enjoyed the post!

Claire said...

Wow that sounds like an amazing trip! I quite fancy diving but would definitely have to get over my fear of water first! Look forward to reading the 2nd part of this vacation post!

TrueJerseyGirl said...

Sounds like a great trip. I have never been diving, but have been snorkeling a number of times, and snorkeled in Stingray City on Grand Cayman which was amazing. Diving is on my list of things to learn to do.

Pikkel Weezel said...

Now that sounds like a good trip

puremood said...

OMG I so need a vacation!!