Friday, March 28, 2008

Cabo Pulmo

I'm back home in Minnesota now. But I started this blog and have had so many great experiences and pictures that I'm just going to keep telling stories. In fact this trip to Cabo has left me feeling so invigorated that I've started writing again. Its been very long time especially since I've had any thing good to write about. So right now I'm just been writing my whole cabo story. One of my goals while I was in Cabo was to get my SCUBA certification. I was quite leery of doing it however, not because I was afraid of being in the ocean, or getting claustrophobic or any of those things. I was afraid to be a student again. I was never a very good student but Grant my SCUBA instructor and good friend ensured me that it would be no class time and all study could be done in the sun. We decided to go to Cabo Pulmo for my confined water class. This class is usually done in a pool that is the benefit of a private class we didn't have to use a pool we could use a calm part of the ocean instead. When Grant and I first
met on a hiking trip we both talked about Cabo Pulmo. He'd just gotten back from there and it was one of my goals to get out there. Then he was also the guide on a Kayaking trip in Cabo Pulmo that I got my mom and her friend Kris to go on (I'm going backwards and I'm going to tell those stories at some point). It was at a fantastic fish taco lunch that we decided it might be a good place to start my classes since Mona is good friend was maybe going to join us. um... this story might get kind of long, but stick with it. Its good.

I'm just going to start at the first SCUBA part of the story. After taking a few classes, drinking some coffee and putting my gear together a few times, it is late afternoon by the time we make it to the beach for our first confined water dive where we practice a whole bunch of skills. The water was so murky we didn't see one living thing. If Grant hadn't been holding on to me I think I would have lost him as well. We didn't see any fish but we found a shell. Yup one little yellow snail shell. I took it home with me and kept it in memory of the day in which I went SCUBA diving and saw no fish. Though I guess it's not all that uncommon. Most people's confined water dives are in a pool. Hence the word "confined", we were not confined but we were not seeing fish either. I was not there for fish I was just getting used to how its supposed to feel under water, mess around with the equipment and practice breathing under water. First dive was pretty easy. We only used half a tank of air and saved the rest for the next day. In one of the pictures coming up by the way is not of me at Cabo Pulmo but I just thought it would be cool if you could see me breathing under water. Neat. I have lots more pictures of cool underwater stuff but you'll have to stay tuned. After the dive we went back to Grants friends, Bob and Mona's place. Grant is super close with them they pretty much family. And they were cool enough to take this random SCUBA student in. When I first met them Grant wasn't even there. He'd gone on the ATV(ps. I loved the ATV, I need to live somewhere where you only need to get around by atv). to get the key to the beach gate. I was alone reading a Baja plant guide that I found inside, drinking their coffee and sitting on their porch. They were totally sweethearts and Mona gave me a bottle of fresh OJ. This lady is the sweetest and she's Finish so she's got a great accent. Makes you want to listen to her whenever she talks.
By the time we actually made it back to their house it was dark. I was famished. Everything shuts down really early in Cabo Pulmo so luckily Mona made us a huge fruit salad and a veggie salad with three different kinds of Mexican cheese. We ate the heck outta them. Drank Pacifico Ballena's (big ones) and sat and talked to Bob and Mona till I wanted to pass out from exhaustion in my little plastic chair.

For breakfast the next morning walked to Caballero's. Which incidentally used to be open at night but isn't anymore because they don't have a chef. Grant thinks I should take over. It would be an awesome opportunity but there is no school in Cabo Pulmo for O. So that just ain't going to work. Maybe some day. (I interject in this story to tell you about the scenic picture above. That is the beach of Cabo Pulmo at about 8 am.) So gorgeous it sucks you in and you never want to leave. Back to the story. After breakfast we got ready for our next confined water in unconfined water dive. We practice skills that usually involve me either accidentally flying to the surface or sucking in sickening amounts of sea water. That or we practice what I am supposed to do if I run out of air. Which Grant said is NEVER supposed to happen if you are paying attention. So I was. Checking my gages I let him know that I am really low. He tells me in underwater sign language that we should swim a bit more. Um....ok but I think I'm almost out of....shit I'm out of air! I make the sign for "holy fuck I'm out of air" and I snatch his alternate air source, we swim to the surface and all the time I'm thinking, "This guy has no idea what he's doing!! How could he let me out of air!!" We pop out of the surface establish buoyancy (he'd be so proud at how much I remember, well I guess it's only been about a week since my last dive...oh but it feels like so long ago...whah for me). I feel like I might puke let out a ginormous belch and feel so much better. All that sea water really gets to me. Oh and did I mention that I ran out of air...underwater!!! Apparently that was all in the plan. Just a little test I guess all a part of the process. He promised he wouldn't do it again.
Now that our tanks were officially empty we needed hop on my new favorite vehicle, wet suits still half way on, an set out to find more air to fill our tanks. A task that sounded pretty menial considering this was Cabo Pulmo home to the second largest live coral reef next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. That is what people do here. They SCUBA. This is Mexico remember, and the thing that I love about it is EVERYTHING is an adventure. We stop into the big (BAD) dive shop because Pepe's (I think that's the name), the one Grant usually uses was out of air. The people at the big (BAD) dive shop refused to give us air. They said it was against company policy to fill tanks to independent divers. ERRRRR wait back up, what???? I'm sorry since when did anyone in Mexico follow policy? Even if on the rare occasion there is a policy no one ever follows it. ever. That is why we love Mexico. Viva Mexico. What was the b.s.? The girl was Spanish, maybe that was part of her problem. I don't know what Spain's policy is on policy but she sure didn't get Mexico's policy that policy doesn't fly in these parts. Lame but seriously, just another Mexican adventure.
So we ATV it over to the last little dive shop in town. Turns out their compressor is down. Of course it takes talking to three different guys to really find out whats going on. But we found out that Ricardo who was maybe going to take us out on a boat for our 2nd dive sometimes rents his tanks from the Big Bad Dive shop. And as luck would have it Ricardo just got in from a fishing trip. We go find Ricardo on the beach. sounds like we are driving all over town and we kind of are but keep in mind that town is 3 minutes long and right on the beach nothing is that big of a trek. We find Ricardo on the beach. We tell him our story. He puts in a call to the Big Dumb Dive shop. He gets a hold of the clueless Spanish girl who's going to give herself an ulcer by being such an air Nazi, and this time instead of refusing us air, she just hangs up on us. Ricardo understands our plea and agrees that this is so unCabo Pulmo of her but has his own problems. His truck just ran out of gas and he just syphoned enough out of his boat to get him to the gas station two towns from here but he might be able to help us when her gets back which would be two Mexican hours from then. Which actually means God knows when in real time. I really don't care all that much. I've swallowed enough sea water to sink a panga and was happy riding around on the ATV in the sunshine. We decided SCUBA- Pooba. We ain't gettin' any air. Lets go kayaking. (Oh this little house by the way is Bob and Mona's and in the front is the little ATV. Bob and Mona better watch out. If they find it missing they'll know where to look.
Earlier that day. We had seen manta rays jumping not to far off shore. We had kind of been hoping that Ricardo could take us out there for my first real open water experience. Obviously that was not happening. For one we had no air and two the boat had no gas because it had been syphoned into his truck. See isn't this fun??? We decided relying on others was not going to work for us today we would have to turn to our own muscle. Bob and Mona keep their Kayaks right down by the beach so we just got the right gear, regrouped a little and took a tandem out to the reef. Once we got out there we saw massive schools of Yellowtail. There were schools of at least 150 fish. At some points we were surrounded by three schools or more. It was amazing how close we could get to them before they would all simultaneously flinch away. It was cool but, as we sat over the reef and looked out we saw them again, jumping frantically, Manta's! They looked pretty far out but not so far that we couldn't get there. It was windy so it would be a challenge but I mean come on! Manta Rays you'd have to be nuts not to go! As we neared the grew bigger in size and number. Before all you could see on the horizon were tiny silvery triangles spraying out of the sea. I was not prepared for what I saw. I was so excited I thought my head was going to pop off my body. Seriously it was hurting I was so close to bursting. We were experiencing stuff that only National Geographic can capture. Manta's were flying out of the sea three feet, six feet, one foot, all right next to our kayak. Splashing me in the face. Like hyper little penguins racing around fighting to show off their wings. The really did kind of look like penguins in mid air, but I guess mostly they looked like Mantas.
Grant decided that it would be a good idea to get in. Yes as in, out of the kayak and into the water with manta rays. The same ones that killed Steve Erwin the crocodile guy. And as I just learned when I got home, another lady was killed randomly by a manta ray who flew out of the water and smacked into her. The impact of colliding with the 70 pound animal killed her, snapped her neck or gave her a fatal concussion or something. It didn't even stab her with that big dagger on the end of it's tail. (Can I just say that I know that as my mom reads this right now she may be regretting ever watching Ophelia that weekend. I love you mom!) Keep in mind it was just Grant going in there not me. I was in charge of keeping the kayak steady. And looking for sharks. I didn't know that's what I was going to be looking out for. But while keeping watch, I saw fins. They didn't look like Manta fins either. They looked like FINS! I try to hold down my panic while Grant is still skin diving hoping to get the perfect underwater picture of a manta ray. When he finally pops up, I say, impressively calmly, "Um Grant, I think I saw some fins over there. Not manta fins but more a little bit like shark fins." He didn't seem too worried as he snapped a picture of my very concerned I just saw freaking FINS face. Note the picture below. That's what I look like when I see a shark. Now you know. The other one
is a flying manta ray.

And here is our we survived picture. ( I have to do this the way the blog lets me so you get little clumps of pictures. This one was actually taken at the end of the trip on our way out of town). Now back to our story.

Hoss, Bob and Mona's neighbor who lives under a tree named "Hoss's Hovel", he has a house but he prefers the tree... He said there have been a few shark sightings in Cabo Pulmo over the last couple of weeks. Though I heard this information, though I'd seen suspicious fins, I still found it somewhat difficult to believe that sharks could actually be there at that very moment at that very part of the ocean that I was sitting on, in a kayak by myself holding onto two paddles. It was time for Grant to get back in. The sun was getting low in the sky and I was getting pretty chilly. Between the manta rays splashing and the big wave breaking over the boat, I was soaked.
As we paddled in, the mountains behind Cabo Pulmo turned a misty purple. You could see the lines of dust kicked up showing the path a pick up used to get home to his ranchero and the little buildings dotting this tiny little town. Even the Big Stupid Dive shop looked scenic from here. Though it wasn't dark yet the three new street lights in town start to flicker on. As I take in the serenity of of this place soaking up every ounce of this adventure, basking in the water splashing in my face as we battle the wind to paddle home, I look down. FINS clear as day with white tips. They are little. We squeeze in for a better look and the little finned animals whip away, but not before I caught a glimpse of a flattish head and blunt nose. VERY sharky looking. Grant agreed that the only animal he knew with a white tipped fin like that is a white tipped shark. Though they are usually much bigger than that. We decided it might be a junior but were left uncertain. Until the next week when Grant returned from Cabo Pulmo and reported seeing 150 junior white tip sharks passing the time on the reef. He said they all must have hatched recently because they don't usually hang out like that. Who knows, maybe they caught wind of some delicious flesh swimming with Manta's last week and came to check it out. I'm just glad I did not see them while Grant was skin diving or this little article may have been entitled "The day Anni and Grant were lost at sea, consumed by panic and fear she took them both down".
I guess it would be the first time someone didn't come back. Grant decided to wait until we neared shore to tell me the story of the lone windsurfer who went out on a day much like this particular day and never came back. It was at this point that I new Grant was a real friend. Not because he'd always tell me the truth but because he would always tell me what I needed to hear. Kind of like the time Betty Lopez and I were fishing in high seas. Waves were crashing over the top of our little fishing boat called the "Go Deep". As we were getting tossed about this little boat, holding on white knuckled for fear we may be pitched over the side, I ask Betty, "There's no way we could sink...could we?" Betty looks at me, smiles and shouts over the sound of revving motors and crashing waves, "NO! We'll be fine!" When we finally made it back to shore Betty looks at me and says, "Anni, if the Titanic could sink...." I wrapped my arms around her and knew that she was my true friend. Not because she told me the truth but because she told me what I needed to hear. Grant prooved himself to me at that moment, just as Betty had. He knew I really wanted to go, trusted my skills in the kayak and held his tongue and for that I will be forever grateful. Some may call it foolish, maybe even downright idiotic. For me, I call it an experience of a life time.


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