Monday, November 27, 2006

The Island Blues

We decided to go away for the Thanksgiving holiday week to Cozumel to do some diving, and the song running through my head is an old Styx song that was popular when I was in college:
You've been working and saving for your Jamaican dream
Paradise is waiting across the sea
But when you plane lands, Montego turns to Monsoon
You've got the Island Blues

'Cause nothing ever goes as planned....
Indeed, Nature seemed to be inclined to thwart our plans to dive by blowing in a wind the locals call "El Norte." Great for kiteboarding, apparently, but it closed the port to small boats (such as those that take out divers).

OK, but hey, we're in the tropics, so we can just hang at the pool, maybe lie in a hammock under a palapa and read a book or snooze. Or not. Because that same lovely wind is blowing the ocean into wave that splash right up against the seawall at our hotel, splashing into the pool and soaking the hammocks. And did I mention it was windy? Like, all the time?


At least it was a pleasant 3-mile walk into town, so we got a little exercise each day, and had plenty of time to sample the cervezas and tequilas. And we could sit in our room and admire the big cruise ships that ate up much of the view.

But I can't complain. We were on vacation, and the hotel room was a nice enough place to nap or read, and there are a number of good restaurants in town that made it a bit less painful.

Eventually we rented a little car and drove it over to the other side of the island, which is the first time I'd been over there. We found a pleasant place to sit and watch the ocean and sip more of the cervezas and eat some fish tacos. Apparently, that side is usually the rough side, while the side with the tourist hotels is calm. But El Norte changes all that, so the east side is suddenly very quiet and pleasant, and we tourists all flee the west.

By now we've missed three of our planned five days of diving, and things are getting desperate, so we tell the dive shop that if the port is still closed the next day, we want to rent tanks and drive them over to the east side for some shore diving. Miraculously, when the port is still closed the next day, they have decided to organize a trip across the island, so at least we didn't have to schlep the tanks and weights over for ourselves, and they provided a dive guide.

The shore diving at Chen Rio and Punta Morena was OK, but unspectacular. It was nice to be in the water instead of just looking at it, anyway. The big win on the first dive was seeing a pegasus fish (sorry...I can't find a picture online that does it justice). Oddly, none of my references says they live there. Hmmmmm. Second dive, one of our buddies found the endemic splendid toadfish in a hole. So it wasn't a complete loss.

Finally on Thursday (Thanksgiving), the port was open, and we were able to do "real" Cozumel diving on the spectacular reefs of the west side. We got two dives on each of our last two days, so it wasn't a complete washout, but not nearly as much diving as we had planned.

On the other hand, we were able to channel some of our free time into locating things such as tasty lobster dinners for US$18, so I shan't complain too much.

More about the culture of Cozumel later.


dragonfly said...

Sounds like you've made the most of it, despite not being able to dive much. Hm, all that wind... sounds rather like Edinburgh. Probably warmer in Cozamel though.

Chard said...

Temp was in the mid-70s, about ten degrees cooler than expected, and dramatically less humid. So instead of 85-feeling-like-95, it was 75-feeling-like-70, which felt pretty cool, given expectations (and what we had packed to wear).