I've been back in the states now for a few days and I've had some time to reflect on my adventure in Tulum. I close my eyes and I can still see the jungle, the caves, and my friends in Tulum. It really was a pretty amazing trip.
The first week was to be UTD Cave Diver training. One of the "J Team" members and myself have been talking about taking a cave course for about five years or so. Originally, we intended to take GUE Cave 1, and earlier this year we decided that we would bite the bullet and planned on taking the class this fall. We started our initial planning and by late spring, we had an opportunity to meet Emanuela "Ela" Bertoni and take UTD Overhead Protocols with her. After spending a few days with her, my team mate and I were set. We wanted to take the UTD Cave Diver course with Ela and also wanted to attend UTD Cave Week that Adam Korytko and Ela were hosting through their dive center, Cave Heaven.
Let me just say, that I believe we absolutely made the correct choice. The UTD Cave Diver program is a combination of UTD Cave 1 and Cave 2. Cave 1 is mainline only, utilizing 1/3's - rock bottom for gas planning and Cave 2 includes complex navigation. We showed up with our heads screwed on and ready to rock. The Overhead Protocols class gave us a base skill set that we could practice before the class, which helped tremendously. That allowed us to focus on team building, communication, and procedure differences. Which is a great thing, because the caves in Mexico are a complex maze of underground, underwater passage ways and it would be very easy to get completely lost. We experienced many simulated failures during the class including, but not limited to, gas failures, light failures, lost buddy, lost line, blind exits while navigating jumps and T's. I have a whole new respect and appreciation of the overhead environment now. I was thoroughly pleased with the class.
Cave Week were my first cave dives outside of class. What a treat that was! Every dive was amazing, with every dive seemingly getting better and better. Everything from decorated passages with soda straws, stalactites, and stalagmites, fossils of prehistorical marine life, bones of animals that seemingly felt out of place, places of historical and cultural value. These places really got my imagination going. We had Bill Phillips give a presentation of the R.E.M., Referencing Exit Marker, and Adam also gave a very interesting presentation on the formation of the cenote's, the cave passages, and the relevance that they played in Mayan culture.
With as good of a time that we had, I suppose that all great things must come to an end. It was a shame to have to leave, but I'll soon be back!
Here is Cave Heavens' Blog of Cave Week.
Also, our friend, Andrea Schenato made an excellent video of our cave training! Check it out!