This is Part 2 of How I became a passionate traveler. If you missed Part 1, click here :-)
After dinner the first night I walked around the central Plaza. I was not sure what to expect, but the charm of the buildings, the distant sounds of the Caribbean, and the fact that I was left to my own discoveries made this night very appealing to an independent spirit. That same disheartening spirit that led me to quit every dinky summer job was now a quiet awakening of wanderlust. I strolled through the streets uninhibited by friends at home, girls that wanted nothing to do with me, and the fact I possessed absolutely no money but the few pesos my Dad had given me for soda. I was truly surprised and filled with joy at the simple feeling of walking and not knowing what lay around each corner.
Of course my quiet stroll was brought to a raucous end when I was within 100 meters of our hotel and heard no less than three donde’s on my final approach. The gang was winding down for the evening and my Dad suggested we crash so that we can get an early start on SCUBA the next day. I was not certified in Scuba and have never been a strong swimmer so I had some reservations about my first time on the dive boat.
After breakfast, if you can call it that, we boarded some little shitty Datsun trucks bound for the pier and loaded with dive gear, dive guides, and donde’ dudes. When we got to the boat I was once again impressed by just what a piece of crap it appeared to be and I kept expecting the boat to be another of the Dive Shop Owner’s jokes; alas, it was indeed our boat and everyone piled on with excitement. As the boat pulled away from the pier the crew began to assemble and prep gear for the morning dive.
I have to admit that for some reason, SCUBA did/does not interest me at all. Ooooh, I can breathe underwater, so what! I like the water, I like to be in it sometimes, and I especially love being on a boat (even a decrepit little diesel shit ride like ours that day) but I do not have a real interest in being down there with the animals. I don’t really like animals except on my plate and the occasional dog, so my natural fear of creatures larger than me made the opportunity to snorkel that day not as appealing as it might have seemed to many.
Nevertheless, after an amazing boat ride where I finally felt a nice breeze and saw crystal blue water for the first time in my life, we reached the dive site. The famous Palancar reef was the site of the morning dive. My father had delivered tales of coral glory for years about this reef and I had seen photos and slides that simply blew me away. As much as I do not like animals, I love photographs of them and the rest of the undersea world. I knew that even if I could not dive, I could snorkel, and I was willing to take my chances with sea monsters in order to see all those vivid colors.
Once again, ignorance is often bliss and the reality is: without a light and at close range, the reef from 45-60 feet above looks every bit a monochromatic cyan. These guys were on a 60+ foot dive and so there were no shallow coral, no schools of brightly colored fishes, no sea devils and way too much tropical sun on my pasty white back. Within 15 minutes I had seen enough and swam back to the boat. I really did not like breathing through a snorkel. The sound of the air rushing through with the occasional splash of salt water bothered me more than I admitted to anyone on the trip. I was actually a little panicky in the water and always am for the first 15 minutes of snorkeling. In essence, I wanted to practice my Spanish with the boat crew and drink another Mexi-Coke under the dappled light of the patchwork awning above the boat.
Ahhh, I can still smell the diesel as the boat rocked back and forth and how it increased dramatically as each group of divers rose from the depths and we sped to their relief. As crazy as this may sound, that was the last day I went out on the boat, because on that night something special happened…to be continued