Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Syndey Opera House and the Famous Bridge

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Minotauro: The other upstream. And video of the Nomad and Razor Sidemount Harnesses

Thursday brought the return to more normal diving for me.  I met up with Alain, a swiss tech instructor, helped him through some issues with his Nomad Sidemount rig and drove down to Minotauro for a leisurely cave dive.  Minotauro is nestled in the jungle near the Zero Gravity Dive shop.  The landowners are super nice people and there is always a laugh when we meet with them.

Alain getting ready for sidemount cave dive at minotauro

Which brings me to another related topic.  There is a rumored connection between Minotauro and Taj Ma Hal.  I haven’t found it if there is.  Maybe it is like the swimming pool at my grammar school.  You know, the one in the basement.   Every once in a while we get the feeling like we should go looking for it.  The entrance to Taj Ma Hal and Minotauro are less then 2000 apart.  I need to make a general survey of each system and see if they trend toward each other and how far apart they might be.  Could be an interesting project if I were bored.  If you have any information on this rumor, let me know?  Might save me some heartache.

Back to the dive!  Alain and I suited up in our side mount rigs and got in the water.  Alian asked me to look at his rig and check it out.  It looked pretty good, there are some danglely issues like his pressure gauge, his crotch ring and his regulator.

If you are wondering what sidemounting looks like, here is a little video.  The first part of the video is Alian in his Nomad Side Mount rig.  The second part of the video is me in my Steve Bogaerts’ Razor Sidemount Harness.

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The primary complaint with the Nomad is that it is a recreational side mount harness.  It is very general purpose.  It takes a lot of work to get the configuration correct and in the end you may not ever get it.   This complaint is handled completely with the Razor.  The Razor harness is a custom side mount/no mount harness worn under an open water bcd.  I was fitted for my harness when I took my basic side mount class with Steve Bogearts.

Taking the class and getting a custom harness provides two huge benefits.  First, the harness and the bcd fit me perfectly and put me in very good trim and my gear in the right places.   I made two adjustments after I left class.  The first was to add more give in the bcd for more lift.  The second was to add more weight when I got a 9MM suite.

Second, Steve very closely analyzed my configuration and diving for a couple of days providing constant feed back including video.  This feedback accelerated my adjustment to sidemount by 10-15x.  In 5 dives, I was more comfortable then many people I know with 50-100 sidemount dives.  Side mounting just takes a lot of tweaking, and people would rather dive then spend time in open water analyzing and tweaking.  Taking the class enforces a little discipline and starts you off on the right vector.

Ok, back to the dive now.   The entrance to the ‘other upstream’ is at the back of the cenote under a duck under.  I have dove about 60% of this section in backmount, however, it is tight and hard to not have some impact in that configuration. In sidemount it is much more enjoyable.  This dive includes a very cool carousel formation.  The line passes around the carousel and up into a highly decorated air dome.  After the carousel, it is easy diving until you pass the second T.  The two T’s are actually of two circuits of the main line, sort of.  If you go left at each T and then swim to the end of the line, you end up a the second T.  Just prior to getting back to the main line there is a jump to the left.  That is the end of the line from the first T.  it all sounds very confusing and the first time I was up there it was a little confusing.  But now I have a pretty good mental picture of the area.

I should warn you that after the second T it becomes sidemount sized passage and the chance for zero or no visibility, if you are careless, is pretty high.  Please tread lightly and stop when you hit your limit.

I do have one question, there is a mystery arrow at the back of the loop of the main line.  Alian and I searched for the jump for a couple of minutes and couldn’t find it.  If you know where to look, email me at:

When we reached the cenote again, we had plenty of gas remaining.  This dive has a max depth of 20feet (6 meters).  So, we decided to recalculate and extend the dive again.  Near the duck under there is a line arrow, the jump is 50-60feet and hidden.  That line leads to a very silty side mount section.  This isn’t the down stream section.   The line and its branches are pretty short but a lot of fun.  When we arrived the line was in bad shape.  It was loose and the rock it was tied to was broken in lots of places.  Someone trashed the line and left it.  I guess they were a little freaked out.  It goes to zero visibility pretty fast.  In any event, we took some time and restored the line.  It was a good exercise to work on the line in reduced visibility.

The dive was 110 minutes long and we had a great time.  Minotauro is still one of my favorite places to dive!

August 3, 2008   3 Comments

Fifteen Needles Later and I am Still Not Trimix Certified.

A Broken bed, Whale Sharks, A Pregnant Doctor and Injections, The Real Dive Life!

Where do I start?  Some time in the end of June, when I sat down into bed, I broke the bed frame.  I broke it right where my lower back rests while I am sleeping.  On top of that, add the fact that we were sleeping on a very tired mattress through which I could feel the springs.  I knew that the bed was broken but I kept using it.  My thought was that I could live with it, though it was really starting to bother me.

Then my parents came to town for a whirlwind tour of the Yucatan in my 4Runner.  Their visit and the accompanies stress eliminated all exercising for about two weeks.  Then we drove around the Yucatan at break neck speeds which was followed by some competitive whale shark snorkeling and photography.  The end result was that my back was completely messed up.   I had a lot of pain in the lower back and was unable to bend over.  I stretched and took Aleeve but nothing was working, it was getting worse by the day.

Now for the kicker, I was scheduled to take my CCR Hypoxic Trimix with Steve this week. I had been looking forward to it for a couple of years.  The whole reason I got the Meg was to dive Trimix.  I emailed Steve to let him know my condition and we agreed that mixed gas diving and lower back injuries sound like a terrible combination.   We decided to postpone class.  A TOTAL AND COMPLETE BUMMER!  But, it was the only reasonable and prudent course of action.  It would be awful to take a lower back hit because I was greedy.

It is really a kind of win for both of us.  I was nervous about taking the class this week and Steve wanted to get some exploration done.  I hadn’t been putting enough time in on the CCR and I was planning to put a bunch of time on it in the week between my parents and my class.   With my back out of whack, I couldn’t put the time on the unit.  Plus, I think the universe was telling me I needed to slow down a little.  I have really been packing in the training and not doing enough practice.  Now I have my reprieve.

Acupuncture needles in my leg.And now we are at the needles part of the story.  On Friday, my back was killing me and I couldn’t find a chiropractor or a masseuse to look at it.  I had two separate appointments, which resulted in no call no shows from the masseuse.  I blew off ice cream waiting for this guy.  The best Chiropractor in town, which at least 5 people referred me to, had broken his ankle.  And the next chiro doesn’t work over the weekend.  So there I was, when Sol saved the day.  He suggested I go to the clinic where he went.  I complied and we stopped in.

Acupuncture needles in my back.We were seen immediately!  We entered the office and there was a very good looking small young girl behind the desk.  She asked if we wanted to do this in English or Spanish?  Which was immediately responded to by Sol, who was wearing a huge shit eating grin, with, “Your a doctor?”  She replied, “Yes, I am a doctor and I am pregnant. I have thirty years.”  I asked, “30 years practicing medicine? You look great!”  She smiled and replied, “No, I have been practicing medicine for 6 years.”   The consult went well, and she told me I needed to see a specialist and she wanted to get me out of pain.  She prescribed three injections and a three day course of anti-inflammatory.  I was nervous about both, but we talked about the drugs.  The injection is B12 and something else and the anti-inflammatory is just that.  I agreed to the course of treatment under the assumption she was going to give the shot.  Well, that isn’t how it worked out.  She left the room and brought back a nurse, who was a much older and rounder Mayan lady.  I got my shot and went on my way.  She gave a great shot, it just wasn’t the girl behind the desk.  That was the first needle.

On Saturday night, I needed to get my second shot.  I was informed that the pharmacy would give me the injection if I asked.  As it turns out, they wouldn’t.  I could buy my needle and my drugs there, but had to find someone else to inject me.  The pharmacy sent me to the Red Cross.  The Red Cross charged me $5USD or 50Pesos to inject me.  I skipped right to the front of the line.  It was surreal.  I watched the Para-medic prepare the drug.  It was two glass vials that needed to be broken open and mixed in the syringe.  Sol took a picture, which I will withhold.  And the medic laughed his ass off.  Needle number two down.

Acupuncture needles in my back.On Sunday evening it was time for injection number three.  At this point, I was emboldened by our experiences.  So, we hit up the pharmacy for the supplies and we went home.  This time I mixed up the drugs and gave the needle to my wife, Allie, to inject me.  I wanted to save the $5 and risk of airborne staff that can be found at the Red Cross.  Allie had had two glasses of wine prior to being handed the needle, so she was a little nervous and so was I.  She pinned me and pumped my rump full of the drugs.  Everything went according to plan and needle number three was finished.  She did a great job!  I never expected my wife to need to inject me.  I guess that is one of the wonders of the self serve medical system here.

That brings us to Monday!  Today, I went in and had a consult with a physician, a real MD, who specialized in pain management and acupuncture.  We talked about my condition; he examined me and then prescribed a course of Ozone Therapy and acupuncture.  The Ozone is to resolve the herniated disk; the acupuncture is to relieve the muscle tension/spasms.  My homework is to read up on the Ozone treatment.  In the mean time, he stuck 12 needles in me making the count 15.  I had never done acupuncture before, so I was a little skeptical.  However, I have heard good things about it.  It didn’t hurt.  It did put me to sleep.  And it gave me a funny taste in my mouth like my body was detoxing.  I have another visit scheduled for Thursday morning.  I am not exactly sure how I feel about it, though I am willing to give it a shot.  I am going to couple it with a return to my yoga practice and some walking.

I am desperate to get active again.  I hate getting off the beam, acupuncture needles in my leg, and feeling like a slob.  I think I am going to dive this week a little, maybe 2-3 dives, nothing deep.  Though that will really depend on how my back feels.  As of tonight, it seems to be well on its way to recovering!  Hopefully, I will be in tip-top shape shortly.

Plus, Allie, Sol and I have agreed to start a training program to train up to running a half-marathon.  I don’t want them to get too far out in front of me.

Have you tried acupuncture or other holistic or eastern approaches to your pain?  How did it work for you?

July 14, 2008   2 Comments