It’s decided. I’m staying here for the next twenty five days to do my dive master certification. I’m a little disappointed about not making it to Cuba but I have to take this opportunity while I can. Cuba will have to wait.

Went diving in the afternoon. My dive buddy was a Swiss man with wild grey hair who had logged over seven hundred dives. A good buddy to have.




Dusk, West coast Cozumel (Day 215)

Dusk, West coast Cozumel (Day 215)

Trouble in Paradise. We had a noon time dive planned today and by the time I got to the marina two very hot girls and their boyfriends, plus a boat-load of snorkellers were waiting in the sun. The two other Americans scheduled for the dive hadn’t shown up, so the boat left while Alberto and I waited. The American couple showed up half an hour later, far too jovial and talking non-stop. We drove down the coast to meet the boat and the girls from Utah were whinging about having to wait so long and being hungry. They were grumpy. We dove Columbia reef, I really enjoyed it, especially the bikini view and the fact you can’t hear people whinging underwater. The boat dropped us all off at the nearest resort but there was no lunch available so there was more whinging. We all piled into the clapped-out Chevy and started heading back into town but the Chevy overheated badly and we had to pull into the nearest resort. Luckily food was available so we were spared of whinging for half an hour. The girls had decided enough was enough, cancelled their second dive, and caught a taxi back to town with their apologetic boyfriends.

Meanwhile, Captain Daniel had problems of his own on the boat, he was trying to deal with two American ladies.

One was quite a large woman, a diver, and the other, her friend with a prosthetic leg, who was snorkelling. They were refusing to snorkel because of safety issues. Captain Daniel was at his wits’ end. He told me this was the last time he was going to work for Alberto, he was going to quit. So Alberto and I boarded the boat and dove with the fat lady. We were rewarded for our extreme patience today with the sight of a very large spotted eagle ray. The ray swam a metre past Alberto who did not even notice and kept his head down, totally oblivious to our excitement. It was a magnificent creature, we were close enough to see the sucker fish clinging to its underbelly. And we also got to see another hawksbill turtle.

It was dusk by the time we got back to the marina. After packing away all the gear, Daniel started arguing with Alberto and then stormed off on his moped (mopeds everywhere on this island). Alberto told me that Daniel drinks too much and wasn’t happy. I asked if he’d quit. Alberto said he always quits but comes back once he calms down. Alberto told me that he tries to deal with Americans as little as possible, they’re too much trouble.



Got the coffee percolator in the apartment working. Life is good.

We dived early today with a young couple from Norway and a couple from Germany. The Norwegians, Torre and Mona, were cool and told me about doing their open water diving courses in Oslo in dry suits, in water only a few degrees above freezing.

We dived Santa Rosa and also a small nameless hotel reef closer to shore. Turns out Captain Daniel wasn’t kidding about quitting.




Dove again with Torre and Mona. What a difference it makes to dive with people who understand that this is Mexico, and not everything is necessarily going to go as smoothly as things back home.

Felt an immense loneliness while I was walking back from town to the apartment. There are so many couples here and friends walking around together, even if it’s drunken spring-break friends abusing the hell out of each other outside the American bar. While I’ve been on the road I’ve rarely been lonely, but everyday here I feel it and it’s getting worse. I think once I finish my dive course I will try to travel again for a few days before my flight home.

There’s a circus set up in the empty block opposite the supermarket/cinema complex. The Circo Gasca. As I walked past tonight for the umpteenth time I could hear wonderful opera music coming from inside the big top tent, which isn’t very big. Outside, the camels were lying on their sides in their own shit and the donkeys were standing around looking very bored. The only sign of life as I passed by was a midget dressed up in a clown outfit. He was teasing a neighbourhood stray dog by howling back at it. It was weird sight. I had to hold back a smile as I Hola’d him. He stopped howling at the dog for a moment and gave me a wave back, a big white, painted smile on his face.



Alberto in his clapped out Chevy (Day 215)

Alberto in his clapped out Chevy (Day 215)

We took the boat today with Torre, Mona and five New Zealanders, only one of which was diving, the rest snorkelling. The girl from NZ, Angie, who’d only dived eight times before, was my buddy and was a natural. We spotted a turtle but that was about it. When we surfaced, the boat was being towed, and a guilty looking Alberto mentioned that we were having a few electrical problems.

On the second dive I did my first ever dive briefing for the group. I forgot a whole bunch of points and ended up repeating most of it again but no-one seemed to mind. When we got in the water all we could see was a sandy bottom with a few isolated pieces of coral. We’d apparently found Paradise Reef, but there wasn’t much to it. I desperately wanted to see the eagle ray again, just to have something to remember my first dive master dive, but alas, nothing more than a stingray, moray eel and a big crab.

I went to dinner with the Norwegians and New Zealanders. It was good, but mostly involved laughing about Alberto and his slack organisational skills, his changing of plans at the last minute, his pricing structure, and his boat.

The boat is not much better than the clapped-out Chevy and is actually the slowest boat I’ve seen while here. It’s the only boat to have an old two-stroke Johnson outboard motor, every other boat in the marina has shiny, new Yamaha engines. It’s also the only boat in the marina that goes through two large plastic containers of fuel and oil mixture every day, most of it being spewed out as exhaust fumes.

I passed the circus on the walk home again. The camels were still lying in their own shit and the donkeys were still looking bored. I spotted the midget (it’s actually quite difficult to spot a midget in the dark) leaning nonchalantly against the ropes of the big top tent, dimly illuminated by the flashing incandescent lights circling the “Circo” sign. He was smoking a cigarette. I gave him a wave, not thinking he’s seen me as I pass, but he has and he gives me a wave back.



Finally my dive master course has started. I met my instructor Jeraldo, at the dive shop he works from. The owners, Danielle and Jean Pierre are French and welcome me with coffee. First thing Jeraldo and I talk about is Alberto’s chaotic dive business! Jeraldo was studying architecture in Mexico D.F. when the dive bug bit him and he decided to dedicate his time to the sea. He one day plans to study permaculture in Scotland and then teach the techniques back here in Mexico.

After the first lesson I waited at the marina for an hour and a half for Alberto to show up.

Mona and Torre came along again, plus two gorgeous girls from Italy and their boyfriends. The wait was worth it, the Norwegians and I did another lovely dive on the wreck again.

I was cold once out of the water so I huddled inside the small cabin of Alberto’s boat. Unfortunately, my view outside was blocked by the two cute Italian girls sitting in their string bikinis in the doorway of the cabin. Warmed me up a little.



I woke up with a head cold and had the chills several times throughout the day. I ate almost an entire clove of garlic and tried to buy a litre of cheap tequila after Alberto’s suggestion that it would clear my head up. Unfortunately the supermarket doesn’t sell alcohol after three in the afternoon so I had to make do with lemons.

My first theoretical class with Jeraldo today.




Had another class with Jeraldo this morning on all the things that can ruin your dive. The list was almost enough to put me off diving for good. Starts with Hypercapnia which is excess CO2; caused by breathing too quickly or working too hard. Then you’ve got Hypocapnia which is insufficient CO2; caused by excessive voluntary hyperventilation or due to stress. Hypoxia is insufficient O2. There’s CO poisoning if you get tanks filled with contaminated air and then O2 toxicity. The list goes on and on; decompression sickness which may be cutaneous, joint and limb, neurological or pulmonary, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, middle ear squeeze, ear drum rupture, air embolism, mediastinal emphysema etcetera, etcetera and so on.

When I got home this evening I wasn’t in the normal tired daze of post-diving and really felt like having a drink. I couldn’t be bothered with waiting in line for twenty minutes at the supermarket next door so began an earnest search of the house. All I could find, at the back of the food cupboard was a bottle filled with a pale brown, milky substance that smelt alcoholic but I wasn’t game to touch it. I considered the alcohol fuel from my Trangia cooking stove but didn’t want to wake up blind. So I resorted to cooking dinner instead and promised myself tomorrow to buy some wine and never again to have an apartment empty of alcohol while I’m here.



The supermarket wouldn’t let me buy alcohol before nine in the morning! The head cold persists.





After this morning’s lesson, Jeraldo invited me along for a dive with a group of friends that had come over from Cancun.

One of them was a Swiss guy who had never dived before but was a mountain climber and planning to do K2 later in the year. He was a natural.

Cozumel scuba diving (Day 220)

Cozumel scuba diving (Day 220)



Went diving with Alberto in the afternoon. He had on board a cool Japanese guy who works for Panasonic as a electronic engineer. He was on long service leave and had started in Peru and worked his way North, diving in Honduras and Belize and had plenty of funny tales. Also on board were three young Americans. The girl with them was a pain in the arse complaining about this and that and clumsily falling into the shallow water of the marina at the end, badly scraping her shin. I led the group and we dove the wreck and Paradise reef which was beautiful this time.

Half-way through the shallow second dive it seemed like someone had dimmed the lights. Just as we were about to ascend, we spotted one of the snorkellers giving us frantic hand signals to get out of the water. We ascended to find dark, threatening clouds above us and a very strong swell. Within minutes a heavy torrential rain was falling. About half a kilometre away one of the enormous cruise ships had come unmoored from the dock and was slowly heading our way, it was lucky we’d gotten out of the water when we did. The sea outside the marina was chaos, dive boats frantically trying to recover their divers as huge waves rolled in and out.

The thousands of heavy rain droplets hitting the sea’s surface reminded me of a time I’d been surfing in San Juan in the Philippines in the middle of a humid tropical thunderstorm. Each heavy rain droplet hits the water and makes a crown of water bounce back, reminding me of that famous high-speed photo of a milk drop by Dr. Edgerton. Multiply that effect by millions and millions, add the beautiful, soft, crystal-like white noise sound that rain makes and the low rolling boom of thunder across the hills and you get a pocket kilig moment. A pocket kilig moment, as a wonderful friend once explained, is one of those special moments in time that you wish you could fold up and put inside the pocket of your jeans and pull out again later whenever you need it.

Finally worked out the alcohol trading hours of the supermarket next door. Nine to nine on weekdays, nine to three on Sundays. Also discovered happiness; not having to wait in line at a check-out till. While I was grabbing my two bottles of León de Tarapaca vino tinto an old American guy asked if I knew what any of the Chilean wines were like and whether I could recommend one. I just buy the cheap stuff, I told him.

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