Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Under the Sea

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We’ve had lots of fun learning to snorkel on this trip. Because we were new to the sport, we didn’t really know what to expect. But I think we’re getting spoiled by the snorkeling here. And our time at Las Tres Marietas was among the best we’ve had.
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Our first day there with Ryan (who, once again, took some of the photos in this post. Let’s just give him credit for all the good ones, OK?), he and Bryan went over to the island. In the morning, several big tour boats picked up moorings near ours and disgorged dozens of tipsy tourists for kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. Some hopped into pangas for a quick ride over to the small beach on the island, so we figured it was OK to go ashore too.
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After the guys rowed over, a park ranger came by and asked me how many of us were aboard. He didn’t speak any English, but I understood him to say it was fine for us to be tied up to the mooring, but not OK to go up on the island. I told him I’d call the guys on the radio to let them know, but before they could find each other and head down, the ranger had gone ashore to find them himself. Even after watching the tour boats head in, Bryan had wondered about shore access, but none of our guide books said to stay off and there was a big “Welcome” sign leading to clearly delineated paths leading up the hillside. As he and Ryan were heading down, they ran into the ranger, who kindly, but firmly said a lot of things in Spanish they didn’t understand. They figured out that it was a big deal, though, when he started miming putting them in handcuffs.
After they got back to the boat, the ranger panga came by again, took the guys passport information, and reiterated the importance of staying off the sensitive island. “The beach is OK, but don’t go up,” he said, and mimed tracking invasive species in on our shoes (a tricky thing to do in a moving boat!) While his co-worker worked the outboard engine to keep the panga close to our gunwales, we apologized profusely and made it clear we wouldn’t go up again. But when we added, “We’ll tell our friends and the other boaters not to go up on the islands,” he seemed to calm down even more. I’m sure he could picture us posting photos on social media and encouraging others to make the same mistake we did.
So…I’m officially telling you all. If you visit Las Tres Marietas, please stay in the water
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or on the beach
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and don’t, not matter how inviting the paths or misleading the signage, don’t go up on the islands.
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The next day, Bryan and Ryan jumped in to get in some snorkeling before the party boats arrived. I finished up a few things around the boat and decided to join them. As I pulled out my snorkel gear, I spotted Bryan heading my way. He called, “You’ve got to come see this!” I hollered back, “I’m on my way!”
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Before I even got away from the boat, I was surrounded by fish.
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We saw too many different varieties to identify them all, though we spent quite a bit of time after we got out, dripping over our guide book and pointing out what we’d seen.
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The fish weren’t spooked by our presence. If anything, several schools seemed interested in us. Their hive-mind reflexes kept them from colliding with each other or with us, the unpredictable giants, swimming through their watery world.
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video
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In the afternoon, we sat back and watched the tour-boat show. Experienced kayakers and paddleboarders dodged the sunburned, tipsy kind. One man, obviously new to stand-up paddleboarding, wore his wide-brimmed cowboy hat with stubborn determination. We kept watching for it to fall off when he did, but it stayed firmly affixed through his entire stint in—and back out, and back in again...and back out and back in again—the water.

Ryan and Meira took turns jumping off the boat.
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And I played with the photo-burst setting on the camera.
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Then Bryan and the girls went snorkeling again. The tour boats had left but the fish had not!
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I love the polka-dotted flippers!
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Later in the afternoon, Bryan took off on his own to explore the intricate shoreline, where the island’s rocks and arches meet the power of the sea.
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With every recent post, I have to work to resist the urge to type the same words: …and we reluctantly sailed away. Today, I’m giving in. As evening approached, we reluctantly sailed away. The sailing was glorious and we made good time in the brisk afternoon wind.
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Soon the sun hooked the breeze and dragged it down over the horizon. We sat in the stillness of the bay and watched the colors fade. And then the dolphins arrived, arching supple backs in the settling waves. We sat for a little bit longer—quiet, amazed.
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We finally, yes, even reluctantly, turned on the engine and motored the rest of the way to the marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, coming into the now-familiar entrance in the dark. The girls stayed in the boat while the adults found a way around the locked marina gates (the dock gates here require a keycard to enter or exit and we wouldn’t get ours until we officially checked in the next morning) and walked up into town for dinner.
It’s easy to see why we say “reluctant” about the places we leave behind. And at times we give in and stay a little longer. But when we manage to tear ourselves away and head back out again, we almost always find new gifts waiting, precious experiences, more wonder.

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