|SO, I have now been living in Majahual for almost 3 months, and what a 3 months it has been. I pretty much work for 6 days a week, for about 10 hours a day. The earliest we have been called into work is for a 6am start, and the latest I have been there would be about 6pm - THUS my "laziness" with doing any posting! :-)
I'm not sure how much I have written about Majahual (spelt Mahahual for the tourists - called Costa Maya for the cruise ship folk), but I will try and give you an understanding of the town I live in. Majahual was once a sleepy little fishing village, until someone decided to build a cruise ship port five to ten years ago. Since then the town has steadily increased in size and now has its own housing precinct referred to as “The Casitas”, with a casita being a small house (Casa is Spanish for house). In most cases here a Casita is a two bedroom unit, built in pairs – see photos above for our Casitas. In 2007 Majahual was hit by a category five cyclone / hurricane called “Dean” which leveled the town and took most of its “rustic charm”, as the rebuild was done for tourism. Now it looks like a tourists tropical paradise, but the mangroves still display the damage. The growth of the town has also bought in business people keen to make a dollar. This leads to an interesting power struggle between large local businesses, with political connections, and newbies with lots of money. The evidence of this is several half built hotels that somehow lost their permit to build once construction had started.
Unfortunately, there is not much to do here besides work and drink, which a lot of the transient population do very well indeed; sell during the day and drink the profits that night. Rinse and repeat. A sign on the main walkway, really says it all: “Majahual, a little drinking town with a diving problem”. On a day when it is too windy for even a cruise ship to dock, everyone has a bad day, including the publicans. We of course have our reserves to rely on, so we are not affected by this phenomenon. But since we had many exams and much reading to do, we were less affected anyway. Actually, since we are all certified divemasters now, we do get ever so slightly affected; we are now included in the tips, and we each made US$42 last week! ;-)
Leaving Punta Gruesa I came to the “Dreamtime Dive Resort”. I was aware that my instructor was often referred to as “Ed the Bastard”, but that the training would be second to none. Both would turn out to be true. I now feel more than competent to guide certified divers and teach skills to new divers. More than that, I have learnt how to deal with anxious people and identify situations when I should pay more attention to divers before we go into the water, as even experienced divers can forget the simplest things which can lead to dangerous consequences. Importantly, I have practiced this with tact ;-)
Unfortunately, tact was not to be at the fore when dealing with my instructor, the aforementioned bastard. After putting up with the fact that he could do no wrong ( because even if he was, it was the fault of someone else) , and that he taught by putting people down, I lost any ability to bite my tongue. Thankfully, another Australian Intern got there at about the same time. Although, her breaking point was being told she would be marked down because of her face – to be fair, he meant the look on her face, as the making criteria for top marks is to make a skill demonstration look easy. But, of course, the words were all that were heard. On this same dive I may have addressed the bastard with several profanities at his expectation that I understand an attempted underwater communication; several seemingly random hand gestures which were completely out of context... I thought twice about pushing him off the boat while he had a go at me for not doing what I was told, but the tongue was let loose. Apparently, this worked and he noticeably changed the way he dealt with us, but the damage was done. Respect was now a distant memory, goes at us ignored, and his invitation to any social event, lost in the mail. This was totally supported by the rest of the staff in the shop, who had been dealing with this for sometime, as well as his endless ability to talk about how good he was. But enough about that, the training is done and I have had some good times in Majahual and made some very good friends! :-)
During my time here I have dived with many, many, Turtles, Moray Eels, Nassau and Black Groupers, Lobsters, Crabs, Nurse Sharks, Drum fish, Parrot fish, Southern Stingrays, Electric Rays, Angel fish, Surgeon fish, Shrimps / Prawns, Barracuda, etc. etc. BUT the coolest thing I have dived with is Bioluminescence; the defensive luminescent emissions of some reef creatures. On three night dives, during moonless nights, we have switched off our torches for up to 50 minutes,and swam around watching a magnificent show. The lights resemble fireworks, but travel much slower. When you kick through the water constant "sparks" flash off your fins, and slow projectiles fired from the reef come at you, sometimes splitting horizontally into 5 - 10 separate lights, and some times vertically, lighting up one buy one as the projectile leaves behind glowing balls. On a good night, there is heaps of activity while I struggle to stop my jaw from dropping and releasing my breathing regulator ;-)
I have also dived several "Cenotes"; Exposed underground freshwater waterways,caverns and caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites, and other cool limestone formations, as well as remnants of the past. My particular favorite was "The Pit", which is effectively a 40m / 130ft deep sink hole, with several cave systems starting at various depths. We didn't explore any of the caves, but we did get to see some ancient human remains, a Halocline ( where saltwater meets fresh in a haze similar to the heat rising from a hot road), and a sulfur cloud at about 30m / 100ft. Watching people disappear into the sulfur cloud was so cool; it just slowly swallowed them and the glow of their torch.
* You can buy practically anything with lime added – which tastes more like lemon.
* The sanitation system is crap. Nothing other than human waste can be put into a toilet or it will become blocked quickly; this includes toilet paper. Every toilet has a neat little waste paper type basket next to it for paper and other sanitary items.
* Tortillas are the most universal bread I have come across. Pretty much all Mexican dishes use a tortilla as a base.
* The Majahaul coast is a drug entry point for Mexico, so we have a relatively large number of armed patrol boats and army personal stationed here. However, they are only stationed here for six months of the year ...
* News papers have no restriction about publishing violent photos and I have seen graphic pictures with mutilated and dismembered bodies, gun shot victims, and people killed in car crashes .
I am currently traveling around the Yucatan peninsula with Louise and will be heading off for a whirlwind 32 day tour of Central America on Saturday. The tour goes through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. We are then planning to spend a week or two in Panama doing a Spanish course before Louise and I go our separate ways. My Spanish has improved from terrible to almost understandable, but I am now starting to get lots of practice so I should be somewhat conversational by the time Louise leaves. The idea is then to either stay in Panama or go back to Xela in Guatemala and to stay until I am somewhat fluent. This should improve my chances of getting a job in the dive industry as most place will not hire you unless you have two or three languages ...