At the age of 23, Tiffany H. Carey moved from her hometown in Chicago to Lawrence, Kansas, where she attended the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. After graduation, she moved to Manhattan Beach, California, following a proposal of marriage. This year she joined Skin Diver as its copy editor, and finding the enthusiasm for diving infectious, decided to get certified. She dived the Sea of Cortez only one week after her final certification dive off Catalina Island.
Michelle Danner has been a diver for five days. A UC Santa Barbara graduate and native of California, her fears of the Pacific Ocean kept her feet dry. After becoming the managing editor of Skin Diver magazine in February of 1999, she began to appreciate the beauty of the ocean. Following more than a year of harassment by her fellow staff, she jumped into a swimming pool in Los Angeles and finished her certification in Cabo San Lucas.
After becoming certified in 1991, Tamara Collins spent two weeks diving the reefs of Belize and vowed she would write about it for Skin Diver. Two years later she became the magazine's assistant editor. Now the editor of Skin Diver Online, Tamara organizes online stories of incredible scuba adventure taking place around the world. This time it's her turn to hit the road. With laptop in hand she's off to Cabo San Lucas and the Sea of Cortez.
Ty Sawyer, Skin Diver's Senior Editor, has been to every Cabo Dive Fiesta--this one and the last one. He plans to repair the good name of Skin Diver after Tamara, Michelle and Tiffany caused the town to drop to its knees and cry, "Mercy, for God's sake, mercy."
This year Ty has pledged to hide the treasures for the treasure hunt better than he did at the last Fiesta. And somewhere offshore awaits the damn baitball that eluded him last year. But don't expect him to come back with a tan, as the Mexican Navy uses the glare off his body as an aid to navigation.
Daryl Carson, assistant editor of Skin Diver, is a man of mystery. No one can figure out how he made the journey from his homeland in the south to glamorous LA. It is rumored that he learned to read while walking from his double wide trailer to the school bus stop. He was fascinated by billboards and spent hours staring at them, trying to sound out the words.
Through pure determination and better oral hygiene, Daryl landed a job at Skin Diver about two years ago. It was the perfect combination of words and water. Today, he is allowed to travel to places like Cabo, where he dives and stares at billboards, sounding out new, foreign words.
Days Five and Six:
Wet All Day
We awaken in our room, which we have dubbed the ice cave. We crack open the sliding glass door, and within five minutes, we are sweating. After slathering our bodies with sunscreen, we make the now ritualistic march to the dive shop. We all have the shakes. It has been nearly 24 hours since we dived last. Eric Hanauer is here, as well as Justin, Dave, Robin, Will and John. And all the other hard-core Cabo divers. Except one. Tobin has been Lenny-fied. We are looking into having both their C-cards revoked.
Within five minutes we are on site at the Wall, skirting the top of a 2,000-foot plummet. We are cruising the seafan and gorgonian covered drop-off at 120 feet. We find brilliantly colored nudibranchs scattered along the surface of the rocks. We slowly ascend as we move along. At about 90 feet, a few of us leave the comfort of the reef and swim out into the blue void and are rewarded with a brief manta encounter. Later, at about 60 feet, a large school of Blue-striped Grunts slowly circles our rising bubbles and Sergeant Majors and High Hats dart in and out of the rocky bottom. At about 25 feet we hit the final thermocline, and the water temperature is reminiscent of a hot tub. During our safety stop, we hover above a large sand flat and discover a group of extremely skittish Garden Eels poking their heads out of small burrows in the sand.
Out in the blue off the Wall.
For the second dive, we explore a tumbling reef off Pelican Rock. Sergeant Majors are out in force and colored a brilliant blue for mating season. They zealously guard their nests from hoards of butterflyfish trying to eat their eggs. Moray Eels seem packed and curled into every crack in the reef. Cortez and Emperor Angelfish and trumpetfish hang in the water column as if suspended by invisible strings. At one point we come upon a large octopus, who had wedged a dead fish twice his size beneath a large rock and is chowing down. After nearly an hour underwater, we finally surrender to the laws of physics and ascend.
The surface interval starts now!
As no more dives are planned, and we have a couple of hours before Eric Hanauer's slide presentation, we make plans to meet at the pool. But our first priority is food. The divemaster points us toward a locals' only kind of tacqueria. Until you have eaten at a local (and usually mobile) tacqueria, you have not really been to Cabo or even Mexico. It's a gastronomical risk. Most times worth it on one end; sometimes not so much on the other. But that's what adventure is all about. And one thing is guaranteed--Tamara, Tiffany and Michelle did not eat here. Three greasy chicken tacos later and we are feeling pretty satisfied. Our girth is no longer in danger of shrinking. It is time to hit the pool.
Daryl and Robin stay in the shade.
Show and (Don't) Tell
Still wrinkled from our lengthy soak at the resort, we find ourselves bouncing through Cabo in a taxi to Hotel Palmar for Eric's slideshow. As said before, Eric has been coming to Cabo and Baja for longer than most of us have been diving, so if there's anyone who knows the lay of land and sea it's him. His slideshow is incredible (mantas, sea life, California Sea Lions, desertscapes and everything in between), and his stories of traveling through Baja inspire even the most luxury-minded Fiesta-goers to hit the road and take a long dive and drive tour of this rugged, south-of-the-border country. His comments even caught the ear of a reporter covering the Fiesta. She immediately grabbed him for a long interview for the local paper.
Has the party started?
After the slideshow the Fiesta is officially over, so we head to a restaurant called the Trailer Park to celebrate and unwind. Here we find Lenny and Tobin. They spent the day "relaxing." Whatever that means. The food, when it comes, comes in massive heaps: too much to finish, too good not to. Then, we hit the town.
Lenny is found!
Cabo is famous for its nightlife, so we kickstart the night at the Giggling Marlin. A few jello-shots later and our entire group is on the dance floor, feeling the rhythm of the deep thumping beat. Later we go to the famous dance club, Squid Row, a collection of neon light, bass beats and gyration. Even the locals come here. It's packed to the gills, and we dance ourselves to exhaustion before finally heading back to the ice cave.
Eric Hanauer is interviewed for the local paper.
The Good, The Bad and The Extremely Dirty
A night on the town.
The next day dawns late. We have several hours before we need to get to the airport, and we've been eye-balling the squadrons of ATVs heading into the desert every morning with envy. So we sign up and soon are bouncing through the desert toward Cabo's famous lighthouse and the sand dunes that surround it. Tobin, as it turns out, was born on an ATV--two wheels, spins, donuts, jumps--it's like an extension of his body. For the rest of us (Lenny? Well, you know.), just taking these babies at high speed through the trails and over the hills and valley's of the sand dunes for two hours is the most exhilarating way to off-gas we'd come across.
At the top of the dunes, we are treated to an incredible view. To the left, the sea. To the right, a vast expanse of scrubby Mexican terrain stretching out to the mountains on the horizon. Over the valley is a bank of clouds that casts a long shadow over the cactus-studded sand dunes. On the hot wind you can almost here the whistle of a spaghetti western. Our group shares a nod, and we throttle our four-wheeled ponies, racing over the hot sand as fast as we can.
Tobin tears it up.
It's almost as good as being underwater. Almost.
Sadly comes the end of every trip. And in an appropriately Hemingway-esque metaphor, it began to rain on our way to the airport. We boarded the plane, still white-skinned, but with the beat of Baja sounding deep in our souls. We left smiling and full of life, which is what a good Fiesta is all about.
Daryl wonders, "Do they wash these bandanas?"
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