In our last blog, we described a cenote that we'd just dived as having such a small opening that it resembled a well.
As it happens, today we are stunned to learn that our dive site is an honest-to-goodness well, a tiny rectangular hole in the ground with sheer stone walls on all sides. It is called Kamun, and it sits on the grounds of a decrepit, 17th-century hacienda that had once prospered from the cultivation of sisal but is now nothing but rock piles -- and a magical well that leads to a deep cenote. It had undoubtedly served as the water source for the property, but it is doubtful the owners knew about the splendors contained in the deep, dark waters below.
As we gear up, we notice that our crew is waving long-handled, flaming torches around the mouth of the well. Could this be an ancient Maya ritual to wish us a safe dive? After all, the Maya used to believe that cenotes were portals to Xibalba, the underworld, and perhaps our crew is worried to see us cross over to "the dark side."
Apparently not. It turns out that the well is swarming with bees, and the crew is trying to smoke them out. We divers look at one another in disbelief. Is this, perhaps, totally insane? We are about to voluntarily descend into a narrow, forbidding well that is also packed with bees? But before we can overthink the strangeness of it all, we decide to take the plunge. After being lowered by ropes some 60 feet to reach the water's surface, we drop to our maximum depth of 80 feet. Our expedition leader shows us a trove of startling, perfectly preserved artifacts that help us gain more insights into the importance of cenotes to the ancient Maya.
Nearly an hour and a half later we are hoisted back up into the daylight, thrilled and determined to return to this underworld for more.
The full story of Michele Westmorland and Deborah Kirk's journey to the dark side will appear in an upcoming issue of Sport Diver.