We had been sailing on the ocean and came into a marina area that was different from anything I had seen before. This island, from the side I was approaching, looked more like a stone quarry. All of the mountain sides had been cut, with sharp corners. Even the area that had a floating marina affixed to it, had sheer cut edges. We sailed slowly toward the docks as we looked up at the mountains. There was a serpentine road that had been cut into the mountain, and as we approached, we could see a fuel truck downshifting as he slowly descended the incline. His motor revved as the driver carefully watched the road ahead.
With the sails now furled, we backed into a slip and tied ourselves off. Before I shut down the diesel I noticed that the depth meter showed 85 feet below the dock. I adjusted the spring line and stood waiting for a dock boy to greet us. The VHF remained silent as we stood beside the boat. I didn’t see a customs office or even a sign with the ports name. I went back on deck and yelled below.
“Shut it all down, and prepare to lock it up!”
“Already started!” she replied.
We walked to the office noticing that the only other boat on the docks was a small fishing boat that was unoccupied. The marina office was a weather-beaten collection of boards that had been nailed together over a long period of time. Many appeared to have been pulled from the ocean as driftwood. There was a small window air conditioner behind the desk chair that rattled loudly as it kicked on and off. We enjoyed the cool air as we waited for recognition. Finally I heard a loud metallic sound from behind the office and decided to investigate.
“HEY! I have a boat on your dock!” I said to the man watching the truck fill his fuel tank.”
I walked over and stood beside him. “Where is Customs?”
“Other side of the island. Don’t worry about it! Nobody else does! Sign in to the book on my desk, and we’ll square up later!”
I walked back into the office and signed us in along with the name of my boat.
“Come on! Let’s take a walk.” I took her hand and we walked up the steep incline leading up the mountain. First it went east, and then after a 90 deg. turn it inclined west for a long climb. It leveled out a couple hundred feet above the marina, and built into a crag in the mountain, was a small carry out with room to park two or three cars. We went inside and bought two ice cream cups and sat on his front porch while we ate. It felt strange-looking down the mountain at our floating home tied to the side of such a freak of nature. We bought two bottles of water and continued our trek up the road. At one point, the road turned to south-west and cut into a valley. After another half hour, we came to a train track. We stood looking at the tracks crossing the road. They seemed to go out onto the visible edge and disappear into the air. Maybe there was an earth quake, or maybe it was used to move cut stone. The stone that remained didn’t look like anything special. Chalky white with light brown streaks running through it. It felt hard like glass, and would easily cut us if we had tried to walk off of the road.
We decided to follow the train track and see where it went. It continued through valleys and cut away areas that went further than we had time to explore. In the shadow of the cut away in the rock, was a small opening. I looked inside as my first mate stood on the tracks in case I would be yanked inside by a monster.
“Yello!” I yelled into the hole. It echoed over and over as my eyes adjusted. I squeezed into the crack and felt the pressure against my chest as I wiggled to continue. I stepped into the cavern and the light from outside lit the vastness I had discovered. I stood with my back to the wall as I tried to see more. I picked up a few loose rocks and threw them to estimate the size. One rock hit water. I threw another very hard… and it too hit water. Finally I went back to the opening and climbed back into the sunlight.
“This is very cool! But we must return tomorrow morning with lights and some snorkel gear.”
By the time we got back to the boat, our downhill muscles were screaming. My toes felt like they were going to smash their way through the tips of my shoes. While I paid the dock fee for two nights, my first mate started supper on the boat.
Just before dark, we took a swim around the boat and returned to message each other’s leg muscles. As we sat in the cockpit after dark, the silence was eerie. Everyone had gone home, and we were the only humans on this end of the island. There were all sorts of strange sounds from the mountain that carried in the manmade acoustics like a loud-speaker.
We caught a ride up the mountain and hopped off the back, at the railroad tracks. The truck was climbing the mountain so slow in low gear, that he didn’t even slow down as we hopped off. Our dive gear was in bags, along with two large d-cell lanterns. I had also brought my dive knife and scuba flashlight. We carried it all down the railroad tracks that seemed to descend into the valley ahead. This morning, the entrance that we found was completely illuminated by the sun. I went in, and she pushed all of gear through the crack in the stone and squeezed in afterwards. We let the equipment lie while we carried the lanterns to explore the cave. We stood in a cavern approximately 300’ wide, two stories tall, and looked down into a hole with a small lake in the bottom. The lake covered 2/3 of the interior floor. We got our bags and carefully climbed down to the water’s edge. From here, the cavern seemed completely lit up by the beam of light from the sun. The water was cold but crystal clear. We sat a lantern on each end of the lake and started putting on our snorkel gear. The rock was slippery from erosion, and I started sliding and decided to call it a graceful entrance. She followed me with a scream as she slid in on her tummy.
We relaxed our breathing and calmly snorkeled around the perimeter. It was like swimming in an aquarium. It was the clearest water I have ever seen. I turned on my flashlight and aimed it to the bottom as we both looked into the abyss. There was no bottom? About then, a large eel swam past me and inspected my first mate before returning to the darkness. From the sides we started noticing much more marine life. Some fish were huge, and there was even a medium size shark that fortunately wasn’t interested in us. I figured at first that this pool… was fresh water runoff from the mountains, but in fact, I could taste a bit of salt in the water and the majority of the marine species we saw, was salt water creatures. Most of the time we just hovered on the surface and watched. The more our eyes became acclimated, the more we saw. At last I held my flashlight out in front of me and did a jack-knife dive. I went straight down until my ears popped the second time and could still not see the bottom. I did however stay neutrally buoyant long enough to look up at the surface. The sun still shot beams across the water and there seemed to be thousands of animals between here… and there. My lungs began to hurt and I remembered that I have to breathe. I ascended slowly watching the amazing show as I went, with the flashlight turned off. At about fifteen feet, I saw a creature that I had never seen before. It came toward me and then moved away quickly. I suggested to my partner that we do the same, and we climbed from the pit like a couple of drunken sailors. Our wetness increased the skill level of trying to stand on this polished rock.
It was noon, and the road was hot. There was no traffic, and after stopping for another ice cream, we walked all the way to the bottom. As we walked, I described all of the things I saw from below.
“I’m glad you didn’t tell me until now!” she said.
After lunch on the boat, we sat around and talked to the guys on the fishing boat. We told them the story and even where we had found it.
“We have lived here all of our lives, our fathers worked on the mining crews that cut away that stone. I don’t know what you saw, but there is no caves with fish in them here.”