About two months ago my boss told me that I should go to a conference in Budapest. My first reaction was REALLY??!?!?! I get to go to a conference and it has to be in Budapest, a city that I have already seen and has no diving?
But Barbora cut my winge session very short: I just managed to say half a sentence before she interrupted and excitedly pointed out that I could go dive the thermal baths and the cave system under the city!
A quick search on the internet and I found out that even though I was not a qualified cave diver I could go with the local dive centers and dive either limestone passages turned into wine cellars, beer brewery and then secret plane factory that now have some flooded rooms or dive the entrance to a cave system also limestone passages but less “man improved and more just thermal water carved. I would have been happy to dive both but the timings didn’t work out so I could only dive one. I opted for the latter as it sounded more exciting and more “cave-diving like”. Here you can find the diving resources for Budapest.
I always wanted to get into cave diving but I was put off by the fact that unless you are already a dry caver then you are pretty much stuck with the DIR path. I was though hoping to meet the local instructor and find someone whom I would click with and from whom I would want to be taught DIR or not. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen but I still had an amazing dive.
I got off the tram and followed the road between buildings overshot the metal gate with the tiny sticker which read MJ Cave, walked back to it with my 80L backpack covered in flag patches. Tried to open the gate, but it was locked. Saw a car parked on the other side with two massive guys unloading wheel barrows worth of gear. I knocked, they lifted a flap and looked at me as though I was an alien.
Me: Could you please let me in?
Me: … … errrr I need to drop off my gear.
Me: Eta (the person I had been emailing with) told me to drop by
They exchanged looks and then very reluctantly opened the gate.
So no I was on the right side of the metal gate in a gravel car park for maybe 6 cars. There was a small pond with lilies on my right, an abandoned building covering a dry pool with a bright yellow chemical toilet blocking the entrance. I guessed that was the old construction that hosted the thermal baths (the building not the chemical toilets that were hosting the baths). But no sign of a dive center or friendlier people… I asked shyly where I could find Eta he said round the back of the building. My blank stare and he explained to me that I wasn’t looking for a building but actually I had to get into the dry cave inside the hill behind the abandoned building!
So I find my way in and there is a long lit humid corridor with lots of rebreathers and dive equipment. I was in the right place! Eventually Eta appears. She explains everything and I start to get my gear together.
Before leaving Norway I had re-rigged my regulators and sorted them to be for independent twin set diving and for wetsuits. I did think while I was doing this at home to just check that all the blanking plates were out on tightly by attaching it to my tank. But then dinner was ready so I was lazy. BIG MISTAKE! One one reg one hose was leaking as it wsan’t tight and on the other I had forgotten one blanking plate!! HOW EMBARASSING! I was already feeling judged by my DIY (rather than DIR) kit: my harness on my wing is indeed a single piece without breaks but mostly because the clip broke so I cable tied the sh**t out of it. :p
There we go feeling even more ashamed and out of place. I spiraled: Were the guys at the entrance right by giving me the you-are-in-the-wrong-place look? And oh my I am diving manifolded twin 12s with a steal backplate IN A WETSUIT! I will be soooooo overweighted and without the airbubbles in my feet my feet will sink. I will be a seahorse trawling the bottom! I dive without weights in this tank set up when in my 5mm compressed neoprene drysuit with an entire herd worth of merino wool layers and the pacific gyre worth of fleece! Where the hell am I going in my ancient skimpy 5mm wetsuit?!
Long story short: I was a ball of stress! Not so much because I was going cave diving but because I was surrounded by DIR people and I was DIW (doing it wrong)… everything. And making a fool of myself. Finally we hit the water.
I was heavy but after a while a sorted myself out, the environment around me calmed me down. As long as I focused on the beauty of the cave and my surroundings it was fine. It was a nice place. It was breathtaking. It was exciting.
We entered the water and followed a line along this narrow canyon that below us created some wavy smooth geometry that was light by the torches of the other divers. In some places in the limestone you could see the prints of fossilized seaurchins and snails. In one spot we then turned off our lights and Eta switched on the UV light so we could see the living critters. They are tiny and the UV light makes them easier to see as they are white so they reflect in the blue light but are hard to spot under normal light. The cave has 2 types of crustaceans (amphipoda) and a type of water snail (Neotaenioglossa). Not sure what I saw! They were too tiny and I am too blind! The environment was very relaxing and beautiful. There was a sense of peace in there.
I regret that my dive was ruined by how I felt about myself. When in all fairness and with the wisdom granted by hindsight: diving with a wetsuit was silly. I should not have been lazy and checked my equipment before leaving. I should not have ignored the voices in me when packing but I should have ignored them at the dive site when they were telling me I was a failure.
I would like to learn cave diving, I think I would really enjoy it.