Most amazing dive ever – Kouris dam / Cyprus
this time I’ll write a book again. So, get a coffee and some cookies ;)
Where shall I start? Actually everything began 2 weeks ago. I wrote already that we went on ‘Green Monday’ to Alassa (have a look at ‘Snorkeling in the dam’). Here is an old church very close to the dam. Or better to say now – in the dam. Because the dam is full and the church is ‘unfortunately’ located in the area subject to flooding. 2 weeks ago was the water up half the door.
We decided after that to come back and to go with a canoe inside, to make some pictures. That was 2 weeks ago. But when we arrived was the door completely under water already.
So, the girls went with the canoe one time around and I swam… a bit.
After that experience was the idea born to wait a bit more and then to go really diving.
Last weekend I went alone there, to check the situation. The church was now submerged until the roof. An other photographer (they come in crowds there at the moment) told me that this is the maximum level which the dam will reach. Its spilling already. :( Damn. But better then nothing.
But I got curious in the week and came back with Ira. So much for full! There was, at this time, still over one meter space. So the chances weren’t bad that the whole church will maybe submerge (except the bell tower of course). Especially since I found pictures in the internet where just the bell tower is out of the water.
But somehow that wasn’t enough for us… just to go diving there. Which would be spectacular enough already. Because I can’t find any report in the internet that anybody went to dive in a dam in Cyprus before already. Maybe we would be the first ones. And then even in the submerged Agios Nicolaos Chruch.
So, we pitched some more tales. I had the idea to “light a candle” in the church. That’s what people do in the church, isn’t it? :) Then we realized that our day X is the 17. of March… which is St. Partricks day… we got the idea with the hats. Alice got the idea of a bit voodoo… it became more and more funny :)
If you like a bit history… here we go.
Alassa is a village in Cyprus. The Agios Nicolaos Church was built in 1929 and restored in 1960. 1968 the authorities decided to build a dam to dam up 3 rivers. Unfortunately the village Alassa was in the middle of the area subject to flood and had to move to a near by mountain. The whole village was moving. The old village remained on the old place, ready to ruinous. Now is just the church and some foundations of some houses left.
In 1988 the dam was finally finished. The first time it was overspilling in 2004. This year it could happen again. Which is another factor to make our dive so special.
The only building which is left from the old Alassa is the church.
So far, so good.
The water temperature is 12 degrees!!! :) How cold that is I could feel when I went swimming. It was clear that it will be not a long dive. In, down, looking around, up and out of the water.
Our preparation time was one week. It is probably the longest preparation time for a scheduled dive of 10-15 min. Amazing. But we knew it would worth it. It would be an interesting and special dive. So many new experiences. Diving at a spot which is usually dry as dust and is under water only every 10 years!! Then the church in the middle of it (which was the main reason). There were no prove that anybody did a scuba dive in the dam before already… we could be the first ones. Then it would be our first fresh water dive (which is different to dive in salt water). Bad visibility and cold water. Also something new. Then diving with the buddy robe (due to the bad visibility).
So, tons of new experiences are waiting for us. That made all 3 of us the whole week nervous :)
My personal task was not that easy to solve. How to light a candle under water? Of course that is not possible. Then we thought about Bengal fire. But it is hard to get. Then… the ultimate idea. Electronic candles. I could wrap it in a plastic bag and they would be water proved.
I found some on the flea market. The last ones. But 2 are enough.
At the beach I found some stones – that the candles stay on the ground – and then sticking everything together… check. Works! :) Just need to find a way. :) This part was done then.
The day X came closer. Friday evening we were meeting at Iras place. Cooking mulled wine (my task of course :) ). The wine should warm us up after the dive again. We were not stingy with the dash of Jägermeister. :) Then we were preparing the St. Patricks Day hats, that they couldn’t get loose while the dive.
And of course we tried the mulled wine already. :) The day schedule were planed. 11 o’Clock meeting at my place, cause the dive shop is around my corner.And, who overslept? Of course me :( Mulled wine and going to bed at 3am is not a good idea. But I got ready so far until 11. Ira and Alice were there before time already and were waiting for me already.
Quickly filling some warm water in bottles and canister, to fill the wet suit before the dive already with warm water (which would hopefully help to stay longer warm) and for a shower after the dive. And then it could start.
First stop: Aloha Dive Center
Ira and me made our diving license here already and we know at least one person here. The owner changed over the winter. But Anton is still here. We were talking in the week already with him and he wanted to prepare our equipment. … But he forgot it. He was with a student diving when we arrived in the shop. And the lady in the shop knew nothing. What a great start.
But she was so kind and packed everything we needed, with our help. BCD, regulator, weights and cylinder. We were going to bring the cylinder in the car, as the lady said “Oh wait, we better check the pressure before you go.”. Ok, why not.
So, we connected the first cylinder to the maschine and … *pppfffffffff* … Seems like there is no O-ring in it. … No, the whole screw for the first stage wasn’t in the cylinder. Good that she suggested to check the cylinder. We would have taken it like it is… still half sleepy as we were. We took 3 working cylinder with us.
But then finally GO…
I just wanted to go as Anton came back with his student and came straight towards me. Checked what we took for equipment. … “No, not this stuff. That is no equipment which we rent out.” … What? We don’t have time! … Seems like he recognized it and said then “Ok, go. But don’t break it and that nobody will drown!” … Yes, thank you, we didn’t had the intention to do so. :)
But now, finally… we started.
A surprise was waiting for us, when we arrived at the church. The water level raised more during the last days… approx 1,5 meter. But the roof of the church was still sticking out of the water. And it was very crooked. How come? Was it always that crooked? … Don’t know. We couldn’t explain it. But more was the cold wind bothering us. The sun was shining, but the wind was really cold. Even with a sweater was it freezing a bit… and then we shall go in the cold water… and what when we come out again? The water temperature is just 12 degrees.
Questions upon questions. Doubts upon doubts.
Plus the dive shop owner was calling Ira on the way. We took accidentally the wrong regulator, which should go to the service and have no mouthpieces.
And yes, we took this one. :( Great. Becomes better and better.
To only solution … all diver will kill me now … was to exchange one mouth piece from an other regulator. Luckily have all regulators nowadays 2 2. stages and with it 2 mouth pieces per set. Now we had 2 sets with each one mouth piece. But it was not so tragically. Our dive would be max. 5-6 meter deep and one had still an octopus.
So, I smoked one, first of all… and then another one… and then we decided: As we are here already… :)
And so we started to get ready. Getting the dive equipment ready, checking and into the warm dive suit. And of course not to forget the nice fine rib vest, the sweater and thick socks. A good hint which I found in a diving forum. Not that they directly keep warm – we were still in a wet suit – but they block that the water flows through easily. So the warm water (which the body heats up) stays in the wet suit and the cold water from outside doesn’t come in that much.
Between all this preparation we made a picture here and there… and finally we were ready. Except … where are my underwater candles? Where are they? … At home… great :( Forgot them :(
Ok, quickly pouring the warm water in the suits… huiii… nice warm :) And then we finally started.
The church was approx 100 meter away. The way there was flooded meadow and path. The visibility at the shore was equal zero. We had to feel the way at the first meter. But it became quickly deeper and we could swim soon. The dam water was filling up slowly the suit and it was…. COLD!!! :)
After 3-4 minutes swimming we reached the church from the side, direct at the entrance door (it have 3). Quick checkup and we went down in the ‘depth’. :)
It was amazing. Absolutely different as in the sea. No cristal clear water / blue water with a visibility of 30-40 meter. Here we were in a green sludge with a visibility of maybe 4-5 meter.
The other both were just black silhouettes within a green sauce. And who thinks now that this is disgusting… don’t know what I mean. :) I loved it. It was something different, something new.
The church was now direct in front of us. Under water… as we. We could start. Also the water in our wet suit became warm now. Just the face had no protection.
We “entered” the church… one by one swam through the door. And as we found out quickly… we had to take care what we do with our fins. A few wrong movements and the visibility become rapidly worse. On the floor and especially on the plants were a lot of suspended particles. One fin flap and they would mess up our visibility.
We swam around inside the church and had a closer look to the remaining of the building. It was just awesome… to dive in a church… but also could have been any other building. Absolutely stunning.
Now we could also see why the roof was still out of the water and why it was so crooked. One side of the roof become loose and was drifting on the surface now (wooden beam construction). On the other side of the roof were still roof tiles, which weighted the construction down and prevented it from completely floating away.
So we had to be careful. Also it seemed like that the roof damaged the walls when it went off. There were not wholes in the walls, which wasn’t there before.
The church itself is empty inside. Nothing is left from it’s earlier interior decoration. A few roof tiles, rubbish and stones were lying on the floor. But nothing else to see.
We exited the church through the back door and swam outside behind the building. Here are 4 big trees, which were as well under water (partly). Also is there a wall around the plot of the church, which run behind the trees.
That was awesome (everything was awesome! :) ) … trees under water. That is so surreal. And exactly that is it what makes it interesting. Just days ago was this whole area absolutely dry. The green meadow, colorful flowers, a church in the landscape… and now we are diving here and everything is under water.
And then… something was moving in the tree… couldn’t be a bird :) No… fishes ‘flying’ now through the branches of the trees. And I am not sure who was more looking stupid… the fish or we. At least they didn’t reacted at all at the beginning and were just looking. We did the same… and then they passed us very relaxed. Absolutely stunning! Fishes swimming through trees. Soo surreal!! :) (You need to see the movie of the dive to know what I mean!)
We surrounded the church and tried to have a look at any corner. Do not miss anything. :) Unfortunately there was not much to see. We wasn’t going further as the wall. But we found a small toilet house behind the church, in which still the (broken) toilet bowl was.
After the first round we came back to the entrance in front of the church. And we decided that we are not freezing to much yet. So we went for another round around the church.
When we came back the 2. time we were cold now and we decided that it is time to turn around and get out of the water.
That feeling when we came out of the water is just indescribable. Just absolutely awesome! :)
We did it! We went despite the 12 degrees cold water and even went longer then expected. We estimated approx 15 minutes. The plain dive time was 25 minutes. Plus swimming to the church and back. So we were around 30 min in the water.
We have were so brave to dive in fresh water and in poor visibility. And we had a breathtaking dive where probably nobody has been before diving. I call that completely succeeded. We could do such things more often. Let the tourists splash in the sea and we better discover :)
We had to be fast now. Getting out of the wet suit and in the warm, dry clothes… plus some hot wine of course. That shouldn’t be missed in this situations. ;) In addition, we needed something to drink on our success. So two times very very useful :)
Then storing the equipment into the car and off we were.
Brought back the stuff to the dive shop and then our ways separated… until the celebration in the pub in the evening :)
Finally, I must emphasize again: Despite all the difficulties and the cold water and weather that was the coolest dive I had, until now. Maybe it will it always be. No idea what’s coming … but that will be hard to beat. The location, the circumstances, the buddies of course :) and the experiences which we gained. Apart from the imperfect things, everything was perfect!
So, the novel is done. :) Following some pictures of the dive. The movie will take a bit longer. We had 2 cameras with us (of course! :) ). I will need some days to cut it. But stay tuned and don’t miss it. A movie says more then 1000 pictures and more as 1000000 words.
Update: Here is the dive movie
PS: Pictures are from Ira, Alice and me. Videos from Ira and me.
Wow :) I just found this page accidentally yesterday while preparing my self for my next blog post and searching for some more informations about flooded church and the Kouris Dam :) I was so surprised ending up on your page and than riding it consumed me completely! I love the way you write and express everything. I could not drink a coffee next to it ;) there was so much passion and action… I did see some videos about diving in this church before :) Will have a look now again if it was yours or something else. I found with Kasia this church accidentally while we were on our sightseeing trips in Feb 2013. That is really amazing place!
Yes, sometimes it’s surprising what we find in the internet :-) It was a day full of passion. One of the most incredible days in my life. I wrote the blog post still with this passion in my blood.
It is indeed a great place.