Place split peas and water in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while preparing the vegetables.
Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium high. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Add potatoes, carrots, and spices. Stir and sauté for another few minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender (ten minutes or so). Add split peas, water, and bay leaves. Simmer for another 5 minutes.