Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cancun So Far

So far the trip has been great--while there was a little rain the first couple days, the temperature and humidity have been relatively moderate. My son has spent more time in the pool than I have, and consequently he looks like a lobster while I still look like a beluga. ADVICE: I read this on the internet and have confirmed: ordinary bottles of suntan lotion cost US$20 here, not just at the hotels but also in the convenience stores and drug stores. Bring your own, and bring plenty!

Today we took our first big excursion, to Hidden Worlds, about a 90 min drive away. If only the web site could do it justice, but go look anyway. :-) Their van picked us up at our hotel, which was nice--certainly nicer than the so-called "jungle buggies", which were just hoopties that got us from one place to another in the park. The jungle buggies reminded me of a smaller version of an army deuce-and-a-half, and were about as comfortable. Getting from one location to the next was quite the ride, and I'm sure I left a kidney somewhere along the way!

The first thing we did is ride the skycycle, an adventure in itself. I took some video (great shots of my feet pedaling!) and can post it when I get home, if I remember to. The skycycle rides ends just inside a cenote, where we were supposed to be able to snorkel--but recent rains had flooded it too much, and there wouldn't be enough room to stick your head out of the water without bumping it on the ceiling! Since snorkeling in a cenote is a big part of the package, it had to come later in a different cenote, and we just skycycled back to "base".

There we did a jungle zipline, which was ordinary enough, but the 2nd zipline was called "Splashdown". Yes, we ziplined into a cenote and the ride ended with a splash in the water at the bottom. It was so refreshing! We skipped Avatar, the "zipline rollercoaster", as well as the rappelling.

Finally, as I was beginning to wonder if we'd get to swim, they put us in a jungle buggy and took us to a distant cenote. I was told that this particular one was shown in the BBC series Planet Earth as well as an IMAX movie about caves; in fact, the IMAX folks paid for the lighting down there so they could take their spectacular shots.

We all put on life jackets and got masks/snorkels above ground, then climbed down a steep ladder into the cenote. If you've ever been in a cave, you know how impressive they can be, and this one did not disappoint. What appeared above the water, though, was nothing compared to what we could see through our masks in the most crystal clear 74 degree water. Wow! What might appear to be a rock wall above water would turn into a beautiful formation underwater, and might reach down only a few feet or a dozen meters, and the "room" would go off into the distance! Stalagmites reached up from the depths. Sometimes we'd be paddling in shallow water over what appeared to be a floor, and then it would drop away like a cliff--and without a mask to see underwater, you'd have no idea. Small fish, only an inch or two long, swam near us the whole time. Roots from the trees above ground reached down from the ceiling and into the water, appearing to be ropes or nets. I was enthralled.

Our drive back to Cancun was yet another adventure for me. On the way to Hidden Worlds we detoured around the town of Playa del Carmen because of road construction, but on the way back we drove through it. What a difference 21 years makes! In 1989 a friend and I took a cruise, and on the shore excursion to the Mayan ruins at Tulum we were dropped off in Playa del Carmen to meet our tour bus. Back then, Playa del Carmen was a tiny little fishing village, a stereotypical Mexican town with dusty streets and no building over 2 stories. The road to Tulum, on which our bus barely seemed to fit, was a two-lane paved road with a a jungle canopy that seemed ready to devour it at any time. Today Playa is a booming place, full of luxury hotels and resorts and townhouses--and even a Sam's Club! That tiny road is now a nice freeway with 3 lanes in each direction, and the jungle is kept at bay :) I dare say that if I were to go back to that exact spot where we met our tour bus I almost certainly wouldn't recognize it; in fact, that "village" probably doesn't even exist anymore. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, or something like that.

Tomorrow will be another day at the pool, and tomorrow afternoon I go to pick up the rental car. Monday we take that car to Chichen Itza!

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