Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I confess that I am a bus tour snob. And from some of the comments I have received concerning my Yucatán trip, I know that I am not alone in my elitist pretensions.
But I continue to sign up for Dan and Ruth's Mex-Eco Tours -- for a lot of reasons. Primarily, because I always learn something new (often, about myself) and I get to meet some fascinating people. (One of these days I will write a post about the universal phenomenon of strangers turning into travel buddies.)
One of the challenges of putting together a successful bus tour is to cater to the tastes of a group of people with disparate backgrounds and desires. This trip was no exception.
The reason I signed up is obvious. As an archaeology hobbyist, I wanted to see as many ruins as could be seen in six days (snakes -- why did it have to be snakes?; rethinking chichén itzá; end of days). For some on the trip, it was an opportunity to see colonial Mexican cities (a tale of two cities).
For others, it was an opportunity to get up close and personal with water. That is not surprising. All of us on the tour are beach people. So, Dan and Ruth wove in several opportunities to get us wet.
On our trip from Mérida to Valladolid, we stopped at a cenote to swim. As you already know from our earlier discussions, Yucatán is almost billiard board flat. The peninsula is a large slab of limestone and has no above-ground rivers in the north.
That does not mean the peninsula is devoid of rivers. They are simply underground. In places, the surface limestone has dissolved leaving what Floridians call sinkholes. Being a more poetic people, the Spanish call them cenotes.
The Maya used them as wells and cisterns to water their civilizations. In some areas, they still serve that purpose. But an enterprising soul discovered it was possible to persuade torists to throw their dollars down the cenote by tarting them up to be tropical swimming holes.
We stopped at this one -- Ik Kil.
If you are from Indianapolis, you might be reminded of The Quarry. Because I am from Powers, it was reminiscent of The Apple Orchard. We all have some swimming hole stuck in our nostalgia bank. Even if it is the YMCA.
Fresh water. Rocks for diving. Even a few wispy waterfalls to give an ethereal Hawaiian feel.
When we arrived on the Caribbean coast, our first stop was the Sian Ka'an Biosphere. The place is hue. 780,000 acres of preserved coastal wetlands.
We visited a bit if the northern portion on a boat tour across a sweet water lagoon and through channels bordered by grasslands. That is us at the top of this post wending our way through the maze.
Our goal was an island with a very small Maya temple. But this was not a ruins tour. It was a floating tour.
To improve their trade and agricultural routes, the Maya dug channels through the grass islands. Where commerce once flowed -- American, Canadian, and German bodies floated. The current is strong enough that a floater is propelled along the channel at a speed worthy of being on vacation.
Dan then offered us some free time electives. Time on the beach at our hotel. A trip to Playa del Carmen. Snorkeling at Akumal. The group gave high marks to everything except Playa del Carmen.
Now, I need to do a little confession. Even though I love living by the water, I am not fond of spending time in it. Instead of taking advantage of the snorkeling trip to Akumal (which received outstanding reviews for the reef, fish, and turtles), I stayed at the hotel beach catching up on my writing.
And that is a lesson for me. I came to Mexico for the adventure -- and to learn to not say "no." Obviously, I am not quite there yet. That Protestant work ethic grabs me when I least expect it.
But that is a minor quibble. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. The places we visited. The food we ate. The past we experienced. The universally pleasant people I met on the bus.
When we flew out of the Cancun airport to Guadalajara, I knew I had added one more layer of life onto what has proven to be a very wise choice to move to Mexico.
The question will now be: Will the rest of my stay in Mexico be solo? Or will I have some news for you in the next couple of weeks?
As Indy's father in The Last Crusade laughingly said: "I don't know. We'll find out."