Thursday, February 24, 2005

Where I Went On Holiday - Playa Del Carmen, Part 6

Originally posted on]

Day 4? I'm losing track

So, after we checked out of La Tortuga the night before -- why, you ask? Well, you see, I amb dumb, and when I made the travel arrangements, and after I checked them, and checked them, and was satisfied, I forgot about them. And then Nancy says "so, what day are we checking out of La Tortuga? I want to go on the Wednesday Tulum tour". And I say, well, here, I wrote it all out: Check out of La Tortuga on Wednesday, check into Tierras del Sol on Thursday. Why don't you trust me to do this right? Do you think I'm stupid?" This is before we left, you see, and tensions are running a little high.

She looks at the paper and is silent.

"God! You act like I can't do anything right!"


Then, carefully, "so, uh, where are we staying Wednesday night?"

La Tortuga! Can't you read? It says right here, Wednesday night -- uh oh.

Like I said: I am dum. Dumdumdum. No hotel. La Tortuga has booked the room. And we want to take this tour that day, not wander around looking for a hotel.

I swear, we've been married almost nine years, and this thing where I turn out to be wrong is getting a LITTLE OLD. It would be much more equitable if just occasionally she would be wrong too. But no; if you really want to screw things up, you need to get the master to do it. I am that master. And she thinks that just because I screw up, and she turns out to be right after all, that when I throw a little temper tantrum as a result that's poor sportsmanship. Women. I tell ya.

On the other hand, if it wasn't for her, I'd be sleeping on a bench. Yes, dear.

Good luck: Hotel Posada Freud has a room, La Tortuga will be happy to hold our bags, and we can take the tour after all.

Our tour director that morning is Mitch, from Mitch looks suspiciously like a California surf bum, but turns out to be a French-Canadian dive bum instead, a totally different species. There are no surf bums here; no surf. But Mitch is a wealth of knowledge about the area, not just tour-guide stuff but the general ways of Playa. Deceptively laid-back, he is actually pretty sharp, and funny, and as good a guide as I could possibly have hoped for. Miguel was our driver, and we had a motley collection of playa.infoers along with -- I'm terrible with names, but they were from Indiana, Michigan, Chicago, Rhode Island, and the UK (London and Glasgow).

On the way to Tulum, Mitch provided an invaluable lesson on Mexican highway driving, with Miguel expertly demonstrating the techniques. I have to say that for a first timer, renting a car and navigating highway 307 as a virgin would be a terrible, possibly fatal mistake; it was much better to have a skilled demonstration before tackling it ourselves.

After a stop to acquire beer (for LATER, what do you think we're all alcoholics?), we got the Tulum tour with a brilliant guide named Hernan. I liked him because he knew all the stories, but didn't try to pass them off as gospel truth. There are a lot of rumors around Tulum, and the Maya culture, that are not necessarily supported by the facts. For instance, the popular story that lights behind two windows in El Castillo guided Maya canoes home through the only opening in the reef -- if you can see one light, you're off target but if you can see both, you're right there; this story is cast into doubt by two facts: the Maya canoes were light enough to pass over the reef in most cases, and also no soot from lights was ever found on the ceiling of the rooms in question. I don't know if you get that kind of analysis from every guide. Hernan "call me Ernie" was great.

After Tulum, which we timed perfectly -- a zillion buses showed up when we were almost finished -- we went to Gran Cenote, and enjoyed a snorkel. A bit crowded for my tastes; I actually saw more fat ladies' butts than I did fish. But the caves were wonderful. Nancy would not concur, as she gets creeped out in any kind of cave, above or under water, but I am a claustrophiliac and love small spaces. However, Mitch's detailed explanation of deep cave diving, delivered next to the big map of the underground river system all across Quintana Roo that is posted up at Gran Cenote, made me realize the limitations of that feeling. Those people are CRAZY -- five air tanks, more than a mile of string, through spaces so tight you have to push your tanks through ahead of you? I'd rather walk on the moon in my jammies.

Then we went down the Boca Paila road, where we would be later staying, finding it even rougher than the guidebook said -- a team of Mexican highway workers were grading it, basically grinding it up into dust, which didn't seem like a good idea, but if I've learned anything in my life on earth it's "don't argue with road machinery". The private beach we ended up at was beautiful, even pretty than Mamita's, and with NO PEOPLE. There were a couple of hippies in the woods (including a rainbow-painted van with long-expired Washington plates) but otherwise pretty much deserted. Lunch was served -- some famous Playa-style barbecued chicken. Previous comments about disappointing food do not apply here; this was a great homestyle treat, with buttery mashed potatoes and rice and beans and fruit and hey, are those beers cold? Mmm.

Then another cenote, Cenote Azul, which was even prettier, and deserted, and I was starting to actually listen to some of the real-estate talk the others were throwing about. Hang on, I think I just forgot where I work! Nancy, where do we live?

So, if you're looking for a recommendation, take Mitch's tour, it rocks. It was tons of fun, very interesting and educational, and a great introduction to some of the places we would be returning to shortly. Which means that tomorrow's tale will not be about getting lost, or about getting into a horrible car crash on 307.

Next: Boca Paila Paradise

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