On Day 5 of our trip to Playa del Carmen, we took the first of our two big pre-booked, planned “excursions”. The prices were high, which we knew, but we wanted safe, organized, no muss, no fuss options for this trip. Next time, we’d probably just hire a taxi driver for the day and it would be a lot cheaper. Today, we were doing a group too to Cozumel.
- Awake early, Laguna for breakfast
- Tour bus/shuttle at 9:15 to ferry, meet group
- 10:30 ferry to Cozumel Island, walk to bus, went to Chankanaab park
The trip to Playa del Carmen was pretty standard, stopping to pick up other couples along the way. Once in PdC, we were handed off to another coordinator who took us to the ferry, and then handed off to another coordinator who got us on the ferry. Kind of like “lead” guides for each little leg. Once in San Miguel,
Cozumel proper we walked along like kindergarten kids in a line to the bus a few blocks away, the only thing missing was the little rope to hold on to…definitely a “keep together”, organized outing.
The tour bus held probably around 40-45 people, and it was a surprise that almost all of them (except a tiny handful) were Canadians. After thinking about it a bit, it shouldn’t have been that big a surprise…we booked with Air Canada Vacations which linked up with BD Travel, and BD Travel hooked us up with this particular tour. I suspect any Canadian with ACV would end up with BD Travel who would likely book with the same tour group, and probably have a “batch” during the week that were all BD Travel customers. Ergo, mostly Canadian. Still seemed like a surprise though as most of the resorts had people from all over U.S., South America, Europe.
- J tried snorkeling — BIG fish (J*), baby ray (A*)
- fajitas on beach — tasty !! 🙂
I was really surprised when we got to the park (Chankanaab Park). J actually wanted to try snorkeling. I was expecting that he would want to swim and maybe put his face in the water with the goggles on, but a mask? Fins? Snorkel? That would normally be way beyond his initial comfort level, but as I said earlier, J is a fantastic traveler and he really liked the “new” stuff all week. I would love to say it was a roaring success, but well, it wasn’t, not in terms of “overall results” at least.
We got to the park and it was a bit chaotic to get over to where we were going to go snorkeling. We were the only group in the big group who had kids with us, it was all adults (another surprise to me). We took a little longer to get changed into bathing suits and neoprene outfits, and by the time we caught up, the “briefing” and gear distribution was already done for most of it. Andrea and I had snorkeled before, so no big deal, and we decided we would not try to get J to keep up with the group.
We grabbed gear (a bit confusing, mostly as the main group already had their stuff and the snorkel shop was wondering who the three of us stragglers were), and headed over to the shore. A little rigamarole, but we ended up in the water, the three of us together. J was struggling with the snorkel as the one they gave him was big for his mouth and he had a lot of trouble figuring out how to get it to sit properly, etc. Partly trying to fit too much in his mouth, partly just trying to get it to fit his jaw. But he tried it a few times, not great, but trying. And he managed to see a BIG fish (medium size grouper-style) that swam right between us along with a couple of other fish. He loved it.
Then he got a mouthful of water, swallowed it, and freaked out. I confess I was harsher than I should have been, but freaking out in the ocean is not an option. Something we had talked about before we went in, the need to stay calm no matter what happens. Easy for me to say, I wasn’t the one with salt water in my stomach. Blech. The descent started there…got him back in, no biggie, until he lost his mask and snorkel in the waves, and I couldn’t hold him *and* grab the equipment so down it went to the bottom. I got him propped up on the steps at the shore and almost all out of the water so he was safe (he had lifejacket on, but I was more worried about the roughness of the wave pushing him into the steps or something) and then tried to dive down to get the mask. While still wearing the BFD (buoyancy flotation device i.e. inflatable vest).
It was a gong show for me. I’m a big guy, I don’t sink in salt water easily. When I scuba dive, I need a lot of weight on the belt to make me neutral…some of that is the equipment, most of it is just me. I float. I tried a couple of times, no dice, even with the BFD off. Then I lost a flipper. It was about a size too big for me, and while simply snorkeling, that wasn’t a problem. However, once I tried inverting and kicking hard to get down, nope, it came off. And I couldn’t find and grab it fast enough to get it. I figured that I’d need the dive shop people to handle retrieval. Don’t get me wrong, we’re only talking about 15 feet of water, easy for experienced (and thin) snorkeler.
Andrea came back in then, and managed to grab the snorkel, but wasn’t able to go back down for the mask. Super impressed she got the fin! The dive shop people suggested one of the tour guides could get it when they came back, but by then, someone else in the group had already brought it in. We’re not entirely sure because J was done, and he and I got out while A tried to rejoin part of the group and just do a bit of snorkeling while we were there. She did manage to see a baby stingray, which is cool.
As I said, it wasn’t a roaring success for J in terms of a natural snorkeler, but it’s hard to tell too as it was “open” ocean, not sheltered, and the snorkel was more “youth” than kids. But he tried it, and he liked seeing the fish, which was great. He struggled with the mask, and we switched to goggles which worked better for him (which is also why the mask and snorkel headed downward, we were just “carrying” them at the time).
I have to confess I temporarily lost sight of the true success though which is that he tried it. No hesitation, he was going in and doing it. We had talked about it before going on the trip, and he wasn’t really into it. But once we got there, he was all in. So while we were eating our lunch, Andrea and I both made a big deal about how well he had done, first time, only 7yo and in the ocean he went. We also blamed the equipment for some of the “failure” aspects, and he was feeling pretty good about it by then. The fajitas / soft tacos helped too. Great little lunch set up by the tour, including even some fried tacos (we tried them at the Mexican buffet at the resort, but J didn’t really like them; for the lunch, he ate a bunch).
- Went for walk — saw crocodiles (slow, big ugly), replica ruins, large Mayan calendar, huts
The Park is a bit of an odd place, It has a large beach, an entry for open snorkeling, a small more protected area for other snorkeling/swimming, a dolphin experience area, a few gift shops, etc. A little bit of everything. They also have some replica ruins (i.e. fake) to walk through and the tour guides did a decent job of telling us some Mayan history. Some of their patter had errors in it, simple things here and there (like their understanding of the Gregorian calendar and comparisons with Mayan), but it was still interesting for the big parts. We also got to see a small crocodile area with three big slow UGLY crocs.
- Watched sea lion show — clapping (J,M), flip, singing (P)
The sea lion show is one of those incongruous “bit of everything” feel to the park. A little tiny mini-MarineLand/Sea World show with three sea lions performing. Jacob really enjoyed it, definitely a highlight of the day, including seeing the sea lions “clapping”. I was more impressed when they did a bit where it seemed like the sea lion was “singing” along to a lip-synch (hmm, do sea lions have lips?).
- Jeeps !! 🙂 (P)
- lighthouse (A) at Punta Sur, iguanas (J), 133 stairs, beach — big waves
- drove to ferry — hurry!
This part of the day was the highlight for me, and I’m counting it towards my bucket list. After the park, we did a convoy of Jeeps around the island. It was listed in the brochure, and it implied we would be driving them, but I wasn’t 100% positive if each group would get to drive or only some (i.e. multiple groups per Jeep), or if it would be all tour guides.
It was all individual Jeeps. Which meant I got to drive. An open air, top-down Jeep around the island. I’m counting this towards my bucket list of having driven a convertible. It was AWESOME. I loved the feel of the wind on my hair, even if the day was a bit dusty by the end of it. There was a convoy of about 7 or 8 jeeps (I should have mentioned earlier that the group of 45 split up into three smaller groups during the day) all following the tour guides who were driving a lead car with extra supplies in it (bottles of water, etc.).
We drove along a main highway until we got to a lighthouse (Punta Sur i.e. “southern tip”) which they told us was the South-most point of Mexico. Again, this is one of those “errors” that crept into their patter. I’m sure they might even believe it, they aren’t the ones who wrote the script, but a simple look at a map will show that it may be the southern tip of the island, but the rest of Mexico dips much farther south than Cozumel. Including the location of Tulum, which we went to the following Monday.
The lighthouse was good, 133 steps is a lot for a little 7yo, but he was game to try. We let everyone else go up, including Andrea, and then he and I started. He did about 60 steps and then decided he really needed to go to the bathroom. Umm, okay. Back down we went, passing a couple of people carefully on the stairs, and over to the washroom. He may have had to go, but the sight of big iguanas nearby was compelling too. After the bathroom, we wandered around the iguanas a bit until Andrea rejoined us, took a few more pics, and then a horde of buses of other tourists arrived. Time to go!
On the road again, we drove back on the other side of the island, stopping for a tequila tasting. J, A and I passed on the tequila and headed for a big beach across the road…the waves were huge and smacking people trying to basically jump into them and almost body surf. Fun to watch, but it was getting close to time to leave.
I forgot to mention above that when we booked the trip, we thought we would be back at the resort by 6:30. Because that is what the travel people told us when we booked it. Nope, they LEAVE Cozumel on the 6:30 ferry, so you’re not back to PdC and then your resorts until closer to 8:00. No biggie, we didn’t have any pressing appointments, but we were surprised during the day when they said, “Okay, we’ll be back to the ferry by 6:30”.
Except we almost weren’t. I don’t know what was going on with the tequila tasting, but the one tour guide (I think) got talking to the guys there, obviously friends, and we left late. It was interesting that they made a very strong statement about the drivers not having the tequila (i.e. don’t drink and drive), yet no one ever asked me during the day if I had a driver’s license. I had double-checked earlier that it was a standard transmission, but they didn’t seem to care if I knew how to drive at all. Anyway, the guide came hurrying over, we jumped in the Jeeps, and the convoy was off!
It was a hurried RUSH to get back to San Miguel,
Cozumel and we’re not talking like the city was right next door. We drove for about 45 minutes, I think, and while I was fine driving around the outside roads, I was NOT expecting to have to drive right downtown San Miguel Cozumel through side streets, regular traffic, etc. It wasn’t really bad, but it was STRESSFUL to do it for the first time in a car I didn’t know very well. Fun, in some ways, but stressful. I kept fearing some kid would run out in front of the car, cuz they do that (!), seemed like absolute chaos. And we had to keep stopping to make sure the rest of the Jeeps were still with us.
Back at the compound, we dropped off the vehicles, and we had just over 10 minutes to get to the ferry. Only a few blocks away, but I really wanted to hit a bank machine before heading back. Which I did while A & J headed for the ferry. Relax, we didn’t get separated.
I tried my bank card, no dice. Wouldn’t accept it. Okay, on to my Visa. It said I had the wrong PIN, but I only have two possibilities and it wouldn’t accept either. It also wanted 90 pesos for the transaction, or about $6 Cdn. A little steep, but whatever, I needed some cash. Nope, wouldn’t go through. Switched to my MCard. Only 22 pesos or so for that transation (WTF was the deal for the Visa?), or about $1.50, the same amount you would get charged using a non-local bank in Canada. Nice. I grabbed a whack of Pesos, 3000 worth, or just under $200 Canadian and then had to run for the ferry.
I’m a big guy, and I try not to run very often because my KNEES really don’t like it. It feels like the back of my knee slams into the front of my knee the whole time. And I REALLY try not to ever do it on pavement if I do have to run (playing games with J, etc., on grass is fine). But I got to the ferry, hobbled up the stairs with A & J (they were waiting outside the ferry so they wouldn’t leave without me, particularly as I had the wallet hehehe), and then we sat for almost 10 minutes before leaving. Didn’t have to run after all, but my knees were screaming at me. Not a good omen, I thought, for three more days of travel (but not as bad as my BROTHER, who broke his foot in a bizarre ironing accident while traveling to the DR!).
- Ferry, shuttle to resort
- 8:10 p.m.!
- bathroom !!! 🙂
- crazy hair mom (P)
- P watched Kodi, free wifi
Once we were back in PdC, I felt so bad for the cub. He had to go to the washroom, and they were closed at the ferry terminal (locked, out of order). We walked back to the shuttle (he wasn’t desperate, but we try not to give him any reason for accidents), nada for options. He said he was still okay, so we made it back to the hotel just after 8:00 (a very full day!), and we all rushed to the bathrooms in the hotel lobby.
Andrea came out and was like, “Why didn’t anyone tell me I was the crazy hair lady?????”. Until she mentioned it, I honestly hadn’t noticed. Mind you, she was sitting behind me in the open-air jeep, and most of the time I saw her up until then, she was wearing her sunhat. But she wasn’t wrong — she looked downright scary! I’m sure J and I didn’t look any better. We were dirty and dusty, and tired, but we also needed to eat. We hit the regular buffet for dinner and then back to the room. J was out in about 3 seconds it seemed. He was with us one minute, alert, joking around, and out the second his head hit the pillow.
We had free wifi in the room, which I loved having I confess (a bunch of people kept going over to hang out in the lobby for the free wifi there, and I don’t know if they didn’t have a good signal elsewhere or they didn’t know the other network was free too for guests), and I gave it a go to try Kodi (partly to see if I would be able to stream anything in advance of figuring out any Super Bowl Sunday options). Worked fine…watched a couple of episodes of TV while Andrea read, and then we both crashed too.
A very full day. A bit rushed at times, a bit too “packaged” as we knew it would be, but overall, a pretty great day. J’s highlight was the sea lions, A’s probably the sting ray, and the Jeeps for me.
To quote Calvin and Hobbes, “The days are just packed”.