Day 8 was our last full day in Mexico, and we had scheduled our last “packaged” outing for the day — a trip to Tulum (Mayan ruins), a visit to an estuary, and a visit to a cenote with underwater caves.
Tulum – took the shuttle bus
hot walk to entrance – J & P skipped tour and looked at ocean
tour described history, what it used to look like, etc. – VERY HOT – looked from cliffs near lighthouse, walked back to parking lot, no time for shopping, rushed, changed swimsuits, pay toilets, heat was brutal
We took the shuttle to Tulum, and while the ruins were impressive, it was INCREDIBLY HOT. I honestly can’t remember the last time I experienced that kind of heat. Jacob was wilting on the way IN to the ruins, so he and I quickly bailed on keeping up with the tour and wandered around on our own. Mostly we headed for the cliffs by the ocean, hoping for a cooler breeze. Definitely better than being out in the middle of the open area with no shade or breeze. Andrea did the tour, and then met up with us afterwards. We looked out over the cliffs, snapped some photos, and then had to rush back to the shuttle bus.
By the time we were back, I was almost done. I was definitely having problems with the heat (one of the side effects of my meds is greater susceptibility to heat, not great), and while I was trying to get J changed into his neoprene suit for swimming, I felt like I was going to pass out. I really wanted to just sit down but we were running late.
Snorkeling at estuary (Yal-Ku Lagoon, Akumal)
rained a bit, lots of colourful fish (*A)
J & P swam with goggles, J wasn’t going to go but decided it looked nice,
had to put shoes on while wet — yuck
At our next stop, Yal-Ku Lagoon in Akumal, the plan was for snorkeling. J’s experience at the ocean wasn’t encouraging him to go, so we thought we’d sit that part out next to the water. Until we saw it. It was calm, it was beautiful, looked great. J changed his mind, and I went back to the van to get a lifejacket for him, his goggles, etc. It was a bit of a gong show getting back to the van, getting the stuff by myself with keys that would only open one of the van doors, etc., but eventually we got in the water. For some reason, it never occurred to me to grab a vest or fins for me, so it was mostly me swimming around towing him in his lifejacket. We didn’t see a lot of fish, A did with the main tour, but we saw a couple here and there, and more importantly, J had a blast just being in the water. TOTALLY comfortable this time. We didn’t try the snorkel, just lifejacket and goggles and he loved it. (Insert arm pump, and a resounding declaration of YES!). We didn’t get any photos from the visit, but these are some from the web that show what it looks like:
drove to lunch, simple Mexican meal
drove to cenote, got lost! Bumpy road through forest, middle of nowhere
beautiful secluded cenote, “refreshing” water, swam under waterfall to cave, Fernando pulled Jacob on a floating buoy while driver Leo steered most of the others in group
lots of cool rock formations (*), sometimes shallow under water, semi-closed cenote
in open area, very high walls
lots of bugs
We left the estuary lagoon and headed “inland” to our lunch and the cenote. It literally felt like the middle of nowhere, almost 20-30 minutes off the main highway. I was relieved to see other vans near our lunch site, reassured me this isn’t a private dumping ground for tourists bodies! After a simple lunch, we then drove over to the cenote itself, and Leo (our driver) got lost. I don’t know if he was new, or what, but he went the wrong way down a road and kept compounding the error until it was clear to them they had gone WAY too far and we went back. Back at the turn, there was a sign giving directions to another cenote, but that wasn’t the one we wanted, so we took another road, and for a bit we thought we were lost again. Nope, this one was less “marked”, but no less beautiful. We tried taking some shots with an old-fashioned underwater film camera, we’ll see if any of the shots turn out, but it was quite beautiful.
Getting down the stairs to enter the cenote was no picnic though. Very steep, very slippery when wet, and I scraped my leg pretty good. J made it down with some trepidation and getting in the water was “refreshing” i.e. COLD. I wasn’t really sure what to expect for J’s comfort level, but one of our tour guides took him in tow, literally, and pulled him through the whole cenote. It was perfect. Again, as with Friday, J was the only kid in the tour group. As an aside, I would have thought that meant he was the “darling” of the group, with people fawning on them, but none did…we were pretty much all doing our own little thing, very little mingling in any of the organized tours. Not rude, or stand-offish, just not “bonding” either.
Our first test was going through the waterfall. I’ve swam near waterfalls but I’ve never had water dropping 30 feet onto my head swimming under them. J had already gone through, as had Andrea, and when the water was pummeling me, I thought, “ruh roh, J wouldn’t have liked that”, but he was fine. A told me later that the guide had pulled him through quick, so no big deal. Perfect! 🙂
There were areas of the little loop through the caves where it got quite shallow and I was wishing I had my water shoes on. It was hard to keep organized in the van with 12 of us jammed in, and have room to sort through our things when we needed them, so definitely a consideration for future visits with less organized tours and more “personalization” and time to adjust to starts, etc. It did feel a bit rushed at times.
Even without the shoes though, the cave formations were awesome to see. Stalactites mostly, some stalagmites, some columns. They also have wired lights throughout so not too dark, and rarely “small” enough to trigger any claustrophobia. I suggested turning off all the lights at one point, but J wasn’t too fond of that idea and it wasn’t an option anyway. We made our way back out into the open area of the cenote, climbed out, put our feet back into still-wet shoes (still yuck), and got ready to go again. Here are some initial pics from the web of the interior, close to what we saw, followed by our own pics with a cheap disposable camera.
Outside, the bugs were eating us big time at this point. Not horrendous, but worse than what we had seen up to that point and after two swimming outings, all my bug repellant was likely gone anyway. More black flies than mosquitoes, and some of the group got giant bites. We didn’t realize it at the time, but J ended up with bites all over his ankles and shins (we didn’t notice until the next night when he was changing).
drove back to highway and resorts
Japanese restaurant, reservations at 6:30
sat at table of 12 including people from Brazil, Barrie with cottage on 4 mile lake, Holland
miso soup, salad, delicious Dragonball cocktails (sake, white wine, 7-Up)
chef Alexander – did tricks with fork & knife (A), oil on grill, alight
cooked rice and chopped & cooked veggies, spun and flipped and cracked eggs, served rice and veggies
cooked chicken, steak (P), shrimp, and served it – yummy!
fried vanilla ice cream and mango pudding
I mentioned in an earlier post that one restaurant at the resort did accept reservations and in fact required it, and we had booked it (barely) for our last night. Reservations were at 6:30 so we had to get ready quickly after our day touring around. The reason for the reservations is immediately obvious — they have a set menu, one set of options and everybody has their meal cooked on the main grill (i.e. no extra à la carte options) and thus everyone in the group starts and finishes more or less at the same time.
It was fun having brief chats with the people at the table, albeit a bit hard across the grill (big half-square layout, standard for a Japanese restaurant). The best part was that someone asked us where we were from, and when we said Ottawa, they said they were from Barrie. Of course, we then said, we were originally from Peterborough (which is of course closer), and the guy then randomly jumps to saying they have a cottage near Coboconk. Since A’s parents have a cottage five minutes from Coby, it was like a weird random mention. Very fun, very cool. It didn’t result in immediate bonding, but it was cute.
We started with drinks, and they poured a “blue” drink into our martini-style glasses. Careful sipping revealed it was quite tasty. Upon careful questioning of the waitress, i.e. we just asked, she told us they were called Dragonballs — sake, white wine and 7-Up. I don’t like sake, I don’t like most wines, I like 7-Up. Why did I like this? I have no idea, but it was gooood. The second one later had the proportions different and I could really taste the white wine which wasn’t as tasty for me. J tried it, for a sip (!), wasn’t impressed. A liked it just fine too.
Our chef, Alexander, came out and introduced himself and then started into the showmanship side of the cooking. Twirling fork and knife, spinning lifters, etc. We got to see another chef do it near us just before we left, and while the routine was the same, the other chef wasn’t near as accomplished as Alexander. He started cooking rice for us, and chopped and diced the veggies while the rice was cooking. There were some flare ups to impress us (J wasn’t that happy with those, covering his face due to the heat), but he liked the show. Particularly when Alexander spun eggs in the air, flipping them around, and then letting them crack on the side of the flipper as they fell.
While the show was fun, the meat was awesome. The chicken was good, the shrimp was great, and the beef? The beef was the best I’ve ever had. I’d be willing to put it above some of the great bulgogi beef that I’ve had, and that’s a high threshold. It just melted in your mouth, releasing flavour wave after flavour wave. I prefer the overall experience of the Mediterranean restaurant the night before with the open air, ocean, view, etc., but the food at the Japanese place was a full two standards above it. Simply awesome.
We finished off with fried ice cream and mango pudding, both quite good. It wasn’t a long dinner, and everyone finished at the same time, but it was really great. A perfect “last meal” at the resort. The best part of the night though, or at least the best line of the night, was commenting as we were leaving that A and I were a bit surprised that J had tried and really liked the miso soup. His thoughts? That the chef had probably used the Miso soup broth from Epicure, that’s why he liked it! 🙂 God, I love that kid’s sense of humour!
bought souvenirs, stamps, wrote postcards at Nest
mailed postcards, packed
J had been wanting two souvenirs from the store all week, and we had held off getting them partly as they were more expensive than they should have been, and secondly, we thought he might find something a bit more authentic or tied to his trip. Nope, he wanted a dolphin key chain (with small stuffie on it), and a notebook with a small stuffie on the cover. I tried to talk him into getting the turtle notebook as he had seen turtles next to Laguna all week, but he loves dolphins. I mentioned that at least he had seen turtles this week, not dolphins (we skipped the dolphin experience as A and I find it a bit too traumatizing seeing the direct touching of the animals as opposed to just seeing them play, etc.). But A did the cash out, and I never saw what he chose until we unpacked it. I was quite surprised he did get the turtle notebook, I was really pleased he did. I think it was because I really liked it too, so thought he should get that, whereas I didn’t care about the dolphin notebook. And he was great all week. We tried to get him a t-shirt earlier at the lighthouse with an iguana on it, but they didn’t have his size, and he didn’t bug for a whole bunch of stuff that he didn’t need or want. Nor even bug us about these ones. We just told him we’d see how the week went, and if we didn’t find other stuff, we’d get those and he was totally okay with that approach.
We grabbed some postcards and stamps, and filled them all out while we sat at the snack bar (the Nest). J liked choosing who got which card, but he also liked watching some raccoons running around the outside of the snack bar trying to get into garbage cans. I confess it was a question I had earlier…there are garbage cans everywhere and they are not animal-proof. I figured they must make a mess a lot, but I saw no signs anytime we were out walking around the resort. For this last night, while we sat there, we saw a couple of relatively small raccoons — or at least, almost lanky, if that is a word you can use with raccoons, compared to the ones we have back home. Looked almost like long-legged cats. They grabbed some food from the garbage can and kept wandering. They actually came within a couple of feet of us sniffing around. I think they’re cute, but only a small step above vermin, yet I didn’t want J seeing them as something you should be afraid of nor harsh towards. They skedaddled with some instruction, and then one of the waitresses scared them farther. Of course, part of the problem is people feed them too, so it’s not a “winnable” war in an eco-resort. Not problematic at all, though, and it was one of J’s highlights of the day.
We mailed the postcards and then back to the room…it was time to finish packing! I don’t think I would schedule an outing on our last day again, although we did it a bit as the travel people told us the main attractions in Tulum and Cozumel would be busy on the weekend so we avoided Saturday and Sunday, but it was a bit much for our last day.