Today was something of a rest day. We were able to sleep in but really didn't because we've become so accustomed to getting up early. Most of the morning we talked and, when it was finally working again, played on the internet. We have a couple days with no plans but the weather has been so wet we're reluctant to try to plan too much at this point.
As the morning crept on we packed our things and left to meet our driver for the day at the front gate. Antonio was waiting for us and we leapt into his car and were whisked off to Playa del Carmen for breakfast. He suggested a local place famous for their fruit juices and we all shared a chaya, pineapple, guava, and orange smoothie. It was a really great combination of flavors and was not too sweet. We also shared some tacos, enchiladas, and chilaquiles. All were tasty but my favorite were the grilled vegetable tacos; vegetables as an entree isn't very common here so it was refreshing.
After breakfast we made a quick stop at the beach in Playa del Carmen which we hadn't seen yet and decided we probably weren't missing much. Beautiful white sand and blue water with tons of hotels and pulsating mass of people. Yeah, not our crowd at all. So we returned to Antonio and headed out to Chemuyil, a small town north of Tulum. Once we got there Antonio turned down a side street and soon the pavement ended and we were taken down a muddy rutted track where we were treated to what Antonio called a "Mayan massage."
It seemed to take forever but we finally found the sign that read "The Jungle Place." It is the home of a retired German couple Heidi and Joel who moved to Mexico from Texas is 1999. Shortly after arriving they were approached by someone trying to sell them a baby spider monkey. They took the obviously sick and injured monkey to the vet and once he was stabilized discovered there was nowhere to take the unfortunate fellow. So they went through the process of getting licensed by the government to start a sanctuary for this monkey and soon other victims of the pet trade.
Heidi told us that for every baby captured there are at least for monkeys that were killed. When a baby monkey is threatened the family group will come to its defense and they are killed by the poachers. Now their colony numbers about sixty and yesterday two more babies were brought in by law enforcement. Due to their new arrivals we were a little slow to get started.
First we were told a little about what they do at their sanctuary and how they got started. Then we were told that we would be introduced to some of the monkeys. Because the males tend to be more protective we would be meeting some of the females; those most outgoing and curious about new people. Before our introduction we had to remove glasses, jewelry, the contents of our pockets, all manner of things that the monkeys might steal. Once it was in their possession they wouldn't willingly return anything. We were also told that we could pet most of them but to be gentle and to remember not to push them away as it is an aggressive gesture.
There is one girl in the group that we were specifically warmed about, Luna. She is a rather pushy girl but is included in the group because her mother and baby sister love people and enjoy the interaction. Family groups are never split up, it causes them great distress so Luna gets included but she is really only in it for the treats that we are given to distribute amongst them. We were told that if Luna wants something it is best just to let her have her way and we were advised that she will touch, sit on, and climb over people but she does not like to be touched. Okay, it seemed a fair warning and a small price to pay to play with her baby sister Xbaal.
Xbaal is the baby of the group and she ran around, climbed up and down people, dropped down on top of them, and basically clowned around. Maya is a very sweet girl who moved from lap to lap and eventually decided that Francene had a nice lap to curl up in and nap. We all had the girls, maybe eight to ten in total, come to inspect us, sit with us, and I think we all had nice little monkey cuddle sessions. Some of us even got a little monkey pee on us as well. If getting hit with bird poop is good luck then monkey pee must be the jackpot. At least there was no poo flinging.
Heidi came by and would give us refills on treats. We started with biscuits, then were given leafy greens, later we were given cereal, then pecans, and finally raisins. People quickly became human feeding stations but it was a lot of fun. We all knew the fun was over when Luna came by, she would tap our hands and demand the contents, not a little bit, all of it. What princess Luna wants Princess Luna gets.
They allowed us to visit with the monkeys for over an hour and it was a lot of fun. They are very much like little people although maybe their manners weren't great but they all had a lot of personality. When we left the enclosure with the girls seemed sad to watch us go but it was getting to their nap time and we didn't want to cause a disruption. Outside we found baby Santana crying for Joel from his enclosure. Baby monkeys live on their mothers and since Santana is an orphan he see Joel as his surrogate mother. Once things settled down Joel went and allowed Santana to climb onto his shoulders and hang onto his hair. It was very endearing as Santana immediately settled down and was contented. Unfortunately since two new babies arrived last night he is going to have to share Heidi and Joel with the two newcomers.
We said our goodbyes to our gracious hosts and reunited with Antonio who drove us back into Playa del Carmen. Although it wasn't very late and we weren't especially hungry Francene and I decided to have an early dinner so that once we were back at the hotel we would be done for the day. Evi wanted to explore Playa del Carmen a bit more and although it sounded appealing we have an early start again tomorrow so I wanted to get to bed early. With that being the case we split up. Francene and I had a nice fish dinner and a little flan for dessert mostly because we haven't had any flan at all and this is Mexico, it would be a shame not to. Our dinner and dessert was excellent thanks to another great recommendation from Antonio an after we returned to our hotel.
Once back I washed off the monkey pee and spent the evening looking over my pictures and catching up on the day's events. As I said before, we have an early start tomorrow so I am going to sign off. Below is a picture of Santana pining for Joel. He looks so sad but he was soon a very happy camper.
Canon 1D X, Canon 100/f2.8L IS
100mm, f2.8, 1/125 sec @ 16000 ISO