Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013, Day 320 - Refreshing

This was the latest of our mornings to meet our guide Rosalia.  She was generous enough to let us sleep in as we weren't meeting up with her until seven o'clock.  Well, really, she is doing as we asked because we wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible and on Sunday's the archeological zones are free to Mexican citizens so they can get quickly become overrun as the day wears on.

So we dragged ourselves out of bed yet again and hurried out to door.  Rosalia greeted us with her customary smile and we set off south to Tulum.  On the way there was a partial road closure for the cycling leg of a triathlon but it did little to slow our progress.  Tulum was a major trading center and reached the height of influence from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries.  Built at the top of a oceanside cliff, the rest of the city is encompassed by defensive walls.  The god most favored here is the descending god and he is featured more prominently in Tulum than anywhere else.  Scholars have pointed out the architectural similarities to Chichen Itza though this is a much smaller site and as such is scaled down appropriately.

We spent a nice morning wandering the manicured grounds.  It is so tidy it has the look of a golf course but with the remains of an impressive Mayan city on the green.  There are iguanas everywhere and they were basking in the warmth of the early morning light.  I, of course, recruited them into my army to overthrow the dictatorial management of our hotel and when the cause was explained they readily agreed to help.  There really are some beautiful vistas at Tulum and we got to enjoy most of them before too many people arrived.  There are also two beaches that are part of the grounds but only one is accessible and only by a long winding set of stairs.  The other beach is closed to the public as it is a favorite nesting site of sea turtles and, to preserve the integrity of their nests, it is off limits.

By the time we were gearing up to leave hordes of people we pouring through the entrance.  It was like an infestation, swarms of visitors descending on the grounds and the four of us fled.  Once back to the car we started out to visit another cenote.  There are countless cenotes that dot the Yucatan peninsula and they are connected by an underground river system.  Explores have been able to swim from the ocean back to the ocean although there are many that are branches off the main waterway and hence only partially connected.  Our destination was Cueva Blanca, part of the Sac Ac Tun cenote system.

We left the highway and pulled into a paved parking area which Rosalia drove through at a controlled access point.  From there it was a bouncing ride down an unimproved road for fifteen to twenty minutes.  Along the way was passed signs for a number of other cenotes but we kept on going.  Finally, at the end of the road, there was a small parking lot in a verdant section of jungle where we stopped.  We put our belongings away, grabbed a mask and life jacket, and started a short walk into the trees.  Soon we cam upon what looked like a hole in the ground about the size of a well and a ladder going almost straight down.  Without hesitating we made the descent and emerged in a large cave with a wooden dock from which to make out entry into the clear turquoise water.

It was, initially, rather chilly in the water but we quickly acclimated and it went from cold to comfortable very quickly.  There was a nice relaxing drip drip drip of water as it fell from the stalactites and the high pitched twitter of bats darting through the air to eat the odd insect.  We even saw a few swallows skimming over the water and making the small fish scatter as they passed.  It was much more lively than I had expected.

So we floated around, I didn't wear my life jacket but used it occasionally to steady myself to take a few pictures.  It must has been close to an hour relaxing and exploring the cenote.  Eventually we started swimming through the low areas and followed it for quite a way until we emerged in a little lagoon with a bit of jungle within the cenote and another dock to extricate ourselves from this sliver of subterranean paradise.

When we dried off it dawned on us that we had eaten almost nothing all day so Rosalia suggested a place that is known for the fish tacos.  Those two magic words were enough for me and I jumped in the car eager with anticipation.  It was a small place right on the highway and they had a big bar of condiments, a indisputably good sign.  We placed our orders and I had to order a little bit of everything including fish tacos and a chile stuffed with fish, battered, fried, and served on a couple of tortillas.  When our food arrived it was off to the condiment bar for shredded cabbage and carrots, avocado habanero sauce, and some fresh onions.  The food was great and the pile of fish and tortillas slowly dwindled as time passed.  It was a perfect way to end our travels with Rosalia as we have seen the sites most important and distant from us.

With our plated cleaned we started our return trip to our hotel.  It took about an hour and was mid-afternoon when we arrived.  Fortunately Rosalia hadn't left yet when we discovered we were locked out of our room.  Francene had to book a week at a time and today was the expiration of our first week so the staff kept thinking we were checking out.  Although we made a point to talk to them yesterday afternoon and again last night they still changed the lock on our room so Francene and Evi went to the lobby with Rosalia's assistance to get new keys.  Apparently it wasn't a problem because they quickly returned and we returned to our air conditioned sanctuary.

The last few days have been very full and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing, reading, and chatting.  We are here for a couple more days and we don't have much by way of plans for the remainder of our stay.  I think perhaps we should consider this the vacation portion of our adventure and take it easy so we don't get home overtired and cranky as sometimes happens.  Below is a picture of our starting point at Cueva Blanca, if you've never been it might not look inviting but knowing what a relaxing place it is I am already yearning to return.

Canon 1D X, Canon 16-35/f2.8L Mark II
16mm, f4, HDR of 0.8, 1.6, 3.2, 6, and 13 sec @ 100 ISO

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