Underwater World

We are jet lagged! I imagine this is what it feels like to be on mind-altering drugs. Earlier we went to Tesco (through necessity certainly not desire). I generally avoid supermarkets. Life is just too short when you work full time to be faffing around in supermarkets in your free time, wondering how the human race hasn’t become extinct. If it can’t even handle a shopping trolley how on earth does it undertake more complicated activities such as, oh I don’t know, crossing the road or raising a child! Anyway, somehow today, in our multi time zonal state it suddenly became more bearable. I’m pretty sure I managed not to leave my trolley horizontal across the end of an aisle whilst I wondered off to (at length) ponder the virtues of Cushelle over Andrex as is the want of your seasoned supermarket goer, but I was definitely less spatially aware than usual and (joy of joys) pretty much unaware of the irritating foibles of my fellow shoppers. Maybe that’s as a result of post holiday relaxation, or maybe the jet lag. Either way, I shall return to online shopping next week because I’m sure both will have deserted me not to return until our next holiday, leaving me open to the possibility of committing hara-kiri with a carrot should I attempt to enter a supermarket.

We landed back down on earth with a bump today (and not one of a Dreamliner!) As well as braving Tesco, I’ve emptied both suitcases and my beach bag, put the passports away, hung up everything that didn’t need washing, filled and emptied the dishwasher, watered the plants, cleaned the kitchen and straightened my hair (but I drew the line at applying make up – one thing at a time, eh?) Hubby has emptied the bins, cleaned the cats bowls and changed their litter trays and between us we’ve done two loads of washing (including hubby’s uniform ready for his return to work on Tuesday) and now we’re cooking tea. There was a fairy for all manner of domestic chore whilst we were on holiday and I was hoping it might have popped in our suitcase to continue back home, but no such luck!

So, I’m going to live vicariously through my past self this evening and tell you about our excursion last week. We decided we’d just do one excursion while we were away, partly because they were flipping expensive but mostly because we really felt the need for copious amounts of lying, relaxing, snoozing and general nothing doing. We looked at the options and toyed with a trip to Chichen Itza, but ultimately we realised that this would’ve just been a box ticking exercise and we weren’t all that desperate to see it. Impressive as I’m sure it is, you can no longer climb the pyramid, the pick up was at some ungodly hour and it would’ve meant spending several hours of our precious holiday on a coach. So, we opted for Underwater World.

Our pick up was scheduled for 7.55am, but by 8.15am we were still lounging in the sun on the front steps of the hotel. I have to admit I was starting to worry, but there was no need, the minibus had got held up getting into Playa Carm (as the locals call Playa del Carmen). There’s a checkpoint to get in and every vehicle is checked. This must be irritating for people coming in for deliveries and hotel staff etc. but it’s for safety reasons and did mean that the hotel felt super secure.

Soon we were on our way down the highway to our first stop which was a cenote, which is an underground lagoon. There are over six thousand cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsular and as there are no rivers in the area, they provide the primary source of drinking water. The water filters through the rocks when it rains and it is crystal clear (until, that is people go in and stir up the silt on the bottom).

We entered the uunderground world down a very steep staircase.

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Please excuse the swimwear! I promise I won’t make a habit of posting pics in such attire! You can see the steepness of the stairs and the concentration on hubby’s face to make sure he doesn’t fall down them!

There is absolutely no natural light down there once you’ve moved away from the entrance so for most of the time we had to follow our guide Ricardo’s torch as you can see in this photo.

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Luckily nobody asked what would happen if the battery died until after we’d got back to the stairs! Apparently it has happened and they all had to hold on to each other and feel their way around the rocks until they got back! Argh! When we were in the depths of the cave Ricardo turned the torch off and you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face!

The cenote is filled with stalagmites and stalactites which are thousands of years old, formed by the water dripping through. You have to be really careful not to touch them because they are very easily damaged.

This is one of the most special things I’ve ever done.

After we scrambled our way back up the stairs we headed back to the highway down the bumpiest road I’ve ever known. Halfway down we suddenly stopped to the cry of ‘tarantula!’ Somehow our driver had spotted this little (big) fellow crawling around at the side of the road.

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I’m not the biggest lover of spiders, although I’ve got better since I’ve been gardening more and coming across all manner of creepy crawlies, but I was very impressed by this guy. Now, I’m not saying I want to find one of these in the bath, but I find them a lot less shudder-inducing than the common house spider, because they don’t scurry. They’re too big for scurrying! You can see some scale in the next photo.

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Another minibus was heading towards the cenote and they pulled over when they saw the commotion and the driver picked the tarantula up!

Brave guy!

We carried on and headed to our final stop, a beautiful beach where went snorkelling. Unfortunately I don’t have photos because we had to leave our belongings in the minibus because there were no lockers, but imagine Caribbean paradise and you’ll be part way there!

We suited up in our life jackets and snorkels and followed Ricardo into the water. There’s no guarantee of seeing turtles because they’re not in captivity, they’re free to swim wherever they please. Apparently ten years ago you’d be likely to see close to a hundred on a good day, but now you’re lucky to see five or six.

We were reasonably lucky, we saw three.

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These aren’t the actual turtles that we saw. Well, they might be, but I didn’t take the photos, they were in a photo package that I bought of the day. They’re pretty close to what we actually saw.

It’s very serene when you’re floating around looking down at turtles, not able to hear anything because your ears are below the water. Very calm.

Sadly some of the turtles are getting cancer because of the chemicals that we, the human race, are putting into the sea. I couldn’t see any evidence of it on the turtles we saw (apparently they get white tumours) but it really makes you realise that we need to change our ways for the good of the animal kingdom, and the planet as a whole. Obviously we need to wear sun protection, but there are animal safe products available. There are alternatives to many plastic consumables.

As well as the turtles we saw two sting rays, an adult (mummy?) and a baby.

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Again, not my photo, but a good likeness.

This was an absolutely brilliant day! I’m so glad we chose this over Chichen Itza, we have amazing memories that we can cherish forever.

 

Back to Blighty with marvellous memories

Is it Saturday? It is according to my Fitbit which has found its way back on to my wrist for the first time in a few days, but it feels like I’ve lost a day somewhere over the Atlantic. Were we really sitting on our balcony in Mexico this time yesterday? It’s five hours behind in Mexico which makes it 11am, so yes we were.

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Look at that blue sky!

The journey back was largely uneventful. We were on the Dreamliner again, and we had a tailwind most of the way back. At one point it got up to 138mph so despite taking off a few minutes late, we landed fifteen minutes early. The pilot told us the downside of a tailwind is likely turbulence, but luckily we didn’t get any to speak of.

I was poised with my phone to take photos of the ambient lighting on the plane that I told you about here, after I was too busy marvelling at the colours on the way out to remember to take pics.

I don’t really know where to start telling you about Mexico. The hotel, the Riu Tequila, was lovely. It had four pools, one with a swim up bar ….

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… and tables and stools in the water. Apologies for the photo – I took this at night because it was always busy during the day.

One small pool which was next to the separate children’s pool which we didn’t frequent, and finally the pool which, happily, was closest to our room and had sunbeds in the water as well as nestled under the palm trees.

The service in the hotel was amazing. The staff, from the cleaners to the bar staff to the grounds men, worked tirelessly. We didn’t want for anything all week and the grounds were always spotless.

There was one main buffet restaurant which was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner …

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… and there was also the 24 hour Sports Bar in case you were peckish at four in the morning (we didn’t go in here).

The food in the main restaurant was good with plenty of choice. It was nice to get home and have a balanced meal though because I do find you end up with weird concoctions from buffet restaurants.

There is some fruit and veg in there, but there is also quite a high proportion of churros!

In addition to the main restaurant there are four speciality restaurants. There’s a Mexican which you have to book in advance and is situated over the road in the Riu Yucatan and there’s a steak restaurant. We didn’t try either of these, but we did try the Italian and the Asian. We were underwhelmed with the Italian – the starter and desserts were still buffet style and the choice of mains was very limited.

The Asian was a real disappointment. It was completely self service apart from the drinks and most of the dishes were the same as the Asian options served in the main restaurant, but without the additional choice. I’m glad we checked it out, but I wouldn’t go back.

In the main restaurant there were always fruit sculptures.

The animals in the resort were a massive highlight, and I’d go so far as to say that they went a long way to making our holiday the special break that it was. I’m missing the coatis already. There is now a high proportion of coati imagary on my phone! For the first time in ages I used an actual camera as well to make use of a better zoom. Unfortunately it gave up life towards the end of the holiday, but I still managed to get a few good shots.

I’ve already shown you some coati pics, but I’m going to delight you with some more because they’re just so cute that they deserve multiple mentions.

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There’s quite a marked difference in size between the male and female coatis, and there were a few teeny tiny babies. It was quite hard to get good photos because they don’t always stay still for very long. As the sign shows, the hotel encourages guests not to feed the coatis, and on the whole this is adhered to, but we did on one day have crisps by the pool and dropped one. The nearest coati gobbled it down in a milisecond and then realised that my bag contained the open bag of crisps so tried to pinch it! They do it in a very cute way though and aren’t at all threatening or intimidating.

They have a very sweet tooth, as is evidenced by the final photo of a thirsty coati drinking coke that it had pilfered from our sunbed. One also pinched hubby’s packet of Fisherman’s Friends which he’d hidden under his towel whilst he went for a swim. They have highly sensitive and expressive noses which they use to sniff out potential food sources.

After the crisp incident I got back to our room to find this.

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Silly hubby!

There are lots of birds around the resort. Some are relatively similar to those you find in the UK, such as these two which I think may be some kind of hawk and a jay.

Some are more brightly coloured like this Yucatan Jay.

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Or this woodpecker with its magnificent plumage.

Birds are even harder to capture with the camera so I only managed to get photos of a small proportion of the birds that we saw. As well as these we saw bright yellow parroty type birds and flamingos flying over, high up in the air, in formation like geese do.

The first animal we saw on our arrival at the hotel was what we thought was a capybara.

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It turns out that it’s not a capybara, but another, smaller kind of rodent, the Mexican agouti. These were very shy, and we only saw them a couple of times. They wouldn’t approach you, unlike the coatis who weren’t wary at all. This photo was taken from our balcony. The little agouti was seemingly unaware that we were looking down from our balcony so it happily went about its business of breaking into this juicy fruit and enjoying a late afternoon snack.

I thought we’d see large lizards, but I only saw one tiny one. Maybe the coatis have kept their numbers down. If you squint you can just about see it hanging on to this tree, just by the sun bed.

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There was a big moth on the wall outside our room for three days, with beautiful camouflage colours.

There are a couple of other animals that I want to tell you about that we saw on the one and only excursion that we went on, but I’m intending to do a separate post on that soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday. I’m off to bed now to try and combat the old jetlag.

Mexico in Mexico

I can’t actually believe that tomorrow is our last full day here and that soon I’m going to have to contemplate wearing shoes, drying my hair and, you know, adulting!

As I write this I am lying on a sunbed, with my wireless headphones (thank you NLMK) pumping my holiday playlist into my lugholes, barely inches from a very inviting swimming pool. There are guys and gals regularly wandering past asking me if I’d like a tequila sunrise, a pina colada or any other manner of delectation.

Of course, we could’ve chosen to go and imbibe our choice of poison at the swim-up bar in the next pool, but we prefer the quieter more relaxed vibe of this pool (and we’re drinking Diet Coke so really no need of swim-up bars).

There are coatis wandering around in the foliage behind me, cats lounging in the shade trying to keep cool, tropical birds chattering away to each other in the trees above me and occasionally a flamboyance of flamingos soaring high over head.

Spot the imposter!

This truly is an animal lover’s paradise. Not so good for those not so fond of the fluff and the feather, but really, we’re in their home, not the other way round. A guy flicked water at a coati yesterday on purpose as he got out of the pool (the guy, not the coati). The coati didn’t give two sniffs of his turned up snouty nose and carried on about his important business of snuffling and being cute, but hubby and I were both incensed (in a most internal and private British way).

We’ve had such a fantastic time (and it’s not over yet). We really are so lucky that we have the means and the opportunity to take holidays like this every so often. The luxury of doing nothing, or everything, depending upon your mood is something to be thankful for. Admittedly we’ve spent the vast majority of our time doing the nothing rather than the everything, that’s exactly how we wanted it.

We went to the beach one day. I couldn’t tell you which day as I have very little comprehension of time at the moment. It certainly wasn’t yesterday, because yesterday was somewhat spectacular, but more of that at a later date when I have photographic evidence. Maybe it was the day before? Maybe not. Who really cares?

The beach is just over the road, through one of the sister hotels (where you can also make use of their all inclusive facilities). We walked over, down a lovely sheltered promenade, but for the infirm, over-heating or, dare I say it, exercise-shy you can jump on a golf buggy to be deposited a stone’s throw from the white sands.

The beach was very pretty, although, I think hubby and I have been spoilt by the indescribable, and untouched, beauty of the Maldives and any other beach will now struggle to match it. Still, first world problems and all that.

Hubby went snorkelling but reported slim pickings (or should that be viewings?) on the fish front. I had a bit of a paddle. We stayed at the beach until lunchtime and then headed back along the promenade to our hotel. The only shade on the beach was provided by palm trees and the sun beds were somewhat crammed in and the humidity was high so we were in need of a few minutes of air conditioning to cool down.

Today we could’ve joined in with a coconut party at the next pool. We politely declined due to a serious lack of botheredness, but I have to say, I was slightly intrigued as to the specificities of a coconut party. The entertainment staff promoting it were dressed a la Carmen Miranda, sporting coconuts on their heads, but I assume the actual party entailed more than careful balancing of fruit on one’s bonce. I wasn’t concerned enough to extract my derrière from my sunbed, but from what my ears could detect, there was much whooping and singing of the Macarena. Not sure what that has to do with coconuts, but whatever!

I was just interrupted by a passing band of coatis (I just guessed at the collective noun, but then googled, and I guessed right. Score!) This happens every day towards late afternoon. They’re around all day and evening, but they like to patrol the pool around now. Presumably they’ve learnt people are likely to have dropped (or disposed of) food by now.

This is a common sight. Coati bottom protruding from a rubbish receptacle!

Look at the teeny tiny baby!

Hubby has just gone off to the shop to dispose of another 160 MXN (£6.11) on Cheetos crunchy.

Totally worth it (even though we’re all inclusive), they’re amazing!

Anyway, silly boy left his Diet Coke unattended and a coati, having a very sweet tooth as we’ve discovered coatis do, has knocked over and pilfered said Diet Coke.

This really is a real-time post today!

It was supposed to rain today, but we’ve had about three and a half spots! Hubby is now back with Cheetos, so I think we may make our way back to our room before the weather changes its mind, and also before the dreaded mozzies come to consume our blood. So far I’ve managed just two bites (both before we realised they’re active in the day and therefore had neglected to liberally apply the deet!)

Having re-read my post, I realise that Eleanor Oliphant (fantastic book that I finished in two days at the start of the holiday) has rubbed off on me and my parlance is somewhat loquacious and elaborate (I did that bit on purpose!) Sorry!

Anyway, the coatis are now trying to steal my bag because they can smell my Cheetos so I shall vacate my sunbed forthwith! Chat later!!

That’s my knee bottom right of photo – they get that close when there’s a chance of dinner!!