02 February 2010

Tulum & Xel-Ha

We decided to do more than drink, eat and splash for our last full day in Mexico. By then Jesse had gotten about as much sun as he could stand. And if we hadn't gone on an excursion, we would have had to spend the day inside. So we boarded a bus for a two-stop trip to Tulum & Xel-Ha.

I'm not sure of the current size of the existing city of Tulum. We toured the ruins right up against the coast. Our tour guide explained a bit about the Mayan language, the (apparently still plentiful) Mayan people and even that often misread Mayan calendar. She brought us to the ruins through the entrance for guests, instead of the entrance for sacrifices. We learned about the Mayan class system, work ethic and life expectancy. It was an highly informative half hour.

We were out there early and not bothered by the other crowds. We then walked through the ruins on our own. There were even steps down to the beach. Personally, I thought it disrespectful to get half naked and splash in the shadow of what was once part of an empire. I just did not think it was a good idea. I didn't have to keep Jesse away either. He had found other entertainment.

You can gather my opinion of the "throw rocks at iguanas" plan from the look on my face. Jesse was undeterred. He continued to chase and (in my opinion) harass that iguana even after said iguana scurried away. It apparently could not be helped.

Jesse on the altar for sacrifices. I'd like to note he dresses himself.

We left the ruins and boarded the bus for more hands-on learning at Xel-Ha. I can't compare it to anything else. If I had to label it, I'd call it a conservation water park. But I know even that paints an inaccurate picture. I'll describe what I can.

Waiting to get into the park.

First compost bin I'd seen.

Confiscated sunblock & other lotions.

Xel-ha is all about preservation. We were given wristbands instead of tickets. Our lotions were confiscated and replaced with natural sunblock that wouldn't affect the marine life. Gone were the folded paper maps I remembered from trips to parks past. The maps were up throughout the park. After our first glance near the entrance, we headed to the buffet.

Our admission included all you could eat and all you could drink. We were on time for the end of brunch and the start of lunch. That meant extra buffet variety. And then it was time to swim with the fish(es). We rented snorkel gear, put on life vests, and (I slowly) got into the water. Naturally I panicked.

I couldn't touch the bottom. And even if I could, I was wearing flippers, so I wouldn't have been able to stand there. I was not in control and I was not comfortable. Jesse - my mountain of support - was happily flipping away with his silly face in the water. Logically, I knew what I had to do. But it seemed stupid to throw my face into the water and kick my legs. Eventually Jen from the wedding group helped me. She held my hand and showed some fish who were swimming around us, ignorant of my internal turmoil. Thus, I became a snorkeler.

I saw lot of fish and swam right on top of a stingray. He didn't seem to mind, but I suddenly remembered Steve Irwin and wondered if this stingray was going to wake up angry. So I started to kick. But I wasn't moving. I was caught in a current. I was all alone, with a stingray possibly chasing me and only a waterproof camera to protect me. I let the current take me. I grabbed on to a mossy bridge and (while Jesse watched from the shore) Jen helped me kick my way to safety. She's great.

Pictures from the underwater cameras have not yet been developed. I mean who develops pictures in 2010? Eventually, this girl. But not yet. Jesse got to jump from a rope. He also jumped from a ledge. I road a bubble down the river. We did more snorkeling and I saw manatees. We had a great time and while none of us swam with the dolphins, I did get a few pictures of them being awesome. We did eat again and drink some more before going back to the hotel for dinner. We had our last group meal at a seafood restaurant where I had the best non-nugget meal of the trip: seared tuna.

Squirting lime on the giant lobster.

We sat through a stage performance of show tunes, then went back to the Star Wars club that night. I was exhausted, but it didn't matter. It was our last night of vacation and we were obligated to stay up late and take our last opportunities of irresponsibility. We were successful.

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