Saturday, February 2, 2008
They say that of the vast hordes of people that descend into the Yucatan each year, the vast majority never leave Cancun/Playa/Cozumel. A small minority take buses to Chichen Itza. A smaller minority go to Tulum. We saw the ruins there. They were beautiful, especially being right on the water. But there were a ton of people, and while I'm gregarious to a fault when in my humors, I didn't really want to be around people this vacation. The iguanas had it right, though: lying in the sun on thousand-year-old pyramid, and not giving a shit as long as nobody with a fanny pack tries to pick you up.
The geology of the area lends itself these things called cenotes, which are essentially sinkholes carved out of the bed of limestone covering the whole peninsula. We spent an afternoon in one of these snorkeling around. I've never been snorkeling. I'm not a terribly strong swimmer, and I was perplexed at how I was supposed to manage things. I don't even float that well, and I certainly can't tread water. What I didn't know is that even a bad floater will float just fine face-down, which is where the snorkel comes in, and the fins help a great deal. Cenote snorkeling is essentially cave-diving: I didn't take any pictures that day but have the image of looking down through water a hundred feet or so, stalagmites everywhere, and fish the size of my thumb, mostly pink and blue, swarming about dodging the occasional sunbeam. I only got scared once, when I found myself deep in the cave, away from walls, and the water leak into my mask got unmanageable. It's strange feeling, panic on the horizon. But there was a stalactite nearby (there being only a few feet of space between the surface and the ceiling) that I could grab onto so's to readjust.
We drove to Chetumal in the southeast corner of Quintana Roo province, near the border with Belize, and found a cheap hotel. At this point we were the only gringos around. Most of my traveling has been in Europe, and with some exceptions in the Czech Republic I've never really been quite so out on a cultural limb. Cricket's spent a lot of time in Africa, though, including a year in Rwanda, so this was cake for her. I was looking at the maps ahead for the next few days, though, and seeing 500km stretches without gas was making me really nervous.