Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Last Day...

(originally drafted 7/8/10)

Our last full day went by too fast. I slept in, and when I woke up I was startled to discover we had a new roommate. The kitty moved too fast for me to get a good photo, apparently he didn't want to split the hotel fees, and somehow got out by climbing between the roof and the walls.

After that excitement we decided to walk to the Tulum ruins, but took a detour to stalk some crabs. At first we had little luck. I got too close to one that looked dead, thinking I had an easy subject, and it scuttled off. The rest we spotted were too far away to photograph. We walked a while and then decided to turn back, hoping a few more would have come out behind us.

We struck Mayan gold at this one puddle in the road. We got pictures (the ones posted earlier are actually from this trip), and video. We discovered if we stood still enough, the crabs would come over to investigate if we were rocks worth hiding behind. Too close for my taste, since they move like giant mechanized spiders.

Pleased with our amateur nature photography, we started down the road to the ruins. We walked, and walked, and walked... The ruins were much further away than we expected and we ran out of water on our way there. We tried to get there on the beach side and discovered we couldn't, forcing us to then double back.

We finally got there and went inside -- only to discover we were at the only Mayan site we'd been to where they *weren't* selling refrescos all over the place. We made a rather quick tour of the Mayan Port, decided not to go into the crowded stretch of ocean, and left.

Back at the hotel we indulged in fun drink and guacamole. About ten minutes after I needed a nap. I lay down and didn't get up for about two hours.

When I managed to revive myself we went in the ocean for a nice, long swim. Staying until our fingers pruned. Tech Support didn't want to get out, not wanting to end the moment.

But we got out and headed into Tulum for postage stamps and dinner. Tech Support asked a lady at the supermarket pharmacy for "estamp" and sent her pouring through medications. When she realized what he actually wanted, "estampas", she smiled and shook her head. We wondered what kind of treatment she'd thought he needed.

We found success at another pharmacy and then continued down the road to dinner. We discovered an Italian place that had been recommended to us, and decided to eat there.

The food was delicious. I impressed the owner by ordering a gin and tonic while Tech Support failed to impress with his order of lemonade. We sat and talked about our trip and going home and adventures. The store across the street kept the moment from getting too serious.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rainy Days and Mayans Always Get Me...

(Originally drafted 7/7/10)

Yesterday I met the naked man from the next cabana over. Turns out he's from Whitehorse Canada, in the Yukon. Which explains why he wants to go to warm places and take all his clothes off. He and his wife, who stayed more conservative in a bathing suit, signed up for the same tour that would take us to Chichen Itza, a cenote, and a colonial-style village.

We started in the pouring rain in Tulum. A short man named Florencio dictated the order of the day in English accented with Spanish and Mayan (his mother tongue). He and our driver, Robert, who had great English and a good sense of humor, were only there to transfer us from Copal to the larger tour. Too bad, because we quite liked them and got to know them while we waited for the tour bus in the parking lot of a super market. We had a little while, since the inclement weather was slowing things down.

Once we got on the larger bus it was about 2 and a half hours to Chichen Itza. Our tour guide, gave a long bilingual speech about the history of the Mayans and Chichen Itza. We stopped at a tourist trap to stretch our legs, and avoided buying any Mayan calendars.

It was raining at Chichen Itza but the air was still hot. We struggled to hear our guide, but I enjoyed what little information I caught. We learned the Chichen Itza is actually smaller than Coba (which apparently was the capital city), but far more cleared of jungle. Visitors can no longer climb the main pyramid, which was okay with me since my legs were sore from the day before. Getting in and out of the bus even hurt.

My favorite part were the stone carvings, and the hook-nosed serpent imagery, which reminded me of my studies of ancient Chinese art. I also found the Mayan spiritual basketball courts very interesting. They were shaped differently than the ones at Coba, with straight walls rather than slanted ones.

After an hour the tour guide stopped to let us go on our own. We left the other group, some of whom seemed more interested in posing in front of the ruins than the ruins themselves, and wandered without real direction. Tech Support pondered over why a city would be abandoned. I suggested that the main industry had moved on. I admired the iguanas and birds of the area. We shook our heads at the men trying to sell us $1 wooden masks. We discussed that Inspector Gadget episode that everyone of a certain generation must have seen, that involved Mayan pyramids. We pondered the selflessness of the Penny character, she never seemed to mind Gadget getting all the credit. And how was Gadget her Uncle?

After checking out the sacrificial cenote, we headed back to the bus, stopping only for souvenirs and post cards. We boarded the bus and drove a short distance for lunch.

We sat and ate lunch with our Cabana neighbors and enjoyed their company more than the food. The rice and beans okay, the tacos decent, and the spaghetti strange with a tomato sauce that tended toward soup. While we ate three women danced, a funny tap routine with beer bottles balanced on their heads. As we left they stood by the door with a hat for tips, and I noticed I was a good head taller than all of them.

Next we visited a cenote. We opted not to swim. Tech Support was still feeling traumatized by his last visit to a cenote, which ended in lung fungus. It was pretty neat though, with fish in the water and bats fluttering above. If we had been there for more than 30 minutes, I might deserted Tech Support for the water.

Back in our overly perfumed bus and onto a Colonial Mayan village. Here we only had 20 minutes, not enough to do much. But we enjoyed the architecture style and feeling of being in a real city where people did things besides try to sell Mayan calendars to tourists (though there was that too).

On our way back to Tulum I dozed against Tech Support. After being dropped off, we joined our friends from the frozen north for dinner. We wound up at a busy looking restaurant that had pretty good food. Of course we tried the guacamole. We had a lot of fun together and stayed out later than we'd been up all week. Afterward we all piled into a Taxi together. Our driver was one of the friendlier that we'd met. He'd lived in the area for 23 years and as we sped to our Cabanas and veered around crabs, he explained that they were crossing the road for mating season.

When we got to Copal I couldn't see the Cabana it was so dark.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Finally Do Something

(originally drafted 7/6/10)

Yesterday we finally left the beach. We ate breakfast at Copal's restaurant, I had french toast which had been encrusted in sugar. I also rediscovered my hatred of papaya. Tech Support discovered he hated it too.

It began to pour as we met up with our cab driver, a young man named Felipe. He raced us through the ran at terrifying speeds. The plastic grim reaper perched on his dashboard did not provide reassurance, even if it was from a kids show on Cartoon Network.

After about five minutes it stopped raining. We drove through thick, dense, jungle. A mess of trees and vines that hid anything further than a few feet in. Occasionally we'd pass a lone business, selling something odd like pools.

It was very interesting for someone more used to driving through farmland.

It took about an hour to get to Coba (pronounced Co-pa), where Felipe directed us toward the ticket booth and then left us on our own. We made our way inside, with very little knowledge about where it was we were going. Soon enough we stumbled upon crumbling enigmatic Mayan pyramids and ruins. Here and there were other tour groups, some in English, and scruffy looking men offering to give us tours, but we made our way on our own.

We opted not to bike down the pathways, but strolled down paths enclosed on either side by the dense jungle. I heard lots of bird song, but couldn't spot many of them.

Without a guide, map, or clue, we found the main attraction in Coba, a very, very, very, very steep temple that you can clime.

Hot and sweaty already due to the weather and walk, we rested a few minutes before tackling the slope. Once I started climbing, keeping my hands on the steps in front of me, I didn't stop. A girl climbing nearby made the mistake of pausing to look down and declared that she was done.

Up top I panted and sweat and looked out over the top of the jungle. An absolute sea of green broken only by the top of one of the other pyramids, and the ocean.

The steps looked more frightening from the top than the bottom. We took our time to recover and enjoy the view before going down. I kept a tight hold on the rope and my eyes on my feet. At the bottom we stopped to pant and sweat again. I've hiked around Kyoto in the summer -- this was worse.

There was one other temple area that we hadn't seen, but we were done. We paused only to admire lizards and strange flora as we made our way back to the parking lot and Felipe.

He took us back to Tulum, where it still drizzled. After a nice chilly shower we walked down the road, it wasn't much past noon, and had lunch and cerveza's. As usual, we also had the guacamole.

The rest of the day was spent in the usual dissipation of reading in the shade and floating in the warm water. We retired to our Cabana and I sat down to write, noticing a few minutes later something moving around at the bottom of our door. A bug. A large bug. I went over to open the door and discovered a handsome, black beetle climbing up our exterior wall.

Unfortunately, that would bring it into our Cabana. And while it was a handsome beetle we still felt odd about having another roommate. For a little while Tech Support waged war with our little friend, who seemed determined to climb up the same way. Tech Support even flung the little bugger on the roof, thinking that was where it wanted to go. But it came back down to our doorstep and started up again.

Finally, Tech Support transplanted it to base of a Cabana we felt fairly certain to be empty, and we withdrew to our own. I gazed out the window, pondering the life and struggles of a large beetle in Mexico, and Tech Support teased me when--

Something large and black flew by the window. We found an overturned beetle by the plants out front. Tech Support righted it and then ran inside when it started flying again. In the end, we feel fairly certain it would up in a tree.

We saw no further activity, and are not certain whether we were haunted by one, or two, beetles.

The storm started up again, and we gave into laziness and munching on chips rather than going into town. Tech Support realized my side of the bed was getting doused with water, and scrambled outside to put down the plastic sheeting. Rain still came through the top, open screens.

I went to sleep during a calmer period, and woke again to fat raindrops hitting my skin. The rain came down so hard it rivaled the roar of the ocean for volume. Lighting flashed, and a dozen seconds later there was loud thunder.

Somehow I went back to sleep.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Still Taking It Easy

(originally written 7/5/10)

Independence day passed without any fireworks in Tulum. We started the day with another dip in the Ocean. The water is so warm it's easy to stay in until our hands wrinkle up.

Once we got out we settled in for some reading and iguana watching, an easy substitute for television. After a little of that we decided to walk into Tulum. A 30-40 minute walk. A long walk. But worth it. At first we only saw crab carcasses, which we attributed to bird activity, then, up ahead, I saw one of those angular, insect-like bodies creep across the path.

We spotted more in little puddles to our left, smaller red crabs and big blue ones. They were leaving the jungle and trying to cross the two-lane road. We wondered what they imagined was on the other side. At least drivers were swerving to avoid them, and we saw a sign on the way back urging them to do so ("help them, don't smash them"), but a few had not made it.

Tech Support and I ruminate over the life of the jungle crab as we continued into the city. We finally arrived and took care of a few errands. We then made our way over to the more downtown, "centro" area.

On a Sunday afternoon not a whole lot was going on. Restaurant owners stood outside looking bored. We picked a place and sat down. A man wearing no shirt and carrying a machete walked by. A few minutes later a fight broke out across the street. A passing transit cop paused and turned on his lights, but did not get out of his car.

As we drove back I noticed a Federal Police station about 300 feet from where the fight had happened.

We got back without hitting any crabs. Tech Support set up some adventures for the next two days and we lay out to do some more reading and nature watching. Everyone here is reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", the acid yellow cover easy to spot all along the beach.

Not me though, I already read it.

We went into the water again and took our goggles. After looking at kelp and sand for a few minutes we settled for floating in the ocean.

After our 3rd shower of the day we decided to have a light dinner at Copal's restaurant. A tiny crab flung itself at Tech Support's ankle, startling both of them. The crab played dead for a while before scuttling off, startling Tech Support again. We saw other little crabs, and so did the cats, alien kitty had a slender orange friend this time. But they lost interest when the crabs played dead.

We went back to our Cabana. There were storms during the night again, and I woke up to the spray of rain on my body.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Do Nothing Well

(originally written 7/4/10)

There really isn't a whole lot of interest that went on yesterday. We spent a majority of our time out front of our Cabana, reading or napping. I finished my Wallander novel, since I only have two more books with me I'll have to pace them out.

As usual, I am enjoying the wildlife. Besides the impressive iguanas, there are lots of little lizards with striped backs, many missing tails (perhaps due to the cat mentioned later in the post). The pelicans here look different than the ones I'm used to, sleeker. There are some other birds, but my only view of most of them is from below as they soar in the ever-present wind here. There is a little black bird with a long, broad tail that makes it look like a balsa-wood toy plane. It has a pretty song. Every now and then I catch a flash of bright yellow. Oriels maybe.

This morning I watched what looked like a wasp dig a hole in the ground big enough to disappear into. It flung sand an impressive distance. Then, buried the hole up.

I need guide-books for these things.

Yesterday afternoon we trekked out of Copal and down the road toward a mini-mart. There are a lot of other hotels down that way, but not many people. We're not in high season. Most of the restaurants were empty. We picked up some chips and fanta and went back to our reading. The doritos here taste different, like they were made for people who like strong flavor. I like them.

For dinner we went to Copal's restaurant. There we met up with a kitty that we had also seen during breakfast. He or she is a tiny thing, with a long skinny tail like a rat. But despite being quite slender, he looks healthy. Probably because he goes from table to table suckering people like me and Tech Support into tossing him chicken and shrimp. He knows how to work it too. he ignored our table until we were served, then came and sat next to us until we were done, at which point he promptly disappeared.

Thunder storms rolled in late in the afternoon. It poured on and off all through dinner. The cooler (but not by any means cool) air was welcome. it stopped long enough that I got to see my first ever fire-flies in person as we walked back to our Cabana from dinner.

Tech Support let me have the window side of the bed because I was so hot. Air blowing in from the windows helped me get to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night, pelted by rain coming through the screen, then went back to sleep.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Waiting for Transporter Technology

(originally written 7/3/10)

Except for hour-long flights to and from San Jose, I hate flying. Hate. Hate. Hate.

Unfortunately, I love being in new places.

Yesterday's plane ride was not the one to change my mind. For starters, we had to get up at 4am. I'd only gone to bed around midnight and had not slept well. In fact, I felt like I'd only fallen asleep when Tech Support turned the light on.

I do like seeing that city that early in the morning. We were almost the only car out. We passed another taxi. I resisted the urge to wave.

After that it all blurs into a dull misery of lines and small seats. I dozed for most of the ride to Phoenix. On the plane to Cancun I read about people dying in cold and miserable Sweden. Our seatmate turned out to be an ex-patriot. Once a marine who'd been to South Asia, he now lives in Playa Del Carmen with some dogs and a bunch of chickens. He doesn't eat eggs, he just likes the company.

When we arrived in Cancun I was instantly overwhelmed. Seemed like everyone wanted to talk to us, sell us something, etc. We pushed through the mass and found our ride after a wrong turn, and after an hour and a half of driving through the jungle, we were shown to our little cabana by the sea.

It was beautiful, and hot, and wonderful, and I was too exhausted to really appreciate it. My head hurt, and nothing felt familiar. We took a walk on the beach, discovered a conspicuously empty sushi bar, naked people, and the pleasure of warm water on our feet.

At night it got dark, real dark, since there is no electricity. We lit candles and giggled as we slid across the inclined floor from our rustic bathroom to the main area. I settled under the mosquito net and fell asleep at about 8:30pm. Even though I woke up a few times, by morning I felt better.

First thing we went down into the water. Perfect temperature. No good for boogie boarding though. We saw more naked people, these ones less burned than the ones from yesterday. A topless lady exercised with a hula-hoop while her robust husband took pictures. Though this was not my crowd, I was having a great time watching them.

After a breakfast that involved jalapeno peppers, we headed back to our Cabana. Today's plan is to take it easy.

When I sat down to write this, a dozen feet from our front door, some kids were playing. They chased a very large lizard past my chair. When I looked up I noticed there were more, half a dozen, sunning themselves on some rocks nearby.

I've never been into lizards -- I don't even like dinosaurs. But now I get it. These magnificent beast-lizards are nothing like the drab little tail droppers I grew up with. They are handsome iguanas. And if you stand still enough, they'll get pretty close.

While standing on the rocks watching the lizards we spotted another naked man. He flailed inelegantly on the rocks below, an odd counterpoint to the beauty of nature we'd been admiring.