Thursday, March 5, 2009

STILL In That Vacation Bubble

Ya know, it wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have sub-zero wind chills half the week! Then I could just start to enjoy "spring" around here and quit thinking about why in the world we left Mexico in the first place!! But this is my last blog post about our trip - mainly because the rest of the pictures really aren't worth posting, and to be truthful, we actually didn't take that many.

The butterfly photos above were taken at XCaret, a resort of sorts, I guess you could possibly call it an eco-resort, but more like a "natural recreational area". Basically, it was a large peninsula, privately owned, that you could spend the day doing all sorts of stuff - swimming, diving, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, sunning on their beaches, floating down an underground river, hiking, eating, watching Mayan shows, strolling through the botanical gardens, the ruins, the craft fairs, the gift shops....did I miss anything? For a flat fee, you got in, then you could pay extra to do some of the more specialized stuff. Mark and I, Jonathan and the in-laws went one day. Rode a nice coach bus down to Playa Del Carmen and arrived at XCaret around 9:30 in the morning. What to do, what to do, what to do FIRST!? They tell you up front that you can't do it all in one day. And they tell you to not miss the Mayan show that starts at 6pm and runs until 8pm. Well, we already counted that out - we were headed back on the early bus at 5pm because we didn't want Jonathan out that late. We figured 8 hours was enough for all of us.
So while the in-laws were kind enough to watch Jonathan for a bit in the morning, Mark and I signed up for a snorkeling trip that went until lunchtime. Mark was a little hesitant, but I somehow convinced him he needed to come with me, so we found ourselves on a boat with snorkeling gear in hand. Ten minutes later, we were anchored over the second largest reef in the world. Into the water we went. Now before I go on, I have to say, I have gills. I grew up swimming since I was about 3 years old, have always had a pool in the backyard, body-surfed in the ocean from as far back as I remember, and will swim anywhere, anytime. I am a certified scuba diver, but unfortunately, don't get much chance to dive anymore. Mark, on the other hand, sinks like a rock. He seems a bit uncomfortable in the water, and truly doesn't like to get his face too wet - even in the shower. So, yeah, he's going to try snorkeling. Hmmmm.

To make matters worse, Mark's snorkeling gear seemed to have some issues - he couldn't get a nice fit with the mask so he had some leakage and it proved to be a fairly windy day, so some of the little white-caps were breaking over the top of the snorkel and these weren't high-end snorkels. Too late - I wished I'd brought mine along - it was back at the villa - a nicer one with a check valve on the end that prevented that. Anyway, Mark lasted all of 5 minutes.

I hated him to miss out, but now I have a goal - work with him in our pool this summer until he is comfortable with the better equipment and maybe he'll be okay for next time. And there will be a next time, my word. Ever seen those tanks at Rainforest Cafe? They have these saltwater tanks with about every color of fish in the world....well, it was sort of like that. The reef was alive with fish of every size, shape, color and description. And the color combinations were astounding - black with royal blue fins, blue with lavender fins, royal blue with bright yellow, red and orange spotted, white and orange was like sensory overload. And the reef itself was amazing. And with the winds and current, everything was moving, and if you peeked into the reef, you could see more fish hiding. As long as you stayed fairly close to the boat, you could go anywhere you want, so I got to spend the next 40 minutes in an exotic world of sea life - lost in amazement, and struck by how silent that world is.

When we got back to shore, we met up with Jonathan and Mark's folks and had some lunch, then we started walking around - we found the butterfly exhibit and saw the marvelous blue morpho butterflies as well as many other gorgeous species. A few pics are above - the one is the blue morpho, the other is called a Malachite. The blue morphos are munching on plantains - everywhere in the habitat they had these laid out, there were half a dozen or more butterflies munching. The trick was to snap the picture when they opened their wings!

After that, the in-laws hit the botanical gardens, while we went off to find some animals for Jonathan to see - they had some in captivity - monkeys, peccaries, an ox, some donkeys and then we found the bird exhibit which had scarlet macaws, flamingoes, parrots and even some wild birds like a Yucatan woodpecker - a life-bird for both me and Mark!
A few minutes in the gift shops, and exploring an old silver mine shaft, and listening to some Mayan entertainment finally ended our day. We caught the early bus back and made it back to the villa in time to throw some dinner on the table and get the little guy into bed.
I would definitely go back there - mainly to take advantage of a few more of the water sports trips and to perhaps catch the evening shows which are supposed to be pretty spectacular. Despite it's popularity, there weren't huge crowds and the place is well-run and clean.
So now, onto the rest of my life! This weekend, our weather forecasts are saying almost 70 degrees, so perhaps I can stop living my life on a very comfortable poolside lounge and actually be able to go outside here in something less than a down parka. One can only hope. Back to our regularly scheduled blogging - next entry: my child will be 5 years old next week....

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