November 18, 2015

OUR HONEYMOON | WHAT WE DID

Get ready to scroll, this is a long one but full of cool adventures, so you won’t regret!

We went into the honeymoon having decided that we wanted to really pack it full of adventures but were going to wait to plan the exact itinerary until we got there to see the forecast. So each morning we’d wake up, get breakfast and discuss the day’s plan.

[First real day, Tuesday} we abnormally woke before the sun, stupid early, and decided to take advantage and watch the sunrise. I never do this, I’m a terrible morning person, but starting off our honeymoon and marriage with something so peaceful felt so right!  That day was forecast to be the prettiest day of the week so we wanted to do a big outing of cenotes and a lagoon with a company our friends recommended.  Since our cell phones didn’t work we counted on WIFI and by the time we reached out to them and heard back we had missed the departure. I immediately started regretting our laid back approach but Dustin assured me we’d find something equally as awesome and he was right.  We spoke with the gal at the front desk who suggested the Muyil ruins followed by floating the neighboring lagoon and she said you could do all of it by hiring a taxi driver for the day.  So we flagged down a taxi and met George who was friendly and very knowledgeable and didn’t know it yet but was stuck with us for the remainder of the day!

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My exploring + going swimming outfit: Free People tunic, Victoria secret suit, Chuck Taylors, UO hat and Le Spec shades.

Not that I remember all that much but I actually minored in Anthropology so visiting Mayan ruins was something I always wanted to do!  Every bit as mind blowing as I’d hoped!

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We had gotten to Muyil around 9 something and had the whole site to ourselves!  We took our time at each temple and did some exploring off the paths in the jungle and found a little cave with bats that Dustin heckled. The whole time we were obsessed with the bats, mostly cause it was the only wildlife we saw in the jungle and cenotes. I long to see a monkey or sloth in the wild!

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Because the structures are smack dab in the jungle they often had trees and plants growing straight through them! This is also the reason why a lot of them needed to be reconstructed when they were discovered.  A mix of rain, plants, wind, shifts in the earth and a lot of other factors had the Mayan villages in rubble and some parts are still in rebuild mode. We were amazed by the condition that some up-and-coming rebuilds were in.. we thought “now that’s a tough puzzle to put back together!”

We were told by a guide on a later excursion that the Mayans wouldn’t have used the reinforcement concrete you can see in between the stones.

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After we had our fill of the ruins we were ready to get in some water and asked George for a lagoon floating recommendation and he said he knew just the guy that would take us out. Little bit of negotiating later we loaded up in a long minimal boat, just us and one non-English speaking “captain” and set out. Ran on the open water for a bit, then went through one canal, popped back out to open water then after running a little longer reached another canal that he instructed was where we’d be floating.

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The spot we unloaded at was called Sian Ka’an and is steps away from a a Mayan archaeological site!

It’s crazy to think about them toting all these stones out on this tiny piece of land in their makeshift boats.  This area, including Muyil, were part of a huge trade route along the Caribbean.  The most common goods traded were Jade, obsidian, chocolate, honey, feathers, chewing gum, and salt. (via Wikipedia)

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These cacti were growing on the roof of the little house. We saw them a lot while floating in the trees and every single time I thought they were snakes!

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The drop-in site ^

The current was so strong it required no swimming at all! We sat back in our life jackets worn as diaper floats and took it all in.

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I was in the boat when I took this photo but this is what we floated down, mangrove lined trenches with clear fresh water. I’ll admit I was spooked because of the spaces under the trees and the thick grass, I mean, who knows what was hiding in there! I kept imaging a crocodile grabbing me and the headlines that followed “Newly Wed Eaten Alive on Honeymoon in Front of Husband” Yep, welcome to the odd place that is my mind!

After this we went and partook in happy hour. Just as we did most days after our adventuring!

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Wednesday we took the hotel’s advice again and used a company called Yucatan Diving and Travel to take a snorkeling trip off Cozumel.  The owner of the company and our guide for the day, Manuel, picked us up and took us to Playa Del Carmen to catch a ferry to the island.  During the ride Manuel entertained us with his stories, he’s got some crazy ones, like getting stung by five different lion fish! After about an hour drive we got to the ferry port and found out we missed it and would have to catch the next one. So we walked around for a bit to kill time looking at all kinds of touristy things in Playa Del Carmen, like a spider monkey on a leash and man dressed as a traditional Mayan warrior…you know, the type area you’d avoid most days but take advantage of when you’re bored! Then it was time to load the ferry which was pretty much like an airplane on water; indoor seating with reclining seats and cold air conditioning. I passed out immediately, as I do in any bus/plane/car!

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From the ferry we grabbed a taxi then hoped on a smaller boat-the 3 hours of travel/killing time was more than we imagined but was definitely worth it!

The trip included two stops, the first was El Cielo or “The Heaven” in Spanish, a shallow area crawling with gigantic starfish.  I’ve done a bunch of snorkeling but seeing all the starfish was like nothing I’ve seen before!

The second stop was a reef that we swam along for a bit then Manuel guided us to where the continental shelf starts to slope. We went from shallow to 30-50′ then it was the bluest blue we’ve ever seen and that’s when we were informed it went to 3,000 feet deep. Three thousand feet. NOPE. I wanted to dip out of that area real quick but Dustin was mesmerized. I mean the blue was so pretty but again, the unknown (just like with the mangroves) freaked me out big time!

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Under water images are from Manuel’s Gopro.  Guess even after getting stung five times he’s not afraid of approaching a lion fish!

The boat ride back we got in a storm that had us dodging the stingy rain bullets so we sat on the back of the boat and were fed Coronas by the crew. When in Mexico…!

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Thursday was a nasty rainy day which always calls for shopping!  We went to “downtown” Tulum which ended up being a big disappointment.  I had set my expectations a little to high and was let down. The shopping was cheesy the food options seemed Americanized. I would avoid next time or do more research on restaurants since some of the spots down alleyways looked cute. But for shopping I’d just stick with the road along the beach near all the hotels. More tips later!

Friday we wanted to do the big Mayan site, Coba. Leaving the hotel the gal at The Beach front desk asked if we needed a taxi and called their driver on deck, Alex. He was awesome!  It was another day of a lot of travel and he drove real fast and played music videos on his Ipad which kept us distracted from the fast driving.

Since we were doing cenotes after the ruins Dustin and I both wore waterproof flipflops which unfortunately were not the best shoes for exploring.  Therefor we got a tricycle taxi which ended up being the best idea!  Our “driver” was named Jose’. He was Mayan and part of the team that restores Coba.  With his decent English we were able to learn a lot from him and got a two for one, ride + guide!

Hearing facts are one thing but when you see everything up close it’s another and Coba is very impressive! I wanted to bring my camera to each of the rest of the spots but the forecast called for rain and I didn’t want to risk it so the rest are all Iphone pics. Better to share with cell phone photos than not at all!

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A lot of the city has been restored but there are several elements that are original and untouched. I’m not entirely sure about the tablets above but from what we gathered they were authentic. The bottom building was a watch tower and is completely solid. Dustin and I both liked this puffy pyramid a lot and took extra time to explore around the base.

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Yep, we climbed to the top with all the other thrill seekers! I’m not going to lie, I got freaked out with the height which is not my usual fear (sharks are #1!) I think it had to do with the steep factor and being above the jungle canopy, caused some vertigo! Going down I took one step at a time putting the weight on my right leg and stepping down with left. No joke, I was sore until last week!!

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Jose led us on the tricycle to this hidden walkway and insisted we walk down to see the ruins at the end.  We were so glad we wound up with him as our driver and that he knew of this spot! He said most people either don’t see it or their tour guide doesn’t have enough time to show them. It’s hard to choose a favorite but I thought this was so special, besides the colossal mosquitoes, it was our favorite site!

After the tour of Coba we hopped back in the taxi with Alex who took us down a long and bumpy road to our first two cenotes.

I’ve said this word a few times already but for those of you who may not know-I didn’t before planning this trip-they are a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath (Wiki) They were a water source for the Mayan people and considered sacred.

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First stop:  Multun-Ha. After showering, which all cenotes require so you don’t mess with the eco system with your lotions etc, we walked down a spiral wooden staircase that led us to a platform that had a few stairs leading to the clearest and coldest water I’ve ever swam in!  There were 3 other people that were finishing up so the cave was pretty quiet. We swam around soaking in all the beauty and then it was off to stop two..

Choo-Ha. We didn’t swim in this one. Instead we did a lot of gawking and bat watching. The stalactites and stalagmites were massive!

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After the Coba cenotes, Alex mentioned Zacil Ha being on the way home and an easy drop in so we said “why not?!” and tried it out.  It was different from the other two as it wasn’t a cave but an actual sink hole, so basically a beautiful fresh water pool!  We jumped off the deck, hand in hand, a few times then called it a day. On the way home we stopped at a few roadside Mayan stands I’ll talk more about later.

Saturday we hit up Alex again to take us out on another day trip! Morning called for better weather so we first hit up Akumal, a small beach community between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. This came recommended by a friend here in Atlanta. She told us her favorite adventure was swimming with the sea turtles. I don’t know how but I didn’t take any (good) photos of the beach area. But I will tell you it was magical! We swam with a dozen sea turtles, big ole stingray, hundreds of tropical fish and our guide Darwin. You don’t really need a guide but getting one included the gear and required life jacket so it made sense to us. Too bad we didn’t have an underwater camera, I would love to share!

After Akumal was the biggest cenote trip, Pet Cemetery.

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Lots of Americans had told us to check out Dos Ojos cenote but the locals (including Alex and Manuel) were telling us that Pet Cemetery was better so we listened to them.  Pet Cemetery is on the same road but way further down.  There were more potholes on that road than the whole city of Atlanta! It seemed like we were never going to get there (noticing a trend here? lots of long roads to get to the good stuff) but when we did we realized we were in for more than we bargained – in a good way!

Dustin and I along with 4 other folks, including the guide (this cenote requires one) floated through a cave wearing life vests and snorkels for a little under an hour.  Some parts were lit with florescent lights and others the only light source was our two flashlights!  To keep things preserved they asked us not to touch anything.  However, in the some spaces it was so tightly lined with stalactites we couldn’t help but bump into them! I would like to give myself props because I kept cool the whole time when one of the other girls was wigging out over spiders, bats and the darkness. I will admit one point where Dustin and I were in the back of the line and the two flashlights were up front which made me nervous enough to request Dustin hold one and then all was fine.

Pet Cemetery was the winner in our books. They were all so different and I’d suggest to try as many as possible. Never know what experience you’ll stumble into!

After exploring all these cenotes on top of the water and diving down just a little made D and I want a scuba certification. It’d be so incredible to get deeper, though I don’t know about swimming through the underwater tunnels. That would take some guts!

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Last site was the Tulum ruins. It was along the beach and more open than the others.  By this time I thought I couldn’t be impressed, after all we had seen/hiked/swam I was becoming unimpressionable (and down right tired) but this place was outstanding! It covered a lot of ground and really felt like stepping into ancient city since you could see the neighboring structures whereas the other two ruin sites were spread out and tucked into lush vegetation.  After this, it was back to happy hour and our final beach hangs.

I told you we packed it in!

This isn’t even it! I mean, it’s all our adventures in a very summarized nutshell, but we did other stuff too, like ate and shopped. Which is the next post :)

Tips for taking these trips:

Pay a taxi driver to be personal driver for the day and ask hotel if they have one on deck.
People told us the locals appreciated US dollars but it didn’t seem to be the case, better to have pesos.
Also, use bank ATMS versus privately owned-saves you money!
Get to things early! You’ll have less tourists.
Invest in a decent dry bag and rash guard, I loved mine that had a zipper, Dustin bought for cheap at REI.
Bring own snorkle and mask, we had ours for some trips and they were better and less chewed up.
At the ruin sites, wear old sneakers or hiking boots.

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